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THE Defects OF Preachers REPROVED IN A SERMON Preached at Northampton, May 19th. 1723.

By Solomon Stoddard, Pastor of N. Hampton.

NEW-LONDON: Printed and Sold by T. Green, 1724.

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To the READER.

THE Conduct of Divine Providence in bring­ing to pass the Publication of the follow­ing Sermon, was thus; One that heard it Preach'd, asked the Reverend Author for a Copy, who expressed his willingness to grant it. He that heard it Preached was soon after in the Com­pany of several Ministers & Deacons, unto whom upon Representation made of said Sermon, and proposal for a Collection for the Printing of it, It was com­plyed with; whereupon Address was made to the Worthy Author for a Copy and obtained it of him. The Lord in mercy Reward the Author according to his pains & good will for Publick Good thereby; & the Persons at whose expence the Impression was made, having expended of their Substance in so good 4 a way of leading men to the honour of God. The known Eminence of the Author and the Reading the Ensuing Sermon will Commend it to you. The Singularity of it is that it brings Error under view, that you may be alarumed & shun it, & Truth that you may Embrace it and keep it. It aims at the Advancing Good Preaching, which being done it tends to advance Good Hearing, which being ad­vanced, Hearers do advance unto, & in Faith & Piety. The Scope is Sublime, the Matter is Pertinent: Preachers are Directed as to the matter manner and End of Preaching, & Hearers are Directed to try the matter of Preaching and to Determine what is Sound. It leads to the preparing of Preachers and Hearers to rejoice together in the Day of Accounts [Page ii] Another Remark that I will make to you of the En­suing Discourse, is, that it Imitates the Method that CHRIST our great Shepherd took for the Reforming the Seven Churches of Asia, which was that John should write to the Angels or Pastors of the Churches, That they might first see their own Defaults & be awakened to amend themselves, and thereupon be prepared & animated to Reprove, to Reform their People. Ministers being Orthodox and Fervent in Preaching, Prudent in their Conduct, & Exemplary in their Conversation, are Excellent Blessings to a Place. Have you plenty of Good Preaching? You are highly favoured of God, you have the means of making the best Gains; Bless GOD for it, and E­steem your Preacher highly in Love for his Works sake, If you are under Dull Preaching, take heed of a froward Mouth and wrangling Carriage. Con­sider your Preacher is such as God's Providence hath carved to you; and remember that GOD is able to give to you help in that matter. Lament it before GOD, & Pray Night & Day for your Preacher, that the LORD will enlarge him with Grace and Mi­nisterial Gifts; and do what you can to Advantage him in his great Work.

It ma [...] [...] his Abilities are clouded, his Spirit is sunk & [...]ow by Refractory Persons of his Flock, or by his low Maintenance for himself & his Family. In order to his incouragement (in case of disorders by Stubborn Persons) say to him, as Shechaniah did to Ezra, Ezra 10.4 Arise, for this matter belongeth unto thee, we also will be with thee: be of good Courage— And look into his Outward state, if it be low, disad­vantagious, sow more Liberally of your Earthly things, in order to his help & in order unto & in hope of Reaping more plentifully of his Spiritual good things. Moreover, Intreat him as a Father, to strive & Pray for Enlargement in his work. Don't enter­tain such low tho'ts of him as to neglect to improve [Page iii] him as your Spiritual Counsellor & Guide, to help in difficult and darksom Cases, and to Spiritual Fruitfulness and to the pleasure of Piety. Try what Improvements will do, to your own and his advantage, As the Improvement of a Bodily Physi­cian is the way of increasing his Skill, so is the Im­provement of a Spiritual Physician. Look that in your Converse or Visits, you be not too prolix or tedious, so as to occasion his or your mispence of & loss of Time.

If by the Reading a Passage in the Ensuing Ser­mon to this purpose, That it is frequent with Persons that have attained to Conversion, to know the Time of their Conversion; Your Soul should be cast into a darksom dejected Case, because altho' you have thought you had been Converted, now you fear you was deceived, because you don't know the Time of your Conversion. Then

1. Don't hang in doubt about the Life of Grace that you are called unto. Don't quiet your self with a thinking that it is Likely that you are Converted. But;

2. Commune with your self. Search your Heart, Try your state; that you may find whether there hath not been the acting of Faith, of Repentance, Love to God & Christ, & love to Fellow-Christi­ans. Consider whether you have not experienc'd that God hath shed abroad His Love in your Heart by His Holy Spirit. And if after your Care to find a reason for a Good Hope, you are doubtful whether your Reason thereof be good, get the Judgment of an Experienced Minister, whether the reason of your Hope is good. If you can find no sign of Grace, but do find reason to believe, and do verily believe, that a Saving Change hath never been wrought in you. Then

1. Lament, bewail your Case before GOD, say­ing, Oh! Wretched Person I am, who shall deliver [Page iv] me from the Body of this Death? I am Misera­ble, Poor, Blind and Naked.

