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a legal and an evangelical frame and principle of religion; or betwixt that slavish fear, by which alone it is that some persons, even of a serious turn of mind, are forced and dragged, as it were, to their duty, and that evangelical newness of spirit, that filial love to God, and delight in his service, which usually grows and flourishes in the soul where it is once planted, and which produces a free, unconstrained, and acceptable religion. This would be an excellent means, not only of awakening sinners out of their carnal security; but of turning them fully to God, to a holy walk, and to a pleasureable converse with him, even such as becomes his children.
§ 6. And for this end it is of very great moment that a minister not only instruct his hearers what they must do, and how they ought to act, but that he also labour fully to apprize and to convince them by the evidence of Scripture, of their own native weakness and impotence for all that is spiritually good; and that he further shew them, by the same word of truth, from whence they must look for, and from whom they may hope to receive all grace and strength, not only to renew their souls in their first conversion, but also afterwards to enable them to perform every duty, as well of outward as of inward religion. They must be told that they can do nothing without Christ, according as he has assured us: "Without me ye can do nothing" and, again, that by the help of his grace they may do all things; according as St. Paul writes, " I can do all things through Christ who strengthened met." Thus should gospel ministers constantly make it the aim and drift of their preaching, to lead their hearers to Christ and to his grace; to him by whose stripes we are healed, and whose blood takes away all the sins of all that truly repent and believe in the Lord Jesus; and to him, by whose divine power all things are given to us that pertain both to life and godliness."
§ 7. Thus the holy apostles preached; these were the topics which they insisted much upon; and if their example is not followed in this matter, it will be no wonder
63 if our modern preaching comes vastly short of the success of theirs; and by this means some of our hearers will be in danger of sinking into a mere legal frame and spirit of bondage, while they are pressed to duty and working, but not encouraged by the grace of Christ, nor directed where to look for strength to perform it; and others of them will take up with a false peace, a carnal security, for want of being directed to Christ, who is the only foundation of the sinner's reasonable hope and solid comfort; but, on the other hand, when both these points are well explained, and are duly insisted on, no other means are so powerful to awaken secure sinners, to bring them to Christ, and to settle their souls in solid peace and comfort. Hereby, under the influence of the Spirit of Christ, they find themselves transported, as it were, into a new life; and now they go on with vigour and pleasure in the practice of universal piety.
§ 8. It would further be useful, and it is highly necessary that ministers should not only preach up the necessity of conversion, and instruct their hearers to depend on the grace of Christ for it, but also that they should, very frequently, in their sermons, explain the nature and the whole progress of conversion; sometimes more largely and distinctly, and at other times more briefly, endeavouring thereby to lead their hearers into a true knowledge of the state of their souls; and shewing them how they must repent of their sins, what they must do to be saved from their natural misery and ruin; and, in short, how they may obtain the full salvation of the gospel, so that every one may be able to give an answer to that most important question, What must I do that I may be a child of God, and inherit eternal life? For, let a minister entertain his hearers with the sublimest doctrines of Christianity, let him also declaim against sin, and exhort them to their various duties, in the most earnest and pathetic manner, and let all be adorned with the finest beauties of wit and eloquence; yet, after all, if his sermons are not so contrived and framed as, at the same time, to inform the ignorant how they may obtain an interest in the gospel-salvation for themselves, and what means and methods God has appointed for that purpose, what will it profit them? more than a parcel of shreds of cloth, of various dyes,
though they were of the finest thread and liveliest colours, would serve the purpose of a man who wants a handsome garment. Whereas, a sermon that informs the ignorant sinner, not only of the necessity of conversion, but also how that happy change may certainly be effected in his own soul, may not unfitly be compared, in respect to its usefulness, to a complete garment, made all of a piece, well fitted to the shape of him that wants it, and which he may therefore put on and wear with honour and with pleasure.
9. But now, in order to all this, a minister must take pains with his own heart, as well as in composing his sermons; he must have a true zeal for Christ, and aim at nothing so much as to bring sinners to him. This should be, in some measure, the design and drift of every sermon that he preaches, that so, if a person should happen to hear him but once in all his life, he might, even by means of that one sermon, get some notion of the one thing needful, and be just entered, at least, into the way of salvation; for this should every minister study and strive, and for this should he continually pray that God would fill his heart with pious zeal and holy wisdom, that he may divide the word of truth aright, and minister grace unto his hearers.
