Published at the Desire of the Hearers.

NEWPORT, RHODE-ISLAND: Printed by the Widow FRANKLIN, at the Town-School-House, 1745.

[Page 3]

THE NATURE, and TRUE METHOD OF Christian Preaching, STATED.

MATT. VII. 28.29.

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these Sayings, the People were (a) astonished at his Doctrine. For he taught them as one having Authority.

THESE Words are placed at the Conclusion of our blessed Saviour's Sermon on the Mount; and contain the Judgment or Opinion of his Hearers, in Re­lation to his Doctrine.

[Page 4]As he was the Founder of our holy Re­ligion, it cannot be disputed, but that he best knew, what Doctrines were fittest to be taught; and what was the best Method of propagating them. —In short, he best knew what was the most useful, the most instructive and edifying Way of Preaching. And as our Text gives the highest Character of this Sermon; when it affirms, that they all (i. e. his Hearers) were astonish'd at his Doc­trine; and that he taught so as never Man did before him. I purpose to take Occasion from it, of examining what is the best and most proper Way of teaching and instructing Men in the Knowledge of the Gospel.— In short, I design to examine what is and ought to be accounted the best and most edifying Way of Preaching.

And the Necessity of a Discourse upon this Subject, is very manifest; for besides the [Page 5] many Terms of Reproach and Disparage­ment that are cast upon our Preaching, by those whose Interest it is to draw away Hearers; amusing them with artful Terms of much-seeming Sound, but no real Significance: Such as legal Preaching, carnal Instruction, preaching Morality, and the like.—I say, besides this Evil, it is a sad and melancholy Truth, that among those who are steady Attendants upon the divine Worship, we do not always find that Increase of Piety and Godliness, that relish of a divine Life; that holy and exemplary Behaviour, which one would think these Means of Grace are fitted to produce.

And because Men are willing the Fault should rest any where, rather than with themselves; some are ready to attribute their Unfruitfulness to their Teachers.—The Ser­mons they hear, are not moving and affec­tionate; they don't raise in them those earnest Desires and Longings after Christ, which they want to be possessed of. They hear in­deed, a great deal of smooth Reasoning, many Persuasives to Duty, and many earnest Dis­suasives from Vice; they have Rules laid down for the Conduct of their Lives, and those earnestly enough recommended. But [Page 6] there is something they fancy still wanting, they don't well know what it is; but they suppose they should hear more of Christ, and of Faith, of his Righteousness being imputed to us for Righteousness; that is, in plain Terms, they want to be assured that Christ has so done every Thing for them, as to have left nothing for them to do.—Thus also, the Terrors of the Law are much neglected, tho' necessary to the Awakening and Conviction of Sinners.&Something or other of this Kind they imagine, and are told would be more affecting, would stir them up more, and have a better Influence upon them.

This therefore deserves to be enquired into, Whether informing the Minds or Un­derstanding of the Hearers, in the great Truths and Duties of the Gospel; and endeavouring to convince their Judgments of the Importance of these Duties, and of the Necessity of re­ceiving and practicing them; and of their avoiding every Thing that is inconsistent or contrary to them? be not the most edifying Way of Preaching?.—I shall endeavour in short, to prove, that this is the only Gospel Preaching; and that to talk of any other Way or Method (unless also they pretend to [Page 7] Inspiration) is highly wicked, and tends only to amuse People with a Set of obscure and difficult Terms and Phrases, without meaning.

And that we may not be misled in an Enquiry of so much Importance, it is proper that we throw aside all human Opinions con­cerning the Matter; and have Recourse im­mediately to the Fountain Head, the Standard of Truth and Error; I mean the Holy Scrip­tures.—And as no human Authority ought to have any Weight in this Argument; so I shall object against any pretended Experiences that this or that Way of Preaching is more or less Edifying: For these Things may mislead or deceive us; because it would be setting up one Man's Experience in Opposition to another's.

The only Thing that ought to have Weight with us, is the Scripture. And because there is not any where an express Precept about preaching, stating and defining what we are obliged to understand by it; we are left to collect the true Notion of it, from the Ex­amples; first of our blessed Saviour and then from the Sermons of his Apostles; and parti­cularly from the Discourses of that most elo­quent and justly admired Preacher, St. Paul.

