|« Prev||SECTION III. Some things that concern all.||Next »|
Of some particulars that concern all in general.
And here, the first thing I shall mention is fasting and prayer. It seems to me, that the circumstances of the present work loudly call upon God’s people to abound in this; whether they consider their own experience, or the riches of God’s grace. God has lately given them an experience of the worth of his presence, and of the blessed fruits of the effusions of his Spirit, to excite them to pray for the continuance, increase, and greater extent of such blessings; and they have great encouragement to pray for the out-pouring of his Spirit, and the carrying on of this work, by the great manifestations he has lately made of the work, by the great manifestations he has lately made of the freeness and riches of his grace. There is much in what we have seen of the glorious works of God’s power and grace, to put us in mind of the yet greater things of this nature that he has spoken of in his word, and to excite our longings, and our hopes of their approach. Beside, we should consider the great opposition that Satan makes against this work, the many difficulties with which it is clogged, and the distressing circumstances that some parts of God’s church in this land are under at this day, on one account and another.
So is God’s will, through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; as is manifest by Ezek. xxxvi. 37. “I will yet, for this, be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them:” (see the context.) And it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication, Zech. xii. 10. If we are not to expect that the devil should go out of a particular person, under a bodily possession, without extraordinary prayer, or prayer and fasting; how much less should we expect to have him cast out the land, and the world, without it!
I am sensible that somewhat considerable has been done in duties of this nature in some places, but I do not think so much as God in the present dispensations of his providence calls for. I should think the people of God in this land, at such a time as this is, would be in the way of their duty while doing three times as much at fasting and prayer as they do; not only, not principally, for the pouring out of the Spirit on those places to which they belong; but that God would appear for his church, and, in mercy to miserable men, carry on his work in the land, and in the world, and fulfil the things he has spoken of in his word, that his church has been so long wishing, and hoping, and waiting for. “They that make mention of the Lord,” at this day, ought not to “keep silence” and should “give God no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth;” agreeable to Isa. lxii. 6, 7. Before the first great out-pouring of the Spirit of God on the christian church, which began at Jerusalem, the disciples gave themselves to incessant prayer, Acts i. 13, 14. There is a time spoken of, wherein God will remarkably and wonderfully appear for the deliverance of his church from all her enemies, and when he will avenge his own elect; and Christ reveals that this will be in answer to their incessant prayers, or “crying day and night,” Luke xviii.7. In Israel, the day of atonement, which was their great day of fasting and prayer, preceded and made way for the glorious and joyful feast of tabernacles. When Christ is mystically born into the world, to rule over all nations, it is represented in the Rev. xii. 12th chapter of Rev. as being in consequence of the church’s “crying, and travailing in birth, and being pained to be delivered.” One thing here intended doubtless is, her crying and agonizing in prayer.
God seems at this very time to be waiting for this from us. When he is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence, as to show his church their great need of it, and to bring them into distress for want of it, and so put them upon crying earnestly to him for it. Let us consider God’s present dispensations towards his church in this land; a glorious work of his grace has been begun and carried on; and he has of late suffered innumerable difficulties to arise, that in a great measure clog and hinder it, and bring many of God’s dear children into great distress. And yet he does not wholly forsake the work of his hand; there are remarkable tokens of his presence still to be seen, here and there; as though he was not forward to forsake us, and (if I may so say) as though he had a mind to carry on his work, but only was waiting for something that he expected in us, as requisite in order to it. And we have a great deal of reason to think, that one thing at least is, that we should further acknowledge the greatness and necessity of such a mercy, and our dependence on God for it, in earnest and importunate prayers to him. And by the many errors that have been run into, by the wounds we have thereby given ourselves and the cause that we would promote, and the mischief and confusion we have thereby made, God has hitherto been remarkably showing us our great and universal dependence on him, and exceeding need of his help and grace; which should engage our cries to him for it.
