Page images








1. 2. That true religion is very rare, appears from comparing the na

ture of it with the lives and characters of men around us.-3. The want of it, matter of just lamentation.-4. To remedy this evil, is the design of the ensuing Treatise.-5. 6. To which, therefore, the Author earnestly bespeaks the attention of the reader, as his own heart is deeply interested in it.-7. to 12. A general plan of the Work; of which the first fifteen chapters relate chiefly to the Rise of Religion, and the remaining chapters to its Progress.Prayer for the success of the Work.

1. When we look around us with an attentive


and consider the characters and pursuits of men, we plainly see, that though, in the original constitution of their natures, they only, of all the creatures that dwell on the face of the earth, are capable of religion, yet many of them shamefully neglect it. And whatever different notions people may entertain of what they call religion, all must agree in owning, that it is very far from being a universal thing.

2. Religion, in its most general view, is such a sense of God in the soul, and such a conviction of our obligations to him, and of our dependence upon him, as shall engage us to make it our great care to conduct ourselves in a manner which we have reason to believe will be pleasing to him. Now, when we have given this plain account of religion, it is by no means necessary

should search among the savages of distant Pagan nations, to find instances of those who are strangers to it. When we view

that we

the conduct of the generality of people at home, in a Christian and Protestant nation, in a nation whose obligations to God have been singular, almost beyond those of any other people under heaven, will any one presume to say, that religion has a universal reign among us? Will any one suppose, that it prevails in every life; that it reigns in every heart? Alas! the avowed infidelity, the profanation of the name and day of God, the drunkenness, the lewdness, the injustice, the falsehood, the pride, the prodigality, the base selfishness, and stupid insensibility about the spiritual and eternal interests of themselves and others, which so generally appear among us, loudly proclaim the contrary. So that one would imagine, upon this view, that thousands and tens of thousands thought the neglect, and even the contempt of religion, were a glory, rather than a reproach. And where is the neighborhood, where is the society, where is the happy family, consisting of any considerable number, in which, on a more exact examination, we find reason to say, “ religion fills even this little circle ?" There is perhaps, a freedom from any gross and scandalous immoralities, an external decency of behaviour, an attendance on the outward forms of worship in public, and, here and there, in the family; yet, amidst all this, there is nothing which looks like the genuine actings of the spiritual and divine life. There is no appearance of love to God, no reverence of his presence, no desire of his favor as the highest good : there is no cordial belief of the Gospel of salvation; no eager solicitude to escape that condemnation which we have incurred by sin ; no hearty concern to secure that eternal life which Christ has purchased and secured for his people, and which he freely promises to all who will receive him. Alas! whatever the love of a friend, or even a parent can do; whatever inclination there may be, to hope all things, and believe all things the most favorable, evidence to the contrary will force itself upon the mind, and extort the unwilling conclusion, that, whatever else may be amiable in this dear friend-in that favorite child

religion dwells not in his breast."

3. To a beart that firmly believes the Gospel, and views persons and things in the light of eternity, this is one of the most mournful considerations in the world. And indeed, to such a one, all other calamities and evils of human nature appear trifles, when compared with this: the absence of real religion, and that contrariety to it, which reigns in so many thousands of mankind. Let this be cured, and all the other evils will easily be borne; nay, good will be extracted out of them. But if this continue, it “ bringeth forth fruit unto death;” (Rom. vii. 5.) and in consequence of it, multitudes, who share the entertainments of an indulgent Providence with us, and are at least allied to us by the bond of the same common nature, must, in a few years, be swept away into utter destruction, and be plunged, beyond redemption, into everlasting burnings.

