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To the Inhabitants of the parish of St.
Werburgh in the city of BRISTOL, and the congregation which usually assembles for Divine worship in their parish-church, on the evening of the Lord's day
MY DEAR BRETHREN, AS S a desire to promote your everlasting salva.
tion gave rise to that Course of Lectures, of which the following pages contain the substance ; it seemed, on mature reflection, that you were the persons to whom I should with the greatest propriety address these humble fruits of my labor. Permit me to say, in imitation of the Apostle, that God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ; and that my heart's desire and prayer to God for you is, that you may be saved. And if the adorable Head of the church should condescend to render the use of so mean an instrument effectual to the furtherance of your spiritual happiness in this world, and to the preparation of your souls for that rest which remaineth to the people of God in the world to come; great will be our mutual joy and congratulation, when we meet together in the courts above to worship the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us unto God by his blood.
Great is the honor and regard, which I entertain for you, Men, Brethren, and Fathers, the worthy Rector, the Vestrymen, and other inhabitants of the Parish, to which I have lately been appointed the Lecturer. The general respectability of your characters, as members of society, secures to you public esteem ; while the pious example of many among you, founded on Christian principles, attracts the cordial affection of all who truly fear God. But that which more peculiarly on the present occasion demands a due acknowledgment, is that instance of your conduct when, rising superior to vulgar prejudices, and sincerely wishing to glorify God in the advancement both of your own spiritual welfare and that of your fellow-citizens, you unanimously unfolded the doors of your church for Divine worship on the evening of every Lord's day, and some other select occasions ; and also those of your pews for the accommodation of such extra-parishioners as might wish to attend the lecture. The utility of such an institution will be denied by no persons, but such as are blinded by ignorance, prejudice, or disaffection to religion. A Sunday-Evening lecture has numerous advantages. At such a season the wretched inhabitant of the garret,
whose pride and rags prevent an appearance in the house of God during the open day, will often descend under the veil of twilight ; and creep, unobserved by every eye, except His, " who beholdeth all the dwellers upon earth," to some obscure corner of the hallowed dome, where to the poor the gospel is preached. And who can say, whether through your zeal in opening your church for general instruction, many of these may not be brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus; and at the great day, when they shall have exchanged their sordid raiment for the splendid robe prepared to be worn at the marriage-supper of the Lamb, bless you as the instruments under God of their rescue from ignorance, sin, misery, and destruction ? Besides persons of the above description, there is a numerous class of servants in every large town, whose employers either from necessity or a preference of their own sensual gratifications to the salvation of their dependents, detain them at home during either one or both the usual services of our church. Such persons must rejoice, if the least concern about religion prevail in their minds, that you have afforded them an opportunity of hearing the blessed word of God, and joining in His worship, of which privileges they were before destitute. Moreover some of the unprincipled and unhappy vagrants of both sexes, who spend the sacred hours of the Lord's-day Evening in the streets of our city, may be expected, either attracted by the novelty of the scene, or feeling the salutary touch of compunction, to drop in among us. And however hardened they may be at present, and hackneyed in the ways of vice, yet the word of God, which is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword,may happily reach their hearts, so as to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. How eco static will be your delight, should any such persons, meeting you in the realms of bliss, address you in expressions like these : Well do I re• member the time, when wandering through the • streets of Bristol on the evening of the sabbath• day, unconscious of the value of my soul, and • insensible of my state of sin and danger, I was . seeking rest, but found it not. In the midst of • my career of wickedness and folly, my attention • was arrested by the light, which beamed from • the windows of your church, and 'by the sound • of your voices, when singing the praises of your • redeeming God. I thought, as I had no other way of filling up the vacant hour, I would enter the doors which you had opened. I yielded to
the impression of the moment: and there, within * those hallowed and ever gratefully to be remem• bered walls, the sound of salvation by grace 6 reached my ears, and engaged my heart. Glad<ly I embraced the message of reconciliation, and began to find religion's ways to be ways of plea6 santness, and all her paths to be peace. From " thence forward I devoted myself to the Lord, . and was trained up among you for that incon
ceivable happiness, which I am now brought to 6 enjoy. Come let us approach the throne, and ( magnify His name together, declaring the won• ders which He hath wrought for the children of o men ! If such an address should ever salute your ears, how richly will the pleasing sensations excited in your breasts recompence this your work of faith and labor of love!
There is a variety of other considerations, which claim attention; the inability or unwillingness of many masters and parents to read to their families at home, and so employ the evening of the Lord's-day in a proper manner; the certainty which exists, that many persons, who now attend a place of worship, would otherwise employ their time in an unprofitable vacuity of thought, if not in idle conversation or secular concerns ; and the advantages accruing to the interests both of church and state, which evidently stand in connection with such institutions. But, apart from these considerations and many more that might be mentioned, it seems unquestionable that, if people will hear, the churches ought to be open, and ministers ought to preach. And that people are ready to hear the Gospel at their vacant hours, needs no other proof than that of ocular de