« PreviousContinue »
while I was their pastor, to great painfulness, in teaching, warning, and directing their children ; bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ; beginning early, when there is yet opportunity, and maintaining a constant diligence in labors of this kind : Remembering that, as you would not have all your instructions and counsels ineffectual, there must be government as well as instructions, which must be maintained with an even hand, and steady resolution, as a guard to the religion and morals of the family, and the support of its good order. Take beed that it be not with any of you as with Eli of old, who reproved his children but restrained them not, and that, by this means, you do not bring the like curse on your families as he did on his.
And let children obey their parents, and yield to their in: . structions, and submit to their orders, as they would inherit a blessing and not a curse. For we have reason to think, from many things in the word of God, that nothing has a greater tendency to bring a curse on persons in this world, and on all their temporal concerns, than an undutiful, unsubmissive, disorderly behavior in children towards their parents.
2. As you would seek the future prosperity of this society it is of vast importance that you should avoid contention. · A contentious people will be a miserable people. The contentions which have been among you, since I first became your pastor, have been one of the greatest burdens I have la bored under in the course of my ministry: Not only the contentions you have had with me, but those which you have had one with another, about your lands and other concerns. Because I knew that contention, heat of spirit, evil speaking, and things of the like nature, were directly contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and did in a peculiar manner, tend to drive away God's Spirit from a people, and to render ail means of grace ineffectual, as well as to destroy a people's outward comfort and welfare.
Let me therefore earnestly exhort you, as you would seek your own future good hereafter to watch against a contentious spirit. “ If you would see good days, seek peace, and ensue it.” 1 Pet. iii. 10. 11. Let the contention, which has
lately been about the terms of Christian communion, as it has been the greatest of your contentions, so be the last of them. I would, now I am preaching my farewell sermon, say to you, as the Apostle to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. xiii. 11. : “ Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect : Be of one mind : Live in peace ; and the God of love and peace shall be with you."
And here I would particularly advise those that have adhered to me in the late controversy, to watch over their spirits, and avoid all bitterness towards others. Your tempt. ations are, in some respects, the greatest ; because what has been lately done is grievous to you. But however wrong you may think others have done, maintain, with great diligence and watchfulness, a Christian meekness and sedateness of spirit ; and labor, in this respect, to excel others who are of the contrary part. And this will be the best victory : For " he that rules his spirit, is better than he that takes a city.” Therefore let nothing be done through strife or vain glory. Indulge no revengeful spirit in any wise ; but watch and pray against it ; and, by all means in your power, seek the pros. perity of this town : And never think you behave yourselves as becomes Christians, but when you sincerely, sensibly, and fervently love all men, of whatever party or opinion, and whether friendly or unkind, just or injurious, to you or your friends, or to the cause and kingdom of Christ.
3. Another thing that vastly concerns the future prosperity of this town, is, that you should watch against the encroachments of error; and particularly Arminianism, and doctrines of like tendency.
You were, many of you, as I well remember, much alarmed with the apprehension of the danger of the prevailing of these corrupt principles, near sixteen years ago. But the danger then was small in comparison of what appears now. These doctrines at this day are much more prevalent than they were then : The progress they have made in the land, within this seven years, seems to have been vastly greater than at any time in the like space before : And they are still prevailing and creeping into almost all parts of the land, threatening the utter ruin of the credit of those doctrines
which are the peculiar glory of the gospel, and the interests of vital piety. And I have of late perceived some things a. mong yourselves, that shew that you are far from being out of danger, but on the contrary remarkably exposed. The older people may perhaps think themselves sufficiently fortified against infection : But it is fit that all should beware of selfconfidence and carnal security, and should remember those needful warnings of sacred writ, “ Be not high minded, but fear; and let him that stands, take heed lest he fall.” But let the case of the older people be as it will, the rising gener.. ation are doubtless greatly exposed. These principles are exceeding taking with corrupt nature, and are what young people, at least such as have not their hearts established with grace, are easily led away with.