There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this, even women, children, and servants may have a public influence. Let persons in other respects be never so weak, and never so mean, and under never so poor advantages to do much for Christ and the souls of men; yet, if they have much of the spirit of grace and supplication, in this way they may have power with him who is infinite in power, and has the government of the whole world. A poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect is, as it were, under the power of his people; as princes, they have power with God, and prevail. Though they may be private persons, their prayers are put up in the name of a Mediator who is a public person, being the Head of the whole church, and the Lord of the universe. If they have a great sense of the importance of eternal things, and a concern for the precious souls of men, they need not regret it that they are not preachers; they may go in their earnestness and agonies of soul, and pour out their souls before one who is able to do all things. Before him they may speak as freely as ministers; they have a great High Priest, through whom they may come boldly at all times, and may vent themselves before a prayer-hearing Father without restraint.
427 If the people of God at this day, instead of spending time in fruitless disputing, in talking about opposers, judging them, and animadverting upon the unreasonableness of their talk and behaviour, and its inconsistence with true experience, would be more silent in this way, and open their mouths much more before God, and spend more time in fasting and prayer, they would be more in the way of a blessing. And if some Christians who have been complaining of their ministers, and struggling in vain to deliver themselves from the difficulties complained of under their ministry, had said and acted less before men, and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers, had as it were risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent, and incessant prayers for them, they would have been much more in the way of success.
God in his providence appearing in the present state of things; does especially call on his people in New England to be very much in praying to him for the pouring out of the Spirit upon ministers in the land. For though it is not for us to determine concerning particular ministers, how much they have of the Spirit of God; yet in the general degrees of the presence of God with the ministry in New England, much greater degrees of it than have hitherto been granted; they need it for themselves, and the church of God stands in extreme need of it.
On days of fasting and prayer, wherein the whole congregation is concerned, if the day, besides what is spent in our families, was not wholly spent in the meeting-house, but part of it in particular praying companies or societies, it would have a tendency to animate and engage devotion, more than if the whole day were spent in public, where the people are no way active themselves in the worship, and otherwise than as they join with the minister. The inhabitants of many of our towns are now divided into particular praying societies; most of the people, young and old, have voluntarily associated themselves in distinct companies, for mutual assistance in social worship, in private houses. What I intend therefore is, that days of prayer should be spent partly in these distinct praying companies. Such a method as this, has been several times proved, viz. In the forenoon, after the duties of the family and closet, as early as might be, all the people of the congregation have gathered in their particular religious societies; companies of men by themselves, and companies of women by themselves; young men by themselves, and young women by themselves; and companies of children in all parts of the town by themselves, as many as were capable of social religious exercises; the boys by themselves, and the girls by themselves; and about the middle of the day, at an appointed hour, all have met together in the house of God, to offer up public prayers, and to hear a sermon suitable to the occasion; and then, they have retired from the house of God again into their private societies, and spent the remaining part of the day in praying together there, excepting so much as was requisite for the duties of the family and closet in their own houses.—And it has been found to be of great benefit, to assist and engage the minds of the people in the duties of the day.
I have often thought it would be very desirable, and very likely to be followed with a great blessing, if there could be some contrivance for an agreement of all God’s people in America, who are well-affected to this work, to deep a day of fasting and prayer; wherein we should all unite on the same day, in humbling ourselves before God for our past long-continued lukewarmness and unprofitableness; not omitting humiliation for the errors that so many of God’s people—though zealously affected towards this work—through their infirmity and remaining blindness and corruption have run into; and together with thanksgivings to God for so glorious and wonderful a display of his power and grace in the late out-pourings of his Spirit, to address the Father of mercies, with prayers and supplications, and earnest cries, that he would continue and still carry on this work, and more abundantly and extensively pour out his Spirit, and particularly upon ministers; and that he would bow the heavens and come down, and erect his glorious kingdom through the earth.—Some perhaps may think that its being all on the same day, is a circumstance of no great consequence; but I cannot be of that mind. Such a circumstance makes the union and agreement of God’s people in his worship the more visible, and puts the greater honour upon God, and would have a great tendency to assist and enliven the devotions of Christians. It seems to me, it would mightily encourage and animate God’s saints in humbly and earnestly seeking to God for such blessings which concern them all; and that it would be much for the rejoicing of all, to think, that at the same time such multitudes of God’s dear children, far and near, were sending up their cries to the same common Father, for the same mercies. Christ speaks of agreement in asking, as wheat contributes to the prevalence of the prayers of his people, Matt. xviii. 19. “Again I say unto you, that if any two of you shall agree on earth, as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” If the agreement, or united purpose and appointment, of but two of God’s children, would contribute much to the prevalence of their prayers; how much more the agreement of so many thousands! Christ delights greatly in the union of his people, as appears by his prayer in the 17th of John; and especially is the appearance of their union in worship lovely and attractive unto him.
