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Philippians i. 3—11. The ground of confidence.
LVIII. The Twenty-third Sunday after
Phil. iii. 17-21. Conversation in heaven.
LIX. The Twenty-fourth Sunday after
Colossians i. 3—12. Thanksgiving and prayer.
LX. The Twenty - fifth Sunday after
Jer. xxiii. 5-8. The Lord our Righteousness.
FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER.
HEARERS AND DOERS.
James i. 22.
BE YE DOERS OF THE WORD, AND NOT HEAR
ERS ONLY, DECEIVING YOUR OWNSELVES.
In the Epistle for this day, a description is given of the different characters into which all who come to the house of God may be divided. The text marks the distinction which subsists between them, and the verses which follow contain illustrations of their character. The importance of hearing the word of God was pointed out in the Epistle for last Sunday; in which the apostle exhorts Christians to be swift to hear, and to receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls. In the portion of scripture to which our attention is now to be directed, we may consider,
First, The character given of those who are hearers only; and
Secondly, That of those who are also doers of the word; the consideration of which may lead us to see the importance of the exhortation of the text, as pointing out the danger there is of deceiving our ownselves in a matter which so nearly con
May the Holy Spirit be pleased to apply His words to our hearts, that we may be preserved from self-deception, and enabled to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
First, With regard to the characters of those who are hearers only, the apostle observes, If any man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he
The word of God is here compared to a looking-glass or mirror, which gives a representation of the person who looks into it, and shows him what kind of appearance he has. In like manner the holy scriptures present us with an accurate account of, not the outward appearance only, but the internal state and character of the children of men. They show us what we are by nature and by practice. They describe to us our fallen state, and the source from whence it originated. That God created man upright; but he fell from his state of innocency, by transgressing the commands of his Creator; and thus " brought death into the world and all our woe.'
For by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. The posterity of Adam inherited from their fallen parents a corrupt nature; his firstborn son was a murderer; and ever since the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; he is shapen in iniquity, and conceived in sin ;3 he is abominable and filthy before God, and drinketh iniquity like water ;' yea, every imagination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. Such is the representation which is given of man in the word of God. He who is a hearer only, may assent to the truth of the description, because it involves all mankind equally with himself; but he lays it not to heart. He may look into the Bible, and see that such are its statements. His conscience may tell him that he is a sinner against God, and exposed to the consequences of transgression, notwithstanding the palliations and excuses which he may make for himself. But the danger he is in of receiving the wages of sin, does not fill him with alarm, does not lead him to apply in earnest for pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace, to Him who has promised to bestow these blessings upon the suppliants at His footstool.
i Rom. v. 12.
2 Gen. viii. 21; vi. 5. 3 Psalm li. 5. 4 Job xv. 16.
It seems surprising that people can look at themselves continually in the glass of God's holy law, and yet habitually go away and forget it. But this is the case, it is to be feared, with the greatest number of the hearers of the word of God; and therefore our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of this description of hearers, in the first place, in His parable of the sower: Those by the way side are they that hear, then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.5 While the word of God is preached, Satan is active in endeavouring to counteract its effect. He had rather that mankind should turn away their ears from hearing the truth altogether. But if they will hear it, as many do for various reasons unconnected with the desire of receiving spiritual benefit from it, his end is answered if he can persuade them to be hearers only and not doers of the word; to assent to its truth, but not to lay it to heart, so as to follow it up in their life and conduct.
Let us examine ourselves as to the benefit we receive from hearing the word of God. Oh! that we heard it at all times under the recollection that the word of God shall judge us at the last day, that we shall every one of us give account of ourselves before God respecting our hearing His word, and the reception which it meets with from us.
Let us ask ourselves, Does the representation which we find of ourselves in the word