2. Observe that your help is to be found in GOD. He tells you, Thou hast destroyed thy self, but in Me is thy help found.

3. Pray earnestly that the Holy Ghost may come unto you & Convince you of Sin, Righteousness and Judgment; that he will make the Law your School-master: That sheweth to you your Condemned Ac­cursed state. The want of a thorough Work of the Law is the unhappiness of a great part of Professors. You must earnestly Employ your self in Reading or Hearing & Meditating of the Doctrine of God's Righteous Law, & in making particular Application of the Sentence & Curse of it to your self. Read and Meditate of the Doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit preparatory to Faith Seek for the Enlight­ning and Powerful Operation of GOD to attend the means of Convincing you of your Sinfulness, Vileness and Nothingness, as to Meriting Favour from GOD.

4. Watch, Pray and Wait, Night and Day, that GOD will make His Mercy known to you, in pour­ing into you His Spirit of Grace and Supplication. Patiently wait upon Him in His appointed ways, to know a Time of a Lively Faith on CHRIST, a Time of Repentance or of Love to GOD, and to Fellow-Christians, so as to know a Time of your Conversion.

Whereas the Use of Notes in Preaching, is disap­proved by such a worthy Father in our Israel; I wish it may extend to Correct or Prevent the use of Notes so as to carry along the Finger with the Line, as hath been Practised by some, a despicable way, like Learn­ers in Spelling. And it will be well Improved by others that do use Notes in a less Degree, by their being led to an Examination of their Practise, and to a faulting themselves, if it be through a want of Care [Page v] and Pains; but if the Use of Notes be from a being Conscious of a weakness of Memory, by their being led to an humble Use of them, & an Observation of the necessity thereof, that their Hearers may not lose much of the benefit of their Studying for them. If Notes must be used, let there be a due Care not to depend so on them as to hinder Gesture in Preaching and an holy Inspection of the Congregation: Let there be Endeavours to attain in a good Degree, to the scope of our Reverend Leader and Father, viz. the Emendation or Bettering of our Preaching. Our Indebtedness to him for the ensuing Discourse and other Fruits of his Labours, Extant for Publick Benefit, is to be acknowledged: May we Thank­fully Receive and well Improve them, and he Re­ceive answerable Reward.

My Desire & Prayer is, that the Blessing of CHRIST may attend the following Labour of his Servant, to advancement of the Spiritual Prosperity of his People and the Honour of his Name, viz. of CHRIST our Glorious Redeemer; and that he will be with his Mi­nisters of his Gospel always even to the End.

Yours in Gospel Bonds, Salmon Treat.
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The Defects of Preachers Reproved.

MATTHEW XXIII.2, 3.

The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat.

All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.—

IN these Words is a Direction given by Christ unto the People: Where we have

First, The Foundation of the Rule, The Scribes & Pharisees sit on Moses Seat. Some take this as spoken of the Sanhe­drim, who were the Successors of Moses and the Seventy Elders of Israel. Possibly that may be a mistake, for several of the Sanhe­drim were not Pharisees. Act. 23.3. For the chief Priests did belong to that Society, Act. [Page 2] 4.6. And they are said to be Sadducees; but by Scribes & Pharisees I understand the Prin­cipal Teachers among the Jews. The Priests and Levites were more especially Devoted to the study of the Law; Deut. 33.10 They shall teach Jacob thy Judgments, and Israel thy Law—. Yet others that were Learned in the Law, were made use of to Instruct the People, & were chosen to be Rulers of the Synagogues. The Pharisees were of any Tribe, Paul who Was of the Tribe of Benjamin was a Pharisee by Education, as he tells Act. 23.6. — I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.

Secondly, Here is the Rule given, What they bid you observe, that observe and do. This must needs be understood with that Limitation, when they Teach according to the Mind of God. Sometimes they taught for Doctrines the Commandments of Men, & then it was Sinful & Dangerous to observe their Directions. If the Blind lead the Blind, both shall fall into the ditch, Mat. 15.14. The Doctrine is,

DOCT. There may be a great deal of good Preaching in a Country, and yet a great want of good Preaching.

