Occasion'd by the late ENQUIRY INTO THE Causes of its DECAY.

Address'd to the Author of that ENQUIRY.

By a MINISTER in the Country.

—Quem te DEUS esse
Jussit, & humanâ qua Parte locatus es in Re,
Interdum VULGUS rectum videt.

LONDON: Printed for RICHARD HETT, at the Bible and Crown in the Poultry, near Cheapside.


(Price Six-pence.)

To the AUTHOR of the ENQUIRY into the Causes of the Decay of the Dissenting Interest.


YOU will probably be surpriz'd at this Address on occasion of your Enquiry, so many months after the publication of it. But my distance from the town, and engagement in business, hinder'd me from an early sight of it; and many accidents, which 'tis of no importance to mention, oblig'd me to delay finishing these papers, so soon as I in­tended, when I began to write them. On the whole, as I am not attempting to criticise on your performance, but only to offer some remarks, which I hope may be of common use, if what I say be just and important, it cannot be quite too late; and if it be either false or trifling, it ap­pears after all too soon.

As I am persuaded that the Dissenting Cause is founded on reason and truth, and that the honour of God, and the publick good is nearly concern'd in its support, you have my hearty thanks for that generous zeal with which you have appear'd for the defence of it. On this account, I should think myself highly oblig'd to treat you with decency and respect, how much soever my sentiments might differ from yours, as to the particular causes of its decay. And indeed, Sir, you have taken the [Page 4] most effectual method in the world to prevent any thing of a rude attack, by treating all whom you mention, even the meanest and the weakest, with remarkable candour and humanity.

But I have the happiness of agreeing with you in far the greater part of what you advance. I will not now debate, whether the principles of our Dissent are less known than they formerly were; and consequently whether that be, properly speak­ing, a cause of the late decay of our interest: but I will readily grant, Sir, that it is highly necessary they should be known; and I think you have done us a great deal of service by setting them in so easy, and yet in so strong a light. I hope it may be a means of informing and establishing some, who are too busy or too indolent to give themselves the trouble of perusing what Dr. Calamy, Mr. Peirce, and some others have written so copiously and so judiciously upon the subject.

I farther apprehend, Sir, that nothing can be said upon the case before us of more certain truth or more solid importance, than what you have frequently observ'd; viz. that our interest has re­ceiv'd great damage from our acting in a manner directly opposite to our principles, by unscriptural impositions, and uncharitable contentions with each other. I hope many of us have seen our mistakes here, and shall be careful for the future, to avoid what has been attended with so many unhappy consequences.

After having thus declar'd my agreement with you, in the greater part of your discourse, I hope, Sir, you will pardon me, if I add, that I cannot think that you have exhausted your subject. To speak freely, I think you have omitted some causes of the decay of our interest, which are at least as important as those you have handled. It is the design of my present undertaking, to point [Page 5] out some of the most considerable of them, which have occur'd to my thoughts: And I persuade my­self, Sir, you will be no more offended with me, for offering this supplement to your Enquiry, than I imagine I should myself be with any third person, who should fix upon others which may have escaped us both.

You will the more readily excuse the freedom which I take, as I imagine that the Scenes of our Lives have been widely different, and consequent­ly I may have had an opportunity of making some useful observations which have not fallen in your way: Tho' I question not but if you, Sir, had been in my circumstances, you would soon have re­mark'd them; and perhaps have communicated them to the publick with much greater advantage.

I shall add nothing more by way of introduction, but that I chuse the title I have prefix'd to these papers, rather than that of a farther Enquiry into the causes of the decay of the Dissenting Interest; part­ly, Sir, as it seem'd most respectful to you, but principally that I may not appear to advance any direct charge against any of my brethren in the process of this discourse. I am sensible that would be highly indecent on many accounts, and parti­cularly as it is from the example of several amongst them whom I have most intimately known, that I have learnt many of those particulars of conduct, which I am now going to offer to your considera­tion, as the happiest expedients for the revival of our common cause.

[Page 6] But before I proceed to particulars, I would ob­serve (what we immediately allow, but too quick­ly forget) that we are to be concern'd for this in­terest, not merely as the cause of a distinct party, but of truth, honour, and liberty; and I will add, in a great measure, the cause of serious piety too. I would be far from confining all true religion to the members of our own congregations. I am very well aware that there are a multitude of excellent persons in the establishment, both amongst the cler­gy and the laity, who are (in their different sta­tions) burning and shining lights; such as reflect a glory on the Human Nature, and the Christian Profession. Yet I apprehend some of these are the persons who will most readily allow, that, in pro­portion to the numbers, there is generally more practical religion to be found in our assemblies, than in theirs. This was surely the original, and this, if I mistake not, must be the support of our cause. It was not merely a generous sense of li­berty, (which may warm the breast of a deist or an atheist) but a religious reverence for the divine authority, which animated our pious forefathers, to so resolute and so expensive an opposition to the attempts which were made in their day, to invade the rights of conscience, and the throne of God its only sovereign. And if the cause be not still maintain'd on the same principles, I think it will hardly be worth our while to be much concern'd about maintaining it at all. It must argue a great defect, or partiality of thought, for any with the Jews of old to boast of their being free from hu­man impositions, when they are the servants of sin *. And all the world will evidently perceive, that it is the temper of a Pharisee, rather than of a Chri­stian, to contend about mint, anise and cummin, (on one side of the question or the other) while [Page 7] there is an apparent indifference about the weightier matters of the law . We that are ministers may entertain ourselves and our hearers with fine ha­rangues in defence of liberty; but I apprehend that in the near views of death and eternity, we shall have little satisfaction in reflecting on the converts we have made to that, unless at the same time we have some reason to hope that they are persons of true substantial piety; such as will be our crown in the day of the Lord, and our com­panions in the glories of the heavenly world. I cannot say how trifling and contemptible our la­bours appear to me, when consider'd in any other view. And therefore, Sir, it will be my concern throughout this whole discourse, to point out those methods for the support of the Dissenting Interest, which I imagine will be most subservient to the cause of practical religion, and vital holiness in all its branches.

