« Prev Sermon XXII. The Author's Farewell to the World. Next »

SERMON XXI.

The Author’s Farewell to the World.

Psalm lxxvi. 10. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.

THESE words have been explained in the preceding discourse, and it appears that they contain the following important truth:

357

That God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, has determined that there should be just so much evil, both moral and natural, as has been, now is, and ever will be, and no more; as it is most suitable and necessary to make the brightest display of his perfections, and effect the greatest good, glory and happiness of his eternal kingdom; therefore it is most wise and best that all this evil should exist: and every instance of it, greater or less, God will overrule to answer this end, in the highest possible degree.

It has been shown that this truth, being believed and properly improved, is a sufficient and the only foundation for the support, comfort and joy of the benevolent friends of God, in all the darkness, confusion, sin and misery with which they are surrounded.

And now, standing on this sure, firm foundation, this immovable, everlasting rock, I look around, and, as far as I am able, view the world of mankind, and take my leave of them, expecting soon to put off this my tabernacle.

I am old, having lived near fourscore years, and I know not the day of my death; but have no reason to think it is far distant.

It is my earnest wish to leave a blessing behind me when I shall go hence: and I have the consolation to know I shall. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. He lives and reigns head over all things to the church. He will reign till all his enemies are put under his feet; till he has destroyed the works of the devil, and perfectly completed the work of redemption; yea, he will reign forever. He will cause all the kingdoms of this world, in which Satan has reigned so long, to become his own kingdom, and all nations shall serve him, and be holy and happy under his influence, protection and smiles. Of this blessed time the Bible is full of predictions and promises. This blessing I leave behind me for the world to enjoy long after I am dead; for I am sure that the time is coming when all the families and nations of the earth shall be 358 blessed in Jesus Christ. The assurance of this affords support and consolation to me, while I am surveying mankind in their present sinful and wretched state.

It is doubtless impossible to make an exact calculation of the number of inhabitants now living in this world, which shall be agreeable to the truth, and may not err in fixing on millions less or more than do actually exist. But they who have attended to this point, and perhaps are best able to judge, have supposed that there are not less, but perhaps more, than eight hundred millions of people now living on earth: that of these, four hundred and eighty-one millions are Heathens; one hundred and forty millions are Mahometans; and nine millions are Jews. All which amount to six hundred and thirty millions. There remain one hundred and seventy millions, which are supposed to be nominal Christians. Of these, ninety millions are Papists, thirty millions of the Greek church, and fifty millions Protestants.

It is not probable that this computation is exact, according to the truth, and some may make a different one; but this is perhaps as near the truth as any that can at present be made. I cannot speak to all these, so as to be heard, and there is but a very small number, compared with the whole, whom I shall ever know in this world, or who will know or hear of me. But I am sure to meet not only all who are now in the world, but all the countless millions who ever have lived, or shall exist hereafter to the end of the world, at the day of judgment, when I shall know the character of every individual person, and mine will be inspected and known by all.

The earth is far from being filled with inhabitants. There is room for many more, probably a thousand, yea many thousands, to one of the present inhabitants. The earth when properly and fully cultivated, and the produce prudently used to answer the ends of living, would support a multitude of inhabitants, even beyond all our present calculation. Noah and his sons, and 359in them every generation of mankind who have descended from them, received a command from God to multiply and fill the earth. This command has not yet been properly regarded by mankind; but, instead of this, they have in a great measure depopulated the earth, by wars and cruel slaughters of each other, and the practice of a variety of destructive vices, by which multitudes have been immaturely cut off in every age. And, by reason of the great corruption and horrid rebellion of mankind in every age, God has been pleased to show his displeasure by destroying the bigger half that have been born, in their infancy, or the early days of youth. But the time is coming when a generation shall rise up who shall know and fear the Lord, and love their neighbour as themselves, and shall learn war no more, and there shall be none to destroy or hurt in all the earth: and, in the practice of piety and every social virtue, under the smiles of Heaven, they will be happy, and multiply and fill the earth.

According to the foregoing calculation, the greater part of mankind now on the earth are in a state of Heathenism; and there are near as many Jews and Mahometans, as nominal Christians, who are professed enemies to Christianity, and are in as bad, yea, worse state, than are the heathen.

It is the preceptive will of God our Saviour, that all men should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. He commanded his disciples to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” And every one to whom the gospel is preached is commanded to repent and believe the saving truth. It is therefore wholly owing to the disobedience and wickedness of man, both Christians and Heathen, Mahometans and Jews, Infidels and Atheists, that the gospel has not been preached to all mankind, and that they have not all embraced it, to the salvation of their souls.

Notwithstanding man’s natural disposition to oppose, hate and reject the gospel, and the many difficulties and dangers which hence arise, in attempts to spread the 360gospel among the Heathen and others, it is the duty of Christians to exert themselves, and take every proper method to propagate it far and wide, to the utmost of their power, looking to and trusting in Christ, to cause his word to run and be glorified. Love to Christ, and benevolence to men who are perishing in darkness and sin, are sufficient, if properly exercised, to induce Christians to unite in the prosecution of this most important affair. Christians enjoy the richest treasure by the gospel, and they will not diminish but increase their own part in it by their attempts to impart it to others.

Within a few years past a great and extraordinary zeal and engagedness to propagate the gospel among the Heathen, and others who have it not preached to them, has appeared, and been uncommonly exerted, both in Europe and America. And I observe with approbation and pleasure, that all the societies which have been formed are agreed in the great and leading doctrines of the gospel, which have been called the doctrines of grace, or Calvinism; and that they appear, in all their publications, to express a spirit of true piety, and zeal to maintain and propagate these doctrines, and to approve of no missionaries who do not appear cordially to embrace them, and to be truly pious, as I am certain that this is the only scheme of doctrines which is consistent with itself, and with the Bible, and suited to convey saving truths to the minds of men.

