« PreviousContinue »
A NUMBER OF SERMONS NEVER BEFORE PUBLISHED
IN THIS COUNTRY.
IN THREE VOLUNE ES
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY J. & J. HARPER, 82 CLIFF-ST. :
1. The following Sermons contain the substance of what I have been preaching for between eight and nine years last past.* During that time I have frequently spoken in public, on every subject in the ensuing collection: and I am not conscious, that there is any one point of doc- . trine on which I am accustomed to speak in public, which is not here, incidentally, if not professedly, laid before every Christian reader. Every serious man, who peruses these, will therefore see, in the clearest manner, what these doctrines are, which I embrace and teach, as the essentials of true religion.
2. But I am thoroughly sensible, these are not proposed in such a manner as some may expect. Nothing here appears in an elaborate, elegant, or oratorical dress. If it had been my desire or design to write thus, my leisure would not permit. But, in truth, I, at present, designed nothing less ; for I now write, as I generally speak, ad populum: to the bulk of mankind, to those who neither relish nor understand the art of speaking: but who, notwithstanding, are competent judges of those truths, which are necessary to present and future happiness. I mention this, that curious readers may spare themselves the labour of seeking for what they will not find.
3. I design plain truth for plain people : therefore, of set purpose, I abstain from all nice and philosophical speculations ;) from all perplexed and intricate reasonings ; and, as far as possible, from even the show of learning, unless in sometimes citing the original Scriptures. I labour to avoid all words which are not easy to be understood, all which are not used in common life : and, in particular, those kinds of technical terms, that so frequently occur in bodies of divinity, those modes of speaking which men of reading are intimately acquainted with, but which, to common people, are an unknown tongue. Yet I am not assured, that I do not sometimes slide into them unawares: it is so extremely natural to imagine, that a word, which is familiar to ourselves, is so to all the world.
4. Nay, my design is, in some sense, to forget all that ever I have read in
my life. I mean to speak, in the general, as if I had never read one author, ancient or modern (always excepting the inspired). I am persuaded, that on the one hand, this may be a means of enabling me more clearly to express the sentiments of my heart, while I simply follow the
* In the year 1747.
chain of my own thoughts, without entangling myself with those of other men : and that on the other, I shall come with fewer weights upon my mind, with less of prejudice and prepossession, either to search for myself or to deliver to others the naked truths of the gospel.
5. To candid, reasonable men, I am not afraid to lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought-I am a creature of a day, passing through life, as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit, come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till a few moments hence, I am no more seen! I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book! O give me that book! At any price, give me the Book of God! I have it; here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri.* Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In his presence I
open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does any thing appear dark and intricate ? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights.-Lord, is it not thy word, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God ?" Thou "givest liberally and upbraidest not.” Thou hast said, “ If any be willing to do thy will
, he shall know.” I am willing to do; let me know thy will. I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture, “ comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I meditate thereon, with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubts still remain, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God: and then, the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach.
6. I have accordingly set down in the following sermons, what I find in the Bible concerning the way to heaven; with a view to distinguish this
way of God, from all those which are the inventions of men. I have endeavoured to describe the true, the Scriptural, experimental religion, so as to omit nothing which is a real part thereof, and to add nothing thereto which is not. And herein it is more especially my desire, first, to guard those who are just setting their faces towards heaven (and who, having little acquaintance with the things of God, are the more liable to be turned out of the way), from formality, from mere outside religion which has almost driven heart religion out of the world: and, secondly, to warn those who know the religion of the heart, the faith which worketh by love, lest, at any time, they make void the law through faith, and so fall back into the snare of the Devil
.. 7. By the advice, and at the request of some of my friends, I have prefixed to the other sermons contained in this volume, three sermons of my own and one of my brother's, preached before the University of Oxford. My design required some discourses on those heads. And I preferred these before any others, as being a stronger answer than any
* A man of one book.