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more familiar Address: but as the change of my purpose has been so recently made, by the interposition of others to insert them, I have judged it not worth while to make the exact comparison necessary to curtail the subject, which would have occupied much time; and the whole work being ready for publication, it inevitably would have retarded its appearance. I shall proceed, therefore, to detail a further reason that first induced me to preach, and now to publish, the following Lectures.
Next to my duty to Him, whom it is the highest wisdom to obey—the greatest honour to serve, I have the pleasure to think you will not need much persuasion to believe, that my object in this task was your improvement ; by an affectionate desire to furnish you with such rational information upon the chief points that positively concern a Christian to understand, as might assist in forwarding your eternal welfare.
If, through God's grace upon your own earnest endeavours, you shall happily obtain, by these humble exertions, a more substantial portion of intelligence respecting the first principles of
your faith ; you will then become much better qualified to receive benefit from my future efforts for your advancement in religious knowledge ; one principal cause of persons not profiting by what they hear from the pulpit, being the want of an early and sound foundation in the first rudiments of religion, which you will find clearly explained in these Discourses.
But I am not unwilling to declare to you an additional motive that determined me on giving a weekly lecture on the Church Catechism. I wished to ascertain such proof of the actual state of religious sincerity amongst you, as might be evinced from a regular attendance upon the unexceptionable exercises of God's holy worship, and the readiness to embrace every opportunity afforded through those happy means of gaining Christian information. I had been witness to a great show of fervent profession in many, as to the most strict discharge of Christian duties, and I was anxious to form some judgment, whether this was the produce of a zeal with or without knowledge ;-—who might be considered as purely attached to the excellent services of the Church, and rationally disposed to get all the good they might obtain therein; or, on the other hand, whether some, instead of being more inclined to employ the regular means of grace at home, were not become indifferent to that establishment in which they were educated, and in which they might as assuredly live and die in the Lord (if not their own fault), as in any other society or sect professing the Christian faith. In short, I desired to be thoroughly convinced, whether the spirit of novelty and delusion had so far taken possession of them, as wholly to have unsettled their attachment to the pious offices and instructions of the Established Church.
I am truly grieved to say, that, from the test of my experience hitherto, I have not been supplied with any comfortable token, that all of our community are zealously disposed towards the salutary means which God's good providence has continued to us, for the serving him in unanimity, peace, and order; and though I do not wholly attribute this to positive wilful disaffection, yet unbecoming neglect renders the appearance too unfavourable in point of due reverence to the Church, and is much to be lamented.
As Christian brethren, we can have no sound plea to except against any description of pious persons, merely for the name or title that may be affixed to their particular fraternity : and as far as we can perceive the uniform course of life of such persons to be more exemplary and sincere than those distinguished solely by the appellation of Church friends, they unquestionably have some plea to preference in the general sense of Christian professors. A mere name, however, is nothing, on either side; but if we discover any habitual desertion of the public worship of a Church, for whose ordinances they pretend respect, and from which they cannot withhold a rational assent, since they do not interfere with any of their private singularities (much less with the restraint of real piety); such conduct savours rather of perverseness than humility, and never can be reconciled with the practice of consistency, and the general love of peace. On the contrary, a due attendance on the holy rites of the Church, by those professing spiritual grace, would forward universal charity and Christian harmony.
Upon the genuine principle that should mark a desire of Christian fellowship, I own myself a foe to such desertion. To the tenets likewise that are too frequently delivered among the great variety of sectaries, who take shelter under the indiscriminate common title of Methodists, I am equally averse, and my reason is this : because I believe them productive of no small injury to numbers, who cannot discern good from evil, nor the subtlety and dangerous tendency of their pursuits; but too often considering them as an indulgence to a sinful course of life, they operate occasionally to the detriment of their industrious neighbours, whom if they can be persuaded to account as heretics from their peculiar system, they are by no means duly conscientious in overreaching, and censuring them as deficient in spiritual zeal. I am no less an enemy to the principles that tend to produce such opinions, because they certainly incline to the levelling system, which positively clashes with the order of God's providence; with the valuable ends of government to the community at large; and utterly subverts that necessary subordination in society, which upholds the preservation of good order, both civil and religious, and to which, when once men become indifferent, and can be persuaded such salutary provisions do not help their happiness, a door is instantly thrown open to licentiousness, confusion, and every political and moral evil.
A well-ordered government on earth, is the surest mark of the greatest blessing of Heaven upon any people, and is undoubtedly emblematical of the grand archetype of an all-perfect state; for, from the Supreme Being himself, to the lowest of his ministering spirits, the Holy Scripture points out to us a regular gradation of power and commission. To oppose legal authority is sinful and ruinous : and as, when a private person affronts his benefactor, in return for the choicest favours he has received, we may judge by what spirit such a one is governed ; so, when any people become dissatisfied with the best security for general prosperity and peace, we may conclude they are in danger of speedily incurring some dreadful visitation from the wise and provident Dispenser of all things.
I will now submit a few points for your consideration, by which a fair judgment may be