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him, in how helpless a state he lies under this condemnation, as to any capacity he has of delivering himself. (chap. 7.) But I do not mean to leave any in so terrible a situation : I will joyfully proclaim the glad tidings of pardon and salvation by Christ Jesus our Lord, which is all the support and confidence of my own soul. (chap. 8.) And then I will give some general view of the way by which this salvation is to be obtained ; (chap. 9.) urging the sinner to accept of it as affectionately as I can: (chap. 10.) though nothing can be sufficiently pathetic, where, as in this matter, the life of an immortal soul is in question.
8. Too probable it is, that some will, after all this, remain insensible; and therefore, that their sad case may not encumber the following articles, I shall here take a solemn leave of them; (chap. 11.) and then shall turn and address myself, as compassionately as I can, to a most contrary character : I mean, to a soul overwhelmed with a sense of the greatness of its sins, and trembling under the burden, as if there were no more hope for him in God. (chap. 12.) And that nothing may be omitted which may give solid peace to the troubled spirit, I shall endeavor to guide its inquiries as to the evidences of sincere repentance and faith ; (chap. 13.) which will be farther illustrated by a more particular view of the several branches of the Christian temper, such as may serve at once to assist the reader in judging what he is, and to show him what he should labor to be. (chap. 14.) This will naturally lead to a view of the need we have of the influences of the blessed Spirit, to assist us in the important and difficult work of the true Christian, and of the encouragement we have to hope for such Divine assistance. (chap. 15.) In an humble dependence on which, I shall then enter on the consideration of several cases which often occur in the Christian life, in which particular addresses to the conscience may be requisite and useful.
9. As some peculiar dificulties and discouragements attend the first entrance on a religious course, it will here be our first care to animate the young convert against
them. (chap. 16.) And that it may be done more effectually, I shall urge a solemn dedication of himself to God; (chap. 17.) to be confirmed by entering into the communion of the church, and an approach to the sacred table. (chap. 18.) That these engagements may be more happily fulfilled, we shall endeavor to draw a more particular plan of that devout, regular and accurate course, which ought daily to be attended to. (chap. 19.) And because the idea will probably rise so much higher than what is the general practice, even of good men, we shall endeavor 'to persuade the reader to make the attempt, hard as it may seem, (chap. 20.) and shall caution him against various temptations, which might otherwise draw him aside to negligence and sin. (chap. 21.)
10. Happy will it be for the reader, if these exhortations and cautions be attended to with becoming regard ; but as it is, alas ! too probable, that, notwithstanding all, the infirmities of nature will sometimes prevail
, we shall consider the case of deadness and languor in religion, which often steals upon us by insensible degrees; (chap. 22.) from whence there is too easy a passage to that terrible one of a return into known and deliberate sin. (chap. 23.) And as the one or the other of these tends, in a proportionable degree, to provoke the blessed God to hide his face, and his injured Spirit to withdraw, that melancholy condition will be taken into particular survey. (chap. 24.) I shall then take notice also of the case of great and heavy afflictions in life, (chap. 25.) a discipline which the best of men have reason to expect, especially when they backslide from God, and yield to their spiritual enemies.
11. Instances of this kind will, I fear, be too frequent; yet, I trust, there will be many others, whose path, like the dawning light, will “ shine more and more unto the perfect day.” Prov. iv. 18. And therefore we shall endeavor, in the best manner we can, to assist the Christian in passing a true judgement on the growth of grace in his heart, (chap. 26.) as we had done before in judging of its sincerity. And as nothing conduces more to the advancement of grace, than the lively exercise of love to
God, and a holy joy in him, we shall here remind the real Christian of those mercies which tend to excite that love and joy ; (chap. 27.) and in the view of them, to animate him to those vigorous efforts of usefulness in life, which so well become his character, and will have so happy an efficacy in brightening his crown. (chap. 28.) Supposing him to act accordingly, we shall then labor to illustrate and assist the delight with which he may look forward to the awful solemnities of death and judgement. (chap. 29.) And shall close the scene by accompanying him, as it were, to the nearest confines of that dark valley, through which he is to pass to glory; giving him such directions as may seem most subservient to his honoring God, and adorning religion, by his dying behaviour. (chap. 30.) Nor am I without a pleasing hope, that, through the Divine blessing and grace, I may be, in some instances, so successful as to leave those triumphing in the views of judgement and eternity, and glorifying God by a truly Christian life and death, whom I found trembling in the apprehensions of future misery; or, perhaps, in a much more dangerous and miserable condition than that: I mean entirely forgetting the prospect, and sunk in the most stupid insensibility of those things, for an attendance to which the human mind was formed, and in comparison of which all the pursuits of this transitory life are emptier than wind, and lighter than a feather.
