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Secondly, An immediate subjection of soul and conscience to whatever is delivered in the dispensation of the word. A readiness hereunto Cornelius declared, when he was to hear Peter preach, Acts x. 33. 6 Now are we all here present before thee, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God ;" that is, so to hear, as to give up our souls in obedience to the word, because of the authority of God, whose word it is. And when we are not in this fraine, we shall be unprofitable hearers. For the immediate end of our hearing is practice. And the Scripture doth so fully testify hereunto, that in sundry places it positively declares that no kind of bearing, whatever appearance of zeal or diligence it may be accompanied withal, which doth not issue in practical obedience, is in the least to be esteemed of. But I intend not at present this practice, which is in order of nature consequential to the hearing of the word, but that practical subjection of the soul and conscience to the word which alone will make way for it. For even that practice or obedience which proceeds not from hence, is faulty and corrupt, as having certain. ly a false foundation, or a wrong end. Herein then lies the great wisdom of faith in hearing, namely, in delivering up the soul and conscience to the commanding authority of God in the word, Rom. vi. 17. And hereunto among other things it is required, First, That the heart hath no approved reserve for any lust or corruption, whose life it would save from the sword of the word. Secondly, That it be afraid of no duty, on the account of the difficulties and dangers with which it may be attended. For where these things are, the heart will close itself against the influences of God's authority in his word. 3. A diligent watchfulness against distractions and diversions, especially such as are growing to be babitual from temptations or sloth. This is much spoken to by others, and therefore is here dismissed without fartlier consideration. And where we are negligent in these things, or any of them, we shall be found dull in hearing.
Thirdly, There are duties also belonging hereunto which are consequential to actual hearing; the discharge of which is required to free us from the guilt of the evil reproved. As 1. A due examination of what is new or doubtful in the things delivered to us. When the gospel itself was first preached, and so was new to them to whom it was delivered, the Bereans are coininended for examining by the Scriptures which they had before received, the doctrines which were delivered to them, Acts xvii. 11. And in case of things doubtful, we are commanded "to try all things, and hold fast that which is good,” i Thess. v. 21. as also to try the spirits, 1 John iv. 1. or what is taught under pretence of any spiritual gift whatever. Not that any thing is spoken to encourage that cavilling humour which so abounds in some, as that they will be excepting and disputing against every
thing that is delivered in the dispensation of the word, if not absolutely suited to their sentiments and conceptions, or because they think they could otherwise, and it may be better, have expressed what they have heard ; which kind of persons well may be reckoned amongst the worst sort of unprofitable hearers, and such as are most remote from subjecting their consciences to the authority of God in his word, as they ought. We may there. fore give some rules in this matter; as, First, Some things there are, which are such fundamental principles of our profession, that they ought to be so far from being exposed to a doubting examination, that they are part of that rule whereby all other doctrines are to be tried and examined, as those also by whom they are taught, 2 John 9-11. And Secondly, Other doctrines also there are, so evidently deduced from the Scripture, and so manifest in their own light, carrying the open conviction of their truth along with them, as that they ought not at any time to be made the matter of a doubtful trial. Only what is delivered concerning them, may be compared with the Scriptures, to their farther illustration and confirmation. Thirdly, Neither ought what is delivered by any faithful approved minister of the gospel, whose way,
course, and doctrine, and' zeal for the truth hath been known, be lightly called into question ; nor without manifest evidence of some failing or mistake, be made the matter of doubtful disputations. For whereas every man is obnoxious to error, and some we have found, after a long course of their profession of the truth, to fall actually into such as are perilous to the souls of men, if not pernicious; it is not meet that any thing which they teach, should on just occasion, be exempt from a sober trial and examination. So whereas such ministers of the gospel as those mentioned, have the word of truth committed to them by Christ himself, and have his promise of direction in the discharge of their duty, whilst they behave themselves as his stewards and dispensers of the mysteries of God, what they declare in his name, is not lightly to be solicited with every needless scruple. Wherefore this duty which in some cases and seasons is of so great importance, may in other cases, and at other seasons, be less necessary; yea, a pretence of it may be greatly abused to the ruin of all profitable hearing. When errors and false teachers abound, and when by our best attendance to the rule, we cannot avoid the hearing of them sometimes; or when things new, uncouth, or carrying an appearance of an opposition to the analogy of faith, or those doctrines of the gospel wherein we have been before instructed and settled, are imposed on us; it is necessary we should stand on our guard, and bring what is taught to a due examination. But where there is a settled approved ministry, and the things delivered evidence in z good manner their own consonancy to the Scripture and analogy
of faith, a disposition and inclination, under pretence of trying and examining what is delivered, to except against it, and dispute about it, is the bane of all profitable hearing.
