« הקודםהמשך »
subscribed, to the printer; (the hands of many ministers. might be to one paper); and the printer having received the papers, thus subscribed, from all the provinces, might print the proposals again, with all the names; thus they might be sent abroad again, with the names, that God's people might know who are united with them in the affair: one of the ministers of Boston might be desired to have the oversight of the printing and dispersing the proposals. In such a way, perhaps, might be fulfilled, in some measure, such a general mourning and supplication of God's people, as is spoken of, Zech. xii. at the latter end, with which the church's glorious day is to be introduced. And such a day might be something like the day of atonement in Israel, before the joyful feast of tabernacles.
One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers ; and that is, that although they recommend, and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching, so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Savior to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is; as may be seen by comparing ver. 5, 6. of Matt. vi. with ver. 16, 17, 18. Though I do not suppose that secret fasting is to be practiced in a stated manner, and steady course, as secret prayer, yet it seems to me, it is a duty that all professing Christians should practice, and frequently practice. There are many occasions, of both a spiritual and temporal nature, that do properly require it; and there are many particular mercies, that we desire for ourselves or friends, that it would be proper, in this manner, to seek of God.
Another thing I would also mention, wherein it appears to me that there has been an omission, with respect to the external worship of God. There has been of late, a great increase of preaching the word, and a great increase of social prayer, and a great increase of singing praises: these external duties of religion are attended, much more frequently than they used to be; yet I cannot understand that there is
any increase of the administration of the Lord's' supper, or that God's people do any more frequently commemorate the dying love of their Redeemer, in this sacred memorial of it, than they used to do: though I do not see why an increase of love to Christ, should not dispose Christians, as much to increase in this, as in those other duties; or why it is not as proper, that Christ's disciples should abound in this duty, in this joyful season, which is spiritually supper-time, a feastday with God's saints, wherein Christ is so abundantly manifesting his dying love to souls, and is dealing forth so liberally of the precious fruits of his death. It seems plain by the scripture, that the primitive Christians were wont to celebrate this memorial of the sufferings of their dear Redeemer every Lord's day and so I believe it will be again in the church of Christ, in days that are approaching. And whether we attend this holy and sweet ordinance so often now, or no, yet I cannot but think it would become us, at such a time as this, to attend it much oftener than is commonly done in the land.
The work to be promoted by attention to moral duties.
BUT another thing I would mention, which it is of much greater importance, that we should attend to: and that is the duty, that is incumbent upon God's people at this day, to take heed, that while they abound in external duties of devotion, such as praying, hearing, singing, and attending religious meetings, there be a proportionable care to abound in moral duties, such as acts of righteousness, truth, meekness, forgiveness and love towards our neighbor; which are of much greater importance in the sight of God, than all the externals of his worship; which our Savior was particularly careful, that men should be well aware of. Matt. ix.
13. "But go ye, and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice." And chap. xii. 7. "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless."
The internal acts and principles of the worship of God, or the worship of the heart, in the love and fear of God, trust in God, and resignation to God, &c., are the most essential and important of all duties of religion whatsoever; for therein consists the essence of all religion. But of this inward religion, there are two sorts of external manifestations or expressions. The one sort are outward acts of worship, such as meeting in religious assemblies, attending sacraments, and other outward institutions, and honering God with gestures, such as bowing, or kneeling before him, or with words, in speaking honorably of him, in prayer, praise, or religious conference. And the other sort, are the expressions of our love to God, by obeying his moral commands, of self-denial, righteousness, meekness, and Christian love, in our behavior among men. And the latter are of vastly the greatest importance in the Christian life. God makes little account of the former, in comparison of them. They are abundantly more insisted on, by the prophets, in the old testament, and Christ and his apostles, in the new. When these two kinds of duties are spoken of together, the latter are evermore greatly preferred. As in Isa. i. 12-18. and Amos v. 21. &c., and Mic. vi. 7, 8. and Isa. Iviii. 5, 6, 7. and Zech. vii. ten first verses, and Jer. ii. seven first verses, and Matt. xv. 3., &c. Often, when the times were very corrupt in Israel, the people abounded in the former kind of duties, but were at such times, always notoriously deficient in the latter; as the prophets complain, Isa. Iviii. four first verses, Jer. vi. 13. compared with ver. 20. Hypocrites and self-righteous persons, do much more commonly abound in the former kind of duties, than the latter; as Christ remarks of the Pharisees, Matt. xxiii. 14, 25, 34. When the scripture directs us to show our faith by our works, it is principally the latter sort
are intended; as appears by James ii. from ver. 8. to the end, and 1 John ii. 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. And we are to be judged at the last day, especially by these latter sort of works; as is evident by the account we have of the day of judgment, in Matt. xxv. External acts of worship, in words and gestures, and outward forms, are of little use, but as signs of something else, or as they are a profession of inward worship: they are not so properly showing our religion by our deeds; for they are only a showing our religion by words, or an outward profession. But he that shows religion in the other sort of duties, shows it in something more than a profession of words, he shows it in deeds. And though deeds may be hypocritical, as well as words; yet in themselves they are of greater importance, for they are much more profitable to ourselves and our neighbor. We cannot express our love to God, by doing any thing that is profitable to God; God would therefore have us to do it in those things that are profitable to our neighbors, whom he has constituted his receivers our goodness extends not to God, but to our fellowChristians. The latter sort of duties puts greater honor upon. God, because there is greater self-denial in them. The external acts of worship, consisting in bodily gestures, words, and sounds, are the cheapest part of religion, and least contrary to our lusts. The difficulty of thorough, external religion, does not lie in them. Let wicked men enjoy their covetousness and their pride, their malice, envy and revenge, and their sensuality and voluptuousness, in their behavior amongst men, and they will be willing to compound the matter with God, and submit to what forms of worship you please, and as many as you please; as is manifest in the Jews of old, in the days of the prophets, and the Pharisees in Christ's time, and the Papists and Mahometans, at this day.
At a time when there is an appearance of the approach of any glorious revival of God's church, God does especially call his professing people to the practice of moral duties. Isa. lvi. 1. Thus saith the Lord, keep ye judgment, and do
justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed." So when John preached, that "the kingdom of heaven was at hand," and cried to the people, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight," as we have an account, Luke iii. 4., the people asked him, "What they should do?" he answers, "He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none, and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. The publicans said, "What shall we do?" He answers, "Exact no more than that which is appointed you." And the soldiers asked him, "What shall we do?" He replies, "Do violence to no man; neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages." ver. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14.
God's people, at such a time as this, ought especially to abound in deeds of charity or alms giving. We generally, in these days, seem to fall far below the true spirit and practice of Christianity, with regard to this duty, and seem to have but little notion of it, so far as I can understand the New Testament. At a time when God is so liberal of spiritual things, we ought not to be straight-handed towards him, and sparing of our teinporal things. So far as I can judge by the scripture, there is no external duty whatsoever, by which persons will be so much in the way, not only of receiving temporal benefits, but also spiritual blessings, the influences of God's Holy Spirit in the heart, in divine discoveries, and spiritual consolations. I think it would be unreasonable to understand those promises made to this duty, in Isa. lviii. in a sense exclusive of spiritual discoveries and comforts. Isa. lviii. 7, &c. "Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house? When thou seest the naked that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rere-ward then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer, thou shalt cry,