« AnteriorContinuar »
tion of the time: and thinking he had not yet filled up the hour, he continued his discourse for some good while beyond his first intention, and the usual time, without any discernible confusion, or disagreeable tautology.
Upon his return to England, he preached three years as assistant to a congregation at Tunstead, near Norwich; where he was greatly esteemed, and earnestly importuned to settle with them: but there were some considerations, of no small moment, which prevented his complying with their request. However there are still some families in that place and its neighbourhood, which to this very day, as I am well assured, have a most affectionate and respectful remembrance of him.
Not long after his coming up to London, in the year 1707, he was called to the pastoral office in this congregation, which he accepted, and has discharged with great reputation, through divine mercy, for about seven and thirty years, to the day of his death.
In the year 1729, the University of Edinburgh, out of a regard to his distinguished merit, complimented him with the highest honorary title in their gift: a piece of respect not to be slighted by any man of letters. Nevertheless, such was his modesty, I believe, it gave more satisfaction to his friends, than to himself.
His manner of preaching has been so remarkable, that I think myself obliged to remind you of it somewhat distinctly: for in the time of his laborious ministry among you, he has gone over the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles more than once. And once at least he has in a like manner explained and improved the epistles of the New Testament throughout, and in order; and also the first three chapters of the book of the Revelation. Since that he has preached upon the more useful and practical parts of the Epistles in a way somewhat less continued. He preached over the whole book of Proverbs, making some passages in that book his subject every Lord's day morning for some of those years in which he preached twice in the day. And afterwards he began, and finished a course of sermons on the principles of religion and the main doctrines of the Christian revelation, and their connection and influence on each other.'
His great concern all along has manifestly been to attain the true sense of scripture, and faithfully to make known what he judged to be the will of God to those whom he had undertaken to instruct and admonish. This he did with great impartiality, remarkable disinterestedness, and inflexible integrity.
If at any time he exceeded himself, so far as I understand, it was, when he was explaining and improving that part of the apostolic history where mention is made of the leave which St. Paul took of the elders of the church of Ephesus. Acts xx. 17-35. In the course of those sermons there was so warm, so natural, so unaffected and solemn an appeal to his stated hearers, that he had in his own ministerial conduct uprightly endeavoured to copy after St. Paul, and follow the example which he there represents himself to have given; that though it is now many years since those sermons were preached, I find they do still make very lively and affecting impressions on some of you, and those of the best proficiency. I presume, they must be remembered by many: and I humbly hope, that few or none, who heard them, will ever forget
Though he seldom committed his sermons to writing, they were not extempore effusions; but the fruit of serious study, and impartial examination: for he delighted in every part of his work, and in composing his sermons he consulted the original, and the ancient versions, not omitting to look into the most celebrated critics and commentators. And he carefully consi
- I have likewise an authentic account of another set of sermons, preached not long after his settlement at Pinnershall. It is the copy of a letter sent by him to a judicious divine, with whom he had contracted a pleasing acquaintance during his stay in Norfolk. Mr. Hunt sends his ⚫ learned friend an account of his preaching, to be approved 'or disapproved, and for him to let him know what he dis⚫ liked. He informs him, that he had proved a God, and * represented the grounds on which our faith in the scriptures is founded. Then he treated on the attributes of God. He ⚫ had considered also the government of our first parents, the ⚫ fitness of their being tried by prohibiting the eating a cer'tain fruit, and the consequences of it. He had given a suc⚫cinct account of the religion before the flood, and the fitness
' of translating Enoch. This had been the subject of his last 'discourse at the time of writing this letter: at the conclu'sion of which he assures his friend, that he took all the care 'he could to urge what is the last end of revealed truth, viz, 'divine temper and life.'
bAt another season, in several discourses upon 2 Tim. iii. 10, "But thou hast fully known my doctrine," &c. he in a summary and paraphrastical way observed St. Paul's 'doctrine, as represented in the Acts of the Apostles, and in 'his own epistles: and he shewed the occasion, scope and
design of all St. Paul's epistles. Some of Dr. Hunt's hearers have a distinct remembrance of those discourses, and are very thankful for the instruction they received by them.
dered the words themselves, the connections, and the main scope of the writer. Then he endeavoured to choose the clearest and easiest method. After all this care it is not to be wondered, that his remarks were just, and his inferences pertinent; and that his sermons might be easily understood, and long remembered by all that were attentive: and indeed there are several ministers, as well as private Christians, who have improved their judgment by only hearing him occasionally.