It is a felicity to a People when there is good Preaching in the Land, yet there may in [Page 3] the same Land, be great want of good Teach­ing. Some things that are very useful may be plainly and fully taught, and other things that might be as useful may be Neglected; many sound Principles in Religion may be Taught, and other things that are of great Concernment unto Souls may be omitted. Ministers don't sufficiently do their Duty, if they Preach many sound Truths, and do it convincingly and with good affection, if they do it with great clearness and evidence, pro­vided they neglect other things that are needful to Salvation. And so it falls out some­times that men that make many good Ser­mons, are very defective in Preaching some other things that they ought to Preach.

I shall clear this in Three Instances.

1. Of the Scribes and Pharisees in Israel. They taught the People that there was only One God the Maker of all things; and were great Enemies to the Idolatry that their Fa­thers were guilty of, before the Babylonish Captivity; as the Scribe owned to Christ, Mark. 12.32. Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but he. They taught many Moral Du­ties, that men must love God & believe his Word; that they must be Just & Chast and [Page 4] men of Truth, and were very strict in the Observation of the Sabbath: They limitted men how far they might go on the Sabbath. Acts 1.12. We read of a Sabbath days Jour­ney. They taught truly the Doctrine of the Resurrection of the Dead: Act. 23.7, 8. The Pharisees dissented from the Sadducees, the Sadducees say there is no Resurrection, nor Angel nor Spirit, but the Pharisees confess both. They taught that the Messiah was to come; the Sa­maritans themselves received that Doctrine, Joh. 4.25 They were very punctual in teaching Circumcision & the Ceremonies of the Law of Moses, about Sacrifices, Tythes, and Legal Uncleanness.

But they were very faulty in Preaching in other particulars: They were ignorant of the Doctrine of Regeneration, So Nicodemus, Joh. 3.4. he says, How can a man be born when he is old? They taught that the first motions of Lust, if the Will did not consent, were not Sins. As we may gather from Rom. 7.7. Paul says, I had not known Lust, except the Law had said thou shalt not Covet. And from Mat. 5.27, 28. It was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit Adultery. But I say whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed Adultery in his heart. They taught also that dangerous Doctrine of Justification by Works, Rom. 10.3. They went about to e­stablish [Page 5] their own Righteousness. Rom. 9.2.3 They sought it as it were by the works of the Law: They taught the People that in case they devoted their Estates to the Temple, they need not relieve their Fathers or Mothers, Mat. 15.4, 5; 6. And above all they taught that JESUS of Nazareth was not the Messiah, brought many Objections against Him; As that He came out of Galilee, was a Glutton­ous man and a Wine bibber, Mat. 11.19. A friend of Publicans and Sinners: They Re­proached Him that by the Devil he cast out Devils: and they were very dull in their Preaching, Mat. 7.29.

2. Of the Papists. They teach the Do­ctrine of the Trinity truly, and the Attributes of God: So the Doctrine of the Incarnation of CHRIST, and that He died for our Re­demption and is at the Right hand of God: They teach the Doctrine of the day of Judg­ment, of Heaven and of Hell, and many Moral Rules.

But they Preach a multitude of false Do­ctrines with these Doctrines, that are perni­cious to the Souls of men: They teach men to seek the pardon of their Sin by afflicting their Bodies, by Pilgrimage & paying a sum of Money: They teach many horrible things with respect to their Pope, that he has power [Page 6] to forgive Sin, to dispense with incestu­ous Marriages; that he has power over all the Churches and may dispense with the Laws of GOD; that he is infallible: They teach the Doctrine of Image-worship, abolish­ing the Second Commandment▪ They teach Prayer to Saints departed, the Unlawfulness of Priests Marriages, the Doctrine of Purga­tory, Justification by Works, a conditional Election, the power of Free-will, falling from Grace, and Hundreds of other Erroneous Doctrines: They do indeed subvert the Faith of Christ.

3. Of the Arminians. Many of them Preach very profitably, about GOD and the Person of CHRIST, about Justification by Faith and Universal Obedience, about the Day of Judgment & of Eternal Rewards and Punishments.

