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sinners. Many seem to imagine that if sinners are exhorted to no duty previously to embracing the gospel, they are exhorted to no duty at all; and, upon this ground, they complain of those preachers who do not exhort sinners to any duty prior to repentance and faith. But they ought to consider that, by blaming such preachers, they reproach the prophets, Christ, and all the apostles; who exhorted sinners to nothing short of true repentance and a cordial reconciliation to God, upon the terms of the gospel. Let people only read the commission which Christ gave to his ministers, and examine the practice of all the inspired teachers, and they will find themselves fighting against the whole Bible, while they are condemning ministers for obeying the authority of Christ, and following the example of all the teachers immediately sent from God. But,

5. It clearly appears from all that has been said in this discourse, that ministers are justly to be blamed, if they neglect to follow the apostolic mode of preaching. This neglect must be owing either to a misunderstanding of the gospel, or to a desire to please man rather than Christ. Some may undoubtedly neglect to urge sinners to an immediate compliance with the gospel, because they really believe that sinners are totally unable to receive the truth in love. But this must be owing to their misunderstanding the gospel, which they mean to preach. If they really understood the gospel as the apostle Paul understood it, they would see it to be entirely consistent with their urging sinners to embrace it immediately, upon pain of everlasting destruction. They would see the propriety of preaching to sinners, as Christ directed all his ministers to preach, in his last commission to them. And they would not hesitate to say to every sinner, after they had explained the gospel to him, “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” But if any are so ignorant of the gospel as not to see the propriety of preaching it in this manner, they are certainly to be blamed for not properly searching and understanding the scriptures, which clearly reveal the gospel of the grace of God. Though their ignorance may extenuate, yet it cannot extinguish their criminality in neglecting to exhort sinners to do their first and most important duty.

But there is no excuse for those who understand the gospel, and yet neglect to urge sinners to an immediate compliance with it. They can have no other motive for their neglect, but to avoid the censure and secure the applause of their hearers. They choose to please men, rather than to be the servants of Christ. It is absolutely certain, however, that they will finally fail of obtaining their end. For God will blame them, Christ will blame them, the prophets and apostles will blame them, awakened sinners will blame them, and their own consciences will condemn them, for their criminal neglect. Their criminality will be in some proportion to the fatal tendency of their anti-scriptural and anti-apostolical mode of preaching. It is calculated to justify, stupisy and destroy sinners. The neglecting to urge sinners to repent and believe immediately, is practically saying that they have a right, in the sight of God, to remain impenitent and unbelieving. It is really justifying them in all their selfishness of heart, and total opposition to the whole scheme of redemption. And to justify them in their state of alienation from God is to stupify and harden their hearts, and make them feel safe, while they are every day exposed to be cut down in their sins, and put beyond the reach of divine mercy. There is nothing more hardening and destructive to sinners, than accommodating the gospel itself to their corrupt hearts. The preaching that does this, is far more dangerous than no preaching at all. It is directly calculated to justify, stupify and destroy precious and immortal souls. The true design of preaching the gospel to sinners, is, 10 make them realize their guilt, their danger, and their duty, But neglecting to urge them to immediate repentance and faith, directly tends to stifle all sense of guilt, of danger, and of duty, in their minds; and make them settle down on their lees, and say in their hearts, “ The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” Thousands are at this day, undoubtedly, experiencing those stupifying effects of unfaithful preaching. How aggravated then must be the guilt of those ministers, who knowingly disobey the authority of Christ, disregard his example, and pervert his gospel to the eternal destruction of the precious souls, for whom he suffered and died on the cross !

The discourse now turns to the Pastor elect, for whom it is more especially designed.

You are, my young friend, about to enter upon the work of the gospel ministry, which will be highly interesting both to yourself and to those committed to your pastoral charge. It will be one principal branch of your ministerial duty, to preach the gospel to sinners. And you ought to esteem it a peculiar favor, that so many prophets and apostles, as well as Christ himself, have gone before you, and set you a perfect example of evangelical preaching. If you neglect to follow these intallible guides, it must be owing entirely to your seeking to please men rather than God. To this powerful temptation you will most certainly be exposed. It is a day of deep declension, in which the true apostolic mode of preaching the gospel has become, in many places, very unfashionable and very unpopular.