It was his constant care to represent the true sense of scripture, and the doctrine, which according to the best of his judgment was conformable to it: nor could he ever be induced to conceal or disguise what he thought to be the truth, for the sake of popular applause, or to avoid, or silence the censures of mistaken and prejudiced men. He might therefore truly say with St. Paul, and take the comfort of it: "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ," 2 Cor. ii. 17. And with the same apostle he might say again: "Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God (or according to the gospel of God, and in a manner worthy of the favour we have received, and the high office we have been intrusted with) we have had our conversation in the world, ch. i. 12.
In brief, his preaching was scriptural, critical, paraphrastical, and consequently instructive. It was also very practical, and sometimes pathetically so at the conclusion.
As his preaching was mightily suited to form in men a rational conviction of the truths of religion, and to carry them on to perfection; so his audience, though not numerous, has usually consisted of the more knowing and understanding Christians. And it must be owned, that they do honour to themselves who discern true merit, and cheerfully encourage an open and steady friend to truth and liberty. And they who receive such an one in the name of Christ, and honour him for his work's sake, as bringing with him the doctrine of pure and undefiled religion, especially when under difficulties, are entitled to a like reward with him. So he said to his disciples, who is truth itself, and never encouraged delusive hopes, or groundless expectations: "He that receiveth you, receiveth me, and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a Prophet in the name of a Prophet, shall have a Prophet's reward," Matt. x. 40, 41.
He ever was extremely cautious of assuming authority in the church of God. It was his common advice to persons arrived at years of discretion, to judge for themselves, and act according to conviction;' which is very natural for those, who make the scriptures the rule of their faith, and have with care and diligence formed their own judgment upon them. Herein, then, as well as in other things already mentioned, he shewed himself a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. He remembered, that "one is our master, even Christ," and that "all we are brethren," ," Matt. xxiii. 8. So did St. Paul: "We preach not ourselves," says he, "but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake," 2 Cor. iv. 5. Which is also agreeable to St. Peter's directions to bishops, that they should not act as "lords over God's heritage, but as ensamples to the flock." Such he assures us, "when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, will receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away," 1 Pet. v. 3.
As yet I have represented but a part of his usefulness. His talents for instructing and improving the mind were not confined to the pulpit. His conversation also was a great blessing to many. I believe, there are several families of God's people, beside those of his own congregation, where the younger, and perhaps some of the elder branches, are not a little indebted to him for a rational religion, and a well-grounded faith in the gospel.
His religious conferences were oftentimes accompanied with prayer. For as he daily prayed in his own family, so he likewise frequently prayed in the families of his Christian friends and acquaintance.
Such was the strength of his memory, that this knowledge, though of a vast compass, was always ready for use; whereby he was eminently qualified to be communicative. And, whenever he met with an ingenuous temper of mind, and a disposition to attend, he failed not to bring forth out of his rich treasure. There are not a few, both near and afar off, men of good understanding, of different ages and stations in life, who will readily stand up, and acknowledge, that there is no man from whom they have received more useful hints concerning the important subjects of virtue and religion, than from him.
He has not published so much as might have been expected: however, enough to shew his sentiments concerning natural and revealed religion, and to justify the character I have given
So the apostles of Christ, and their companions, usually called apostolical men, as an ancient writer observes, either wrote nothing at all, or but little: (neither the gospels, nor the epistles of the New Testament, being of any great length) yet they have ever been esteemed the most eminently, and most extensively useful ministers of Christ's kingdom. They who have received knowledge from him, will communicate it to others, both in public and private, in discourse and writing. Upon the whole, I always esteemed Dr. Hunt as useful a minister as any in his time. Which opinion has been as much founded upon the usefulness of his conversation, as of his. preaching and writing.
His sentiments in religion appear to be very just, and to deserve an attentive regard. : He was of opinion, that the facts, upon which the Christian religion is founded, have a 'stronger proof than any facts at such a distance of time: and that the books, which convey them down to us, may be proved to be uncorrupted and authentic with greater strength than any other writings of equal antiquity.
Piety,' says he, and extensive virtue, are final in religion. Principles of truth are instru'mental. What is positive is to be regarded only as means.'
Again: The principles of truth, relating to natural or revealed religion, and particularly 'to the Christian doctrine, are to be considered as instrumental, and designed to bring us to 'sobriety, righteousness and godliness. And are not available to our perfection and happiness, unless these are produced by them."