This is an important and commendable design and work, and worthy to be pursued with increasing zeal and steady perseverance by all Christians, whatever difficulties, disappointments and apparent discouragements may occur. And though the attempts should not be succeeded in the conversion of one heathen, yet they who honestly, and from truly Christian principles, engage in this cause, however much they risk or expend, and even if they lose their own lives in it, they will really lose nothing by it, but meet with a rich reward. And if but few souls shall be gathered to Christ and be saved, this will more than compensate for all 361 the cost and pains that can be bestowed in the cause; for one soul is worth more than ten thousand worlds. And though Israel be not now gathered, and there shall be no great and remarkable success at present; yet they shall be acceptable in the eyes of the Lord, and it will, in some way, though now unknown to us, serve to promote and hasten on the happy day when the Heathen shall be given to Christ for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.

In this view I rejoice when I am taking my leave of the world, and heartily wish success and God speed to all who are, and the many more who hereafter shall be, engaged in this happy, glorious work.

Of nominal Christians above two thirds are Papists, or of the Greek church, and near one third are Protestants, who are not more than the sixteenth part of the inhabitants of the earth. The Popish church has corrupted the gospel, introduced innumerable superstitious institutions and practices, and an idolatry, in many respects more gross and wicked than that of the Heathen. In scripture the head of this church, the Pope, is called Antichrist and the Beast, who, with all his followers, who receive his mark, are doomed to destruction. The Greek church is sunk into ignorance and superstition, and have departed from the essential truths and duties of Christianity. We are not therefore to look into either of these churches for many, if any, real Christians. As public bodies, they will cease to exist, when real Christianity, in the truth and power of it, shall prevail through all the world. I therefore take my leave of them, as by the scripture doomed to destruction.

The Protestants, who began their separation from the church of Rome in the sixteenth century, when what is called the reformation from Popery took place, under the preaching and writings of Luther and Calvin, and many other reformers, are now divided into various different sects, parties and denominations, differing in the doctrines which they hold, and in their manner of discipline, and in the mode of administering 362the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper, and the proper subjects of these ordinances, and in the mode of worship, &c. In the time of the reformation, and for some time after, the body of the reformed agreed in the most important and fundamental doctrines of the gospel, which appears by their confessions of faith and catechisms, which they published, and are the same, as to substance, with the doctrines which Calvin published in his Institutions. The articles of faith of the church of England, formed not long after the reformation from Popery, are after the same model, Calvinistic. About the middle of the seventeenth century, a confession of faith and catechisms were formed by an assembly of divines, called together from England and Scotland, by both houses of the English parliament; which confession and larger and smaller catechisms were approved and ordered to be published by both houses of said parliament, and the parliament and general assembly of the church of Scotland. And they were subscribed or assented to by all ranks of people in England, Scotland, and Ireland. This confession of faith, and these catechisms, are what may be, and is generally, called strict Calvinism. And they have been assented to, taught and maintained by many to this day.

But doctrines contrary to those contained in this confession of faith were introduced among Protestants not long after the reformation from Popery, and were considerably spread, when the above said confession was formed; such as are called Arminianism and Antinomianism, and those held by Arians and Socinians, who not only agree with Arminians in rejecting Calvinism, or what are called the doctrines of grace, but deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. These doctrines have had a great increase and spread among Protestants, since that time, especially in this century; and the prevalence of Deism, to which these doctrines have a direct lead, has taken place, and real, practical religion has decayed, and vice of almost every kind has increased and abounded 363in proportion to the propagation of these doctrines, which are opposed to Calvinism, and have a tendency to spread infidelity.

About the middle of this century the attention of multitudes was roused, and there was a great and remarkable revival of religion, in Britain, Ireland and America, principally under the preaching of Whitefield, and those who joined with him. Great numbers were hopefully converted, and embraced the doctrines of Calvinism. But there was too great a mixture of delusion and false religion, which has continued and been spreading since that time, while the whole has been the mean of the increase of light and knowledge of the truth, by which true religion has been distinguished from that which is false, and the important doctrines of the gospel have been pointed out and vindicated, in opposition to the various errors which have been embraced by many, by the writings or preaching of those who have appeared to have come to the knowledge of the truth. But by far the greater part, even the body of the people, appear not to have partook of the benefit of this revival of religion; and most who lived in the time of it were prejudiced against it, and opposers of it, and many of those who at first appeared friendly to it apostatized, and either embraced errors and false religion, or abandoned themselves to vice and infidelity; and on the whole it has been the means of hardening men in sin, and against the truth and all true religion, and against Christianity itself; so that religion has been gradually decaying, in general, from that time to this, and the above mentioned errors, and Deism, and even Atheism, have been fast spreading, and greedily embraced by multitudes, in opposition to all truth. And vice and immorality have kept pace with this, as the natural effect.

Deism and Atheism, which are near akind, as the former really implies the latter, and naturally runs into it, both being not only opposition to Christianity, but to all religion, have for a century had a rapid spread in 364 Germany, and more or less in all parts of Europe. This has been promoted with uncommon zeal, and secret cunning, by a number of pretended philosophers, who, with their abettors, have at length effected the public expulsion of Christianity from France. And they do not stop here, but are determined, as soon as possible, to effect the extirpation of Christianity and all religion from the Christian world. Yea, they extend their views farther, and are attempting, as far as they shall have opportunity, to put an end to all religion of every kind, and all civil government, in every nation on earth, where there is any degree of these. They have extended their views to America, and have emissaries, both secret and more open, attempting to spread these pernicious principles; and there are multitudes, especially of the rising generation, who are prepared to receive them.

