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THESE THINGS WRITE WE UNTO YOU, THAT YOUR JOY MAY
T. JOHN, in the beginning of this Epistle, declares, that he,
as well as the rest of the Apostles, had infallible demonstration
of the truth of what they preached unto the world; that they saw the glory of God manifested in his son Jesus Christ; were eyewitnesses of his death and resurrection; that they had received such evidence of proof as superseded all possibility of doubt ; for they not only saw, but handled, ate, drank, and familiarly conversed with him, after he was risen from the dead. His religion, thus founded on the testimony of all their senses, froin a generous concern for the souls of his fellow-creatures, this great master in the science of salvation, with indefatigable industry, published to the world, that all men might avail themselves of his knowledge, and be admitted to a participation of the glorious privileges of the Gospel : a participation of wisdom, grace, and immortality; and that with God himfelf, Vol. III.
through through his acknowledged Son, Jesus Christ. " And these things,
says he, write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” We repeat these infallible evidences of our own faith, that your
fatisfaction in the Gospel may be perfect and complete, beyond the reach of infidel suggestions from without, or the doubts of your own hearts within. Generous, amiable, disinterested motive! Disinterested, did I say ? No, to do good to the souls of men is a luxury for angels and arch angels ! and happy, sincerely happy, are the teachers of religion at the present day, when they can address their hearers in the same strain. The being, providence, power, glory, and goodness of God, which we have clearly seen from the works of nature; those great and universally interesting truths, which we have learned from the holy Scriptures, and from wise and pious men, who have made it their whole study to illustrate them ; those we declare unto you ; those we set before you in the clearest light we are able; that ye may have fellowship with us :
" and truly “ our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: « and these things declare we unto you, that your joy may be
complete.” This surely is the end that every one who is called to be a preacher of God's word ought always to have in view, and prosecute to the utmost of his power. Can any man better employ those talents that the Lord hath lent him, than in laying a rational foundation whereon to build up your faith to the salvation of your souls ? That you may be able to give to every one a reason for the hope that is in you. Men's fondness for trifles is the necessary effect of their ignorance of things excellent.
excellent. Would the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world be so universally the sole objects of desire, if we were convinced that the joys of heaven are within our reach ? No; we should, doubtless, all aspire and pant after eternal happiness, did we in earnest believe the glad tidings of the Gospel. That you may believe them, shall be the labour of a few plain discourses, to which this is intended only as an introduction.
But where shall I begin? If our irreligion arise from ignorance and want of education in spiritual knowledge, to teach again the first principles of the oracles of God; to me it is not grievous, and for you it is safe. It is morally impossible, that men should lead such diffipated lives, Mould so wholly devote themselves to what is falsely deemed pleasure, were they but possessed of a warm and constant persuasion, that a Being of infinite wisdom is witness to their tranfactions. Let the character of the times, therefore, be my Apology; if imitating the benevolence of the author of my text, I write, these things unto you, and undertake to demonstrate them, that you may from henceforth have joy in rational religion, and that your joy may be complete: We Thall therefore call for your atten, tion to the following particulars : namely, First, that there is a Being, whose wisdom is infinite, and
whose power is equal to his wisdom. SECONDLY, that every man shall receive from his Creator,
either a glorious reward, or an exquisite punishment in a fu
ture state, and that for ever and ever. THIRDLY, the divine authority of the sacred scriptures. And LASTLY, the truth and safety of the Christian religion. These subjects are absolutely and indispensably necessary to be considered by all persons; in as much as our whole eternity must take its colour of happiness or misery in proportion as we are influenced by them.
Admit that the generality of our hearers have already a speculative conviction of these truths; yet when we consider that mankind are almost as generally agreed in acting repugnantly to such principles, it can never be improper, or unseasonable, to remind those, who need not be informed, to remind them that religion is a practical science, and that knowledge in the head, without grace
in the heart, and obedience in the life, will but encrease their condemnation. But should there be men hardy enough to be immoral upon prin
ciple; to make a practice of blaspheming the tremendous God of heaven and earth, and to set at nought his holy word; should there arise wretches, fo daringly impious, as to erect a standard of defiance against omnipotence; to make a mock at fin, and laugh at religion ; should there be others, who, notwithstanding they profess themselves disciples of the blessed Jesus, yet practise the duties of Christianity, if they practise them at all, with the utmost coldness and indiffe
while there are such, such as these, amongst us, can the. philanthropist be silent ?-Will he not find himself constrained to exert every power and faculty of his soul,- to be instant, in season and out of seafon, to represent the deplorable folly, the extreme. danger of their proceedings.
Would to God! your knowledge of the world would permit: you to indulge-your hope that this age does not abound with many under this predicament! You cannot but know, that not only the abandoned and licentious, who, by their writings and conversation endeavour to undermine the motives of morality, and openly practice all manner of vice and wickedness ; but even some sober persons are weak enough to subscribe to those pernicious tenets of theirs, which introduced and cherished it';~ that there are men with one foot in the grave, who are foolish and daring enough to maintain with zeal and warmth fo destructive a. cause that too many frequent our churches, not to grow better by. what. they shall hear but to misrepresent religion,-ridicule the preacher, and criticise his arguments. If this be fact, and that it really is,, we are persuaded every man of understanding in this assembly will acknowledge and lament,- hall we be intimidated to desert the banner of the great captain of salvation ?--No ;--it is but a fresh call for proportionable zeal and courage on our parts to defeat their malevolent designs, and to vindicate the glory of truth, in order to confirm the weak, and recal such Theep as are either thus lost, or run astray.--A word in season, how good is it! How. forcible are right words !--- It argues no over-weening opinion of our own abi
lities, to suppose, that by God's blessing on them, they may be effectual to the breaking down the strong holds of infidelity, and bringing into subjection every thought to the obedience of Jesus Christ: and who knows but conviction, like lightening, may flash upon the dark bosom of ignorance and unbelief-Who knows, but that some who come here, according to custom, with no expectation of profit or improvement; not dreaming that they shall add to their knowledge virtue; or correct one vice they have indulged theinselves in ;-Who shall say, but they may be induced to enquire into the state of their souls ? That they may meet with something, which may give them a new turn; and while they feek only an amusement may find that which may prove of infinite advan
tage to them?
It is a truth as notorious as it is melancholy, that there are men so entirely attached to their pleasures, that they will not allow themselves the least time for reflection on any other objects ;— never admit a thought of, or pay the least regard to, the God who made thein, and are utter strangers to the excellency of their own natures, and the inestimable value of their souls, the welfare of which ought to be almost their only concern ;-a concern, in comparison of which all that now engages their attention is vain, empty, insignificant as the play of children,-- lighter than vanity itself:
It is in a great measure owing to this infatuating attachment, that our social conversations are so frequently disturbed by the suggestions even of Atheism itself.- ATHEISTS !- You may well be alarmed at the expression ; but those who live without God in the world are too numerous a tribe, and too widely dispersed to have escaped the observation of any among us. — The only explanation that can be offered, in a case so incredible in speculation, seems to be, that they attain to that daring height of foolishness and impiety, not by the use of reason, but by the filence and suppression of it; not by exerting, but by filling the free exercise of their rational fa