« EdellinenJatka »
such an advanced period. With them, Sir, I rejoice, that God hath given you to possess in so extraordinary a degree, not only the consciousness of intending great benefit to the world, but the satisfaction of having effected it, and of seeing such an harvest already springing up, I hope as an earnest of a much more copious increase from thence. With multitudes more I bless God, that you are not in this evening of so afflicted and yet so laborious a day, rendered entirely incapable of serving the public from the press, and from the pulpit: and that amidst the pain which your active spirit feels, when these pleasing services suffer long interruptions from bodily weakness, it may be so singularly refreshed by reflecting on that sphere of extensive usefulness, in which, by your writings, you continually move.
I congratulate you, dear Sir, that while you are in a multitude of families and schools of the lower class, condescending to the humble, yet important work of forming infant minds to the first rudiments of religious knowledge, and devout impressions, by your various catechisms and divine songs; you are also daily reading lectures of logic, and other useful branches of philosophy, to studious youths; and this not only in private academies, but in the most public and celebrated seats of learning; nor merely in Scotland, and in our American colonies, (where, from some peculiar considerations, it might most naturally be expected ;) but through the amiable candor of some excellent men and accomplished tutors, in our English universities too. I congratulate you, that you are teaching, no doubt, hundreds of ministers, and thousands of private christians, by your sermons, and other theological writings: so happily calculated to diffuse through their minds that light of knowledge, and through their hearts that fervour of piety, which God has been pleased to inkindle in your own. But above all, I congratulate you, that by your sacred poetry, especially by your psalms, and your hymns, you are leading the worship, and I trust also animating the devotion of myriads, in our public assemblies every sabbath, and in their families or closets every day. This, Sir, at least so far as it relates to the service of the sanctuary, is an unparalleled favour by which God hath been pleased to distinguish you, I may boldly say it, beyond any of his servants now upon earth. Well may it be esteemed a glorious equivalent, and indeed much more than an equivalent, for all those views of ecclesiastical preferment, to which such talents, learning, virtues, and interest might have intitled you in an establishment; and I doubt not, but you joyfully accept it as such.
Nor is it easy to conceive, in what circumstances you could, on any supposition, have been easier and happier, than in that pious aud truly honourable family, in which as 1 verily believe, in special indulgence both to you and to it, providence has been pleased to appoint that you shall spend so considerable a part of your life. It is my earnest prayer, that all the remainder of it may be serene, useful, and pleasant. And as, to my certain knowledge, your compositions have been the singular comfort of many excellent christians (some of them numbered among my dearest friends,) on their dying bed; for I have heard stanzas of them repeated from the lips of several, who were doubtless in a few hours to begin the song of Moses and the Lamb: so I hope and trust, that when God shall call you to that salvation, for which your faith and patience have so long been waiting, he will shed around you the choicest beams of his favour, and gladden your heart with consolations, like those which you have been the happy instrument of administering to others.
In the mean time, Sir, be assured that I am not a little animated in the various labours to which providence has called me, by reflecting, that I have
such a contemporary, and especially such a friend; whose single presence would be to me as that of "a cloud of witnesses" here below, to awaken my alacrity" in the race that is set before me," And I am persuaded, that while I say this, I speak the sentiment of many of my brethren, even of various denominations: a consideration, which I hope will do something towards reconciling a heart so generous as yours, to the delay of that "exceeding and eternal weight of glory," which is now so nearly approaching. Yes, my honoured friend, you will, I hope, cheerfully endure a little longer continuance in life amidst all its infirmities; from an assurance, that while God is pleased to maintain the exercise of your reason, it is hardly possible that you should" live in vain," to the world or yourself. Every day, and every trial, is brightening your crown, and rendering you still more "meet for an inheritance amongst the saints in light." Every word that you drop from the pulpit, has now, surely, its peculiar weight: the eyes of many are on their ascending prophet, eagerly intent that they may catch, if not his mantle, at least some divine sentence from his lips, which may long guide their ways, and warm their hearts. This solicitude your friends bring into those happy moments, in which they are favoured with your converse in private: and when you are retired from them, your prayers, I doubt not, largely contribute towards guarding your country, watering the church, and blessing the world. Long may they continue to answer these great ends! And permit me Sir, to conclude with expressing my cheerful confidence, that in those best moments you are often particularly mindful of one, who so highly esteems, so greatly needs, and so warmly returns that remembrance, as,
Reverend and dear Sir,
Your most affectionate Brother,
Northampton, Dec. 13, 1744.
THE several bints given in the dedication and the first chapter of this
treatise, which contains a particular plan of the design, render it unnecessary to introduce it with a long preface. Some of my readers may perhaps remember, that several years ago I promised this work to the public, in the preface to the second edition of my Sermons on the power and grace of Christ,' &c. My much honoured friend Dr. Watts had laid the scheme, especially of the former part: but as those indispositions, with which (to the unspeakable grief of the churches,) God has been pleased to exercise him, and forbid his hopes of being able to add this, to his many labours of love to immortal souls, he was pleased in a very affectionate and importunate manner to urge me to undertake it. And I bless God with my whole heart, not only that he hath carried me through this delightful task, for such indeed have I found it,) but also that he hath spared that worthy and amiable person to see it accomplished, and given him strength and spirit to review so considerable a part of it. His approbation, expressed in stronger terms than modesty will permit me to repeat, encourages me to hope, that it is executed in such a manner, as may, by the divine blessing, render it of some general service. And I the rather expect it will be so, as it now comes abroad into the world, not only with my own prayers and his, but also with those of many pious friends, which I have been particularly careful to engage for its success.