Though there have been of late some instances of apparent revival of religion, both by zealously embracing and promoting Calvinism, or the true doctrines of the gospel, and exhibiting the power and life of experimental religion in practice, both in Europe and America; yet the great body and mass of the people are evidently fast growing more and more corrupt in principle and practice. But very few of the whole are willing to make a profession of religion, and by far the greater part of professors do not understand or believe the important, essential doctrines of the gospel, and are far from a steady, zealous conformity to the holy rules of it in practice, and shining as lights, in distinction from the world. Attending on public worship is more and more neglected and despised; and profanation of the sabbath is more common, by irreligious visits, vain companies, and walking or riding abroad in companies. Family religion is generally excluded; and family government and good order, and the religious instruction and education of children, are become very rare, and generally neglected; which gives a dark and melancholy prospect respecting the religion and morals of 365the rising and future generations. And in proportion to the neglect of public worship, and the profanation of the sabbath, and the increase of profaneness and other vices, there is an increasing desire and engagedness to attend the foolish, wicked and corrupting diversions of the stage or theatre, and other sinful assemblies and amusements.

The present state of religion, both as to the doctrines and practice of those who profess to believe that Christianity is a divine institution, and of those who are professed infidels, affords a clear practical demonstration of what the Bible abundantly holds forth, viz. that true religion, in principle and practice, cannot be preserved and maintained in the world, but will soon vanish, be rejected and lost, if the powerful influences of the Spirit be withheld, and do not attend the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the instituted ordinances of it, to the saving conversion of sinners, and the quickening, strengthening, and comfort of believers. When men remain under the power of the natural corruption and ignorance of their minds, not being born of the Spirit, and taught of God so as to come to the knowledge of the truth, by the renewing of their minds, their carnal mind, which is enmity against God, will either lead them to reject the gospel wholly as a mere fable, and not worthy of credit, or to corrupt it in the doctrines and duties which it inculcates, so as to render it conformable to the corrupt inclinations of their own hearts. And this is no new discovery, but the evidence of it has existed and been increasing ever since Christianity has been published to the world, by the treatment it has received from all to whom it has been preached, except those who have known and acknowledged that they were brought to understand and embrace it by the invisible and powerful operations of the Spirit of God; that, were it not for this distinguishing, sovereign goodness of God, and they had been left to themselves, they should not have believed and 366embraced the gospel, and discerned and loved the truths and duties there revealed, but should have persevered in ignorance and disobedience.

This evident fact is a continual, standing evidence of two things, viz. that Christianity is a wise and holy institution, and from heaven, and that mankind are totally depraved.

1. This is an evidence that Christianity is from heaven, and a holy institution; and that two ways. It is an evidence that it is from heaven, from its being continued and maintained in the world to this day, notwithstanding the great and continual opposition of mankind to it, and their unwearied attempts to extirpate or corrupt it. Had not Jesus Christ been from heaven, and was he not gone there to maintain his cause and church on earth, so that the gates of hell should not prevail against it, agreeable to his promise, by the constant exertion of his power and invisible influence, Christianity and the church could not have lived to this time, but the great truths on which the true church of Christ is built would have been discarded and forgotten long ago. And it is an evidence that Christianity and all the essential doctrines of it are from heaven, and that it is a holy institution, that it is so disagreeable and displeasing to fallen, depraved men, by which they are disposed to oppose and reject it, unless corrupted and altered so as to be agreeable to their taste, and their reigning lusts. Had the gospel been of men, a mere human contrivance, it would have been suited to the natural humour, taste, and inclinations of man, so that there would be no need of a supernatural change of heart in order to their cordial approbation of it, and compliance with the doctrines and precepts of it. But if it be from heaven, it must be a holy institution, and therefore disagreeable to fallen man. Were it suited to please the corrupt taste and sinful inclinations of man, it would be worse than nothing, and could not be from heaven. But since the true doctrines and precepts of Christianity are directly contrary to the heart and reigning 367inclinations of fallen man, so that he must be born again and be a new creature, in order to his being a friend to the gospel, or even understanding and believing it, it is certainly an excellent, holy institution, and must be from heaven. Agreeable to this, Christ said to the Jews, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not. If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” And Paul said, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”

2. This is an evidence of the total depravity of mankind; not only that they are fallen and depraved, but that they are wholly depraved in all their moral powers—have not the least degree of right moral taste and inclination, but are wholly under the power of the contrary. As the scripture says, “They are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one.” When a revelation comes from heaven perfectly wise, holy and good, and suited to relieve and save man from his fallen, wretched state, revealing a Saviour infinitely excellent and glorious, full of grace and truth, and offering complete, eternal salvation to every one who is willing to have it; if man had the least degree or spark of moral goodness or inclination; yea, if he were not wholly an enemy to God and every thing right and holy; he would not hate and reject such an offer, but gladly embrace it. Mankind would not join together to invent some way to corrupt and spoil it, or root it out of the world, were they not total and strong enemies to God and all that is wise and good, and consequently enemies to their own good. “This is the condemnation” of man, as totally corrupt and an exceedingly criminal enemy to God, “that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

But to return to the view which has been given of the present state of the world: It appears to me, as it also doth to some noted writers on the Revelation, that the sixth vial, mentioned Rev. xvi. 12-16, is now running, and began to be poured out at the beginning of 368the eighteenth century, or some years before, and will continue to run some part of the nineteenth century, perhaps near fifty years of it. Under this vial John “saw three unclean spirits, like frogs, come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, [or wonders] which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great day of God Almighty.” Eight years ago I published a particular explanation of this passage in a Treatise on the Millennium. It is needless to repeat that. I shall only observe here, that this is a representation of the uncommon spread and prevalence of error and wickedness of every kind over all the world, among all orders of men, especially the Christian world, under the influence of the devil, by which men in general will be in an unusual degree combined, engaged and armed against the reigning God the Saviour, and shall produce great, strange and wonderful events. And when the iniquity of the world is become full, and men in general are ripe for destruction, God will come forth out of his place to punish the world for their wickedness, in a most terrible battle against them, by pouring the most dreadful calamities and destruction upon them, under the seventh and last vial of the wrath of God, which is represented in this chapter, verse seventeenth to the end, and in the nineteenth chapter, verse eleventh to the end. This will prepare the way for the introduction of the millennium, when the church of Christ shall increase and prosper, in an unexampled state of purity and happiness, for a thousand years.

