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Let me therefore intreat your cheerful and resolute concurrence. Suffer not this amiable infant, (if I may be allowed the expression,) to be deserted, and die, for want of due support in its ten. derest state; nor let it be said, in Hesekiah's words, that when brought to the birth, there was not strength and assistance to bring it forth*. Lend your charitable aid now, if you ever purpose to do it at all ; for if it drop now, we cannot expect ever to see it revived : Since the defeat of this attempt, so far advanced, and so warmly solicited, will be looked upon as a demonstration to many, that the thing cannot be effected; whereas it is most evident, that if it miscarry, it must not be charged on providence, but on ourselves, Nothing surely can prevent its success, humanly speaking, but such dispositions, as I am unwilling on this occasion so much as to name, in those who should be leaders in every good work.
If these shameful causes should prevail to frustrate all, we love our neighbours, qur brethren, and the public too well, not to lament it. But let us at least have so much regard to the credit of our characters, and the peace of our consciences, as to shew, that it fails not for want of our concurrence. I know, it is but very little in comparison that we can do. We are by na means distinguished for our wealth, and we have of course our burdens and experces peculiar to us, as a society of dissenters, Nevertheless, let us judge equitably, as to what we are able to contribute, and let us do it cheerfully: Rejoicing in this, that we act in the presence of a most gracious and merciful father, who, Where there is a willing mind, accepts a man according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not to
Let not therefore any of the poorer part of mankind, who often have as generous and as compassionate hearts as any which are to be found on earth, be discouraged, because they have not their guineas, or even their crowns to give on this nos ble occasion. Were great numbers to join their smaller contributions through such a county as this, it would swell to a very considerable sum. And which is the most agreeable thought of all, each would have his part in the honour and pleasure of doing something towards helping forward so worthy a design. And I am sure, it is the part of humanity to wish, that those, who move in a lower sphere, may share with the rich and great in such pleasures as these; though they cannot in many others, much more expensive, yet not equally exquisite and refined. The joys of liberality, and the delights of benevolence, were intenda
* 2 Kings xix. 3.
+2 Cor. viii. 12.
the trureat autres in
ed by the great author of our nature, like the light of the sun, to be the portion of the whole species, and to extend themselves to the lowest of mankind.
I hope therefore that all, who can without great inconvenience to themselves and their families afford it, will do something to promote this generous scheme. But I would remind those of you in particular, who are in more distinguished circumstances of life, that you are in the sight of God and man obliged to distinguish yourselves in the various exercises of liberality. I have a great authority to warrant me to do it, and I think it one of the truest offices of friendship which a minister can perform to such, to Charge them that are rich in this world, that they trust not in uncertain riches, but in the living God; and that, as they desire any well-grounded trust in him, they practically acknowledge bim as the great Lord of all, by being rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, so laying up in store for themselves, a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life *. And if there are any of you whose riches God hath lately increased, either by causing your grounds to bring forth plentifully, or by giving a favourable turn to the commodities in which you deal, or by any other methods of sudden prosperity; as I may say to you, I come in a good day, so I should think, you had reason to fear that very prosperity were a curse, and might be the means of destruction to you, if you did not feel your hearts as it were melted by it, and disposed to flow forth in the streams of large and cheerful beneficence. I would rather hope, that God has been providing an easy and abundant accession for this public charity, by the accession he has been making to your capacity of supporting it.
I would also particularly beseech those of you, who are of tender constitutions, and know, by your own frequent experience, the calamity of illness, to pity the sorrows you have so often felt, and to shew a readiness to relieve the poor who are labouring under them; as you desire that the eye of mercy may be directed toward you, and that the arm of God may be extended for your support, if such distresses should return upon you. And I hope, any whom God may lately have raised up to life and health, when they seemed in the extremest danger of being deprived of the residue of their years, will hear how loudly he calls upon them, to present a thank-offering, so suitable to the nature of that favour which they have received.
that pily then he minds of those, ni May he open the freely and
To conclude all, I would beseech every one of you who hear me this day, both high and low, rich and poor together, that they aid this good work by their prayers: A contribution, by which some of the poorest may be eminently helpful; for such are often peculiarly Rich in faith*, and high in the favour of the King of heaven.
