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lately held such meetings for private religious instruction, as well as devotion, as may eventually prove inconvenient. I have lived to see that sometimes unforeseen and dangerous consequences have followed the best intentions: and also that the safest way of preventing such consequences is to meet the wishes of such as are religiously disposed, as nearly as propriety will admit. It was the opinion, therefore, both of myself and my valuable Assistant, that it would be expedient for one of us to preside in any assembly of yourselves that should be thought necessary for your edification. We considered that this would be the most advantageous means for securing at once Unity, Harmony, and Truth— points highly essential in a day like the present, in which divisions and heresies of all sorts are rending the Church of Christ, and exposing his religion to the contempt of its adversaries. We thought, therefore, that the pious purposes of your assembling together would be fully answered, in your attendance upon our family-worship and exposition of the Scriptures on the Sunday evening, and on one other evening in the week. But I meant this only as a resource in that season of the year, in which it would prove dangerous to my health (and perhaps to some of yours) to attend in the evening at Church, as I used to do in the summer. I am glad also to commend your ready concurrence with us in this measure.
With respect to the Doctrines of Christianity, I need not repeat what I have so lately enlarged upon among you. I will, however, remind you, that, next to what the Scriptures present, the best view which I ever met with of those doctrines, is to be found in the Articles and Liturgy of our Church. But, to say nothing here of the dangerous errors of some who oppose them, I wish you to beware of that Narrowness of Mind, which is so ready to catch and cavil at a few expressions in them. For such objectors, we are apt to turn aside to vain and unprofitable janglings, doating about questions, and strifes of words; whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, and evil surmisings: 1Tim. vi. 4. Let us rather be thankful that we live under a Government, which maintains a Church built upon the sound and evangelical principles of our illustrious Reformers, and which they sealed with their blood.
There is, however, one point which I see reason to mention more particularly: I mean the Spirit or Temper of Christianity. This, I fear, has sometimes not been sufficiently attended to, by even those, who have shewn great zeal for its doctrines. We should attend, not only to what Christ and his Apostles spoke and did, but also to the spirit and temper in which they spoke and acted. We should mark how they conducted themselves, not only towards their friends, but
towards their most violent enemies. With what patience and forbearance, with what sobriety and charity, did they recommend their faith! Ye are witnesses, says one, and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves: 1 Thes. ii. 10. Therefore, whether as Masters or Servants, as Husbands or Wives, as Parents or Children, be careful not to fall into so gross a mistake as to think it sufficient if you merely learn and maintain the Doctrines of the Gospel: but see also that ye study and imbibe its Spirit; and that ye so set it forth in your tempers, dealings, and conversations, at home and abroad, that, with well-doing, ye may put to silence the foolishness of wicked men: 1 Pet. ii. 15.
- Besides which, by being thus not only almost but altogether Christians, you will prevail and prosper in several other important respects.
1. You will glorify GOD: you will shame his adversaries: you will prove the truth of his word; and be his witnesses, that He still, by his Spirit, dwelleth with men on the earth.
2. You will edify your NEIGHBOUR, by shewing him what Christianity is, and what it does for men. You will shew what it is to be a real branch in the True Vine; and thereby every sincere inquirer after truth will be convinced of the reality and excellence of your religion, and be induced to seek after it.
3. You will hereby best assist your MINISTERS in their labours. What they declare and describe, you will prove and exemplify: so that we shall be able to say of you, as the Apostle did of the Corinthians, Ye are our Epistle, written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 2 Cor. iii. 2.
4. You will be YOURSELVES blessed in the deed.
I mean to return to you as soon as the precarious state of my health permits; and then shall hope for an opportunity of discoursing on these things more largely. In the mean time, you shall have my earnest prayers for your daily advancement in true religion; and I request yours for me, as the best return which you can make or I can receive.
Beloved, let us fear nothing in a right cause. Only, to use the Apostle's words, let your conversation, or general conduct among men, be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that, whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God: Phil, i. 27, 28.
With respect to my Parishioners in general, I
desire here to express my grateful acknowledgments of the numerous civilities which I have upon all occasions received from them: especially for their remarkable attention to the discourses delivered by me to them from the pulpit.
I have reason, however, to lament, that there are some in my parish, who lately appear not only to have received no benefit from my ministry, but who are even offended at it. That vital and practical Christianity, like its Author, should often prove an offence, was foretold by its Author repeatedly, and that in the clearest terms. He bids every Christian, and especially every Minister, weigh the consequences of becoming his Disciple. Which of you, says he, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth the cost? Luke xiv. 28. And who, let me ask, was ever exempted from this cost, that was a real builder? Not the Prophets; nor the Apostles; nor Christ himself; nor any real Minister of Christ, that ever I heard or read of. This arises from the very nature of things; for, (to change the metaphor) till man has some sense of his disease, he will, like a sick man who fancies himself well, oppose the kindest friend, who offers him a sovereign remedy.--Having therefore counted the cost, and knowing the natural indisposition of man to the remedy of God; I hope we shall neither be surprised nor discouraged, in meeting