But there is a great deal of want of good Preaching among them: They decry all ab­solute Decrees of Election and Reprobation, making the Decrees of God to depend on the foresight of Repentance or Impenitence; they assert Universal Redemption, as if Christ died to make all men Salvable: They deny the Propagation of Sin, saying men become sinners by Imitation: They hold a Power in Man to withstand the Grace of GOD; that after GOD has done His work, it is in the [Page 7] power of Man to refuse to be Converted: They don't acknowlege the servitude of man to Sin, but hath power with that assistance that God affords, to Convert himself: They deny the Doctrine of Perseverance. These things draw a great train of Errors after them.

The Reason of the Doctrine is, Because some Preachers are men of Learning & Moral [...], and they have drunk in some Errors, & they want Experience. Learning and Morality will qualify men to make many good and profitable Sermons, much for the Edification of the Hearers. Learning qualifies men to clear up many Principles of Religion; and a Moral disposition may fit men zealously to Reprove vicious Practices: But men may be Learned men, yet drink in very Corrupt Doctrines. Learning is no security against Erronious Principles: The Pharisees and Sadducees were men of Liberal Education, yet leavened with many false Principles: Mat. 16.6 Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees & Sadducees. & ver. 12. Then understood they that he bid them not beware of the leaven of bread; but of the doctrine of the Pharisees & of the Sad­ducees. Learning will not cure those distem­pers of the Heart that do expose men to false Opinions; Learning will not cure the Pride & Conceitedness of mens Hearts. Men [Page 8] of Learning may lean too much to their own Understanding. Men of Learning may be led aside by Reading Erronious Books. Learned Education will not deliver men from Carnal Reason: Men of corrupt Af­fections are very inclinable to imbibe bad Principles: Men of Learning may be blind men. Christ says of the Pharisees, They be blind, leaders of the blind, Mat. 15.14. Most of the Errors in the world in matters of Religi­on, have been hatched by men of Learning. Arius, Socinus, and Arminius, and Pelagius were Learned men: Errors in Religion have been generally the Off-spring of great Scho­lars, have been propagated by them. And men may be Moral men that have no expe­rience of the work of God upon their hearts. Men may be Zealous men against Drunken­ness and Whoredom, that have no Saving Knowledge of Christ. Many Moral men have no Communion with God; no Experi­ence of a Saving Change in their own Souls. Men may be very Moral & have no experi­ence of a work of Humiliation, or being bro't off from their own Righteousness, or a work of Faith; of the difference that is between the Common and Special work of the Spirit; of the difference between Saving & Common Illumination, of the working of the heart under Temptation, of the way wherein godly [Page 9] men are wont to find Relief. Every Learned & Moral man is not a Sincere Convert, & so not able to speak exactly and experimentally to such things as Souls want to be instruct­ed in. It is as with a man that has seen a Map of a Country, or has read a great deal about it; he can't tell the way between Town and Town, and hundreds of particular Circumstances, as a man that has Travelled or Lived there is able to do. Experience fits men to Teach others. A man that has himself had only a common work of the Spirit and judges it saving, is very unfit to judge of the State of other men. Men Would not put their Lives into the hands of an unskilful Physician, or trust their Ship with an unskilful Pilot, or an intricate Case depend­ing in the Law with an unskilful Lawyer.

USE, I. Of Examination, Whether it be not thus in this Country? It is notoriously known by those that are acquainted with the state of the Christian World, that tho' there be many eminent Truths taught, yet there is a great want of good Preaching; whence it comes to pass, that among Pro­fessors a spirit of Piety runs exceeding low. But it is proper for us to take notice how it is among our selves; and tho' it be very evi­dent that there is a great deal of good Preach­ing [Page 10] in the Land, and the way of Salvation is Preached with a great deal of plainness & power, and many men are very faithful to declare all the Counsel of God; yet there may be cause of Lamentation, that there is a great deal wanting in some places: Some may be very much to blame in not Preach­ing as they ought to do.