I doubt not but such a thing as I have now mentioned is practicable without a great deal of trouble. Some considerable number of ministers might meet together, and draw up the proposal, wherein a certain day should be fixed at a sufficient distance, endeavouring therein to avoid any other public day that might interfere with the design in any of the provinces, and the business of the day should be particularly mentioned. These proposals should be published, and sent abroad into all parts, with a desire, that as many ministers as are disposed to fall in with them, would propose the matter to their congregations, and, having taken their consent, would subscribe their names, together with the places of which they are ministers, and send back the proposals thus subscribed to the printer. The hands of many ministers might be to one paper. The printer having received the papers, thus subscribed, from all the provinces, might print the proposals again, with all the names; thus they might be sent abroad again with the names, that God’s people might know who are united with them in the affair. One of the ministers of Boston might be desired to have the oversight of printing and dispersing the proposals. In such a way, perhaps, might be fulfilled, in some measure, such a general mourning and supplication of God’s people as is spoken of Zech. xii. at the latter end, with which the church’s glorious day is to be introduced.—And such a day might be something like the day of atonement in Israel, before the joyful feast of tabernacles.
One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers; and that is, That although they recommend and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching, so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Saviour to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is; as may be seen by comparing Matt. vi. 5, 6, with ver. 16-18. Though I do not suppose that secret fasting is to be practised in a stated manner, and steady course, like secret prayer; yet it seems to me a duty that all professing Christians should practise, and frequently practise. There are many occasions, of both a spiritual and temporal nature, that properly require it; and there are many particular mercies we desire for ourselves or friends, that it would be proper in this manner to seek of God.
Another thing I would also mention, wherein it appears to me that there has been an omission, with respect to the external worship of God. There has been of late a great increase of preaching the word, of social prayer, and of singing praises. These external duties of religion are attended much more frequently than they used to be; yet I cannot understand that there is any increase of the administration of the Lord’s supper, or that God’s people do any more frequently commemorate the dying love of their Redeemer, in this sacred memorial of it, than they used to 428 do. I do not see why an increase of love to Christ should not dispose Christians as much to increase in this as in those other duties; or why it is not as proper that Christ’s disciples should abound in this duty, in this joyful season, which is spiritually supper-time, a feast-day with God’s saints, wherein Christ is so abundantly manifesting his dying love to souls, and is dealing forth so liberally of the precious fruits of his death. It seems plain by the Scripture, that the primitive Christians were wont to celebrate this memorial of the sufferings of their dear Redeemer every Lord’s day; and so I believe it will be again in the church of Christ, in days that are approaching. And whether we attend this holy and sweet ordinance so often now, or no; yet I cannot but think it would become us, at such a time as this, to attend it much oftener than is commonly done in the land.
But another thing I would mention, which it is of much greater importance that we should attend to, and that is the duty incumbent upon God’s people at this day, to take heed, that while they abound in external duties of devotion, such as praying, hearing, singing, and attending religious meetings, there be a proportionable care to abound in moral duties, such as acts of righteousness, truth, meekness, forgiveness, and love towards our neighbour; which are of much greater importance in the sight of God than all the externals of his worship. Our Saviour was particularly careful that men should be well aware of this, Matt. ix. 13. “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.” and chap.xii. 7. “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.”
