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whereby it may be easily seized and managed; and another, of which the contrary is true. The same may be said of every man; nay, of every age of men. Two centuries ago, there was no convincing any man, although on points that Row seem too obvious to need a demonstration, but by mode and figure; whereas, at present, an argument in that form would be taken for a spell by some, and for a nonsensical piece of affectation by others. We, who are old, can remember the time, when it was customary with the clergy successfully to persuade men by the terrors of the Lord ;' but the ears of this age are too delicate, or our consciences too raw, to endure with patience an application so caustic; and therefore we say to our teachers, as the Israelites did to Isaiah and the other prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things ; speak unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits.' But what saith God to that prophet, in reference to this very people ? Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins.' How exactly parallel is our case to that of the Israelites ! We call for smooth things, and deceits, as they did; but where is the trumpet loud enough to rouse us, unless that which shall raise the dead? For some time past, not only the controversy about morality, but the disputes also between Chris. tian and Deist, and between the Orthodox and Ariaus, have been shamefully abandoned to the futilities of a feebler philosophy, than even the false wisdom exploded by Christianity of old. The dictates of God himself have been pre. posterously submitted to the weak reasonings, and even to the vicious prejudices of men, pretending to believe the Scriptures, although they suffer the contents of the sacred volumes to interfere, at best, but as seconds to their own opinions. In the mean time, every one, having dressed out religion in a garb of his own fancying, hath given his op: posites an occasion to tear it in pieces, while they pretended to tear away the disguise only. Out of this confusion have arisen, first, doubts and diffidence ; from thence infidelity, and a contempt of all things sacred; and from thence again, such a universal scene of pollution and wickedness, as shocks the eyes of one, who is but moderately criminal, to survey: for what is to be seen in it, but kingdoms given
up to faction and ambition ; estates, to gaming and sharping; oaths, to bribery and corruption; and the consciences and persons of both sexes, to prostitutions too flagitious to be named ? • Shall not God visit for these things ?' or, till he does, shall not his ministers cry aloud against them, as well in the principle as the practice, if, speaking in a lower voice, they have not been heard ? Shall they not set their faces like a Aint,' and whet their words to daggers, when an age like this is to be reproved? Will splitting of hairs, or going balf the way, with heretics, a method too long tried, resettle us all in the truth? Or will feebly moralizing on the beauty of virtue, and the deformity of vice, in pursuit of the present affected practice, reform a generation so hardened in wickedness?
No, Gentlemen ; such expedients, you are sensible, can never answer the ends proposed. Success is not to be hoped for on all occasions, from the pursuit of any one method. If there is any good to be done by preaching, although the principles are not to be changed, yet surely the manner'must be diversified, according as the genius and disposition of mankind vary. The errors and vices of one age differ so widely, either in substance or circumstance, from those of another, that to reason always on the same points, and from the same topics; or to attempt persuasion, on all occasions, in the same strain ; is to talk wide of those we address to; is to speak to them in a language they either do not understand, or feel. Is there a possibility, I mean with any prospect of success, of accommodat. ing the same species of admonition to those who tremble, and to those who presume? Or, is a debate, especially on a religious subject, to be managed in the same manner with a modest and candid inquirer after truth, and with a still impudent, though detected, sophister? We should, I humbly conceive, neither presumptuously dictate to the former, por meanly waste our arguments on the latter. The first merits all our affection, be his present opinions never so detestable in our eyes. But it is our duty to drag out the last from the coverture of his impious arts, and to scourge him with scorpions in the sight of his deluded admirers, that, if they did not choose him for a guide, because they previously knew him to be a deceiver, they may learn to abhor and Ay from him, as they would do from a person infected with the plague.
As to men of but moderate talents for controversy, who, although unbappily entangled in the new opinions, do nevertheless still retain an honest regard for the truth, ought they not to hear and read, as well on the one side as the other? Since their modesty makes them the disciples of others, it ought, one should think, to convince them, they may possibly have made a wrong choice of teachers, Such men as, for want of sufficient literature, are unable to go through with a work so very difficult, even to the learned, and therefore must, in some measure, depend on others, ought undoubtedly to listen with the one ear as well as with the other, and to try all things, that they may, in the end, hold fast that which is good.'