In the view of this present dark and evil state of the world, and the prospect of yet greater wickedness and more dreadful calamities which are to take place for ages and generations to come on the stage, I now take my leave of it, with a mixture of grief and joy; knowing that all this wrath of man shall praise God, and all the sin and misery that will take place is necessary for, and 369 will issue in, the most glorious display of the Divine Character, and the greatest glory and happiness of Christ and his church; and that he will hasten an end to these evils in this world as fast and as soon as it can be done consistent with his wisdom and goodness, and so as to bring on the millennium in the best manner and time.

I think their notion is entirely without foundation, yea, contrary to scripture, who imagine that the end of the world may come, and Christ come to judgment immediately, at any day or hour now. Christ has foretold many things which must come to pass between this time and that grand event. Nor, as they think, would the preaching of such a doctrine tend to awaken people, and prevent their going on in security and sin, more than what constantly takes place before the eyes of all, in the death of others, and reminding people that no one is secure from death one hour; that Christ may come when they think not, and carry them out of the world, which will be as fatal to them, if they are living in sin, as if he had come to judgment.

Nor is their opinion founded on any reason or scripture, who think that but few of mankind, on the whole, will be saved. What our Saviour says of this respected the then present time. His words are in the present tense: “Few are saved.” He does not say what will be in other ages of the world. He has foretold a time when all the kingdoms of the world shall be brought into his church and kingdom; and so many may exist in this time as to outnumber all that will be left.

Therefore while I am taking my leave of the world of mankind, who now lie in the wicked one, and are going on from bad to worse, I may look beyond this evil time, and with pleasure hail the incalculable millions of holy and happy sons and daughters of Adam who shall yet arise and live on the earth, and be glad and rejoice in the glory of Christ and their salvation.

How many and which of the nations which are now Heathen or Mahometans will be preserved as a distinct people through all the revolutions and dreadful judgments 370which are to take place preparatory to the millennium, and will be then, or before, converted, and share in the blessings of that day, cannot be now determined. And this is true with regard to the various nations now in Christendom. Some of them, and we know not how many, may become extinct, in the evil times that arc coming, and the gospel be carried to other nations, who do not now enjoy it. It is enough for us to know that every event and circumstance, with respect to this, will be ordered in the wisest and best manner by Christ, so as to accomplish his purpose, to glorify himself, and effect the greatest good of his church. As to the Jews, we know that mercy is in store for them. They shall, more or less of them, be preserved a distinct nation, through all the terrible shakings of the earth which are coming, down to the millennium, and have a large share in the blessings of that day.

I take my leave of them, being now in a scattered, afflicted state, under the power of an evil heart of unbelief, in the assured, joyful prospect of the great good that is coming to them, when their reception into the church of Christ will be life from the dead, and the unsearchable depth of the riches both of the wisdom, goodness and knowledge of Christ will be forever adored by all the redeemed. Oh, how shall all their past and present wrath, together with their future reconciliation, praise Him!

When I turn my attention to Christendom, with pain and abhorrence I pass over the beast, the Pope and his adherents, even all who receive the mark of this beast, as doomed to certain destruction: and I am without any assurance that those who belong to the apostate Greek church will escape this dreadful evil.

But what shall I say of or to those who are called Protestants? Great numbers who live among Protestants have professed to disbelieve and renounce Christianity, and many have written against it, and attempt to prove that it is a mere fable, not worthy of the least credit. 371And though all they have written has been fully and often refuted, they persist in their infidelity, and their number appears to be greatly increasing, either openly or more secretly; while they are assiduously endeavouring to insinuate their tenets by all possible means wherever they can have any influence, which they appear to have, especially on the rising generation: so that they will soon be greatly the majority, if they are not so now, unless Christ interpose by his irresistible power.

I take my leave of all these, knowing that if they persist in their unbelief, they will die in their sins, and perish in a greatly aggravated and everlasting destruction. But at the same time I have the peace and comfort, which no man can take from me, in the assurance that, though they are infinitely worse than lost to themselves, they are not lost to Christ and his church. For this their infidelity, a peculiar kind of aggravated wrath, and all the consequent evil which is coming upon them, will turn to the praise of the Redeemer forever, and he will be more honoured, and the redeemed more happy, than if such infidels had not existed.

Still a more affecting and dreadful sight, if possible, opens to my view. There is in the Protestant world, and among us, an innumerable host of people, who, though they do not profess to disbelieve the gospel, yet do not obey it, but live in opposition to it, and in a constant, allowed disobedience to Christ, and that not only by refusing to do what he has commanded, but by greedily practising what he has forbidden. It would take many pages to enumerate half of the open vices which are practised by Protestants, notwithstanding all the restraints of civil government. These vices abound among those in high stations, and in the low, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, old and young. From all these I take my sorrowful departure, knowing that, unless they repent, the time is corning when Christ will say to them, “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity. Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting punishment.” But, in all this sorrow, I am rejoicing, that Christ will cleanse 372the world from this wickedness, and when the wicked are turned into hell, he will fill it with holy inhabitants; and he will be more glorified, and the church more happy, than could be if all this wickedness had not taken place.