The internal acts and principles of the worship of God, or the worship of the heart, in love and fear, trust in God, and resignation to him, &c. are the most essential and important of all duties of religion whatsoever; for therein consists the essence of all religion. But of this inward religion there are two sorts of external manifestations or expressions. To one sort belong outward acts of worship, such as meeting in religious assemblies, attending sacraments and other outward institutions, honouring God with gestures, such as bowing, or kneeling before him, or with words, in speaking honourably of him in prayer, praise, or religious conference. To the other sort belong expressions of our love to God, by obeying his moral commands, self-denial, righteousness, meekness, and christian love, in our behaviour among men. The latter are of vastly the greatest importance in the christian life; God makes little account of the former, in comparison of them; they are abundantly more insisted on, by the prophets of the Old Testament, and Christ and his apostles in the New. When these two kinds of duties are spoken of together, the latter are evermore greatly preferred; as in Isa. i. 12-18. and Amos v. 21, &c. and Mic. vi. 7, 8. and Isa. lviii. 5, 6, 7. and Zech. xii. ten first verses, and Jer. ii. seven first verses, and Matt. xv. 3, &c. Often, when the times were very corrupt in Israel, the people abounded in the former kind of duties, but were at such times always notoriously deficient in the latter; as the prophets complain, Isa. lviii. four first verses, Jer. vi. 13, compared with ver. 20. hypocrites and self-righteous persons do much more commonly abound in the former kind of duties than the latter; as Christ remarks of the Pharisees, Matt. xxiii. 14, 25-34. When the Scripture directs us to show our faith by our works, it is principally the latter sort are intended; as appears by Jam. ii from ver. 8, to the end, and 2d chap. ver. 3, 7-11. And we are to be judged, at the last day, especially by these latter sort of works; as is evident by the account we have of the day of judgment, in the 25th of Matt.. External acts of worship, in words and gestures, and outward forms, are of little use, but as signs of something else, or as they are a profession of inward worship. They are not so properly showing our religion by our deeds; for they are only showing our religion by words, or an outward profession. But he that shows religion in the other sort of duties, shows it in something more than a profession of words, he shows it in deeds. And though deeds may be hypocritical, as well as words; yet in themselves they are of greater importance, for they are much more profitable to ourselves and our neighbour. We cannot express our love to God by doing any thing that is profitable to him; God would therefore have us do it in those things that are profitable to our neighbours, whom he has constituted his receivers. Our goodness extends not to God, but to our fellow-Christians. The latter sort of duties put greater honour upon God, because there is greater self-denial in them. The external acts of worship, consisting in bodily gestures, words, and sounds, are the cheapest part of religion, and least contrary to our lusts. The difficulty of thorough, external religion, does not lie in them. Let wicked men enjoy their covetousness, their pride, their malice, envy, and revenge, their sensuality and voluptuousness, in their behaviour amongst men, and they will be willing to compound the matter with God, and submit to what forms of worship you please, and as many as you please. This was manifest in the Jews in the days of the prophets, the Pharisees in Christ’s time, and the Papists and Mahometans at this day.
At a time when there is an apparent approach of any glorious revival of God’s church, he especially calls his professing people to the practice of moral duties, Isa. lvi. 1. “Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.” So when John preached that “the kingdom of heaven was at hand,” and cried to the people, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” Luke iii. 4. The people asked him, Luke iii. 10-14.“What they should do?” He answers, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” The publicans said, “What shall we do?” He answers, “Exact no more that that which is appointed you.” And the soldiers asked him, “What shall we do?” He replies, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages,” ver. 10-14.
