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THE CITIZENS OF LONDON.
GENTLEMEN, The Author of the following Discourses, having lived for some time among you, and preached many of them in your churches, humbly begs leave to address them to you. To this he is encouraged, not only by the attention and approbation, far exceeding his hopes, with which they were heard ; but more especially by the repeated request of some very sensible and worthy members of your body, who pressed him for the publication of them. These gentlemen were, on various accounts, of too much consequence with the Author, not to be gratified. Whether this request shall contribute to his honour at the expense of theirs who made it, is now, with all imaginable respect, submitted to your judgment at large, and to that of every English reader. However this may be, he will think himself a very happy man, if, after thus laying his performances before you, your complacency in accepting shall bear any proportion to the pleasure he felt in presenting them to you. He still doth, and ever will, retain a grateful sense of the many friendships wherewith he was honoured, when in London. He there met with persons of excellent understandings, improved by the successful
study of men and things; and of hearts, cultivated to a · suitable benevolence, by that intercourse of minds, which waits inseparably on
an extensive commerce in affairs. Whether in any other school more integrity and humanity may be learned than in this, the observations he made, during his abode in your city, gave him sufficient reason to doubt. Here virtue, inculcated, not by rules, but examples;,
* This Preface was prefixed by the Author to his second volume of Discourses, which included twenty-five, viz. from XXI. to XLV. inclusive, of the present edition. The remaining twenty-nine were first published in the year 1777.
not in words, but actions; is practically imbibed ; and shews itself accordingly, not in the words, but actions, of the obHere the Author saw, what would
paradoxical to be believed in some other places -He saw the wealthy devout, and the man who had a great fortune, in effect, his all, exposed to the winds and waves, unbending himself in an evening, with a surprising greatness of soul, to all the sweets of a cheerful or religious conversation; nay, he saw him maintain his part in this conversation, with such a mixture of wit, sound sense, gaiety, and goodness, as did honour, not only to the solid, but to the ornamental, part of that education, which may be had in the school of business. A stranger, seeing him in this attitude, would not imagine he had been bred from his childhood to trade, or had, at this instant, a single boat on sea. Neither would he imagine, if he knew his application to business so very assiduous, or his economy so exactly frugal, that he could, on proper occasions, find in his heart to live with the liberality of a prince, and, to proper objects, give away with the charity of a saint.
It was in London, and among you, Gentlemen, that the Author of these Discourses formed an idea of private and domestic heroism, which he makes no scruple to prefer to that of politicians and conquerors. He therefore leaves their unjustifiable arts, and bloody laurels, to be made the objects of vulgar admiration by the poets; and, having passed by both the court and camp, and found the truly great man in a counting-house or shop, dedicates his labours, with an inexpressible affection and esteem, to you. Accept, Gentlemen, the tenders of his gratitude; and what, in regard to its own defects, you cannot approve of, be pleased, with your wonted goodness, to indulge, in regard to a writer earnestly studious to demonstrate that respect towards you, and that zeal for the cause of every virtue, which every man, who knows both, must acknowledge to be justly due.
That, in thus addressing you, he speaks not as a flatterer, or as a man of selfish designs, his speaking to a community, and not a particular person, may serve to shew. But, if this is not sufficient, the following Discourses will fully prove it; for, in them he considers the true religion as the only cure for the vices of mankind; and therefore thinks it not sufficient to demonstrate its truths, if in every Discourse they
are not pointed in their full vigour, and with the collected force of all the talents God hath bestowed on the preacher, against the horrible sins of an abandoned age, howsoever backed by numbers, howsoever countenanced by custom, howsoever dignified by station, or privileged by title and power. He little regards what they say, who tell him, it is a folly to expect any thing else from this method, but the contempt, perhaps ruin, of him who takes it. Be it so. However, the servant of God ought to do his duty, and leave the rest to his Master. That this is his duty, the enormous increase of wickedness on the one side, and the commands of God on the other, who, in times like these, bids us 'cry aloud, and spare not,' have made it sufficiently evident. And that his ruin, as the worldly-minded call it, will prove his happiness and glory in the end, is also as certain as the promises of God can make it. If he is not as much an infidel as too many of those he ought to reprove, on these he will rely, and by those he will be guided, and will be in little pain about the consequences.
He hopes his Discourses will be read, because they are new and spirited. And if they are favoured with a perusal, it is possible they may touch the reader in some yet feeling quarter of his heart, to which others, better executed in the main, have been too general, or too tender, to penetrate. He knows there is a large class of men, as well satisfied with their own practices, though vicious, as with their principles, though irreligious; who, therefore, are determined to keep every thing at a distance, which might possibly lessen this satisfaction. But if any of these shall happen to read what I am now writing, let him consider a little, that irreligion may be folly, and vice misery, for aught he can judge, who will consult with nothing but his passions about the one, and with his prejudices only about the other.
How can he who will not try, foresee whether a writer like this, after accosting him with a severer face than usual, may not lead him to another kind of satisfaction, more sincere and perfect, more likely to afford him a solid tranquillity while he lives, and sweet consolations when he dies? It is plain, he must be diffident of the grounds on which that composure is erected, wherein he at present endeavours to rest, because he dare not trust them to the slightest exami
nation. How he can deal thus contemptuously by his own understanding, and yet conceitedly call himself a rational, ņay, a free creature, is inconceivable to a man really in his senses. However, he may venture himself perhaps safely enough with these Discourses. They are not such miracles in their kind, but that their defects, and his unanswerable arguments for infidelity and wickedness, may happen to bring him off, with his favourite system unshaken. Should this be the case, he will have one additional presumption (and surely he needs a thousand) to settle him more securely on the lees of his present infatuation.
Should you, Gentlemen (which God avert), lay aside that attachment to religion and virtue, from which result the many blessings you have long enjoyed; experience will soon teach us to date the ruin of you and your country from that unhappy era. Infidel principles are the source of dissolute practices, and dissipated fortunes. No degree of present prosperity or affluence can stand its ground against dishonesty, striking at the root of that credit, and a vicious profusion, wasting those funds, on which commerce, the spring of wealth, is founded. The city, fully convinced of this important truth, will consider every encroachment of infidelity as they do a French invasion, and treat every pert pretender to disputation, who, having made shipwreck of his principles, harangues for irreligion in the drawingroom, the coffee-house, and such-like talkeries, as a contemptible bankrupt to common sense and common honesty. Thus, Gentlemen, it is hoped, you will look on this coxcomb of controversy, even though he should give himself the air of having learned his infidel parade at St. James's. Your piety is much nearer akin to true wisdom, and your humanity to true politeness, than that superficial pomp and flourish, which the unthinking citizen is apt to admire in the mere courtier. Quit not these honest principles and pursuits, that have made you rich, for the contrary, howsoever dignified by vain appearances, in hopes they will make you great; for if you use your wealth as the Author of religion and giver of wealth prescribes, you are infinitely greater already than all the titles and splendour of nobility can make you.
All the miseries you have ever suffered, or feared, con