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to despise a very earnest and pathetical way of preaching ; and they only have been valued as preachers, who have shewn the greatest extent of learning, strength of reason, and correctness of method and language. But ( humbly conceive it has been for want of understanding or duly considering human nature, that such preaching has been thought to have the greatest tendency to answer the ends of preaching; and the experience of the present and past ages abundantly confirms the same. Though, as I said before, clearness of distinction and illustration, and strength of reason, and a good method, in the doctrinal handling of the truths of religion, is many ways needful and profitable, and not to be neglected; yet an increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not w bat is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light, and have no heat. How much has there been of this sort of knowledge, in the Christian world, in this age? Was there ever an age, wherein strength and penetration of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound? And yet, was there ever an age, wherein there has been so little sense of the evil of sin, so little love to God, heavenly-mindedness, and holiness of life, among the professors of the true religion ? Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, which has the greatest tendency to do this.
Those texts, Isa. lviii. 1. Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins : And Ezek. vi. 11. Thus saith the Lord God, Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! I say, these texts (however the use that some have made of them has been laughed at) will fully justify a great degree of pathos, and manifestation of zeal and fervency in preaching the word of God. They may indeed be abused, so as to countenance that which would be odd and unnatural amongst us, not making due allowance for difference of manners and customs in different ages and nations; but, let us interpret them how we will, they at least imply, that a most affectionate and earnest manner of delivery, in many cases, becomes a preacher of God's word.
Preaching of the word of God is commonly spoken of in scripture, in such expressions as seem to import a loud and earnest speaking; as in Isa. xl. 2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned. And ver. 3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, &c. Ver. 6. The voice said, Cry. And he said, "What shall I cry? All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness there of is as the flower of the field. Jer. ii. 2. Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the Lord, &c. Jonah i. 2. Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it. Isa. Ixi. 1, 2. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek-to proclain liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound : To proclain the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. Isa. Ixii. 11. Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh, &c. Rom. x. 18. Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Jer. xi. 6. Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them. So, chap. xix. 2. and vii. 2. Prov. viii. 1. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice 2 Ver. 3, 4. She crieth at the gates, al the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O nien, I call; and my voice is to the sons of
, man. And chap. i. 20. Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets. Chap. ix. 3. She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the high places of the city, John vii. 37. In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.
It seems to be foretold, that the gospel should be especially preached in a loud and earnest manner, at the introduction of the prosperous state of religion in the latter days. Isa. xl. 9, O zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain! 0 Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength! Lift it up, and be not afraid! Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Isa. lii, 7, 8. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings!-Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice. Isa. xxvii. 13. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish.---And this will be one way by which the church of 'God will cry at that time like a travailing woman, when Christ mystical is going to be brought forth; as Rev. xii. at the beginning. It will be by ministers, as her mouth, that Christ will then cry like a travailing woman, as in Isa. xlii. 14. I have long time holden my peace, I have been still and refrained myself: Now will I cry like a travailing woman. Christ cries by his ministers, and the church cries by her officers. And it is worthy to be noted, that the word commonly used in the New Testament which we translate preach, properly signifies to proclaim aloud like a crier.
II. Another thing that some ministers have been greatly blamed for, and I think unjustly, is speaking terror to them who are already under great terrors, instead of comforting them. Indeed, if ministers in such a case go about to terrify persons with that which is not true, or to affright them by representing their case worse than it is, or in any respect otherwise than it is, they are to be condemned; but if they terrify them only by still holding forth more light to them, and giving them to understand more of the truth of their case, they are altogether to be justified. When consciences are greatly awakened by the Spirit of God, it is by light imparted, enabling men to see their case, in some measure, as it is; and, if more light be let in, it will terrify them still more. But ministers are not therefore to be blamed, that they endeavour to hold forth more light to the conscience, and do not rather alleviate the pain they are under, by intercepting and obstructing the light tbat shines already. To say any thing to those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent their case any otherwise than exceeding terrible, is not to preach the word of God to them; for the word of God reveals nothing but truth, but this is to delude them. Why should we be afraid to let persons who are in an infinitely miserable condition, know the truth, or bring them into the light, for fear it should terrify them? It is light that must convert them, if ever they are cona verted. The more we bring sinners into the light, wbile they are miserable, and the light is terrible to them, the more likely it is that afterward the light will be joyful to them. The ease, peace and comfort, which natural men enjoy, have their foundation in darkness and blindness; therefore as that darkness vanishes, and light comes in, their peace vanishes, and they are terrified. But that is no good argument why we should endeavour to hold their darkness, that we may uphold their comfort. The truth is, that as long as men reject Christ, and do not savingly believe in him, however they may be awakened, and however strict, and conscientious, and laborious they may be in religion, they have the wrath of God abiding on them, they are his enemies, and the children of the devil; (as the scripture calls all who are not savingly converted, Matt. xiii. 38. 1 John iii. 10.) and it is uncertain whether they shall ever obtain mercy. God is under no obligation to shew them mercy, nor will he, if they fast and pray, and cry never so much : and they are then especially provoking God, under those terrors, that they stand it out against Christ, and will not accept of an offered Saviour, though they see so much need of him. And seeing this is the truth, they should be told so, that they may be sensible what their case indeed is.