And may be, the great Patron of the afflicted, and of those that pily them, say Amen to our united petitions! May he graciously guide the minds of those, who are concerting the scheme, and ripening it for fuller execution! May he open the hearts of those, who shall be applied to, that they may give freely and cheerfully, in full proportion to what he, the only perfect judge, certainly knows to be their respective abilities ! And may he abundantly reward all, who from worthy principles shall assist in so excellent a work, with health in their persons, prosperity in their families, peace in their minds, and at length, through the merits and grace of the great Redeemer, with an eternal abode in that world, where the great physician of souls having fully accomplished his healing purposes, The inhabitants shall not say, I am sick t! Nevertheless, the grace of Charity shall live and reign theref; though such methods of expressing it, as I have now been recommending, be happily superseded : Nor is it at all improbable, that some, whom we have for a few days lodged in our house of mercy here, may there, as our Lord him. self expresses it, Receive us into everlasting habitationss. Amen.
* James ii 5.
+ Isa. xxxiii. 24.
1 Cor. xii. 8.
Luke xxi, 9.
ABSURDITY AND INIQUITY
OF PERSECUTION FOR CONSCIENCE-SAKE
In all its Kinds and Degrees.
CONSIDERED IN A SERMON PREACHED AT NORTHAMPTON.
The emissaries of the Roman see are so far from giving up their cause in this kingdom as lost, that the most distant prospects of success produce new and vigorous efforts to promote it. Some time since, they were very busy in town, and in many places in the country, perverting the common people, and making proselytes. These bold steps awakened the attention of those who have always manifested a warm and disinterested zeal for the reformation; and gave occasion to that seasonable attempt, which was made the last year, by several eminent ministers, in a Course of Lectures at SaltersHall, to prevent the growth of popery. Our fathers beheld that mystery of iniquity with abhorrence and terror; but the present generation were not so well acquainted with its fatal tendency. It would, therefore, have been an inexcusable neglect, if, while the enemies were sowing tares, the servants had slept, or had not faithfully warned the rising age of their gross errors in doctrine, and of that superstition and idolatry with which they corrupt and defile the christian worship.
I observed, with pleasure, that those sermons met with general accep. tance. The vast demand for them, amongst persons of a different taste and education, is a full evidence of the masterly manner in which that important design was executed. And I cannot but look upon it as a singular happiness to the public, that the work fell into the hands of men who understood the true principles of liberty, and steadily pursued them through the whole performance; which has not always been the case of those who have gone before them in that controversy. The secular powers were not called upon to interpose with their authority ; but a calm and sober appeal was made to the holy scriptures, and to the reason of mankind, as the only proper judges in these debates.
On a careful perusal of the following discourse, I conceived it might be of service to publish it; and since it attacks one of the principal bulwarks of the popish usurpation, I apprehended it could not appear with greater advantage, than as an appendix to the above-mentioned lectures, if my worthy brethren concerned should approve of it in that view.
It has been the great unhappiness of many protestant dissenters, that they have entertained too narrow sentiments of the right of private judgment;
without which a separation from an establishment can never be rationally defended. The writings on that argument, in which'the question, in all its circumstances, is examined, are so large, and the reasoning so abstracted, that I have long wished for something more immediately calculated for popular use : and so much the rather, as pious and well disposed minds have been too much impressed with the pretences urged to justify religious severities, without considering the consequences to which they lead.
My known affection to the author may perhaps incline some to conclude, that I am prejudiced in his favour, and will readily recommend every composure which he offers to the world: but so far as I am capable of judging of this discourse, it is the best I have ever seen on the subject in so narrow a compass; the case of persecution is so clearly stated, the absurdity and iniquity of it so fully exposed, and the reasons advanced in its defence, especially those drawn from the penal laws amongst the Jews, are so well answered, that, I am willing to believe, it will give satisfaction to all impartial and candid readers.
It is with a great deal of concern, that I have taken notice of some unwary expressions, dropt by our writers of the last age, which countenance restraints inconsistent with toleration in its largest extent. These have been industriously collected to upbraid and condemn us. And it has been artfully and maliciously insinuated, that when we are pleading for liberty, we are only struggling for power to deprive others of the privileges we claim for ourselves. I hope the ensuing pages, in concurrence with that ample testi: mony which has been borne to the same cause, by the most considerable persons amongst us, will silence our adversaries, and wipe off so unjust and invidious a reproach,
Harborough, Feb. 17, 1735-6,