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Mr. Rowland's Farewel SERMON, Preached at PLAINFIELD, May 3. 1761.

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Ministers of CHRIST freed from Blood-Guiltiness, by dispensing all the Counsel of GOD. A FAREWEL-SERMON, Preached at PLAINFIELD, May 3. 1761. OCCASIONED BY THE LONG DIFFERENCES THAT HAVE THERE SUBSISTED. Published at the Desire of many that heard it.

By David S. Rowland, A. M.

"Am I therefore become your Enemy, because I tell you the Truth."

PAUL.

"They who oppose the Attempts of some, to introduce Corruption and Confusion in the Church, will have many an unkind Reflection thrown upon them, and experience the Severity of Censure, for a Conduct which merits the justest Approbation. — They fondly mistake the voice of Prejudice for that of Conscience. — While some, with a pitiable Mixture of Arrogance and Ignorance, judge one another, and us, we are concerned rather to secure that Praise of GOD, which will be heard and felt, by the Soul, with the highest Rapture, and silence every Echo of human Applause or Censure."

DODDRIDGE.

BOSTON: Printed by Benjamin Mecom, at the New Printing-Office, near the TOWN-HOUSE.

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To the READER.

IT is natural for persons, when they take a discourse into their hands, on the occasion of the following, to enquire after the cause or reason that has given rise to it. To be very particular and minute in the detail would be too tedious. The following may serve to satisfy the candid and impartial inquirer.

The author's situation has been peculiarly difficult, even from his first acquaintance with the place, especially by reason of the long difficulties and divisions that have there subsisted, which were risen to a great height in the days of his honoured prede­cessor, § and were the unhappy means of bringing his gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. These difficulties and divisions that have and still subsist, were occasioned by that spirit of discord, sown by the arch-enemy in many of our parishes; whence ma­ny have undertaken, with freedom, to censure the constitution of the government, and the more common method of ministerial support; exclaiming with vehemence against the churches, as being Antichrist and Babylon; the rulers as ruling for Baol, and their teachers as teaching for lucre, &c. &c. &c.

This spirit of rancour, bitterness, and division having made a most prodigious progress, many minds were prejudiced, and these prejudices industriously propagated, that there were but few whose minds were not soured by this leaven of wicked­ness, and became cold in their affections to the ministry. These things rendered the author's support extremely difficult, there being no way to attain it but by mere dint of law; a method the author try'd many years, with reluctance. There being no prospect of times being better, and the society signifying their desire, or willingness, of their pastor's being dismiss'd from his pastoral relation, the motion was made to the church, who at first manifested their unwillingness to concur, being united and in full charity with their pastor; but considering, upon a review, that the ministerial support was from the so­ciety in conjunction with the church, — that they could not proceed but in consort, — they pass'd a vote (tho' with very [Page 6] great reluctance, being in full charity, as it is express'd in their vote) for the dismission of their reverend pastor, and im­powered him, in their names, to send to an ecclesiastical coun­cil for that purpose; which council, in their result, express themselves as follows.

"Considering the many and great difficulties which have long subsisted in this place, and the deep-rooted (thô, as we believe ill-grounded) prejudices which are in the minds of so many against their present pastor, and the little prospect of his being longer useful in this place when so great a majority appear desireous of his removal, (as also Mr. Rowland's earnest desire to be removed) think it best that his pastoral relation to this people be dissolved; and therefore do (thô with reluctance) dissolve the pastoral relation between the rev. Mr. Rowland and the first society and the church in Plainfield. As there have been no charges, of any kind, exhibited against Mr. Rowland, so we freely declare that we know nothing, of any kind, re­specting him, that can be any disqualification for the work of the gospel ministry; and do very cordially▪ recommend him to any part of the christian church where providence may open a door to his future usefulness."

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A FAREWEL-SERMON.

ACTS XX, 25—27.

And now behold, I know that ye all among whom I have gone, preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.

Therefore I take you to record, that I am pure from the blood of all men.

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

THE words now read, are a part of St. Paul's farewel-sermon, delivered to the elders of the church of Ephesus, one of the noted churches, in the Lesser Asia, of which we have an account in the book of the revelation of St. John. some interpreters suppose the words, tho' immediately directed to the elders of the church, were yet designed to include the whole church. However it is evident the apostle spent considerable time at Ephesus, that his conduct and behaviour was well known both to mi­nisters and people, preaching the gospel to them, and la­bouring for their salvation, not only in their publick syna­gogues, but also in their private houses, from house to house, as ver. 20. This holy apostle was indefatigable in his labours, and never did, thro' sloth negligence, or weak ti­midity, sacrifice a good conscience. He faced dangers and defied censure, was ready not only to be bound, but also to die, for the name and honour of Christ; and when bonds and afflictions awaited him, he made no account of them, not esteeming his very life precious to himself on such an occa­sion, that he might faithfully and joyfully finish his course as a christian, and an apostle, and fulfil the ministry which he had recieved of the Lord Jesus, even to testify the truth, and urge the importance of the glorious gospel of the free and abundant grace of God; a dispensation infinitely [Page 8] glorious, in which the abundant grace of God shines with a lustre not to be equaled, to which we are all indebted, infinitely indebted, ministers and people, far beyond the re­turns we can ever make. The apostle gloried in the doc­trines of the cross of Christ, as they contained the most illus­trious display of divine grace, and were the power of God to the salvation of all that believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek . The apostle was so far from being ashamed of the gospel of Christ that he gloried in it; and the impor­tant truths of it he endeavoured to press upon the minds of those to whom he preached; and at Ephesus he kept back nothing that was profitable unto them ; testifying, both to Jews and Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith to­wards our Lord Jesus Christ. And now being about to take his leave of them, he addresses them as in the words of my text: And now behold I know that ye all, my dear brethren, among whom I have gone, shall see my face no more. The words are a Hebraism, for, ye shall not all see my face any more*. Some suppose that the apostle had it intimated par­ticularly to him that he should no more come to Ephesus, and therefore never have an opportunity of seeing them to whom he was now addressing himself in the most tender and affectionate manner; therefore he sent for them that he might take his solemn farewel of them, and to testify to them all, that if any of them perish, yet he should be clear from the blood of all men. I testify to you, and God is my witness that I have laboured for your salvation, and the salvation of all that heard me, and have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. He suppress'd nothing that was advantageous or that would promote their edification; he did not avoid nor shun, from any con­sideration whatsoever, declaring all the counsel of God; he did not withhold or disguise any important truth, nor de­cline the open publication of it for fear of displeasing those to whom it ought to be declared: But, on the contrary, he delivered the counsel, or will of God, with the greatest sincerity and unreservedness; opening and enforcing the im­portant [Page 9] truths relating to our redemption, by Christ, and the way to eternal happiness with him, in the most plain and faithful manner; not regarding the censure and con­tempt he might incur from the enemies of christianity; deaf to censure, to applause unelate, resolute in the face of dangers, and inflexible to every motive of ease and securi­ty, he pursued the arduous work he had undertaken, and, like the saints of old, loved not his life to the death , that is, he exposed himself to the greatest dangers, and met death in the glorious conflict; but he fell to rise, triumph and reign.

But in pursuing the design in view, I shall only take no­tice of two things in general; where I shall endeavour,

I. To shew you when a minister may be said to shun declaring all the counsel of God.

II. Consider some things included and necessarily impli­ed in declaring all the counsel of God.

Then I shall make some improvement suitable to our cir­cumstances in the prospect of our parting.

First then, I am to shew you when a minister may be said to shun declaring all the counsel of God.