[Page 8]I. And First, let us consider the Example of our blessed Saviour's Preaching, as it is exhibited to us in this Sermon; of which mention is made in my Text. For tho' he taught upon many other Occasions both in publick and private; yet we have no com­pleat publick Sermon of his, besides this which is here recorded.

And the first Thing remarkable in this Sermon, is, that it is adapted to his Hearers, (i. e.) his Disciples. For tho' there was a mixt Multitude, that now heard him; yet his Discourse was chiefly directed to his Dis­ciples. This we learn from the 5th Chap. 1.2. And seeing the Multitudes, he went up into a Mountain; and when he was set, his Disciples came unto him; and he opened his Mouth, and taught them, saying, blessed are the Poor in Spirit, &c.—Now his Disciples having already received him as their Master; having already listed themselves his Followers; he gives them such divine Directions as might go­vern their Lives, and make it evident that they did not receive his Religion in vain. Accord­ingly this whole Sermon is made up of the most admirable Precepts for the Conduct of Life.

[Page 9]The first Thing that he recommends to them, is Poverty of Spirit, or a meek and humble Disposition of Mind; next he ad­vises to Patience under Afflictions; then sets forth the Reward of Meekness; after this, he persuades them to seek earnestly after Righte­ousness; then to acquire a merciful Disposi­tion. And as hitherto he had recommended Purity of Life, he next insists upon Purity of Heart likewise; and the promoting Peace and Love among one another. And as he had before exhorted to Patience under the Afflic­tions which God sees fit to exercise Men withal; so now he points out the same Re­medy for sustaining the Injuries they receive from one another.—From hence he proceeds to recommend a circumspect Behaviour; and then insists upon their observing the Com­mandments: But because the Pharisees had by their Traditions, explained away the spi­ritual Meaning and Intention of them, he makes a most exact and noble Exposition of the Law; and then closes up this Part of his Discourse with an Exhortation to Per­fection.—And the whole Sum of his Discourse in the two next Chapters, is nothing else but an Exhortation to the Practice of several [Page 10] moral Duties; such as Alms, and Prayer and Fasting, forgiveness of Enemies, Mortification to the World, to abstain from rash Judg­ment, and to become not only hearers, but doers of the Word.

This is the Sum and Substance of this ad­mirable Sermon; in which you may per­ceive that our Saviour does not threaten them with the Terrors of the Law; nor was there any need he should; for this Discourse being chiefly directed to his own Disciples, who had already escaped the Bondage of the Law, to have threatned them with the Severity of that Dispensation, would have been to turn them over again to their antient Bondage and Subjection. Law, says the Apostle, was our Schoolmaster to bring us to Christ; but having entertain'd and embrac'd his Religion, we are no longer under a Schoolmaster; but are all the Children of God, by Faith in Christ Jesus: For as many as are baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Gal. 3.24 to 27th verse.—Neither is there any Thing here mentioned about Faith; for this also they had already declared, by leaving all to follow him.

The Truth is this.—These Men having [Page 11] already made Profession of Christ, and yielded up themselves to become his hearty and sin­cere Followers; and being received by him as Members of his Body, or of that Church, which he came to establish, and whereof he himself is the Head, did not need a Discourse about Faith, nor an Exhortation about com­ing to Christ, so much as proper Instructions in Regard to their Conduct and Behaviour as Christians. They wanted suitable Rules of Instruction, how they might live and act up to the Dignity of that holy Profession they had made; what Duties were incumbent upon them, in Consequence of this their Christian Profession; what Impediments they were likely to meet with; and what was the pro­per Method to remove them; or with what Temper and Disposition they ought to sustain them.—These were Points more immediately necessary to be opened and explained to Christians, to Men who had already embraced the Faith of Christ.

And accordingly we find our blessed Sa­viour condescended to teach them these moral Duties. He did not flatter them with a Notion that their closing with him, or getting an Interest in him, exempted them from [Page 12] moral Duties; but taught, that their Obli­gation to him was increas'd with their Pro­fession; and that they became the Test and Evidence of their Discipleship.—If ye love me (says he) keep my Commandments. And again, He that keepeth my Commandments, he it is that loveth me. And St. John fur­ther assures, that he who keepeth his Com­mandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him. (b) It is not he that impudently presumes. It is not he who confidently claims an Interest in Christ, that shall become Partaker of this Privilege; but he who gives Evidence of his Love to Christ, by keeping his Command­ments.

