« PreviousContinue »
undertake particularly to determine what kind of examination or trial they should pass under, in order to their admis. sion to that sacred work. But I think this is evident from the scripture, that another sort of trial with regard to their virtue and piety is requisite, than is required in order to persons being admitted into the visible church. The apostle directs, that hands be laid suddenly on no man; but that they should first be tried, before they are admitted to the work of the mi. nistry; but it is evident that persons were suddenly admitted by baptism into the visible church, on profession of their faith in Christ, without such caution or strictness in their probation. And it seems to me, those would act very unadvisedly, that should enter on that great and sacred work, before they had comfortable satisfaction concerning themselves, that they bave had a saving work of God on their souls. And though it may be thought that I go out of my proper
I sphere, to intermeddle in the affairs of the colleges; yet I will take the liberty of an Englishman that speaks his mind freely concerning public affairs, and the liberty of a minister of Christ, (who doubtless may speak his mind as freely about things that concern the kingdom of his Lord and Master,) to give my opinion, in some things, with respect to those societies; the original and main design of which is to train up persons, and fit them for the work of the ministry. And I would say in general, that it appears to me care should be taken, some way or other, that those societies should be so regulated, that they should, in fact, be nurseries of piety. Otherwise they are fundamentally ruined and undone as to their main design and most essential end. They ought to be so constituted, that vice and idleness should have no living there. They are intolerable in societies, whose main design is, to train up youth in Christian knowledge and eminent piety, to fit them to be pastors of the flock of the blessed Jesus. I have heretofore had some acquaintance with the affairs of a college, and experience of what belonged to its tuition and government; and. I cannot but think that it is practicable enough, so to constitute such societies, that there should be no residing there, without being virtuous, serious, and diligent. It seems to me a reproach to the land, that ever it should be so with our colleges, that, instead of being places of the greatest advantages for true piety, one cannot send a child thither without great danger of his being infected as to his morals. It is perfectly intolerable; and any thing should be done, ratber than it should be so. If we pretend to have any colleges at all, under any notion of training up youth for the ministry, there should be some way found out, that should certainly prevent its being thus. To have societies for bringing
persons up to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and to lead souls to heaven, and to have them places of so much infection, is the greatest nonsense and absurdity imaginable.
And as thorough and effectual care should be taken that vice and idleness be not tolerated in these societies, so certainly their design requires that extraordinary means should be used in them for training up the students in vital religion, and experimental and practical godliness ; so that they should be holy societies, the very place should be as it were sacred. They should be, in the midst of the land, fountains of piety and holiness. There is a great deal of pains taken to teach the scholars human learning; there ought to be as much and more care thoroughly to educate them in religion, and lead them to true and eminent boliness. If the main design of these nurseries is to bring up persons to teach Christ, then it is of the greatest importance that there should be care and pains taken to bring those who are there educated, to the knowledge of Christ. It has been common in our public prayers, to call these societies the Schools of the Prophets; and, if they are schools to train up young men to be prophets, certainly there ought to be extraordinary care taken to train them up to be Christians.--And I cannot see why it is not on all accounts fit and convenient for the governors and instructors of the colleges particularly, singly and frequently, to converse with the students about the state of their souls; as is the practice of the Rev. Dr. Doddridge, one of the most noted of the present dissenting ministers in England, who keeps an academy at Northampton, as he himself informs the Rev. Mr. Wadsworth, of Hartford in Connecticut, in a letter dated at Northampton, March 6, 1741. The original of which letter I have seen, and have by me an extract of it, sent me by Mr. Wadsworth; which is as follows:
« Through the divine goodness, I have every year the pleasure to see some plants taken out of my nursery, and set in neighbouring congregations; where they generally settle with an unanimous consent, and that to a very remarkable degree, in some very large and once divided congregations. A circumstance in wbich I own and adore the hand of a wise and gracious God; and cannot but look upon it as a token for good. I have at present a greater proportion of pious and ingenious youth under my care, than I ever before bad: so that I hope the church may reasonably expect some considerable relief from hence, if God spare their lives a few years, and continue to them those gracious assistances which he has hitherto mercifully imparted.—I will not, sir, trouble you at present with a large account of my method of academical education : only would observe, that I think it of vast importance to instruct them carefully in the scriptures, and not only endeavour to establish them in the great truths of Christianity, but to labour to promote their practical influence on their hearts. For which purpose, I frequently converse with each of them alone, and conclude the conversation with prayer. This does indeed take up a great deal of time; but, I bless God, it is amply repaid in the pleasure I have in seeing my labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
There are some who are not ministers, nor are concerned immediately in those things that appertain to their office, or in the education of persons for it, who are under great advantages to promote such a glorious work as this. Some lay-men, though it be not their business publicly to exhort and teach, are in some respects under greater advantage to encourage and forward this work than ministers; as particularly great men, or those who are high in honour and influence. How much might such do to encourage religion, and open the way for it to have free course, and bear down opposition, if they were but inclined! There is commonly a certain unhappy shyness in great men with respect to religion, as though they were ashamed of it, or at least ashamed to do much at it; whereby they dishonour and doubtless greatly provoke the King of kings, and very much wound religion among the common people. They are careful of their honour, and seem to be afraid of appearing openly forward and zealous in religion, as though it were what would debase their character, and expose them to contempt.