He who dare make the most sacred things serve to gratify his own, or the humours of others, or as a cloke to colour over his pride and avarice, is in the most pitiable and unhappy condition. It is a crime too many have been guilty of, trifling with things in their nature sacred, and a profanation unpardonable, were it not that infinite mercy had been exercised in behalf of the greatest sinners, even the chief . Happy had it been for many had the ordinances of Christ never been prostituted to the most base and merce­nary views for promoting secular interest, and inordinate cravings of a selfish mind; and it would still be more hap­py, were there no such pernicious and destructive principle prevalent, or so much as to be found in this world; and tho' it is what may not be expected in the present state, to be perfectly free from such an infelicity; yet it is the design of the gospel of the grace of God to purify and re­fine men, to fit and prepare them for the most noble servi­ces [Page 10] in the present state, and to conduct them to a better; to free them, while here, from those evils, and to deliver them from those false biases to which they are so incident; to prompt them to act in the most disinterested manner, with a suitable regard to the honour and glory of God, the wel­fare of their own, and the souls of others. Men that are in a state of slavery to their lusts, can't well avoid being slaves to the humors of others; and it is a thousand to one, if such do not sacrifice a good conscience thro' weak timi­dity, and fear of giving offence. —The apostle had not so learned Christ; therefore spake the word with all freedom and boldness, without fear or affection to any man, whe­ther they would hear or whether they would forbear, con­scious that he was to God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that perish, and in them that are saved, to the one a savour of life, unto life, but to the other a savour of death unto death.

Here I shall mention two or three things.

1. A minister may be said to shun declaring all the counsel of God when he don't deliver the doctrines of Christ in a plain and intelligible manner, when he endeavours to con­ceal himself under unintelligible phrases, and an uncertain manner of expressing himself, that his hearers are at a loss to know what the plain design of his expressions import. — The doctrines of Christ are of the last concern to mankind; their well-being and blessedness nearly, yea necessarily de­pends upon their being well understood; without this kind of knowledge the heart can't be good , there can be no en­joyment of the chief good, no well-grounded hope of eter­nal life. —If the opportunities enjoyed for instruction are doubtful and uncertain what hope of reaping profit and ad­vantage from them? The stile in which a minister addres­ses his audience, ought not on the one hand to be jejune and flat, so as to render his administrations contemptible, nor on the other hand, too florid and bombast, that they can't be recieved by persons of an ordinary size: he ought ra­ther to study a graceful decent and plain method of com­municating, that his words, fitly spoken, may be like ap­ples [Page 11] of Gold in pictures of silver . The apostle Paul plainly intimates to us this as his manner of preaching ; And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excel­lency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testi­mony of God; my speech and my preaching was not with enticeing words of mens wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit, and of power; not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. The apostle lets the Corinthians know that his aim and manner a­mong them, even from the begining, was not with the pomp of language, no, far very far from affecting such a method to engage their affections, he kept in view the great design of the gospel, which was admirably calculated to stain the pride of human glory; he had no need of affecting the sublimity and subtilty made use of among the Greeks of that age; the gospel needed not any ornaments of human invention, nor could the laboured charms of eloquence or philosophy give lustre or emphasis to it: he therefore endea­voured to exhibit it in as intelligible a method as he could; treating it as coming from God: in such a manner should the ministers of Christ address themselves to their people, then might they, with juster reason, hope for the happy suc­cess of their administrations, and that their hearers might grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and savi­our Jesus Christ.

The knowledge of things divine is, in its nature, the most excellent, and most directly tends to the welfare and happiness of such as are made effectually acquainted with them, that to prevent, and embarrass the truths of God, by a doubtful and unintelligible method of explication is an evil almost unpardonable.

2. A minister may be said to shun declaring all the coun­sel of God when he makes use of uncertain and ambiguous words or phrases in his explication of gospel truths. This being the case, it looks like artifice and design, a method to conceal himself from censure and intitle himself to a good living. To make use of uncertain modes of expression, and certain phrases to which there is no fixt determinate [Page 12] ideas, or, least, they are ambiguous and doubtful, may be understood in a proper or less proper sense, which leaves the hearer in a state of suspence and uncertainty what the speaker intends; this is supposed in withholding a full de­claration of the will of God; it is to disguise it, that it may appear what it really is not, to shun and avoid representing of it, in its native simplicity . If the preacher study an art­ful method of communicating himself, and frequently make use of ambiguous terms in his explication of some of the doctrines of the gospel, will not his hearers suspect whether he believe them or not, or, if he does, that he esteems them of little importance, meer speculation! and, of course, they, with an air of indifference if not of contempt treat the most important realities! —This is a character unworthy a mi­nister of the gospel, an embassador of the Lord of hosts. A simplicity of expression, as well as manners, free from force formality hypocricy and deceit, is the proper cha­racteristick of such as preach the gospel; and an honest up­right and unreserv'd method of communicating and enforce­ing the truth of the gospel ought to be very eminent and conspicuous in them. This the apostle Paul proposes as the real and genuine character of christianity, its natural and proper effect; and it was the consciousness he had of his own integrity, plain-heartedness, freedom from deceit and guile that animated him in the discharge of his embassy a­midst the clamours and reproaches thrown upon him by sons of malice slander and falshood: Our rejoicing (saith he) is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity with godly sincerity , maintaining a sense of the divine presence and inspection (the surest guard unto unfeigned in­tegrity) we live in the world.—This holy apostle studied always the most artless method of conduct, at all times and in all places; he abhorred the notion of deceit and guile, as methods below the christian and the apostle . The secret conciousness of his integrity supported him, in the [Page 13] most couragious efforts, animated him in the midst of dan­gers, and gave him a fortitude of mind suited to the dig­nity, and difficulties of his office. In his enforceing the truths and duties of the gospel, he behaved in the most unaffected manner: Our exhortation (saith he) was not of deceit, or of uncleanness, nor in guile ; it was not found­ed on any principles of deceit, he had no mercenary or sensu­al purposes to serve, there was nothing of guile or crafti­ness, no under-handedness, nothing that could fear the de­tection of the strictest scrutiny, all was fair open simple and artless.

3. A minister may be said to shun declaring all the counsel of God when he withholds the truth, or any part of the truth, thro' fear, or affection to the person of any man.

