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that very subject which we desire to hear of, but we cannot choose what subject the preacher shall treat of. If sermons be forgotten, they are gone; but a book we may read over and over, till we remember it; and if we forget it, we may again pe. ruse it at our pleasure or at our leisure. So that good books are a very great mercy to the world.'
In reading, however, a few books may be better than many, and these should be such authors as come well recommended by those who are capable of judging; for some titles are good, but their contents injurious. Others are excellent in part, but still contain some error. Some are wholly good, but not fit for you till you have more knowledge and experience. You may have a desire, perhaps, to read the works of those who are not sound in the faith; but, as you would not wish to be seduced, it would be better not to meddle with them at all, or at least till you become so strong as to be capable of withstanding the attacks and opposing the sophisms of erroneous teachers.
You would do well, perhaps, to avail yourself of a compendium of divinity, that you may study it in all its various parts and relations :* and I know of nothing that is more serviceable in the study of divine subjects, than to obtain just and precise definitions, which the memory can easily retain: you will find this to be a kind of basis, on which you may raise the superstructure of theological knowledge. This will enable you to settle disputes, which otherwise, perhaps, may be
* Such as Scott's Essays ; Brown's System of Natural and Reveal ed Religion; or the Assemblies Catechisms.
protracted to great lengths, and prove injurious to both parties. In all your reading, endeavour to impress the contents of the book upon your mind, by often recollecting or referring to what you have read. Look up to God for his blessing, and observe what points you more especially to him ; what, if regarded, will wean you more from the world, increase your acquaintance with divine truth, and enable you to live more for the benefit of your fellow creatures and the glory of God, that thus your profiting may appear to all.
Public worship. The Sabbath. Ministers. Directions
for hearing profitably. Punctuality in attending or. dinances. Foining a church.
The Lord's Supper. Objections to receiving it answered. Advice to church members. Faith and patience. Diligence in temporal and spiritual concerns. Rules for the im
provement of time. To be secluded from the world, to worship God in our closets and in our families, we have already seen to be excellent and praise-worthy ser. vices; but it was never intended that these should supersede the practice of public devotion. Some indeed have objected to it, but upon grounds that do not appear the least worthy to be regarded. The example of Jesus in attending it, the promises he gives to his people respecting it, the conduct of the apostles, and the general precepts in the scriptures relative to it, form sufficient ar. guments to induce us to follow a practice which,
both under the Old and New Testament dispensation, has been eminently sanctioned of God. The sabbath-day is to be peculiarly appropriated to this, and may be considered as one of the greatest blessings God has given to man. The business of our callings, the things of time, the cares of this world, occupy much of our attention on the week day, so that, with many, it is exceedingly difficult to find a few hours for meditation, prayer, and praise. The sabbath, therefore, is a welcome day to a good man; a day in which he wishes to forget all the toils and cares of the week, that he may hold communion with God, remember the mercies he has received, look up for fresh communications of divine strength, and anticipate that rest which remains for the people of God.
And here, my dear reader, just let me say, Avoid every thing that has a tendency to weaken your regard for the sabbath ; begin, carry on, and end it with God. Make it a long day: it is grievous to think how some shorten the time for devotion by unnecessary sleep, attention to dress, providing dinners, seeing their friends, and pursuing many other triling objects. Consider it always as your best day; a day sacred to God; a day in which you solemnly dedicate yourself to his service.
Let no circumstance, except that which may be ocasioned by illness, charity, or absolute necesssity, prevent your attendance on God's house, reading his word, and worshipping him. Good men, in all ages, have found it to be of the greatest utility, and, amor.g the long catalogue of their mercies, have not forgot to reckon that of the sabbath day as one of the greatest.
Public worship must be attended to with reverence, sincerity, and gratitude. It is a great privilege to be born in a christian land, to have a house of God to which we can resort, and to be favoured with that gospel which brings life and immortality to light. Here, then, some remarks and advice may be necessary as to the ministry you attend, and the manner in which you should hear. God has raised up ministers of various talents and powers.
One excels in stating and defending a doctrine; another in tendering consolation, and encouraging the weak; while others are eminent for their close, practical, lively manner of preaching Something of each of these should be found in every preacher; but it is not often the case that they are equally eminent in all. Ministers, however, are not to be despised, or spoken lightly of, because of their different talents. They have only what God has imparted to them, and they are to be held in honour for their work's sake. You are to choose for yourself those whom you think you receive the most benefit from, after a proper hearing; yet if you were to ask my advice, not being as yet settled in your own mind, I would say, Choose to sit under one who speaks to the heart as well as the head; who feels himself, as well as makes others feel; who has experience as well as knowledge ; who selects subjects that are profitable rather than curious ; and who, while he neglects not the essential doctrines, is always faithful, searching, experimental, and comes home close to the conscience. Such ministers God greatly blesses, and such you are likely to find useful to your own soul.
When you have once been directed to a suitable minister under whom you profit, attend him punctually. Some inconsiderate people never think how they disgrace themselves and reflect on their minister by being inconstant. * Neither do they know what they lose. Stated ministers, who know their flocks, frequently endeavour to elucidate such' objects, and preach on such texts, as shall be most edifying or suitable to their state; or sometimes they bring forward a chain of subjects of an interesting nature : but the inconstant lose the chain, know but little, and often forget the little they do hear. Punctuality in business, in our friendships, in the performance of our promises, are highly esteemed, and why should it not be more so in our devotions ?
Endeavour to be an attentive hearer : the wandering eye, the careless mind, the whispering tongue, the sleepy habit, ill become the house of God. See that your spirit and motive be good in hearing. Some do indeed hear with a kind of attention, but it is not of the right sort. One listens to hear something new; a second waits to hear something that his captious mind may lay hold of; a third looks with eagerness for some fine-turned period, some stroke of eloquence; a fourth listens if he can find something that will go hard against his neighbour rather than himself. But all this is misplaced, and what you, my dear reader, must watch against. Your attention is demanded to the importance of truth, the nature
* See caution as to novelty, chaptervii.