§ 10. It might probably make some good impressions on the minds of the people, were a minister pretty often to inculcate, with great plainness and seriousness, the necessity of prayer; and more particularly, what need they have to pray very earnestly to the God of grace, that he would set home his word upon their hearts, that he would bring the good seed to perfection, in their full and blessed conformity to himself; and further, so great is the ignorance of many persons concerning the duty of prayer, that they seem to have no other notion of it than merely of reading some forms out of a prayer-book. This makes it to be as necessary, as it would probably be a useful thing, for a minister to lead them, as it were, by the hand, into this path of their duty; that is, to explain it to them in a most easy and familiar manner, to shew them that it requires no great art and skill to pray acceptably unto God; for they are to speak to him as children to a loving father; they are to spread before him their sorrows and com◄
plaints; they are to tell him of the state and condition of their souls, just as they find and feel it; and they need not be at all solicitous about exactness of expression and elegant phrases in their secret prayers, for God regards the sense of the heart, rather than the language of the lips. The Scriptures themselves furnish us with several examples of such artless and yet acceptable prayers. Let a minister then diligently instruct his hearers how they are, in the first place, to get their hearts disposed for prayer; and it may be of use also to assist and furnish the more ignorant with appropriate expressions; but, at the same time, let him inform them, that they need not tie themselves to use those very words, nor any form whatever; but that they should learn to pour out their hearts unto God, in those words by which they can best express the real sentiments and affections of their own souls, according to the Psalmist, "Ye people, pour out your hearts before
him." " *
§ 11. It is further extremely necessary that ministers should very often take occasion to explain, in their sermons, that renewing or change of the mind, which is so essential to all true religion, and which yet, alas! but very few persons seem to understand, or indeed to have almost any notion of. Nor is it enough to explain that first and mighty change, which is at once made in a sinner at his conversion, when he comes to love that good which before he hated, and to hate that evil which he before loved, when, from being an unbeliever, he becomes a believer; or when his false and dead faith is changed into a true and saving one; but that further progressive change should also be much recommended, in which the Christian must be improving to the very end of his life, which St. Paul refers to, 2 Cor. iii. 18, "But now" (the vail which was upon the heart being taken away, and the Spirit of the Lord having taken up his dwelling in it, ver. 16, 17.)“ we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even by the Spirit of the Lord." Hereby the mind is more and more renewed, the Christian grows up in the
* Ps. lxii. 8.
spirit and temper of Christ, and his lovely image is daily drawn upon the soul in fairer lines.
§ 12. It is of considerable moment also that the whole faith and duty of a Christian be represented in its most amiable and attractive light; that so sinners may be won to religion, upon a full conviction, that, if they would do well for themselves, and obtain true peace and comfort, the shortest, the surest, and indeed the only way, is to turn in good earnest from sin to God and holiness; and that religion is by no means a grievous and melancholy thing, of which any man need be afraid, but full of pleasure and greatly desirable, even for its own sake; and though it call us, indeed, to a present combat, and requires us to fight and strive against sin, yet this is but in order to peace, and to certain victory, which will much more than recompense the toils of the war.
§ 13. It were much to be wished that ministers would not take up more of their sermons than necessary in explaining their text; but rather, after as short an explication of it as is sufficient to lead their hearers into the true sense and meaning (which must by no means be neglected) hasten to the application; and in that let a minister address himself to his hearers with a becoming seriousness and earnestness; let him apply his subject both to saints and sinners, to the converted and to the unconverted, in order to awaken the secure and careless, and to build up true believers in their faith and holiness. Experience would soon shew that this is by far a more profitable way than to spend almost the whole discourse, as some do, in explaining their text and subject, and then close with a short application, because the time is gone.
§14. It were also greatly to be wished, that those under-shepherds of the flock of Christ would make it more designedly and zealously the purpose of their preaching, to bring sinners to him, who is the great Shepherd of the sheep; that they would strive, by the most winning arguments they can possibly use, and especially by such as the grace of the gospel will naturally suggest, to persuade and even to compel them to come to him. As the hen