It is the apostolick character of a minister of Jesus Christ, that he pleases not man, but God.—Do I (saith the apostle) seek to please men? for if I yet please men, I should not be the servant of Christ . He that complies with the pre­judices, sooths the humours, and flatters the vanity of his hearers, deserves not the name of a christian, much less of a minister; for he that acts as an ambassador of the prince of peace, must not in the discharge of his embassy be influ­enced by the censure, or applause of mortals, whose breath goeth forth and they are no more, nor should he by any means study an accommodation to the taste and prejudices of sensual minds: —it is much becoming his character and office to labour at all times, to secure, above all things, the approbation of God, who trieth the heart, with the greatest exactness and care : We speak not (saith the apostle) as plea­sing men, but God,—nor did we (says he) deal in flattering words "to insinuate ourselves into your affections, and sooth you in your sins, as ye well know, nor had we recourse to a pretence of piety to promote the schemes of covetousness, often artfully conducted under the covert of religious zeal: God is our witness, that we were far above every thing of this kind, and made all such views our first sacrifice to the glory of his name, and propagation of his gospel▪ nor did we seek glory or applause of men, such among whom we [Page 14] have laboured and conversed ." No, these views are far, very far, from influencing the minds of the ministers of Christ, tho' oftentimes they get much illwill and hatred by it. Unhappy indeed must it be for the church of Christ if any who minister at God's altar should sacrifice truth to the affection, or favour of men. This would most certain­ly be a threatning omen to the church, as it is the first step towards giving up all revealed religion: if a part may be so prophanely sacrificed, why may not the whole?—How unreasonable and wicked, even to a prodigy, such fear, or condescension! Our hearers have almost as many tastes as complections; but they are like men sick with a fever, who can't relish the most proper food, for the nourishment of the body, or the disordered stomach that hankers for that which is most unnatural and hurtful.—One censures the preacher because he imagines he's too rigid in the doctrine of man's apostacy by the first Adam,—too much insists up­on the moral impotency of mankind; another, because he fancies he's little short of blasphemy, in his explication of the decrees of God, that therein he saps the very founda­tion of the sinner's endeavours after grace and holiness;— others, because they suppose that he is too stiff in his notions of the free justification of a sinner before God, by the per­fect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, efficacious grace, &c.— some, because he don't insist enough upon topicks of the like nature;—others, because he don't particularly and sufficiently display the excellencies, and recommend the pro­fit and advantages of moral vertue:—one cavils at his dress, another at his air:—some because he writes and reads his discourses, and some because he is able to do it:—one be­cause he is flat and lifeless, another because he has too much fervor and pathos. Thus they go on in a circle of uneasi­ness, as restless as the troubled sea, discovering a childish temper and disposition, never pleased but when humour­ed. If every minute part of their minister's conduct whe­ther in publick private or domestick life, don't quadrate with their notions, he's no minister for them, be his morals and doctrines as unexceptionable as the gospel.—He that under­takes [Page 15] the task of gratifying the humours of his hearers, will never be able to perform it. He that sets out to please one or all will be sure to please none at all; for it is as easy for a man to serve God and mammon, as for a minister of Jesus Christ to serve the humours, the peculiarities of his people, and discharge, suitably discharge the duties of his sacred office. The servant of the Lord should be well-stu­died and fix'd in the doctrines of the gospel, not hesitating, or in the least wavering; not afraid or ashamed to own and recommend the truths of the gospel;—and well esta­blished in the various parts and branches of his office; then, with unwearied diligence, to pursue the duties of his cal­ling, leaving the event.—They should cry aloud and spare not, lift up their voice like a trumpet , be Boanerges, sons of thunder, to awaken and alarm sleepy sinners, and stop bold transgressors in their full career to endless misery and ruin, and, Barnabas-like, sons of consolation, to comfort such as mourn in Zion, to raise up the bowed down, to strengthen the hands and encourage the hearts of the people of God, keeping the main end of their embassy in view, doing nothing by parti­ality in favour of one more than another, according to the inducements of private interest, friendship, or affection, whether they will hear or whether they will forbear, that they may know that there has been a prophet among them §. But,

II. I am to consider some things included and necessarily implied in declaring all the counsel of God.

A minister's declaring all the counsel of God, must sup­pose that he lays before his people the whole system of divine truths, relating to the being, perfections and pro­vidence of God, our fall by the first, and recovery by the second Adam; these truths are necessary to our well understand­ing the terms of the gospel, and way to eternal life and happiness, by Jesus Christ; nothing should be kept back or disguised for fear of giving offence. It too often happens that a minister's plain and pungent method of address gives offence, tho' it be with the utmost prudence▪ both in air and expression *, especialy when it crosses some humour, or [Page 16] inclination, some prejudice in favour of their peculiar set of thoughts. Regardless of private interest or affection should he who acts as a minister of the prince of peace, speak the word with all freedom and boldness, as he ought to speak. It will be impracticable for me to go over all the particular branches that naturally suggest themselves un­der this head; I shall, with as much brevity as may be, and time will allow, touch at a few.—

1. It must suppose a suitable illustration of the being and perfections of the divine nature. That God is, is the first article in the christian creed. He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him . Religion is wholly founded upon the doctrine of the one infinitely glorious, perfect and all-sufficient being, who hath made the heavens, and the earth, and all things that in them are, by the word of his power. Thus it is said, He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion. When he uttereth his voice there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth: He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasures . This righteous being is the sole object of religious worship and homage, as in himself he is the most excellent being, capable, from the infinite source of good in himself, to communicate to the needy circumstances of his creatures, and whose infinite compassi­on and pity has moved him to provide for the relief of fal­len ruined man, a saviour and sacrifice all-sufficient. It is a theme suitable to the sacred desk seasonably to discant up­on the perfections of the divine nature whether natural or moral, that our esteem of him may be raised and our ob­ligations of obedience be enforced.—O Lord my God thou art very great; who stretchest out the heavens as a curtain, [Page 17] who coverest thyself with light, as with a garment: who stretchest out the north over the empty space, and hangest the earth upon nothing: seek him that maketh the seven stars and orion and turneth the shadow in the morning and mak­eth the day dark with night :—The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, night unto night sheweth know­ledge: there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard; their line is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world*.

2. It must suppose, that we endeavour to impress the minds of our hearers with a suitable sense of the agency of God in all providential events. It is extremely natural for man­kind to misjudge things, and call them what they be not; so to attribute the most surprizing events meerly to the skill prudence and sagacity of themselves or others, or those un­meaning words Fate or Chance; and by such a mistaken view of things they eclipse the glory of the divine agency, that divine agency which produces every event by a secret but powerful influence upon second causes operating for such pur­poses. Now these mistakes men so naturaly run into should be corrected, and a firm unshaken belief of the divine provi­dence established.

He that created all things by the word of his power, up­holds and disposes them, according to his wisdom, and by the same word of his power: he alone is independent and self-sufficient, therefore the idea of a creature implies depend­ence; that which depends upon God for being must for its continuance in being. There is an unremitted exertion of divine power, call'd the divine manutention, by which we live move and act: accordingly the apostle observes that it is in Him we live, in him we move, in him we have our being, and in him are all our ways. § —God is said, according to the fix'd laws of nature, to preserve his creatures by the in­strumentality of second causes. Thus our life is supported by the air in which we breath and the food by which we are nour­ished. Those numberless things which tend to our comfort, [Page 18] are communicated to us by second causes, under the direction of a wise providence, which it is as much to be ascribed to, as tho' produced without any such means. God is said to give food to all flesh: and with respect to the brutal creation, 'tis said, These all wait upon thee, thou givest them their meat in due season, that thou givest them they gather; thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. *

How many great and surprizing events are produced by what are call'd second causes? this supposes a first, by which all others are guided and directed! this can be no creature, since it is peculiar to the Glorious God; all act under his influence, his providence, the greatest and the least are equally under the influence of his providence, and dependent upon Him. He doth according to his will in the army of heaven, as also among the countless inhabitants of the earth. In brief, the whole frame of nature is supported by Him, the elements and meteors are subject to his appointment, fire and hail, snow and vapour and stormy winds fulfil his word. He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven to make the weight of the winds and the weight of the waters by measure; when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder .

To which might be subjoind, the providence of God is eminently seen in sending afflictions and troubles for the advantage of his people that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from him (a).—The surprizing events of war are according to his wise direction, be giv­eth the soldier his martial genius and teacheth his hands to war, and his fingers to fight; (b) he giveth hardiness and fortitude, or sends faintness and timidity.

3. It supposes that we endeavour to affect our hearers with a sense of their fallen helpless circumstances; that by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all, for that all have sinned. The corruption and impotence of human nature are facts so stub­born, being established by the universal experience of man­kind, in all generations, that it is vain to dispute what ap­pears [Page 19] so evident. Yet, as to the rise of moral evil, there have been many warm and disadvantageous controversies; yet there have been some which have thrown much light be­fore our eyes, manifesting these important truths of God, and guarding us against the dangers we are exposed to by false judging.

