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PREF A C E.
Publish this Discourse, not for the
Information or Entertainment of the I Learned, but (as the Title speaks)
for the Instruction of common Chris.
tians; those more especially with whom I am concerned as a Parish Minister, for whose Use the greatest Part of it was originally drawn up. Its Design is to thew the true Grounds of our Salvation by Chrift; and what is that pure, spiritual Service, which, as Christians, we are bound to pay. The great Neglect of God's publick Worship, which has been growing for some Years past, no doubt, is very much owing to Unbelief and Corruption of Manners; and where this is the Cafe, little Help (I fear) is to be expected from Reason and Argument. But there may be an Indifference to the Gospel Institutions, arising from low, disadvantageous Notions of them, in those in whom the Principles of Faith and Moral Virtue are not loft; which I apprehend to be a very common Case. They who rest every thing upon Moral Virtue, and consider outward Appointments as naked Signs or Professions only (and these Notions have with great Industry been propagated of late) will be very apt to fall into ihe Opinion, that, Virtue supposed, the rest is of little Use or Consequence. But if we consider
Salvation as the Purchase of Christ's Blood; and the Institutions of Christ, as the Channels through which (by his Appointment) the Grace of the Gospel is conveyed to us ; this cuts off all Pretence : For, upon this Foot, a Refusal to join in the Use of these Institutions, will, in Effect, be a Renunciation of our Interest in Christ, and a cutting ourselves off from all UNION and ComMUNION with him.
It is in this View that I have placed the Christian Worship, and therefore I lay my Foundation in the Doctrine of our Redemption by Chrift; which I have delivered as it lies in the Scripture, without attending to the laboured Artifices, by 'which the Socinian Writers have endeavoured to obfcure and deface it, To enter into these Niceties was not agreeable to the Purpose of this Dira course : For how much would common Readers have been the better for it? They who have confidered the Socinian Interpretations, know their Worth; and they who know nothing of them, 1 may venture to say, will never feel the Want of them. Subtil Heads may perplex ihe clearest Points ; but if any one comes to the reading of the New Testament, only with his plain natural Sense about him; whatever Difficulties he may find in accounting for the Reasons of God's Providence in saving us by the Blood of his Son, offered as a Sacrifice and Propitiation for Sin (which is a Point that we are not at all qualified to judge of) I verily think it will be impoflible for him to doubt whether this be a Scripture Doctrine or not.
The principal Parts of the Christian Worship are Prayer, and the partaking of the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood; which have of late been made the Subject of much learned Dispute. And as Disputes, howsoever useful on some Accounts,
are apt to unsettle those who may not have Leisure or Capacities to trace Things backward and forward ihrough a long Series of Argumentation; I thought it might give Help to well-meaning Perfons to place the whole before them, in an eary and familiar Light. And though, in Conformity with this Design, I have avoided the Formality of Objections and Answers, and pursued my own Thoughts in a plain and natural Way; yet I have paid such Regard to the material Points under each Question, that, in so much as is necessary for common Information, I hope no one will find Cause to complain for want of reasonable Satisfaction. In the Account I have given of the Na. ture of the Sacrament, I have followed Dr. Cudworth, who seems to me to have hit upon the true Notion of it.
There are two Extreams chiefly to be guarded against, in respect of the Gospel Institutions. One is a superstitious Shyness; the other, a presumptu.' ous Familiarity. The first is incident only to the beit Difpofitions, whofe Concern to do every Thing in the most acceptable Manner, leads them fometimes into unreasonable Jealoufies, which either keep them back from God's Ordinances, or take away much of that Comfort which they might otherwise reap from the use of them. I have endeavoured to cut off the Occasions of such Scruples, as the Sources from whence they are wont to arise have fallen in my Way; which I thought so much the more necessary, as Enthusiasm now begins to lift up her Head, and many are running after new Inventions. But I think that our greateft Danger, at present, lies on the other side. To be overfcrupulous is not the general Temper of the Age ; and therefore I have been large in the wing the Neceflity of a good moral Life to fanctify our Devo
tions, and make them an Offering acceptable in the sight of God. To give Encouragement to Persons to join in our publick Worthip, who bring not with them the due Qualifications, is doing the worst kind of Disservice to Religion ; and could I believe that the Institutions of Chrif may be complied with in a Manner agreeable to the End and Design of them, by those who have not one Grain of true Virtue in them; I should certainly have left the Defence of them to other Hands. They would, upon this Supposition, be the useless infignificant Things that Unbelievers would gladly have them thought. But if by the Engagements they lay us under, and the Helps they adminifter, they are Instruments serving to a good Life ; as this will be a proper Encouragement to all serious Christians to be diligent in the Observance of them, so it should cure Unbelievers of some of their Prejudices, when they see this friendly Alliance between the Gospel and Natural Religion ; if they are Earnest in their Boastings about Natural Relia gion, and do not mean all this Talk as a Cover tor Licentiousness.
The Discourse on SPEECH hath this Affinity with the foregoing Subject, that it contains an Account of one Act of Religious Worship, not less material than any of the rest, and with respect to which, Caution is equally necessary, if Arguments could do any thing to hinder the many Profanations of it. I am not vain enough to think that I shall be able to reform Mankind : But any feasonable Attempt will not be thought, I hope, unbecoming my Profession. And if in but a few Instances I may be successful; or if what is here offered, may help to keep Religion and common Honeity in fome Countenance, in a bad World, I shall think my Pains well bestowed.
CON TEN T S.
OF REDEMPTION by CHRIST.
trine. Natural Religion not the Whole of Cbrifliamily.
Remifion of Sin by she Redemption that is in Jesus Chrift, the proper End of the Gospels All Mankind loft in Adam. And restored in Chrit. This was efeated by his Death and Sufferings, whereby.be became a Sa. crifice and Propitiation for the Sins of the World, This Doctrine proved at large from Scripture. Reconciliation with God by the Sacrifice of Christ, nat an absolute Aa of Grace, but a Declaration of Pardon, under the Qua. lifications of Faith and Repentance. Salvation attain. able by those who lived before the coming of Christ in the Fleh ; and bow.
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Prayer, a Recognition of God as the Creator and Governor
of the World; and therefore a very useful Means to keep up a general Sense of Religion. Chriflian Prayer a Recognition of God not only as our Creaior, but as our Rao deemer. Prayer, wby made a publick Duty. The Efficacy of Prayer, what. It is efficacious only upon Supposition that our Prayers are rightly qualified. What ought to be the Matter of our Prayers. Cautions under this Head. With what Disposition of Mind we ought to pray. Cautions under this Head. All Things to be asked in the Name of Christ. Page 17 to 39