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It will be objected, publick preaching has been perverted : but it will be answered, as long as we have a standard it may be reformed to its original purity. The ark of Jehovah fell of old into the hands of heathens, who, having no dimensions or directions from the first artist, decorated it according to their own superstitious fancies, and in their great wisdom returned it to its owners, as if it had been a trunk of Dagon, accompanied with the glorious images of mice and morbid ulcers. (1)
Thus it has happened to all the ordinances of heaven. Prayer and preaching, baptism and the Lord's supper, have all fallen into the hands of bad men, and they have disguised and disgraced them : but what is reformation, and what is protestantism? do they not include recovery and original purity ? In regard to the pulpit, let us at least try to separate indelicate human baubles from original workmanship, and to place the ecclesiastical roftrum in that neat simplicity of finished taste, in which the divine artist first commanded it to be made. Plainness in religion is elegance, and popular perspicuity true magnificence.
The history of the pulpit is curious and entertaining. It has spoken all languages, and in all forts of style.. It has partaken of all the customs of the schools, the theatres, and the courts of all the countries, where it has been erected. It has been a seat of wisdom and a sink of nonsense. It has been filled by the best and the worst of men. It has proved in some hands a trumpet of fedition,
(1) The Philistines took the ark of God. But the Lord Smo:e thim with emerods. And they sent back the ark of God with five golden mice, and five golden emerods in a coffer. 1 Sam. iv. 5,6.
and in others a source of peace and consolation : but on a fair balance, collected from authentick history, there would appear no proportion between the benefits and the mischiefs, which mankind have derived from it, so much do the advantages of it preponderate ! In a word, evangelical preaching has been, and yet continues to be reputed foolishnefs : but real wisdom, a wisdom and a power, by which it pleaseth God to save the souls of men (2)
With views of this kind (I speak in the fear of God, who searcheth the heart.) and not to give offence to any, I collected and published the notes in the following essay. Alas! does a modern episcopalian undertake the defence of
abfurdity exhibited to the world by every thing called in pait times a bishop! Or shall a modern non-conformist adopt all the weaknesses of every one, who was persecuted out of established communities! All other orders of men examine and reform them. selves; do men in black alone intend to render impropriety immutable and everlasting! I have exemplified the absurdities, complained of by Mr. Claude, by the works of our ancestors, who are dead and gone, on purpose to avoid offending. Indeed, this was necessary, for who alive has one pulpit impropriety to quote!
I designed at first to have added to these two a third volume of the same size, entitled, An Essay TOWARD A HISTORY OF PUBLICK PREACHING. The matter was intended to be distributed into
(2) The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolisanefs. But it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe : because the foolishness of God is wifer iban men.
i Cor. i.
A brief Disertation
I. The necessity of some divine revelation as a
SIMPLIFY publick preaching, by reducing it to its original standard of doctrine, language, and other properties.-XX. Survey of the whole, tending to prove the free and simple preaching of the pure word of God a publick blessing to society, and the power of God to the salvation of men. This was the plan.
In pursuing this inchanting path, I found pleasure enough to repay all the labour of collecting many materials, and poring over books and manu. scripts : but I found also, that justice could not be done to that part of the subject, which I wished most of all to illustrate, without a nearer residence to the grand repository of unexplored British sub. jects, the Museum, and more leisure than my pub. lick avocations in my own congregation (for I have no colleague.) would allow me to expect. I have, therefore, laid aside the plan, made use of a few extracts in these notes, torn, burnt, and given away most of the other papers, and patterns of fermons, that I had collected, and never more intend to resume the subject, except this once in the following brief sketch.
The first voice, that imparted religious ideas by discourse to fallen man, was the voice of the creator, called by the inspired historian, the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden, in the cool of the day. (3) Whether he, who afterwards appeared so often in human shape, and at last actually put on a human body, descended into the garden, alsumed a form, and conversed with our first parents on this occasion, or whether the air was so undulated by the power of God as to form articulate audible sounds, certain it is, Adam and Eve li
terally (3) Gen. üi,
terally heard a voice, and had the highest reason for accounting it the voice of God. The promise to the woman of a son, who should bruise the ferpent's head, was emphatically and properly called The word of God. It was a promise, which they had no right to expect : but, when revealed, the highest reason to embrace.
It is natural to suppose, God having once spoken to man, that mankind would retain, and repeat with great punctuality what had been said, and listen after more. Accordingly, infallible re. cords assure us, that, when men began to associate for the purpose of worshipping the deity, Enoch prophesied. (4) We have a very short account of this prophet, and his doctrine : enough, however, to convince us, that he taught the principal truths of natural and the then revealed religion; the unity of God and his natural and moral perfections the nature of virtue, and its essential difference from vice-a day of future impartial retribution. Conviction of lin was in his doctrine, and communion with God was exemplified in his conduct. He held communion with God by sacrifice, and St. Paul reasons, from his testimony that he pleased God, that he had faith in the promise of the mediator, for without faith it would have been inpossible even for Enoch to have pleased God. (5)
From the days of Enoch to the time of Moses each patriarch worshipped God with his family,
(4) Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophefied. Jude 14.
(5) Enoch said, The Lord cometh-Enoch said, The Lord cometh with saints-- ungodly finners speak against him, and commit ungodly deeds-Enoch said, The Lord cometh to execute judgment - The Lord cometh to convince. Jude 14, 15.- -Enocb walked with God. Gen. v. 24. Heb. xi. 5, 6,