If we attend closely to the account the sacred pages give us of this matter, and judge of them in the most plain easy and intelligible manner, without force, sophistry, or allegory, we must conclude we have guilt derived to us from our feederal head, Adam: by the offence of this one, many are made sinners, they become obnoxious to death, exposed to the anger and wrath of almighty God, in time and in eternity. The demerit of sin is everlasting punish­ment, because it is a conspiracy against a being of infi­nite perfection. The ways of sin is death, and (according to the antetheses in the text) it must be eternal death: for (saith the apostle) The gift of God is eternal life; therefore the ways of sin must be eternal death. Thus exposed are we every day and moment we live, and yet stupidly unaf­fected with our danger; blind and cannot see afar off; in­capable of rescuing ourselves from our unhappy circum­stances; in restless pursuit of vanity, grasping for fleet­ing shadows; amusing ourselves with toys, and the emp­ty name of honour; with the uncertain riches of time, and the beast-like pleasures of sense. The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead *. It is necessary that the sinner have his case plainly represented to him that he might be affected with his state and condition, excited to flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold of eternal life. If the sinner be not sensible of his need of an interest in the favour of God, he will never seek after it. Seeking after God, supposes the loss of him. If the sinner never sees, never feels his need of Christ, he will never seek par­don and help from him. The whole need not the physician, but the sick, and Christ came to call sinners to repentance.(a) By the terrors of the law, as well as the invitations of the [Page 20] gospel, should sinners be persuaded to accept of offered mercy.

4. The sinners minds should be impress'd and their hearts affected with a sense of the glorious excellency of the per­son of Jesus Christ; his sufficiency and ability to save to the uttermost all that come unto the father by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for the children of men. This person is adorned with the most amiable and attractive glories; He is God, as well as man, united by an ineffable union; He is the true God, as well as real man. The word was God. By the prophets he is stiled the wonderful counseler, the mighty God, the ever­lasting father, prince of peace *: And though he was pos­sessed of infinite divine perfections, which the scriptures attribute to him, such as infinite power and wisdom, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of sinful men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. By the obedience and death of Christ, there is a compleat sacrifice offered, and satisfacti­on made, to the law and justice of God. He was well furnished, and fitted, for the weighty and important un­dertaking; his nature was innocent, his life a perfect trans­cript of the divine law, and his death cruel and ignomi­nious; these were necessary to furnish him, to make a com­pleat and perfect sacrifice; these were eminent and conspi­cuous in him; and hence he is said to have appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; (a) and to have borne the sins of many, when God laid on him the iniqui­ty of us all. (b) Hence it is that his blood cleanseth from all sin (c) whether original or actual; by him we are justifi­ed, and from him we receive a righteousness compleat and perfect.—This glorious, this divine person offers himself to sinners in the gospel, assures them of his readiness to accept all that come to him: Him (saith the redeemer) that comes to me, I will no wise cast out (d). Of the immutability of [Page 21] his promises, and the necessity of holiness to meeten them for happiness.

5. The necessity of a change of heart and life, in order to happiness either present or future, the method of our acceptance with God, should be deeply impress'd upon the minds and hearts of poor sinners. However contrary to the pride and self-sufficiency of the carnal heart it is, to go out of himself to another for justification and life, even to the son of God, who is the Lord our righteousness *; yet being a truth so sufficiently warranted, so repeatedly and earnestly recommended by the holy ghost, it need be much insisted upon and press'd by the most powerful arguments and motives, not only that gainsayers might be put to si­lence, but that sinners might be encouraged and persuaded to commit their souls into his hands, who is able to keep that which is committed to him against the day of the Lord. The way to obtain acceptance with the father, is by his son the Lord Jesus Christ, thro' whom sinful man may have remission of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified. But such are the circumstances of sinners, that none will come to the son, unless drawn by the father; by the powerful and efficacious influences of his spirit and grace they must be drawn, or they will never come to Christ: their natural tempers are so opposite to the temper of the gos­pel and their minds so infatuated with sensual enjoyments, that unless they are taught the necessity & advantage of especial saving grace they will never pursue the business of their salvation in earnest. By the teachings of the divine spi­rit, they are led to see the necessity of renewing grace, and that unless they are born again, they cannot see the kingdom of God. Now they'll cry after knowledge, and lift up their voice for understanding: seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures. The distressed sinner can have no rest, no quiet, while a dreadful sound is in his ears, as Eliphaz expresses it,§ The sound of his own dam­nation. He makes the important inquiry of the trembling jailor, What shall I do to be saved? (a) the answer is ready, [Page 22] Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. By faith we lay hold of, and receive Christ, and so are said to be justified by faith, not as the meritorious cause of our justification, for that alone is the merit and righteousness of Christ, but as the instrumental. This faith must not be dead and unactive but lively and operative, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness and holiness. We are therefore said to be renewed in our inward man, after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Sanctifi­cation and true holiness are necessary qualifications for hap­piness: Blessed are they that do his commandments, they have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the City. Wherefore,

6. It must suppose that we enforce the necessity of holiness, as preparatory to final happiness; that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. Such who name the name of Christ indeed, must depart from iniquity; they are not to be con­formed to this world its sinful customs and maxims, but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, that they may prove what is that good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. It becomes them to mortify every lust, every sinful passion and appetite, to live above the world, while they are in it, and necessarily conversant with objects here below; to realize invisible and eternal realities, and act under a sense of our obligations to God, and dependence upon him. They must endeavour a faithful discharge of every personal and relative duty; to exercise themselves to prayer, study of God's word, a strict observation of the sabbath, a careful attendance on all ordinances. In brief, they must, to maintain their character, perform every private & social duty, yea execise themselves to sobriety temperance charity truth and righteousness, perfect­ing holiness in the fear of the Lord; or (to use the words of the inspired writer) do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. * — This as a brief specimen.

Thus may the servant of the Lord declare the whole counsel of his God, and so save himself from blood-guiltiness. Thus saith the prophet, Son of man, I have made thee a watch­man [Page 23] to the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, Thou shall surely die, and thou givest him not warning nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; thou hast delivered thy soul.

I pass to some improvement of my subject.

1. What has been observed may serve to shew us wherein the unfaithfulness of a minister principally consists; it is not in neglecting some peculiar things, supposed necessary by some, and on which they may lay great weight, though they have no express warrant from the word of God to justify them in their peremptory assertions: but when he witholds the truth, and don't deliver it with that plainness and simplicity the gospel requires; when he keeps back something that might be for the profit and advantage of his hearers, there can be no motive or excuse suffiicent to justify such a neglect. It is the principal and main branch of the ministerial office to de­clare all the counsel of God, to understand what is most con­ducive to the good of the people; wherefore he is to study to shew himself approved to God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. He who performs this embassy with a careless indifferency, or only with a view to serve himself and gratify the humours of his hearers; he who, thro' fear of some and affection to others, dare not speak, in plain and intelligible language, the great truths and important duties of religion, and entertains his audience with empty harangues, or with noisy ignorance, designed to raise their affections, rather than inform their judgments; that amuses his hearers with ridiculous tales, and a clamourous sound without any meaning, this is to prophane the sacred office, and to be guilty in such an important branch of it, as renders him criminally negligent. What an aw­ful and tremendous account will the unfaithful steward be call'd to at last, when he leaves his clay-tenement and en­ters [Page 24] the unknown somewhere! what a heavy sinking doom may he justly expect! separated and forever banished from the presence, the enjoyment of God, the chief the all-suffici­ent good; the society and happy employment of angels and saints, who before the throne of God join the sacred songs of praise to God and the Lamb! — What anguish and horror shall they feel when deprived of every good, and supported to bear the most acute pain horror and anguish; and when all the opportunities they have enjoyed, all the prayers, sermons, and invitations made to others, shall serve but to enhance to aggrivate their own misery and torment!

