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And yet these are duties which in their turns may all be performed, and very acceptably, to Almighty God. Blessed be God, that we have an argument and proof of this, so ready at hand.
You that are engaged in this good work, which you have desired me to recommend, Do you find, by experience, that having undertaken a charity which has some care and trouble attending it, do you find that it straitens you in your time; that it obliges you to neglect your callings or families; that your worldly business fucceeds worse; or that, upon the whole, you are sufferers for having concerned yourselves in these charities?
One may be sure it is quite otherwise, because that neither the number nor the importunity of those that expect relief, nor the disappointments you must needs meet with in carrying on a work of this nature, have yet been able to discourage you after so many years' experience-I was going to say, after so many years' trouble; but when I consider who it is that has said, It is more blessed to give than to receive; that there is more satisfaction and happiness in doing good to others, than in receiving kindnesses ourselves; I forbear calling it a trouble, and I know you will pardon me.
And if those that are afraid of engaging in these works of charity, for fear of the trouble
* This Sermon was preached before the Societies for the education of Poor Children, at St. Lawrence Jewry 1710, and at St. Dunstan's
in the East 1711.
that attends them, or left their worldly business might suffer by their loss of time; if such persons would but consider, how many hours they have to spare,--how many they trifle away,-how many they spend in vanity, and some, it is to be feared, in worse than vanity; one would hope that there would never want a number of men to form Societies of this kind, to countenance, to assist, and to support one another, in promoting the glory of God, and the interest of his kingdom.
II. And this brings us to the second observation;—That in promoting the kingdom of God, we ought to be satisfied with the ordinances of Christ, (who best knew how to promote his Father's glory;) and not to be looking for, or depending upon, extraordinary appearances in our favour, left we tempt God to leave us tò ourselves, and the ways of our own devising.
And this indeed seems to be the main design of this parable; to shew us, that Jesus Christ, having established his kingdom amongst men, hath left it, until his coming again, to subsist, and increase, and prosper, by the means of grace which he has appointed, and by the ordinary assistances of the Holy Spirit.
That he came forth from God, and declared unto us the true will of God; it was necessary we should be convinced of this by some way extraordinary. This he did, by plain and undoubted miracles, by fulfilling the many prophecies which expressly foretold-his birth,
his condition, and his sufferings, and especially, by his resurrection from the dead, he was (as the apostle observes) declared to be the Son of God, with power.
Having thus sown the seed of the kingdom by his own hand, he ascended into heaven, and fitteth on the right hand of God, there to reign, till be has put all enemies under his feet;" or, in the words of the parable, till the barvest shall come.
But before he left the world, that he might not lose the travail of his soul, the fruits of his labour, he appointed a Standing Ministry, and other means of grace, as pledges of his truth and love, until his coming again.
Amongst other means, that of instructing the ignorant is the foundation of all the rest, a method which has been very happily chofen, and heartily pursued of late, in order to bring men from the power of Satan unto God. For thus men are dealt with as reasonable creatures; they are shewed their duty, and the danger of neglecting it; they have the hopes and fears of the world to come truly represented to them; they have the means of grace freely offered them; and they are left without excuse, if they despise or neglect their own salvation.
And if this method of instruction ever come to be slighted or disused, the consequence would, no doubt of it, be
fatal to Christianity.
Cor. XV. 25
To be dealt with as reasonable creatures; we must be informed, -What our condition is; in what relation we stand to God; what it is he expects from us; what we have to fear if we neglect his commands; and what we may hope for, if we live in obedience to his laws; how we may overcome the corruption of our nature; what Jesus Christ has done for us, and what we must do ourselves, towards working out our own salvation. When this is done after a plain and easy way, and suited to the capacities of those we instruct, it is hardly possible to say what can be done more towards bettering the world.
The great and plausible objection to this way of instruction has always been this:That wickedness is at a great height; that the work of reformation goes but Ilowly on by these ordinary methods; that it were to be wished God would appear in some extraordinary manner, to awaken, to convince, and to convert men.
From wishing this, people of warm heads. have often come to attempt it; and there has scarce been any age, in which some or other have not appeared with these pretences, and new commissions from God, for reforming the world, never considering, that the kingdom of God is fo often compared by our Saviour to corn sown in the earth, to' a grain of mustardseed set in the ground, to leaven hid in meal, to signify to us, that the gospel is to be
pagated, and piety increased, by the usual methods of Providence, and the silent influences of God's good Spirit; not with pomp,
and noise, and strange appearances.
It is true, the giddy world is very apt to be taken with, and imposed upon, by new and surprising pretenders to reformation; and there are never wanting men of evil designs, who, mixing with the ignorant and wellmeaning, do not fail of gaining proselytes. But in the mean time religion suffers by these pretenders, and the world has not at all been mended by their preaching.
For bad as the world is, men in general are not so mad yet as to lay by their regular teachers, and despise the ordinances of God, at the instance of such persons as bring no warrant for what they affirm besides their own testimony
I mention these instances, to convince you of the Societies, that the methods you take for the instruction of children, destitute of help and learning, are most agreeable to the ways of God's appointment, and most likely (by the blessing of God) to promote his glory, and a reformation of manners, so much wished for by all good men.
III. From this then we proceed to the third observation, That such as are engaged in the good work of promoting the kingdom of God, ought not to be discouraged because they do not see immediately the fruit of their labours. The seed