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S E RM
SLEEPING in CHURCH.
Acts, Chap. xx. Ver. 9. And there fat in the window a certain young
man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep; and while Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
HAVE chosen these words with de
fign, if possible, to disturb fome part in this audience of half an hour's sleep, for the convenience and exercise whereof this place, at this season of the day, is very much celebrated.
There is indeed one mortal disadvantage to which all preaching is subject; that those who, by the wickedness of their lives, stand in greatest need, have usually
the smallest share; for either they are abio fent upon the account of idleness, or fpleen, or hatred to religion, or in order to doze away the intemperance of the week; or, if they do come, they are sure to employ their minds rather any other way, than regarding or attending to the business of the place.
The accident which happened to this young man in the text, hath not been fufficient to discourage his successors : But, because the preachers now in the world, however they may exceed St. Paul in the art of setting men to sleep, do extremely fall short of him in the working of miracles; therefore men are become so cautious as to chuse inore safe and convenient stations and postures for taking their repose, without hazard of their perfons; and, upon the whole matter, chufe rather to trust their destruction to a miracle, than their fafety. However, this being not the only way by which the lukewarm christians and scorners of the age discover their neglect and contempt of preaching, I shall enter expressly into confideration of this matter, and order my discourse in the following method: First, I shall produce several instances
to shew the great neglect of preach
ing now amongst us. Secondly, I shall reckon up some of
the usual quarrels men have against
preaching Thirdly, I shall set forth the great evil
of this neglect and contempt of preaching, and discover the real
causes from whence in proceedeth. Lastly, I shall offer some remedies a
gainst this great and spreading evil. First, I shall produce certain instances to Thew the great neglect of preaching now among us.
These may be reduced under two heads. First, men's absence from the service of the church; and secondly, their misbehaviour when they are here.
The first instance of men’s neglect, is in their frequent absence from the church.
There is no excuse so trivial, that will not pass upon some men's consciences to excuse their attendance at the public worVOL. XIII.
ship of God. Some are so unfortunate as to be always indisposed on the Lord's day, and think nothing so unwholesome as the air of a church. Others have their affairs so odly contrived, as to be always unluckily prevented by business. With fome it is a great mark of wit, and deep understanding, to stay at home on Sundays. Others again discover ftrange fits of laziness, that seize them, particularly on that day, and confine them to their beds. Others are absent out of mere contempt of religion. And, lastly, there are not a few who look upon it as a day of rest, and therefore claim the privilege of their castle, to keep the fabbath by eating, drinking, and sleeping, after the toil and labour of the week. Now in all this tlie worst circumstance is, that these perfons are such whose companies are most required, and who stand most in need of a physician.
Secondly, Men’s great neglect and contempt of preaching, appear by their mifbehaviour when at church.
If the audience were to be ranked under several heads, according to their be
haviour, when the word of God is delivered, how small a number would appear of those who receive it as they ought? How much of the feed then sown would be found to fall by the way side, upon stony ground or among thorns? and how little good ground would there be to take it? A preacher cannot look round from the pulpit, without observing, that some are in a perpetual whisper, and, by their air and gesture, give occasion to suspect, that they are in those very minutes defaming their neighbour. Others have their eyes and imagination constantly engaged in such a circle of objects, perhaps to gratify the most unwarrantable desires, that they never once attend to the business of the place; the sound of the preacher's words doth not so much as once interrupt them. Some have their minds wandering among idle, worldly, or vicious thoughts. Some lie at catch to ridicule whatever they hear, and with much wit and humour provide a stock of laughter, by furnishing themfelves from the pulpit. But, of all misbehaviour, none is comparable to that of those who come here to sleep; opium is