2. We hence see wherein the duty of the ministers of Christ principally consists: it is express'd by the apostle, by not shunning to declare all the counsel of God. That mi­nister that acts his part well, that faithfully discharges his embassy, will, in an open free unreserved manner, apply the truths of the gospel, according to their nature and impor­tance. To preach the gospel is to preach Christ; and to preach Christ is to preach his word. This is the solemn charge given to ministers, Preach the word: be instant in season and out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. Preaching the gospel is the great duty, the principal branch of the ministerial work, and all other things should be done in subserviency to it. It is first in the commission, Go, teach all nations; or (as it is expressed by another of the evangelists) Go, preach the gos­pel to every creature. Ministers are Christ's heralds, and in the execution of their office, they are to proclaim the awful terrors of God's firey law, in the surprizing accents of Sinai's dreadful thunder, to awaken the secure, to alarm the lethargic. They must cry aloud & not spare, lift up their voice like a trumpet & shew God's people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins . He must sound the jubilee trumpet of the gos­pel, and proclaim liberty to captives, the opening of the pri­son door to them that are bound; proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God, com­fort all that mourn *.

[Page 25]Some are bold and impudent enough to say, that preaching the gospel is the least part of the ministerial office; but such are wise above what is written. The apostle St. Paul, who well understood the duties of his office, had views of things very different from such dictators: he esteemed it the principal branch of his office, as an apostle and minister. He saith, Christ sent me not to baptize, i. e. not so much to baptize, as to preach the gospel . This he considered as his principal, his main business, by which he was to bring persons to that faith which would intitle them to the blessings of the gospel. By preaching the gospel mens eyes were to be opened, and they turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins, and inheritance among them that are sanctified . This is the grand design of the gospel, the important end in view, and the medium for its accomplishment is preaching all the counsel of God. If such as make the objection, mean only the deli­very of a discourse, it is just: but it must be remembered that preaching the gospel necessarily includes every thing requisite to it, as reading, study, meditation, and prayer, and when it is considered in its necessary connection, it is, as it will appear in this view, the grand, the most important part of the ministerial function. The unscriptural and unreasona­ble notion that too many have of a minister's spending a great part, if not all his time in visits, is at most but a dis­cretionary business, except in cases of sickness, and the like; it is discretionary because there is no positive command for it, and there being no positive command for it, it must be left, as it is, to the ministers own discretion, and not ano­another's; and performed as his leisure will admit and prudence dictates. A practice of this business, in ordinary cases, would, I presume, be more likely to be disservicea­ble than beneficial. And as it is nor an essential branch of the ministerial office, and not strictly enjoined in common cases▪ so he must be determined by the knowledge he has of persons and their circumstances, and so conducting he is accountable to none. But in preaching the gospel he ought to lay himself out in the best manner, and exert himself [Page 26] most vigorously, that he may save himself and those that hear him, preach the gospel like a workman that need­eth not to be ashamed, which requires much pains labour sweat and toil. To be well furnished with the most proper and wholesome food for the soul, calls for the greatest at­tention and care. There are other things that belong to the ministerial office, such as ordination and dispensing the cen­sures of the church. But preaching the gospel ought to be the first thing in view, as this is the method instituted by infinite wisdom for the salvation of precious and immor­tal souls. It hath pleased God, by the preaching of the gospel, to save them that believe: therefore being the insti­tuted means of salvation, by which men are brought to faith, repentance and final happiness, it should be first in our esteem, and prosecuted with the utmost ardour of mind.

3. It must certainly give a minister comfort and satisfacti­on in the near approach of death, or a separation from his people, to have a consciousness of his not having shunned to declare all the counsel of God. At such times will they most surely recollect, and call to mind their past behaviour and conduct; and if, upon the most narrow search and scru­tiny, they can find they have acted in the discharge of their embassy as stewards of the manifold grace of God, tho' their sercives have been attended with weakness, and much imperfection, they are safe and secure; tho' malice and en­vy, prejudice and ill-will may slander and defame them, they stand firm in their integrity, and as unmoved as the rock against which the angry waves dash, and retire with shame. Our rejoicing, is this, the testimony of our con­science, that "our aims in religion have been noble, and our conduct simple and uniform;—then may we look upon the applauses or the censures of men as comparatively a very light matter." We aim at pleasing God rather than man, and in the discharge of our important work to gain his approbation; and thô this be principal with us, we, upon a careful review, find a thousand deficiencies to humble us before God; for these we implore his pardon and forgive­ness, as also our people's. We are, as other our fellow-men, [Page 27] while cloathed with mortality, imperfect; so also must be our best services, that it is by the grace of God we obtain mercy to be faithful, and pure from the blood of souls: Oh! that we might ever be successful, that at last we might shine as the brightness of the firmament, and hav­ing turned many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever. With such a divine temper of mind may we meet the most threatening evils and dangers, yea, death itself shall be disarmed, and the saying that is written come to pass; Death is swallow'd up in victory. O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?

This consciousness, I have mentioned, gives satisfaction in the near approach of a minister's separation from his people. Things are brought to such a pass, that the relation that has so long subsisted between myself and this church and people, must soon be dissolved : in which time we have often met in the sanctuary of the Lord, not only on those seasons sacred and set apart for his worship and service, but on occasional op­portunities in his house, and in private houses, as from house to house, where the word of the Lord has been spoken to you; and you warned counseled and directed, fed and com­forted: but now, it seems, these happy seasons are hastening to a period. I have spent the prime and flower of my days in the ministry among you, and I hope and trust with an upright endeavour to answer the great ends of my ministry. I have not kept back or witheld from you any thing that, upon the most mature deliberation, I could think would be profitable, but have laboured to declare all the counsel of God. This I have aimed at, however imperfect my services have been. It has been matter of grief and mourning to me, they have been so imperfect and so unsuccessful. How often have I come to this sacred place with trembling, and retired with shame! yet here (may not I say?) I've enjoyed many of the plesante [...] hours of my life. It has been an unspeakable pleasure to preach to you the unsearchable riches of Christ;—to re­present to you the glory of his person; —the sufficiency of his [Page 28] mediation;—his readiness and earnest desire for the salva­tion of poor perishing sinners:—To enforce upon you the arguments and motives of the word of God, to induce you to comply with the offers of salvation. I have endea­voured to impress your minds with a sense of your danger out of Christ, of his readiness to receive you upon your applica­tion to him, and to bestow all that good upon you that you need. He gives grace and glory and witholds no good from his servants, his promises he will faithfully accomplish, for in Christ they are all yea and amen. Furthermore I have en­deavoured to enforce upon you, a cordial and unfeigned o­bedience to the laws of Christ, as your bounden duty, as creatures of God, made upheld and preserved by him, and as evidential of your union to, and interest in him; subjecti­on to civil magistracy for the Lord's sake; a careful dis­charge of personal and domestick duties; a strict observation of the Lord's day, &c.—I have visited you in your times of sickness, and on your mourning occasions; and have endeavoured to suggest to your minds, at such times and on such occasions, the most suitable thoughts and meditati­ons, to assist and help you to honour God in your afflicti­ons, and that you might reap the advantage and profit of them to your souls. On your days of humiliation I have endeavoured to lead your minds to a serious reflection up­on those things which, in their own nature, portend evil and threaten God's people with wasting and desolating judgments, and to persuade you to reform every evil, to convince you of your dependence upon a divine providence. On your seasons of praise I have attempted to lead in your solemn devotion, to assist your minds with the greatness of the mercy you enjoy'd, that your goodness your righteous­ness have not procured the favours you were celebrating, but the great mercy and goodness of God: he rules in the kingdoms of men, and doth his pleasure without controul; he doth wonderful things, his right hand and his holy arm gets him the victory.