Our Saviour's whole Sermon is indeed en­tirely composed of such Points of Doctrine, as some by Way of Disparagement, have pre­sumed to call moral Preaching, and legal Instruction. But surely those Men who had the Happiness to hear him, had quite different Notions about Preaching, from these People. They, we read, were in Raptures; were fill'd with Admiration; were even astonish'd at [Page 13] his Doctrine. Even the unconverted Multi­tude plainly saw the Excellence of his Dis­course. That noble Majesty, and unaffected Simplicity of Expression, surprised and charmed them. They perceived the Doctrine came from God. They were convinced that a divine Authority attended him; because the Precepts he taught were worthy of God; and had a direct and natural Tendency to promote the Happiness of Men.

Upon other Occasions, when our Saviour im­mediately applied himself to those who were Strangers to his Religion: He exhorts them to come unto him, to believe in him, and in his Doc­trine, that they might have Life. Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you Rest. Take my Yoke upon you, and learn of me. Matt. 11.29. He that cometh unto me (says he to those who fol­low'd him for the Loaves) shall never hun­ger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst. John 6.35.— And so Faith and Re­pentance were the Subject of the very first Sermon he made, as we learn from the 4th of St. Matt. 17. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the King­dom of Heaven is at Hand.—He made a wide [Page 14] Difference in his preaching, when he directed himself to the unconverted Heathen World, from those Applications which were addressed to such as had already received him, and em­braced his Religion. The former he ex­horted to put away their old Sins and Idola­tries, to receive him for their Saviour, and take his Directions for their Way to Heaven. And therefore Repentance of their former wicked Life, and Faith in Christ, were the only proper necessery Doctrines to be incul­cated upon such Men as these.—But for those who had already received him by Faith, and who profest their Dependance on him as a Mediator and Guide, quite other Doctrine was necessary. And therefore to these he preached the Doctrine of New Obedience; exhorted them to live suitably to their holy Calling, by practising the Duties of a holy, righteous, and godly Life; and not only to he innocent and unblameable themselves; but according to their Power and Ability, to promote the general Welfare and Happiness of all Mankind.

Thus I have examined the Nature of our blessed Saviour's Preaching.—I proceed,

[Page 15]II. To enquire, Whether his Apostles did not teach the same Doctrine?

Now, in Answer to this Enquiry, we must consider their Preaching under two distinct Periods. The first beginning from our Savi­our's Ascension; and the Descent of the Holy Ghost consequent upon it. And the other from the Settlement of Churches, Bodies, and Societies of Christians, after the Religion of Jesus had made some Progress in the World.

The first of these Periods seems to be chiefly taken up in bringing Men over to the Christian Faith. And accordingly the Points of Doctrine chiefly insisted on, were these, Christ crucified, Jesus and the Resurrection, Faith and Repentance, putting on Christ, being baptized into Christ, and the like: All which, and a great Number of Expres­sions of like Nature; of which their Ser­mons and Exhortations were full, do import neither more nor less than this: That the Death and Sufferings of Christ had made Attonement for the Sins of Mankind; that he had now opened a new and noble Way of reconciling Men to God. And in order that they might become Partakers of these [Page 16] great Blessings, it was necessary that they should turn from their Idols and Vanities; and the Jews from their servile Dependance upon the Law; and believing those Things which were spoken of Jesus, they should ac­knowledge him for their Saviour, embrace his Religion, and submit to his Conduct and Discipline.—Here is no mention of Duties; these are reserved for the second Period, when they come to address to them as Christians.— And indeed nothing could be more reason­able, than to exhort them to cloath them­selves with the Christian Profession, before they call upon them to practise the Duties of it. They must first own Christ for their Sa­viour, from whom Obedience to his Com­mands may reasonably be expected. Ac­cordingly the Apostles all along insist upon the Reason they had to acknowledge this same Jesus which was crucified, and rose again from the Dead, to be the true Messiah, or Saviour of the World; because all the Pro­phecies which went before, concerning the Messiah, were literally fulfilled, or accomplish'd in him. Through this Man (says St. Paul) (c) is preached unto you, the Forgiveness [Page 17] of Sins. And by him all that believe are justified from all Things from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.

Thus Faith and Repentance are the chief Subjects of the Apostles Doctrine, during this first Period of their Ministry; and while they were employ'd in bringing Men over to embrace the Christian Religion.

