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church. And their departure from it was the prelude to that univerfal corruption of faith and worfhip, that relaxation of difcipline, and diflblutian of manners, which took place in the ages following. It is alfo very remarkable, that this doftxine was always fully and diflinctly taught in thole churches which never fubmitted to the tyranny, or received the corruptions of the Romifh Antichrift; I mean the churches of the Piedmontefe vallies, which by fa many judicious writers, are fuppofed to be the two witnefles mentioned in the Revelation, who fled into the wildemefs from the persecution of the beatt, and prophefied in fackcloth.
The accounts which have been tranfmitted to us of the principles held by them, long before the reformation, plainly mow, that they maintained this doctrine from the beginning. And as it is well known that the reformation took its firfl rife from the grofsand fcandalous application of the doctrine of merit in indulgences, fo all the reformers, without exception, were ftrenuous affertersof free grace. This was reckoned by them "articulus ftantis "- aut cadentis ecclefise," by which the church muft ftand or fall. Particularly, our reformers in both parts of this ifland agreed in preaching the fame doctrine, and the eminent piety of our fathers is a flanding evidence of its force and efficacy.
It doth not perhaps become, and probably it would not be fafe for me, to enter into a particular examination of the manner of preaching in the prefent age; and therefore my reflections upon that fubject fhall be very few and general. What is moft obvious in our prefent fituation, and what ought to affect Chriftians with moil concern, is, the great prevalence of infidelity. This is the more furpriGng, that we have never wanted, and do not at prefent want, many able and eminent writers to fland up in defence of the gofpel, and refute the changeable and inconfiflent reafonings of infidels, whatever form they fhall from time to time think fit to affume, and on whatever principles they fhall pretend to build. But, I am afraid, the befl defence of all is but too much neglected, viz. Zealous affiduous preaching the great and fundamental truths of the gofpel, the loft condemned Hate of man by nature, and the neceffity of pardon through the 1 ighteoufnefs, and renovation by the Spirit of Chrift. This would make a far greater number of thofe who call themfeives by the name of Chrift, Chriftians indeed. And the vifihle efficacy of his doctrine, would be a fenfible demonltratton of its truth and divine original. If thefe truths are not contradicted, it may be fafely faid, that they are by many kept more out of view than formerly. And furely we have no great caufe to boaft of our improvements in the preaching art, if its goodnefs is to be determined, like that of a tree, not by its bloifoms, but its fruits.
There is one obfervation which may fatisfy us, that the preaching of the crofs of Chrift will moft effectually promote real reformation. It is, that thofe preachers who (to fay no more) approach neareft to making our own merit and obedience the ground of our acceptance with God, very feldom, if ever, give any alarm to the conferences of their hearers. Let them recommend ever fo pure and high a ftandard of morals, they are heard without fear, and, if they preach elegantly, with pleafure, even by the moft proffigate. To fuch preachers, all vain worldly-minded people, ufually attach themfeives, where they have not call off the very form of religion; but moft part of ferious Chriftians, together with profeffing hypocrites, who cannot eafily be diftinguifhed in this world, always follow preachers of another ftrain. It is eafy to fee the reafon of this from what hath been faid above; there are none who fet the ftrictnefs and obligation of the law, the holinefs and juftice of God, in fo awful a light, as thofe who believe there is no fhelter from the fanction of the law, and the wrath of an offended God, but in the blood of Chrift. Perhaps, I am atready enfnared and expofed to cenfure, by affirming, that there are among us preachers of different ftrains. But it is fo certain a truth, that I cannot deny it; and fo important, that I will not difguife it.
Upon the whole, as the prefent afpect of public aflairs, as the ftate of the world, and character of the age, loudly call upon all of every ftation to exert themfeives with diHgence for the fupport and revival of truth and righteoufnefs: I hope the minifters of the gofpel will promote this end, by zealoufly laboring to bring men to the faving knowledge of Chrift, " the way, and the truth, and the "life—the foundation—the tried ftone—the precious cor"ner ftone," the ftrength and fecurity of the building. To deny, explain away, or neglect to impart the truths of the everlafting gofpel, is the way to leave the world in wickednefs; but, by preaching them in purity, and with fimplicity, which, we have reafon to think, will be accompanied with "the demonftration of the Spirit," finners are reconciled unto God, the power of fin is broken in them, the divine image is formed in them, and upon thefe truths their hopes of eternal life muft reft and depend. Let us be ever ready to fay with the apoftle Paul, " God forbid "that I fhould glory, fave in the crofs of our Lord Jefus "Chrift."* And let us quicken our diligence, and animate our endeavors, by expreffing, with the pfalmift David, our faith in the perpetuity of his kingdom. "His "name fhall endure for ever: his name fhall be continued "as long as the fun; and men fhall be blefled in him; "all nations fhall call him blefled. Blefled be the Lord "God, the God of Ifrael, who only doth wonderous things. "And blefled be his glorious name for ever; and let the "whole earth be filled with bis glory. Amen and "Amen."f
John iii. 3.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
THE condition on which minifters of the gofpel hold their office, is extremely awful. "They muft ren"der an account unto God" of their fidelity to the fouls committed to their charge. Their duty and danger, as fervants of God, are jointly and ftrongly exprefled in the commiffion given to the prophet Ezekiel. "Son of man, "I have made thee a watchman unto the houfe of Ifrael, "therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them "warning from me. When I fay unto the wicked, thou "fhalt furely die; and thou giveft him not warning, nor "fpeakeft to warn the wicked from his wicked way to "fave his life; the fame wicked man fhall die in his ini"quity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet, "if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wick"ednefs, nor from his wicked way, he fhall die m his ini"quity: but thou haft delivered thy foul."*
* Ezek. iii. 17, 18, 19. Vol. L M t'
It is natural for us, in fuch a fituation, to be often re. volving in our minds this great and weighty truft. It is at once our duty and interefl, to confider with all poffible care, in what way we may have the eafieft and moft effectual accefs to the hearts of finners: what views of divine truth will be moft convincing; what forms of addrefs will make the ftrongeft and moil lafting impreffion; in one word, how we may acquit ourfelves of our miniftry, fo as to be a " favour of life unto life," to many of thofe who hear us, and to "deliver our own fouls" from the blood of thofe that perifh.
Such, indeed, is the undeniable moment and importance of the truths of the gofpel, that I am often ready to think, it will be eafy to fet them in fo clear and convin. cing a light, as no perfon of common underftanding fhall be able to refill. I am often ready to fay within myfelf, Surely, if they be warned, they will no more dare to rufh on the thick boffes of the Almighty's buckler; furely, the boldeft finner muft tremble at the thoughts of death, judgment and eternity, faft approaching, and from which it is impoffible to fly. But when we fee how many are able to fit unmoved under the moft awful threatenings from the word of God, how many continue unchanged under the moft alarming difpenfations of Providence, our thoughts are immediately carried to the unfearchable depth of the divine counfels; and we muft fay with our bleffed Saviour, "Even fo, Father, for fo it feemed good in thy fight ;"* or with the apoftle Paul," But if our gofpel be hid, it is "hid to them that are loft: in whom the god of this world "hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, left the "light of the glorious gofpel of Chrift, who is the image of "God, fhould fhine unto them."f
The fecret counfel of the moft High, however, though we muft adore with reverence, it is impoffible for us to comprehend. What influence this has upon the final ftate of particular perfons, no man in the prefent life is, and probably no. created being fhall ever be, able fully to explain. This only we know, that it is not fuch as to
* Luke x. 21. t a Car. iv. 31 4.