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As uncommon series of avocations has postponed those attentions to you by way of letter, which, when at liberty, I always find a pleasure in paying. You, in the mean time, if my inform, ation is correct, have entered a new world in a manner; and shall I congratulate you, that to you it is given "to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ." For what a "grace" is this, my friend, to you and to me! I wish to recal my own mind more and more to this thought, and seek with redoubled importunity ey ery thing in spirit and life, in gift and grace, which suits so high a calling, of which none of us can pretend to be worthy. Shall we pray and labour that we may obtain mercy to do some, thing for our Master's honour, for the advancement of his truth and all-interesting cause among men?
My wishes will not cease to follow you, that his presence may be with you always. Gracious Master! how he remembers his poor servants, who go
forth with fear and trembling, knowing that without hin they can do nothing!
Our strength, my young brother, will always lie in taking hold on his all-sufficiency, and there reposing our hopes for all preparation, all courage, and all conduct. When we forget this, and begin to feel strong in our own abilities and acquirements, we are at once weak as water, and at once in imminent danger.
I shall still proceed in hints which occur to me, because you have desired it. There are many which I am not to suppose have escaped you. Your own thoughts have suggested the expediency of engaging early some judicious and faithful remarker upon every thing in manner, which might be amended; or if there be any thing of a higher nature which requires variation. Very possibly you are before me in the best things I shall mention; but their occurring to another may the more confirm you that they are founded in nature.
It is of great importance to ourselves and others, that we come with the true air to the exercises of the sanctuary. Deep reverence and awe of the Majesty we worship, and in whose name we speak, should forever go with us; but not such a dread" as prevents the free acting of our faculties, in prayer or sermon. We are not come to the mount which burned with fire, &c." Together with the reverence and godly fear which must still be maintained, let a sense of the dispensation we are under, and of our approaching the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, and
under his sheltering wing, give us a glow of filial hope and joy that it shall be difficult to say whether we are more awed or animated.
A reverence is likewise due to a Christian assembly; but it should not be a slavish fear of St. Paul's modest sensibility should indeed be prominent in every preacher; Unto me who am less than the least, &c. But we ought to derive a courage [a parresia] as he did, by considering in whose name we speak, whose protection is promised to us in the line of our duty, and who is able to make his strength perfect in the weakness of his servants. We should have a confidence in the word we deliver when we are sure it is scriptural, and deeply interesting to the souls of men; when we are conscious that we preach not ourselves;" that it is not our own honour we are seeking, but the honour of our di-, vine Lord, and the eternal benefit of our fellow men. Such was the boldness of Peter and John before the Jewish council; and such the sources from which it sprung. And such are the views which must relieve us under the consciousness of not performing, as highly as we wish, in all respects.
Specially let us beware of carrying into the sacred desk the anxieties of pride and ambition; or a too great solicitude respecting the brilliancy of composition, or other externals of preaching. If indeed there be a conscious. ness of not having applied our. selves to be scriptural, to be per.
Eph. iii. 8. Acts iii.
spicuous, to be interesting, to express the divine truth according to its nature, and bring it home to the consciences and hearts of the hearers; or if with all our diligence in some things, our hearts have not been employed in due manner, nor our prayers ascending for divine help, and divine success; then indeed we may justly feel a misgiving; and no confidence of being divinely assisted in such a way, ought to relieve us, or ought to be indulg ed; for this would be rather tempting our Maken than trusting in him. But when we have religiously endeavoured, according to our time and means, to come prepared according to the preparations of the sanctuary; in this case the preacher ought to be at rest in a good measure respecting his preparations; and quite at liberty to look up for a blessing to feel his subject, and to speak to speak "as a dying man to dy ing men."
In short, the same sentiment should actuate us in regard to the externals of sermonizing, as with respect to dress, when we are going to the sanctuary. We have a care to go decent; not with a view to be admired, but to be at liberty from every thought about our appearance; and have nothing to do in that sacred place, but to realize and feel the great subjects before us. Without such previous care we cannot be so at liberty. If we dress for admiration, dress will still take us off as effectually, as being ragged and dirty. In both cases, humility, and not ambition, is the best directress of our preparations, and the best preservative from improper anx, ieties.
men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
I have hinted heretofore the importance of preaching the grace of heaven with a gracious air and manner. On the other hand, when the terrors of the Lord are brought to view, this likewise is to "persuade men;" and must therefore be done with mingled solemnity and compassion. I have heard of thunder
In fact, our preparations should be such that when we come into public, neither ourselves nor others should be taken up with our manner, but with the great truths which are brought to view: As it has sometimes been remarked of style, that the most perfect of all is like the crystal of a watch, which shows the figures within, but does not show itself. O then that clear sense, and strong sense, of divine truths and their interesting nature, that shall carry using to this, and whatever else in manner goes to convince, to move, and to persuade !