But if we examine the second Period of their Labours, which they exercis'd towards those who were already Christians, who had profess'd their Faith in Christ, and had been received into his Church by Baptism; we shall find that they entirely chang'd their Applications: They no longer now insist upon Faith but Practice: The Duties that we owe to God, to ourselves, and to one another, are the chief Subjects of their Discourses, in all their Epistles to the Christian Churches. They now address to them as Men who had already received the Christian Faith; and therefore exhort them to shew forth the Fruits of it in a Christian Conversation.

Thus St. James in his Epistle to the twelve Tribes, earnestly recommends the Duties of a Christian Life; such as Charity, and Prayer, and Thanksgiving, and Patience under [Page 18] Afflictions; and warns them against the Vices of Pride and Intemperance, and De­traction, and rash Judgment. And because some of them had entertain'd that wild Opi­nion of the Sufficiency of Faith, without a suitable Practice, he largely handles this Ar­gument in the second Chapter; shewing that the Faith of the Gospel, without performing the Duties of it, will never save a Man.

Thus also St. Peter exhorts his Christian Converts, to (d) add to their Faith, Virtue, Knowledge, Temperance, Patience, Godliness, Brotherly Kindness, Charity; and assures them, that he who lacketh these Things, is blind, and has forgot his Christian Profession.

But St. Paul is clearer in the Epistle to the Hebrews; where he clearly distinguishes the Principles that are proper to be taught and insisted on, with such as have not yet em­braced the Christian Religion; such as Faith, and Repentance, and Baptism▪ and the like, from those which are proper to be offer'd to such as are already Christians. The former he compares to Milk, which is suitable he says, to an immature Estate and the latter to strong Meat, which is adapted to riper [Page 19] Age (e)Therefore leaving the Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto Perfection, not laying again the Foundation of Repentance from dead Works, and of Faith towards God, of the Doctrine of Baptisms, and of laying on of Hands.—In his Epistle also to Timothy, and that to Titus, he tells us, that they who (f) profess they know God, but in Works deny him, are abominable Disobedient, and unto every good Work reprobate. And again, (g) They which have believed in God, should be careful to maintain good Works. The same Doctrine this Apostle holds forth in his Epistles to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Galatians, Phillippians, and generally in all others; his Epistles to the Churches, exhort­ing and beseeching his Converts, that as they had received of them, how they ought to walk, and to please God; so they would abound more and more.

St. John employs almost his whole first Epistle, the longest that he wrote, in re­commending the Love of God, and of one another; which he makes to be reciprocal of each other, and to derive their Evidence [Page 20] from the keeping the Commandments, (h) This is the Love of God, says he, that we keep his Commandments. And this Commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his Brother also.

And indeed, not these only, but all the Apostles employ a great Part of their Epistles, in recommending to their several Converts, to act up to the Profession they had taken upon them; and adorn the Gospel they pro­fest to believe, by living an innocent, good, and useful Life: Or in St. Paul's Phrase, to walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith they were called; worthy of God who had called them to his Kingdom and Glory; worthy of the Lord unto all-pleasing; being fruitful in every good Work, and increasing in the Know­ledge of God.

To such as had not heard of Christ, or been let into the Knowledge of the Gospel, the necessary fundamental Points of Faith and Repentance, were propos'd. The Apostles labour'd to convince them that God had chosen this Method of bringing about the [Page 21] Salvation of Mankind.—That he had sent his Son into the World, who took upon him human Flesh for this very End and Purpose. —And that this Jesus was he, the very Messiah thus appointed; in whom these Things were to be accomplished. And for Proof of this, they produce the Miracles he wrought, the Doctrine he propos'd, the Prophesies long since pronounced; and which exactly con­curr'd to point out this very Person, and were literally fulfill'd in him; that thus and thus it was written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the Dead.— And as a Consequence of all this, they tell the People that it is highly reasonable, they should lay aside their former wicked and idolatrous Practices, and place their Hope, their Faith and Obedience in him, as the only Saviour and Mediator between God and Man.—And if any one who had already re­ceived the Christian Faith, began to grow remiss and careless of their Lives, they call upon such Men to remember the holy Pro­fession they had made; the Evidences upon which they believed; the Mercy of God in accepting them into Covenant in and through Jesus Christ; and not to forfeit these great [Page 22] Blessings and Advantages thro' the Tempta­tions of the World, or the Suggestions of evil Men; but to hold fast their Profession by Steadfastness and Perseverance to the End.