The respect due to moral and positive precepts is happily and briefly expressed by him in this manner: Let us take care, that we do not raise positive duties above moral, which are of eternal aud immutable obligation, and the end of true religion. And yet let us be careful. to observe what bears the stamp of divine authority: let us not insolently make a religion for • God, but receive it as he has delivered it to us by reason and revelation.'
The design of the ordinance of the Lord's supper has been thus represented by him: By receiving the sacrament men do not enlist themselves in any party: but only in general profess themselves Christians, and thereby declare their resolution to pursue steadily religious virtue,. as the last design of the institution of Christ.'
If it should be asked, what is meant by religious virtue, some other words of his will explain it. Virtue is doing what is right, fit, and agreeable to the truth of things. And it becomes • religious virtue when practised out of a regard to God: who, as a perfect moral agent, must in consequence, will, that such creatures as are made capable of it, should conform to what reason dictates.'
Our friend, whose decease we lament, had a wonderful strength of mind. I remember him to have said to me some years ago, though without vanity (from which no man was more free) that he believed he could with consideration recollect almost all the sermons he had ever preached. This has been lately confirmed to me, and more distinctly, by a common friend, in these very words: His judgment was so exact, that when he had once fixed the sense of a text, his memory could retain it for many years; and he could easily, and in a very little time, recol⚫lect the method in which he had treated it, the inferences he had made, and the whole ser'mon. This was surprising, as he had no notes: and yet I have known him preach a sermon upon half an hour's recollection, which he had preached about fourteen years before: and he ⚫ himself told me, he did not believe he had missed three sentences. This was not a peculiar ⚫ case: but he had fixed his sermons in general in his head. What an uncommon strength of judgment and memory was this!"
This great capacity had been cultivated with care and diligence: accordingly his acquired attainments were proportionable. As much may be easily inferred from what was before said of his preparatory studies. He well understood the several schemes of ancient and modern. philosophy. To the very end of his life he continued to read, by way of amusement at least, the celebrated ancient writers both Greek and Roman, whether poets, philosophers, or histoThese are authors, with which men of the learned professions are generally acquainted.
* Σπάδης της περι το λογογραφειν μικραν ποιεμενοι φροντίδα. Eus. Η. Ε. 1. 3, c. 24, p. 94. D.
But I presume, I may say, without disparagement to any, that he was a better judge of their beauties and perfections, blemishes and defects, than most are. He had also read the remains of the ancient Greek mathematicians, which is an uncommon part of literature. He had a good knowledge of the civil law. In early life he was celebrated for skill in the Hebrew language and Rabbinical learning. He was well acquainted with ecclesiastical history, and had read the ancient Christian writers. But the Bible was his principal study: and the knowledge, in which he most excelled, was the knowledge of the scriptures. Few men, I believe, can be named in any age, who have equalled him therein.
To this last particular, more especially, I apprehend to be owing the great contempt he had for infidels, commonly called deists; who pretend to condemn revelation, without ever having carefully studied and considered it: and though they are apt to give themselves airs of superior knowledge, he looked upon the whole body of them as a sort of men who have only a very superficial knowledge both of scripture and antiquity. To this ignorance of theirs he in part ascribed their infidelity: for he used to assert, that all antiquity confirms and corroborates revelation; and he had a strong persuasion, that the next age would be as remarkable for enthusiasm, as this for infidelity: forasmuch as those two extremes, he said, take turns, and mutually produce, or occasion each other.
If our friend was a man of great capacity, and various learning; yet sincere piety, uncommon meekness of temper, and mildness of speech and behaviour, most amiable and unaffected modesty, and remarkable inoffensiveness and peaceableness, are as distinguishing parts of his character, as learning and knowledge.
He was a tender husband: as he too was happy in a consort, who by her prudent management of the affairs of the family afforded him entire liberty to pursue his studies, and discharge the offices of his ministerial function without distraction.
What care he took to instil the best principles, and impart the most useful knowledge to his children, as their minds gradually opened, their own consciences will bear him witness: and it is to be hoped (which indeed I have no cause to distrust) that their future behaviour in life will shew, that his paternal care and concern have not been in vain; and that they will prove every way worthy of such constant, familiar instruction and example.
The benevolence of his temper, his sincerity, disinterestedness, and communicativeness, rendered him a most desirable and valuable friend.
