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INHABITANTS OF THE PARISH OF OLNEY.
My Dear Friends, I HAVE principally two motives for publishing these Dis.
The one is, to exhibit a specimen of the doctrine that is taught and most surely believed amongst us, to satisfy those who desire information, and to stop, if possible, the mouth of slander. I cheerfully submit them to examination; in full confidence that they contain nothing of moment which is not agreeable to the general strain of the word of God, and to the principles of the church whereof I am a minister, as specified in the Articles, Liturgy, and Homilies, And that what I now print is to the same purport with the usual course of my preaching, I doubt not but all who statedly hear me will do me the justice to acknowledge.
My other motive is a desire of promoting your edification. It is my comfort that many of you live by the truths of the Gospel, and highly prize them. You will not therefore be unwilling to view the substance of what you once heard with acceptance. But it is to be feared, that the far greater part of the congregation have need to have the things pertaining to their peace pressed upon them again and again, for a different reason ; not because they know them, and therefore love to have them brought to their remembrance, but because they have hitherto heard them without effect. For the sake of both, therefore, I am willing to leave an abiding testimony amongst you. I hereby take each of your consciences to witness, that I am clear of your blood ; and that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.
In the choice of the subjects I have selected for publication, I have not been solicitous to comprise a succinct
scheme of Gospel doctrine, but have given the preference to such topics, which the peculiar circumstances of the times, and of my hearers, make me desirous might be had in continual remembrance.
The Exposition of the Third Commandment, which was first delivered in your hearing, I afterwards preached (nearer the form in which it now appears) at London ; and as it led me to touch on some particulars of a very public and interesting concern, I have given it a place in this volume. And I shall think myself happy indeed, if it may please God to give weight to the testimony of so obscure a person with respect to a grievance under which the nation groans.
As long discourses are in many respects inconvenient, I have chosen to publish no more than a brief summary of what you heard more at large from the pulpit. And as I aim to speak plain truths to a plain people, I have purposely avoided any studied ornaments in point of expression, being desirous to accommodate myself to the apprehensions of the most ignorant.
May it please the God of all grace to accompany my feeble endeavours to promote the knowledge of his truth, with the powerful infuence of his Holy Spirit. And I earnestly entreat all who know how to draw near to a throne of grace by Jesus Christ, to strive mightily in prayer for me, that I may stand fast in the faith, and increase in the knowledge of Jesus the Saviour; and that for his sake, I may labour without fear or fainting, in the service to which he has been pleased to call me. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!
I am your affectionate friend, and servant in the Gospel of Christ.
OLNEY, Jan. 20, 1767.
SERMONS PREACHED AT OLNEY.
THE SMALL SUCCESS OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY CON
MATTH, xi. 25.
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, o
Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
OUR blessed Lord perfectly knew before-hand the persons who would profit by his ministry: but his observations, conduct, and discourses, were intended as a pattern and instruction to his followers. He is said to have marvelled at the unbelief of some, and at the faith of others; not as though either was strange to him, who was acquainted with all hearts, and always knew what he himself would do; but it is spoken of him as a man, and to show how his ministers and people should be affected upon the like occasions. In the preceding verses he had been speaking of Capernaum, and other places, where his mighty works had been performed in vain. He had denounced a sentence against them; and foretold that their punishment would be heavier in proportion to the greatness of the privileges they had abused. But this was not his pleasing work. Mercy and grace were his delight, and he usually expressed sorrow and pain for the obstinacy of
sinners. He wept for his avowed enemies, and prayed for the murderers who nailed him to the cross. It was not without grief that he declared the approaching doom of these cities; yet, raising his thoughts from earth to heaven, he acquiesced in the will of his heavenly Father, and expressed the highest satisfaction in his appointment. He knew, that, however some would harden themselves, there was a remnant who would receive the truth, and that the riches and glory of the divine sovereignty and
grace would be magnified. Before I enter upon the particulars, this connection of the words will afford us ground for some observations.
I. That the small success and efficacy of the preached Gospel upon multitudes who hear it, is a subject of wonder and grief to the ministers and people of God. It was so to our Lord Jesus, considered as a preacher and messenger; and they, so far as they have received his Spirit, judge and act as he did.
1. Those who have indeed tasted that the Lord is gracious, have had such a powerful experience in their own souls of the necessity and value of the Gospel, that in their first warmth, and till painful experience has convinced them of the contrary, they can hardly think it possible that sinners should stand out against its evidence. They are ready to say, “Surely it is because “ they are ignorant; they have not had opportunity of
considering the evil of sin, the curse of the law, and the “ immense goodness of God manifested in his Son; but “ when these things shall be plainly and faithfully set “ before them, surely they will submit, and thankfully “ receive the glad tidings.” With such sanguine hopes Melancthon entered the ministry at the dawn of the Reformation: he thought he had only to speak, and to be heard, in order to convince; but he soon found him
self mistaken, and that the love of sin, the power of prejudice, and the devices of Satan, were such obstacles in his way, as nothing less than the mighty operations of the Spirit of God could break through. And all who preach upon his principles, and with his views, have known something of his disappointment. Speaking from the feelings of a full heart, they are ready to expect that others should be no less affected than themselves. But when they find that they are heard with indifference, perhaps with contempt; that those whose salvation they long for, are enraged against them for their labour of love; that they cannot prevail upon their dearest friends, and nearest relatives; this grieves and wounds them to the heart.
2. They have been convinced themselves, that unbelief was the worst of all their sins : and, therefore, though they pity all who live in the practice of sin, yet they have a double grief to see them reject the only means of salvation; and that this contempt will lie more heavily upon them, than any thing they can be charged with besides. It gladdens the heart of a minister to see a large and attentive assembly; but how is this joy damped by a just fear, lest any,
of them should receive this grace of God in vain, and have cause at last to bewail the day when the name of Jesus was first sounded in their ears.
It seems plain, then, that those who are indifferent about the event of the Gospel, who satisfy themselves with this thought, that the elect shall be saved, and feel no concern for unawakened sinners, make a wrong ins ference from a true doctrine, and know not what spirit they are of. Jesus wept for those who perished in their sins. St. Paul had great grief and sorrow of heart for the Jews, though he gives them this character, “ They