It was the observation of Dr. Burnet, almost for­ty years ago, in his incomparable discourse on the Pastoral Care*, "That the Dissenters had then in a great measure lost that good character for strictness in religion, which had gain'd them their credit, and made such numbers fall off to them." Whether that good character has since been recover'd, or has not been more and more declining, some others are more capable of judg­ing; but I think it calls for our serious reflection. And if we find upon enquiry, that this our glory is departing, it surely deserves to be mention'd, as one cause, at least, of the decay of our interest: And that all who sincerely wish well to it, should express their affection, by exerting themselves with the utmost zeal, for the revival of practical religion amongst us.

[Page 8] This must be our common care, according to the various stations in which Providence has placed us: And as for ministers, nothing can be more evi­dent, than that they, by virtue of their office, are under peculiar obligations to it. And in order to pursue it with the greater advantage, I cannot but think that it should be their concern, TO STUDY THE CHARACTER AND TEMPER OF THEIR PEOPLE; that, so far as they can do it with conscience and honour, they may render themselves agreeable to them, both in their publick ministrations, and their private converse.

This, Sir, is so obvious a thought, that one would imagine it could not be overlook'd or disputed; yet it is certain our interest has receiv'd conside­rable damage for want of a becoming regard to it, especially in those who have been setting out in the ministry amongst us. It was therefore, Sir, with great surprize, that I found you had intirely omit­ted it in your late Enquiry, and had dropt some hints, which (tho' to be sure you did not intend it) may very probably lead young preachers into a dif­ferent and contrary way of thinking, than which hardly any thing can be more prejudicial, either to them, or to the cause in which they are imbark'd.

The passage of yours, to which I principally re­fer, is in the 33d and 34th pages of your Enquiry: where, amongst other things, you observe, that "a great many of those things that please the people, have often a very bad tendency in general." And you add, "the being pleas'd, which they so much insist upon, seldom arises from any thing but some oddness that hits their peculiar hu­mour, and is not from any view to edification at all, and therefore too mean to be worthy any one's study. The people do not usually know wherein oratory, strength of speech, the art of persuasion, &c. consist; and therefore it is vanity [Page 9] ship; t they only compass themselves about with sparks of their own kindling, and shall at last lie down in sorrow. And if we be sincere Christians, superficial services will rob us of that noble pleasure which would attend a more lively discharge of our duty, and give us a great deal of perplexity and uneasiness in the review; so that if we are concerned either for our own safety, or comfort, it should be our care, that the vigour of religion be kept up in our hearts.

I would further recommend this, as what is of the utmost importance to our publick usefulness. It is probable that our people will imbibe the temper and spirit which appears in us. This is so obvious a re­mark, that it is become a proverb; v like people, like priest. If we are stupid and unaffected, it will abate the energy of our addresses, and at once be the cause and the excuse, of the like languor and insensibility in them. But if our heart be filled with vital reli­gion, it will have a happy influence on all our mini­strations. Our prayers and our sermons will be tinc­tured with it. w Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. When grace is in exercise within, x it will be poured into our lips, and y many gracious words will proceed from us. If the z Holy Ghost dwelleth in us, and assists us, we shall lead and guide spiritual worshippers, in presenting seasonable and proper pe­titions to GOD, and the divine warmth and fervency of our own souls, will be a means to kindle the like holy fire in theirs: And when we are a declaring the counsel of God b, our doctrine will drop as the rain, our speech will distil as the dew, as the small rain on the ten­der herb, and as the showers upon the grass: The con­solations designed for those c who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them, will gently in­sinuate themselves into their minds, d and fill them [Page 10] with joy and peace in believing. And if we partake of that e Spirit which God gave without measure to his Son, whom he sent to speak his words, we shall then f teach with authority; our instructions will be deli­vered with an elevation suitable to our character, and our people will not only hear, but they will also feel the weight of our admonitions.

There is something in the performances of some ministers, which strangely impresses their pious hear­ers. Though their discourses be destitute of the or­naments of language, yet they g who are born of God find a sweetness in them, which is incomparably be­yond that which ariseth from elegant phrases, and harmonious periods. That which appears low and flat to the taste of many, affords the experienced Christian such an inward and sublime pleasure, as is not to be found in the highest strains of the most pom­pous eloquence. Happy h the men of God, who have this divine unction which so powerfully attracts de­vout souls, whose relish is formed by conversing with heaven. They are like Aaron the high-priest, when he was consecrated to his office; the holy oil which was i poured on his head, in so abundant a quantity, that it flowed down to the skirts of his garments, was grateful to all who were about him: So when these anointed ones come forth to minister, a sweet perfume, and a divine fragrancy diffuseth itself through the whole as­sembly, and is delightfully perceived, by all those who k have their senses spiritually exercised.

The advanced piety of our fathers in the ministry, did eminently conduce to their remarkable success. The Memoirs which we have of the lives of several of them, manifest their great attainments in vital and inward religion; and I fear we shall never recover the dying interests of Christianity, 'till that be found in us, which render'd them so signally useful in their ge­neration.

[Page 11] I have heard it observed by some, who are in a way of thinking different from us, that our publick ad­ministrations are managed with greater propriety and exactness, than they were in the days of our prede­cessors. And without suspicion of flattery, I can congratulate the rising generation of ministers among us, with the great improvements they have made, in the method and style of their performances. But if the form and order of them is better, I am afraid the temper of our minds is worse; and since the mi­nisters of the last age did so much good with their unpolished addresses, and we so little with our neater composures, one would think this might fully con­vince us, that l a savour of the things that be of God is of much greater importance to a minister of the Gospel, than that politeness which is now so much admired and affected. It is happy, indeed, when both these meet in the same person, but instances of this are very rare. Every pious preacher cannot deliver himself with elegance and exactness; and accurate method and beautiful language, are not always ani­mated and supported by real devotion. We should therefore divide our work, and prepare our hearts as well as lips for the services of the sanctuary, and en­deavour after seriousness of spirit, which will more effectually recommend our labours to enlighten'd minds, than m excellency of speech, or the enticing words of man's wisdom.