And if these principles should greatly prevail in this town, as they very lately have done in another large town I could name, formerly greatly noted for religion, and so for a long time, it will threaten the spiritual and eternal ruin of this people, in the present and future generations. Therefore you have need of the greatest and most diligent care and watchfulness with respect to this matter.
4. Another thing which I would advise to, that you may hereafter be a prosperous people, is, that you would give your. selves much to prayer.
God is the fountain of all blessing and prosperity, and he will be sought to for his blessing. I would therefore advise you not only to be constant in secret and family prayer, and in the public worship of God in his house, but also often to assemble yourselves in private praying societies. I would advise all such as are grieved for the afflictions of Joseph, and sensibly affected with the calamities of this town, of whatever opinion they be with relation to the subject of our late contro. versy, often to meet together for prayer, and to cry to God for his mercy to themselves, and mercy to this town, and mercy to Zion and the people of God in general through the world.
5. The last article of advice I would give (which doubtless does greatly concern your prosperity) is, that you would take
great care with regard to the settlement of a minister, to see to it who, or what manner of person he is that you settle ; and particularly in these two respects.
(1.) That he be a man of thoroughly sound principles in, the scheme of doctrine which he maintains,
This you will stand in the greatest need of, especially at. such a day of corruption as this is. And in order to obtain such a one, you had need to exercise extraordinary care and prudence. I know the danger. I know the manner of many young gentlemen of corrupt principles, their ways of concealing themselves, the fair specious disguises they are wont to put on, by which they deceive others, to maintain their own credit, and get themselves into others' confidence and improvement, and secure and establish their own interest, until they see a convenient opportunity to begin more openly to broach and propagate their corrupt tenets.
(2) Labor to obtain a man who has an established character, as a person of serious religion and fervent piety.
It is of vast importance that those who are settled in this work should be men of true piety, at all times, and in all places ; but more especially at sometimes, and in some towns and churches. And this present time, which is a time wherein religion is in danger, by so many corruptions in doctrine and practice, is in a peculiar manner a day, wherein such minis ters are necessary. Nothing else but sincere piety of heart is at all to be depended on, at such a time as this, as a securi. ty to a young man, just coming into the world, from the prevailing infection, or thoroughly to engage him in proper and successful endeavors to withstand and oppose the torrent of error, and prejudice, against the high, mysterious, evangelical doctrines of the religion of Jesus Christ, and their genuine effects in true experimental religion. And this place is a place that does peculiarly need such a minister, for reasons obvious to all.
If you should happen to settle a minister who knows nothing truly of Christ, and the way of salvation by him, nothing experimentally of the nature of vital religion ; alas, how will you be exposed as sheep without a shepherd ! Here is need
of one in this place, who shall be eminently fit to stand in the gap, and make up the hedge, and who shall be as the chariots of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. You need one that shall stand as a champion in the cause of truth and the power of godliness,
Having briefly mentioned these important articles of advice, nothing remains, but that I now take my leave of you, and bid you all farewell ; wishing and praying for your best prosperity. I would now commend your immortal souls to Him, who formerly committed them to me, expecting the day, when I must meet you again before Him, who is the Judge of quick and dead. I desire that I may never forget this people, who have been so long my special charge, and that I may never cease fervently to pray for your prosperity. May God bless you with a faithful pastor, one that is well acquainted with his mind and will, thoroughly warning sinners, wisely and skilfully searching professors, and conducting you in the way to eternal blessedness. May you have truly a burning and shining light set up in this candlestick ; and may you, not only for a season, but during his whole life, and that a long life, be willing to rejoice in his light.
And let me be remembered in the prayers of all God's peo. ple that are of a calm spirit, and are peaceable and faithful in Israel, of whatever opinion they may be with respect to terms of church communion.
And let us all remember, and never forget our future sol. emn meeting on that great day of the Lord ; the day of infallible decision, and of the everlasting and unalterable sentence.