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of two Sabbaths, to warm his frozen heart, to tempt upward the drooping pinions of his faith. Little enough for any one, indeed, are all the ordinary services of holy time. It is a long eternity, filled with momentous scenes, for which the Sabbath is a preparation. A fearful host of outward enemies have we to contend with, a still more terrible array of inward foes. Often, then, should we resort to that great spiritual armory, the sanc. tuary. Often should be heard there
“The clink of hammers closing rivets up.”
If the half-day hearer is an unconverted man, our argument assumes a special urgency. In the simple language of one who was always in his place in church, he knows not " when the suving word will be preached.” The very sermon he fails to hear, may be just that which was particularly suited to his case, which would have removed, under God, the only remaining barrier to his conversion. God dispenses his Spirit as a Sovereign, it is true ; but not without regard to the relations and fitnesses of things. Much depends, too, in impressing the heart, upon the repetition of influences, upon keeping the truth continuously before the mind. There must be a succession of drops to wear away the rock; there must be precept upon precept to save the soul. Many a man we cannot doubt, to whom the afternoon's discourse would have been as the clinching of the already driven nail, has been kept out of heaven by being kept out of church. The god of this world understands this matter ; and has a fiendish delight, unquestionably, in empty seats. The Christian, too, may lose by absence, just what he peculiarly needs. It may be the resolving of some obstinate perplexity; or the removal of some overshadowing doubt; or the soothing of some deep wound of sorrow; or the detecting of some latent sin; or the guarding of the soul against some specious temptation; or the shedding down of light upon some dimly discerned path of duty, or point of doctrine; or the opening up of a broad vista into the glories of heaven. Every wise Pastor has his plans of discourse. He cannot be always preaching on the same theme; and just the service from which you are needlessly absent, may be the predetermined one, and the only one for a long period, in which he may lay himself out to meet exactly your case. There are, besides, connections between different discourses; and that, often, when no formal series is either announced or undertaken. As the absence of a pupil at a single lesson unfits him for those that succeed, so he who loses a single sermon may lack a very
desirable preparation, both of mind and heart, for whatever is to follow. For thine own sake, then, my hearer,--to make the most of the priceless privileges of the Sanctuary—to guard against losses for which no earthly gains can be an equivalent, and which the future can never retrieve,-give to God not only a
half but a whole day's service. “Be swift to hear,” the afternoon's discourse, as well as the morning's.
II. The man who is willingly a half-day hearer proclaims the Sabbath a weariness. An unequivocal indication of a man's state and prospects, is the estimation in which he holds this day of God.“ A day in thy courts,” said David—not half a day, observe" is better than a thousand.” A like judgment, as we have already intimated, have holy men of all ages pronounced. Differing widely in other points, they have had little difference in this. The feeling of them all is well expressed by quaint old Herbert:
60 day most calm, most bright!
The fruit of this, the next world's bud;
By another class, however, quite an opposite view has been taken. It was boldly uttered by some of old. “ When will the New Moon be gone," they said, "that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath that we may set forth wheat ?" Few now would speak thus unequivocally, especially under a profession of piety. Yet does not conduct speak? The Sabbath is not a private, but a public affair. Public worship is its chief and most characteristic service. He who is habitually done with that service when the sun has reached the meridian-who ignores whatever may remain of it-who spends the rest of the day, so far, at least as the ministry of the Word is concerned, as if holy time were ended, looks be not coldly on the whole Sabbatical Ordinance? What can he be understood to mean, but that it is irksome to him--that he would have as little of it as possi. ble-that he is well pleased when it is over? How unlike is he to the man in whose view all its sands are more precious than those of old Pactolus, or the modern land of gold ; and its last sands the most precious of all.
In this weariness of the Sabbath, it is worthy of special note, men declare themselves weary of the Gospel message that comes with it. In this direction, the example of the half-day attendant is specially eloquent. All over his vacant seat, as the neglected service opens, is written in most visible characters, "No more of the old pulpit routine-of sin, of ruin, of atonement, of faith, of salvation ! Enough, for one day, of Gethsemane of Calvary, of 'the Lamb, as it had been slain!' Discourse as the preacher may, of the woes of perdition, of the bliss of heaven, of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, it shall have no attraction for me. Let the task of the morning purchase me a welcome release for the rest of the day.” Instead of being "swift to hear," such an one, even when he sits in the sanctuary, is little better than a deaf man.
III. Men of this class declare by their conduct, I remark again, that mere earthly gratifications are superior to heavenly. It is the joy which perishes, that lures them from the joy divine. I will not speak of those who, having done penance by sitting through the morning sermon, dash by us on a ride of pleasure, not only breaking the Sabbath themselves, but disregarding God's benevolent ordinance touching the brute creation--putting themselves on a level with those fast men with their fast "cattle," who could hardly tell you how the interior of a church is constructed. Some there are, who leave their places in God's house vacant, that they may make pleasant calls of friendship; that they may take their fill, while the pressure of business is intermitted, of multifarious gossip. The ruddy glow of the cheerful anthracite fire, or the gentle summer's warmth of the well attempered furnace, the luxurious lounge, and the pleasant faces and voices of the family group-potent pleas these last, nay, all these, properly considered, for faithful church-goingmay yet, in many cases, be prevalent inducements to an abridg. ment of that duty. Nor are inferior competitions wanting. The Sabbath, it is averred, is not a fast-day; it is a joyful occasion, it is a high festival. A festival for the soul it truly is; but some, keeping a brute's Sabbath, make it a feast-day for the body. On other days, perhaps, such gratifications are omitted, for all potent business hinders; but less potent religion does not forbid it on this. There might be time for it, indeed, in the interval of worship; but then it must not be crowded. Religion may be crowded, the sermon can hardly be too laconic; but, for the spreading of the cloth, and the dispatching of the several courses, there must be ample time. The church-bell, with its distasteful çlangor, must not interfere with those gentle tinklings that summon waiting epicureans to their groaning altar. What rivalry have we often here ; and how severely does it try some who would not wholly repudiate the Sabbath. The viands are savory; it may not be so with the preaching. The material condiments are good; it may possibly be otherwise with the rhetorical. Of the carnal feast so temptingly spread out, there can be no question ; but there is more than a doubt in regard to the Gospel feast. The carnal feast prevails. Or if there he no interference in point of time, but a poor preparation is a surfeit for a sermon. Many a lover of good cheer has been kept from the sanctuary by the post-prandial disabilities which he has diligently and unscrupulously imposed on himself. It could hardly be expected that swiftness to hear should characterize such a person.