II. We should not only n take heed unto ourselves, but also to our doctrine, that our preaching may have the most direct tendency to do good.

Upon this head I cannot but advise, that sublime speculations and abstruse controversies, should not or­dinarily be introduced into our sermons. These o mi­nister questions rather than godly edifying. Christianity [Page 12] is a doctrine according to godliness, and not a strife about words. It is an easy matter to engage our warmer hearers in disputes on subjects, which neither they, nor we can fully understand; and the most unfit for such work, are generally the most forward to enter into it. I allow, it is the ready way to procure the regards of those, who lay a mighty stress upon their own opini­ons, but their esteem will be purchased at too dear a rate, since instead of promoting true religion, it will most certainly destroy it. p Where this zeal and con­tention is, there is confusion, and every evil work. Some may possibly admire it for its shining lustre, but too fatal experience proves it to be a raging flame and a devouring fire, and wherever it breaks out, there is reason to fear, that practical godliness will soon be consumed. The thoughts and the discourses of Christians, will be so entirely swallowed up by the matters in debate, that things of the greatest moment will be disregarded by them; and their tempers will be so embitter'd against each other, that charity it­self, the q greatest of all graces, will perhaps be counted a crime.

We live in an age, in which all advantages will be taken against Christianity: And our pulpit skirmishes have made sport for unbelievers, and furnished them with matter for banter and ridicule. By these we have given them occasion to say, r the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad. ſ Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon, why should the uncircum­cised, the infidels triumph? Happy would it be for us, if those instances of our weakness and folly were bu­ried in everlasting oblivion, that they might no more be mentioned to our disgrace, nor improved to the prejudice of that excellent religion which we profess. Let us walk in t a plain path because of our enemies, and act the wiser part for the time to come, and employ [Page 13] our sacred hours, in considering those important sub­jects, which cannot be omitted, without the greatest injury to the souls of our people.

Our first attempts should be to impress their minds, with a deep and an abiding sense of the pollution and misery of that estate into which they are fallen by sin. Here true conversion begins; u the whole need not the physician, but those who are sick, and Christ did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repen­tance. Men will never be concerned about the reno­vation of their natures, 'till they see the depravity of them; neither will they a flee from the wrath which is to come, unless they apprehend they are b become guilty before God, and so exposed to it.

This, by the blessing of GOD, will engage them to c cry out, What shall we do to be saved? and dispose them to receive the d good tidings of great joy, which the Gospel brings. Convinced sinners will rejoice to hear of a Saviour, and therefore we should e preach to them Jesus, and make f manifest the savour of the knowledge of him, g whom to know is life eternal. This will lead us to consider the dignity of his person as the Son of God, and those several offices which he sustains, as the prophet, the priest, and the king of his church. Here we shall have occasion to treat of his mysterious incarnation, his holy life, his divine doctrine, his wonderful miracles, his painful and ac­cursed death, his resurrection and ascension into hea­ven, his exaltation to the right-hand of GOD, and his glorious appearance to the universal judgment. These arguments should be frequently and largely insisted upon, because they are the distinguishing ar­ticles of the Christian revelation, and if they are not of high importance, that revelation was given us in vain.

[Page 14] Having proposed to lost sinners that h redemption which the blessed Jesus hath obtained, we should then acquaint them with the method in which it is applied by the Holy Ghost. This will bring us to open the nature of faith, repentance, and effectual calling, and to shew in what manner they are wrought. An account of these may be useful to all sorts of hearers, the unregenerate sinner may thereby be convinced that he is destitute of them, and this may put him upon fervent prayer, and constant endeavours after an acquaintance with them: And sincere Christians will be wonderfully confirmed and comforted, by dis­courses on these mysteries of the i kingdom of God with­in us, because they will be only a transcript of that original draught of them, which is more fairly in­scribed upon their hearts, by the sacred Spirit himself. It is an excellent attainment in a minister, to be able to handle these subjects clearly and distinctly; and nothing will conduce more to this, than a strict ob­servation of the various turns and movements of the soul, and an experience of them in ourselves; for as k in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man.

The privileges of true believers do likewise deserve our very attentive regards. These are many and va­luable too; they are l blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ, and it is fit they should know what they are, that they may rejoice in them. The apostle Paul hath left us several excellent discourses on these heads, which should greatly recommend them to all Christian ministers, who desire to form themselves on so compleat a model.

Neither should we neglect the various exercises and trials, which the servants of GOD are exposed to in this life. These proceed from different causes, and will require a distinct and particular consideration, if [Page 15] we would assist them in their way to heaven. It is a necessary and useful part of our work, a to comfort them who are in trouble, and to say b unto them who are of a fearful heart, be strong. We should always be ready, c to speak a word in season to him that is weary; these stand in peculiar need of our assistance, and we shall be very defective in our duty, if we do not give it them, in the most kind and tender manner.

I add, that we must constantly and earnestly d affirm, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works. The great duties of the Christi­an life must be particularly drawn out, and press'd, that e the doctrine of God our Saviour may in all things be adorned, by a becoming conversation. And if we would acquit ourselves as f ministers of the New Testa­ment, and manage our practical discourses in a way suitable to the Gospel dispensation, we must direct men to those assistances which are promised, and to those animating motives which are proposed there, to enable and incline them, to purify themselves from the pollutions g of the flesh and of the spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God. Nothing will be done without divine influences, and there are no ar­guments so forcible as those which are taken from evangelical considerations; and if these are omitted, we shall treat on moral subjects with less propriety and spirit, than many heathens have done.

These are some of those weighty subjects, which we should handle at large in the course of our preach­ing. And in the management of them, we ought al­ways in the first place to consult h the oracles of God. There is an admirable fulness and sufficiency in the Holy Scriptures, i for doctrine, for reproof, for cor­rection, and for instruction in righteousness; they will [Page 16] furnish us with the most solid and popular thoughts, to illustrate, confirm, and enforce the arguments we are upon. If we will be at the pains to collect out of the inspired Volume, the hints which are given on any topic, we shall be surprised to find, how well they are adapted, to render the a man of God perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. In the forming of our discourses, we should attend more to b that which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and then our sermons would be more compleat, and much more edifying than they gene­rally are.

