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Fetching the Heavenly Fire

"Content not yourselves with being in a state of grace, but be also careful that your graces are kept in vigorous and lively exercise, and that you preach to yourselves the sermons which you study, before you preach them to others. If you did this for your own sakes, it would not be lost labour, but I am speaking to you upon the public account, that you would do it for the sake of the church. When your minds are in a holy, heavenly frame, your people are likely to partake of the fruits of it.  Your prayers, and praises, and doctrine will be sweet and heavenly to them.  They will likely feel when you have been much with God: that which is most on your hearts, is like to be most in their ears. I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul.  When I let my heart grow cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching is confused...If we feed on unwholesome food, either errors or fruitless controversies our hearers are like to fare the worse for it.  Whereas, if we abound in faith, and love, and zeal, how would it overflow to the refreshing of our congregations, and how would it appear in the increases of the same graces in them!  O brethren, watch therefore over your own hearts; keep out lusts and passions, and worldly inclinations; keep up the life of faith, and love and zeal...Above all, be much in secret prayer and meditation.  Thence you must fetch the heavenly fire that must kindle your sacrifices." Richard Baxter from The Preacher and Preaching, chapter 2, The Preacher and Piety, Erroll Hulse, pages 68-69 (emphasis mine).

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