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the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the holy One of Ifrael to cease from before us, ll. xxx. 10. 11. There is much noise at this day about faithful preaching; and I do not doubt unfaithful preachers are wanting ; but I greatly doubt if Chriit's thoughts and mens thoughts will agree about what it is. Concerning this I would ask
Questi 1. Whether that preaching which croises the heart-corruptions of the hearers, even the best of them, or that which is fuited and most agreeable to the humours of the hearers, and tickles them inost, is the most faithful preaching? See Gal. i. 10. Do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I get pleufed men, I should not be the servant of Christ, Where I fhall only obserye, that Paul makes no difference of men, professors or others.
Quest. 2. Whether can a foul igoorant of Christ and its own natural state, a profane man and a forinal hy. pocrite, sit foftest under that preaching, whose main scope is to level at people's particular cafe, on which the balance will turn at the great day, or that which lies further off from the vitals of practical godliness, and rubs on none so little as the learers ? 2 Tim. ii. 15.
Queft. 3. Whether the great stress of faithful preaching lies in infifting chiefly on such fins of the time as may be reformed, and yet we go to hell at the hinder end, or on those things that have been, are, and will be the bloody fins of all times, which it they could be got reforined, Christ would get heart-friends, and we ihould certainly see his face for ever in heaven?:canish.
Queft. ult. Whether is it the most faithful preaching that dils the hearers with convictions of guilt, felt: Ibathing and deep humiliation before the Lord, ori that which fends then away commending the preach-l: er, and puffed up with felf-conceit? If faithful preaching were weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, the hearts of most hearers would say, that they have more of it than they can bear. I do profess I have had less. difficulty. to preach things relating to the public, when
I knew those were hearing me whose hearts would have been galled with it, than amongst you, where there 'appears more zeal for these things than for, true holiness of heart and life, left my deceitful heart should be led aside to preach to please men. And not without grief of heart have I often seen the snare, when, upon my beginning to fpeak of such things, an un: usual attention and liveliness has suddenly run through among us, which has presently died out with that particular, and become as flat and dead as before at the most weighty points of practical godlinefs. *But I must discharge my conscience according to my'small measure, both as to the case of the public and private, whatever use men make of it,
(3.) As to execution on fouls, if not on-lufts. Christ's sword is two-edged, and with one of the two it will 'wound, Pfal. xlv. 5. If it miss a man's lufts, it will not-miss his soul, Hof. vi. 5. If it
If it open not the blind eye, it will put it out: if it foften not the hard heart, it will make it harder, Il. vi. 10. The gospel never left a nation, parish, or person as it found them, but either better or worse. If I had not coine, fays Christ, and spoken to them, they had not bad Jan; but now they have no doke. for their sin, John xv. 22. The ministers of the gospel, in its most unsuccessful times, drivenot an empty chariot ; Chriit is in it, and his arrows are flying about him either to kill or make alive.
(4.) Lastly, As to the aggravation of mens con. demnation, Matth. xi. 22. 24. The more light of the gospel is despised on earth, the more violent is the flame in hell. Where the ladder to heaven is set up and not used, there will be à niore deep linking into the pit. There is no sin like the despiling of the remedy of fin. Refused grace will burn like coals of juniper, Heb. X. 2G
Secondly, I come to fhew in what respects the gospel may be received in vain. A thing is received in vain when it falls thort of its native effects and ends, as phyfic does when it purgeth not, Gal. iv. 11. Now, , in the general the gospel is received in vain,
1. When it profits not men to salvation, which is the great end of the contrivance of the gospel, Phil. ii. 16. When men die eternally with the meat of their souls in their mouths, and starve while the inanna rains about their tent-doors; while the foul remains and dies in the prison, though Christ comes and proclaims liberty to it. Thus it is often received in vain, Luke xiv.
2. When the fruits of it are not brought forth in people's lives, Matth. iii, 8. When the gospel has its native effect on men, it changes their hearts and lives. It is the rain of heaven that will have meet fruits fol. lowing it, if it be not received in vain.' The fruits of the gospel are two, faith and holiness.