It is certainly of great importance, that we should be well acquainted with the contents, and with the sense of the sacred writings. We should frequently read them, diligently study them, and as we have opportunity, we should expound them in our families, and in our congregations: If this be our constant practice, we may then hope, that we shall be c as scribes instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, bringing forth out of our treasures things new and old.

Nor would I have the writings of other wise and good men entirely laid aside; I could rather wish, that the use of some of them, which are much neg­lected, might be revived. I particularly refer to the works of some of the old Puritans, and of the Divines of the last age. I own myself an admirer of them, and have often thought it a great mercy, that there are so many of them in the hands of the common peo­ple, to supply what is deficient in our more fashiona­ble instructions. I allow that the style of those ex­cellent men is sometimes heavy, their diction low, and their method not the most easy or just; but their thoughts are weighty, their matter substantial, and their discourses spiritual and affecting. I once asked a very popular preacher, (who filled a considerable post amongst us, with great reputation and usefulness) [Page 17] a thousand arguments concurring to inspire us with a sort of paternal tenderness for the souls of the meanest of our people. This will teach us to bear with their prejudices, to accommodate ourselves to their weakness; and to consider it as a mixture of impiety and cruelty, to neglect num­bers of them, out of complaisance to the taste of a few, who are perhaps some of them but occa­sional visitants, and whom we judge by their ha­bits, rather than by any personal acquaintance, to be a part of the polite world.

Did I affect to throw together all that might be said on this subject, I might both illustrate and confirm what I have already written, by shewing at large, that Christianity is a religion originally calculated for the plainer part of mankind, by that God who * has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and conse­quently that a neglect and contempt of the com­mon people, is far from being the spirit of the gospel. I might add many remarks to this pur­pose on the preaching and conduct of St. Paul, and fill whole pages with quotations from him and the rest of the Apostles, and many more from some of the most ancient and celebrated Fathers of the Church. But I do not think it necessary for the support of my argument, and I am per­suaded that you, Sir, in particular, have no need of being taught these things from me.

Permit me only to add, (what you must fre­quently have observ'd) that our Lord Jesus Christ is a most amiable and wonderful example of a plain, familiar, and popular preacher. When we come to peruse those divine discourses, which ex­torted a confession from his very enemies that he [Page 18] spake as never man spake, we find neither a long train of abstract reasonings, nor a succession of labour'd periods, adorn'd with an artificial exact­ness; but the most solid and important sense, de­liver'd in an easy and natural way, illustrated by similies taken from the most common objects in life, and enforced with lively figures, and the strongest energy of expression; which is well con­sistent with all the former. So that upon the whole it was most happily calculated, at once to instruct the most ignorant, and to awaken the most negligent hearer. I cannot but wish that some judicious writer would attempt to set this part of our Lord's character in a clearer and a more particular light; and would shew us how the whole of his conduct, as well as the manner of his address, was calculated to promote his use­fulness under the character of a preacher of righteousness. I hope such an essay might be very serviceable to those of us, who have the honour to succeed him in that part of his work; and I persuade myself that it would furnish us with a variety of beautiful remarks on many passages in the evangelical historians, which are not to be found in the most celebrated commentators.

You will excuse me, Sir, for having insisted so largely on the necessity of endeavouring to render ourselves agreeable to our people; because I am fully persuaded, that it is of great importance to the support and revival of the Dissenting Interest. I hope you already apprehend that I intend no­thing in this advice, which is below the pursuit of the most elevated genius, or the most generous temper; nothing inconsistent with the politeness of the gentleman and the scholar, or the dignity of the christian and the minister. You cannot imagine that I would recommend a popularity [Page 19] rais'd by quirks and jingles, or sounded on af­fected tones, or ridiculous grimaces; and much less on an attempt to inflame the passions of mankind about trifling controversies, and the peculiar un­scriptural phrases of a party. Such a popularity as this, is almost the only thing that is more de­spicable, than the insolent pride of despising the people.

If any of my younger brethren were to en­quire how another popularity, of a far more ho­nourable kind, is to be pursued and secured, I answer, that their own converse and observation on the world, must furnish them with the most valuable instructions on this head. And tho' some of their particular remarks may differ, according to the various places and circumstances in which they are made; yet I apprehend there are many things of considerable importance, in which they will all agree. As for instance:

They will quickly see that the generality of the Dissenters, who appear to be persons of se­rious piety, have been deeply impress'd with the peculiarities of the gospel-scheme. They have felt the divine energy of those important doctrines, to awaken, and revive, and enlarge the soul; and therefore they will have a peculiar relish for dis­courses upon them. So that if a man should ge­nerally confine himself to subjects of natural re­ligion, and moral virtue, and seldom fix on the doc­trines of Christ, and the spirit, and then perhaps treat them with such caution, that he might seem rather to be making concessions to an adversary, than giving vent to the fulness of his heart on its darling subject, he would soon find, that all the penetration and eloquence of an angel, could not make him universally agreeable to our assem­blies.

[Page 20] Many of our people have pass'd thro' a variety of exercises in their minds, relating to the great concern of eternal salvation. And they apprehend that the scripture teaches us to ascribe this com­bat to the agency of satan, and the corruptions of our own heart on the one hand, and the opera­tions of the holy spirit of God on the other. It is therefore very agreeable to them, to hear these experimental subjects handled with seriousness and tenderness. It raises their veneration for such a minister, as for one who has himself tasted of the grace of God, and encourages their con­fidence in him, and their expectations of impro­ving by his labours. On the other hand, it grieves them when these subjects are much ne­glected, and gives them the most formidable sus­picions if one word be dropt which seems to pour contempt upon them, as if they were all fancy and enthusiasm; (with which, it must be granted, they are sometimes mix'd.)

