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to God, the having this one desire and design, ruling every temper? Why should devout men be afraid of devoting all their soul, body, and substance to God? Why should those who love Christ, count it a damnable error, to think we may have all the mind that was in him? We allow, we contend, that we are justified freely, through the righteousness and blood of Christ. And why are you so hot against us, because we expect to be sanctified wholly through his Spirit? We look for no favour either from the open servants of sin, or from those who have only the form of religion. But how long will you, who worship God in spirit, who are circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands, set your battle in array against those who seek an entire circumcision of heart, who thirst to be cleansed from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God? Are we your enemies, because we look for a full deliverance from the carnal mind, which is enmity against God? Nay, we are your brethren, your fellow-labourers in the vineyard of our Lord, your companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus. Although this we confess, (if we are fools therein, yet as fools bear with us,) we do expect to love God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. Yea, we do believe, that he will in this world so "cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, that we shall perfectly love him, and worthily magnify his holy name."
BRETHREN AND FATHERS,
LET it not be imputed to forwardness, vanity, or presumption, that one who is of little esteem in the church, takes upon him thus to address a body of people, to many of whom he owes the highest reverence. I owe a still higher regard to him who I believe requires this at my hands; to the great BISHOP of our souls; before whom both you and I must shortly give an account of our stewardship. It is a debt I owe to love, to real, disinterested affection, to de. clare what has long been the burden of my soul. And may the GOD of LOVE enable you to read these lines in the same spirit wherewith they were written! It will easily appear to an unprejudiced reader, that I do not speak from a spirit of anger or resentment. I know well, "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God." Much less would I utter one word out of contempt; a spirit justly abhorred by God and man. Neither of these can consist with that earnest, tender love, which is the motive of my present undertaking. In this spirit I desire to cast my bread upon the waters; it is enough, if I find it again after many days.
Meantime you are sensible, love does not forbid, but rather require plainness of speech. Has it not often constrained you as well as me, to lay aside, not only disguise, but reserve also? And "by manifestation of the truth to commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God?" And while I endeavour to do this, let me earn
estly entreat you for the love of God, for the love of your own soul, for the love of the souls committed to your charge, yea, and of the whole church of Christ, do not bias your mind, by thinking who it is that speaks; but impartially consider, what is spoken. And if it be false or foolish, reject it: but do not reject the words of truth and soberness.
My first design was, to offer a few plain thoughts to the Clergy of our own church only. But upon farther reflection, I see no cause for being so straitened in my own bowels. I am a debtor to all: and, therefore, though I primarily speak to them with whom I am more immediately connected, yet I would not be understood to exclude any, of whatsoever denomination, whom God has called to watch over the souls of others, as they that must give account.
In order to our giving this account with joy, are there not two things which it highly imports us to consider, First, What manner of men ought we to be? Secondly, Are we such, or are we not ?
I. And, First, If we are "Overseers over the church of God, which he hath bought with his own blood," what manner of men ought we to be, in Gifts as well as in Grace?
To begin with Gifts, and, 1. with those that are from nature. Ought not a minister to have, 1st, A good understanding? A clear apprehension, a sound judgment, and a capacity of reasoning with some closeness? Is not this necessary in a high degree for the work of the ministry? Otherwise how will he be able to understand the various states of those under his care? Or to steer them through a thousand difficulties and dangers, to the haven where they would be? Is it not necessary, with respect to the numerous enemies whom he has to encounter? Can a fool cope with all the men that know not God? And with all the spirits of darkness? Nay, he will neither be aware of the devices of Satan, nor the craftiness of his children.
2dly, Is it not highly expedient that a guide of souls 'should have likewise some liveliness and readiness of thought? Or how will he be able, when need requires, to
"answer a fool according to his folly?" How frequent is this need? Seeing we almost every where meet with those empty, yet petulant creatures, who are far "wiser in their own eyes, than seven men that can render a reason." Reasoning therefore is not the weapon to be used with them. You cannot deal with them thus. They scorn being convinced; nor can they be silenced, but in their own way.
3dly, To a sound understanding, and a lively turn of thought, should be joined a good memory; if it may be, ready, that you may make whatever occurs in reading or conversation, your own; but however, retentive, lest we be "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." On the contrary, "every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven," every teacher fitted for his work, is "like an householder, who bringeth out of his treasures things new and old."
2. And as to acquired Endowments, can he take one step aright, without, first, a competent share of Knowledge? A knowledge, 1st, of his own office; of the high trust in which he stands, the important work to which he is called? Is there any hope that a man should discharge his office well, if he knows not what it is? That he should acquit himself faithfully of a trust, the very nature whereof he does not understand? Nay: if he knows not the work God has given him to do, he cannot finish it.
2dly, No less necessary is a knowledge of the Scriptures, which teach us how to teach others: yea, a knowledge of all the Scriptures; seeing Scripture interprets Scripture; one part fixing the sense of another. So that whether it be true or not, that every good textuary is a good divine, it is certain none can be a good divine who is not a good textuary. None else can be "mighty in the Scriptures;" able both to instruct, and to stop the mouths of gainsayers.
In order to do this accurately, ought he not to know the literal meaning of every word, verse, and chapter, without which there can be no firm foundation on which the spiritual meaning can be built? Should he not likewise be able
to deduce the proper corollaries, speculative and practical, from each text; to solve the difficulties which arise, and answer the objections which are or may be raised against it; and to make a suitable application of all, to the consciences of his hearers?
-3dly, But can he do this, in the most effectual manner, without a knowledge of the original Tongues? Without this, will he not frequently be at a stand, even as to texts which regard practice only? But he will be under still greater difficulties, with respect to controverted Scriptures. He will be ill able to rescue these out of the hands of any man of learning that would pervert them: for whenever an appeal is made to the original, his mouth is stopped at
4thly, Is not a knowledge of profane History likewise, of ancient customs, of chronology and geography, though not absolutely necessary, yet highly expedient for him that would thoroughly understand the Scriptures? Since the want even of this knowlege is but poorly supplied by reading the comments of other men.
5thly, Some knowlege of the Sciences also, is, (to say the least,) equally expedient. Nay, may we not say, that the knowledge of one, (whether art or science,) although now quite unfashionable, is even necessary, next, and in order to the knowledge of the Scripture itself? I mean, Logic. For what is this, if rightly understood, but the art of good sense? Of apprehending things clearly, judging truly, and reasoning conclusively? What is it, viewed in another light, but the art of learning and teaching? Whether by convincing or persuading? What is there then, in the whole compass of science, to be desired in comparison of it?
Is not some acquaintance with what has been termed The second part of logic, Metaphysicks, if not so necessary as this, yet highly expedient, 1. In order to clear our apprehension, (without which it is impossible either to judge correctly, or to reason closely or conclusively,) by ranging our ideas under general heads: and, 2. In order to under