And if we would imitate the Pattern which our blessed Master, and these his Apostles have laid before us; we should make a like Difference in our Addresses to these different Sorts of Men. When we have Heathen and Infidels to deal withal, we should recommend the Faith and Religion of Christ, as the only Way to Salvation: And when we preach to Christians, we must show them the Obliga­tions which their holy Profession lays upon them. Not spend Time in exhorting them to believe; for this their very Profession sup­poses they do already; but to press and per­suade them to live as becomes Christians; to be found in the Practice of all moral Du­ties; or, in other Words, to perfect Holiness in the Fear of God.

And this surely is a most reasonable Me­thod. First of all to direct such as are lost and bewilder'd, to the right Way; and then to give them proper Directions to continue in it, till they arrive at their Journey's End. Faith in Christ is the lending Principle that [Page 23] enters Men who are lost and bewilder'd in their Sins and Corruptions, into the Path-Way of Heaven; but being enter'd in the right Way, it would be most absurd to exhort them to be still seeking it. They should be encouraged to persevere, to go on, till they reach their Journey's End. 'Tis true they should be caution'd against losing their Way; that is, they should be exhorted to take good Heed that their Faith do not fail, do not prove weak and wavering at any Difficulties they meet with; and so cause them to loose their right Way, to renounce or apostatise from their Profession.—But then it will be equally Dangerous to stand still. They are not to imagine, that having got into the Path-Way of Heaven, they may set up their Rest, they are in a safe Condition, and have no more to do, but to trust in the Goodness and Safety of the Way: No, certainly the Way will never carry them to Heaven, unless they tra­vel and persevere in it.—They must therefore be found in the Practice of all holy Duties; which is the Exercise of a Christian, and the only sure Proof and Evidence of his Progress in a spiritual Life. (i) Walk as Children of [Page 24] Light, (says St. Paul) always abounding in the Work of the Lord. And again, Forget­ting those Things which are behind, and reach­ing forth unto those that are before, let us press towards the Mark for the Prize of the high Calling of God in Christ Jesus. (k) Herein (also says Christ) is my Father glorified, that ye bear much Fruit.—A Chri­stian may travel indeed, he may exercise him­self to the end of his Life, with the utmost Diligence, and never reach Heaven, if he be not in the right Way; for its not travelling only, but travelling in the right Path, that brings a Man to his desired Port: But on the Contrary, neither will his being in the right Way answer his Purpose, unless he persevere in it with Diligence and Industry.

But now if any one should misunderstand me after all, and imagine that I leave scarce any thing for Faith to do in the Christian Scheme; that I assign to it no other use than that of a Door only, to let us into the Christian Religion, and then lay it aside as of no further Service.—I answer, that this is widely to mistake my Meaning and Design.—What I aim at, is to show the Weakness and [Page 25] Absurdity of calling upon Christians to come to Christ, by a naked, barren, and ineffectual Faith, as if that would save them, without a serious Endeavour to obey his Commands. I would moreover be understood, to establish both these in their respective Place and Order. Faith stands foremost in the Rank of Chri­stian Graces; for no Man can come to God, unless he first believe that he is; nay, one Step further, unless also he believe that he will re­ward those that diligently seek him.—But then after this comes Practice.—And now as every Man professes this Faith in Baptism, when he first enters into the Christian Cove­nant, (for this is one necessary Condition of the Covenant, Believe and be baptized. What hinders me, said the Eunuch to St. Philip, what hinders me to be baptized? Why, if thou believest with all thy Heart, (says he) thou mayest?) I charitably believe that such an one has Faith, till I hear he renounces it again; and therefore I do not exhort him to believe, and to put on Christ, or to come to Christ; but I exhort him to act up to his Belief; to live so as one who believes in Christ ought to live; and as the Gospel of Christ requires he should live, if ever he expect Salvation,

[Page 26]If it should still be ask'd, Whether Faith be not a proper Subject to be insisted on among Christians? I answer, Yes, by all Means; 'tis one of the most important Subjects they can be entertained with. Not to exhort them to believe; for this we mull suppose they do already in some good Measure; but to exercise and encrease their Faith.—Faith has various Measures and Degrees. There is such a Thing as a strong and a weak Faith; and generally in Proportion to the Strength or Weakness of a Christian's Faith, so will his Obedience be.—If (for Instance) a Man firmly believe a future State of Rewards and Punishments; they are Things of so much Importance, and do so very nearly concern him, that they will almost necessarily have a great Influence upon his Conduct: But weak Degrees or Measures of Faith, will have proportionally weak Effects. And the Apostles commonly make use of Faith in this Sense, when they address themselves to Christians, calling upon them to grow, to increase, to be strong in the Faith, to use it as a Shield; that is, to excercise and improve it; and sundry Expressions of like Na­ture.

