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To the Church and Congregation assembling for divine worship, in Endless Street Chapel, Salisbury.
MY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS,
MANY powerful considerations concur with the dictates of my heart, to induce me to inscribe these Expository Discourses to you. They were preached in your hearing, and for your benefit; you heard them with deep and undrooping attention; and they owe, in great measure, their publication to the individual solicitation of many among you. Receive them, therefore, with the serious desire of exemplifying them in your lives, and regard them as an expression of my solicitude for the furtherance of religion in your families.
Upwards of ten years have now rolled away since our union was formed as pastor and people. The mercies which it has pleased the Giver of "every good and perfect gift" to bestow upon us during this period, have been numerous and great. While many congregations have been
weakened by division, and withered by strife, scarcely a whisper of momentary discord has ever been heard among Some who were once careless, have become attentive to religion; and, in several instances, profane and wicked men have been turned to the Lord by the power of his word. "To the praise of the glory of divine grace," let it be, therefore, thankfully acknowledged, that we have been thus united, happy, and prosperous; and that, with relation to the future, we have equal encouragement to go forward.
But "I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation." If I were to affirm, that nothing remained to be corrected or improved, I should be guilty both of flattery and falsehood. In common with congregations in general, there are, doubtless, many persons among you that require admonition, and whose "conversation is not such as becometh the gospel of Christ." I advert not to the fact in the tone of reproach, but solicitude; desiring that you will guard against every thing that may be likely in any respect to weaken the cause of religion in the world, and become a local obstacle to its advancement. If there be one thing that lies nearer my heart than another, as your minister, it is-next to the conversion of souls-the consistency of your lives with your profession. If these do not harmonize, it will be dreadful indeed. Your friends may overlook the discrepancy, or cover it with the mantle of charity, but the world will be more discerning, and less candid. You may pass with one another as sincere though imperfect Christians; but men who are always
pleased to find spots in the character of the religious, will scarcely give you credit for any thing more than hypocrisy. While, therefore, we are not "to seek to please men" by the sacrifice of the truth, or a good conscience, we owe it both to our Lord and to them, to endeavour to weaken their prejudices against the gospel, by personal holiness and unblemished integrity in every situation and condition of life. Wherefore, my brethren, receive this pastoral advice:
Have no unnecessary association with men of irreligious habits; guard against all vain and foolish conversation ; be punctual in your engagements, both secular and religious; forsake not the assembling of yourselves together in the sanctuary, as the manner of some is; let your attendance on the ministry of the word be steady, serious, and as often as possible, both on the Sabbath, and at other times; erect an altar to God in all your families, and bow before it daily; support the cause of religion, both at home and abroad, cheerfully, liberally, to the utmost of your means, and from love to Him, "who gave himself for you;" study each other's welfare, and endeavour to promote it; uphold the hands of your minister, and aim at promoting his usefulness, by holy example, fraternal intercourse, enlightened and prudent zeal, fervent prayer, and Christian love; and finally, strive to preserve the flame of personal religion bright and vigorous in your own souls, for this will be the most effectual method of demonstrating to the world, that the gospel of Christ is a "doctrine
according to godliness." O my brethren-my dear brethren, let the edification, the building up which an apostle enjoins, be your unwearied concern, and earnest praver. "And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue (or courage); and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."*
But there are some among you of whom I stand in doubt," and over whom the eye of pastoral tenderness may bitterly weep. I refer to such as "halt between two opinions," who have sat under the word many, many years, have passed through heavy trials, and frequently "had the sentence of death in themselves," but are, I fear, unconverted still! And is this the case? O, then, how fearful is your condition. I make no apology for saying, "It will be more tolerable in the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you." I will speak, however, the language of encouagement, as well as fidelity. Again I entreat you to "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near." Remember, in a few fleeting years, this vain world, with all its multifarious concerns, will be nothing to you. Young and old, child and parent, servant and
2 Peter i. 5-8.