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pray, that the influences of his Spirit may strengthen thy faith in them.
Nor let me neglect so proper an occasion, of addressing myself to aged christians. You, my friends, though not the lambs of the flock, are, on some account, the feeble of it. Though I hope, and believe, that many of you are strong in grace; yet the outer man is decaying, and sensible comfort often decays with it. Yet be not discouraged, but remember your Shepherd. You have not only heard of his grace, but you have long experienced it. Be cheerful in it, and remember, that as all your experiences will not secure you otherwise than as in the bosom of Christ, so all your infirmities and trials cannot endanger you while you are there. He has led you on gently and safely through the wilderness ; a few steps more will finish the journey, and bring you to the pastures of Canaan.
Once more, let me address the exhortation to those who have gone astray from this blessed Shepherd, and invite them to return to him. May I not appeal to your own consciences to witness, that it was never better with you, than when you kept nearest to him; and that while at a distance from him, you are exposed to want and danger, and bitter regret ? Has not your heart melted within you, while I have been speaking ? and have you not been ready to say, “ Oh that I were once more lodged in those gracious arms, in that compassionate bosom." And what hinders it? Does he not assure you, that he will yet be willing to receive you ? Nay, that he will yet rejoice over you on some accounts even more, than over those who never wandered*. Return then, in the strength of divine grace, to the duties you have neglected, to the ordinances you have forsaken ; and may your souls find refreshment in them, that with firmer Purpose of heart you may for the future cleave unto the Lordt? And now, Lastly, “ What a delightful idea does it give us of the natural
endearments, which shall pass between Christ and his people, when they are brought to the world of glory?"
There they shall be no longer exposed to necessities and alarms; but all the purposes of his love shall be completed, in their everlasting security and joy. And surely the gracious Redeemer must be inconceivably delighted, when he there sees of The travail of his soulf. When he has with a gentle and
gracious hand conducted his sheep through the dark valley of the shadow of death, with what joy will he open to them those better pastures! With what congratulations will he receive them to a state of inseparable nearness to him, and Administer unto them an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of their Lord and Saviour*! Therefore it is beautifully represented in the book of the Revelation, as the business and joy of Christ, even on the throne of his glory, to lead on his saints to the various scenes of divine pleasure and enjoyment, which are provided for them there : The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waterst.
And, oh gracious Redeemer, what will the joy of thy flock then be, when thus fed and conducted by thee! If it be so delightful, at this humble distance, to believe ourselves the objects of thy care and favour, and to taste of these little streams which thou art causing to flow in upon us here in the wilderness, what will that river of life be! If it be now the joy of our hearts, a while to forget our cares and our fears, when we are perhaps at thy table, and to lean our weary heads for a few mo. ments on thy dear breast; what will it be, for ever to dwell in thine embrace, and to say once for all, Return unto thy rest, oh my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with theet! Bountifully indeed! when they, who were brought out With weeping, and led on with supplicationss, shall, as the redeemed of the Lord, come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads, and sorrow and sighing shall flee awayll.
In the mean time, we rejoice in hope of this blessed scene, and would raise such feeble praises, as earth will admit, to this great Shepherd, whose arm is so strong to guard us; whose bosom is so soft to cherish us; and whose heart is so compas. sionate, notwithstanding all our unworthiness, as to exert that arm for our protection, and to open that bosom for our repose. Amen.
* Psal. cxri, 7.
* 2 Pet. i. 11.
Jer. xxxi, 9.
+ Rer, vii. 17.
Isa, XXXV, 10.
POWER AND GRACE OF CHRIST.
The Evidences of Christianity briefly stated, and the New
Testament proved to be Genuine,
2 Pet. i. 16.
We have not followed cunningly devised Fables.
IT is undoubtedly a glory to our age and country, that the nature of moral virtue has been so clearly stated, and the prac. tice of it so strongly enforced, by the views of its native beauty, and beneficial consequences, both to private persons, and societies. Perhaps in this respect, hardly any nation or time has equalled, certainly few, if any, have exceeded our own. Yet I fear I might add, there have been few ages or countries, where vice has more generally triumphed, in its most audacious, and, in other respects, most odious forms.