[Page 27] (l)Indeed a strong and lively Faith, is so frequently attended with the Fruits of a good and holy Life; all moral Duties and Virtues do so generally, and as it were, naturally ac­company or flow from it, that it is some­times made use of in the Scriptures, in a very comprehensive Sense, to signify both the Faith and Practice of a Christian: And it is no wonder therefore, that the highest Enco­miums are bestowed upon such a Faith; for consider'd in this large and extensive Sense, it is indeed the Sum total of a Christian's Duty or Religion.

Thus I have largely consider'd the Nature of our blessed Saviour's preaching, and that of his Apostles; and have endeavoured to show that the general Drift and Design of their Discourses was practical; pressing and inculcating upon Men every moral Duty, as of absolute Necessity to make them good Christians.

I now proceed to consider,

III. The Method or Language, and Phrases which both our Saviour and his Apostles used, [Page 28] in accommodating this Doctrine to their Hearers.

And here we shall surely find, that they made use of no Affectation, no obscure Phrases, no big swelling and pompous Ex­pressions, no frightful Exclamations, no Sounds without Sense or Meaning, purely to effect and move the Passions, without en­lightening the Understanding, or informing the Judgment; but the whole Drift and Design of their Discourses, were calculated to serve these two great Ends: First to make them wiser, in order also, secondly, to make them better Men.—To this Purpose their Discourses are plain, and natural, entirely unaffected, always consisting of such Phrases and Expressions as flow from the Nature of the Subject; containing sound Reason and nervous Argument, such as is fitted to con­vince a reasonable Creature; backed with suitable Motives and Persuasions to influence their Wills to comply with what their Judg­ments could not but approve. (m)This was the [Page 29] Method of our Saviour and his Apostles; and this was treating Men like reasonable Crea­tures.—They propos'd the most weighty Truths to the Understanding; confirm'd by such Proof and Evidence as was sufficient to convince the Mind: They used the most na­tural and most persuasive (n) Eloquence to induce them to embrace these Truths; and then left them at Liberty to receive or reject their Doctrine.

The Apostles did not use the Method which some now call Affecting: That is a furious Application to the Passions only, and [Page 30] not to the Understanding; whereby Men are stupifyed instead of being enlightned: (o) But having planted the Seed, the good Word of God in their Minds, left it to the Grace of God, and their own Ingenuity, to bring forth Fruit unto Perfection. They did not in the modern Phrase, presume to convert; that they look'd upon as the Work of God's holy Spirit; but only to convince Men. They undertook to plant; they carefully water'd what they had thus planted; and then hum­bly waited till God should give the Increase.— They propos'd the most important Truths: they exhorted the People to receive that Truth into good and honest Hearts; and assur'd them, that thus propos'd, and thus receiv'd, God's holy Spirit would nourish it up unto [Page 31] Eternal Life.—The Apostles ingrafted the Word; the People who received that ingrafted Word with Meekness, found it able to save their Souls.

St. Paul addressing himself to the Roman Governor Felix, a very wicked Man, did not entertain him with a Set of figurative Ex­pressions; such as closing with Christ, or roling himself upon Christ; but he soberly and earnestly recommended to him, the Beauty and Necessity of Temperance and Righ­teousness, founded upon the very weighty Motive of a future Judgment; and this Ap­plication made the Man tremble, as he had abundant Reason: But then he trembled as a Man ought to do, who reflects upon his wicked Life, and how he stands exposed to the Justice of God; and not as Children do, who suddenly take affright, without consider­ing whether they have any reasonable Ground for their Apprehensions.