God’s people at such time as this, ought especially to abound in deeds of charity, or alms-giving. We generally, in these days, seem to fall far below the true spirit and practice of Christianity with regard to this duty, and seem to have but little notion of it, so far as I can understand the New Testament.—At a time when God is so liberal of spiritual things, we ought not to be strait-handed towards him, and sparing of our temporal things. So far as I can judge by the Scripture, there is no external duty whatsoever, by which persons will be so much in the way, not only of receiving temporal benefits, but also spiritual blessings, the influences of God’s Holy Spirit in the heart, in divine discoveries and spiritual consolations. I think it would be unreasonable to understand those promises, made to this duty, in the 58th chap. of Isaiah, in a sense exclusive of spiritual discoveries and comforts; Isa. lviii. 7, &c.—“Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out, to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him, and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am; if thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; and if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day. And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” So that giving to the poor is the way to receive spiritual blessings, is manifest by Psal. cxii. 4, &c. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man showeth favour, and lendeth; he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved for ever; the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his horn shall be exalted with honour.” That this is one likely means to obtain assurance, is evident by 1 John iii. 18, 19. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed, and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” 429
We have a remarkable instance in Abraham, of God rewarding deeds of charity with sweet discoveries of himself. He had been remarkably charitable to his brother Lot, and the people redeemed out of captivity with him, by exposing his life to rescue them. He had re-taken not only the persons, but all the spoil that had been taken by Chedorlaomer and the confederate kings. The king of Sodom offered him, that, if he would give him the persons, he might take the goods to himself; but Abraham refused to take any thing, even so much as a thread or shoe-latchet, but returned all.—He might have greatly enriched himself if he had taken the spoil to himself, for it was the spoil of five wealthy kings and their kingdoms, yet he did not covet it. The king and people of Sodom were now become objects of charity, having been stript of all by their enemies; therefore Abraham generously bestowed all upon them, as we have an account in Gen. xiv. and four last verses. He was soon rewarded for it, by a blessed discovery that God made of himself to him; as in the next words; Gen. xv. 1. “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abraham in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abraham; I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” “I am thy shield to defend thee in battle, as I have now done; and though thou hast charitably refused to take any reward for exposing thy life to rescue this people, yet fear not, thou shalt not be a loser, thou shalt have a reward; I am thy exceeding great reward.”
When Christ was upon earth, he was poor, and an object of charity; and, during the time of his public ministry he was supported by the charity of some of his followers, and particularly certain women, of whom we read Luke viii. 2, 3. And these women were rewarded, by being peculiarly favoured with gracious manifestations which Christ made of himself to them. He discovered himself first to them after his resurrection, before the twelve disciples; they first saw a vision of glorious angels, who spake comfortably to them; and then Christ himself appeared to them, and spake peace to them, saying, “All hail, be not afraid; and they were admitted to come and hold him by the feet, and worship him,” Matt. xxviii. And though we cannot be charitable in this way to Christ, who in his exalted state is infinitely above the need of our charity; yet we may be charitable to him even now, as well as they then. For though Christ is not here, yet he has left others in his room, to be his receivers; and they are the poor. Christ is yet poor in his members; and he that gives to them, lends to the Lord; and Christ tells us, that he shall look on what is done to them, as done to him.
Rebekah, in her marriage with Isaac, was undoubtedly a remarkable type of the church, in her espousals to the Lord Jesus. She obtained her husband in doing deeds of charity; agreeable to the prayer of Abraham’s servant, who desired that this might be the thing to distinguish the virgin who was to be Isaac’s wife. So Cornelius was brought to the knowledge of Christ in this way. “He was a devout man, and one that feared God, with all his house; which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. And an angel appeared to him, and said to him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God; and now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter,” &c. Acts x. at the beginning. And we have an account of the following parts of the chapter, how God, by Peter’s preaching, revealed Christ to Cornelius and his family, and of the Holy Ghost descending upon them, and filling their hearts with joy and their mouths with praises.
Some may possibly object, That for persons to do deeds of charity, in hope of obtaining spiritual blessings and comforts in this way, would seem to show a self-righteous spirit, as though they would offer something to God to purchase these favours. But, if this be a good objection, it may be made against every duty whatsoever. All external duties of the first table will be excluded by it, as well as those of the second. First-table duties have as direct a tendency to raise self-righteous persons’ expectations of receiving something from God, on account of them, as second-table duties; and on some accounts more, for those duties are more immediately offered to God, and therefore persons are more ready to expect something from God for them. But no duty is to be neglected, for fear of making a righteousness of it. And I have always observed, that those professors who are most partial in their duty—exact and abundant in external duties of the first table, and slack as to those of the second—are the most self-righteous.
