« ElőzőTovább »
God of his honour, and to deny that he is both “ the Author and the Finisher of our faith,” they are equally abhorrent from the sentiments of our established church, and from the plainest declarations of holy writ.
The author humbly apprehends, that there is a per. fect
agreement between these different points; and that they are equally salutary or equally pernicious, according as they are properly or improperly applied. If, for instance, on hearing a person excuse his own supineness by saying, “I can do nothing, unless God give me his grace;'' we should reply, “ This is true; it is God who alone can give you either to will or to do.”- What would be the consequence ? we should confirm him in his sloth, and encourage him to cast all the blame of his condemnation upon God himself. But if we should bring before him the apparently opposite truths, and bid him arise and call upon God; we should take the way to convince him, that the fault was utterly his own, and that his destruction would be the consequence, not of God's decrees, but of his own inveterate love of sin.
Let us suppose, on the other hand, that a person, hay. ing" tasted the good word of life,” begin to boast, that he has made himself to differ, and that his superiority to others is the mere result of his own free-will: if, in answer to him, we should immediately descant on our free. dom to good or evil, and on the powers with which God has endued us for the preservation of our souls, we should foster the pride of his heart and encourage him, contrary to an express command, to glory before God:* whereas, if we should remind him, that “ by the grace of God we are what we are,” and that all must say, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise,” we should lower his overweening conceit of his own goodness, and lead him to acknowledge his obligations to God.
Let us illustrate the same in reference to the two other doctrines we mentioned, namely, The perseverance of the saints, and our liableness, in ourselves, to “ make shipwreck of the faith.” Suppose a person say, “ I need not be careful about my conduct;” for “God has begun the good work within me, and has engaged to perform it till the day of Christ: “if we were to begin extolling the covenant of grace, and setting forth the truth of God in his promises, we should countenance his error at the very time that he was turning the grace of God into licentiousness. But if we should warn him against the danger of being given over to a reprobate mind, and of perishing under an accumulated load of guilt, we should counteract his sinful disposition, and stimulate him to fee from the wrath to come.
* I Cor. i. Rom. ïïi. 27.
On the other hand, if a humble person should be drooping and desponding under a sense of his own cor. ruptions, and we should spread before him all our difficulties and dangers, we should altogether “ break the bruised reed, and quench the smoking flax:” but if we should point out to him the fulness and stability of God's covenant; if we should enlarge upon the interest which Christ takes in his people, and his engagements that “none shall ever pluck them out of his hand;”P it is obvious, that we should administer a cordial to his fainting spirit, or (as God requires of us) we should “strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees, and comfort the fearful heart.”
These sentiments may perhaps receive some confirmation from the conduct of the apostle Paul. In administering the word, he consulted the state of his auditors, and apportioned to them either“ milk or strong meat," according to their ability to digest and improve it. In reference to this we may say, that the doctrines of human liberty, and human frailty, together with the other first principles of Christianity, are as milk, which those who are yet “babes in Christ,” must have set before them: but that the doctrines of grace, or “ the deep things of God,” are rather as strong meat, which none can digest, unless they have grown to some stature in the family of Christ, and “ had their spiritual senses long exercised in discerning good and evil:”r and that, as strong meat, which would nourish an adult, would destroy the life of an infant; and milk that would nourish an infant, would be inadequate to the support of a man oppressed with hard
P John x, 27, 28.
q 1 Cor. iii. 1, 2.
r Heb. v. 12, 14.
labour; so is it with respect to the points which we have been considering. Or, if we may be permitted a little to vary this illustration, the one sort of truths are as food proper to be administered to all; whereas the other are rather as cordials for the support and comfort of those who need them.
In a word, there seems to be a perfect correspondence between God's works of providence and grace: in the former, “he worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will,” yet leaves men perfectly free agents in all that they do; so in the latter, he accomplishes his own eternal purpose both in calling, and in keeping, his elect; but yet he never puts upon them any constraint, which is not perfectly compatible with the freest operations of their own will.
The Author well knows that these doctrines may be, and alas! too often are, so stated as to be really contradictory. But that they may be so stated as to be profit. able to the souls of men, he hopes is clear from the illus. trations that have been just given.
He trusts he shall be pardoned if he go yet further, and say, that, in his judgment, there not only is no positive contradiction in this statement, but that there is a propriety in it, yea, moreover, a necessity for it, because there is a subserviency in these truths, the one to the other. God elects us; but he carries his purpose into effect by the free agency of man, which is altogether influenced by rational consideration. So also he carries on and completes his work in our souls, by causing us to feel our proneness to apostatize, and by making us cry to him daily for the more effectual influences of his grace. Thus, while he consults his own glory, he promotes our greatest
• Many have carried their attachment to system so far, that they could not endure to preach upon any passage of scripture that , seemed to oppose their favourite sentiments; or, if they did, their whole endeavour has been to make the text speak a different language from that which it appeared to do. In opposition to all such modes of procedure, it is the author's wish in this preface to recommend a conformity to the scriptures themselves without any solicitude about systenis of man's invention. Nor would any thing under heaven be inore grateful to him than to see names and parties buried in eternal oblivion, and primitive simplicity restored to the church.
good, in that he teaches us to combine humility with earnestness, and vigilance with composure.
The Author would not have troubled the Reader with this apology, were it not that he is exceedingly desirous to counteract that spirit of animosity, which has of late so greatly prevailed against those who adhere to the principles of the established church. Not that he has himself any cause to complain: on the contrary, he has reason to acknowledge, that his former volume met with a far more favourable reception from the public than he ever dared to expect." But he would wish his work to be brought to this test-Does it uniformly tend
TO HUMBLE THE SINNER?
If in one single instance it lose sight of any of these points, let it be condemned without mercy." But, if it invariably pursue these ends, then let not any, whatever system they embrace, quarrel with an expression that does not quite accord with their views. Let them consider the general scope and tendency of the book: and, if it be, as he trusts it is, not to strengthen a party in the Church, but to promote the good of the whole; then let smaller differences of sentiments be overlooked, and all unite in vindicating the great doctrines of SALVATION BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH IN Christ.
+ See Brit. Critic for April 1797.
By this expression the author means, that such is his abhorrence of every principle which militates against any one of the points referred to, that he conceives it alınost impossible that a word should fall from his pen, which, if candidly interpreted, can be justly said to contradict them.
ON THE COMPOSITION OF A SERMON:
WITH ALTERATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS.
CHAP. I.-ON THE CHOICE OF TEXTS.
Examples. Page. Parts of a Sermon five
27 Each text must contain the complete sense of the writer 2 Cor. i. 3, 4. 28 must not contain too little matter nor too much
28 The end of preaching
29 Whether protestants should preach on Romish festivals What subjects are proper for stated days of public worship
29 What for occasional, as ordinations, &c.
30 CHAP. II.- GENERAL RULES OF SERMONS. Sermons should be explicit and clear
31 must give the entire sense of the text
31 must be wise, sober, chaste
32 must be simple and grave
33 instructive and affecting
33 Whether a preacher should apply as he goes on
34 Preacher should avoid excess
35 Of genius
35 Of doctrine
35 Of investigation Of figures of speech
36 of reasoning
37 Of grammatical remarks
38 Of criticisms
38 of philosophical-historical rhetorical observations
38 Of quotations
38 CHAP. III.-OF CONNEXION. Connexion defined, and how to find it
38 must seldom be enlarged on
38 must sometimes make a part of the discussion
39 and sometimes it affords an exordium
39 CHAP. IV.-OF DIVISION. A text should not be divided into many parts
39 To sorts of division
39 Division of the Sermon is proper in general for obscure subjects