4. We hence see that where all the counsel of God is de­clared, finally impenitent sinners must be left inexcusable. If the ministers of Christ are pure from the blood of souls, [Page 29] because they have not shunned to declare all the counsel of God, then their blood must rest upon their own heads; and in what awful circumstances will the sinner at last be found, who has had advantages of attaining the knowledge of God, and his son Jesus Christ, but has neglected and mis­improved them! It had been better for such gospel-despis­ers they had never been born; they shall mourn, at the last, when their harvest is past and their summer ended, and when they are convinced, by woful experience, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, who will be to such as are found out of Christ a consum­ing fire. O! how will they abide the coming of their judge, when he shall make his appearance, in flames of devouring fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power! such who remain deaf to the voice of mercy and irreclaimable in the paths of iniquity, shall be covered with shame and confusion in the day of final account, for they shall have no plea, no excuse for their sin § and if they who despis­ed Moses's law, died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall they be thought worthy who have tramp­led under foot the son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing? It will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, Sodom and Gomorrah, than for such gos­pel-despisers; as their privileges and advantages have been greater, more eminent, so their condemnation, their misery will be more terrible and severe. How confounding, how cutting, what keen remorse and anguish must they feel, when they reflect upon the seasons of grace they enjoyed, but mis­improved, when all the calls warnings and invitations of mercy shall lye with amazing weight upon them and serve only to aggravate and enhance their misery and torment. Sinners may now have a thousand shifts and evasions to prevent the efficacy of the word, these they imagine are sufficient to justify them in their sloth and negligence, but, [Page 30] in the awful day of account, they will all vanish and disap­pear; speechless and confounded shall they stand, waiting their doom; glad would they be might the mountains and rocks fall upon them, and hide them from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the lamb, when the great day of his wrath is come, and none are able to stand.* They who have set at nought all the counsel of God, and would none of his reproof, shall, in the day of their deepest distress, call upon God, but he will not answer; no, he will laugh at their calamity, and mock when their fear cometh, when their fear cometh as desola­tion, and their destruction as a whirlwind, when distress and anguish cometh upon them. Then shall they mourn when their flesh and their bodies are consumed, in the bitterest ac­cents, with moans enough to pierce the hardest adamant, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised re­proof! and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to them that instructed me!

5. I now proceed to a use of exhortation, with suitable counsel and direction. And in the first place, to such as are in the state of unrenewed nature, alienated from God, and enemies to him by wicked works.

Your state and condition, O sinners! is infinitely hazard­ous, however insensible you may be of it; there is but a step between you and the world of spirits, where they have no rest day nor night.—'Tis the brittle thread of life that sus­tains you, and prevents you from immediately sinking into endless despair and misery. Should God's patience be worn out, should he cut short the thread of life, into what a hopeless and miserable condition must you immediately plunge? what raging despair would you be fill'd with, to find yourself surrounded with insulting devils, those ghast­ly, those horrid fiends, whose rage and malice will add to your torment? How feeble, how helpless a prey will you feel yourself, when the omnipotent God shall pour forth up­on you the strength of his battle, and the arrows of the al­mighty shall drink up your spirits?

[Page 31]With what seriousness should you now think of your pre­sent state, in the midst of darkness, without spiritual life, tho' in the valley of vision, where the rays of divine light and life diffuse themselves all around, on every side of you? How earnest should you be that you might, thro' him who is the resurrection and the life, be quickned and made spiritually alive, obtain that meetness and preparation neces­sary for the enjoyment of God, both here and hereafter? Give yourself no rest till you obtain a well-grounded hope of your reconciliation to God, and interest in his favour; en­deavour, at all times, to have your minds impress'd with the importance and necessity of the renovation of your natures, and the sanctification of all the powers and faculties of your souls. Remember, fix it in your minds, that unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God. The tem­per of your minds are so diametrically opposite to the pu­rity and holiness of God, that unless you are made new creatures, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works,* the business, the blessedness of heaven will be no satisfacti­on to you, you can't relish its sublime joys, nor taste any sweetness in its superlative excellency. How sad and dread­ful must it be to live and die unacquainted with those things in which consists your highest interest, which is your truest hap­piness? To spend your days in vanity, and your years in the pursuit of the filth, and dross of time, is a piece of madness, which will be repented of when it is too late. You were made for nobler ends, and capable of a more ex­alted happiness, than is to be obtained within the contract­ed limits of time: The enjoyments of the world are a good, if they may be called by that name, that are not suited to, nor commensurate with, the soul's duration. Every enjoyment of life is tastless, and can yield no comfort to a soul that is conscious of its real estimation; vanity will they write on every thing below the sun. The enjoyments of time when spun out to their utmost length, are but as a point, a meer nothing, when compared with eternity, they are in­adequate to the desires of an immortal spirit. Nothing short of a good in its nature perfect, and in its duration [Page 32] eternal, can satisfy the cravings of the soul. What madness what folly must the sinner be guilty of who spends his mo­ney for that which is not bread, and his labour for that which satisfies not; who pursues with the most restless de­sires the fading and uncertain enjoyments of time, and when they are, in any measure, attained, they do but frustrate his expectation and disappoint his hope; like his shadow, when pursued with the greatest diligence, and restless anxiety, con­tinues at the same distance, or should he attempt to grasp it, would find himself mortified with the reflection of hav­ing embraced an empty nothing. Think, O Sinner! what must be the issue of your folly, if you go on in your pur­suit of vanity, neglect of God and religion; what can you you expect, what can you hope for? Can you be so stupid as to flatter yourself that you shall come off with impunity? It is but a vain dream, a fruitless imagination; for saith God, I will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. God will call the sinner to a reckoning, and render a recompence to every transgression; they shall hear, with the utmost shame and confusion, the heart-sinking sentence, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels! * Can you now think of it without shuddering at the thought! does not the consideration of it make your blood run cold in your veins, and your heart even to faint and die within you! O let it rouse you from your sloth and security, excite you, with­out delay, to flee from the wrath to come! Since your eter­nal all is at stake, bestir yourself in good earnest; escape, for thy life, to the city of refuge; linger not a moment, lest the Lord rain, upon your head, snares fire and brimstone and an horrible tempest, which shall be the portion of your cup. § Now, sinner, it is a finding time, therefore seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. God is now coming near to you by his providences, but espe­cially by his word and ordinances, by the checks of your con­science and the strivings of his spirit; seek after him then that his lost image may be restored in your soul, seek earnestly, [Page 33] with unwearied diligence, till the sun of righteousness arise in your dark and benighted minds, with healing in his wings.