If God’s people in this land were once brought to abound in such deeds of love, as much as in praying, hearing, singing, and religious meetings and conference, it would be a most blessed omen. Nothing would have a greater tendency to bring the God of love down from heaven to earth; so amiable would be the sight in the eyes of our loving and exalted Redeemer, that it would soon as it were fetch him down from his throne in heaven, to set up his tabernacle with men on the earth, and dwell with them. I do not remember ever to have read of any remarkable outpouring of the Spirit, that continued any long time, but what was attended with an abounding in this duty. We know it was so with that great effusion of the Spirit which began at Jerusalem in the apostles’ days. And so it was in the late remarkable revival of religion in Saxony, which began by the labours of the famous professor Franck, and has now been carried on for above thirty years, and has spread its happy influences into many parts of the world; it was begun, and has been carried on, by a wonderful practice in this duty. And the remarkable blessing that God has given Mr. Whitfield, and the great success with which he has crowned him, may well be thought to be very much owing to his laying out himself so abundantly in charitable designs. And it is foretold, that God’s people shall abound in this duty at the time of the great outpouring of the Spirit that shall be in the latter days, Isa. xxxiii. 5, 8. “The vile person shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful—But the liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.”
To promote a reformation, with respect to all sorts of duties among a professing people, one proper means, and that which is recommended by frequent scripture examples, is their solemn, public renewing of their covenant with God.—And doubtless it would greatly tend to promote this work in the land, if the congregations of God’s people could generally be brought to this. Suppose a draught of a covenant be made by their ministers, wherein there should be an express mention of those particular duties that the people of the respective congregations have been observed to be most prone to neglect, those particular sins into which they have heretofore especially fallen, or of which it may be apprehended they are especially in danger, whereby they may prevent or resist the motions of God’s Spirit. Suppose the matter be fully proposed and explained to the people, and, after sufficient opportunity for consideration, they be led, all that are capable of understanding, particularly to subscribe the covenant. Suppose also all appear together on a day of prayer and fasting, publicly to own it before God in his house, as their vow to the Lord; hereby congregations of Christians would do what would be beautiful in itself, what would put honour upon God, and be very profitable to themselves. Such a thing was attended with a very wonderful blessing in Scotland, and followed with a great increase of the blessed tokens of the presence of God, and remarkable outpourings of his Spirit; as the author of the Fulfilling of the Scripture informs, p. 186. 5th edition.—A people must be taken when they are in a good mood, when considerable religious impressions prevail among them; otherwise innumerable will be their objections and cavils against it.
One thing more I would mention, which, if God should still carry on this work, would tend much to promote it; and that is, That a history should be published once a month, or once a fortnight, of its progress, by one of the ministers of Boston, who are near the press, and are most conveniently situated to receive accounts from all parts. It has been found by experience, that the tidings of remarkable effects of the power and grace of God in any place, tend greatly to awaken and engage the minds of persons in other places. It is a great pity, therefore, but 430 that some means should be used for the most speedy, most extensive, and certain information of such things; that the country be not left to the slow, partial, and doubtful information, and false representations, of common report.
Thus I have (I hope, by the help of God) finished what I proposed. I have taken the more pains in it, because it appears to me that now God is giving us the most happy season to attempt an universal reformation that ever was given in New England. And it is a thousand pities, that we should fail of that which would be so glorious, for want of being sensible of our opportunity, of being aware of those things that tend to hinder it, of taking improper courses to obtain it, or of not being sensible in what way God expects we should seek it. If it should please God to bless any means for convincing the country of his hand in this work, for bringing them fully and freely to acknowledge his glorious power and grace in it; and for bringing them to engage with one heart and soul, and by due methods, to endeavour to promote it, it would be a dispensation of Divine Providence that would have a most glorious aspect, happily signifying the approach of great and glorious things to the church of God, and justly causing us to hope that Christ would speedily come to set up his kingdom of light, holiness, peace, and joy on earth, as is foretold in his word. Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!
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