12. Such a variety of heads must, to be sure, be handled but briefly, as we intend to bring them within the bulk of a moderate volume. I shall not, therefore, discuss them as a preacher might properly do in sermons, in which the truths of religion are professedly to be explained and taught, defended and improved, in a wide variety, and long detail of propositions, arguments, objections, replies, and inferences, marshalled and numbered under their distinct generals. I shall here speak in a looser and freer manner, as a friend to a friend ; just as I would do if I were to be in person admitted to a private audience, by one whom I tenderly loved, and whose circumstances and character I knew to be like that which the title of one
chapter or another of this treatise describes. And when I have discoursed with him a little while, which will seldom be so long as half an hour, shall, as it were, step aside, and leave him to meditate on what he has heard, or endeavor to assist him in such fervent addresses to God, as it may be proper to mingle with those meditations. In the mean time, I will here take the liberty to pray over my reader and my work, and to commend it solemnly to the Divine blessing, in token of my deep conviction of an entire dependence upon it. And I am well persuaded, that sentiments like these are common, in the general, to every faithful minister, to every real Christian.
for the Success of this Work, in promoting the Rise and Progress of
Religion. “O thou great eternal Original, and Author of all created being and happiness! I adore thee, who hast made man a creature capable of religion, and hast bestowed this dignity and felicity upon our nature, that it may be taught to say, Where is God our maker? Job, xxxv. 10. I lament that degeneracy spread over the whole human race, which has turned our glory into shame,” (Hos. iv. 7.) and has rendered the forgetfulness of God, unnatural as it is, so common, and so universal a disease. Holy Father, we know it is thy presence, and thy teaching alone, that can reclaim thy wanderiny children, can impress a sense of Divine things on the heart, and render that sense lasting and effectual. From thee proceed all good purposes and desires ; and this desire, above all, of diffusing wisdom, piety, and happiness in this world, which (though sunk in such deep apostasy) thine infinite mercy has not utterly forsaken.
“ Thou knowest, O Lord, the hearts of the children of men ;'(2 Chron. vi. 30.) and an upright soul, in the midst of all the censures and suspicions it may meet with, rejoices in thine intimate knowledge of its most secret sentiments and principles of action. Thou knowest the sincerity and fervency with which thine unworthy servant
desires to spread the knowledge of thy name, and the savour of thy Gospel, among all to whom this work may reach. Thou knowest that, hadst thou given him an abundance of this world, it would have been, in his esteem, the noblest pleasure that abundance could have afforded, to have been thine almoner, in distributing thy bounties to the indigent and necessitous, and so causing the sorrowful heart to rejoice in thy goodness, dispensed through his hands. Thou knowest, that, hadst thou given him, either by ordinary or extraordinary methods, the gift of healing, it would have been his daily delight, to relieve the pains, the maladies, and the infirmities of men's bodies; to have seen the languishing countenance brightened by returning health and cheerfulness; and much more to have beheld the roving, distracted mind reduced to calmness and serenity, in the exercise of its rational faculties. Yet happier, far happier will he think himself, in those humble circumstances in which thy providence hath placed him, if thou vouchsafe to honour these his feeble endeavours, as the means of relieving and enriching men's minds; of recovering them from the madness of a sinful state, and bringing back thy reasonable creatures to the knowledge, the service, and the enjoyment of their God; or of improving those who are already reduced. « O may
it have that blessed influence on the person, whosoever he be, that is now reading these lines, and all who may
read or hear them! Let not my Lord be angry, if I presume to ask, that, however weak and contemptible this work may seem in the eyes of the children of this world, and however imperfect it really be, as well as the author of it unworthy, it may nevertheless live before thee; and, through a Divine power, be mighty to produce the rise and progress of religion in the minds of multitudes in distant places, and in generations yet to come! Impute it not, O God, as a culpable ambition, if I desire, that, whatever becomes of
my name, about which I would not lose one thought before thee, this work, to which I am now applying myself in thy strength, may be completed and propagated far abroad: that it may reach to those that are yet