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THESE THINGS WRITE WE UNTO YOU, THAT YOUR JOY MAY, BE FULL.
T. JOHN, in the beginning of this Epiftle, declares, that he, as well as the rest of the Apostles, had infallible demonstration of the truth of what they preached unto the world; that they faw the glory of God manifested in his fon Jefus Chrift; were eyewitneffes of his death and refurrection; that they had received fuch evidence of proof as fuperfeded all poffibility of doubt; for they not only faw, but handled, ate, drank, and familiarly converfed with him, after he was risen from the dead. His religion, thus founded on the teftimony of all their fenfes, from a generous concern for the fouls of his fellow-creatures, this great mafter in the fcience of falvation, with indefatigable industry, published to the world, that all men might avail themselves of his knowledge, and be admitted to a participation of the glorious privileges of the Gospel : a participation of wifdom, grace, and immortality; and that with God himself, VOL. III.
through his acknowledged Son, Jesus Christ. "And these things, "fays he, write we unto you, that your joy may be full." We repeat these infallible evidences of our own faith, that your fatisfaction in the Gospel may be perfect and complete, beyond the reach of infidel fuggestions from without, or the doubts of your own hearts within. Generous, amiable, difinterested motive! Difinterested, did I fay? No, to do good to the fouls of men is a luxury for angels and arch angels! and happy, fincerely happy, are the teachers of religion at the prefent day, when they can address their hearers in the fame ftrain. The being, providence, power, glory, and goodness of God, which we have clearly feen from the works of nature; thofe great and univerfally interesting truths, which we have learned from the holy Scriptures, and from wife and pious men, who have made it their whole ftudy to illuftrate them; thofe we declare unto you; those we set before you in the clearest light we are able; that ye may have fellowship with us: "and truly "our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jefus Chrift: "and these things declare we unto you, that your joy may be "complete." This furely is the end that every one who is called to be a preacher of God's word ought always to have in view, and prosecute to the utmost of his power. Can any man better employ those talents that the Lord hath lent him, than in laying a rational foundation whereon to build up your faith to the falvation of your fouls? That you may be able to give to every one a reason for the hope that is in you. Men's fondness for trifles is the neceffary effect of their ignorance of things excellent. Would the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world be fo univerfally the fole objects of defire, if we were convinced that the joys of heaven are within our reach? No; we should, doubtlefs, all afpire and pant after eternal happiness, did we in earneft believe the glad tidings of the Gofpel. That you may believe them, fhall be the labour of a few plain difcourfes, to which this is intended only as an introduction.
But where shall I begin? If our irreligion arife from ignorance and want of education in spiritual knowledge, to teach again the first principles of the oracles of God; to me it is not grievous, and for you it is fafe. It is morally impoffible, that men should lead such diffipated lives, fhould fo wholly devote themselves to what is falfely deemed pleasure, were they but poffeffed of a warm and conftant perfuafion, that a Being of infinite wisdom is witness to their tranfactions. Let the character of the times, therefore, be my Apology; if imitating the benevolence of the author of my text, I write, these things unto you, and undertake to demonftrate them, that you may from henceforth have joy in rational religion, and that your joy may be complete: We shall therefore call for your attention to the following particulars: namely,
FIRST, that there is a Being, whofe wifdom is infinite, and whose power is equal to his wisdom.
SECONDLY, that every man fhall receive from his Creator, either a glorious reward, or an exquisite punishment in a future state, and that for ever and ever.
THIRDLY, the divine authority of the facred fcriptures. And LASTLY, the truth and safety of the Chriftian religion. These subjects are abfolutely and indispensably neceffary to be confidered by all perfons; in as much as our whole eternity must take its colour of happiness or mifery in proportion as we are influenced by them.
Admit that the generality of our hearers have already a fpeculative conviction of these truths; yet when we confider that mankind are almost as generally agreed in acting repugnantly to fuch principles, it can never be improper, or unfeafonable, to remind thofe, who need not be informed, to remind them that religion is a practical science, and that knowledge in the head, without grace in the heart, and obedience in the life, will but encrease their condemnation. But should there be men hardy enough to be immoral upon principle;
ciple; to make a practice of blafpheming the tremendous God of heaven and earth, and to fet at nought his holy word; fhould there arife wretches, fo daringly impious, as to erect a ftandard of defiance against omnipotence; to make a mock at fin, and laugh at religion; should there be others, who, notwithstanding they profess themselves difciples of the bleffed Jefus, yet practife the duties of Christianity,. if they practise them at all, with the utmoft coldness and indifference; while there are fuch,-such as thefe, amongst us, can the. philanthropist be filent?-Will he not find himself constrained to exert every power and faculty of his foul,- to be instant, in season. and out of seafon, to represent the deplorable folly, the extreme. danger of their proceedings.
Would to God! your knowledge of the world would permit you to indulge-your hope that this age does not abound with many under this predicament! You cannot but know, that not only the abandoned and licentious, who, by their writings and converfation endeavour to undermine the motives of morality, and. openly practice all manner of vice and wickedness; but even fome fober perfons are weak enough to fubfcribe to those pernicious: tenets of theirs, which introduced and cherished it-that: there are men with one foot in the grave, who are foolish and daring enough to maintain with zeal and warmth fo deftructive a cause ; that too many frequent our churches, not to grow better by. what they shall hear but to mifreprefent religion,-ridicule the preacher, and criticise his arguments.-If this be fact,-and that it really is,. we are perfuaded every man of understanding in this affembly will acknowledge and lament,-fhall we be intimidated to defert the banner of the great captain of falvation ?--No ;-it is but a fresh call for proportionable zeal and courage on our parts to defeat their malevolent defigns, and to vindicate the glory of truth, in order to confirm the weak, and recal such sheep as are either thus loft, or run aftray. A word in feafon, how good is it! How. forcible are right words!It argues no over-weening opinion of our own abi
lities, to fuppofe, that by God's bleffing on them, they may be effectual to the breaking down the strong holds of infidelity, and bringing into fubjection every thought to the obedience of Jefus Christ and who knows but conviction, like lightening, may flash upon the dark bofom of ignorance and unbelief?-Who knows, but that fome who come here, according to custom, with no expectation of profit or improvement; not dreaming that they shall add to their knowledge virtue, or correct one vice they have indulged themselves in ;-Who fhall fay, but they may be induced to enquire into the state of their fouls? That they may meet with fomething, which may give them a new turn; and while they feek only an amusement may find that which may prove of infinite advantage to them?
It is a truth as notorious as it is melancholy, that there are men fo entirely attached to their pleasures, that they will not allow themselves the least time for reflection on any other objects ;-never admit a thought of, or pay the leaft regard to, the God who made them, and are utter ftrangers to the excellency of their own natures, and the ineftimable value of their fouls, the welfare of which ought to be almoft their only concern ;-a concern, in comparison of which all that now engages their attention is vain, empty, infignificant as the play of children,-lighter than vanity itself:
It is in a great measure owing to this infatuating attachment, that our focial converfations are fo frequently difturbed by the fuggeftions even of Atheism itself.—ATHEISTS!-You may well be alarmed at the expreffion; but thofe who live without God in the world are too numerous a tribe, and too widely difperfed to have escaped the observation of any among us. - The only explanation that can be offered, in a cafe fo incredible in fpeculation, feems to be, that they attain to that daring height of foolishness and impiety, not by the ufe of reafon, but by the filence and fuppreffion of it; not by exerting, but by stifling the free exercise of their rational faculties,