« PreviousContinue »
concerning Annuities, and an abstract of Pro.
THE OFFICE AND DUTY
RIGHT OF EXERCISING THEIR
IN THE HANDLING AND TREATING OF CIVIL, AS WELL AS RE
LIGIOUS, AFFAIRS....AND MORE ESPECIALLY IN TIMES OF
MY DEAR SIR,
I HAVE carefully read the sermon that came enclosed to me in yours of the fifteenth instant; and cannot but think the subject well chosen, and highly seasonable. The thoughts you have chiefly dwelt on, are truly interesting; and their frequent intrusion shews a mind more deeply impressed with its sub
• This letter was written on Braddock's defeat, in answer to one from the Reverend Thomas Barton, then exercising his ministerial office in the frontier counties of York and Cumberland, Pennsylvania, as missionary to "the venerable society in London, for propagating the gospel in foreign parts.”... The author intends both this letter, and the address to the colonies, which follows it, “ On the opening of the campaign, 1758," as a kind of preface to the following Sermons on Special Public Occasions, and an apology, where it may be necessary, for the manner or expression, in any particular parts of them.
ject, than attentive to external niceties and method. But, for this very reason, perhaps, the sermon may be more generally useful to such readers as want to have the same truths set in various points of view; so that I have been very sparing in my proposed alterations of method. Some transpositions and abridgments I have, however, offered to your consi. deration, agreeably to the confidence you are pleased to repose in me.
There is, if we could hit upon it in composition, a certain incommunicable art of making one part rise gracefully out of another; which, although it is to be seen by a critic only, will yet be felt and tasted by all. To please in this respect is well worth our warmest endeavours. We are debtors alike to the wise, and the unwise; the learned Greek, and the foolish Barbarian. None but a few choicer spirits, have sense and goodness enough, to be captivated by the naked charm of Religion. Vulgar souls need to be roused from the lethargy of low desire, and to have their love of God and goodness, excited and enflamed. Hence, Religion must be taught, as it were, to breathe and to move before them, in all the grace and majesty of her most winning and attractive form.
We shall, therefore, err greatly, if we flatter ourselves that it will cost us less labour to preach or write to the ignorant, than to the intelligent. To please and profit the latter, requires sense only. To please and profit the former, requires sense and art both.
I am obliged to you for your kind expressions towards me. An intercourse of compliment would ill suit the seriousness of our characters; and, in re
gard to any small services I have been able to render you, I am more than repaid in observing that I have, in some measure, been instrumental in supplying our poor back-settlers, with a minister of the blessed gospelz who, in this day of our visitation, will, to the best of his abilities, stem the tide of popular vice and folly, and disdain to appear, cold to the cause of his God, his king, or his protestant country.
I know, however, that your appearing warm in these grand concerns, will even procure opposition to your ministry, as well as objections to all sermons of this kind. You will hear it said " That a minister
professing to be a disciple of the meek and blessed “ Jesus, should confine himself to subjects purely “ spiritual and eternal. What have the clergy to do " with civil and temporal concerns? And as to blow* ing the trumpet of war, and declaiming against “ popery, a subject so long ago exhausted, what purpose can it serve, but to kindle the flame of
perse“cution, and banish Christian charity from the habi“ tations of men ?"
These objections will seem plausible to many, though they will not so much be levelled against any particular performance, as against every protestant minister in general, who shall have the noble resolu. tion to discharge the important duties of his office, in the present emergency. I shall, therefore, endeavour to strip such objections of their false varnish, and shew that to admit them in their full force, tends clearly to involve the world in error and slavery.
It is indeed a melancholy consideration that such a task should be necessary at this day, even under the happy auspices of liberty and a reformed religion. But I know that, in the course of your duty here, you will find arguments still wanting to combat prejudices of this kind, and even to plead before very partial judges the cause of a protestant ministry. And it is our good fortune that such arguments may readily be produced, even upon principles of reason anel good policy, if those of a higher nature should be refused.
We may grant that, in the infancy of time, when men lived in a dispersed state, it was possible that every one might be priest as well as king in his own family. Not being as yet collected into larger societies, men were not then engaged in that constant round of action, which hath since been the lot of their short-lived posterity. Their manners were more simple; the distinctions between right and wrong were less perplexed; and they had leisure to attend not only to the dictates of a heart less corrupt, but also to those positive injunctions, received occasionally from God himself, conversing face to face, or handed down from their first parents, in pure and faithful tradition.
But although in these times of simplicity, as they are described to us, we may suppose every man capable of discovering his own duty, and offering up the
pure and spiritual worship of his own heart, yet such a worship was too refined, abstracted and solitary, to last always. Human affairs soon became more complicated. Societies were necessarily formed; and this sacred intercourse of individuals, with the Father of Love, soon began to decay. The avo