The greater part of most dissenting congrega­tions consisting (as we before observ'd) of plain people, who have not enjoy'd the advantages of a learned education, nor had leisure for improve­ments by after-study, it is apparently necessary that a man should speak plainly to them, if he de­sire they should understand and approve what he says. And as for those that are truly religious, they attend on publick worship, not that they may be amused with a form or a sound, nor en­tertain'd with some new and curious speculation; but that their hearts may be enlarged as in the presence of God, that they may be powerfully affected with those great things of religion, which they already know and believe, that so their con­duct may be suitably influenced by them. And to this purpose they desire that their ministers [Page 21] may speak as if they were in earnest, in a lively and pathetick, as well as a clear and intelligible manner.

Such is the taste of the generality of the dis­senters; a taste which I apprehend they will still retain, whatever attempts may be made to alter it. And I must take the liberty to say, that I conceive this turn of thought in the people to be the great support of our interest, and not the little scruples which you hint at in the 34th page of your Letter, nor even those rational and generous principles of liberty, which you so clearly pro­pose, and so strenuously assert. And I cannot but believe, that if the established clergy, and the dissenting ministers in general, were mutual­ly to exchange their strain of preaching, and their manner of living but for one year, it would be the ruin of our cause, even though there should be no alteration in the constitution and discipline of the church of England. However you might fare at London, or in some very singular cases elsewhere, I can hardly imagine that there would be dissenters enough left in some consi­derable counties, to fill one of our largest meet­ing-places.

We have then advanced thus far; that he who would be generally agreeable to dissenters, must be an evangelical, an experimental, a plain and an affectionate preacher. Now I must do our common people the justice to own, that when these points are secured, they are not very delicate in their demands, with regard to the forms of a discourse. They will not in such a case be very much disgusted, though there be no regular charm of reasoning, no remarkable pro­priety of thought or of expression, no elegance of language, and but little decency of address. [Page 22] The want of all these is forgiven, to what they apprehend of much greater importance. Yet, Sir, I would not from hence inser, that these things are to be neglected; on the contrary, I appre­hend it is absolutely necessary, that they should be diligently attended to, in order to obtain that universal popularity, which I think so desirable for the sake of more extensive usefulness. A man of a good taste will certainly take some care about them. 'Tis what he owes to himself, and to the politer part of his audience, whom he will never be willing to lose in the crowd: And he need not fear that a prudent regard to them, will spoil his acceptance with the people. Few of them like a discourse the worse for being thoroughly good; and the accomplished orator will find, perhaps to his surprize, that they will not only know and feel the important truths of religion, in the most agreeable dress he can give them, but that they will even applaud the order and regularity of his composures, the beauty of his language, and the gracefulness of his delivery, at the same time that they have the candour not to complain of the indigested rovings, the unnatural transports, and the awkward distor­tions of the pious well-meaning, but injudicious preacher. For human nature is so formed, that some manners of thinking and speaking are uni­versally agreeable and delightful. 'Tis the per­fection of eloquence to be master of these, and should, I think, be the care of every one that speaks in publick, to pursue them as far as ge­nius and opportunity will allow.

[Page 23] The man who forms himself upon such views as these, if he be not remarkably deficient in natural capacities, will probably be popular a­mongst the dissenters as a Preacher: But a think­ing man will easily perceive this is not the only character under which a minister is considered. His people will naturally and reasonably expect a Conduct answerable to his publick discourses; and without it, he cannot be thoroughly agreeable to them. They will take it for granted, that a man so well acquainted with divine truths, and one that seems to be so deeply affected with them, should be regular and exemplary in the whole of his behaviour, and free from the taint of vice, or of folly, in any remarkable degree. They will expect that he should be far from being a slave to secular interest, or to the little trifles of food, dress, or domestick accommoda­tion; and that he should avoid every thing haughty and overbearing, or peevish and fretful in his daily converse. They will conclude, that a desire of doing good to souls, will make him easy of access to those who apply to him for advice, with regard to their spiritual concern­ments; and that it will likewise dispose him at proper times to visit all the people of his charge, the poor as well as the rich; and that not only under the character of a friend, but of a mi­nister, in a direct view to their spiritual edifi­cation. And if a man desire the affections of his people, he must not disappoint such expectations as these.

The tenderness with which parents interest themselves in the concerns of their children, and the earnest desire that all religious parents must necessarily have, that theirs may be a seed to serve the Lord, will engage them very kindly to accept [Page 24] our care, in attempting to bring them under early impressions of serious piety. Catechising has there­fore been generally found a very popular, as well as a very useful practice. And here I think it is much to be wish'd that our labour may extend to the youth, as well as to little children; that in a fa­miliar way they may be methodically acquainted with the principles of natural religion, and then with the evidences of the truth of Christianity, and with the nature of it, as it is exhibited in the New Testament; both with regard to the privileges and the duties of christians. As this might be a means of filling our churches with a considerable number of rational, catholick, and pious communicants, from whom considerable usefulness might in time be expected, so it would greatly oblige their religious parents, and lay a foundation for a growing friendship between us, and our catechumens, in the advance of life.

I once thought to have insisted more largely on these hints, but am happily prevented by the pub­lication of Mr. Some's Sermon, on the methods to be taken by ministers for the revival of religion. He has fully spoken my sentiments, with regard to many of those articles on which I have only glanc'd. I persuade my self, Sir, you will read it with a great deal of pleasure; for (so far as I can judge) this sermon is almost as agreeable an example of that preaching, as his life is of that conduct, which he recommends. I am confident that a man of your good sense must necessarily approve the scheme which I have briefly laid down, and which is there largely consider'd and recom­mended. Were you to chuse a Pastor for your self, I doubt not but you would rejoice in such a one; and you would probably have the hearty concurrence of the weakest and most illiterate of [Page 25] your pious neighbours. My younger brethren (for whom alone I am now presuming to write) can have no reason to complain, that I have as­signed them either a mean, or a severe task. I heartily desire to be their companion in all the most laborious, and self-denying parts of it; and I persuade my self, that we shall find it, on the whole, as delightful as honourable, and as advan­tageous to our selves, as it will be serviceable to the publick interest.