2. Let us be sure to learn what we are learning. The apos. tle complains of some who are “ always learning, but never come to the knowledge of the truth," 2 Tim. iii. 7. Of this sort are many still amongst us. And hence it is, that after they have been long under the means of instruction in sound truth and knowledge, they are ready to hearken after, and greedily embrace any fancy that is contrary thereunto. The reason here. of is, because they did not learn what they were so long in learning. To learn any truth as we ought, is to learn it in its proper principles, true nature, and peculiar use ; to learn it in the respect it hath to, and the place it holds in the system of gospeltruths ; so to learn it, as to get an experience of its usefulness and necessity to a life of holy obedience. Unless we thus learn what we hear, in its compass and circumstances, it will not prove an ingrafted word to us, and we shall lose the things which we seem to have wrought. Our duty herein may be reduced to heads. 1. That we learn doctrinally what respect every truth hath to Christ the centre of them all. 2. Practically what influence they have to our obedience and holiness. 3. A diligent heedfulness to retain the things which we have heard, is also required hereunto. But this hath been sufficiently spoken to ch. iv. 1. where it is expressly enjoined us. The like also may be said concerning meditation and holy conference, whereof see chap. iii. 12. 4. A diligent care to avoid partiality in obedience to what we hear. All men, it is hoped, design to obey in some things, most in most things, but few in all. God blamed the priests of old that they were partial in the law, Mal. ii. 9. Either they taught not men the whole law, and therein the whole of their duty, but reserved such things from them, as if known and practised might turn to their own disadvantage, for they had learned in those days to eat up, and so to live on the sin of the people, Hos. iv. 8. or they taught them according as they knew they would be pleased to hear, therein accepting their persons, as the words seem to import. And for this God says he would make them contemptible and base before all the people.” It shall be no otherwise with them who are partial in their obedience. Such are persons who will do as much as consists in their own judgment with their interests, societies, inclinations, and the liberty they have fancied to themselves. For we are fallen into such days wherein some professors do judge it a great freedom and liberty to be exempted from obedience to sundry commands of Christ, and those such as they cannot but know to be so. Alas, for the pride and folly of the heart of man! to serve sin, to serve vanity and umbelief, which are the things alone that keep
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us off from an universal' compliance with all the commands of the gospel, and submission to all the institutions of Christ, shall be accounted liberty and freedom, when it is a part of the vilest bondage in the world. What are such persons afraid of? Is it that they shall engage themselves too far in the way towards heaven, so as that they cannot retreat when they would ? Is it that they shall have too many helps against their corruptions and temptations, and for the furtherance of their faith and obedience? Or is it lest they should give over themselves wholly to Christ, and not be at liberty, when a better master comes, to lay a claim to a share in them ? How great is the misery of such poor souls ! This is the generation of perishing professors in our days. Out of them proceed Quakers, worldlings, and at last scoffers. This is the field wherein all apostasy visibly grows.
Those that are openly profane cannot apostatize or fall away; what should they fall from ? Christ is pleased to secure his churches in some good measure, so as that we have not frequent instances in them of this fatal miscarriage. But from among the number of profes. . sors who will walk at large, and are partial in their obedience, we have multitudes of examples continually. Let not such persons think they shall profit under the dispensation of the word, for they will at last be found to have been slothful in hearing, and that in one of the worst instances of that sin.