He sympathised with the afflicted: and though he was a man of strong reason, and had a rightly informed judgment and understanding, he did not deny the use of the passions; which have been placed in us by our Creator, and make a part of our constitution.
I have reason to think, that he was liberal to the poor to the utmost of his circumstances, if not beyond them. And he has wished, that men of wealth would sometimes visit the habitations of the poor and sick: supposing, that a near view of their scanty accommodations might soften their temper, and dispose them to afford all the relief that is in their power.
In his latter years he has been several times afflicted with severe fits of the stone and gravel, the acute pains of which he bore with exemplary patience and resignation. And he had behaved likewise with great firmness and steadiness under some very trying afflictions and difficulties, which he met with in the former part of his life.
For about a year before he died, there appeared in him a visible decay; and he seemed to feel it himself: for his prayers and conversation turned much upon his approaching change. He would also lament, that he could be useful no longer, and was afraid of outliving his usefulness. But when he spake of death, it was with great calmness and composure of mind: and he declared, he was more afraid of the pain of dying, than of the consequences of death. However in that he was greatly favoured. For about a month before his death, he seemed more brisk and cheerful than he had been for some time: and his friends hoped they might have enjoyed him longer. But as he was walking a little way into the country, to see a friend, he had an unhappy fall, which bruised his leg. No danger was apprehended at first: but on the fourth day it threw him into a fever, the place mortified, and the mortification brought on a lethargy. All proper means were used, but in vain. When his friends roused him, he answered very sensibly: but soon fell into his dosing again, from which he never awaked. For on Wednesday morning, a little after nine of the clock, the fifth of this month, without either sigh or groan, or the least struggling, he in the most easy and composed manner breathed his last. An affec
tionate friend, who stood by his bed-side, tells: Though he never could bear to see any one • die before, yet he saw nothing formidable, or to give him any uneasiness, except that he was losing his dear and faithful friend.'
Such has been the life, and such the death of our honoured friend. His life has been a course of laborious service in the church of God, and an example of uniform, stedfast, growing virtue ; and his end has been peace. If we copy his example, and observe the rules of life, faithfully taught, and earnestly inculcated by him, we may hope to meet him again in a state of perfection and happiness. With these, and such like thoughts and considerations, let us comfort ourselves, and others, who sympathise with us, and mingle their tears with ours; being affected with the loss which both we and they have sustained.
4. Lastly, This subject is confirming and animating, as well as comforting.'
In our Father's house are many mansions. There are regions of light and immortality: there is a world, wherein dwells righteousness: where intelligent beings are admitted to the sublimest entertainments: where there is no death, nor pain, and where all sorrow and sighing are fled away. Forasmuch as such a joy is set before us, let us lay aside every weight, and perform the services now lying before us with fidelity and diligence.
We have had a new testimony to the truth of religion. Our deceased friend was "an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile," John i. 47. Of his sincerity there were many undeniable proofs, and it was liable to no suspicions. He had as good reason, as any, to know, whether virtue has a real excellence, and whether it be recommended by religion, or be the will of God: whether it has any delights and comforts here, and may expect a reward hereafter. He has spoken and acted as if these things were true and certain; and, if they were not so, he would have told us.
Let us improve this thought for our establishment: let us reckon ourselves obliged to weigh maturely, and recollect frequently, what we have heard from him upon these important points, whether in public or private. Far be it, that any of the stated hearers, near relatives, or intimate friends of this excellent man, and faithful servant of God, should be so far misled by the temptations of the times, as ever to become infidels in opinion, or libertines in practice. I rather hope and believe, that remembering how he taught, and how he walked; and mindful of other helps, still afforded them; not forsaking the assemblies of divine worship, as is the manner of some; but by an open profession of religion animating and confirming each other; and joining with a love of liberty a hearty zeal for true piety, they will withstand the snares of an evil world, and maintain their integrity to the end of life: and so be to him a crown of glory, and rejoice with him in the day of the Lord, Heb. x. 23—25; Finally, " beloved brethren, let us be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord,' "? 1 Cor. xv. 58..
SERMONS UPON VARIOUS SUBJECTS..
THE DUTY OF CONSIDERATION.
I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Psal. cxix. 59.
In these words two things are observable; first, the Psalmist's practice: "He thought on his ways." Secondly, the result and consequence of that practice: "He turned his feet unto God's testimonies.
The text therefore presents to us these two points, consideration, and the happy effect of it; reformation, or amendment. These will be the subjects of the present discourse: and this is the method to be observed by us:.