They may easily judge, whom they ought to follow, by the fruits of their instructions. Is not virtue banished, whereyer piety hath been extinguished? And what re; mains of piety are to be found, where the new opinions have taken place ? It is evident to every common obseryer, that respect for the holy Scriptures, for the sacraments, for the sabbath, and for the sanctions of religion, hath retired from the minds of mankind, in proportion as the novel doctrines have advanced; and that dissolution of manners bath followed the dissipated faith, and licentious principles, of our new apostles. Their disciples need be referred no farther than to their own breasts, for an experimental proof of this. Why then will men, still retaining some tincture of a good meaning, give up their minds to leaders so long accustomed to treat their own understandings with perpicious novelties, that it is manifestly become unsafe to be within the obnoxious air of their conversation, which infects as fast as it is breathed : Avicenna makes mention of a girl, who, having been fed, from her infancy, on certain species of nutritive poison, came at length to haye a constitution incapable of bearing any other kind of food, extremely distempered in itself, and contagious to all who approached her. He does not tell us, however, that she, like the intellectual plagues above-mentioned, wąs fond of a crowd, or shewed any industry to infect others. In this particular, our new teachers rather resemble the Talys of
Eustathius, a man made wholly of brass, who had a trick of going into the fire, and staying there till he was as hot as that could make him, and then rushing out to embrace those whom he would destroy.
Beside the dangerous tendency of their principles, these venders of new opinions shew themselves to be very unfit instructors for a well-meaning man, by the disingenuous artifices and double-dealing wherewith they make all their proselytes. They declare, in the most solemn manner, for any system of principles, though never so contrary to their real sentiments, if place and profit happen to be annexed to it; and then, without the least scruple, employ all the credit that place can give them, to inculcate a contrary system, but under such disguises as give them, in the eyes .of the undiscerning, some shew of believing and acting in conformity to their declarations. Base enough to do this, they have also the assurance publicly to defend it when done, and to repeat it, in the face of mankind. Shall a man of honest intentions give himself up to these mercenary, these self-detected deceivers, and refuse to hear or read any thing, but that which they think fit to recommend ? It is impossible. The partisans of a known impostor are always impostors themselves.
For men, thus deceiving, or wishing to be deceived, the following Discourses were neither written, nor pubJished; but for those only who honestly look for the truth, and prefer a painful rufile, at the entrance, to the most pleasing doze in error. The Author, conscious that the principles he maintains are true and necessary; that the Almighty Being not only authorizes, but prescribes the defence of them; and that the dignity of a cause so highly noble and important merits the service of much greater talents than hath been bestowed on him ; writes therefore freely and boldly, at the full stretch of those he hath.
However, he submits his performances, first, to you, Gentlemen, and then to every other sensible and honest peruser; earnestly wishing, the abilities had been equal to the spirit that gave them birth; and humbly hoping, that, while the dullest treatises on the side of heresy and irreligion are devoured, with a kind of greediness, these, which speak for God and truth, may possibly meet with ac.
ceptance; especially in case they shall happen to seem not less rational, less spirited, or entertaining.
He will bless God for your approbation, Gentlemen, if he shall be so happy as to obtain it; and will esteem it the greatest comfort of his life. But as to the censures of the dishonest, of whom alone he writes with severity, he will consider them as applause; believing what he says hath pierced to the quick when the hardened dissembler is forced to complain.
To conclude this already too tedious address, I most earnestly beseech God to bless and preserve that church, whereof he hath shewn himself so long remarkably the protector, and in nothing more, than in giving you to be its pastors. May he make it, by your ministry, fruitful in faith and good works, for the sake of Him who purchased it with his blood. I am,
Right reverend, and reverend Gentlemen,