To blame a minister for thus declaring the truth to those who are under awakenings, and not immediately administering
comfort to them, is like blaming a surgeon, because when he has begun to thrust in his lance, whereby he has already put his patient to great pain, and he shrinks and cries out with anguish, he is so cruel that he will not stay his hand, but goes on to thrust it in further, till he comes to the core of the wound. Such a compassionate physician, who as soon as his patient began to finch, should withdraw his hand, and go about immediately to apply a plaister, to skin over the wound, and leave the core untouched, would heal the hurt slightly, crying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Indeed something besides terror is to be preached to them whose consciences are awakened. They are to be told that there is a Saviour provided, who is excellent and glorious ; who has shed his precious blood for sinners, and is every way sufficient to save them; who stands ready to receive them, if they will heartily embrace him ; for this is also the truth, as well as that they now are in an infinitely dreadful condition. This is the word of God. Sinners, at the same time that they are told how miserable their case is, should be earnestly invited to come and accept of a Saviour, and yield their hearts unto him, with all the winning, encouraging arguments, that the gospel affords. But this is to induce them to escape from the misery of their condition, not to make them think their present condition to be less miserable than it is, or to abate their uneasiness and distress, while they are in it. That would be the
way to quiet them, and fasten them there, and not to excite them to flee from it. Comfort in qne sense, is to be held forth to sinners under awakenings of conscience, i.e. comfort is to be offered to them in Christ, on their fleeing from their present miserable state to him. But comfort is not to be administered to them, in their present state, or while out of Christ. No comfort is to be administered to them, from any thing in them, any of their qualifications, prayers or other performances, past, present or future; but ministers should, in such cases, strive to their utmost to take all such comforts from them, though it greatly increases their terror. A person who sees himself ready to sink into hell, is prone to strive, some way or other, to lay God under some obligation to him; but he is to be beat off from every thing of that nature, though it greatly increases his terror, to see bimself wholly destitute of any refuge, or any thing of his own to lay hold of; as a man that sees himself in danger of drowning, is in terror, and endeavours to catch hold on every twig within his reach, and he that pulls away those twigs from him increases his terror; yet if they are insufficient to save him, and by being in his way prevents his looking to that which will save him, to pull away them is necessary to save his life.
If sinners are in distress from any error they embrace, or mistake they are under, that is to be removed. For instance, if they are in terror, from an apprehension that they have committed the unpardonable sin, or that those things have happened to them which are certain signs of reprobation, or any other delusion, such terrors have no tendency to do them any good; for these terrors are from temptation, and not from conviction. But the terror which arises from conviction, or a sight of truth, is to be increased; for those wbo are most awakened, have great remaining stupidity. It is from remaining blindness and darkness that they see no more, and that remaining blindness is a disease which we should endeavour to rémoye. I am not afraid to tell sinners who are most sensible of their misery, that their case is indeed as miserable as they think it to be, and a thousand times more so; for this is the truth. Some may be ready to say, That though it be the truth, yet the truth is not to be spoken at all times, and seems not to be seasonable then. But it seems to me, such truth is never more seasonable than at such a time, when Christ is beginning to open the eyes of conscience. Ministers ought to act as co-workers with him; to take that opportunity, and to the utmost to improve that advantage, and strike while the iron is bot. When the light has begun to shine, then they should remove all obstacles, and use all proper means, that it may come in more fully. And experience abundantly shews, that to take this course is not of a hurtful tendency, but very much the contrary. I have seen, in very many instances, the happy effects of it, and oftentimes a very speedy happy issue; and never knew any ill consequence, in case of real conviction, and when distress has been only from thence.
I know of but one case, wherein the truth ought to be withheld from sinners in distress of conscience, and that is the case of melancholy: And it is not to be withheld from them, as if the truth tends to do them hurt; but because, if we speak the truth to them, sometimes they will be deceived, and led into error by it, through that strange disposition there is in them to take things wrong. So that, though what is spoken is truth, yet as it is heard, received, and applied by them, it is falsehood; as it will be, unless the truth be spoken with abundance of caution and prudence, and consideration of their disposition and circumstances. But the most awful truths of God's word ought not to be withheld from public congregations, because it may happen that some such melancholic persons may be in them : any more than the Bible is to be withheld from the Christian world, because it is manifest that there are a great many melancholic persons in Christendom that exceedingly abuse the awful things contained in the scripture, to their own wounding. Nor do I think that to be of weight, which is made use of by some, as a great and dreadful objection against