4. I doubt not but there are many, under the various forms of religious profession, who are not only lamenting this in public, if their office in life calls them to an opportunity of doing it; but are likewise mourning before God in secret, under a sense of this sad state of things; and who can appeal to Him that searches all hearts, as to the sincerity of their desires to revive the languishing cause of vital Christianity and substantial piety. And, among the rest, the Author of this treatise may with confidence say, it is this which animates him to the present attempt, in the midst of so many other cares and labours. For this he is willing to lay aside many of those curious amusements in science which might suit his own private taste, and perhaps open a way for some reputation in the learned world. For this he is willing to wave the labored ornaments of speech, that he may, if possible, descend to the capacity of the lowest part of mankind. For this he would endeavor to convince the judgement, and to reach the heart of every reader; and, in a word, for this, without any dread of the name of an enthusiast, whoever may at random throw it out upon the occassion, he would, as it were, enter with you into your closet, from day to day; and with all plainness and freedom, as well as seriousness, would discourse

to you of the great things which he has learned from the Christian revelation, and on which he assuredly knows your everlasting happiness to depend; that, if you hitherto have lived without religion, you may be now awakened to the consideration of it, and may be instructed in its nature and importance; or that, if you are already, through Divine grace, experimentally acquainted with it, you may be assisted to make a farther progress.

5. But he earnestly entreats this favor of you, that, as it is plainly a serious business we are entering upon, you would be pleased to give him a serious and an attentive hearing. He entreats, that these addresses, and these meditations, may be perused at leisure, and be thought over in retirement; and that you would do him and yourself the justice to believe the representations which are here made, and the warnings which are here given, to proceed from sincerity and love; from a heart that would not designedly give one moment's unnecessary pain to the meanest creature on the face of the earth, and much less to any human mind. If he be importunate, it is because he at least imagines that there is just reason for it, and fears, lest, amidst the multitudes who are undone by the utter neglect of religion, and among those who are greatly damaged for want of a more resolute and constant attendance to it, this may be the case of some into whose hands this treatise may fall.

6. He is a barbarian, and deserves not to be called a man, who can look

the sorrows

of his fellow creatures without drawing out his soul unto them, and wishing, at least, that it were in the power of his hand to help them. Surely earth would be a heaven to that man, who could go about from place to place, scattering happiness wheresoever he came, though it were only the body that he were capable of relieving, and though he could impart nothing better than the happiness of a mortal life. But the happiness rises in proportion to the nature and degree of the good which he imparts. Happy, are we ready to say, were those honored servants of Christ, who, in the early days of his church, were the benevolent and sympathiz

ing instruments of conveying miraculous healing to those whose cases seemed desperate ; who poured in upon the blind and the deaf the pleasures of light and sound, and called


the dead to the powers of action and enjoyment. But this is an honor and happiness which it is not fit for God commonly to bestow on mortal men. Yet there have been, in every age, and, blessed be his name, there still are those whom he has condescended to make his instruments in conveying nobler and more lasting blessings than these to their fellow creatures. Death has long since veiled the eyes, and stopped the ears, of those who were the subjects of miraculous healing, and recovered its empire over those who were once recalled from the grave. But the souls who are prevailed upon to receive the Gospel, live for ever. God has owned the labors of his faithful ministers in every age to produce these blessed effects; and some of them“ being dead, yet speak,” (Heb. xi. 4.) with power and success, in this important cause. Wonder not then, if, living and dying, I be ambitious of this honor; and if my mouth be freely opened, where I can truly say, “my heart is enlarged. (2 Cor. vi. 11.)

7. In forming my general plan, I have been solicitous that this little treatise might, if possible, be useful to all its readers, and contain something suitable to each. I will therefore take the man and the Christian, in a great variety of circumstances. I will first suppose myself addressing one of the vast number of thoughtless creatures, who have hitherto been utterly unconcerned about religion, and will try what can be done, by all plainness and earnestness of address, to awaken him from this fatal lethargy, to a care, (chap. 2.) an affectionate and an immediate care about it. (chap. 3.) I will labor to fix a deep and awful conviction of guilt upon his conscience, (chap. 4.) and to strip him of his vain excuses and his flattering hopes. (chap. 5.) I will read to him, O! that I could fix on his heart, that sentence, that dreadful sentence, which a righteous and an Almighty God hath denounced against him as a sinner; (chap. 6.) and endeavor to show

« PreviousContinue »