1. If any be taught that frequently men are ignorant of the Time of their Conversion, that is not good Preaching. Some are of that Opinion, and its like they may drink it in from their Ministers. This is a delusion, and it may do them a great deal of hurt; it hardens men in their Natural Condition. Paul knew the time of his Conversion; At Midday, O King, I saw a Light from Heaven, above the brightness of the Sun, Act. 26.13. Men are frequently at a loss whether their Conversion were true or not; but surely men that are Converted must take some notice of the Time when God made a Change in them: Conversion is a great change, from darkness to light, from death to life, from the borders of despair to a spirit of faith in Christ. As for the out­ward Conversation, there is sometimes little difference; men might carry very well be­fore: But as to the frame of mens Hearts, there is a very great difference. Formerly [Page 11] they were under the reigning power of Ob­jections against the Gospel, when Converted they receive it as a Divine Truth; before they were Converted they were under a sen­tence of Condemnation, now they have Peace with God through Jesus Christ. Men are generally a long time seeking Conver­sion, labouring to get an interest in Christ; and it would be much if when God reveals Christ to them, they should not take notice of it when the change is made; Ten to one but Conscience will take notice of it. When a Seaman comes into the Harbour, when a Prisoner is pardoned, when a Victory is ob­tained, when a Disease is broke, it would be much if men should take no notice of them. Conversion is the greatest change that men undergo in this world, surely it falls under Observation. The Prodigal knew well enough the time of his return to his Fathers house: The Children of Israel knew the time of their passing over Jordan.

2. If any be taught that Humiliation is not necessary before Faith, that is not good Preaching. Such Doctrine has been taught privately and publickly, and is a means to make some men mistake their condition, and think them­selves happy when they are miserable: For men must be brought off from their own [Page 12] Righteousness before they be brought to Christ. Men that think they have any thing to appease the Wrath of God and ingratiate themselves, will not accept the Calls of the Gospel in Sincerity. While People have a Foundation to build upon, they will not build upon Christ. A Self-righteous spirit is quite contrary to the Gospel: If men be Self-righteous men, they will not judge it fair for God to cast them off. Men that de­pend upon the Justice of God, will not de­pend upon the meer Mercy of God. Men that lay claim to Heaven from their own Works, will not depend on that Plea that Christ has given his life a Ransom for many, and has Redeemed us from the Curse being made a Curse for us. Multitudes of men are ruined by building upon a Sandy Foun­dation. Men must see their Malady, before they see their Remedy. Men must be led into the Understanding of the badness of their Hearts & the strictness of the Law, be­fore they will be convinced of the Precious­ness of Christ. Men that can heal their own Consciences, will not come to Christ for healing. Men must be driven by necessity indeed before they come to Christ. Tho' men feel great terrors and live a tormented Life, yet they will not come to Christ, till driven out of themselves. Men must feel [Page 13] themselves dead in sin, in order to their Be­lieving; Rom. 7.9. Sin revived, and I died. Men must see themselves poor & miserable, wretched & blind and naked, before they receive that Counsel of buying of Christ gold tried in the fire, and white raiment, Rev 3.17 18.

3. When men don't Preach much about the danger of Damnation, there is want of good Preaching. Some Ministers Preach much about moral Duties and the blessed Estate of godly Men, but don't seek to awaken Sinners & make them sensible of their danger; they cry for Reformation: These things are very needful in their places to be spoken unto; but if Sinners don't hear often of Judgment and Damnation, few will be Converted. Many men are in a deep Sleep and flatter themselves as if there was no Hell, or at least that God will not deal so harshly with them as to Damn them. Psal. 36.2. He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. They need to be told of the Terrors of the Lord, that they may flee from Wrath to come: A little matter will not scare men, their hearts be as hard as a stone, as hard as a piece of the nether milstone, & they will be ready to laugh at the shaking of the Spear. Ministers must give them no rest in such a condition: They must pull [Page 14] them as Brands out of the burnings. It is well if Thunder and Lightning will awaken them; They had need to fear that they may work out their Salvation with fear & tremb­ling. Ministers are faulty when they speak to them with gentleness, as Eli rebuked his Sons. Christ Jesus often warned them of the danger of Damnation: Mat. 5 [...]9, 30. It is better that one of thy members should perish, & not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Mat 7.13. Broad is the gate & wide is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Mat. 13.42 The Angels shall cast them into a furnace of fire, there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. So also, Mat. 22.13. Mat. 25.41, 46. This for our imita­tion. Christ knew how to deal with Souls, and Paul followed His Example. Men need to be terrified and have the arrows of the Almighty in them that they may be Con­verted. Ministers should be Sons of Thun­der▪ Men had need have Storms in their hearts, before they will betake themselves to Christ for Refuge: When they are pricked at the Heart, then they will say, What must we do to be Saved? Men must be fired out of their worldliness and sloth: Men must be driven as Lot was out of Sodom. Reason will govern men in other things; but it is Fear that must make them diligently to seek [Page 15] Salvation: If they be but thoroughly Con­vinced of their danger, that will make them go to God and take Pains.

