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must leave this with God; and be thankful for the honour he has done me, though he should not see fit to perpetuate it in my family.' He preached his first sermon at Hinkley, from 1 Corinthians xvi. 22. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema, Maranatha. I find in his diary that two persons ascribed their conversion to the blessing of God attending that sermon; with which he appears to have been much affected and encouraged. He had continued at Hinkley about a year after this, preaching occasionally there and in the neighbouring places, and going on with his course of lectures and studies, when the congregation at Kibworth invited him to be their minister; at the same time a like application was made to him from Coventry. But he chose Kibworth, principally on account of his youth, and that he might pursue his studies with greater advantage. He settled there in June 1723. As this congregation was small and he lived in an obscure village, he had much time to apply himself to study, which he did with indefatigable zeal. Ministers in general have been too unwilling, even at their entrance on their work, to live or preach in small country places; but he reflected on it with pleasure all his days, that he had spent so many years in a country retirement. Soon after his settlement at Kibworth, one of his fellow-pupils in a letter, condoled with him on being buried alive there; to which he makes this sensible and spirited reply: "Here I stick close to those delightful studies, which a favourable providence has made the business of my life. One day passeth away after another, and I only know that it passeth pleasantly with me. As for the world about me, I have very little concern with it. I live almost like a tortoise, shut up in its shell, almost always in the same town, the same house, the same chamber: Yet I live like a prince; not indeed in the pomp of greatness, but the pride of liberty; master of my books, master of my time, and I hope I may add, master of myself. I can willingly give up the charms of London, the luxury, the company, the popularity of it, for the secret pleasures of rational employment and self-approbation; retired from applause and reproach; from envy and contempt, and the destructive baits of avarice and ambition. So that instead of lamenting it as my misfortune, you should congratulate me upon it as my happiness, that I am confined in an obscure village; seeing it gives me so many valuable advantages, to the most important purposes of devotion and philosophy; and,
*To be assistant to Mr. Warren.-K.
I hope I may add, usefulness too." Here he studied and composed his expositions and sermons with great care and exactness, transcribed almost every one of them in the neatest manner, and thus contracted a habit of preaching judiciously, when his other business would not allow so much time for composition. His favourite authors in this retirement were Tillotson, Baxter** and Howe. These he read often and carefully. He hath mentioned it as an advantage to him, that having but few books of his own he borrowed of his congregation what books they had in their houses, which were chiefly the practical works of the earlier divines of the last century. By reading these he was led into a serious, experimental and useful way of preaching.
Fond as he was of his study, he would often leave it, to visit and instruct the people under his care. I find, in his diary, hints of the persons he had visited, what he could discern of their religious character and state, what assistance they needed in their great concern, and what he had learned in conversation with them, which might improve himself as a christian and a minister. He condescended to men of low estate in his sermons, visits and manner of converse; and as his congregation chiefly consisted of persons in the lower rank of life, he was careful to adapt his discourses to their capacities. He thus expresseth himself in one of his devotional Exercises at this time; 'I fear my discourse to-day was too abstruse for my hearers. I resolve to labour after greater plainness and seriousness, and bring down my preaching to the understandings of the weakest.'--Concerning his settlement at Kibworth, and care of the congregation, he thus wrote to his friend and counsellor Dr. Clark; "I bless God that he hath provided
* In a letter written in 1723 to a friend, giving him some account of his studies, he saith, "Baxter is my particular favourite. It is impossible to tell you, how much I am charmed with the devotion, good sense and pathos, which is every where to be found in him, I cannot forbear looking upon him as one of the greatest orators, both with regard to copiousness, acuteness, and energy, that our nation hath produced: And if he hath described, as I believe, the temper of his own heart, he appears to have been so far superior to the generality of those, whom we charitably hope to be good men, that one would imagine God raised him up to disgrace and condemn his brethren; to shew what a christian is, and how few in the world deserve the character. I have lately been reading his Gildas Salvianus, which hath cut me out much work among my people. This will take me off from so close an application to my private studies, as I could otherwise covet, but may answer some valuable ends with regard to others and myself."
+ I remember to have heard him speak of Barrow with great energy of commendation. Many of the divines of the latter part of the last century were incomparably excellent for the high spirit of devotion, the fullness of sentiment, and the energy and copiousness of stile; and the neglect of them has been of no advantage to modern times.-K.
so comfortably for me here, where I may be doing some good, and shall be no longer burdensome to my friends. I heartily thank you for the excellent advices you give me, especially relating to humility. I must be extremely unacquainted with my own heart, if I thought that I did not need them. I am fully convinced in my sober judgment, that popularity is, in itself, a very mean as well as uncertain thing; and that it is only valuable, as it gives us an opportunity to act for God with greater advantage. Yet I find by the little of it that I have tasted, that it is of an intoxicating nature. I desire not to be solicitous about it; and can honestly say, that when I think I have been instrumental in making or promoting good impressions upon the hearts of some of my hearers, it gives me a much nobler and more lasting satisfaction, than I ever received from any approbation, with which my plain discourses have sometimes been entertained. I have now taken a particular survey and account of the state of religion in my congregation, and I bless God, I find it in a better condition than I expected. My attempts to introduce prayer and a proper method of instruction into some families have, through the divine blessing, been so successful, that I shall be encouraged further to pursue my scheme. The knowledge I have obtained of the temper and character of the people, and the interest which I have in their affections make me hope, that my settlement among them will be to mutual satisfaction. The marks which I daily discern of an honest undissembled friendship and respect, expressed with the greatest plainness and sincerity, is a thousand times more agreeable to me, than the formal and artificial behaviour, which is to be found in more polite places. And now, Sir, I cannot but reflect, as I very frequently do, that, under God, I owe this pleasure and satisfaction to the goodness of my friends, and particularly to your generosity and kindness. If God had not wonderfully provided for me by your means, instead of this honourable and delightful employment, which I am now entering upon, and which I should from my heart chuse before any other in the world, I should in all probability have been tied down to some dull mechanic business, or at best been engaged in some profession, in which I should not have had any of these advantages for improving my mind, or so comfortable a prospect of usefulness now, and happiness hereafter."
