Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Duty of Consideration

In his book Matthew 13: The Parable of the Sower, Samuel Stennett (1728-1795) expounds Matthew 13:9 "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."  He notes that it is the believer's duty to consider the minister's sermon by appealing to laws of decency and common sense.  He recommends:
  1. "Some kind of preparation previous to our hearing the Word," (p. 185).
  2. "How we ought to behave in the house of God," (p. 187).
  3. To "apprehend the effect of the Word, with the blessing of God," (p. 188).
First, Mr. Stennett encourages the believer to prepare for the Lord's Day by asking yourself the following questions: "What is the end I propose to myself in going thither?  Is it merely to conform to custom, and to oblige my friends and neighbors?  Or am I disposed to listen to what the preacher may say, and to give it that consideration, which its importance as a message from God (for that is its claim) demands?  Both decency and good sense teach, that my going to a place of public instruction obliges me to pay all due attention to the speaker," (p. 185).

Next, the author admonishes the believer to place himself into a suitable frame and temper for hearing the Word.  He inquires: "And need we be told in what manner we should behave ourselves there [church]?  Can it be right to compose ourselves quietly to sleep?  Or to be incessantly gazing about on the congregation?  Or to be wholly employed in observing the person and watching the attitude and manner of the speaker?  Or to suffer our thoughts to wander, like the fool's eye to the ends of the earth [Prov. 17:24]?  He who treats public instruction after this manner, violates the laws of decency and common sense, and defeats all the useful purposes which he would be supposed to have in view by making himself one of the audience.  His presence says he came thither to hear: his behavior the contrary.  How absurd!" (pp. 187-88).

Finally, Mr. Stennett persuades the believer to recollect what he has heard which requires resolution, self-denial, and prudence by:
  • "Avoid[ing] as much as possible everything that may tend to dissipate the mind, and render it incapable of consideration and recollection," (p. 189).
  • "Be[ing] not fond of hearing more than you can retain and digest," (p. 190).
  • "[R]etiring at the close of the day, for the purpose of recollection and prayer," (p. 192).
He defines recollection as "considering with ourselves the particular point discoursed of, the manner in which it was stated, the reasoning upon it, its agreement with Scripture and our own experience, and the uses to which it was applied.  This seriously done, and followed with fervent prayer to God for His blessing, we may hope the great truths of religion will be deeply riveted in our minds, make an abiding impression upon our hearts, and have a mighty influence upon our tempers and practice," (p. 192).

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God," (Rom. 12:1-2).