Another numerous class of Protestants now come into view, who are too ignorant or erroneous to be saved. Many of these are included in the class last mentioned, but not all; for whether their lives be vicious, or what may be called moral, if they be ignorant of the gospel and the truths of which it consists, or if they do not believe these truths, but deny and reject them, they cannot be saved by it.

I am sensible that I am now exposing myself to the indignation and contempt of an increasing number, whose sentiments on this head are what they call catholic and liberal. These will say to me, What right have you to make a creed for us, or any other man, and insist that all must believe and cordially embrace the doctrines you hold, in order to be saved? We believe it is of no great importance what a man’s creed is, or whether he has any, if he be honest and sincere in what he does, and worships God, and lives a good moral life.

To these I have to say, Ye are some of those whom I mean to include in the above description. You assert that the doctrines or truths revealed in the gospel, if there be any, are of no importance, so that he who does not believe them, and whatever he believes, and he who is totally ignorant of the truth, may be saved, as well as if they understood and believed the truth. You are yourselves totally ignorant of the gospel, and appear to be real enemies to it; for if what you assert were true, the gospel is worth nothing, and men may be saved without as well as by it.

He only who believes the gospel, as preached by the inspired apostles, can be saved. If we exclude the system of truth contained in the gospel, we exclude the gospel; for it wholly consists in a revelation of these truths. Some of them are these: That all mankind are sinners, 373in a state of total moral depravity by nature, in consequence of the apostasy of their first parents, and under the curse of the righteous law of God: that Jesus Christ came into the world to save such lost sinners, by making a full atonement for their sins, by suffering in their stead, and meriting eternal life for them by his obedience, and power by the Holy Spirit to renew and sanctify them: all which is infinitely too great for any mere creature to do; therefore he must be a Divine Person, really God with us, manifested in the human nature: that, in order to be saved, men must be renewed unto holiness by the Spirit of God, in which he is the first mover, by regenerating them; of which none have any desert or claim. Therefore he has mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth; which naturally and even necessarily introduces the doctrine of the divine decrees with respect to man and his salvation, and consequently respecting every thing else; and of election, and the certain perseverance of believers to complete salvation: that men obtain pardon and justification by their union to Christ, by their believing on and trusting in him for this, and all they want, which they receive, not out of respect to any goodness, worth or desert in themselves, or any thing they do; that they are wholly dependent on God, for every degree of right disposition and will to do what God requires, and not in the least on themselves; and this absolute dependence on God extends to every thing in which they have any concern: that their salvation is therefore altogether, from beginning to end, the effect of undeserved, free, sovereign grace: that true holiness consists not at all in selfish affections, but in disinterested love to God and man: that they who do not believe this gospel, and are not partakers of this holiness, and persevere in this way, will perish in everlasting destruction.

These doctrines are all contained in the gospel; and, with others not mentioned, which are implied in these, compose a system of truth, which is really the gospel, and is often in the scripture called The Truth; to 374which Christ came to bear witness; which men must come to the knowledge of, in order to be saved; which all true Christians are represented as cordially embracing and walking in, as the bond of their union and love to each other. They therefore who do not receive this truth, and love it, but in their hearts hate and oppose it, do not believe the gospel, are not friends to it, and cannot be saved.

This is evidently true of the Arians and Socinians, who deny the divinity of Christ, and consequently the need of any proper atonement for sin, and oppose many other doctrines of the gospel, in which they agree with those called Arminians. These latter deny the depravity of man by the sin of Adam, or that he is totally depraved, and that they stand in any need to be regenerated by the irresistible influence of the Spirit of God, in order to love God, and do those good works by which they may please God and be saved. They are of consequence enemies to the doctrine of the decrees of God, as they respect the agency of man, in the concerns of his salvation, as being, with the other doctrines which they deny, contrary to the natural selfishness, pride and imagined independence of man. There are others who hold a mixture of inconsistent doctrines, and do not professedly join with Arminians, but evidently symbolize with them in many respects, and so as to exclude the pure, consistent and essential doctrines of the gospel.

Some there are, who have been properly called Antinomians, who hold that Christ has so abolished the moral law, that Christians are not under obligation to obey it. And there are many others who are real Antinomians, who deny that any man can or ought to love the moral law, or God who made it, so long as he is under the curse of this law, and considers himself so, and has no hope of being delivered from it; but he must have some discovery that God is merciful to sinners, and that there is salvation for them by Christ, before he can love God or his law. And many, perhaps the most of this class, hold that no man can love God 375or the Redeemer, until he sees and believes, on good ground, that God loves him, and designs to save him; that Christ died for him in particular, and will save him. The love, and all the religion, for which all these plead, is altogether selfish, and has not a spark of real Christianity in it, but is directly contrary to it. Jesus Christ has declared it to be so: [Matth. v. 43, to the end of the chapter.] He says that the love to others which is grounded on their love to us is a selfish, wicked love, which men of the worst character do exercise; that Christian love is of a different and contrary nature, and so disinterested that it will extend to its worst enemies.

There are many, who, though they do not expressly avow this selfish doctrine, by which all religion is bottomed on self love, but discard it, yet describe the religious views and exercises of Christians as consisting very much or altogether in selfishness, and urge the choice and practice of religion wholly from selfish motives. And if it be urged that true religion will lead Christians to those disinterested affections, and that conduct, of which Christ has set us an example, they cannot understand, but rather oppose it.

There is another class of people called Universalists, who hold that all men will be finally saved. There has been for a few years past a considerable increase of those who profess to embrace this sentiment. Of these some are Arminians, others are Antinomians, and some enthusiasts. Few or none of them appear to understand and believe the pure, consistent doctrines of the gospel. They do not of late appear to increase who openly espouse this doctrine, and yet adhere to the Bible; and most of these soon lose their zeal in their cause. And their belief appears to have its natural effect on them, and leads them to live a careless, irreligious life; and numbers by degrees give up the Bible, and sink into infidelity. There is reason to believe that there are many who do not profess to embrace this doctrine, to whom it is so pleasing, that they wish and hope it to be true; and it has great influence upon them, and leads them to 376a careless neglect of and concern about religion, and of strict morality, and so hardens their hearts, that they are deaf to all admonitions, and will rather give up the Bible, and turn infidels, than admit that any will be miserable forever.