There seems to be but one material objection against all this; and it is an objection, in which, I doubt not, but your own thoughts have already prevented me. It may perhaps be pleaded, that we have a sort of people amongst us, whose appro­bation and esteem cannot be obtain'd by such honourable methods as I propos'd. For they, whom we call the rigidly orthodox, are so devoted to a peculiar sett of human phrases, which have been introduc'd into the explication of some im­portant doctrines, that they will hardly entertain a favourable thought of any who scruple the use of them, or who do not seem to value them as highly as they, tho' they may, on all other ac­counts, be ever so considerable.

You, Sir, hint at * a very expeditious remedy for uneasiness arising from this quarter; that persons of generous and bigotted sentiments, should meet in different places. In London it is certainly practi­cable, and may perhaps be most expedient; but to attempt any such separation in the country, would be the utter ruin of many of our societies, which now make some considerable appearance. But besides my regard to the ministers and societies to which they are related, I must confess, I have [Page 26] too much tenderness for the persons themselves, to be willing intirely to give them up. I have been intimately acquainted with those who have been accus'd, and perhaps not unjustly, of this unhappy attachment to human phrases, and nicety in con­troversial points; and I must do many of them the justice to own, that I have found very excellent qualities mingled with this excess of zeal, (which must methinks appear pardonable in them, when we consider how artificially it has been infus'd; and how innocently they have receiv'd and retain'd it, from a real principle of conscience to God.) But, indulging them in this one article, several of them will appear to be persons of so much humi­lity and piety, of so much integrity and generosity, of so much activity and zeal for the common in­terest, that separate from all views to private ad­vantage or reputation, one would heartily wish to do all he honestly can, to remove those prejudices, which give them so much uneasiness, and impair the lustre of so many virtues and graces. And if at the same time we can secure their esteem and friendship, it may have such an influence, both on our own comfort and usefulness in life, that it must be great ignorance or pride to despise it.

You will readily grant, Sir, that the thing is in it self desirable: The great question is, how it may be effected? And here I will venture to say freely, that I apprehend bigotry of all kinds, to be a fortress, which may be attack'd by sap more successfully than by storm. It is evident that we have most of us something of the humour of children, that grasp a thing so much the more eagerly, when an attempt is made to wrest it out of their hands by violence; and yet perhaps will drop it themselves in a few minutes, if you can but divert their attention to something else.

[Page 27] From such a view of things, I apprehend, we are to judge of the most proper methods of deal­ing with those, whose case is now under conside­ration. You, Sir, may tell them again, and again, with your natural coolness and moderation, * That it would be an instance of their modesty to resign their pleasures to the general notions and judgment—that instead of assuming the characters of judges and censors, they should put on the humble temper of learners— and receive the truth without being jealous of heresy in our younger preachers—And at the same time, that you are thus giving your advice, you may give your reasons, as clearly and handsomely, as you have given them for Nonconformity in this Enqui­ry; yet after all, you will probably find, that the Civium Ardor PRAVA JUBENTIUM will out-noise the voice of the charmer, charming ever so wisely. And should I exert my self with greater warmth and eagerness, should I grow a bigot in the defence of catholicism, and load those of diffe­rent sentiments with reproaches, because they have profited no better by so many solid argu­ments; I should indeed pay a very great compli­ment to them, in supposing them capable of know­ing, and admitting truth, under so disagreeable a disguise; but it would be at the expence of my own character and ease, and I should run the risk of being severely scorch'd by that flame, which I pretended to extinguish, by pouring on oil.

I cannot but think it much more adviseable, ac­cording to the Apostle's maxim of becoming all things to all men, to study to accommodate our selves in this respect, as well as in others, to the infirmities of our hearers, as far as with a safe conscience we may. If we can put a tolerably [Page 28] good sense on any of their favourite phrases, it would surely be a most unreasonable stiffness and perverseness of temper, to avoid it merely because they admire it. Or if we cannot go so far, we may at least lay aside any darling phrases of our own, which we know will be offensive to them. (For if the Bible be a compleat rule, our human forms are no more necessary than theirs.) Christians as such profess a reverence for the Scripture, and many of these christians have a distinguishing re­gard to it, as they have felt its divine energy on their souls. Now, Sir, with submission to the better judgment of my brethren, I think we, who are Ministers, should take them by the handle, and should labour to discover to them, more and more, the beauty and fulness of the word of God, not only with regard to this or that particular doctrine, but to the whole system of truth and duty contain'd in it. 'Tis a subject on which we might speak, and they would hear with pleasure; and it would not only divert their attention, and their zeal from other things, which might give uneasiness, but would have a direct tendency to enlarge their views, and sweeten their tempers, beyond all our encomiums on liberty and catho­licism, or our satyrs on bigotry and imposition.

I likewise apprehend, that a regard to what was said under the former heads, will farther conduce to this happy end. When these exact people hear us preaching in a truly spiritual and experimental strain, and at the same time in such a rational and graceful manner, as may set our discourses above contempt, and make them agree­able to the younger and politer part of our au­ditory, as well as to others; they will quickly see that it is not for their own interest, or that of their children, to drive us away with a rigorous [Page 29] severity. And therefore, instead of studying to find us hereticks, they will rather put the most favourable sense on ambiguous expressions, and labour to believe us as orthodox as they can: Or, if they suspect us to be in the dark as to some particulars, yet they will charitably hope, that age and experience will perfect what is wanting; and that God will reveal it to us in his own time. With these views they will chearfully commit themselves to our ministerial care, if pro­vidence seems to open a way for our settlement a­mongst them. And when they find, that they are handsomely treated by us, that no direct attack is made upon their darling notions; but that the great concerns of practical religion (as dear to them as to any people upon earth) are plainly and faithfully pursued by us, both in publick and private (to the refreshment of their own souls, and to the evident advantage of many others) they will contract a tender, growing affection for us: And thus their bigotry will gradually wear away, till perhaps they come at last joyfully to embrace those more generous notions, from which they would at first have started back with hor­ror.