Into whatever hands this work may come, I must desire, that before any pass their judgment upon it, they would please to read it through; that they may discern the connection between one part of it and another. Which I the rather request, because I have long observed, that christians of different parties have been eagerly laying hold on particular parts of the system of divine truths, and have been contending about them as if each had been all; or as if the separation of the members from each other, and from the head, were the preservation of the body, instead of its destruction. They have been zealous to espouse the defence and to maintain the honour and usefulness of each apart; whereas their honour, as well as usefulness, seems to me to lie much in their connection. And suspicions have often arisen betwixt the respective defenders of each, which have appeared as unreasonable and absurd, as if all the preparations for securing one part of a ship in a storm were to be censured as a contrivance to sink the rest. I pray God, to give to all his ministers and people, more and more of the spirit of wisdom, and of love, and of a sound mind; and to remove far from us those mutual jealousies and animosities, which hinder our acting with that unanimity which is necessary in order to the successful carrying on of our common warfare against the enemies of christianity. We may be sure, these enemies will never fail to make their own advantage of our multiplied divi
sions, and severe contests with each other: but they must necessarily lose both their ground and their influence, in proportion to the degree, in which the energy of christian principles is felt, to unite and transform the hearts of those by whom they are professed.
I take this opportunity of adding, that as this treatise may be looked upon as the sequel of my "Sermons on Regeneration," though in something of a different method; a second edition of those sermons is now published (in compliance with the request of many of my friends,) in the same form and size with this book. I have been solicitous to make them both as cheap as possible, that I may fall in with the charitable designs of those who may propose to give them away. There is however an edition of this treatise in octavo, for such as chuse rather to have it in a larger character and fairer form. I have studied the greatest plainness of speech, that the lowest of my readers may, if possible, be able to understand every word; and I hope, persons of a more elegant taste and refined education will pardon what appeared to me so necessary a piece of charity. Such a care in practical writings seems one important instance of that honouring all men, which our amiable and condescending religion teaches us: and I have been particularly obliged to my worthy patron, for what he has done to shorten some of the sentences, and to put my meaning into plainer and more familiar words. Yet I dare say, the world will not suspect it of having contracted any impropriety or inelegance of language, by passing through the hands of Dr. Watts.
I must add one remark here, which I heartily wish I had not omitted in the first edition, viz. That though I do in this book consider my reader as successively in a great variety of supposed circumstances, beginning with those of a thoughtless sinner, and leading him through several stages of conviction, terror, &c. as what may be previous to his sincerely accepting the gospel, and devoting himself to the service of God; yet I would by no means be thought to insinuate, that every one, who is brought to that happy resolution, arrives at it through those particular steps, or feels agitations of mind equal in degree to those I have described. Some sense of sin, and some serious and humbling apprehension of our danger and misery in consequence of it, must indeed be necessary, to dispose us to receive the grace of the gospel, and the Saviour who is there exhibited to our faith. But God is pleased sometimes to begin the work of his grace on the heart, almost from the first dawning of reason, and to carry it on by such gentle and insensible degrees, that very excellent persons who have made the most eminent attainments in the divine life, have been unable to recount any remarkable history of their conversion: and so far as I can learn, this is most frequently the case with those of them, who have enjoyed the benefits of a pious education, when it has not been succeeded by a vicious and licentious youth. God forbid therefore, that any such should be so insensible of their own happiness, as to fall into perplexity with relation to their spiritual state, for want of being able to trace such a rise of religion in their minds, as it was necessary on my plan for me to describe, and exemplify here.-I have spoken my sentiments on this head so fully in the VIIIth of my " Sermons on Regeneration," that I think no one who has read and remembers the general contents of it, can be in danger of mistaking my meaning here. But as it is very possible that this book may fall into the hands of many, who have not read the other, and have no opportunity of consulting it, I thought it proper to insert this caution in the preface to this; and I am much obliged
to that worthy and excellent person, who kindly reminded me of the expediency of doing it.
I conclude with desiring my friends to forgive the necessary interruption which this work has given to the third volume of my " Family Expositor," which I am now sending to the press as fast as I can, and hope to publish it in less than a year. To this volume I have referred several additional notes, and the indexes, which are necessary to render the former volumes complete; having determined to add nothing to the second edition, which should depreciate the former. I do not think it necessary to trouble my friends with a new subscription; taking it for granted, that few who were pleased with the other part of the work, will fail of perfecting the set on the historical books of the New Testament. When my exposition on the epistolary part may be completed, God only knows. I will proceed in it as fast as the other duties of my station will permit; and I earnestly beg, that if my readers find edification and advantage by any of my writings, that they would in return offer a prayer for me, that God may carry me on, in that most important labour of my pen, under the remarkable tokens of his guidance and blessing.