4. If they give a wrong account of the nature of Justifying Faith, that is not good preaching. Justifying Faith is set forth in the Scripture by many figurative Expressions; Coming to Christ, Opening to Him, sitting under his Shadow, flying to Him for Refuge, building on Him as on a Foundation, feeding on Him, &c. These Expressions do imply not only an act of the Understanding, but also an act of the Will, accepting of Him, depend­ing on Him. This Doctrine is despised by some, and Faith in Christ is said to be only a Perswasion of the truth of the Christian Religion. This is the way to make multi­tudes of Carnal men secure, and to flatter themselves as if they were in a good Con­dition: They say they are no Heathens, nor Turks, nor Papists, nor Jews, but they be­lieve that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, they hope they are Believers; but multitudes of People have such a Faith that will fall short of Eternal Life: Joh. 2.23, 24 Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles that he did; but Jesus did not commit himself unto them. Joh. 12.42, 43. Among the chief rulers many believed on him, but because of [Page 16] the Pharisees they did not confess him. The Faith of some men is only a Perswasion from their Education: As Heathens do re­ceive the Religion of their Fore-fathers by Tradition, so these do receive the Christian Religion from Hear-say. But Justifying Faith is wrought in men by the mighty Power of God; 2 Thess. 1.11. That he would work in you, the work of faith with power. Eph. 1.19, 20. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power; which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead? By Justifying Faith, men answer the Calls of God, relinquishing their own Righteousness, place their Dependance only on the Mediation of Christ; Heb. 6.18 They flee for refuge, to lay hold on the hope that is set be­fore them. Justifying Faith is a living Prin­ciple that Sanctifies men; Act. 15.9. Pu­rifying their hearts by faith. Many men have a common Perswasion of the truth of the Gospel, that are utterly destitute of Holi­ness: But true Justifying Faith is always accompanied with an Holy Life. Where there is Faith, there is every other Grace: Act. 26.18. Sanctified by faith that is in me.

5. If any do give false Signs of godliness, that is not good Preaching. Signs of Grace are of [Page 17] two sorts: Some are Probable, and they must be spoken of only as Probable; a Score of them may make the thing more Probable, but don't make it Certain: Probabilities make no Demonstration; Probable Signs are not Conclusive. There are two Errors in laying down Signs; one is when those things that may flow from Common Principles, as natural Temper, natural Conscience, fear of Hell, false Imaginations, are given as sure Signs of Grace: But those things that may flow from Common Principles, don't truly di­stinguish between Saints & Hypocrites; As a good Conversation, savoury Discourse, zeal against Sin, strong religious Affections, sorrow for Sin, quietness under Afflictions, delight in Ordinances, suffering for Religion, &c. From such loose Signs People are in danger to take up a false Perswasion of their godliness. Such Signs are full of Delusion; and many men do bless themselves who are in a miserable Condition. Such probable Signs may be, where there be certain Signs of the contrary. Men are apt to flatter themselves, and when they hear such Signs, they are strengthned in their carnal Confi­dence. There is no infallible Sign of Grace, but Grace. Grace is known only by intui­tion: All the External Effects of Grace may flow from other Causes. Another Error is [Page 18] when men are too strict in their Signs; As when they give that as a Sign, that there is a constant care to glorify GOD, and a continual living upon JESUS CHRIST, and a constant watchfulness against the workings of Corruption. There is no godly man but has at times ill frames of spirit: David and Jonah and Peter had so. When David committed Adultery, he had not a due care to glorify God; nor Jonah when he was in a Fret, nor the Psalmist when he was as a Beast before God, nor Paul when he was led into Captivity by the law of sin that was in his Members. There is no godly man that can comfort himself with such Signs as these: It is well if godly men do see now and then the workings of a spirit of Grace: Grace is many times under Hatches and invisible.