Thus we may, after the example of our great master, teach our followers, as they are able to bear it: And by this moderation, may be instrumen­tal in healing the breaches which we profess to la­ment, in rescuing many an excellent soul from a painful and dishonourable bondage; and in spreading a generous, candid, christian spirit, which will be the glory and happiness of our Interest in general, as well as of the particular societies under our care. And in the mean time another generation will be rising, whom we may hope to form, in a manner agreeable to our [Page 30] own sentiments, who may transmit to remote ages, those united principles of piety and ca­tholicism, which they have happily learnt from us.

I cannot but think, that such rational and no­ble prospects may encourage us to submit to some restraints, which we should not otherwise have chose. But if, after all, we inflexibly insist on "* as unbounded a liberty of speaking our sentiments in publick, as of forming them in private," or in the language of Solomon, of uttering all our mind, I think we shall dearly purchase the pleasure of hearing our selves talk, on a subject on which we can do little more, than echo back a part of what has been so copiously and judiciously written, and so frequently repeated by others. The wiser part of mankind will look upon us as forward heirs, who spend our estate of reputation and impor­tance in life, before we come to it; and upon the whole, we shall not only exceedingly injure our selves in private life, which is comparatively but a trifle, but shall impair our future usefulness, and even wound the darling cause of liberty, to which we are so ready to sacrifice all. For I seriously declare, that if I could be so wicked as to form a design against it, and so base as to prosecure it by clandestine and hypocritical methods, I would only set my self to declaim in its favour, with impru­dent zeal, and unbounded fury.

You have now, Sir, all that I think it proper to say, at present, concerning the methods by which I apprehend those of us, who are imploy'd in the ministry, may most effectually contribute to the revival of the Dissenting Interest. I can assure you, they are not the reveries of my own closet, [Page 31] but observations which I have drawn from life, as occasions have occur'd in conversing with a variety of persons, of different stations, relishes, and cha­racters. I have the better opinion of many of them, as I know that they are thoroughly agreeable to the sentiments and conduct of some of the most considerable persons of all denominations amongst us, both in town and country; whose friendship is the honour and pleasure of my life. I am par­ticularly confirm'd in this way of thinking, by ob­serving the success which such measures have had in the congregations of my fathers and brethren in these parts. For I know, that in many of them, the number of Dissenters is greatly increas'd within these twenty years; and the interest con­tinues so to flourish, that I am confident some of our honest people, who converse only in their own neighbourhood, will be surpriz'd to hear of an En­quiry into the causes of its decay.

If what I have writ appear reasonable to you, Sir, I cannot but wish that you, and other gentle­men of the laity, who are heartily concern'd for our interest, would endeavour to cultivate such sentiments as these in the minds of young ministers of your acquaintance. We are naturally very desirous of being known to you, and singled out as the object of your regard. Whereas we early begin to look with a comparative contempt upon the meaner sort of people, as an ignoble Herd— Fruges consumere nati— Whilst engag'd in our preparatory studies, we are indeed so generous, as to give up one another to the vulgar; but we have each of us the penetration to discover, that there is something uncommon in our dear selves, by which nature seems to have intended us to be (as we absurdly enough express it) orators for the polite. These arrogant and pernicious sen­timents [Page 32] we sometimes carry along with us, from the academy to the pulpit; where perhaps, we make our first appearance infinitely solicitous about every trifling circumstance of a discourse, yet negligent of that which should be the soul of it. And if the people are not as much charm'd with it as ourselves, we have then an evident demonstration of their incorrigible stupidity; and so resentment concurs with pride and ambition, to set us at the remotest distance from those, who ought to be the objects of our tenderest re­gards.

If an elder minister have so much compassion and generosity, as to deal freely with us upon these heads, and give us such advice as cir­cumstances require, 'tis great odds but we find some excuse for neglecting what he says— "He is ignorant and unpolite; or perhaps in­toxicated with his own popularity, and means his counsels to us as encomiums upon him­self."—Or if neither of these will do, some other artifice must be found out, to fix the blame any where rather than at home. And if in the midst of a thousand mortifications, we can but find out one gentleman of fortune, sense, and learning, that admires us, we are happy. A single diamond is worth more than a whole load of pebbles; and we perhaps adapt, with vast satisfaction, the celebrated words of Arbuscula in Horace , ‘Men' moveat Cimex Pantilius, &c. Without considering that what was highly pro­per in the mouth of a player, and a poet, would [Page 33] be extremely absurd in a Heathen, and much more in a Christian Orator.

Now, Sir, what I intend by all this, is to shew that you gentlemen may have it in your power to do a great deal to correct these mistaken notions. If we plainly see that you regard us, not merely according to the manner in which our performances are ac­commodated to your own private taste, but according to our desire and capacity of be­ing useful to the publick interest, we shall perhaps be taught to place our point of ho­nour right; and when that is once done, a moderate degree of genius, application, and prudence, may be sufficient, by the blessing of God, to secure the rest.

I would here, Sir, have ended my Letter, but the hints you give in the conclusion of yours concerning Academical Education, lead me to add a few words on that head. I would be far from the insolence of pretending to teach tutors; but I apprehend that if my for­mer principles be allow'd, it will follow, by the easiest consequence in the world, that it is a very important part of their business, to form their pupils to a regard for the people, and to a manner of preaching, and of converse, which may be agreeable to them.

There is hardly any thing which should be more discouraged in a young student, than such a mistaken haughty way of thinking, as I so freely described a little above, especially when it discovers itself in a petulant inclination to employ their talent at satyr, in ridiculing the infirmities of plain serious Christians, or the labours of those ministers, who are willing to [Page 34] condescend to the meanest capacities, that they may be wise to win souls.

A young man of sense will easily enter into such plain reasonings as I have offered in the beginning of this Letter, and be convinced by them, that if he ever appear under the cha­racter of a dissenting minister, he must not neglect the people. But it is greatly to be desired, that our students may be engaged to regard them, not merely from political, but re­ligious views.

