תמונות בעמוד

God, says he, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Heathen, immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” This zealous servant of Christ had formed a just idea of the work he had undertaken, and considered it as a field wherein he was to encounter many difficulties, and reap but few worldly advantages. He therefore proposes to himself advantages of a more durable nature, and strives to raise himself above this world, and all its clogs and attachments. For this end, he holds daily intercourse with the father of Spirits, and was frequent in prayer and meditation. And certainly if ever men ought to be serious, humble, abstracted from worldly embarrassments, and dependent upon divine assistance in any office or trust in this world, it ought to be in the exercise of the Ministry, and dispensation of the glorious Gospel; for who is of himself sufficient for these things?

But together with Seriousness, Prayer, Meditation, and dependence upon God; an ardent Zeal and Fervour of Spirit are most necessary qualifications. In any undertaking, where the world has but few advantages to solicit perseverance, nay where many inconveniences must necessarily be surmounted, it is well for a man to have within himself a fervent principle of action. Indeed, indifference in the discharge of any duty is a great error, but in things of the highest moment it is unpardonable. It was a severe rebuke to one of the churches, that she was luke-warm; for which she was threatened to be spued out. *"1 know thy works, that thou art neither

• Rev. iii. 15, 16.

cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth,” saith the spirit of God to her. Whoever considers the immense value of human souls; whoever is impressed with a just sense of our present degeneracy; whoever contemplates the vast goodness of God, and believes the Gospel to be the produce of the greatest Love which heaven could shew, or a corrupt world receive-must needs be inanimate indeed, not to glow with an unquenchable ardour for its universal extension to all the sons of men !

Together with zeal for Religion, “ pure and undefiled before God and the father," * a zeal for Civil Liberty, its inseparable companion, will be truly commendable. It is the peculiar glory of the British nation to strive not only to enlighten, but to enoble, the Human Race; not only to break asunder those spiritual Fetters which the dominion of Antichrist hath established over the Souls of men; but likewise to let the Oppressed go Free, and to strike off those bodily Fetters under which so great a part of the human Species groans.

In so righteous a cause, it becomes the Ministers of God's Word, which is founded on Liberty both of Body and Mind, to stand among the warmest Champions; and therefore should ever another period come, when a cruel enemy is advancing to rob us of all that we account dear and sacred, let us cry aloud and spare not. Being placed on the walls of our Zion, and glowing sublimely with the spirit of

James i. 27.

Gospel-truth and Freedom; let us be earnest with our country, as we have been heretofore, warning, exhorting and animating all around to “play the men for the people and cities of our God."*

This is agreeable to the injunctions of our bene. volent superiors in such cases delivered to us. We are charged to enforce loyalty, public spirit, submission to just government, and the payment of necessary

tribute and taxes. Designing men may insinuate, as they have done, that this is going beyond our sphere, and they may oppose and injure us by every device in their power. But ten thousand such attempts and insinuations ought not to deter us from our duty. Our civil and religious rights are inseparably connected; and whatever hurts or destroys the former must, in the issue, hurt or destroy the latter.

But further, to a commendable Zeal in every thing praise-worthy, we must add Prudence and Decorum of conduct; and, above all, a generous spirit of Forbearance, Toleration, and Charity to our Protestant brethren of other denominations. These are duties peculiarly incumbent on the Ministers of so benevolent a Religion as that of Jesus, and so generous a Church as that of England. Matters of conscience come not under human cognizance. The catholic and free spirit of the British government and Protestant religion disdains to erect a tyranny over the minds of mcn, or to reign over uninformed zeal. Religion can be founded on nothing else but every man's private conviction. It is to God, in the ends

2 Samuel x. 12

that we must all answer; and from our own consciences, in the meantime, that we must receive remorse or satisfaction. Another man cannot interfere, nor feel for us, nor judge for us, in this matter.

One thing further is absolutely necessary for us, as Ministers of God's word; and that is great care and industry in the composition of our Sermons. We have many eyes upon us; and certainly it is treating a sensible audience with a very great degree of disrespect, for any man to step into a pulpit to entertain them with what bears all the marks of want of study and care.

“ It is an unseasonable piece of vanity (says a learned prelate of our church*) for any preachers to offer their own crudities, till they have well digested and ripened them. I wish the Majesty of the Pulpit were more looked to, and that no sermons were offered from thence, but such as should make the hearer both wiser and better."

We do, however, readily acknowledge that a man vitally good, much with God, rich in Grace, fervent in Spirit, a master of Literature and Expression, powerful in Eloquence, and above all, mighty in the Scriptures, may be well warranted, as circumstances may require, to speak without any immediate study or preparation. But, in a general way, this method argues so much want of care and deference; it is withal so dangerous in its use; and these divine Gifts mentioned above fall so seldom to the share of any one man, and it is moreover so easy to mistake or

• Bishop Burnet.

substitute the wild ebullitions of a heated imagination, or Pharisaical Pride, in their room; that our church supposes no preaching of this sort. And whatever a man of the most extraordinary virtues and talents may be able to do in an unpremeditated manner, he will certainly do much more by study, meditation, and accurate composition.

Great care is also requisite in the choice of our subjects. The whole circle of Gospel-truths is before us; but some require to be more frequently pressed home than others. Subjects of Litigation, however, and points of controversy, are to be avoided; unless in times of extremest danger, when Fundamentals and Essentials may be attacked.

Some men there are who, in their preaching, betray a marvellous littleness of genius, and barrenness of matter. They are ever upon minute distinctions, party-shibboleths, perplexing definitions, and nice modes; ten thousand of which, if put in the balance with true Religion, and the weightier matters of the Law, would not weigh a single grain; especially when attended (as they generally are) with revilings and cursings and anathemas against all others differing the least from them in persuasion, to the breach of that Heavenly Charity, which is the very essence of Christ's Gospel, and the height of religious perfection. We may

well suspect such men to be but smatterers in the Divine Science of Religion, much like those bold Pretenders in the other Sciences; who finding it a work of hard labour to obtain a thorough knowledge of their profession, or peradventure not having the capacity for it, are therefore obliged to hide their

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