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BRETHREN DEARLY BELOVED,
SOME years have elapsed since I offered you a series of discourses on the "ruin and recovery of man." In them I endeavored to exhibit in a plain, scriptural manner those miseries in which we are involved by transgression in the present life, and the unspeakably more awful wrath of Almighty God which awaits the impenitent in the life to come: I also attempted to illustrate the scheme of our redemption through the sufferings of the Eternal Son, and the infinitely important result of this scheme as it issues in the highest glory to God, and blessedness of his redeemed.
The design of this volume is to explain and enforce those means by which this salvation of God is ordinarily commenced, and carried on, and completed in the souls of his favored children. The deliberate, impartial trial of your spiritual character, is recommended in the first discourse as lying at the foundation of all religion. Without union to Jesus the Surety, and reconciliation through his righteousness, your discharge of external duties will be utterly useless; it must be unprofitable as an attempt to rear up a superstructure without laying the foundation, or to cultivate a branch while the root remains rotten, or to
purify the stream while the fountain itself is impure. In the second I have attempted to enumerate the various ordinances of religion, as exemplified in the life of Zacharias, and Elizabeth; and shewn that each ought conscientiously to be observed in its proper connexion. Secret prayer is the third duty illustrated and enforced, because it is the immediate transaction of the individual with the heart-searching Jehovah; and although this does not constitute the corner-stone, it may certainly be considered as lying near to the foundation of all religion. If a man is not devout in the closet, it may with safety be asserted that he will not be devout either in his family, or in the church, or in the world. The daily and diligent perusal of the scriptures, is the next ordinance to which your attention is called, because it is a tribute of respect due to the great God, that since he condescended to become an author, his word should be frequently and affectionately read. The fifth duty enjoined is the sanctification of the sabbath. This, which is reasonable in itself, becomes our exalted privilege when we realize the return of every sabbath as another pledge of that everlasting rest which remains for the people of God: After shewing the importance of family devotion, of parental instruction, and the obligation of each member to aim at promoting the edification of the others, I have endeavored to point out the advantages of being habitually