If you preach the same truths that Paul preached, and urge them in the same manner, you may expect that they will awaken the displeasure, if not the opposition of some of your hearers. It concerns you, to gird up the loins of your mind, and sincerely resolve to testify repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ, in all your public discourses. And here, perhaps, you will keep your resolution. But you will have occasion to preach to sinners in private, and from house to house. And here your resolution will be put to a severer trial. You will be in peculiar danger of departing from the apostle's example, and of contradicting your public discourses, by directing awakened sinners to do something short of immediate repentance and faith. They will tell you that they cannot change their own hearts, that faith is the gift of God, that it is absurd to require them to repent and believe immediately. They will anxiously desire you to lower the terms of the gospel to their impotence, and tell them what to do in order to get a new heart, and become true penitents. To answer their questions, and to silence their objections against an immediate compliance with the gospel, will require the exercise of all your wisdom and integrity. But you will always bear it in mind, that you have the Bible and their own consciences on the side of truth, and nothing to combat but their selfish and partial feelings. Be not afraid, therefore, to tell them the truth, and the whole truth, respecting the gospel and the plague of their own hearts. Show them that all their excuses for impenitence and unbelief flow from enmity to God, and reflect dishonor upon his character and all his overtures of mercy. Though this mode of treating them may make them, like the young man in the gospel, go away sorrowful, yet if ever they become reconciled to God, they will thank you for your plainness and fidelity. Never give any directions to sinners which they may comply with, and yet remain impenitent; but so preach to them in public, and so converse with them in private, that if they understand and love your instructions, they shall certainly be saved. Be a faithful minister of Christ, and

you may depend upon his promised presence and assistance, which will enable you to perform every ministerial duty, and endure every ministerial trial. “Take heed unto yourself, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost may make you an overseer, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Declare unto your people all the counsel of God, with a tender and compassionate concern for their future and everlasting good; and then you may, in the close of your ministry, whether it shall be longer or shorter, call upon them to testify this consoling truth in your favor, that you are "pure from the blood of all men.” May you and your people prepare for such a happy parting, that you may have a more joyful meeting beyond the grave, and be each other's joy and crown of rejoicing in the kingdom of glory. Amen.

SERMON XII.

RELIGIOUS RESOLUTION.

PREACHED BEFORE THE MASSACHUSETTS MISSIONARY SOCIETY, MAY 17, 1800.

Be strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be

rewarded. --2 CHRON. XV. 7.

There was such a peculiar and intimate connection between the civil and religious institutions in the Hebrew republic, that the cause of religion was necessarily and deeply affected, by both the good and bad administration of government. Hence it became a proverb in Israel, “ When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn." Religion never failed to flourish under the smiles and patronage of wise and pious princes; nor, on the other hand, did it ever fail to languish and decay under the frowns and opposition of unwise and wicked rulers. This in some measure appeared, while the whole house of Israel were happily united in one civil as well as religious community; but it still more clearly appeared, after the revolt and apostacy of the ten tribes. In the days of Joshua, “ Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of his increase;" but after his decease, and while there was no king in Israel, the cause of religion visibly decayed, and never revived until the days of David and Solomon. While they were in the administration of government, they made noble and successful exertions to promote the public worship of God, and diffuse a spirit of vital piety among all classes of people. But after Rehoboam the son of Solomon, and Jeroboam the son of Nebat, divided the nation, religion received a most fatal blow. In the kingdom of Israel it was greatly corrupted, and in the kingdom of Judah it was generally neglected. Rehoboam and Abijah were both unfriendly to the cause of God, and did much to obstruct and retard its progress. Accordingly, when Asa ascended the throne of Judah, he found religion in a low and languishing state. Iniquity had long abounded, and the love of many had waxen cold. But this deep declension, instead of weakening, awakened his holy zeal, to revive the sinking cause which lay so near his pious heart. His first sincere and vigorous efforts in favor of religion, were highly pleasing to the God of Israel, who sent a prophet on purpose to strengthen his resolution and perseverance in accomplishing the good design which he had so nobly conceived, and so successfully pursued. This is the agreeable account which the sacred historian gives, of some of the first acts of his pious and prosperous reign : “ So Abijah slept with his fathers, — and Asa his son reigned in his stead. And he did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God; for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and broke down the images, and cut down the groves; and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment.” After he had proceeded so far, “ The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded; and he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; the Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” “Be ye strong, therefore, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded." This seasonable message from the God of Israel, gave new life and vigor to Asa and all his pious subjects. For it is added, “ And when Asa heard these words, and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage.” “And he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and the strangers with them out of Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon; for they fell to him out of Israel in abundance, when they saw that the Lord his God was with him." In this connection, the words of our text naturally suggest this animating truth to our present consideration :

That the friends of God have good ground for unshaken resolution in promoting the cause of religion.

To set this subject in a proper light, I shall endeavor to show,

1. That resolution is necessary in promoting the cause of religion.

II. That the friends of God have good ground to be bold and zealous in promoting such a noble and important design.

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VOL. I.

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