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Of the following Sermons the first twenty, with one more which will be found in its place among the Fast Sermons in another volume, were published, by subscription, in the year 1796. The other four did not appear till 1802, when they had been "lately preached at the Lock Chapel," and were "published by particular request."
The "Preface" relates exclusively to the former series, to the first edition alone of which it was prefixed. The Family Prayers mentioned in it will be found in a subsequent volume.-J. S.
The sacred scriptures speak of "dead works," and of a "dead faith;" of " a form of godliness," and " a form of knowledge:" and, in whatever way these may be combined together, the whole, as well as each of its constituent parts, must be widely different from "living faith,” "the power " of godliness," and a "new creation unto good "works." So that there is often more coincidence, in this respect, between men of discordant sentiments upon speculative points, than is generally supposed.
To shew the absolute necessity of evangelical principles in order to holy practice, and their neverfailing efficacy in sanctifying the heart, when cordially received; and to exhibit, according to the best of the author's ability, the nature and effects of genuine Christianity, as distinguished from every species of false religion, without going far out of his way to combat any of them; is the special design of this publication. But he has at the same time endeavoured to explain, establish, and enforce his views of the gospel, in that manner which was deemed most likely to inform the mind and affect the heart of the attentive and teachable reader.
The doctrinal part of the apostolical Epistles is always stamped practically; and the holy tendency of every truth is clearly shewn. On the other hand, the practical exhortations are constantly enforced by evangelical motives and encouragements.
This may therefore be considered as a good test of sterling divinity; by which it may be known from all that is counterfeit, or greatly debased with alloy.
The texts selected for these sermons are in general very plain and comprehensive; and the evident meaning of them, as they stand in the scriptures, has been carefully investigated and adhered to: so that the reader who hesitates concerning the doctrine, or the conclusion deduced from it, may, by diligently examining the context, perceive how far these are warranted by the authority of the sacred writers.
The author, since he first circulated his proposals, has been determined by the advice, and the reasons, of his friends, to omit the short prayers which he intended to add at the end of each sermon, and only to subjoin some forms for family worship at the conclusion of the work. But he hopes that, as in other respects he has exceeded the proposals, he shall escape censure in this particular; and be credited in saying, that he had no motive in the alteration but to avoid every obstacle to the usefulness of the publication.
To the special blessing and providential disposal of "the only wise God our Saviour" he would commend this feeble endeavour to glorify him, and to promote the cause of the gospel: and, whatever reception it may meet with from the public in general, he will deem himself abundantly recompensed if any persons should, by means of it, be brought to the saving knowledge of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, into whose name all Christians are baptized.
May 12, 1796.
DEUTERONOMY XXXII. 47.
It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.
THE honoured servant of God, whose words are here selected, was favoured with health and the unabated force of all his faculties, at a very advanced time of life: and, so far from claiming a privilege of relaxation from labour, he seems, as death approached, to have redoubled his diligence, in order that the Israelites might have the things which he had taught them in perpetual remembrance. The hoary head is indeed "a crown "of glory," when thus "found in the way of righteousness:" and "blessed is that servant "whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing."
Among other methods of durably impressing the minds of the people, Moses was directed to compose a prophetic song; as poems are generally learned with greater eagerness, and remembered more easily, than other compositions: and at the close of this sacred song he thus addressed the people," Set your hearts unto all the words "which I testify among you this day, which ye "shall command your children to observe to do, 66 I even all the words of this law. For it is not a “ vain thing for you, because it is your life; and
"through this thing ye shall prolong your days "in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to pos"sess it." Having given this earnest admonition, he was directed to ascend mount Nebo, that he might die there: a circumstance which could not fail to add peculiar energy to his concluding exhortations.
The nation of Israel had spiritual blessings proposed to them by types and shadows; and Canaan represented the everlasting felicity of heaven, the inheritance of true believers. We live under a different dispensation, and enjoy peculiar advantages. "God, who at sundry times, and in divers "manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by "the prophets, hath in these last days spoken un"to us by his Son." "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which "we have heard, lest at any time we should let "them slip: for-how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?" The words of the
text are therefore at least as applicable to us, as they were to Israel of old; and we may from them take occasion,
I. To consider the subject which is declared to be no vain thing:
II. To illustrate the import of that declaration : III. To conclude the whole by a practical improvement.
I. Let us consider the subject which is declared to be no vain thing.
Moses, no doubt, spoke this concerning religion but numbers would agree to the sentiment
'Heb. i. 1-3; ii. 1-3.