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es followings fully and to the tytöilt; i
church. And their departure from it was the prelude to that universal corruption of faith and worship, that relaxation of discipline, and dissolution of manners, which took place in the ages following. It is also very remarkable, that this doctrine was always fully and distinctly taught in those churches which never submitted to the tyranny, or received the corruptions of the Romish Antichrist; I mean the churches of the Piedmontese vallies, which by so many judicious writers, are supposed to be the two witnesses mentioned in the Revelation, who fled into the wilderness from the persecution of the beast, and prophe. fied in lackcloth.
The accounts which have been transmitted to us of the principles held by them, long before the reformation, plainly show, that they maintained this doctrine from the beginning. And as it is well known that the reformation took its first rise from the gross and scandalous application of the doctrine of merit in indulgences, so all the reformers, without exception, were strenuous asserters of free grace. This was reckoned by them “ articulus ftantis "aut cadentis ecclesiæ,” by which the church must stand or fall. Particularly, our reformers in both parts of this island agreed in preaching the fame doctrine, and the eminent piety of our fathers is a slanding evidence of its force and efficacy.
It doth not perhaps become, and probably it would not be safe for me, to enter into a particular examination of the manner of preaching in the present age ; and there. fore my reflections upon that subject shall be very few and general. What is most obvious in our present situation, and what ought to affect Christians with moft concern, is, the great prevalence of infidelity. This is the more surprising, that we have never wanted, and do not at prefent want, many able and eminent writers to stand up in defence of the gospel, and refute the changeable and in. consistent reasonings of infide!s, whatever form they shall from time to time think fit to assume, and on whatever principles they shall pretend to build. But, I am afraid, the best defence of all is but too much neglected, viz. Zealous asliduous preaching t reat and fundamental
truths of the gospel, the lost condemned fate of man by nature, and the necessity of pardon through the righteoul. ness, and renovation by the Spirit of Christ. This would make a far greater number of those who call themselves by the name of Christ, Christians indeed. And the visible efficacy of his doctrine, would be a sensible demonstration of its truth and divine original. If these truths are not contradicted, it may be safely said, that they are by inany kept more out of view than formerly. And surely we have no great cause to boast of our improvements in the preaching art, if its goodness is to be determined, like that of a tree, not by its blossoms, but its fruits.
There is one observation which may satisfy us, that the preaching of the cross of Christ will most effcctually pro. mote real reformation. It is, that those preachers who (to say no more) approach nearest to making our own merit and obedience the ground of our acceptance with God, very seldom, if ever, give any alarm to the consciences of their hearers. Let them recommend ever so pure and high a standard of morals, they are heard without fear, and, if they preach elegantly, with pleasure, even by the most profligate. To such preachers, all vain worldly-minded people, usually attach themselves, where they have not cast off the very form of religion ; but most part of serious Christians, together with professing hypocrites, who cannot easily be distinguished in this world, always follow preachers of another strain. It is easy to see the reason of this from what hath been said above ; there are none who set the strictness and obligation of the law, the holio ness and justice of God, in so awful a light, as those who believe there is no shelter from the fanétion of the law, and the wrath of an offended God, but in the blood of Christ. Perhaps, I am already ensnared and exposed to censure, by affirming, that there are among us preachers of different strains. But it is so certain a truth, that I cannot deny it; and fo important, that I will not dif. guise it.
Upon the whole, as the present aspect of public affairs, as the state of the world, and character of the age, loudly call upon all of every station to exert themselves with di. ligence for the support and revival of truth and righteousness: I hope the ministers of the gospel will promote this end, by zealously laboring to bring men to the saving knowledge of Christ, “ the way, and the truth, and the “ life the foundation—the tried stone—the precious cor“ ner stone,” the strength and security of the building. To deny, explain away, or neglect to impart the truths of the everlasting gospel, is the way to leave the world in wickedness; but, by preaching them in purity, and with simplicity, which, we have reason to think, will be accompanied with “ the demonstration of the Spirit,” finners are reconciled unto God, the power of fin is broken in them, the divine image is formed in them, and upon these truths their hopes of eternal life must rest and depend. Let us be ever ready to say with the apostle Paul, “ God forbid “ that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus “ Christ.”* And let us quicken our diligence, and ani. mate our endeavors, by expressing, with the psalmist David, our faith in the perpetuity of his kingdom. “ His “ name shall endure for ever : his name shall be continued “ as long as the fun; and men shall be blessed in him; “ all nations shall call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord “God, the God of Israel, who only doth wonderous things. “ And blessed be his glorious name for ever; and let the “ whole earth be filled with his glory. Anen and “ Amen.”+
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
T HE condition on which ministers of the gospel hold
I their office, is extremely awful. “They must ren. “ der an account unto God” of their fidelity to the souls committed to their charge. Their duty and danger, as fervants of God, are jointly and strongly expressed in the commission given to the prophet Ezekiel. " Son of man, “ I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel, “ therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them “ warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, thou “ shalt surely die ; and thou giveit him not warning, nor " speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way to “ save his life; the same wicked man fall die in his ini. " quity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet, “ if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wicksedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his ini“ quity : but thou hast delivered thy soul."'*
It is natural for us, in such a situation, to be often re. volving in our minds this great and weighty truft. It is at once our duty and interest, to consider with all possible care, in what way we may have the easiest and most effectual access to the hearts of finners: what views of divine truth will be most convincing; what forms of address will make the strongest and most lasting impreffion; in one word, how we may acquit ourselves of our ministry, so as to be a “ favour of life unto life,"' to many of those who hear us, and to “ deliver our own souls” from the blood of those that perish.
Such, indeed, is the undeniable moment and importance of the truths of the gospel, that I am often ready to think, it will be easy to set them in so clear and convin. cing a light, as no person of common understanding shall be able to resist. I am often ready to say within myself, Surely, if they be warned, they will no more dare to rush on the thick bosses of the Almighty's buckler ; surely, the boldest sinner must tremble at the thoughts of death, judg. ment and eternity, fast approaching, and from which it is ! impossible to fily. But when we see how many are able
to sit unmoved under the most awful threatenings from the word of God, how many continue unchanged under the most alarming dispensations of Providence, our thoughts are immediately carried to the unsearchable depth of the divine counsels; and we must say with our blessed Saviour, “ Even foFather, for so it seemed good in thy sight;"* or with the apostle Paul, “ But if our gospel be hid, it is “ hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world “ hath blinded the minds of them that believe not, left the “ light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of “ God, should shine unto them.”+
The secret counsel of the most High, however, though we must adore with reverence, it is impossible for us to comprehend. What influence this has upon the final state of particular persons, no man in the present life is, and probably no created being shall ever be, able fully to explain. This only we know, that it is not such as to