« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE AUTHOR'S ADVERTISEMENT.
The following Discourse was not penned in order to be delivered from the pulpit; and therefore the writer deemed himself authorized to exceed the ordinary limits of a Sermon. Indeed he found it impossible to comprise an account of both the Character and the Principles of his late honoured Friend within a much`smaller compass than he has here taken.
EXTRACT FROM THE AUTHOR'S LIFE.
"This Discourse, (which was published without the author's name,) was composed at the request of the late Henry Thornton Esq., who also made several contributions towards it. The reasons which prompted the proposal were these: Mr. H. T. was sensible that many persons contemplated the character and proceedings of his late father with astonishment, and many even with admiration, who had no just conception of the religious principles, which moved him to a course of conduct so unlike men of wealth and extensive business, in general; and so much exceeding the ordinary standard even of more serious and pious characters. It appeared to him therefore very desirable to explain the subject to such persons; to take in pieces, so to speak, the machine whose movements surprised them, and to exhibit the secret springs by which the effect was produced.”—J.S.
2 CORINTHIANS V. 14, 15.
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all,then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.
THE character of the apostle Paul exhibits, so many excellencies, that most professed Christians have admired, or affected to admire it. His piety, zeal, philanthropy, disinterestedness, patience, meekness, and fortitude, have perhaps never been equalled by any mere man: yet his principles were by no means fully understood by his contemporaries; and there appeared such singularities in his conduct, that he was sometimes compelled to apologize for himself, and for the exuberance of his zeal, even to Christians, nay to those who had been converted by his ministry. Thus, in the verse preceding the text, he says, "Whether we "be beside ourselves, it is to God; "be sober, it is for your cause:" and then he adds, "For the love of Christ constraineth us." Here. then he informs us, that the whole drift and tenour
or whether we
of his conduct, whether it appeared to them wise and excellent, or whether they deemed it strange and extravagant, proceeded from this single principle, "the love of Christ," which even "con"strained him to live no longer to himself, but to "him who died for him and rose again."
The death and resurrection of Christ, with the benefits and instructions which he thence derived, gave a new direction to his conduct, and this extraordinary turn to his whole character.
The consideration of his former lost condition, the assurance of his deliverance, the astonishing price that the Saviour had paid for his redemption, and the joyful hope of everlasting life, produced admiring love and ardent gratitude, in some measure proportionate to his obligations, and impelled him with invincible energy to devote himself and all his powers to the active service of his divine Benefactor. And his judgment concerning the ruined condition of his fellow creatures, and the privileges and obligations of his Christian brethren; his zeal for the honour of the Saviour, and his love to the souls of men; rendered him superior to all concern about the effects which his conduct might have on his interest, reputation, ease, liberty, or even life itself.
Such was St. Paul: and this ruling principle, of the constraining love of Christ, animated him to abound and persevere in every good work, to face every danger, and to surmount every obstacle, which he met with in his course.
It is not, however, the design of this discourse to enter more fully into the principles from which St. Paul acted, or to treat directly on the doctrines
contained in the text: but rather thence to take occasion to make some observations on the character of a person, eminent in the religious world, who is lately deceased. The situation indeed, which the character referred to filled in society, was very different from that of the apostle; so that in this and many other circumstances no parallel can be drawn between them; yet we may confidently say that, like St. Paul, the habitual tenour of his conduct, during a great part of life, was actuated by the constraining love of Christ.
In prosecuting this design, I purpose,
I. To point out some of the most striking peculiarities in the character to be considered:
II. To advert to some of those religious principles that gave rise to this peculiarity of character and conduct: and
III. To shew that the same principles, wherever they really exist, must of course produce the same effects, according to a man's situation and circumstances.
I. In treating of the character of that person whose lamented death and honoured memory give occasion to this discourse, it is peculiarly proper that we should mention,
1. What we are sure no man will dispute, that he was distinguished by his great liberality: that he disposed of very large sums in various charitable designs, with an unremitting constancy, during a long course of years: and that his charities were much larger than what is common with wealthy persons of reputation for beneficence: insomuch that he was rather regarded as a prodigy which
might excite astonishment, than as an example that other men of equal affluence were in duty bound to imitate and yet it is apprehended that his character has not been in this respect overstated, and that few persons were acquainted with the full extent of his charities.
In respect of this leading feature we must advert to several particulars.
In dispensing his bounty it is well known that he constantly aimed to promote the knowledge and practice of the religion of the Bible among mankind, and to bring the careless, the ignorant, the profane, and the profligate to attend to the concerns of their souls, "to repent, and turn to God, "and do works meet for repentance." For this purpose also he was the general patron of pious, exemplary, and laborious ministers of the gospel ; frequently educating young men whom he found to be religiously disposed; and purchasing many livings, not so much with a view of benefiting the individuals to whom he gave them, as for the sake of planting useful ministers of the gospel in those parts where he supposed the people to be, "perish"ing for lack of knowledge."
He also dispersed a very great number of Bibles, in different languages, in distant countries, perhaps in all the four quarters of the globe; and with them vast quantities of such books as he thought most suited to awaken the conscience, to affect the heart with a sense of the importance of eternal things, and to lead men to repentance, faith in Christ, and holiness of life; thus labouring to render those, whom he never saw, "wise