6. If any teach men to build their faith about the Divine Authority of the Scripture upon Pro­bable Signs, that is not good Preaching. There be many probable Arguments for the Authority of the Sacred Scriptures; As the Eminency of the Penmen, and they have had a mighty Efficacy to make a change in the Hearts of men; it is said there were many Miracles wrought for the confirmation of the Doctrine of them; there has been an [Page 19] accomplishment of many of the Predictions in them. These Arguments are prepon­derating and do outweigh all Objections that are brought against the Authority of them: These Considerations may well strengthen the Faith of the People of God; but these things cannot be the Foundation of our Faith: it is only the certain Knowledge of their Authority, that can be the foundation of Faith or any other Grace. Men cannot believe them to be infallibly true upon probable Arguments: Probable Arguments must be looked on but as Probable and not Convincing. Men must have infallible Ar­guments for loving God and believing His Word; the foundation of Believing the Di­vine Authority of the Scripture, is the manifestation of the Divine Glory in them. There is a Self-evidencing Light in the Works of God: The Creation of the world shews God's Power and God-head, Rom. 1.20. It is impossible that the World should be made by any but an infinite God. So there is a Self-evidencing light in the Word of God; there are such things Revealed there as can be made known by none but God: 1 Cor. 2.9. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entred into the heart of man to con­ceive what God hath prepared for them that love him. Those Eternal Rewards that are [Page 20] spoken of in the Scripture, those perfect Rules that are laid down there, those ac­counts that are given of the Mercy of God, and the Justice of God, manifested in the way of our Salvation, would never have entred into the Heart of Man to conceive, if it had not been Revealed by God; Men would never have thought of such a way of Salvation, if it had not been declared by God.

7. If men preach for such Liberties as God doth not allow, that is no good Preaching. There are many licentious Liberties that are taken by Men, in their Apparel, in their Drinking, in their Dancing and other Re­creations, and in their Discourses upon the Sabbath, and in their Dealings with one another; and if Ministers either vindicate or connive at them, they don't Preach as they ought to do. Some men are but lax Casuists, and they take too great a Liberty themselves, & so do their Wives & Children, and they are afraid to anger men by Re­proving some particular Evils that men are addicted to, that do prevail in the Land: The Pharisees were such Casuists; Mat. 5.43. Ye have heard it hath been said of old, thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. Men should be solemnly Warned against all evil Carriages; and if this be omitted, it gives [Page 21] great increase to Sin in the Land. God complains of ill against Teachers for not Reproving Sinners; Isa. 56.10. They are ignorant & blind, dumb dogs that cannot bark. If men were duely Reproved for their Ex­travagancies, that would be a means to Re­claim them: Jer. 23.22. If they had stood in my counsel I had caused my people to hear my words; then they should have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings. Faithful Preaching would be beneficial two ways; one way as it would cut off occasions of anger, and prevent those sins that bring down the Wrath of God on the Land; we should enjoy much more Publick Prosperity: The other is, that it would deliver men from those Vicious Practises that are a great hindrance to Conversion. As long as men live in ways of Intemperance, Injustice, and unsuitable Carriages on the Sabbath, it will be a great impediment to a thorough work of Conversion. There may be Conversion tho' men are not broken off from sins of Ignorance, but as long as they tolerate them­selves in Immoralities, that will be a mighty Bar in the way of their Conversion.

8. If men preach for such Ceremonies in Worship as God doth not allow, that is not good Preaching. There be those that plead for [Page 22] Humane Inventions in Worship; that would if they could, defend the Ceremonies of the Church of England, that would retain some Jewish Ceremonies that are abolished, and practise other Humane Appointments. Jero­boam was Condemned not only for Worship­ping the Calves of Dan and Bethel; but for appointing a time of Worship in his own heart, 1 King. 12.32, 33. So it is noted as an imperfection, in the Reformation of Asa, Jehoshaphat and Manasseh: That the high Places were not taken away. This is spoken of as a great sign of Hypocrisy; Isa. 29.13. This people draw near me with their mouth, and honour me with their lips; but have removed their heart far from me: and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men. When men impose such Ceremonies, they usurp a Power that God has not given them. It is God's Prerogative to appoint in what ways we shall Worship Him: And men therein go quite beyond the bounds of their Autho­rity: Men therein impute imperfection and defect to the Ordinances of God, as if they cou'd teach him how it is fit that he shou'd be Worshipped; and they presume on a Blessing without a Promise: Mat. 15.9. In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the com­mandments of men. This is a way to make men Formal in their Worship; the multi­plying [Page 23] of Ceremonies eats out the heart of Religion, and makes a People Degenerate. Men that multiply Ceremonies, are apt to content themselves with the Form without the Life.

Quest. Is the late Practice of some Ministers, in Reading their Sermons, Commendable?

Answ. There be some Cases wherein it may be tolerable. Persons through Age may loose the strength of their Memories, & be under a Necessity to make use of their Notes; but ordinarily it is not to be allow­ed.