Indulge me in a hint or two more. While we hold up human depravity and guilt in their full extent, let us not do it as those who think themselves out of the question; but as remembering with deep abasement, that "we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, hateful," &c.* That so in time past we walked, &c.‡ And still need mercy, for the sin which dwelleth in us ;† and should therefore never exalt our selves in pride, over those who have not obtained mercy.
When we reprove others, let it be in a decided, but still in a kind of broken-hearted manner, which shews that we do not for get our own numerous failings. And when we excite our brethren to their duty, let it appear that we wish to stir up ourselves likewise. Perhaps there is not a more unamiable part in the whole character of the Scribes and Pharisees, as drawn by our Master, than this; "They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on
As those a
preachers: But he who would make sinners tremble, let him tremble himself: Not indeed with a slavish dread; but with sacred awe. mong men display the most of true dignity, who show the profoundest reverence of a God above; so in this case, they speak with the most authority and power, who speak with the clearest reverence and godly fear.
On the whole, it deserves the inquiry of Christian philosophers, by what means the most interesting preachers, whom the world has known, became so impressive. They preached Christ crucified, and all those interesting truths, which the doctrine of the cross combines. And they did it in great simplicity; not attempting to dazzle by the splendour of philosophy, or of fine address. They had that kind of eloquence, which a strong sense of divine things, and a deep concern for their fellow immortals naturally produced. These gave an expression to their countenances, their tones of voice, ait, actions, and whole manner; and that expression impressed othTheir concern for the
2 Cor. v. 11.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE ORIGIN OF RELIGIOUS ERRORS.
1. WRONG sentiments, in moral matters, are criminal, as well as wrong actions. To think ill of God's real moral character is criminal, as well as to make another God of a different moral character to suit our own hearts. When the Gentiles knew God, they glorified him not as God—they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. Hence they made to themselves gods, such as they liked; and these they glorified, builded temples to their honour, and offered sacrifices to them with pleasure. And had the Israelites liked the moral character of their God, instead of adopt. ing, they would have despised the worthless gods of their neighbours: Rom. i. 21-23; Jer. ii. 5—13. And as the Jews hated the light of the real moral character of their God, so they hated Jesus, who exhibited it to their view; Joh. iii. 19. & vii. 7. & viii. 40-45. & xv. 20-24. And as the Christian nations did not receive the truth in the love of it, but had pleasure in unrighteousness, this prepared them to
believe a lie, i. e. all the errors
3. The enemies of Jesus, who hated him with a mortal hatred, alleged a variety of things against him, to keep themselves in countenance; but our Saviour, who was intimately acquainted with the whole affair, and even, knew their very hearts, intimated privately to his brethren according to the flesh, who at that
time took sides with his enemies, what was the real cause, and the original foundation of all this illwill towards him. John vii. 7. The world cannot hate you, (as you think and feel as they do); but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are -evil-Even so hath it happened ever since, that though those in Christendom, who have hated and persecuted the true follow ers of Christ, rejected the true scheme of religion, and invented other schemes to suit their various tastes; have at all times alleged a great variety of reasons to justify themselves : Yet as Jesus was hated, so real Christianity hath always been hated, because it testifies of the world, that the works thereof are evil. This was the true secret then, and it hath been the true secret ever since ; although, then, Christ Jesus himself was publicly so odious, that those who murdered him, and killed his followers, thought they did God service, and were promoting the cause of morality; and although it hath frequently been so in ages since. If they persecute me, they will also persecute you: he that hateth me, hateth my Father also. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake; Matt. v. 10. Or, which is the same, for my sake; v. 11. And this hath been the real ground of all persecution for so perse cuted they the prophets which -were before you; verse 12.
sentiments concerning the whole system of revealed religion; and if all our prejudices against nat ural religion were removed, we should have no prejudices left against revealed religion. To be more particular :
5. The real moral character of God, the knowledge of which was lost among the nations of the earth, but is now brought to light in the sacred writings, were it understood and cordially viewed as an absolutely perfect character, would soon convince us that God is fit to sit at the head of the universe, and decree and conduct according to the good pleasure of his will; and all our objections against his eternal decrees and universal prov idence, would in effect vanish at once, and we should begin to sing, as in Psalm xcvii. 1. The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. And
6. Right sentiments of the moral law; of true morality; of the nature, extent, and excellence of all that duty which God requireth of man, and of our obligations to yield all that love and obedience which is required of us, together with a feeling that we in fact are moral agents with respect to the whole of that love and duty which is required; would at once prepare us to make a right estimate of the na ture and degree of our moral depravity, and of our guilt and ill desert, and of our need of that Redeemer and Sanctifier, and of that pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace, revealed in the gospel; and dispose us with candour to understand scripture words and phrases relative to those subjects, and answer a thousand ob jections which otherwise will fill our minds.