All these, even those whose outward conduct is not immoral, and who appear religious, who yet cordially embrace and are at heart pleased with the errors which have been now mentioned, and whose religious exercises are grounded upon and conformable to them, are strangers to true religion, and in the way to destruction: and all these false doctrines and notions of religion, and all the practical religion that is built upon them, will be consumed by Christ with the Spirit of his mouth, and destroyed with the brightness of his coming. Of these therefore I must now take my leave, without the least disposition to flatter them, or hope of their prosperity in the way they are going; and with a pleasing certainty that all their errors and false religion shall be utterly abolished by Christ, and that he will be praised and honoured by all these errors and this opposition to him, however wide may be their spread, and though they may continue yet a considerable time, even to the end determined.

I must now turn to the public professors of religion, the members of the Christian churches, of various different denominations, among Protestants.

The pastors of churches, or the clergy of every degree and character, come first into view. It is doubtless true that the clergy are the leaders and principal instruments in all the moral good and evil which takes place in Christendom. All of the clergy in the Protestant world, who must be classed with those before described, by the erroneous doctrines they hold, or not preaching any scheme of doctrines, but who really leave out all the essential truths of the gospel, and confine themselves to what may be called spurious heathen morality, and all of immoral lives, whatever doctrines they preach, are of course excluded from the number of 377truly Christian ministers. Jesus Christ has fixed their doom. “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? &c. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” To these I cannot say, “God speed,” when I take my leave of them, lest I be a partaker of their evil deeds.

But I must be allowed to sift the clergy more closely; especially those of the United States of America, who are not excluded by the foregoing. A great body of ministers in these states are professed Calvinists, differing however in some points, and are generally irreproachable in their moral conduct. But they are asked seriously to consider whether they have good evidence that they have been born again, agreeably to the scripture account of that great change, and find themselves real friends to Christ and his cause, expressed in all proper ways.

It is to be feared that many not having ever passed this change is the reason why they bring forth no more good fruit, and so much which is more like bad than good; in that they do not appear to encourage experimental religion, or preach upon it clearly or much, if at any time. And though they would be thought to be Calvinists, they appear to dislike, and never preach, some of the most important doctrines of Calvinism; such as, the total depravity of man; God’s first moving, and sovereign grace, in the regeneration and conversion of sinners; and the doctrine of the decrees of God, taken in the only proper, strict and extensive sense; that he has declared whatsoever comes to pass. They ignorantly say, It would be better to say, God foreknew whatsoever comes to pass. They choose to call themselves moderate Calvinists; but might as well, and perhaps more properly, be called moderate Arminians. But I should be willing to lay all these names aside, as many appear to wish, were it not the shortest and most convenient way to denote the general scheme of doctrines which different persons embrace. This is agreeable to 378the practice of the Christian church in all the ages of it, whether more corrupt, or more pure. And no inconvenience has attended it, that I know of, which would not attend any other method. All of this class I must leave, with the fears concerning them, expressed above. And while I fall under their resentment and censure, as narrow and bigoted in my sentiments, and very censorious, I cheerfully leave the matter to the day when the Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart.

But I return to those who embrace the doctrines of the reformation, of Calvin, and the chief and leading doctrines contained in the Westminster confession of faith, as being agreeable to the holy scriptures, and who give satisfactory evidence that they are the subjects of divine, regenerating grace, and are friends to Christ, and heartily engaged in his cause. I embrace you with cordial, benevolent affection, wishing you success in your work, and that you may be faithful unto death. It is to be wished you would give yourselves wholly to the work of the ministry, and that you were all students, constantly labouring to make advances in the knowledge of divinity, by reading, meditation, and conversing with those who are pursuing the same study of the scripture. We live in evil times, when Christianity, and especially true religion in principle and practice, is greatly opposed, and fast decaying in general, as if it would soon all be gone; and we have reason to believe these evil times will grow much worse. But this is so far from being a reason for sitting still and unactive, that it ought to be a motive to great and constant exertion to promote the cause of Christ, and oppose the flood of error and iniquity, which is coming in with a mighty, rapid stream. The cause of Christ will not be lost. His truth is great, and will prevail. Good is to be done now, and some sinners must be converted; and blessed is the man who has the greatest hand in this work. We are commanded to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into his harvest. And we 379have assurance that our prayers will be answered, in his own way and time. He will fill the church and the world with ministers, furnished with such abilities, fortitude, diligence, zeal, knowledge and true wisdom, as to exceed any of us, beyond, far beyond our present conception. In this view, I overlook the present dark scene, and take a cheerful farewell of you and of the world.

Having taken my leave of the clergy and pastors of churches among Protestants, I must not pass over the private members of these churches, in very different worldly circumstances and stations, and of various denominations. When all of this class, who are either ignorant of the essential doctrines of the gospel, or deny and oppose them, and imbibe contrary errors, as most agreeable to their hearts; and all those who take the name of Christians, but do not depart from iniquity, and lead vicious lives; also all mere formal professors, who do not live up to their profession, and bring forth good fruit, but in their general conversation and conduct mix with the men of the world, and live more conformable to them than like real Christians; finally, all those who appear strangers to experimental religion, or any thing like being born again; when all these are excluded and set aside, as not the proper objects of Christian charity, how comparatively small will be the number of the remnant who are left! And yet it is probable that among these, some, if not many, are, under a fair appearance, but mere hypocrites! The happy number of true Christians cannot be certainly known by any man, and some of them are not known by themselves to be real Christians; but the Lord knows who are his, and will own and take care of them.

