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The Importance of reflecting on what we have heard, with a Prayer afterwards.
THIS part of the hearer's duty is so essential to his
real profit, and so generally neglected, that we shall be excused for giving it a more distinct consideration. If we rest satisfied with mere hearing, without reflection, we shall never attain pure and undefiled religion. A person may hear and admire at the time, and yet be merely interested for the moment; if he think not of it afterwards, he will not be the better but the worse for hearing. Every time the truths of God are declared to him, they may make less sensible impression, and leave a less practical influence upon him; he may be less and less moved, till he becomes totally unimpressible to the most solemn and affecting truths. While on the other reflect on what he
hand, if by divine grace he duly hear, he will become more alive to the power of truth, more softened under its impressions, and more influenced by it in his whole spirit, and character, and conduct.
It is a striking description of the Virgin Mary's mind, on hearing what the Shepherds told her, She kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. We should endeavour to follow her example, desiring the memory to retain, and the heart to meditate on the truths concerning Christ. They are worth keeping and pondering in the heart.
But it is to be feared that Christians but very little attend to this duty. Let this enquiry be put by each reader to his own conscience-What is my practice after hearing the word? Do I make it a point of duty to ponder and meditate on what I hear? Do I ordinarily give a stated time for this?
Certaiuly, many return home to their family and friends, and enter on general conversation, or reading, totally unconnected with what they have heard. Some take up a weekly journal to pass the time, and others a trifling book; and so, in one way or other, all good thoughts are soon dissipated, and the sermon has, perhaps, hardly once after it was heard, received a passing reflection. Is it not the case with too many, that the mere act of hearing is that with which their minds and consciences are satisfied; and that the practising what they hear is a very inferior consideration? They desire, indeed, to be interested, quickened, and excited while they hear; but they are careless about a conformity of life to the doctrines and precepts. The time after hearing is a most critical moment, as it respects our salvation. The word may then become effectual to our eternal good. The seed has been sown; God is ready to give the blessing. O let us seek it; let us not by impertinent visits, worldly business, or secular pleasures, lose the rich, the invaluable blessing.
The importance of this subsequent reflection and improvement will appear, if we consider why we come to hear the word. No considerate person can surely be so ignorant as to come with the self-righteous idea of obliging God, as if He were indebted to us for coming. Hearing separated from practical influence, is neither commendable in itself, nor acceptable to God; it is in truth mere self-deception, and tends only to our ruin.
Matt. vii, 26. The intelligent Christian hears, in order to be made wise unto salvation, or in order to be quickened in the Christian life.
Now in order to be made wise unto salvation, more is necessary than merely listening to the voice of the preacher. If you neglect to think on what you hear, your mind will be little informed and enlarged, and your heart will not be sanctified. Subsequent thought and reflection, is that which turns it to our real nourishment. The Apostle tells the Corinthians, (1 Cor. xv, 2.) I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand. By which also ye are saved, if ye hold in memory what I preached unto you. O why should you lose all the time, and care, and efforts to attend to hear, and never be really better for it all! As you value then your eternal salvation, meditate on the word; let it not carelessly pass from you; but recollect it, and bring it by prayer and reflection into your heart and life.
Or, if you desire to be quickened in the Christian life, the mere sound of the minister's voice, or his most fervent discourses, however excellent, or pathetic, or eloquent, will not do this. It must be permanently impressed on the heart by the blessed Spirit, through subsequent reflection. One sermon duly improved in this way, will do mere real good, than hundreds of sermons heard carelessly, and thought of no more. Meditate then in private, on what you hear in public, if you would be quickened and animated in the good ways of the Lord.
But how is this general direction to be reduced to practice? We proceed to give a few plain directions? Seek to IMPROVE YOURSELF ALSO BY PRIVATESTUDY. The time allowed for public preaching and
hearing, though invaluable, is necessarily very limited: and unless the advantages thus given us be improved by private study as well as reflection, we shall make comparatively but very little progress in divine knowledge.
Though a poor man * has not much time for reading, yet in the long winter evenings, and on Sundays, he can generally get a little leisure; and though the Bible will ever be the pious poor man's favorite book, yet if he has opportunity and ability to procure them, he should read other books to inform and impress his mind.
The christian in the middle ranks of life should also pursue a larger course of study. A list is subjoined. †
* POOR MAN'S RELIGIOUS LIBRARY.
The Bible with References,
The Prayer Book,
Homilies of the Church of England.
Cheap Repository Tracts, 3 vol.
Pocket Prayer Book.
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
Watts's Scripture History.
Doddridge's Rise and Progress.
Robinson's Scripture Characters,
Life of Colonel Gardiner.
Edwards's History of Redemption.
Sibbs's Bruised Reed.
Boston's Crook in the Lot.
Boston's Fourfold State.
Burder's Village Sermons.
Williams's Cottage Bible, or
Reformers' Bible, or
Burkitt's New Testament.
Burder's Missionary Anecdotes.
Do not most persons take up their religious knowledge far too cursorily and accidentally, even when their
Horne's Introduction to the Scrip
tures, 4 vol.
Lowth's Lectures, by Gregory.
Newton on the Prophecies.
Spurstow on the Promises.
Jones on Jonah.
(2.) Church of England.
Bennett's Christian Oratory.
J. Scott's Essays.
(7.) Historical and Biogra-
Fry's History of the Church,
Burnet's History of the Reformation.
Middleton's Evangelical Biography. Stowell's Life of Wilson. Wordsworth's Ecclesiastic Biography. Lives of Bonnell, Doddridge, two Henrys, Newton, Fletcher, Roeh. ester, Hale, Halyburton, Scott, Martyn, Brainerd, Bucharan. Brown's Propagation of the Gospel Smith's History of Missions, 2 vol.
(8.) Practical and Theological.
Adams's Private Thoughts.
Baxter's Converse with God,
Baxter's Dying Thoughts.
Beveridge's Private Thoughts.
Brooks on Assurance.
Charnock's Two Discourses.