(1.) Faith, Rom. X. 17. Faith cometh by bearing. The gospel is that which holds forth the mean of the foul's reunion with God by faith in Christ, the only way to bring sinners back to God again. Now, when this is not effected, the gospel is received in vain. Hence the prophet complains, 11. liii. 1. Who hath believed our report?
(2.) Holiness, Tit. ii. 11. When this feed of the word is sown in the heart, it will fanctify it, John xv. 3. Eph. v. 26. It is that word by which the elect are created in Christ Jefus unto good works, having a converting and fanctifying power when impregnated by the Spirit. Now, accurding as these things fail, the gospel is received in vain. More particularly, the gospel is received in vain,
1. When the doctrine of it is corrupted, Gal, iv. 11. as in vain does that stomach receive meat, that corrupts it instead of digefting it. And thus is the gospel entertained in the land at this day, while error and delusions abound, and the confeflion of faith, that excellent standard of pure doctrine, is attacked and vilified on every liand; and more particularly when the doctrine of grace is corrupted, againit
which almost all sects do bend their force, and in opposition to which they do usually meet. here deserve tears of blood.
(1.) Much legal preaching, where duty is indeed pressed and sin reproved, but the evangelic nature of duties is little cleared up, and men are driven into themselves to spin their own ruin out of their own bowels, and Christ and his grace are not preached, because not understood. And, which is most lamentable, there is little fenfe among professors to discern this legal strain that reigns in the sermons of many, but bona vox et bona verba.
(2.) Much legal practice among professors.. Their duties, like Vagons, are set in the room of Christ. There is little experience of turning out of ourselves, but a constant turning in to ourselves for what we do. And no small weight is laid on duties, nay upon a very opinion in the matter of God's favour. The reason is, they have never had the work of humiliation deep enough on their spirits. 12. When the fimplicity of gospel-worship is forfaken, and it is adulterated with mens inventions, Matth. xv. 2. 2 Cor. xi. 3, And even thus the idolatry of the mass, and the superstitious service of the church of England, have dared to set up their face, with the countenance of not a few, in a land of light. England once had the simplicity of gospel-worship established among them. Had it not been so far received in vain, they had not fit down again on their old dregs ; and had our rulers had a due regard to the simplicity of the gospel, they had not in their union with them confented to their fixing themselves on thefe dregs of theirs, contrary to moral duty forbidding to consent to fin, and to the fuperadded obligation of the covenant. And it may be, were the temptation said to our doors, it would appear thać we have received the gospel in vain too. For when once people decline from God's inftitutions, and ob. trude their fancies for Bible-duties, it is hard to say VOL. III.
how far they may go. But beware of this. Let us be spiritual in our walk with God; it is the best prefervative that I know against it.
3. When they are afhamed to appear for it, and have not a brow to keep and hold fast what the Lord has given. In vain is it received that people have no confidence to hold fast when they have it, Rev. iii. 11. How many are afhamed of gospel truths and ways! they will be gibed out of them. We must contend for the faith ; and this is a day wherein the Lord seems to be calling this church to contend for those privileges which he has given her, and none have power to take from her, particularly, that of appointiog fasts and thanksgivings; though we hould manage our contendings in luch a way as becomes the matters of the God of order. Prayers, tears, and the word of their teftimony, are the molt proper arms of the church.
4. When the gospel cannot look gross immoralities out of countenance among people. Surely in vain is it there received where the devil reigns at eafc notwithstanding, Luke xix. 8. 9. Truly much in vain is the gofpel received among us this way. Ah! Sirs, it is not fo when profane fwearing is so frequent, 'labbath-breaking, contempt of golpel ordinances, uncleanness, every one devouring another, lying, cheating, abound, and common honesty is rare to be found ? &c. Truly it is a fign, that there is little power with ministers preaching, and little roorn it gets in people's hearts.
5. When it leaves professors upon their dregs of formality, as weil as the profane in their profanity. It is but cold entertainment the gospel gets when it gets room once or twice a day in people's houses, but has no access to their hearts, to raise up there, the power of godliness; truly it will neyer let them the length of heaven, 2 Tim. iii. 5. Ah for the deep le. thargy that this generation is tallen into! conversionwork is much at a stand, foul-exercise is grown a ftranger to the mott part, there is no growth but in naughtiness and self-conceit.