It is therefore, no doubt, the care of every pious tutor amongst us, (and may God make it a more constant and successful care) to pos­sess his pupils, who are design'd for the mi­nistry, with a deep and early sense of the im­portance of the gospel-scheme, for the reco­very of man from the ruins of the apostacy, and his restoration to God, and happiness by a mediator.—To shew (as it may easily be shewn) that this has been the great end of the divine counsels, with regard to which, the harmony of nature in the lower world has been supported, and the various oeconomies of providence disposed:—To point out the Son of God descending from heaven in favour of this design, pursuing it by humble conde­scensions for the lowest of the people, and un­wearied labours amongst them; and at last, establishing it by agonies and death:—To shew them the Apostles taking up their ma­ster's cause, prosecuting it with unwearied vi­gour and resolution, and sacrificing to it their ease, their reputation, their liberty, and their lives:—To trace out those generous e­motions of soul, which still live and breathe in their immortal writings:—And then [Page 35] (when their minds are warmed with such a survey) to apply to the students themselves, as persons designed by Providence, to engage in the same work, to support and carry on the same interest, who therefore must be acted by the same views, and imbibe the same spirit.

Something of this kind is, I doubt not, at­tended to; and I must take the liberty to say, that I think these the most important lectures a tutor can read. You cannot but see, Sir, that by the blessing of God, such addresses must have an apparent tendency to fill the mind with sublime and elevated views, and to make a man feel and own too, (though it may appear something unpolite) that the salvation of one soul, is of infinitely greater importance, than charming a thousand splendid assemblies, with the most elegant discourses that were ever delivered. A young minister under these im­pressions, will come out to his publick work naturally disposed to care for the state of his peo­ple; and such sincere zeal and tenderness will form him to a popular address, abundantly sooner, and more happily, than the most judi­cious rules which it is possible to dictate.

As examples are the best illustration of pre­cepts, it must certainly be a great advantage to pupils to hear such preaching, and see such pastoral care, as is recommended to them in the lecture-room. A prudent man, who is con­cerned in the education of young ministers, will be particularly careful to avoid those faults in preaching, which they are in the greatest danger of falling into; and particularly too ab­stracted a train of reasoning, and too great a care about the little ornaments of speech, when [Page 36] addressing to a common auditory. And if (where other circumstances may allow it) he sometimes engage the attendance of senior pu­pils in his pastoral visits, and introduce them to the acquaintance and freedom of some se­rious Christians in the society, it may be much for their improvement. A more intimate know­ledge of their hidden worth, and perhaps of those noble traces of natural genius, which they might discover amongst some of a very low education, would something increase their esteem for the populace in general. And from their observations on books and sermons, and their accounts of the various exercises of their minds, (where our politer hearers are generally more reserv'd) a man may best learn how they are to be address'd, and form him­self to that experimental strain, on which so much of his acceptance and usefulness amongst us will depend.

If you apprehend, Sir, that such a course will make them preachers for the vulgar, and for them only; I think it sufficient to answer, that I intirely agree with you in what you say of the great advantages of an intimate ac­quaintance with the learned languages, and the classical writers both of the Romans and Greeks. I heartily wish our students may al­ways be well furnished with it before they leave the schools, and think it highly proper it should be carried on through the whole of their academical course. And I cannot ima­gine, that a man of tolerable sense, who is every day conversing with some of the finest writers of antiquity, and who is (as most of our students are) a little exercised in the ma­thematical sciences, (to teach him attention of [Page 37] thought, and strength, and perspicuity of rea­soning) will be in great danger of saying any thing remarkably impertinent, or contemptibly low.

As for being masters of our own language, 'tis a point which I think should be thorough­ly labour'd from the very beginning of their education. They should to be sure make them­selves familiarly acquainted with those writers, which are allowed to be the standards of it, and should frequently be translating and com­posing. And if this be not only practised at school, but continued through four or five years of academical education, they will have formed a habit of expressing themselves grace­fully, or at least tolerably well: So that in their ordinary composures, when they have digested their materials, and ranged their thoughts, they will often find proper, expressive, and elegant words, flowing in faster than they can write them.

And as composition is far from being the only business of an orator; so I heartily wish, that not only tutors, but school-masters (whose character and conduct, by the way, is of vast importance to our interest) would make a very serious business of teaching lads, who are design'd for the ministry, to read well, and to pronounce properly and handsomely. Thus an early remedy would be provided on the one hand, against those unnatural tones and gestures, which (as you well ob­serve) * are a grand cause of our reproach and contempt; and on the other, against that cold insensible air, which sometimes, amongst [Page 38] strangers at least, affects even the moral cha­racter of the preacher.

I think some care should be taken, both at the school and the academy, to engage students to a genteel and complaisant behaviour, not only as what is apparently conducive to their mutual ease and pleasure, and the convenience of the family where they are; but as what may render them more agreeable and useful in life, to persons of superior rank, and even to the populace themselves. For a well-bred man knows how to condescend, in the most obliging way; and the common people (such is either their good sense or their humour) are peculiarly pleas'd with the visits and converse of those, who they know may be welcome to greater company.

And now, Sir, I have done with my sub­ject, and must conclude, with assuring you, that it is not the design of one line which I have writ, merely to prove, that you are mistaken in any thing that you have asserted; and therefore I have purposely avoided many citations from your Letter, which might easily have been connected with what I have said. You will infer from what you have read, that I differ from you in some other particulars, which are not mention'd, but they apparent­ly depend on what I have debated at large; and I chose to omit them, not only because my Letter is already longer than I intended, but from a general observation, which I have had frequent occasion to make; that if a man desires to do good by what he says, he must oppose and contradict as little as possible. If I am mistaken in what I have [Page 39] advanced, I shall be heartily thankful for better information; and, if it come from you, it will be peculiarly agreeable, as I shall have nothing to fear from your reproaches, and much to hope from your arguments.

I am, SIR,
Your most Humble Servant.

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