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that Jethro's faith in God, if it was not produced, was greatly increased by what he heard from the mouth of Moses, Exod. xviii. 11.The body of the Israelitish nation was little. better than the heathens around, yet there were some among them that followed the Lord. I see no reason to think that there were no real saints among the men whose carcases were doomed to fall in the wilderness. If Moses himself forfeited the possession of the good land by his unbelief at Meribah, might not some saints of an inferior class expose themselves to the same calamity, by unbelief, at Kadesh Barnea? But whatever was the behavior of the other tribes, we know that there were many of the tribe of Levi who observed God's word, and kept his covenant, Exodus, xxxii. Mal. ii.
ue generation that entered into Canaan was a much better generation than that which came up out of Egypt. The Lord had led his people forty years in the wilderness, "to humble them, and to prove them, and to do them good in their latter end;" and doubtless there were many to whom real good was done. Cod shewed them, under Moses and Joshua, many proofs of his power and faithfulness, which made a deep and indelible impression upon their hearts, and they feared the Lord all the days of Joshua, and of the ciders who over-lived Joshua, who had seen the wonderful works of the Lord to Israel."
They enjoyed peculiar advantages in what they saw with their eyes. But the wonders of God are still to be seen in his sanctuary, and those who wait at wisdom's doors are likeliest to see God's power and his glory, Psal. lxxvi. I.-3.
But why should I spend time in shewing, that the great means by which God hath gathered sinners to Christ in every age is his word, and especially his word proclaimed by his servants, the Prophets, the apostles, and other extraordinary or ordinary ministers of his word. All who have the least acquaintance with the history of religion know that faith has ordinarily come "by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The preaching of the gospel surely can do no good where it is not heard. The success of the apostles lay not among those who did not take the trouble to come and hear them, but among those who attended their ministrations. A great and effectual door was opened to Paul at Ephesus. There many were disposed to attend his ministrations, and many of those were made to believe to the saving of their souls. "In whom ye also trusted," says he, "when ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation," Eph. i. 13. 1 Cor. xvi. 9.
Those who were best disposed to hear without prejudice, and to think on what they heard, were the persons among whom the apostles expected and enjoyed most success. The
Berean Jews, says Luke, "were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these thin s were so.' "" What was the consequence? Therefore many of them believed," Acts xvii. 11. 12.
And it is manifest, from scripture and experience, that the gospel at present is most successful in the conversion of those that are trained up to a regular attendance upon its ordinances,and are preserved by its influence from irreligious and dissipated courses of life. Suppose that one man is trained up from his infancy to attend and venerate the institutions of religion, and to keep himself from the pollutions of the world, though still a stran ger to the grace of God: Suppose another man to live in the habitual contempt of religious ordinances, and to indulge himself, without restraint, in the gratification of his lusts; is there equal probability of the salvation of either? The Scriptures expressly say the contrary. "Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." xxii. 6. These words certainly imply that there is great hope to be entertained of a child who receives a religious education. The grace of God, it may be hoped, will crown with success the labors of the parent, at one time or other of his life; for the sea
son must be left with God, and those truths which are fixed in the judgment may have their proper effect at some other time, if they have it not at present. But is there the same hope of a young man who is suffered from his childhood to gratify his corrupt inclinations without restraint; or who casts off all restraint. that he may "walk in the way of his heart and in the sight of his eyes?" Does not the wise man say, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. The rod and reproof give wisdom; but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame, None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life,” Prov. xiii. 20. xxix. 15. ii. 19.
3. The vast importance of a sound and faithful ministry to the souls of men is a plain proof that those unconverted persons are most likely to be brought into a state of salvation, who enjoy, and who diligently use the means of grace.
The apostle Paul lays down rules in a vari ety of passages, for the choice and behavior of bishops. For what end? Because it is of the utmost importance to precious souls, that those who rule in the church should be well qualified for their offices, and make full proof of their ministry. This reason he himself assigns, "Take heed to thyself and to thy doctrine, continue in them; for in
doing this, thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." He could not command success to his ministrations. It was not to be expected that all his hearers would be saved. But the more careful he was of his doctrine and practice, the more success he might expect; not certainly among those who made no use of his ministrations, but among those who heard the word from his mouth.
In Jeremiah's time, little good was done by the prophets, but much more might have been done by them, if they had behaved as prophets ought to do; for then it might have been expected that the people would have heard them with reverence, would have trembled at the divine judgments denounced against them, and would have repented of their wickednefs. "If they had stood in my counsel," fays God, "and caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil ways, and from the evil of their doings." Jer. xxiii. 32. The ancient priests were of an opposite character to these false prophets, and their success was what might have been expected. Their descendants in the days of Malachi were the scourge of the poor people, because they had degenerated from the example of their fathers. "The law of truth was in his mouth," in the mouth of Levi, i. e. of the priests who sprung from C