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PARISHI ON ERS
ST MARY WOOLNOTH,
T MARY WOOLCHURCH HAW,
ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED BY THE
TO REMAIN, AS A TESTIMONY
OF HIS RESPECT FOR THEIR PERSONS,
AND HIS SOLICITUDE FOR THEIR WELFARE,
WHEN HIS PRESENT RELATION TO THEM,
AS THEIR MINISTER,
SHALL BE DISSOLVED.
HĘ following Sermons, as to the substance, (for most of
them are considerably abridged), were preached to a public and numerous asembly. And therefore an accurate and logical discussion of the several subje&ts" was not aimed at. They are rather popular discourses, in which the Author, though he wished not to treat the politer part of his auditory with disrespect, thought it likewise his duty jo to adapt his manner to the occasion, as to be intelligible to persons of weak capacities, and in the lower ranks of life. He conceives himself to be a debtor to every class of his bearers, and that he ought to endeavour to please all men, with a view to their edification ; but, fariher than this, not to be greatly affe&ed, either by their approbation or by their censure.
Many of the subjects are so nearly coincident, that repetitions could not be always avoided, without the appearance of affectation. Besides, as it may be expected, that congregation there are always some persons present for the firf time ; with respeat to these, an observation may be new, though,
perhaps, the more flated hearers may recolleä its having been mentioned before. For a similar reason, such repetitions are a 4
not improper in print. Many persons read part of a book, who may not have opportunity or inclination to read the whole. * Should any one, by opening these Sermons at a venture, meet svith a palage which, by a divine blejsing, may either awaken a careless, or heal a wounded ffirit, that paljage will be exadly in the right page, even though the purport of it should be expressed in several other places. Farther, since we do 7:00 always so much stand in need of new information, as to ve what we already know more eff&ually impressed upon the mind; there are truihs which can scarcely be inculcated too often, at least until the design for which they were mentioned once be effe ftually answered. Thus, when the strokes of a banmer are often repeated, not one of them can be deemed fuperfluous; the lal, which drives the nail to the head, being 110 less neiedary than any of those which preceded it.
From th's Readers, whofe habits of thinking on religious fulje 27s are formed by a close aitachment to particular Systems of divinity, the Author requests a candid construction of what he advances, if he ventures in some instances to deviale a little from the more beaten track. If he is sometimes constrained to differ from the judgment of «vise and good men, who have deferved well of the church of Gall, he would do it with modesty. Far from depreciating their labours, he would be thankful for the benefit which he hopes he bas received from them. It is a great fatisfaction to him, that in all doctrinal joints of primary importance, his views are confirmed by the Jufrage of writers and ministers eminent for genuine piety and
Found learning; who alified him in his early enquiries after truth, and at while feet he is fill willing to fit
. Yet, remembering that he is authorised and commanded to call no man Matter, so as to yield an implicit and unqualified fubmiffor. to human teuchers; while he gladly. borrows every help he can from others, he ventures likewise to think for himself. His learling sentiments concerning the grand peculiarities of the & fpel were formed many years since, when he was in a state of almost entire feclufion from fociety ; when he had scarcely any religious lock but the Bible within his reach; and had no knowledge, ei!her of the various names, parties, and opinions, ly which Christians were distinguished and divided, or of the
controversies which subsisted among them. He is not conscious that any very material difference has taken place in his fentiments since he firf became acquainted with the religious world; but, after a long course of experience and observation, be feems to poflefs them in a different manner.
I be difficulties which for a season perplexed him on some points, are either removed, or considerably abated. On the other hand, be now perceives difficulties that construin him to lay his hand upon his mouth, in subjects which once appeared to him obvious and plain. Thus, if he mistakes not himself, he is less trouble ! with scepiicism, and at the same time less disposeid to be dogmatical thin be formerly was. He seels himself unable to draw the line, with precison, bet ween those essential points which ought to be earnestly contended for, (in a spirit of merka nefs), as for the faith once delivereit to the saints ; and certuin fecondary positions, concerning which good men may safely differ, and wherein, perbnps, we cannot reasonably expect them to be unanimous during the present state of iinperfeitim. But: if the exart boundary cannot be marked with certainty, be thinks it both desirable and posible, to avoid th: extremes into which men of warm tempers have ofien been led.
Not that the Author can be an advocate for that indifference to truth, which, under the Specious semblance of moderationand candour, offers a comprehension, from which none are excluded, but those who profess and aim to worship God in the Spirit, to rejoice in Chrift. Fefus, and to renounce all confidence in the flesh. Moderation is a Chriftian grace; it dif: fers much from that tame unfeeling neutrality between truth and error, which is so prevalent in the present day. As the diferent rays of light, which; when separated by a prism, exbibit the various colours of the rainbocu, form, in their combination, a perfect and resplend. nt white, in which every colour is incorporated; so, if the graces of the Holy Spirit were complete in us, the result of their combined effect would be a truly candid, moderate, and liberal spirit towards our brahren. The Christian, especially he who is advanced and etablished in the life of faith, has a fervent zeal for God, for ile honour of his name, bis law, and his gospel. The bon warmth which he feels, when such a law is broken, such a
gospel is despised, and when the great and glorious name of the Lord his God is profaned, would, by the occasion of his infirmities, often degenerate into anger or contempt towards those who oppose themselves, if he was under the influence of zeal only. But his real is blended with benevolence and humility; it is softened by a consciousness of his own frailty and
fallibility. He is aware that his knowledge is very limited in itself, and very faint in its efficacy : that his attainments are weak and few, compared with his deficiencies; that his gratitude is very disproportionale to his obligations, and his obedience unSpeakably short of conformity to his prescribed rule ; that he has nothing but what he has received, and has received nothing, bui what, in a greater or less degree, he has misapplied and misimproved. He is therefore a debtor to the mercy of God, and lives upon his multiplied forgiveness. And he makes the gracious condu&t of the Lord towards himself a pattern for his own conduct towards his fellow-creatures. He cannot boast, nor is he forward to censure. He considers himself, left he also be tempted * ; and thus he learns tenderness and compaffron to others, and to bear patiently with those mistakes, prejudices, and prepolesions in them, which once belonged to his own chara&er; and from which, as yet, he is but imperfe&ly freed. But then, the same confiderations which inspire him with meekness and gentlenefs towards those who oppose the truth, Nirengthen his regard for the truth itself, and his conviction of its importance. For the sake of peace, which he loves and cultivates, he accommodates himself, as far as he lawfully can, to the weakness and misapprehensions of those who mean well ; though he is thereby exposed to the censure of bigots of all parties, who deem him flexible and wavering, like a reed saken with the wind. But there are cther points nearly connected with the honour of God, and effential to the life of faith, which are the foundations of his hope, and the fources of his joy. For his firm attachment to these, he is content to be treated as a bigot himself. For here he is immoveable as an iron pillar ; nor can either the fear or the favour of man prevail on him to give place, no not for an hour t. Here bis judgment is fixed; and be expreffes it in fimple and unequivocal language, so as not to leave either friends or enemies in suspense
concerning Gal. vi. I.
† Gal. ii. 5.