They are all united in believing and loving the truth as it is in Jesus, and have all drank into the same Spirit, under whatever form they worship, and whatever denomination they have taken. The distinctions by which the various denominations of Christians are now divided will doubtless vanish, when a greater degree of 380holiness and light shall take place, and prejudices by education or any other means shall be removed; and Christians will be united and of one mind in those things about which they are now divided, and their creed, in which they agree, as to substance, now, will remain the great bond of union. They who understand and believe that the wrath of man shall praise God, and that the remainder of wrath he will restrain, as all true Christians do, must, to be consistent, believe the doctrines preached and written by that great reformer John Calvin, and consequently the above mentioned confession of faith, in the substance of it; and therefore must be agreed in the chief articles of their creed; for all this is really contained in this passage of scripture; of which every unprejudiced, candid person must be convinced, if he will carefully attend to the words, and to the explanation that has been given of them.

To you I address myself with peculiar pleasure. You live in a time pointed out in scripture prophecy as peculiarly evil; and present evils, which have lately increased, both moral and natural, doubtless will yet make a rapid progress, till they shall rise to a height which is beyond your present conception; and you have no reason to expect to live to see the end of them. Yet these words of the text, and the abundant promises made to the church, and to every true believer, are a sufficient ground of constant support and consolation to all real Christians. It is a ground of support and comfort to reflect and know that but a small part of the whole time of the trouble of the church yet remains to fill up the measure of her suffering, though the last conflict may be most severe. I believe we have not yet attained any light from scripture, from which we can be sure that Christians will not suffer persecution, and that a more trying and severe one than any that has yet taken place, before the millennium comes on. But this will not be, unless it be necessary for the good of the church, and to introduce the time of her prosperity in the best manner; and all this wrath of man, be it 381more or less, of longer or shorter duration, shall praise the Redeemer.

The church will live and prosper, and will come forth from the furnace of affliction as gold purified seven times. “And the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” And why may not Christians begin their song now? Though you do not see the glorious Redeemer, yet, believing, you love him who orders all things perfectly well, takes the best care of the church, and of every one who trusts in him, and will glorify himself by all things to the highest degree. Well may you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; while you watch and keep your garments, striving together for the faith of the gospel, and in nothing terrified by your adversaries. With joy I now bid you a hearty, though I hope not a long farewell.

But New-England, the place of my nativity, demands my more particular attention. Aside from my partiality in favour of this part of the world, I believe that all men of observation and judgment in this matter, who are acquainted with the Protestant world in general, and with the religious state of New-England, from the first settlement of it, will grant there has been the appearance of more true religion in principle, profession and practice, and a more regular, moral conduct among all orders and ages of persons, in this part of America, than in any other part of the Christian world of equal extent. Boston, the metropolis of New-England, has been, till within less than fifty years past, a place of more religious order in the observation of the sabbath and other religious duties, a better education of children, and of a more decent, sober, moral conduct of the inhabitants in general, than of any other equally or more populous city or town on the face of the earth. And the people in general in New-England were disposed to pay respect to religion, to maintain family religion 382and worship. The sabbath and public worship were regarded and attended upon, by the inhabitants in general. The churches were considerably large, and a degree of discipline kept up. Children were under government, instructed and catechised. Gross, open vices were in a great degree restrained. Leading men in public stations were in general exemplary, and the bigger part of people were intelligent in things of morality and religion, and of a good behaviour.

But, alas! “How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed!” Of late years a great and rapid degeneracy has taken place, both in the doctrines and duties of religion. Family worship, and a proper government and religious education of children, are generally neglected. Error and ignorance in religious concerns, and vice and immorality in conduct, are greatly increasing. Infidelity, Deism, and Atheism are spreading as an irresistible torrent, and many, if not most, of the youth and rising generation are growing up ready to imbibe error and infidelity. If these shall have their natural course, unless divine influence interpose, and put a stop to them, New-England will soon become as famous for irreligion, infidelity, atheism, immorality and heathenism, as it has been for the contrary; and Christianity will be wholly excluded and forgotten. It is true that all Christian ministers, and others in public and private stations, who are friends to the cause of Christ, ought to hope, pray and strive against this evil, and exert themselves to the utmost in all proper ways in opposition to the cause of sin, Satan and evil men; and be ready to die in the cause of truth and religion. In the pleasing hope of this, I embrace you all, whether personally acquainted with you or not, with the most cordial affection and benevolent farewell. At the same time I take my leave of New-England, with the painful fear and prospect of the evils which have been mentioned, flying to my text and the truths contained in it for support and comfort.

383

Rhode-Island, particularly Newport the capital, in which I have lived near thirty of the last years of my life, now demands my special attention.

This town has been long noted for the many different religious sects and denominations into which the inhabitants are divided, while the body of the people have been considered, I believe justly, to have very little true religion, if any; and they have appeared more dissolute, vicious, erroneous and ignorant than people in general are in other parts of New-England. And there has been no general revival of religion, or reformation, to this day; and the moral state and character of the inhabitants in general has not become better, bat the contrary. The extraordinary and general revival of religion in New-England and many other places, about sixty years ago, did not reach Newport in any considerable degree. While the heavenly dew fell copiously on other places, this town received but a few scattering drops, and remained almost wholly dry. There are a great number of families in this place who have no appearance of any sort of religion in their houses, and who never attend on any public worship; and there are many individuals of this character in other families; and many others, who, though they attend public worship sometimes, yet not constantly nor often. All these doubtless include the greatest number of the whole inhabitants; and a great part of them are so inattentive to religion, and so ignorant, that they have really no religions principles: others have imbibed, and are strongly fixed in, religious maxims and notions, as contrary to the Bible as darkness is to the light. Of those who constantly attend public worship, including the professors of religion, very few of them maintain any family worship or religion, and by far the greater part are so immoral in their conduct, or ignorant or erroneous in their notions of religion, as to fall vastly short of the scripture character of true Christians.

