“Some think it a little work to preach and child’s play to sit and listen. When the great trumpet peals and the dead are awakened, they will think very differently! They will reckon that speech was never put to so noble a purpose as when it was used to bring men to reconciliation with their Maker—and that ears were never used to as good an end as when they were used attentively to hear what God the Lord would speak when He would bid the rebel come to Him and find mercy!
The preacher, if he is what he should be, does not think it a light or easy thing to preach. It is said of Luther that he never feared any man and yet he declares that he never preached a sermon without his knees knocking together because he trembled lest he should be guilty of the blood of any of his hearers. This is the great burden of my life, lest I should miss anything that should be profitable to you. Lest, in dealing with God’s Word, I should be like some untaught chemist’s lad who is mixing medicines which were meant for restoring health, but who introduces poisons into them. No! But I would tell you all I know, tell you all God’s Word as I have learned it and speak it honestly, affectionately and plainly, trusting thus to be clear of the blood of all men!
But in proportion as it is solemn work to preach, it is also solemn work to hear. When men enter king’s palaces, they become at once respectful, they regard their company, they pay marked attention to the head of the household—and should they not, when they come into the assembly of God’s people to join in the worship of the Most High? Should they not, after the same sort, say, “How awe-inspiring is this place where the gospel is preached! It is none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven”? Because, then, it is no light and trivial thing to hear a sermon, take heed how you hear!
Again, it is no easy thing to hear a sermon well and hence the appeal of the text, “Take heed how you hear.” The fool cannot hear it well. He lets it in one ear and out the other! The mere critic hears it, but without any profit to himself. Multitudes have heard hundreds, possibly thousands of sermons, but they have not been benefited thereby—they have let the golden stream run past them—and not one single drop of the precious treasure have they retained. The art of listening to the preaching of the gospel is one of the highest arts in the world and conduces to the best results! Don’t you suppose when you have come up those step, and taken your seats, that you are all ready for the sermon. No! No, it is not so! If you would have good fruit of it, there ought to be as much preparation on your part as on mine. Am I to pray that I may be a blessing to you, and are you not to pray that you may get a blessing out of the words? Are you to come flippantly or even carelessly into these seats and sit down, and then hope to be edified? If so, indeed, you shall usually find your hopes disappointed! Take heed how you hear, because it is not a little thing, nor an easy thing, to listen to the gospel of Jesus!”