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irim for himself, with such a vastness of desire, such a capacity for happiness, as nothing less than an infinite good can satisfy ; formed to exist in an eternal, unchangeable state. And even fallen man, though depraved and perverted, guilty, and, in his present state, obnoxious to external misery, is yet capable of being restored to the favour of God, and renewed into his image, of serving him here, and being happy with him for ever. Whoever, therefore, bas tasted of the love of Christ, and has known by his own experience the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, yea, he is constrained to love his fellow-creatures. He loves them at first sight ; and, if the providence of God commits a dispensation of the Gospel and a care of souls to him, he will feel the warmest emotions of friendship and tenderness, while he beseeches them by the tender mercies of God,* and even while he warns them by his terrors.'t Surely I durst not address you from this place, if I could not, with sincerity at least, if not with equal warmth, adopt the apostle's words, and say, “ Being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to impart unto you not the Gospel of God only, but our own souls also, (were it possible,) because ye were dear unto us." I
This love which my heart bears, I offer as a plea for that earnestness and importunity which I must use. I came not to amuse you with subjects of opinion or uncertainty, or even with truths of a cold, speculative, uninteresting nature, which you might receive without benefit, or reject without detriment; but to speak the truths of God, truths of the utmost importance to the welfare of your souls in time and eternity. If I love you, therefore, I cannot be content with delivering my message ; my spirit must and will be deeply engaged for its success. I cannot be content with the emoluments annexed to my office-I seek not yours, but you ;$ that you may know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge ;ll that you may be delivered from the power of this evil world, s and that I and you may at length stand accepted before the throne of God ; in a word, that by a blessing from on high, accompanying my poor labours, I may both save myself, and them that hear me.** These are the aims and ends which I hope always to have in view; and, therefore, love will prompt me to be faithful and earnest.
Too often the due reception of the truth is greatly impeded by the cares, the businesses, or the amusements of the world. We find many of our hearers, alas ! too happy, or too much engross
, ed, to afford us that attention we have a right to claim, consider
* Rom. xii. 1.
+ 2 Cor. v. 11. #1 Thess. ii. 8. Gal. i. 4.
** 1 Tim. iv. 16.
0 2 Cor. xii. 14.
| Eph. iii. 19.
ing the weight of our message, and the authority under which we speak. But God, in mercy to the souls of men, frequently suits the appointments of his providence, in subserviency to the purposes of his grace.
He prepares for them, what they do not desire for themselves, seasons for leisure, retirement, aud reflection, This is one gracious design of the various afflictions of human life. When he visits with sickness or pain, crosses and disappoints—when our cisterns are broken, and our gourds witherwhen the desire of our eyes is taken away with a stroke,* or we meet with a thorn or sting where our fond hearts were expecting only pleasure—then, perhaps, the truths which were heard with too much indifference in the hour of prosperity, may be more regarded. My love will prompt me to be always near you, waiting for such seasons, and ready upon the first intimation (for I mean not to intrude myself) to offer my sympathy, my prayers, my best advice. Though I shall have but little time for visits of mere ceremony, to visit you as a minister, and to assist you to the utmost of my power in making a right improvement of the providences of God, is a service which I shall always owe you from a principle of duty, and, which I hope always to be glad to render from a principle of love.
If the grace of God, without which I can do nothing, should thus enable me to speak the truth in love, may I not hope for your favourable attention ? Would it not imply an unjust reflection upon your candour, to suppose that any of you will be angry with one who only wishes to speak the truth in love ? Certainly I can as yet have no particular reason to expect an unkind return from any individual among you, because I am a stranger to you all. But the Scripture teaches what experience and observation abundantly confirm, that the doctrines of divine truth are so mysterious in themselves, and so opposite and mortifying to the opinion mortals are prone to entertain of their owo wisdom and goodness, that persons of
amiable characters in common life, are too often amongst the warmest opposers of the ministers who dare faithfully and plainly persevere in speaking the truth. Should I have this trial to meet with from any of you, still I hope to speak the truth in love, and to remember that I am a follower of Him who only returned kindness for hard usage. I hope to consider, that if any oppose, it is because they know not what they do ; and to bear in mind, that I myself was once a scorner and despiser of the Gospel which I now preach ; that I stand here as a pattern of the long-suffering of God; and that having obtained mercy myself, I have encouragement, from my own case, to hope that the strongest prejudices may be softened by the power of his grace.
* Ezek. xxiv. 16.
Let me close with one observation. The transactions of this day, and the consequences of it will not be soon forgotten. They will be registered in the annals of eternity. “ As surely as we are now met together, so surely we must all appear
before the judgment-seat of Christ."* Then I must give an account of my ministry, and you of the manner in which you received it. If I speak the truth—it is at the peril of my hearers to treat it with contempt, or even with neglect. But I would hope better things, even that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, will prepare our hearts to receive with meekness that ingrafted word, which is able to save our souls.t
I only add my earnest request for a frequent and fervent remembrance in your prayers, that the Father of mercies, the God of all wisdom, may so influence my spirit, that no part of my conduct may be unsuitable to what I have at this time professed that speaking the truth in love, and commending it by a conversation becoming the Gospel,& my labours and my life may be acceptable and serviceable among you. I trust that I, on my part, shall not cease to pray, that his blessing may rest upon you, upon your persons, your families, and upon all your concerns, and more especially for the welfare and comfort of your souls that he may guide you by his counsel through this life, and afterwards receive you to his glory !
GUILT AND DANGER OF SUCH A NATION AS THIS :
PREACHED IN THE
PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MARY WOOLNOTH,
ON WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 1781 ;
THE DAY APPOINTED FOR A GENERAL FAST.
The lion bath roared, who will not fear ? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but propbecy.-Amos, iii. 8.
Humana sed mens nescia modum ponere
(FIRST PRINTED IN 1781.]