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country, and the benefit of the poor. I desire you will all weigh and consider what I have spoken, and, according to your several stations and abilities, endeavour to put it in practice; and God give you good success. To whom, with the Son and Holy Ghost, be all honour, &c.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c.
SLEEPING IN CHURCH.
ACTS, XX. 9. And there sat in the window a certain young man named
EUTICHUS, being fallen into a deep sleep; and while Paul was long preaching, be sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
I HAVE chosen these words with design, if possible, to disturb some part in this audience of half an hour's sleep, for the convenience and exercise whereof this place, at this season of the day, is very much celebrated.
There is indeed one mortal disadvantage to which all preaching is subject ; that those, who, by the wickedness of their lives, stand in greatest need, have usually the smallest share ; for either they are absent upon the account of idleness, or spleen, or hatred to religion, or in order to doze away the intemperance of the week: or, if they do come, they are sure to employ their minds rather any other way, than regarding or attending to the business of the place.
The accident which happened to this young man in the text, hath not been sufficient to discourage his successors : But, because the preachers now in the world, however they may exceed St. Paul in the art of setting men to sleep, do extremely fall short of him in the working of miracles; therefore men are become so cautious, as to choose more safe and convenient stations and postures for taking their repose, without hazard of their persons; and upon the whole matter, choose rather to trust their destruction to a miracle, than their safety. However, this being not the only way by which the lukewarm Christians and scorners of the age discover their neglect and contempt of preaching, I shall enter expressly into consideration of this matter, and order my discourse in the following method:
First, I shall produce several instances to show the
great neglect of preaching now among us.
Secondly, I shall reckon up some of the usual quarrels
men have against preaching.
Thirdly, I shall set forth the great evil of this neglect
and contempt of preaching, and discover the real causes whence it proceedeth.
Lastly, I shall offer some remedies against this great
and spreading evil.
First, I shall produce certain instances to show the great neglect of preaching now among us.
These may be reduced under two heads. First, men's absence from the service of the church ; and secondly, their misbehaviour when they are here.
The first instance of men's neglect, is in their frequent absence from the church.
There is no excuse so trivial, that will not pass upon some men's consciences to excuse their attendance at the publick worship of God. Some are so unfortunate as to be always indisposed on the Lord's day, and think nothing so unwholesome as the air of a church. Others have their affairs so oddly contrived, as to be always unluckily prevented by business. With some it is a great mark of wit, and deep understanding to stay at home on Sundays. Others again discover strange fits of laziness, that seize them, particularly on that day, and confine them to their beds. Others are absent out of mere contempt of religion. And, lastly, there are not a few who look upon it as a day of rest, and therefore claim the privilege of their castle, to keep the sabbath by eating, drinking, and sleeping, after the toil and labour of the week. Now in all this, the worst circumstance is, that these persons are such, whose companies are most required, and who stand most in need of a physician.
Secondly, Men's great neglect and contempt of preaching appear by their misbehaviour when at church.
If the audience were to be ranked under several heads, according to their behaviour when the word of God is delivered, how small a number would appear of those who receive it as they ought? How much of the seed then sown would be found to fall by the way side, upon stony ground, or among thorns ? and how little good ground would there be to take it? A preacher cannot look round from the pulpit, without observing, that some are in a perpetual whisper, and
by their air and gesture, give occasion to suspect that they are in those very minutes desaming their neighbour. Others, have their eyes and imagination constantly engaged in such a circle of objects, pei haps to gratify the most unwarrantable desires, that they never once attend to the business of the place ; the sound of the preacher's words do not so much as once interrupt them. Some have their minds wandering among idle, worldly, or vicious thoughts. Some lie at catch to ridicule whatever they hear, and with much wit and humour provide a stock of laughter, by furnishing themselves from the pulpit. Bút, of all misbehaviour none is comparable to that of those who come here to sleep; opium is not so stupifying to many persons as an afternoon sermon. Perpetual custom hath so brought it about, that the words of whatever preacher, become only a sort of uniform sound at a distance, than which nothing is more effectual to lull the senses. For that it is the very sound of the sermon which bindeth up their faculties, is manifest from hence, because they all awake so very regularly as soon as it ceaseth, and with much devotion receive the blessing, dozed and besotted with indecencies I am ashamed to repeat..
I proceed, Secondly, to reckon up some of the usual quarrels men have against preaching, and to show the unreasonableness of them.
Such unwarrantable demeanour as I have described among Christians, in the house of God, in a solemn assembly, while their faith and duty are explained and delivered, have put those who are guilty, upon inventing some excuses to extenuate their fault: This they do by turning the blame either upon the particular preacher, or upon preaching in general. First, they