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conscience condemn the errors they embrace and love. They are really heretics; and an heretic the apostle says, is one, who, knowing himself to be such, is subverted and sinneth, being condemned of himself, God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions. They have wręcked their minds to discover a vast many different schemes of religion, which are more agreeable to their selfish hearts than the gospel scheme of salvation. But all their false schemes of religion are repugnant to their reason and conscience ; and are so many plain and conclusive arguments to prove the total corruption of their hearts. This, however, they are not willing to allow, or to feel ; and therefore they call darkness light and light darkness. They put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. They call truth heresy'and real heresy truth. All the religious errors and delusions in the world fail to display the beauty, the excellence and the importance of the gospel. And the time is fast approaching, when all false schemes of religion shall cease and the glorious gospel of God shall fill the world with light and love ; and wisdom shall be justified of her children.
3. We learn from what has been said, why those, who were afraid to avow their religious sentiments and take pains to conceal them, are so ready to unite with one another. Among the various denominations of Christians, there are not a few, who are afraid to avow their religious sentiments and wish to conceal them ; and all these are very much disposed to unite together, though they are ignorant how much they differ from each other in opinion. There has been a great deal said and something done lately, in respect to forming a great and general union among those, who are known to entertain different opinions concerning the peculiar doctrines of the gospel. Many are willing to say, that this is proper and would have a happy tendency to promote the great cause of true religion. But are there not other reasons, which imperceptibly warp their judgment? Do they not doubt of the truth of their own religious sentiments? Do they not wish
to be countenanced and supported in concealing their doubtful sentiments ? Do they not desire to form a strong combination against those, who are so presumptuous, as to avow and preach the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, by which they implicitly condemn their wavering opinions. But if this union could be formed, would it not be an union in error, in opposition to truth? Would it not tend to strengthen and increase all the religious errors, which now exist, and prepare the way for the spread of infidelity and scepticism? Would it not be a violation of all the precepts of the gospel, which require Christians to be united in the truth? The apostle recommends such an union and no other. “ Now, I beseech
brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you ; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,' But how can those, who mutually conceal their religious sentiments from each other, be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment ? Those and those only can be perfectly united in their religious sentiments, who are not afraid to avow and wish not to conceal their opinions concerning the peculiar doctrines of the gospel ; but they cannot consistently and honestly profess to be united with any others.
4. It appears from what has been said, that it highly concerns ministers, at this day especially, to preach the gospel with confidence, plainness and fidelity. It is almost every where spoken against by false teachers, sectarians, nominal Christians and the men of the world. There appears a much greater zeal among
all sects and denominations to spread errors and delusions, than to promote truth and vital piety.--There never was, in this country, so much party zeal before, as abounds at the present day. No methods are left unemployed to gain proselytes to gross and dangerous errors and to bear down all, who boldly and plainly preach the pure doctrines of the gospel. As ministers are set for the defence of the gospel, it behoves them to preach the truth and the whole truth, without fear, or favor ; and expose and refute deceivers, seducers and vain talkers, who are attacking every essential doctrine of the gospel. It was by preaching the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, that the apostles exposed, refuted and silenced all gainsayers and opposers among Jews and Gentiles. Hence Paul says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, casting down imaginations and every high thing, that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” It becomes ministers to set their faces as a flint against all corruptors and opposers of the truth, whether high, or low, learned, or unlearned, open, or concealed. God said to Jeremiah, “Gird up thy loins and arise and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city and an iron pillar and brazen walls, against the whole land ; against the kings of Judab, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof and against the people of the land.
And they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee, for I am with thee, saith the Lord, to deliver thee.” This is a warrant and encouragement to ministers to preach divine truths plainly and oppose fatal errors boldly. Ministers must be responsible for all the dangerous errors, which spring up among their people, or which are either privately or publicly propagated among them, unless they employ all proper mens in their power, to detect, refute and condemn them. The prophet said, "he stood in his watchtower in the day time, and sat in his ward whole nights,” lo espy danger. This is an example, which every spiritual watchman ought to imitate. Ministers are undoubtedly responsible for the flood of errors, which threaten to overwhelm the land, by neglecting to discover them seasonably and opposing them boldly. They have been too much afraid of avowing and preaching the great doctrines of the gospel plainly and fully. “ A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” But it is now more important, though more difficult
, to preach the gospel plainly and by sound doctrine to refute and silence gainsayers. Hence,
5. Ministers have great need of the prayers of their people, that they may preach the gospel with confidence and plainness. They are in great danger of neglecting this duty, from their brethren, who conceal their sentiments and from individuals among their churches and congregations, who love error, better than truth and take pains to propagate it, by unwarrantable means. It is hard and extremely difficult for ministers to stand alone, without the aid and prayers of those, who profess to love and hear the truth. Even the apostles felt their need of the assistance and prayers of their christian brethren and affectionately called upon them to pray for them, that they might be enabled to deliver divine truths with freedom and plainness. The apostle Paul desired the Christians at Ephesus, that they would pray for him, that utterance might be given him, that he might open his mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the
gospel. He made a similar request to the Colossians ; and to the Thessalonians he says, “ Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified ; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.” All ministers now need and all faithful ministers now desire the prayers, assistance and countenance of the people of God, that they may have courage, fortitude and zeal, to preach the gospel plainly and boldly as they ought to preach it, in the face of a frowning world, who unreasonably hate it and op
This reminds us, my hearers, of the mutual duties, which we owe to one another.
It is forty nine years to-day, since I took the pastoral care of the Church and people in this place. When I came here I found a respectable and exem
plary Church and a very regular people. And God has been pleased at different times to appear and plead his own cause. But on the whole, has not the cause of truth, of piety, and of virtue declined ? Were there forty nine years ago, many prayerless families in this place ? or many sabbath-breakers ? or many profane swearers ? or any infidels, or any Unitarians, or any Universalists? Why then are such persons to be found here now? This the preacher ought to ask himself. Has be not stood in his watch-tower? Or has he not descried any danger? or has he feared and neglected to give seasonable warning of the dangers he has descried ? Has he appeared to use any means to conceal his sentiments, or to keep back, through fear, or favour, any truths, any warnings, or admonitions ? Or has he, on the other hand, preached plainly and intelligibly on the great doctrines of the gospel and fairly met and attempted to refute every gross and fatal error and corrupting practice ? If these things be so, why. have gross and dangerous errors and corrupt practices existed so much of late years ?
There must have been some criminal causes of these deplorable effects. They must be chiefly ascribed to the preacher, or to those, who have attended, or neglected to attend, his preaching. It belongs to you to judge of me and to me to judge of you, with candor and impartiality. To this duty I have called myself and have called you, once every year. And to this duty I now call you and myself
. It is high time for you and for me, to look forward to a day, which cannot be far from me and may not be far from some of you, and prepare to meet and give an account, how and what we have spoken and how and what we have heard.