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the intention of them will be in some meafüre answered. This agreeable prospect has much alleviated the trouble I have been at in reviewing, correcting and transcribing them ;. which would otherwise have been a tedious labor to me, especially in so cold and severe a season. But if they are only a quarter part-so useful to you as I pray God to make them, I shall be very amply rewarded.
În composing them, I must own, I had no other fermons in view as a model; which may, perhaps, be one reason that they are no better. They were written intirely from the scriptures, and from my own heart ; of the latter of which at least, they are a true, tho' imperfect representation. Least of all had I in view, as a model, either the fermons of any bigotted devotees to particular systems of religion, distinct from the general and glorious one of the gospel ; or such cold, uninteresting discourses as hit the frivolous taste of those, who value fer, mons only for an imaginary delicacy of sentiment and expression, without solidity, without force or energy; without entering into the spirit and importance of religion. I do not think mine the worse, for not being imitations of such as either of these.
The The former are my aversion, as the illiberal productions of slaves, who desire to tyrannize over other mens consciences : The latter my contempt, as the superficial, insipid, empty harangues of vain men ; which do not deserve the name of fermons. If discourses from the pulpit are adapted only to please the ear and the fancy, like many of the modern fashionable ones; in stead of having a direct tendency to alarm the conscience of a sinner, to warm the heart of a saint, or to enlighten the understandings of any; they serve, in my opinion, to no better purposes, than those of un seasonably amusing the hearers, disgracing the places in which, and the perfons by whom they are delivered, as frivolous, con: ceited declaimers; who seek only the applause of men, by their sounding brass and tinkling cymbals ; instead of designing to do good, by manifestation of the truthi and commending themselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. I must own, I should be a little mortified, as well as greatly disappointed, if any persons who are charmed with such lullabies and opiates to the conscience from the pulpit, should think the following discourses in any mea: fure tolerable.
The The subject is handled in such a manner as to give you a general, comprehen. sive idea of true religion, with its advantages and importance: I mean, of Christianity, according to my own conceptions of it. The scheme or plan of the sermons is very extensive: It opens a wide field, almost boundlesson every side, and presenting numberless objects to the view. Whoever looks over the contents of them, will see that they are not deficient in point of variety, whatever other faults they may be justly charged with. But, in this way of treating the subject, it was impossible to handle any particular doctrine or precept of the gospel fully, or with accuracy and precision. Had I pretended to handle the various branches of religion here touched upon, in this manner, each fermon would have swelled to a folio; and they must have employed more years than I was days, in composing and preaching them.
The general design of them, viz. to instruct the YOUNG, and, by the blessing of God; to form their minds to the love and practice of true religion, cannot but be approved by all wise and good men ; how much foever I have failed in the method,
i . or
or execution. The instruction of the YOUNG; in order to their being well principled, and acting a proper part in life, is a thing of the utmost importance to themselves and to society. This has, accordingly, been a fa. vourite, a principal object with some of the wifest men, in their respective ages and countries. Three such persons in particular, at once present themselves to my mind; SOLOMON, Socrates and CICERO...;
The first of these, SOLOMON among the Jews, had a very particular attention to the Young, in his invaluable writings; a treasure more to be prized than millions of gold and silver. He himself informs us, and it is obvious from the most cursory view of them, that their more immediate and fpecial design was, “ to give to the YOUNG MAN knowledge and understanding."
The second, Socrates, so renowned a mong the Greeks for his wisdom and virtue, is also known to have devoted his time and great talents, chiefly to the instruction of YOUNG Men. Tho' he left nothing in writing, which is come down to us ; yet authentic history gives us this account of him : And the dialogues of PLATO, his learned disciple, in which the
sentiments and discourses of Socrates are represented, clearly evince the same thing. He was, however, in that superstitious, corrupt and idolatrous, tho' polite age, accus, ed, tried and condemned as a perverter of the Youth of ATHENS ; more particularly, as it is said, because he taught them the UNITY of God; ridiculing polytheism,with the numberless superstitions & follies which time, ignorance and prejudice had consecrated, as the sacred mysteries of religion; j. e. in other words, he was considered as an impious heretic and blasphemer. This it was, that enraged the priests, the policicians, and even the poets of Athens, against that extraordinary person ; and finally brought him, as a martyr for the truth, to drink the fatal hemlock in a jayl: A poor requital for such important services to his country! But thus it is, that “ the world gives;"—thus, that it often rewards its benefactors, of whom it is not worthy. And even the Son of God himself, was by wicked hands crucified and slain as a blafphemer, for asserting that the only true God was his FATHER ; thereby making himself, as the priests maliciously accused him, equal with God