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writer upon this subject, “ That where a “ great and universal neglect of preaching « Christ hath prevailed in a Christian na“ tion, it hath given a fatal occasion to the “ growth of Deism and infidelity: for when “ people have heard the sermons of their “ ministers for many years together, and “ find little of Christ in them, they have “ taken it into their heads, that men may “ be very good, and go safe to heaven, with“out Christianity ; and therefore, though “ they dwell in a land where the gospel is “ professed, they imagine there is no need, i " they should be Christians.”—To which I may add, that it is no less observable, on the other hand, that wherever there has been any revival of religion, it hath uniformly been introduced and carried on, through the bletsing of God, by preaching the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. These, and these alone, have been, and ever will be, “ the wisdom and power of God unto falu vation.”
- The application of what hath been said to the ministers of religion, is so direct and
obvious, that I need not enlarge upon it'; and therefore any further improvement I am to make of the subject, shall be addressed, not to them that preach, but to those that bear. And what hath been delivered, may serve to inform them what fort of preaching they ought chiefly to value. I am afraid, that by many the great and essential truths of the gofpel are too little regarded : like the Athenians of old, they require fomething new, something that may gratify an itching car, and furnish matter for a vain imagination to work upon. But this, my brethren, is equally perverse and foolish. Who should regard what a fervant faith, if he doth not deliver the mind of his master ? And yet I have often observed, that the greatest number of hearers never feem so well pleased, as when ministers speak of those things that are most foreign to their instructions. Did we come upon a disagreeable errand; were we charged with an embaffy in which they to whom we speak have little or no concern; such conduct might be accounted for: but when the ineffage we bring is not only most gracious,
but likewise treats of matters in which they are immediately and most deeply interested, what words can express the folly and perverseness of thofe who shut their ears against it, while they greedily open them to every thing else? Hear what the angel said to the Aliepherds at Bethlehem, Luke ii. 10.“ Be“ hold I bring you good tidings of great joy, " which shall be to all people.” And what were these tidings which an angel was sent to publish, and introduced with such a high commendation of their importance and worth? They are recorded, verse 11. “ Unto " you is born this day, in the city of David, “ a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” “ And suddenly," as it follows, “ there was " with the angel a multitude of the heavenly “ hoft, prailing God, and saying, Glory to “ God in the highest, on earth peace, good “ will towards men.” And yet, be astonished, 0 heavens ! blush, earth! this gofpel-lermon, which angels reckoned themfelves honoured to preach, and delivered with such rapturous exultation and joy, is, by multitudes in our day, thought trifling, and ftale, and unworthy of their attention.
To remedy this shameful, but growing evil, hath been the principal aim of my present discourse. I have told you what is our duty, that from thence you may learn your own; for the one must necessarily be suited to the other. The same authority which commandeth us to preach, doth virtually command and oblige you to hear : and if the pure doctrines of the gospel ought to be the subject of our sermons, it naturally follows, that you should neither expect nor defire any other. Ponder with due attention those awful words in the two verses preceding my text: “ If our gospel be hid, it is hid to " them that are loft: in whom the god of < this world hath blinded the minds of “ them which believe not, left the light of to the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the " image of God, should shine unto them." And let each of us pray, in terms of the verse that immediately follows, that “God; “ who commanded the light to shine out of “ darkness, may shine in the hearts of both “ preachers and hearers, to give the light of “ the knowledge of his glory, in the face of “ Jesus ;” that “ we all, beholding, as in a
“ glass, “ glafs, the glory of God, may be chan“ ged into the same image, from glory to “ glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.” Amen.