These were the Methods by which the Apostles endeavoured to plant and cultivate our holy Faith and Religion; and they were closely followed and copied after, in the Ser­mons of those great and good Men, who suc­ceeded in the Guidance and Conduct of the [Page 32] Primitive Church. Their Persuasions are enforced with powerful Reasoning, with im­portant Motives, not cloath'd with the Or­naments of false Eloquence, nor address'd to the Passions of Men only; but chiefly to their Judgment and Understandings.(p)

And if we would rightly divide the Word of Truth, we must undoubtedly copy after these great Originals. We must exhort, we must persuade, must labour to convince Men of the Necessity of believing the Gospel, and of yielding a strict Obedience to the Laws of it. And we must enforce and recommend this Doctrine from the Reasonableness, the Beauty, the Necessity of it; but above all, from the important Motives of eternal Rewards and Punishments, which will be sure to attend their Neglect or Compliance. And in order to this good End, we must point out to them [Page 33] the particular Duties of the Christian Life, and the several Sins and Temptations that will beset them in their Christian Course; shewing them the Reasonableness and Necessity of the one, and the Unreasonableness and extream Danger of the other.—Such were the Sub­jects of the Apostle's Preaching. Such was their Method who succeeded them in the Go­vernment of the Church. And such also, doubtless, should be ours.

Indeed there is no other consistent Method can be used, since Inspiration and Miracles have ceased. For we cannot speak immedi­ately to the Heart; 'tis God's Prerogative to influence that; and they are wretched Im­postors who pretend to it. And should we address to the Passions only, it would be a shameful betraying of our Trust.—Our chief Province therefore is with the Understanding. This we may inform, this we may enlighten, this we may instruct and convince. The Will also may urge and persuade, by suitable Motives, Encouragements, Exhortations. The Affections also we may move by proper Representations: But this is all we can do. We can't convert; that is the Work of God's holy Spirit. We can't force the Will, this the Grace of God must gently incline. And [Page 34] whether the Spirit of God will work these Effects within Men, depend upon their own humble Desires and Endeavours. We may preach the sincere Word of God; we may instruct the Mind, inform the Judgment, and inlighten the Understanding; and having done this, we can do no more: The Rest we must leave to God and to ourselves. But if to this, Men will join an honest upright Heart, if they will receive the Word with Meekness, if they will endeavour to bend their Will to an humble Reception and Prac­tice of what is thus taught, the Influences of God's holy Spirit, will never be wanting to render these our humble and mutual De­sires and endeavours effectual to Salvation.

Upon the Whole, from what has been all along said, I think it plainly appears, that they who of late have so zealously undertaken the Revival of Religion amongst us, have nei­ther in Doctrine, Method, or Language, copy'd after the Example of our blessed Saviour or his Apostles, in their Preaching; but in the Room of that native Simplicity and Eloquence with which the Scriptures of the New Testament abound, have substituted a boisterous Appli­cation to the Passions, cloathed in dark unin­telligible Forms, and figurative Expressions; [Page 35] (q) and which therefore, as they are given us without Explication, can be esteem'd but as speaking to the Air.—Some weak and inju­dicious People have been pleased indeed to term it an awakening Method of Preaching; by which, if they mean their Attention is awakened, I readily grant it; but sure it will never awaken any Man's Reason, so as to make wiser; much less will it make him wise unto Salvation.

If it should be ask'd, Why Men profit no more under the present Administration of the Gospel, and those Means which God affords to build us up in Holiness unto Life Eternal?—I answer; the Fault is not in the Means; but in the Neglect of applying them in a hearty, serious and affectionate Manner.—While Men are looking abroad, they should be seeking at home for the true Reason of their Unfruitfulness. [Page 36] And instead of seeking new Ways and Means of Edification, they should be persuaded to let those they enjoy, have their proper and natural Influence.

And what renders the Case extremely un­happy, is, that there are never wanting such, whose Interest it is to teach and cherish these misconceived Opinions; and who endeavour to confirm Men in charging the Fault of their Barrenness upon the Profession they embrace, the Guide they follow, the Instructions they re­ceive, the Prayers they join in, or the like. Now nothing strikes in better with Men's corrupt Inclinations than this; for they are willing the Fault should rest any where, rather than with themselves; And being not fond of much Pains, are ready to hearken to such as offer to lighten their Burden, and promise them Heaven, with­out any Labour or Trouble; without so much as the Pains of growing wiser or better.

