« ZurückWeiter »
discover their lukewarmness, or rather COLDNESS : towards a mode of instruction which they ought most strenuously to encourage, consistently with the sincere attachment to the Church to which they belong. Example hath a powerful effect; and by withdrawing that, they injure the cause their own avowed principles should lead them to defend.
As to the object of some who have withdrawn from the communion of the established Church, it is no slander (from the inconsistent manner of their lives), to conclude that private, worldly interest, curiosity, or the rage for change, are the springs that move their extraordinary professions of pious zeal; and though I feel unfeigned concern for such unjustifiable conduct, yet had they continued from mere formality, or custom, uninfluenced by pure devotion, unless the love of Gad (and not respect to man) inclined them to profit by the frequent opportunity of entering his holy house, their presence only in his courts must be accounted but a lame, unhallowed, and unprofitable sacrifice. Unless we discover other fruits than bare outward signs of piety, such acts alone will prove equally insufficient to every professor's happiness, of whatever rank, or in whatever church or sect he may be classed. And finally I would most earnestly exhort you to consider well, my brethren, that, should it happen you are surpassed in holiness of life, by any who have been seduced from their allegiance to the Church, and have ungratefully attached themselves to independent congregations, you will thereby leave a victory in their hands, which must appear, from public testimony, indisputably against you. However needless such departure, as to any superior advantage to be derived from these their new connexions; and truly happy as it would make me to see every member of our community in his proper place, at the appointed seasons of divine worship; yet the pleasure I experience in retaining some considerate and diligent followers, is by no means small, nor are my exertions in the least abated for the advancement of their dearest interests. It cannot be denied, but that a crowded congregation assists the display of natural talent and attainments : it calls forth impressive animation, and excites attention in the audience but should only few be found, who preserve a serious sense of duty, this must not discourage ; we must not wax cold ; the helping of a single brother on his way to life eternal, is a work that will largely repay the most assiduous efforts, and, if duly estimated, will remedy the want of every less valuable spring of action. The resolution to persevere, on the solid ground of incuinbent duty, affords the surest proof of serious purpose. The labour that is uninfluenced by
the too natural desire of popular applause, is sure of a reward from Him who knoweth all things. Out of great numbers, indeed, there is a reasonable prospect that many may be sincere; but the regular devotion of the smaller number confirms the hope of their stability. In times like these, it exacts our united praise to God, the Author and Director of every good counsel, that there is yet a witness left us of fidelity in our religious engagements, and that, though it
may be but slender, it is select. They who are not only steady in outward compliance with salutary and judicious forms, and (without boasting their spiritual attainments, or vainly seeking out a better way) do maintain a good report, must merit commendation: but what should most essentially encourage their continuance in well-doing, is, that they will experience here, and to all eternity, the favour of that Gracious Being, through whose extraordinary providence the wise appointments of our national Church were first established, and for such a length of time have been protected, and allowed to triumph over all the fierce assaults and subtle stratagems of her inveterate enemies. Surely, my brethren, we have in this single circumstance, abundant inciteinent never to desert her cause, or beedlessly give way to NEW INVENTIONS.
As this work was intended for the instrucit to you
tion of all my parishioners who would vouchsafe to give it a hearing, or a reading, I present
in the manner of a LEGACY ;. as a record of the principles I professed, and the doctrine I delivered to you, as sufficient, with God's blessing, to render you humble and faithful members of Christ's body, the Church on earth, and to prepare you, in his good time, to become the happy objects of his further favour in his perfect kingdom of knowledge, peace, and love in heaven.
My share in the choice portion of the following pages consists in the labour of collecting and disposing their contents in useful order, and in rendering the language better suited to the capacity of the unlearned. Those parts that are the entire produce of my own humble talents, will plainly appear from your thorough acquaintance with my usual manner of instruction, as also from the manifest inequality that will be discoverable in being placed so near a pattern of such superior lustre.
In these volumes you have the valuable opinions of several of our eminent divines, upon the most important religious subjects that have been handled by the learned, pious, and exemplary fathers of our excellent Church. They afford us, by their useful studies, abundant encouragement to prove faithful sons of so good a mother. They will supply delightful entertainment, and the soundest knowledge, when leisure admits of serious application. They will greatly assist in training up your children in true Christian principles, and a due veneration for the establishment under which they have the blessing, with yourselves, to be born and educated, and, through God's grace, may prove a happy antidote to prevent their abusing it; for, whatever merit any who differ from us, may individually possess, neither their learning, parts, nor practice, can exceed the just pretensions of the authors I have consulted for your improvement, whether considered as writers, or as men. Whatever benefit may, therefore, happily flow from my feeble efforts for your good, I most earnestly exhort you to join with me, at all times, in this becoming tribute: Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the praise !
If, to some (as the Apostle speaks), my presence may appear weak, in point of power to convince or persuade, still we must persist, and exert our talent to the utmost. Should it finally appear that I have been instrumental in turning only one sinner from the error of his way, and leading him to repentance, the promise is inestimable: no less than creating joy in heaven! You, who have experienced any happy effect from my earnest wishes, and constant efforts of good-will — you