Where there is a neglect of these things, which are all necessary and required to profitable hearing, it cannot be but that men will be witgoo Tais exouis, and fall deservedly under the rebuke here given by the apostle to the Hebrews, as we see multitudes to do every day. And whereas all this proceedeth from the sinful and wilful carelessness of men, about their own eternal concerns, it is evident that all want of a due progress and improvement under the means of grace, must be resolved into their own sloth and depraved affections.
Obs. VI. It is a grievous matter to the dispensers of the gospel to find their hearers unapt to learn and thrive under their ministry through their negligence and sloth. The apostle complaineth of it here as that which was a cause of sorrow and trouble to him. And so is it to all faithful ministers whose lot it is to have such hearers. As for others who are themselves negligent or slothful in their own work, it cannot be but that they will be regardless of the state of their flock.
Ver. 12, 13, 14.-The three ensuing verses, as they all treat of the same matter with that foregoing, so they have all the same design in themselves, and cannot be severed in their exposition.
The reasons of the reproof entered on in the Ilth verse, are here expressed, and the crime reproved is laden with sundry aggravations. And these aggravations are taken from such cir
Vos enim quos
cumstances of the persons, and such consequents and effects of
παλιν κριων εχετε του διδασκειν υμας, τινα τα στοιχεια της αρχης των
μετεχων γαλακτος, απειρος λογα δικαιοσυνης (νηπιος γαρ εστι.) Τελειων δε εστιν η στερια τροφη, των δια την εξιν το
αισθητηρια γιγυμνασμενα εχοντων προς διακρισιν καλου τε και κακα. . Και γαρ οφειλουθες ειναι. . Etenim debentes esse, Arias. Etenim cum deberetis esse, Vulg. Etenim cum debeatis, Eras. oportuit, Beza. All to the same purpose. For when you ought, or rather, . for when as you ought to be.' 727900977 74217, Syr. Debitores estis enim. The word denotes a debt of any kind, in things real or moral; whatever is due from us, or justly required of us, is so expressed. Aidaorumos. Magistri, Vulg. Lat. Rhem. • Masters.' Doctores, Eras. Bez. Syr. No, Teachers,' instructers of others.
Ale toy xagovar. Vulg. Lat. Propter tempus. Rhem. . For your time,' supplying your,' needlessly. Pro temporis ratione, Bez. Eras. considering the time,' for the time,' is proper in our language. Nova 7235, Seeing you have had time in,' or under institution,' discipline, instruction, doctrine; for the time wherein you have been taught and instructed. Arab. For the length of the time,' which is intended but not expressed. One of late, jamdu. dum, now long ago.' You have been so long since taught, that you might have been teachers long ago.
Nádov, Rursum. Syr. 910 797 NV, but now again.' Contra, on the other side.' Whereas you ought to have been teachers, on the other side.
Xgsisev sxets, indigetis, Vulg. you need, Rhem. Opus habetis, opus est ut, ' you have need, you stand in need,' it is necessary.
Tx didapksuv vas, ut vos doceamini, that you should be taught,' in the passive voice. Syr. probxny, that you should learn.' Properly, to teach you ;' that I should, that we should, that one should teach you.
Τινα τα στοιχεια της αρχης των λογιων τε Θια. Vulg. Lat. Que int elementa exordii sermonum Dei. Rhem. • What be the elements of the beginning of the words of God,' improperly and obscure.
. , The very first writings of the beginning of the words of God.' Supposing a Torxsid, to intend the letters of the alphabet. Quæ sint elementa initii eloquiorum Dei, Erasm. Beza. that is, oraculorum. Loyis, 91060&ta. Ours, " which be the first principles of the otici Vol. IV.
,אילין אנין כתיבתא קדמיתא דריש מלוהי דאלהא .ly