384

There have been a number of real and excellent Christians in this town, of different denominations, who are now in heaven; and doubtless there are some yet among us, but there is reason to conclude that the number of such is greatly lessened, and that there are now but very few. Of you I take my affectionate leave, wishing you may increase in number, and shine, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, as lights in the world.

The slave trade, and the slavery of the Africans in which this town has had a greater hand than any other town in New-England, must not be passed over unmentioned here. This inhuman trade has been the first and chief spring of all the trade and business by which this town has risen and flourished: which has therefore been built up, in a great measure, by the blood and unrighteous sufferings of the poor Africans. And this trade is yet carried on here, in the face of all the light and matter of conviction of the unrighteousness and aggravated iniquity of it, which has of late years been offered, and against the express laws of God and man. And there is no evidence that the citizens in general have a proper sense of the evil of this business, of the guilt which has been contracted by it, and of the displeasure of God for it, or that they have a just abhorrence of it; but there is much evidence of the contrary, and that there is little or no true repentance of it.

In this dark, unpleasant and melancholy view of the state and character of the body of the inhabitants of this town, I must take my leave, with a painful prospect of the evil which is coming upon them and their posterity; which they would not believe, were they told. To most of them I cannot speak, and if I could, and they should know what I think and say of them, it would only serve to excite the resentment and indignation of the most.

But there is a bright side, to which the Christian may look for support and comfort, in the midst of all 385this dark and evil state of things, which cannot be too often brought into view. All this sin and wrath of man, and the evils which attend and follow it, will praise Christ, and turn to the greatest good of his kingdom. And all the wicked shall be shaken from the earth, and from this island too; and it shall yet be full of meek, humble, and holy inhabitants, who shall praise the Lord, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace and happiness. Amen. Hallelujah: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.

But I must now come nearer home, and, not without sensible and affectionate emotions, take my farewell of the church and congregation in this town with whom I have lived, ministering to them most of the time for above thirty years.

When I first came among you the church was not small, and increased in number; and the congregation appeared to flourish. Above a hundred young persons used to repair to my house at appointed times for religious instruction. Bat when the war with the British came on, we were, for a time, broken up, and many of us scattered into the country, a number of whom never returned again. In this time, our parsonage house was destroyed, the bell of the meeting-house was taken away, and the inside of the house was so defaced and destroyed by the enemy, that public worship could not be attended in it; and those who staid in the town during the residence of the British here, and those who went out and returned again, suffered losses in their worldly interest. By these events, and by the deaths that have taken place, both on the land, and of the men who have used the sea, we are become few in number, and in a degree poor in worldly circumstances. Most of the church and congregation which were on the stage when I first came here are gone to the grave. But the greatest calamity of all is, the good people who have deceased have none, or very few, to succeed them and fill up their places, and have left us in a great and awful degree destitute of the power and practice of true religion. 386 In these dark and disagreeable circumstances, I now take my leave of you; yet with a hope, though a faint one, that after I am gone God will build you up, and grant you and your children greater spiritual blessings than you have had while I have been with you.

I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God, so far as I have understood what it was. In doing this I am sensible I have preached and published doctrines which are very offensive and odious to many, though I hope to but few if any of you. I have opposed evil practices, by which I have incurred the displeasure and resentment of many; and have taught and inculcated duties, and an experimental, practical religion, which consists most essentially in self-denial, as the only way to heaven, which are disagreeable to many, and not believed to be true. Some of the doctrines which I have preached and published have been opposed from the press and the pulpit, and more privately, and have not been understood, and represented as horrible and mischievous, tending to destroy all true religion, &c. But all this has no impression on me, to excite the least doubt of the truth of the doctrines so opposed, or to incline me to cease to assert and vindicate them. I have such clear and full conviction, and unshaken confidence, that the doctrines which I have for a long course of years preached and maintained, are the truths contained in the Bible, that I stand as a brazen wall, unhurt, and not moved by all the shafts of opposition and reproach which have been levelled at me, and the system of truth and religion which I have espoused; being assured that it will stand forever; and certain beyond a doubt, from scripture, reason and experience, that a cordial belief and love of these truths, with religious exercises and conduct agreeable to them, is connected with salvation, and is a sufficient ground of support and comfort under the greatest trials, and in the nearest view of death and eternity. On this foundation I cheerfully rest my eternal interest, which indeed is infinite, and invite all to do the same.

387

To you therefore, my dear people, both old and young, as a dying man, and in the view of a judgment and eternity to come, I recommend the religion which I have endeavoured to preach and inculcate among you for a number of years, and to exemplify in practice, both publicly, more privately and in secret. Being assured that he only is safe and happy who is a real Christian, I recommend Christ to you with my dying breath as the only refuge for sinners: for “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Finally, I take my leave of all my acquaintance, friends, and relatives, whether nearer or farther off, wishing they may all partake of the saving blessings of the gospel: and if I have any enemies, I forgive them, and wish to them the same blessings. To my kind benefactors, I wish the abundant rewards promised in the word of God to the charitable and bountiful, even to all who give so much as a cup of cold water to any of the professed disciples of Christ, because they belong to Him. To my particular Christian friends, in whom has been my chief delight, and who, I have often said, are my greatest treasure on earth, I leave my best wishes, with a fond and animating hope of living forever with you in the most intimate, perfect, and uninterrupted friendship. Amen.

FINIS.

« Prev Sermon XXII. The Author's Farewell to the World. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection