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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 them. selves; not what
take a vain reflection but what may substantially serve their own needs; that the attending to his discourses 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 warm themselves all day, and forget their errand ; and, in the meantime, 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 practise ; 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 ansæ,' 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 upon the eye, and represents the same object in unicn 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 towards 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 stormy 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 music 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 music, 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 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 person of
To admire a preacher is such a reward of his pains and worth, as
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 master upon 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 easy natures and softer understandings, does more easily abuse a man. And though such a person may have the good fortune to admire a good man and a wise ; yet it is an ill disposition, and makes him liable to every man's abuse.
. Stupidum hominem quavis oratione percelli,” said Heraclitus; “ An undiscerning person is apt to be cozened by every oration.” And, besides this, that preacher, whom some do admire, others will most
certainly envy; and that also is to be provided against with diligence: and you must not admire too forwardly, for your own sake, lest you fall into the hands of a worse preacher ; and for his sake, whom, when you admire, you also love, for others will be apt to envy him.
3. But that must by all men be avoided ; for envy is the worst counsellor in the world, and the worst hearer of a wise discourse. I pity those men who live upon flattery and wonder, and while they sit at the foot of the doctor's chair, stare in his face, and cry, 'Ακριβώς, ώ μεγάλου φιλοσόφου! Rarely spoken, admirably done!” They are like callow and unfeathered birds, gaping perpetually to be fed from another's mouth, and they never come to the knowledge of the truth ; such a knowledge as is effective, and expressed in a prudent and a holy life. But those men that envy the preacher, besides that they are great enemies of the Holy Ghost, and are spitefully evil, because God is good to him, they are also enemies to themselves. He that. envies the honours or the riches of another, envies for his own sake, and he would fain be rich with that wealih, which sweats in his neighbour's coffers : but he that envies him that makes good sermons, envies himself, and is angry because himself may receive the benefit, and be improved, or delighted, or instructed, by another. He that is apt fondly to admire any man's person must cụre himself by considering, that the preacher