God, in his infinite kindness and pity to ruined fallen man, is using a variety of methods, that they might be recovered from the paths of the destroyer; therefore, O sinner! it is that he speaks to you in the language of terror, and threatneth you with ruin and misery, if you continue in your sins: he comes to you in thunder and lightning, and speaks in the voice of awful majesty, denouncing his curses against the im­penitent sinner, to awaken his fear, and to excite his earnest and unwearied endeavours for pardon and reconciliation: nor does he appear in the terrors of a sin-avenging God only, but comes drest in the garments of salvation, and proclaims himself reconcileable to rebel man, thro' the son of his love. In Jesus Christ all fulness dwells, a fulness of all gifts, and of every grace, yea, even all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: by this divine person it hath pleased the father to reconcile all things to himself, i. e. to the purposes of his glory; having made peace by the blood of his cross, that they who are enemies and alienated in their minds to the blessed God, by wicked works, may now he reconciled to himself and to his church and people, and be made heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ of an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens. * Christ, while on earth, was unwearied in pressing this treaty of reconciliation; he used every argument and motive to induce and persuade sinful man to a compliance with the grace of the gospel; he, as God's herald, proclaimed this treaty, and urged the sinner's compliance. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cryed, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink, &c. § And when he ascended up on high, he gave gifts to men; and es­pecially, with a view that this treaty might be carried on, he gave some evangelists and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto [Page 34] the measure of the fulness of Christ. The design of these invaluable gifts of God, was that a succession of such should be raised up, who might urge on this treaty. Thus God is, by them, from time to time, intreating sinners to be recon­ciled to God. Ministers, having a divine investiture, accord­ing to the order of the gospel, are ambassadors for Christ; and, agreeably hereunto, the apostle saith, We are ambassa­dors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. And that the great and important ends of our embassy may be ef­fectually answered, we denounce the awful curses of God's law, in the most terrible manner, against presumptuous sinners, and assure them from a divine authority, * that, un­less they repent, they must perish and lie down in everlast­ing sorrow; that by the terrors of the Lord we persuade men.§ We endeavour to affect their minds with a deep sense of their lost and perishing circumstances without a vital union to Christ; and of the excellency of his person, the glory of his offices, the fulness of his grace, the sufficiency of his merit, the stability of his promises, of the comfort and satisfaction of obedience to his law; that wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths peace; and by the happifiing vision and fruition of God in his everlasting king­dom. We plead with them by the strivings of the divine spirit, and the privileges of the church, which unitedly con­cur in this treaty; The spirit and the bride say Come!

This being the design of the ministerial mission, let me urge this treaty, and persuade you to be reconciled to God. Be intreated no longer to refuse and reject the kind messa­ges of mercy, that are brought you. The opportunities [Page 35] and advantages you have enjoyed are distinguishingly great: God could not have done more for you than he has done; he has given his son, his only son, his word, spirit, mi­nisters, for your conversion, consolation and salvation; he has given you time and opportunities, that these impor­tant ends might be answered: and will you not be persuad­ed to accept of his offered salvation. Now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation. O sinner, heark­en and incline your ear to the offers of pardon and salva­tion that have been, and now are brought to you!

I come to you (now I am closing the scene of my mi­nistry among you) as a petitioner and messenger of the Lord of hosts; and what I principally request is, that you cast from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed, and make you a new heart, and a new spi­tit; for why will ye die? You may be assured that God takes no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but had rather that he should turn and live. What say you, sinner, to this? Think seriously what answer you will give before I leave you. If you will deal kindly and truly with my mas­ter, tell me, and if not tell me,* that I may know what an­swer to return to him that sent me. Give no occasion to that complaint, The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire; the founder melteth in vain, for the wicked are not plucked away. Will it not be matter of joy to angels and saints, that you consent to accept of offered salvation? will it not give a new accession of joy to the hosts of hea­ven? for it is said, There is joy in the presence of the an­gels of God, over one sinner that repenteth.§ The news of a sinner's conversion to God shall be wafted to the regions of immortality, shall catch from breast to breast 'till the whole choir shall unitedly shout songs of praise to the riches of redeeming grace. It will give you the most surprizing change in your views and pursuits, and yield you a pleasure surpassing the most excellent delights in this life; yea, a joy unspeakable and full of glory, â O then be intreated to make the tryal! awake sinner, awake, and bethink thy­self, [Page 36] and consider the worth, the importance of these things of which I am speaking: your all is at stake, and who would not bestir himself to save his all. To excite you, consider how short and uncertain your time of life is; in its utmost extent it is but a span, and bears no proporti­on to eternity; it is but a turn or two on the theatre of time, and we disappear, are no more, lye forget among the silent dead. The royal psalmist contemplating the state of man, his stay in this world, compares life to a morning-flower which is cut down er'e the evening and withered; and when considered in its full length, it is soon cut of, and we flee away. And as it is short, so it is uncertain; we have no lease of life, for any season or period; death spares no age, nor sex, the great and the small, the old and the young, prince and peasant must fall before this form­idable enemy and lie undistinguished in the grave! How many have we seen of every age, cut down by death; and how many by a sudden and untimely death? O! how distressing must it be to have the shadows of that dark and gloomy evening spreads its sable curtains while you are in full pursuit of sin and vanity! are you advanced in age, and have you lived mindful of the principal work and business for which you was sent into the world? and is your time reduced even to a very point! what diligence and care are you call'd to the ex­cercise of? Whatever your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave there is no device work or know­ledge. Are you in youthful vigour? you have no security from the arrest of death. O, my young hearers, remember now your creator in the day of thy youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw near when your souls shall say they have no pleasure in them. renounce your youthful lust and vanities, for know that in the end they will be bitterness; in hell all the sugar will be melted off, wherein the pill of your sins and temptations is wrapt, and then the note you'll sing will be that of the emperor, O quantum ob quantillum! O what an eternity of pain have I for an inch of pleasure, or an ell of sinful delight!" The pleasures, the gaities of time attract your minds and engage your attention in the most [Page 37] eager pursuit of them, but you should remember, that thô you roll them as a sweet morsel under your tongue, they will in the end bite like a serpent and sting like an adder. And how unreasonable and wicked is it, even to a prodigy, that you should spend the prime and flower of your days in the ser­vice of the Devil, and hope to turn off God with your old age. Death may close the scene, and unexpectedly put a period to your opportunities; then shall you, as you do now of me, take your farewel of sabbaths, ordinances, and mi­nisters, and happiness forever.

But further, your seasons of grace may soon be over: It may be before your life comes to a period. When God provoked with the daring impieties of the antediluvian age said concerning them, My spirit shall not always strive with man; and when the church of Israel, God's cove­nant and chosen people, wore him out with their wicked­ness, wearied his patience, he threatned he would take away his hedge and wall, and lay them waste; and, to compleat their calamity and misery he would command the clouds that they rain no rain upon them. That God may, ac­cording to the method of his judicial procedure, pronounce that heavy doom that awaits the finally impenitent, against the despisers of his grace and ordinances, and say, He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still. How affecting the consideration, to be given up of God to a hard heart, and a stupid conscience! to be sealed down to damnation! O let your flesh tremble for fear of God, and be afraid of his judgments! * The work is great and of the last importance; it is a great and weighty employ; it consists in the renovation of your nature, call'd the new creature, the mortification of your lusts, a living above the world, a living by faith on the son God.

Your attachment to present enjoyments is great, lusts strong, enemies powerful, that the whole armour of God is necessary. Now it is of the highest importance that you engage in this weighty business, and commit your souls [Page 38] to Christ in the way of well-doing. Your well-being in time, and future happiness depend upon it, which alone is a consideration sufficient to engage each one in the pur­suit thereof. When Moses was enforceing upon Israel a wise observance of the commands of God, he does it by this very consideration, Set your hearts unto all the words, which I testify among you this day, which ye shall com­mand your children to observe to do, for it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life.

The mercy of God is infinitely free. The excercise of divine mercy and grace towards sinners, was the purchase of the blood of the son of God, and in that respect it was a dear-bought ransom, yet to sinners it is free, infinitely free. Such as have no equivalent are invited to him. Ho! every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. This is agreeable to the language of the new testament; our blessed saviour publickly proclamed it in the face of the world, If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink; 132 let his out­ward circumstances be never so base and contemptible, if he thirst for pardon and an interest in the favour of God, upon his application to Christ, they shall be freely communicated to him. The spirit of God, this day in the ministry of his word, cries Come, and whosoever will, let him come and take of the waters of life freely. â Wherefore, sinner, come now to this glorious all-sufficient saviour. Are any of you groaning under the burthen and weight of your sins, weary and heavy laden? come and you shall have rest to your souls: ê his blood cleanseth from all sin, î Are you poor? come to him and he will enrich you; he is fill'd with the fulness of the Godhead bo­dily; he has blessings as pure and refined as gold try'd in the fire, and you shall be rich indeed! ô —Are you naked to your shame? his righteousness is a garment, which will not only cover your shame, but be your ornament your richest dress, and in which you may appear before God, the holy [Page 39] angels and spirits of just men made perfect. Are you blind? apply his sovereign eye-salve, that you may see and judge of the worth and excellency of spiritual objects.—Christ, the compassionate saviour, stands waiting that he may enrich you with every spiritual good. Behold (saith he) I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me.

