Sunday Considerations: On Hearing Sermons

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Christian, how will you listen to and receive this week’s sermon? Consider the last two paragraphs of John Newton’s letter “On Hearing Sermons” as you think of your answer.

Farther: I advise you, when you hear a Gospel sermon, and it is not in all respects to your satisfaction, be not too hasty to lay the whole blame upon the preacher. The Lord’s ministers have not much to say in their own behalf. They feel (it is to be hoped) their own weakness and defects, and the greatness and difficulty of their work. They are conscious that their warmest endeavours to proclaim the Saviour’s glory are too cold, and their most importunate addresses to the consciences of men are too faint: and sometimes they are burdened with such discouragements, that even their enemies would pity them if they knew their case. Indeed, they have much to be ashamed of; but it will be more useful for you, who are a hearer, to consider whether the fault may not possibly be in yourself. Perhaps you thought too highly of the man, and expected too much from him; or perhaps you thought too meanly of him, and expected too little. In the former case, the Lord justly disappointed you; in the latter, you received according to your faith. Perhaps you neglected to pray for him; and then, though he might be useful to others, it is not at all strange that he was not so to you. Or possibly you have indulged a trifling spirit, and brought a dearth and deadness upon your own soul; for which you had not been duly humbled, and the Lord chose that time to rebuke you.

Lastly: as a hearer, you have a right to try all doctrines by the word of God; and it is your duty so to do. Faithful ministers will remind you of this: they will not wish to hold you in an implicit and blind obedience to what they say, upon their own authority, nor desire that you should follow them farther than they have the Scripture for their warrant. They would not be lords over your conscience, but helpers of your joy. Prize this Gospel liberty, which sets you free from the doctrines and commandments of men; but do not abuse it to the purposes of pride and self. There are hearers who make themselves, and not the Scripture, the standard of their judgment. They attend not so much to be instructed, as to pass their sentence. To them, the pulpit is the bar at which the minister stands to take his trial before them; a bar at which few escape censure, from judges at once so severe and inconsistent. For, as these censors are not all of a mind, and perhaps agree in nothing so much as in the opinion they have of their own wisdom, it has often happened, that, in the course of one and the same sermon, the minister has been condemned as a Legalist and an Antinomian, as too high in his notions, and too low, as having too little action, and too much. Oh! this is a hateful spirit, that prompts hearers to pronounce ex cathedrâ as if they were infallible, breaks in upon the rights of private judgment, even in matters not essential, and makes a man an offender for a word. This spirit is one frequent unhappy evil, which springs from the corruption of the heart, when the Lord affords the means of grace in great abundance. How highly would some of the Lord’s hidden ones, who are destitute of the ordinances, prize the blessing of a preached Gospel, with which too many professors seem to be surfeited! I pray God to preserve you from such a spirit (which I fear is spreading, and infects us like the pestilence), and to guide you in all things.1

  1. Newton, J., & Richard Cecil. (1824). The works of the John Newton Volume 1 (224–225). London: Hamilton, Adams & Co. Logos Bible Software.
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The above article was posted on May 4, 2013 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sma9231961 May 5, 2013 at 1:04 am

If we don’t hear the sermon as a matter of life and death…then it will just end up being ‘religious noise’…or ‘biblical principles for living’…or whatever.
Death..and new life. That is the paradigm of the gospel.

2 Robert Vaughn May 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Good words.

3 IDUEHE May 7, 2013 at 11:08 am

wonderful… religion and Christianity… two big subject that makes the World go smooth when properly practiced… UNN http://www.unn.edu.ng

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