IV. The half-day hearer, I remark further, puts the business of this world above the things of religion. No half-way work is there, commonly, in the prosecution of secular schemes. The service done for mammon, is no easy forenoon's divertisement. It would be a strange thing to see our mechanics leaving their workshops, and our merchants their counting rooms, and our professional men their offices, just as the sun begins his daily declination, saying, “ The morning hours must suffice for toil and for gain.” Whole-day workers are the great mass of our citizens. It is no marvel if the evening shades find them still at their post. It is no strange thing if business, in some of its forms, makes long strides towards the "noon of night.” We say not this in the way of reprehension. There may, it is true, be excess in secular labors; but there inust be diligence. age, and especially in a city like this, thrift, we are sure, is not for the man of slack hand. We only insist, that the measure of devotedness to religion, shall not fall below the prevailing type and standard of worldly efficiency. We only ask, that if the secular market-day is to be wholly kept, there should be a like keeping of the market-day of the soul. We only aver, that he who improves most faithfully every hour of the former while a moiety of the latter quite satisfies him-a moiety at least of its most important privileges--gives but too clear an indication of his preference for the things of earth, and most sadly underrates the great realities of eternity.
Sickness, as we have said, may cut short Sabbath opportunities. But what if this be the effect of sickness that would not restrain from business? A noble rule is that of some godly men, to be kept from public worship by no ailment which would not keep them from their ordinary employments. There are fierce storms, I know. But what if through them all you make your way to the place of trade, or of amusement, or of social enjoyment? Are storms harder to meet with your faces churchward? Distance may try your fidelity. But does it forbid your stated visits to the scene of worldly occupations? In that regard as prudent men you make calculations beforehand. You tolerate no distance which you may not regularly overcome. If we would not, by our example, disparage divine things, if, in the Scripture sense, we would be "swift to hear," we must put our Sabbath-keeping, in all these relations, on at least as high a platform as the keeping of our week-days.
V. The course of the half-day hearer, I observe again, has a strong tendency to hinder the cause of Christ. He harms not himself alone, but many others. He injures those who copy, as some will, the pattern he holds forth. A chilling and discouraging influence does he pour upon the heart of the preacher. I would, my brethren, you could understand how the spirit of the Pastor faints within him, at times, as he gazes upon empty seats--especially if they be seats which he knows have holders, but which are apt to lack occupants. Weary hours, perhaps midnight hours, he has toiled in his study. He has sought, like the “Preacher” of old, “ to find out acceptable words,” and “ words of truth"-words which shall be " as goads and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given by one Shepherd,"-even the gracious Shepherd divine. Hoping for the blessing of God on his message, he enters the pulpit. But lo, the persons for whose conversion, or for whose growth in grace he has been led peculiarly to long--persons of the very class to which his discourse is specially suited-are many of them not in their places. He would not think uncharitably of the absent, yet he cannot but think of them sorrowfully. So far as they are concerned he has labored in vain; and it is no marvel if the depressing conviction of it should impair somewhat his usefulness to others. Ministers ought indeed, to be raised by faith above all disheartening influences. Yet they are but men; at the best they have not a seraph's fire. They need the influence of concurrent and enlivening ardors around them. Nothing is so great a help to them, short of the grace of God, as swiftness to hear. Scarce any thing is so like mountains of ice upon
them as vacant
Nor is the influence unhappy upon the preacher alone. It is matter of common observation, that feeling, other things being equal, is likely to be deepest when the greatest number of persons are present. The reason of this fact it is not difficult to state ; it comes of the natural play and interchange of human sympathies. Fully and felicitously has Archbishop Whately elucidated this point. “ Almost any one,” he says, “is aware of the infectious nature of any emotion excited in a large assembly. It may be compared to the increase of sound by a number of echoes, or of light, by a number of mirrors, or to the blaze of a heap of firebrands, each of which would speedily have gone out if kindled separately, but which when thrown together, help to kindle each other." What then, I add, if half the echoing crags are taken away, or a large part of the mirrors are wanting, or a considerable number of the firebrands are removed? Of sound, light, heat, there must be a proportional diminution. Just so must feeling be diminished, if, while the case in other respects remains the same, you diminish the number of those who are expected to feel. Especially is this the fact, if hearers are absent whose presence was looked for. The heart is chilled the more by the force of contrast, and the feeling of disappointment. Let it never be forgotten, then, by him who is needlessly away from his place in the sanctuary, that as surely as the abstraction of fuel from the furnaces below us, tends to throw a wintry influence over our physical frames, so surely does his lack of attend