This, it must be confess'd, is a melancholly Consideration.—Yet we, my Brethren, who have the Honour to serve at the Altar, have no Reason to despond, or to be disheartned at these Difficulties. The Reproaches of unreasonable or mistaken Men, are Things we are taught to expect, from the Examples of those great and good Men who are gone before us, who in [Page 37] their Generation also endured the same Sight of Afflictions; had their Ministry traduc'd, and all their pious Labours misrepresented and wan­tonly defam'd. And in truth, by how much the more Regular and Discreetly they con­ducted, by so much the Greater was the Oppo­sition they met with.—And tho' nothing can afford us greater Satisfaction of Mind, than to see the Interests of Religion, and the Kingdom of Christ establish'd, or gaining Ground in the Hearts of Men; yet should we by no means be discouraged, tho' our Labours often fail of that Success we hoped to reap from them. We are taught with Meekness and Patience to pos­sess our Souls under these Disappointments, and to wait God's good time to render these La­bours successful.—While we are contending with the perverse Opposition of a wicked and corrupt World, and endeavouring to captivate Mankind to the Obedience of Christ, can it be thought strange, that the Powers of Darkness should arise against us? 'Tis doubtless what we ought to expect, and should therefore never be unprepar'd for.—'Tis our Duty to be doing all we can, never to faint or grow weary; but beg and intercede with God perpetually, for still greater Degrees of his Grace, that we may be enabled to go on in this spiritual Warfare, [Page 38] conquering and to conquer.—When our Duty lies thus plainly before us, he must surely be a very weak or unsteady Man, who can be di­verted from it, by the Oppositions of Profane­ness, or the Misrepresentations of mistaken Zeal. It must indeed be confess'd, that to preserve a steady, regular, uniform Conduct, is a very difficult Thing. To feel all our own Cor­ruptions and Infirmities, and be obliged at the same Time to contend with the Perverseness of other People, is doubtless a very difficult Pro­vince; and such, as without a large Portion of the divine Assistance, we shall very ill discharge. —Whereas to give a loose to Ambition or Pride, to a licentious unbounded Character, is very agreeable to our corrupt Nature, and not difficult to excel in. It must not therefore be thought strange, if those who despair to be di­stinguish'd in the orderly regular Way, which the Authority of God and Man have mark'd out to them, should despise and cast off these Restraints, which confine their ambitious Spi­rits, and should give an unbounded Scope to their lawless Desires.

It has been the Glory of our Church always to oppose itself to such Excesses, whether they arise from Superstition or from an opposite Character, from Weakness of Understanding, [Page 39] or from Perverseness of Will. And we have Reason to bless God, that those who serve at her Altars, have generally been so modest, as to be content with that excellent Provision, and the Wisdom of those Rules which she has prescribed to their Conduct.—And doubtless it would contribute much to the Success of our Ministry, and to our Consolation in the Dis­charge of it, if you my Brethren of the Laity, would pay the same Deference and Regard to the Prescriptions of our Church; which re­quire us to discountenance all Disorders, and whatever has a Tendency to overthrow the Peace and Unity of the Church.—It is doubt­less your Duty to try all Things; but having found out that which is wise and good, ye will do well to hold it fast; and not spend your whole Lives in seeking after new Things, or in giving ear to very one, who shall be so vain and presumptuous as to tell ye that ye are wrong.—A wavering unsettled Disposition of Mind, is surely of as ill Consequence as an obstinate untractable Inflexibility: As one shuts out all Light from the Understanding, so the other confounds, by the various and contrary Refractions of its Rays.—A Medium in this, as in all other Cases, is the true Center of Repose.—It is a very easy Thing to bestow [Page 40] ill Names upon the best Things; but as ye must be supposed to understand the Constitu­tion whereof ye have profest yourselves Mem­bers, it will discover a great Degree ef Weak­ness at least, to give so much as an Ear to those who would draw ye off from this, till they have agreed upon something to substitute in its Stead.—If ye steadfastly continue in the Things ye have learned, till that time comes, ye will be in no great Danger of a Change.

Would ye be persuaded to set about pur­suing your future Interest, with the same Caution and Zeal which ye bestow upon your temporal Concerns, ye would not be liable to be practised on by ignorant or by designing Men; but would soon arrive at such Degrees of humble Confidence in God, as would afford you much Comfort here, and end in the Fulness of Joy hereafter.

Which God Almighty grant may be the Portion of us all, for the Sake of his Son Jesus Christ: To whom with the Holy Ghost, be Glory, Honour, and Power, now, and forevermore. AMEN.


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