Though he kept up the same plan of devotion, which he had followed, while a student, yet upon his settlement with a congregation, considering the importance and difficulty of his work, he thought it necessary to perform some extraordinary acts of
devotion. Accordingly, having read that most useful treatise, Bennett's Christian Oratory, he came to these resolutions; "1. I will spend some extraordinary time in devotion every Lord's-day morning or evening, as opportunity shall offer, and will then endeavour to preach over to my own soul that doctrine which I preach to others, and consider what improvement I am to make of it. 2. I will take one other evening in the week, in which I will spend half an hour in these exercises on such subjects, as I think most suitable to the present occasion. 3. At the close of every week and month, I will spend some time in the review of it, that I may see how time has been improved, innocence secured, duties discharged, and whether I get or lose in religion. 4. When I have an affair of more than ordinary importance before me, or meet with any remarkable occurrence, merciful or afflictive, I will set apart some time to think of it and seek God upon it. 5. I will devote some time every Friday evening more particularly to seek God, on account of those who recommend themselves to my prayers, and of public concerns, which I will never totally exclude. In all the duties of the oratory I will endeavour to maintain a serious and affectionate temper. I am sensible that I have a heart which will incline me to depart from God. May his spirit strengthen and sanctify it, that I may find God in this retirement; that my heavenly Father may now see me with pleasure, and at length openly reward me, through Jesus Christ! Amen."
It will not be unpleasing nor unprofitable to the serious reader, if I insert some specimens of the manner in which he preached over his sermons to his own soul; heartily wishing that it may excite ministers to do the like. "July 23, 1727, I this day preached concerning Christ, as the physician of souls from Jer. viii. 22. and having, among other particulars, addressed to those sincere christians, who through a neglect of the gospel remedy, are in a bad state of spiritual health, it is evident to me, upon a serious review, that I am of that number. I know by experi ence, that my remaining distempers are painful. God knows they are the great affliction of my life; such an affliction that, methinks, if I were free from it, any worldly circumstances would be more tolerable, and even more delightful, than that full flow of prosperity, by which I am so often ensnared and injured. I know Christ is able to help me, and restore me to more perfect health than I have ever yet attained: and my experience of his power and grace is a shameful aggravation of my negligence. Therefore with humble shame and sorrow for my former indifference and folly, I would now seriously attempt a reformation. To this purpose I would
resolve; 1. That I will carefully examine into my own soul, that I may know its constitution, and its particular weakness and distempers. 2. I would apply to Christ, as my physician, to heal these distempers and restore me to greater vigour in the service of God. 3. I would remember that he heals by the spirit; and would therefore pray for his influences to produce in me greater devotion, humility, diligence, gravity, purity, and steadiness of resolution. 4. I would wait upon him in the use of appointed means for this purpose; especially prayer, the study of the scriptures, and the Lord's supper. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. Pronounce the word, thou great physician, and save me for thy mercy sake. Thou hast given me a degree of bodily health and vigour far superior to what, from the nature of my constitution, I had reason to expect. Yet I here record it before thee, that I desire spiritual health abundantly more. I would rather chuse, if thou seest it a necessary means, to be visited with any grievous illness, that might awaken me to greater zeal for thee, and be the means of purifying my soul, than to live at a distance from thee, and sin against thee, amidst such health, as I have for many years enjoyed.-I would further consider my concern in this subject as a minister. God has provided a remedy. He has appointed me to proclaim, and, in some measure, to apply it. Yet many are not recovered. And why? I can appeal to thee, that I have faithfully warned them. My heart does not upbraid me with having kept back any thing that may be profitable to them. I have endeavoured to speak the most important truths with all possible. plainness and seriousness, but I fear: 1. I have not followed them sufficiently with domestic and personal exhortations. 2. I have not been sufficiently careful to pray for the success of my ministerial labours. It has rather been an incidental thing, than matter of solemn request. 3. I have lived so, as to forfeit those influences of thy spirit, by which they might have been rendered more effectual. I resolve therefore for the time to come, to be more close in applying to them in their own houses, to pray for them more frequently; to set a greater value upon thy co-operating spirit, and take care to avoid every thing, which may provoke him to withdraw himself from my ministrations. Such caution may I always maintain; and, O, may the health of my people be recovered!
Nov. 12, 1727. I preached this day from those words, I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I endeavoured to fix upon unconverted sinners the charge of not loving God, and described at large the character of the christian in the several