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Of the Matter and Manner of Preaching.
Quest. 1. What is the best general method of preaching?
Answ. 1. To convince: 2. To offer Christ: 3. To invite: 4. To build up: And to do this in some measure in every sermon. Quest. 2. What is the most effectual way of preaching Christ ?
Answ. The most effectual way of preaching Christ is, to preach him in all his offices; and to declare his law, as well as his gospel, both to believers and unbelievers. Let us strongly and closely insist upon inward and outward holiness in all its branches.
Rules by which we should continue, or desist from, Preaching at any Place.
Quest. 1. Is it advisable for us to preach in as many places as we can, without forming any societies?
Answ. By no means.
We have made the trial in various places; and that for a considerable time. But all the seed has fallen
by the way-side.
There is scarce any fruit
Quest. 2. Where should we endeavour to preach most?
Answ. 1. Where there is the greatest number of quiet and willing hearers.
2. Where there is most fruit.
Quest. 3. Ought we not diligently to observe in what places God is pleased at any time to pour out his Spirit more abundantly?
Answ. We ought: and at that time to send more labourers than usual into that part of the harvest,
Of Visiting from House to House, Guarding against those things that are so common to Professors, and Enforcing Practical Religion.
Quest. 1. How can we further assist those under our care?
Answ. By instructing them at their own houses. What unspeakable need is there of this! The world says, "The Methodists are no better than other people." This is not true in the general: but, 1. Personal religion, either toward God or man, is too superficial among us. We can but just touch on a few particulars. How little faith is there among us! How little communion with God, how little living in heaven, walking in eternity, deadness to every creature! How much love of the world! Desire of pleasure, of ease, of getting money! How little brotherly love! What continual judging one another! What gossipping, evil-speaking, tale-bearing! What want of moral honesty! To instance only one particular;
who does as he would be done by in buying and selling?
2. Family religion is wanting in many branches. And what avails public preaching alone, though we could preach like angels? We must-yea, every travelling preacher must-instruct the people from house to house. Till this be done, and that in good earnest, Methodists will be no bet
Our religion is not sufficiently deep, universal, uniform; but superficial, partial, uneven. It will be so till we spend half as much time in this visiting, as we now do in talking uselessly. Can we find a better
method of doing this than Mr. Baxter's? It not, let us adopt it without delay. His whole tract, entitled Gildas Salvianus, is well worth a careful perusal. Speaking of this visiting from house to house, he says, (p. 351,) “We shall find many hinderances, both in ourselves and the people."
1. In ourselves there is much dulness and laziness, so that there will be much ado to get us to be faithful in the work.
2. We have a base, man-pleasing temper, so that we let them perish rather than lose their love; we let them go quietly to hell, lest we should offend them.
3. Some of us have a foolish bashfulness. We know not how to begin, and blush to contradict the devil.
4. But the greater hinderance is weakness of faith. Our whole motion is weak, because the spring of it is weak.
5. Lastly, we are unskilful in the work. How few know how to deal with men, so as to get within them, and suit all our discourse to their several conditions and tempers: to choose the fittest subjects, and follow them with a holy mixture of seriousness, terror, love, and meekness!
But undoubtedly this private application is implied in those solemn words of the apostle: "I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering."
O, brethren, if we could but set this work on foot in all our societies, and prosecute it zealously, what glory would redound to God! If the common lukewarmness were banished, and every shop, and every house, busied in speaking of the word and works of God, surely God would dwell in our habitations, and make us his delight.
And this is absolutely necessary to the welfare of our people, some of whom neither repent nor believe to this day. Look round, and see how many of them are still in apparent danger of damnation. And how can you walk and talk, and be merry with such people, when you know their case? When
you look them in the face, you should break forth into tears, as the prophet did when he looked upon Hazael, and then set on them with the most vehement exhortations. O, for God's sake, and the sake of poor souls,
bestir yourselves, and spare no pains that may conduce to their salvation!
What cause have we to bleed before the Lord that we have so long neglected this good work! If we had but engaged in it sooner, how many more might have been brought to Christ! And how much holier and happier might our societies have been before now! And why might we not have done it sooner? There were many_hinderances; and so there always will be. But the greatest hinderance is in ourselves-in our littleness of faith and love.
But it is objected, I. "This will take up so much time, we shall not have leisure to follow our studies." We answer, 1. Gaining knowledge is a good thing, but saving souls is a better.
2. By this very thing you will gain the most excellent knowledge-that of God and eternity. 3. You will have time for gaining other knowledge too. Only sleep no more than you need; " and never be idle, or triflingly employed." But, 4. If you can do but one, let your studies alone. We ought to throw by all the libraries in the world, rather than be guilty of the loss of one soul.
It is objected, II. "The people will not submit to it." If some will not, others will. And the success with them will repay all your labour. O let us herein follow the example of St. Paul! 1. For our general business, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind: 2. Our special work, Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock: 3. Our doc