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P R E F A CE.
WERE it not to answer the expeétation of readers, and comply with the custom of writers, the following book might be ventured out to the world, without either preface, introduction, or recommendation, the very title-page comtaining enongh to entitle it to a careful and candid reading and perusal.
The worth and credit of the author is sufficiently esablished among fuch as have any taste of piety or learning.
By the history of his life, which has met with very good acceptance, it appears that he was a man of God, one whonz Ke had set 'apari for himself. How disiinét and pointed was ke in observing the Lord's way and work, in bringing hini to himfelf! And where can we see a brighter example, in these latter days of the world, of the humbling exercises and comfortable enjoyment of Christians, than in the author ?
How exciting and edifying is it, to see how close he walked with God in his secret intercourse with him, in his domestic relations, and family devotions, in his public and ministerial work, and his converfation before the world, fetting the Lord always before him, and acknowledging him in all his ways!
May we not then expect something tery well worth our while, in the performance of one of such a character ? One that had the contents of the book written upon his own heart, before he preached them to his people, and was a living and lively witness and example of the great and grave truths now exhibited to public view.
However little this part of his character may take with the multitude, yet those truly serious, who valued him while living, and hate an honour for his memory when dead, will, no doubt, take pleasure to see how the great purposes in the
book were managed by such an excellent hand; and the brethren that were concerned in the publishing of it, can, with a good deal of assurance, say, that the experience, mpon perusing, will answer the expectations raised; of meet. Sing with a spirit of seriousness and piety breathing in it, and a great deal of solid judgment and dising thought ; and in some incident questions, not uncurious, there is sufficient evidence of his penetration, and what may be very agreeable and taking to them who set up for something above what is vulgar
There is nothing in it mean, or unworthy of a grave, ju. dicio!!s, and learned author : if any thing look that way, it is where the necessity of the matter, and capacity of those he dealt with, required it, becoming all things to all men ; particularly when dealing with children, it was fit to do it as near their own terms as possible : for to suit matter to the designs we have, and to the conditions of those we deal with, is ilo argument of the want, but of the prength of jud ment.
He was excellently fitted and enriched with talents, for prery poft Providence called him to, having filled and adorned the Doctor's chair, as Professor of Divinity, as well as the plulpit, while pastor to a Christian flock.
But though there had been lefs to say for the author, the contents of the book deserve a fair hearing, and a serious perufal ; why ? it is the GREAT CONCERN, it is not a trifle it is not a l amul ment : no, it is of the last consequence to us to know these things. Many live unconcerned, and love 10 do so; it may be, the very title fall be with such an argument against reading ; there is little hope of fixing Juch so long as to read the book, or so deep as to do it firiousAy and with due concern: and no wonder, when those so indif. ferent about the grent concerns of eternity, and their own precious fonis, suffer the scripture-oracles to lie by them, without due, frequent, and serious inquiry into them,
Here is presented to the view of Christians, and thofe who would indeed be fuch, what, by the blessing of God, may be zery entertaining, edifying, and useful.
The first fruits of his labours, in the sermon next after his ordination, printed as an introduction to the book, Mews how much his work was at heart, and under what concern he was to prepare the people for entertaining and improving his minifry and message, and to approve himself to God, in the discharge and delivery thereof.
In the First Part, the fate of nature is represented as a fate of fin, misery, and wrath, in the mast pungent, affetting, and convincing terms imaginable ; where the guilty finner is closely pursued into all the turns and stages of
life, and convinced of sin: in each and all of them, sin is represented as odious and abominable, as exceeding finful.
It is laid open in such glasses, and with such aggravations, as it is hard to avoid the conviétions of it, but where natural hardness is increased, by the malignant influence of Satan, ' whose great design and firength lies in keeping all in peace.
The divine refentments against fin, wrath and judgment, upon finners, are likewise set forth in such a manner, as cannot easily miss to raise terror in the consciences of the guilty : prefent wrath in the direful effects of it, wrath to come in the extent and extremity of it, are held forth in such a lively manner, as muft raise the gratitude of those happily delivered from it, and bids very fair to alarm and awaken those yet under it, to escape and flte for their lides.
Then, upon Supposition of conviłtion of sin and guilt, in the Second Part, the exercises of the convinced Sinner are opened up most distinctly and judiciousy,, in their nature, rise, workings, and degrees, and in such a feeling manner as may easily persuade one, that he has, in this matter, copied over his own experience : and it is some degree of satisfattion to one in this condition, to have one going before them, and to think that their guide has trodden the same path.
With what tenderness and compassion doth he touch the cases of the difirelleu ! while yet, with faithfulness and free dom, he opens up the mistakes and deceits, both in the work. ings and issue of convictions, approving himself an inter preter, one among a thousand. Those who by the Spirit are convinced of sing will know hoav. to put a valile upon a piece so suitable to their cafe ; and those awakened and con. vinced are led by a skilful hand, to the centre of reft for wearied souls, by the way of faith, and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, which gives occasion for opening up the mystery of faith, in its nature, acts, and properties, concommitants, and consequences, which will be found very useful for in. forming the less knowing, confirming the weak, and comfort. ing the strong believer.
And what can be of greater importance for us to know than the only way af escaping wrath to come, and beingo delivered from the curse and condemnation of the law, of being united to Christ, and being found in him, upon which
he becomes our righteousness and strength, whereby we are entitled to the great salvation ?
Of which salvation the author treat; as the great encouragement of believing; and this is the one thing neceffary: for, What is a man profited, if t.e gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? This salvation is set forth in fcripture-light, accounted for in its parts and properties, at a good length: and as this is of the last consequence to all, so it musi be the delight of those that have it at heart.
If thou art convinced and awakened, and brought to, a concern about salvation, if brozght to the jailor's case, thou wilt become the help here offered, and readily attend to the answer of the aposle to his question: for what can be more proper und portinent to the case of such, than the true way to escape the misery of a natural fiate, and attain the felicity of a gracious one? Thefe, as they will not Spare, so they will not repent, the pains of reading these Sheets.
Such as are by grace engaged to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are a people saved of the Lord, will have it at heart, what to do for God; they will set themselves, in the Nrength of grace, to all the duties of religion, whereby God may be glorified, and their faith justified, and their bea gun salvation promoted: all which good designs are answered in the Third Part of the book.
and this gives an account of personal religion, of the ser. vice of God, how we must enter into it, and persevere in it; and what more useful piece of knowledge is there, than how we may do service to, and keep up our communion with God? Here our first transactions and after walk arc pointedly and piousy directed.
Here also family.religion is opened in its parts, the foundations of it fixed, and the practice of it enforced with powo erful arguments
, and suitable directions for people's walking in their house, and the proper duties of the several relatives in a family; which, if duly observed; would turn houses into churches : and this is very necelary, when family-devotion i declining, and like to wear out.
A public religion comes also under confideration in this part, or a public spirit; whence the thing is recommended, and yet cautioned with great wisdom and judgment, to prevent people's going out of their sphere, and beyond their line.