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betters, Thus are the last efforts of reforming mankind rendered wholely useless: How Mall they hear, saith the apostle, without a preacher ? But, if they have a preacher, and make it a point of wit or breeding not to hear him, what remedy is left? To this neglect of preaching, we may also entirely impute that gross ignorance among us in the very principles of religion, which it is amazing to find in persons who very much value their own knowledge and understanding in other things; yet, it is a visible, inexcusable ignorance, even in the meanest among us, considering the many advantages they have of learning their duty. And it hath been the great encouragement to all manner of vice: For, in vain we preach down fin to a people, whose hearts are waxed gross, whose ears are dull of bearing, and whose eyes are closed. Therefore Christ himself, in his discourses, frequently rouseth up the attention of the multitude, and of his disciples themselves, with his expression, He that hath ears to bear, let bim bear. But, among all neglects of preaching, none is so fatal as that of sleeping in
feel the pangs
the house of God; a scorner may listen to truth and reason, and in time grow serious; an unbeliever of a guilty conscience; whose thoughts or eyes wander among other objects, may, by a lucky word, be called back to attention: But the sleeper shuts up all avenues to his soul: He is like the deaf adder, that hearkeneth not to the voice of the charmer, charm he never so wisely. And, we may preach with as good fuccess to the
grave that is under his feet. But the great evil of this neglect will further yet appear, from considering the real caufes whence it proceedeth; whereof the first, I take to be, an evil conscience. Many men come to church to save or gain a reputation; or because they will not be singular, but comply with an established custom; yet, all the while, they are loaded with the guilt of old rooted sins. These men can expect to hear of nothing but terrors and threatenings, their fins laid open in true colours, and eternal misery the reward of them; therefore, no wonder they stop their ears, and divert their
thoughts, and seek any amusement rather than stir the hell within them.
Another cause of this neglect is, a heart set upon worldly things. Men whose minds are much enslaved to earthly affairs all the week, cannot disengage or break the chain of their thoughts so suddenly, as to apply to a discourse that is wholely foreign to what they have most at heart. Tell a usurer of charity, and mercy, and reftitution, you talk to the deaf; his heart and soul, with all his senses, are got among his bags, or he is gravely asleep, and dreaming of a mortgage. Tell a man of business, that the cares of the world choak the good feed; that we must not encumber ourselves with much ferving; that the salvation of his soul is the one thing necessary: You see, indeed, the shape of a man before you, but his faculties are all gone off among clients and papers, thinking how to defend a bad cause, or find flaws in a good one; or, he weareth out the time in drousy nods.
A third cause of the great neglect and scorn of preaching, ariseth from the pracçice of men who set up to decry and
disparage religion; these, being zealous to promote infidelity and vice, learn a rote of buffoonry that serveth all occafions, and refutes the strongest arguments for piety and good manners. These have a set of ridicule calculated for all fermons, and all preachers, and can be extremely witty as often as they please upon the same fund.
Let me now, in the last place, offer some remedies against this great evil.
It will be one remedy against the contempt of preaching, rightly to consider the end for which it was designed. There are many who place abundance of merit in going to church, although it be with no other prospect but that of being well entertained, wherein if they happen to fail, they return wholely disappointed. Hence it is become an impertinent vein among people of all forts to hunt after what they call a good fermon, as if it were a matter of pastime and diversion. Our business, alas! is quite another thing, either to learn, or, at least, be reminded of our duty, to apply the doctrines delivered, compare the rules we hear with our lives and actions, and find wherein we have transgressed. These are the dispofitions men should bring into the house of God, and then they will be little concerned about the preacher's wit or eloquence, oor be curious to enquire out his faults or infirmities, but consider how to correct their own.
Another remedy against the contempt of preaching, is, that men would consider, whether it be not reasonable to give more allowance for the different abilities of preachers than they usually do; refinements of stile, and Aights of wit, as they are not properly the business of any preacher, so they cannot possibly be the talents of all. In most other discourses, men are satisfied with sober sense and plain reason; and, as understandings usually go, even that is not over frequent. Then why they should be so over nice in expectation of eloquence, where it is neither necessary nor convenient, is hard to imagine.
Lastly, The scorners of preaching would do well to consider, that this talent of