Seriously reflect upon what will be the issue of your folly, if you neglect the salvation offered you in the gospel. A neglect in this weighty and momentous affair will be attended with the most distressing and fatal consequences. When God enters into judgment, no flesh living can stand in his sight, for he has said, The soul that sins shall die; and if y [...] believe not on the son of God, ye shall die in your sins, under the power and dominion of them; for He that believeth not (saith the unerring spirit of God) shall be damned, i. e. he shall be condemned, by the righteous judgment of God, the future and everlasting punishment, and shall (to his dreadful experience) find that gospel which he has despised, to be a savour of death to him. Who can bear the thought of being separated forever from the presence and enjoyment of God the chief good, and made everlastingly miserable! this shall be the portion of their cup. The day is hastning when the most amazing scene shall be opened to view; it shall be ushered in, in the most awful and surprizing man­ner; the heavens shall gather blackness and darkness, thun­der and storm shall prelude the solemn season, when the Lord shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the arch-angel and the trump of God, whose blast shall awake the sleeping dead, and unite the long divided parts of human nature, with amazing wonder; and summon them before the impartial tribunal of heaven, when they shall re­ceive their doom, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! O who can bear to hear this heart-rending sentence! who can sustain the weight of God's infinite wrath! what heart can endure, or what hands be strong in the day when God shall deal with them.* Their [Page 40] pain and anguish shall be the most excruciating, which shall extort the bitterest accents of horror and despair. If the anguish of a single member, tho' the smallest, put us into such a condition, that we have no quiet, no rest, what then will it be, when all our powers of body and minds shall share their part, being filled with the wrath of God! The an­guish shall not only be most intense but without intermis­sion, without end. It is fire that can never be quenched; the smoke of their torment shall ascend forever and ever, and they have no rest, day nor night. The sinner's heart might justly sink within him to think of lying in that state of torment forever. O eternity! eternity! how dreadful the sound!—

Either of these considerations, singly and alone, one would think, were sufficient to rouse the most supine careless sin­ner, and make him, with the trembling jailor, to cry out What shall I do to be saved! But when they are taken con­jointly, how forceable, how alarming! O let every sinner in this assembly ponder them in his mind, and improve them according to their nature and importance! Your neglect will but render your case the more affecting and distres­sing. With what tears of compassion did the blessed re­deemer weep over obstinate despisers of his mercy and grace? When he beheld the city, he wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things of thy peace. The words are expressive of an ardent wish, Oh that thou hadst known, thou unhappy sinner, who­ever thou art, the things of thy peace! Let it now appear real to you, and as tho' you saw the brinish tears flowing from the eyes, and trickling down the cheeks of the redeemer; deeply affected with your obstinacy, and wilful refusal of of­fered mercy. Is he not lamenting over you, as over Jerusalem of old, and saying, Oh Plainfield! Plainfield! thou that de­spiseth the means for thy conversion and salvation, how of­ten would I have gathered thy children together unto me; and yet ye would not hearken to my compassionate calls, but have hardned your hearts against my love, and repaid me with contempt hatred and persecution!

[Page 41]To prevent the fatal effect of sin, endeavour to abstain from every known evil. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon. Consider sin in its nature and consequences, and let it excite the unclean to renounce, with abhorrence, his beastly pleasures; the prophane to a­bandon his oaths and execrations; the intemperate to leave his cups; and the unrighteous his fraud and knavery. Practice every known duty. Take the word of God for your only rule and directory; study it, and make it the man of your counsel. Apply to the throne of grace with unwearied Dili­gence. God will be sought to by you, for the bestowment of grace and salvation. Attend his ordinances as the appoint­ed and instituted means of salvation. Entertain an high and reverend esteem for his sabbath and worship, and let no small thing divert you attendance. Avoid, as you tender your comfort and safety, schismatical conventicles, as being subver­sive of the order beauty and harmony of the gospel. Look to the energy of the divine spirit for the effectual application of the means of grace. Then shall you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.

In the next place, let the people of God be exhorted to a wise improvement of present opportunities. Let the word of God dwell in you in all utterance and knowledge, and make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. "Content not your­selves with any partial attainments in the christian life, nor let that which should turn into grace spirit and life, turn all into notion and talk. Too many think all is well, if their heads be fill'd, and their tongues tipt with what should transform their souls and govern their lives." Evidence the power of divine grace in your hearts, by a conscientious dis­charge of every personal and relative duty; perfecting holi­ness in the fear of the Lord.* Exercise yourselves in the duty of prayer, not only in public, but in private and secret prayer. Let your houses be Bethels, where morning and evening sa­crifice is performed. Retain always an high and reverend [Page 42] esteem for the sabbaths and worship of God, as these are noble means, in the hand of the divine spirit, of forming your minds to the noble services of virtue and unfeigned piety. Sabbath-sanctity has a very great and eminent influence upon us, and is of vast service to mankind in general.—Honour the ministers of Christ as his ambassadors, who, for the sake of their office, are worthy of double honour; let their feet, their very footsteps, be beautiful, that preach the gospel of peace and bring you tidings of good things. They are men, like yourselves, and subject to numberless imperfections, as well as a dissolution of the human frame; so that you see the treasure is in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may appear to be of God, and not of us. Esteem them as precious gifts of Christ, a legacy he hath bequeathed his church out of his tender care and concern for it: Esteem their office too sacred to be invaded by pride and ignorance. It must be a bold piece of presumption to break open the sa­cred inclosure, and a wickedness like that of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who invaded the priests office,* which tho' God don't punish in so visible a manner, yet will, no doubt, with judicial blindness and stupefaction, by giving them up to be­lieve a lye, that they may be damned. ¶ Detest such a wick­edness, and prevent its spread as much as you can. Stand fast in the faith. Quit you like men. Be strong. Never con­tent yourselves without the stated administration of gospel ordinances, according to divine institution. Look to him who is the lord of the harvest, that he would give you a pastor af­ter his heart, that may feed you with knowledge and under­standing. Believe his promises, rely upon his faithfulness, and trust in his mercy; then shall neither tribulation nor dis­tress nor persecution nor famine nor nakedness nor peril nor sword nor death nor life nor angels nor any other creature separate you from the Love of Christ. §

To Conclude. — Let us all seriously think of the solemn change that is hastening upon us, when we that are now in the house of God, uniting in our prayers and religious hom­age, shall be stretched in the dust of death, and our souls [Page 43] must enter the world of unbodied spirits, to appear before the judge of all the earth. It is but a little while, and he that shall come, will come and not tarry. May we, when Christ who is our life shall appear, appear with him in glory. May we enter the new Jerusalem that is above, riding as in a triumphant chariot, be honoured by God, and the holy angels, and join the blessed society in their songs of praise to the sacred three in one. There shall crowns of unfading glory encir­cle our victorious brows; there shall palms adorn our hands, songs of victory and triumph shall dwell on our tongues; and we shall be free from sighing, and tears shall forever be wiped from our eyes. That this may be the happy por­tion of each in this assembly, is the fervent wish and un­feigned desire of him who now bids you his hearty Fare­wel. Finally, brethren, Farewel.—Be perfect. Be of good comfort. Be of one mind. Live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you. *

AMEN.

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