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IT may seem a just discouragement from publishing more sermons at this time, when there are such numbers abroad in the hands of all; for the abundance of things useful is fatal to their value, and the rareness exceedingly enhances their price. If men were truly wise, spiritual treasures should be excepted from this common law, yet plenty even of them causeth satiety. But the following sermons have that peculiar excellence that will make them very valuable to all that have discerning minds, and such a tincture of religion as makes them capable of tasting the goodness of divine things.

I shall say nothing particularly here of the intellectual endowments of the author, in which he appeared eminent among the first, nor of his graces to adorn his memory; for a saint that is ascended into heaven, and crowned with eternal glory by the righteous Judge, needs not the weak, fading testimony of praise from men. Besides, that universal esteem he had from those who knew his ability, diligence, and fidelity in the work of God, makes it unnecessary for them who were his admirers and friends. And for those who are unacquainted with his worth, if they take a view of his works formerly printed, or the present sermons, that deserve equal approbation, they will have the same opinion with others. I will give some account of the sermons themselves.

The main design of them is to represent the inseparable connection between Christian duties and privileges, wherein the essence of our religion consists. The gospel is not a naked, unconditionate offer of pardon and eternal life in favour of sinners, but upon most convenient terms, for the glory of God and the good of men, and enforced by the strongest obligations upon them to receive humbly and thankfully those benefits. The promises are attended with commands to repent, believe, and persevere in the uniform practice of obedience. The Son of God came into the world, not to make God less holy, but to make us holy, that we might please and enjoy him; not to vacate our duty, and free us from the law as the rule of obedience, for that is both impossible and would be most infamous and reproachful to our Saviour. To challenge such an exemption in point of right, is to make ourselves gods; to usurp it in point of fact is to make ourselves devils. But his end was to enable and induce us to return to God, as our rightful Lord and proper felicity, from whom we rebelliously and miserably fell by our disobedience, in seeking for happiness out of him. Accordingly the gospel is called ‘the law of faith,’ as it commands those duties upon the motives of eternal hopes 176and fears, and as it will justify or condemn men with respect to their obedience or disobedience, which is the proper character of a law. These things are managed in the following sermons in that convincing, persuasive manner as makes them very necessary for these times, when some that aspired to an extraordinary height in religion, and esteemed themselves the favourites of heaven, yet woefully neglected the duties of the lower hemisphere, as righteousness, truth, and honesty; and when carnal Christians are so numerous, that despise serious godliness as solemn hypocrisy, and live in an open violation of Christ’s precepts, yet presume to be saved by him. Though no age has been more enlightened with the knowledge of holy truths, yet none was ever more averse from obeying them.

I shall only add further, that they commend to our ardent affections and endeavours true holiness, as distinguished from the most refined unregenerate morality. The doctor saw the absolute necessity of this, and speaks with great jealousy of those who seem in their discourses to make it their highest aim to improve and cultivate some moral virtues, as justice, temperance, benignity, &c., by philosophic helps, representing them as becoming the dignity of the human nature, as agreeable to reason, as beneficial to societies, and but transiently speak of the supernatural operation of the Holy Spirit, that is as requisite to free the soul from the chains of sin as to release the body at the last day from the bands of death; that seldom preach of evangelical graces, faith in the Redeemer, love to God for his admirable mercy in our salvation, zeal for his glory, humility in ascribing all that we can return in grateful obedience to the most free and powerful grace of God in Christ, which are the vital principles of good works, and derive the noblest forms to all virtues. Indeed, men may be composed and considerate in their words and actions, may abstain from gross enormities, and do many praiseworthy actions by the rules of moral prudence; yet, without the infusion of divine grace to cleanse their stained natures, to renew them according to the image of God shining in the gospel, to act them from motives superior to all that moral wisdom propounds, all their virtues, of what elevation soever, though in a heroic degree, cannot make them real saints. As the plant animal has a faint resemblance of the sensitive life, but remains in the lower rank of vegetables, so these have a shadow, an appearance of the life of God, but continue in the corrupt state of nature. And the difference is greater between sanctifying saving graces wrought by the special power of the Spirit, with the holy operations flowing from them, and the virtuous habits and actions that are the effects of moral counsel and constancy, than between true pearls produced by the celestial beams of the sun, and counterfeit ones formed by the smoky heat of the fire. In short, the Lord Jesus, our Saviour and Judge, who purchased the heavenly glory, and has sole power to give the actual possession of it, assures us that ‘unless a man be born of the Spirit, he can never enter into the kingdom of God.’ The supernatural birth entitles to the supernatural inheritance. Without this, how fair and specious soever the conversation of men appears, they must expect no other privilege at last but a cooler place in hell; and the coolest there is intolerable.


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