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OF THE AUDITORY AND SOCIETY
UNDER MY STATED MINISTERIAL CARE,
THIS SECOND EDITION
OF THESE TEN SERMONS,
AT FIRST PREACHED AND PUBLISHED
WITH A PECULIAR VIEW TO THEIR EDIFICATION,
WITH THE MOST CORDIAL PRAYERS
FOR THEIR TEMPORAL AND ETERNAL HAPPINESS
THEIR MOST AFFECTIONATE FRIEND,
AND FAITHFUL SERVANT
IN THE BONDS OF OUR COMMON LORD,
The ten following Sermons were at first preached (in the year 1735,) and published at the desire of William Coward, Esq. with some peculiar regard to the young persons under my care. God hath been pleased to give them such acceptance in the world, that I cannot but hope, they have been made useful; and therefore I shall not make an apology for complying with the request of a great number of friends, some of them at great distances from each other, in publishing this second edition ; which has been ready for the press a considerable time, though a series of accidents prevented its being sooner dispatched.
I have in one place and another made several additions, (which are distinguished by crotchets,) especially in the three last sermons, which I have studied to make as plain, and as comprehensive as possible ; and knowing the vast importance of tho subject, have spared no pains to finish them.
I purpose, before I publish the third volume of my Family Espositor, to perform the promise I made in the first, by adding to these three sermons on the Evidence of Christianity, a few more on the Inspiration of the New Testament, and on the usefulness particularly of its historical contents. But providence has for the present unexpectedly called me out to some other labours, which I hope may be an equivalent to the public for the delay of these.
My Sermons on Regeneration are now in the press; and the importunity of one of the greatest and best of friends to whom nothing is to be denied*, has engaged me to attempt a farther prosecution of that important subject, under the title of The Rise and Progress of the Divine Life in the Soul. I mention this undertaking, chiefly with a view of recommending myself to the prayers of my many christian friends, while I am pursuing it; and so much the rather, as according to the plan, which with my friend's assistance I have drawn of it, I perceive it will be a work of as great variety and difficulty, as any of a practical nature in which I have ever becı engaged.
If any ask, why I publish so many things on these practical subjects, so often handled by a variety of writers; I answer in a few words, with all simplicity, as before him to whom I am shortly to render an account of all my actions and views, "Becanse I know the gospel to be truc, and through divine grace I feel in my heart, an ardent concern for the salvation of men's souls." This renders such meditations my delight, and makes me desirous of warning every man, and teaching every man, that I may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. And in this view, as other cares appear trifling, so the limits of one congregation or country, and of the little time that I must expect, to spend in life, secm too narrow. Oh that it were possible to speak to the enils of the earth, and to the end of time, thosc important truths which are employing my pen! I know, such plain things will be neglected and despised by many; but I am as sure, there are many others, who thirst for them and relish them. And as I endeavour to write on the common general principles of christianity, and Dot in the narrow spirit of any particular party, I bless God I have the pleasure to see my writings, imperfect as they are, favoured by many excellent persons of different denominations; and I hope therefore, they may be a means of spreading a serious and candid spirit, which I am sure it is my most earnest labour and prayer that they may.
To intend well, is a foundation of the most solid happiness in life ; and to be rightly understood in those intentions, is one of its most sensible delights. The malignity of some tempers will put a sinister interpretation on the most upright and the most benevolent undertakings; but I am persuaded, that where God is pleased
* The Reverend Dr. Watts.
to give an unfeigned zeal for the honour of his gospel, and an overflowing love to the souls of men, he will smile on the attempts which proceed from such a principle, and will teach his servants a language, which good men will generally understand, and the force of which they will feel.
Besides this, as almost every writer has a number of select friends, who read his works, and perhaps love them, because they are his; so I must always acknowledge the divine goodness to me, in giving me a share in the very indulgent regards of many most valuable persons, in distant parts of our land, whose kind acceptance of my poor attempts of service I have found far beyond my expectation, and whose friendship I consider as my greatest earthly treasure. The number bas greatly increased since the first edition of these sermons was published ; and as this second, and (through the continued care of my good brother Mr. Godwin), much more correct edition, comes out at their earnest request, I doubt not but they will, as in other instances, do their part towards giving it such a spread as may, by the divine blessing, answer the end of rendering it as extensively useful as possible.
Growing experience convinces me, that I have no reason to fear, lest candid and judicious readers should be offended with me, for having given way to some warmth of devout aflection, in the greatest part of these discourses, and in others, which I have mentioned above: The subjects are of a nature, not only to excuse, but to require it. And while I have any reverence for scripture, or any knowledge of human nature, I shall never affect to speak of the glories of Christ, and the eternal interest of men, as coldly as if I were reading a lecture of mathematics, or relating an experiment of natural philosophy. I hope I shall always remember, how unworthy the character of a man and a christian it is, to endeavour to transport men's passions, while the understanding is left uninformed, or the judgment unconvinced: But so far as is consistent with a proper regard to these leading powers of our nature, I heartily pray, that I, and all other gospel ministers, may so feel the energy of divine truths on our own souls, as to preach and write concerning them with an holy fervency and ardour; nor can I imagine, it would bode well to the interest of religion in general, to endeavour to lay all those passions asleep, which surely were implanted in our hearts by God, to subserve the religious, as well as civil life, and which after all will probably be employed to some very excellent, or very pernicious purposes.
I would hope, that these sermons, and those on regeneration, will be of some service to religious families, especially on the evenings of the Lord's-day. We are happy in a great number of excellent discourses suitable to such an occasion, and perhaps in none more suitable, than in the two volumes of sermons at Berry-street; of which I can with great cheerfulness repeat what I said, when making my acknowledgments to the founder, immediately after their publication; “ that I cannot recollect where I have seen a set of important thoughts on such various and weighty subjects more judiciously selected, more accurately digested, more closely compacted, more naturally expressed, or in so few words more powerfully inforced, than I have generally found in those sermons: On account of which, I doubt not but the thanksgivings of many are often abounding to the glory of God."
I esteem it my great felicity, to be engaged with those worthy anthors in the same great design, of assisting to form men's minds to a scriptural religion and a christian temper; and though many provinces may appear much more splendid in the eyes of the learned and the polite world, I trust ours will be at least as favourably remembered in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming; and I would have no standard of honour, wisdom and happiness, which will not stand the test of that important day.
Northampton, June 9, 1741.