Page images


As every attempt to illustrate and recommend such opinions on religion, as oppose pride and prejudice, is peculiarly obnoxious to the misconceptions of the ignorant, the misrepresentation of the malevolent, and the rash censure of the thoughtless, (who rudely and hastily condemn what they scarcely allow themselves even time to understand,) I think it proper to entreat all who honour this book with any degree of their attention, duly to consider the authorities, human as well as Scriptural, on which it is founded, and not to reject doctrines in which their own happiness is most deeply concerned, till they shall have invalidated those authorities, and proved themselves superior in sagacity, learning, and piety, to the great men whose sentiments I have cited in support of my own. Let the firm phalanx of surrounding authorities be first fairly routed, before the opponents level their arrows, even bitter words, at a book which enforces a doctrine, unfashionable, indeed, but certainly the doctrine of the gospel.

There is no doubt but that my subject is the most momentous which can fall under the contemplation of a human being; and I therefore claim

for it, as the happiness of mankind is at stake, a dispassionate and unprejudiced attention.

The moral world, as well as the political, appears, at present, to be greatly out of order. Moral and political confusion, indeed, naturally produce each other. Let all who love their species, or their country, calmly consider whether the neglect or rejection of Christianity may not be the real cause of both : and let those who are thus persuaded, cooperate with every attempt to revive and diffuse the true spirit of the gospel. “Let us meekly instruct those that oppose themselves,'' (if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth,) not being overcome of evil, but overcoming evil with good.”

Nor let a private clergyman, however inconsiderable, be thought to step out of his province, in thus endeavouring to tranquillize the tumult of the world, by calling the attention of erring and wretched mortals to the gospel of peace. He is justified, not only by the general principles of humanity, but by the particular command of the religion of which he is a minister. Thus saith the apostle, in a charge which may be considered as generally addressed to all preachers of the gospel :

* Feed the flock of God, as much as lieth in you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingness; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind."3 • Take heed to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed

" 2 Tim. ii. 25.

Romans, xii. 21,

31 Pet. v. 2.

[merged small][ocr errors]

the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.''

This I have humbly attempted ; and in imitation of a most excellent prelate, I have adapted my book to all; yet various parts of it more particularly to various descriptions of men; some to the great, some to the learned, but the greater part to the people: remembering the apostle's example, who says, "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some; and this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be a partaker thereof with you."

And now, readers, before you proceed any further, let me be permitted to say to you, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you,' in your progress through this book, and also through life, even to its close.

Acts, xx. 28. ? Bishop Sanderson, who preached in an appropriate manner, ad aulam, ad clerum, ad populum.-See the titles of his sermons.

* I Cor. ix. 22.

« PreviousContinue »