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some singular Abilities of the Persons fo com- SERM.
missioned, made their Preaching in a Man-
ner necessary to the Church. For ordina-
rily the Office was the Bishop's Province, and
only devolved

upon the Presbyters themselves
by his Licence and Consent. Such was the
Constitution of the Primitive Church : And
such, blessed be God! is at present our

Who then would refuse so necessary
an Ordinance from so sure a Ministry, purely
for the sake of hearing it from another which
is bold to administer it without any Authority ?
Should we mislead you, provided that
not instrumental yourselves to your going out of
the Way ; you will have this to comfort you,

you find yourselves in the Wrong, that
the Error was properly none of yours. You
followed those that were appointed to direct
you, therefore we must beat the Blame of
your going astray. Whereas when


follow those who have no Business to lead

you; you will be accountable, not only for going after strange Guides, but also for all the Errors into which they shall bring you. They had no Authority or Commission to direct you, and therefore if you are misled by them the Fault is yours.

But it is Time I should proceed to the



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III. THIRD Head of my Discourse, under which I am to Thew, that though they who preach the Gospel are Men like ourselves, so have nothing of Terror in them to frighten Men from hearing them ; and yet are dignified with a Divine Commission, and so want no Authority to persuade Men ; yet their Preaching has not generally that due Effeet it ought to have. For so the Text inforins us, that after the preaching of the Son of GOD himself, who certainly wanted neither Authority nor Words to gain the Belief of his Hearers; and of the Apostles after him, who spake also as the Spirit gave them Utterance, the Jews still perfifted in Unbelief and Infidelity : They have not all obeyed the Gospel. Nay so few of them had attended to it, that the Apostle complains of their Incredulity in the Words of the Prophet, Lord, who hath believed our Report? Isai. liii. 1. It must indeed be owned, in behalf of the Jews, that they had a better Plea to urge for not obeying the Word, than Christians can ever alledge for themselves. The Quitting of their Law and Religion must have been the Consequence of their Obedience ; whereas there is no other End proposed in preaching to Christians,



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than to prevail with them to live up to that SER M.
Religion which they already profefs. And
yet, notwithstanding so wide a Difference,
that the Succession of Preaching with us, is
as little as it was with them, is a Matter of
Fact too evident to be denied. Nay it is a
Truth fo open and professed, that some do,
for that Reason, cry out upon the Uselesness
of the Institution, and because it produces no
better Effects would have the Office discon-
tinued. So that to go about to prove what no
Body will gainsay, would be a needless
Trouble: And therefore it may probably be
of greater Use to Thew that the Inefficacy of
Preaching is not so much owing to any

fault in the Ministers, as to the Indisposition
of the Hearers. Who too often come, not
with Desire to be edified and instructed, but
meerly out of Custom, or to pass away the
Time. Some indeed may be drawn by other
Motives, but still such as are foreign to the
true ones ; and therefore they cannot reason-
ably expect Benefit from the Word since they
come not for the sake of it. Nothing can be
a greater Proof of this, than the ill Success
of the most celebrated Preachers, who as little
Influence the Lives of their Auditors, as Men
of less Eloquence and meaner Parts; a sure


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SER.M. Sign that the Unavailableness of Preaching

does not proceed from the Insufficiency of the
Ministers, but from the Corruption of the

In short the Case of the most able Preachers
pow, is the same with that of Ezekiel of old,
who was followed and admired for the Sake
of his Prophecies, but could never prevail
with the People to be warned by them. That
Prophet's own Account of himself in this
Matter, Ezek. xxxiii. 30–33. is so very ap-
plicable to the Subject we are upon, that I
cannot forbear making use of it, with a lit-
tle Paraphrase to describe the Case of such
Preachers with us. Son of Man, (faith God
to him) the Children of thy People still are
talking of thee by the Walls and in the Doors
of the Houses : i. e. in all publick Assemblies,
and wheresoever they met, he was the Sub-
ject of their Discourse. They speak one to
another, every one to his Neighbour, saying,
Come, I pray you, and hear what is the Word
that cometh forth from the Lard. When-
ever they knew he was to utter any Prophecy,
they called upon one another to go and hear
him. They come unto thee as the People com-
eth, i. e. in Troops and Companies, as the
People go out to War, insomuch that the


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Place where he prophesied was thronged and S ER M.
crowded. They fit before thee, as my People:
With as much Shew of Sandtity and Devotion,
as if they were assembled for the Worship of

And they hear thy Words : They
did not, it seems, only come, fome to fit
gravely and demurely, others to talk imper-
tinently, or to fall asleep : But they were
really attentive to what he said ; they catched
at his Words and would let nothing slip. But
then it follows, But they will not do
them, for with their Mouth they new much
Love, but their Heart goeth after their Co-
vetousness. So that notwithstanding all their
Attention and seeming Devotion, and though
they liked and approved of his Doctrine ; yet
his Prophecies were neglected when they
should be put in Practice, and all his Elo-
quence could not reclaim them from their
Vices. And lo, thou art unto them as a very
lovely Song of one that has a pleasant Voice,
and can play well on an Instrument, for they
bear thy Words, but they do them not. His
Discourses were methodical and well com-
posed, like a Song well set; and the Prophet
himself had the Advantage of a good Voice;
his Delivery was just and his Cadence true;
which gave as much Life to his Discourses, as


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