صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

she was pleased to believe apt to minister to her devotions, and the religions of her pious and discerning soul, may also be allowed a place in your closet, and a portion of your retirement, and a lodging in your thoughts, that they may encourage and instruct your practice, and promote that interest which is, and ought to be, dearer to you than all those blessings and separations with which God hath remarked

your

family and person

My Lord, I confess the publication of these sera mons can so little serve the ends of my reputation, that I am therefore pleased the rather to do it, because I cannot at all be tempted, in so doing, to minister to any thing of vanity. Sermons may please when they first strike the ear, and yet appear flat and ignorant when they are offered to the eye, and to an understanding that can consider at leisure. I remember that a young gentleman of Athens, being to answer for his life, hired an orator to make his defence, and it pleased him well at his first reading, but when the young man by often reading it, that he might recite it publickly by heart, began to grow weary and dispieased with it, the orator bade him consider that the judges and the people were to hear it but once, and then it was likely, they, at that first instant, might be as well pleased as he. This bath often represented to my mind the condition and fortune of sermons, and that I now part with the advantage they had in their delivery; but I have sufficiently answered myself in that, and am at rest perfectly in my thoughts as to that particular, if I can in

any

des

gree serve the interest of souls, and (which is next to that) obey the piety, and record the memory of that dear saint, whose name and whose soul is blessed: for in both these ministries I doubt not but your Lordship will be pleased, and account as if I had done also some service to yourself : your religion makes me sure of the first, and your piety puts the latter past my fears. However, I suppose, in the whole account of this affair, this publication may be esteemed but like preaching to a numerous auditory; which if I had done, it would have been called either duty or charity, and therefore will not now so readily be censured for vanity, if I make use of all the ways I can to minister to the good of souls. But because my intentions are fair in themselves, and I hope are acceptable to God, and will be fairly expoanded by your Lordship, (whom for so great reason I so much value) I shall not trouble you or the world with an apology for this so free publishing my weaknesses : I can better secure my reputation, by telling men how they ought to entertain sermons; for if they that read or hear do their duty aright, the preacher shall soon be secured of his fame, and untouched by

censure.

1. For it were well if men would not inquire after the learning of the sermon, or its deliciousness to the ear or fancy, but observe its usefulness; not what concerns the preacher, but what concerns themselves; not what may take a vain reflection upon him, but what may substantially serve their own needs; that the attending to his discourses

a

may not be spent in vain talk concerning him or his disparagements, but

may be used as a duty and a part of religion, to minister to edification and instruction. When St. John reckoned the principles of evil actions, he told but of three, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. But there was

, then also in the world (and now it is grown into age, and strength, and faction) another lust, the lust of the ear, and a fifth also, the lust of the tongue. Some people have an insatiable appetite in hearing ; and hear only that they may hear, and talk, and make a party: they enter into their neighbour's house to kindle their candle, and espying there a glaring fire, sit down upon the hearth, and warn themselves all day, and forget their errand; and in the mean time their own fires are not lighted, nor their families instructed or provided for, nor any need served, but a lazy pleasure, which is useless and impudent. Hearing or reading sermons, is, or ought to be, in order to practice; for so God intended it, that faith should come by hearing, and that charity should come by faith, and by both together we may be saved. For a man's ears (as Plutarch calls them) are virtutum ansae, by them we are to hold and apprehend virtue ; and unless we use them as men do vessels of dishonour, filling them with things fit to be thrown away, with any thing that is not necessary, we are by them more nearly brought to God than by all the senses beside. For although things placed before the eye affect the mind more readily than the things we usually hear; yet the reason of that is, because we hear carelessly, and we hear

variety : the same species dwells

and represents the same object in union and single representment; but the objects of the ear are broken into fragments of periods, and words, and syllables, and must be attended with a careful understanding : and because every thing diverts the sound, and every thing calls off the understanding, and the spirit of a man is truantly and trifling; therefore it is, that what men hear does so little affect them, and so weakly work toward the purposes of virtue ; and yet nothing does so affect the mind of man as those voices to which we cannot choose but attend; and thunder and all loud voices from heaven rend the most stony heart, and make the most obstinate pay to God the homage of trembling and fear; and the still voice of God usually takes the tribute of love, and choice, and obedience. Now since hearing is so effective an instrument of conveying impresses and images of things, and exciting purposes, and fixing resolutions, (unless we hear weakly and imperfectly;) it will be of the greater concernment that we be curious to hear, in order to such purposes which are perfective of the soul and of the spirit, and not to dwell in fancy and speculation, in pleasures and trifling arrests, which continue the soul in its infancy and childhood, never letting it go forth into the wisdom and virtues of a man. I have read concerning Dionysius of Sicily, that being delighted extremely with a minstrel that sung well, and struck his harp dexterously, he promised to give him a great reward; and that raised the fancy of the man, and made him play better. But when the mu

upon

the eye,

[ocr errors]

sick was done, and the man waited for his great hope, the king dismissed him empty, telling him, that he should carry away as much of the promised reward as himself did of the musick, and that he had paid him sufficiently with the pleasure of the promise for the pleasure of the song: both their ears had been equally delighted, and the profit just none at all. So it is in many men's hearing sermons : they admire the preacher, and he pleases their ears, and neither of them both bear along with them any good; and the hearer

l hath as little good by the sermon, as the preacher by the air of the people's breath, when they make a noise, and admire, and understand not. And that also is a second caution I desire all men would take.

2. That they may never trouble the affairs of preaching and hearing respectively, with admiring the

To admire a preacher, is such a reward of his pains and worth, as if you should crown a conqueror with a garland of roses, or a bride with laurel; it is an indecency, it is no part of the reward which could be intended for him. For though it be a good natured folly, yet it hath in it much danger; for by that means the preacher may lead his hearers captive, and make them servants of a faction, or of a lust; it makes them so much the less to be servants of Christ, by how much they call any man

earth; it weakens the heart and hands of others, it places themselves in a rank much below their proper station, changing from hearing the word of God, to admiration of the persons and faces of men ; and it being a fault that falls upon the more

person of

any man.

a

master upon

« السابقةمتابعة »