Consider 1. It was not the manner of the Prophets or Apostles. Baruch read the Roll that was written from the Mouth of Jere­miah; but Jeremiah was not wont to read his Prophesies. It was the manner of the Jews to read the Scriptures in the Synagogues; but after that it was their way to Instruct & Exhort men, not from any written Copy: Act, 13.15. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the Rulers of the Synagogue sent to them, saying, Men and brethren, if ye have any word of Exhortation for the People, say on. This was according to the Example of Christ, Luk. 4.17, 20. It was ordered in England in the Days of King Edward the Sixth, That Mini­sters [Page 24] should Read Printed Homilies in Publick: And there was great necessity of it, for there was not One in Ten, that were able to make Sermons But it has been the man­ner of worthy men both here and in other Places, to deliver their Sermons without their Notes.

2. The Reading of Sermons is a dull way of Preaching. Sermons when Read are not de­livered with Authority and in an affecting way. It is Prophesied of Christ, Mic. 5.4. He shall stand and feed in the Strength of the Lord, in the Majesty of the Name of the Lord his God. When Sermons are delivered with­out Notes, the looks and gesture of the Mi­nister, is a great means to command Atten­tion & stir up Affection Men are apt to be Drowsy in hearing the Word, and the Liveliness of the Preacher is a means to stir up the Attention of the Hearers, and beget suitable Affection in them. Sermons that are Read are not delivered with Authority, they savour of the Sermons of the Scribes, Mat. 7.29. Experience shews that Sermons Read are not so Profitable as others It may be Argued, that it is harder to remem­ber Rhetorical Sermons, than meer Rational Discourses; but it may be Answered, that it is far more Profitable to Preach in the De­monstration [Page 25] of the Spirit, than with the enti­cing Words of mans wisdom.

USE, II. See the Reason why there is so little Effect of Preaching. There is much good Preaching, and yet there is want of good Preaching. There is very good Preaching in Old England, yet there is great want of good Preaching, especially among the Conformists: And there is very good Preaching in New-England, and yet there is some want of good Preaching; especially in some places: And this is one Reason that there is no more good done. There is a great fault in Hearers, they are not studious of the mind of God; they are Enemies to the gospel: And when Christ Himself Preached among them, many did not Pro­fit by it. Yet some Preachers are much to blame, and tho' they do Preach profitably many times, yet they have great cause to be Humbled for their Defects.

1. For hence it is that there is so little Conver­sion. There is great Complaint in one Country and in another, that there be few Converted; it is apparent by mens Un­sanctified Lives & their unsavoury Discourses. This is one Reason, there is a great deal of Preaching that doth not much Promote it, but [Page 26] is an hindrance to it. To tell men that they may be Converted tho' they don't know the time: To teach that there is no need of a work of Hu­miliation to prepare them for Christ; and that Faith is nothing else but a Perswasion that the Gospel is true, is the very way to make many Carnal men hope that they are Converted. It makes other Preaching very ineffectual: It makes them think that it is needless to strive for Conversion. Such Preaching hardens men in their Sins: The want of dealing plainly with men is the reason, why there is seldom a noise among the Dry Bones. In some Towns there is no such thing to be Observed for Twenty Years together. And men continue in a senseless condition, come to Meeting & hear Preaching, but are never the better for it. In some Towns godly men are very thin sown. Most of the People are in as bad a condition as if they had never heard the Gospel: Go on in a still way, following their worldly Designs, carry on somewhat of the Form of godliness, but mind little but the World & the Pleasures of this Life. The Scribes did not Preach with Authority, Mat. 7.29. And they entred not into the Kingdom of God themselves, and they that were entring in they hindred. Such Preach­ing is not mighty to the pulling down of strong [Page 27] Holds. Conversion-work will fail very much where there is not Sound Preaching.

2. Hence many men that make an high Pro­fession, lead Ʋnsanctified Lives: They are not dealt Plainly with; and so tho' they Profess high, they Live very Low: They are not dealt Roundly with; and they believe they are in a good Estate, and Conscience suffers them to Live after a Corrupt manner. Some of them live a Proud and Voluptuous Life, and they are not Searched as they should be. If they were told their own, that would keep them from saying that they were Rich and increased in goods, and had need of nothing: If they were rebùked Sharply, that might be a means to make them Sound in the Faith, Tit. 1.13. It might make them not only to Reform, but lay a better Foundation for Eternal Life, than ever yet was laid. Paul was very thorough in his work, & wherever he came he had the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ, Rom. 15.29.

FINIS.

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