This may well appear a surprising case ; and it will surely be worth our while to enquire into the causes of so strange a circumstance. I cannot now enter into a particular detail of them. But I am persuaded, none is more considerable than that unhappy disregard, either to the gospel in general, or to its most peculiar and essential truths, which is so visible amongst us, and which appears to be continually growing. It is plain, that like some of old, who thought and professed themselves the wisest of mankind, or in other words the freest thinkers of their age, multitudes amongst us have not liked to retain God and his truths in their knowledge: And it is therefore the less to be wondered at, if God has given them over to a reprobate mind*; to the most infamous lusts, and enormities; and to a depth of degeneracy, which, while it is in part the natural consequence, is in part also the just, but dreadful punishment of their apostacy from the faith. And I am persuaded, that those who do indeed wish well to the cause of public virtue, as every true christian most certainly does, cannot serve it mora effectually, than by endeavouring to establish men in the belief of the gospel in general, and to affect their hearts with its most distinguishing truths.
* Rom. i. 23.
The latter of these is our frequent employment, and is what I have particularly been attempting in the preceding discourses on the Power and Grace of the Redeemer : The former I shall now, by the divine assistance, apply myself to, in those that follow. And I have chosen the words now before us, as a proper introduction to such a design.
They do indeed peculiarly refer to the coming of our Lord, which the apostle represents as attested by that glory, of which he was an eye-witness on the Mount of Transfiguration, and by that voice from heaven which he heard there : But the truth of these facts is evidently connected with that of the gospel, in general. I am persuaded therefore, you will think they are properly prefixed to a discourse on the general Evidences of Christianity. And I hope, by the divine assistance, to propose them at this time in such a manner, as shall convince you, that the apostles had reason to say, and that we also have reason to repeat it, We have not followed cunningly devised fables*.
I have often touched on this subject occasionally, but I think it my duty at present to insist something more largely upon it. You easily apprehend, that it is a matter of the highest importance, being indeed no other than the great foundation of all our eternal hopes. While so many are daily attempting to destroy this foundation, it is possible, that those of you, especially, who are but entering on the world, may be called out To give a reason of the hope that is in yout. I would therefore, with the apostle, be concerned, that you may be ready to do it. It may fortify you against the artifices, by which the unwary are often deceived and ensnared, and may possibly enable you to Put to silence their foolishnesst. At least it will be for the satisfaction of your own minds, to have considered the mat. ter seriously, and to be conscious to yourselves, that you are not christians merely by education, or example, as, had you been born elsewhere, you might have been Pagans or Mahometans; but that you are so upon rational evidence, and because, as the sacred historian expresses it, you Know the certainty of those things in which you have been instructeds.
To open and vindicate the proof of christianity in all its extent, would be the employment of many discourses; nor would it, on the whole, be proper to attempt it here. All that
I now intend here is, to give you a summary view of the most considerable arguments, in that which seems to me their most proper and natural connection ; that so you may be able to judge of them better, than you could possibly do by a few scattered remarks, or by the most copious enlargement on any single branch of them alone. I shall endeavour to dispose these hints so, as that they may be some guide to those, whose leisure and abilities may lead them to a more ample and curious enquiry; that they may not be intangled in so complex an argument, but may proceed in an orderly manner. And if any of you, my friends, desire a more particular information on any of those heads, which I now but briefly suggest, you may depend upon it, that faithful ministers of every denomination will think it an important part of their duty, to give you all the private assistance they can. It is my hearty prayer, that God would enable me to plead his cause with success; that he would open your understandings to receive these things, and strengthen your memories to retain them ; that you may not be Like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive*; but may be Strong in faith, giving glory to Godt ; that, your faith being more and more established, it may appear, that the tree is watered at the roots; and all your other graces may grow and flourish, in an equal proportion.
But before I proceed, I must desire you to observe, that there is no proof in the world so satisfactory to the true christian, as to have felt the transforming power of the gospel on his own soul. As that illiterate man whose eyes were miraculously opened by Christ, when he was questioned by the Jewish Sanhedrim, who endeavoured with all their sophistry to prove Christ an impostor, answered with great steadiness and constancy, and with a great deal of reason too, this One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see I: So the most unlearned of the disciples of Jesus, having found his soul enlightened and sancti. fied, and felt his heart so effectually wrought upon, as to bring him home to his duty, his God, and his happiness, by the constraining power of the gospel, will despise a thousand subtle objections which may be urged against it: And though The cross of Christ be to the Jerus a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness, yet with this experience of its saving energy, he will honour it in the midst of all their contempt and ridicule, as the power of God, and the wisdom of God. In this sense,