But in this day of bringing up the ark, they ought to be like David, that great king of Israel, wbo made himself vile before the ark; and as he was the highest in honour and dignity among God's people, so he thought it became him to appear foremost in the zeal and activity manifested on that occasion; thereby animating and encouraging the whole congregation to praise the Lord, and rejoice before him with all their might. And though it diminished him in the eyes of scoffing Michal, yet it did not at all abate the honour and estcem of the congregation of Israel, but advanced it; as appears by 2 Sam. vi. 22.
Rich men have a talent in their hands, in the disposal and improvement of which they might very much promote such a work as this, if they were so disposed. They are far beyond others in advantages to do good, and lay up for themselves treasures in heaven. What a thousand pities it is that, for want of a heart, they commonly have no share at all there, but heaven is peopled mostly with the poor of this world! One would think that our rich men who call themselves Christians, might devise some notable things to do with their money, to advance the kingdom of their professed Redeemer, and the prosperity of the souls of men, at this time of such extraordinary advantage for it. It seems to me, that in this
age most of us have but very narrow, penurions notions of Christianity, as it respects our use and disposal of our temporal goods. The primitive Christians had not such notions ; they were trained up by the apostles in another way.-God has greatly distinguished some of the inhabitants of New England from others, in the abundance he has given them of the good things of this life. If they could now be persuaded to lay out some considerable part of that which God has given them for his honour, and lay it up in heaven, instead of spending it for their own honour, or laying it up for their posterity, they would not repent of it afterwards. How liberally did the heads of the tribes contribute of their wealth at the setting up the tabernacle, though it was in a barren wilderness? These are the days of erecting the tabernacle of God amongst us. We have a particular account how the goldsmiths and the merchants helped to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, Neh. iii. 32. The days are coming, and I believe not very far off, when the sons of Zion shall come from far, bringing their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord their God, and to the Holy One of Israel; when the merchants of the earth shall trade for Christ, more than for themselves, and their merchandize and hire shall be holiness to the Lord, and shall not be treasured or laid up for posterity, but shall be for them that dwell before the Lord, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing ; when the ships of Tarshish shall bring the wealth of the distant parts of the earth to the place of God's sanctuary, and to make the place of his feet glorious; and the abundance of the sea shall be conacrted to the use of God's church, and she shall suck the milk of the Gentiles, and suck the breasts of kings. The days are coming, when the great and rich men of the world shåll bring their honour and glory into the church, and shall, as it were, strip themselves in order to spread their garments under Christ's feet, as he enters triumphantly into Jerusalem; and when those that will not do so shall have no glory, and their silver and gold shall be cankered, and their garments moth-eaten. For the saints shall then, inherit the earth, and they shall reign on it; and those that honour God he will honour, and those that despise him shall be lightly esteemed. If some of our rich men would give one quarter of their estates to promote this work, they would act a little as if they were designed for the kingdom of heaven, and as rich men will act by and by who shall be partakers of the spiritual wealth and glories of that kingdom.
Great things might be done for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ at this day by those who have ability, by establishing funds for the support and propagation of religion ; by supporting some who are eminently qualified with gifts and grace in preaching the gospel in certain parts of the country,
which are more destitute of the means of grace; by searching out children of promising abilities and their hearts full of love to Christ, but of poor families, (as doubtless there are such now in the land,) and bringing them up for the ministry; and by distributing books, that are remarkably fitted to promote vital religion, and have a great tendency to advance this work.-Or if they would only bear the trouble and expence of sending such books into various parts of the land to be sold, it might be an occasion that ten times so many of those books should be bought, as otherwise would be—by establishing and supporting schools in poor towns and villages; which might be done on such a foundation, as not only to bring up children in common learning, but also might very much tend to their conviction and conversion, and being trained up in vital piety. Doubtless something might be done this way in old towns and more populous places, that might have a great tendency to the Aourishing of religion in the rising generation,
Of some particulars that concern all in general.
And here, the first thing I shall mention is fasting and prayer. It seems to me, that the circumstances of the present work loudly call upon God's people to abound in this; wbether they consider their own experience, or the riches of God's grace. God has lately given them an experience of the worth of his presence, and of the blessed fruits of the effusions of bis Spirit, to excite them to pray for the continuance, increase, and greater extent of such blessings; and they have great encouragement to pray for the out-pouring of bis Spirit, and the carrying on of this work, by the great manifestations he has lately made of the freeness and riches of his grace.
There is much in what we have seen of the glorious works of God's power and grace, to put us in mind of the yet greater things of this nature that he has spoken of in his word ; and to excite our longings, and our hopes of their approach. Beside, we should consider the great opposition that Satan makes against this work, the many difficulties with which it is clogged, and the distressing circumstances that some parts of God's church in this land are under at this day, on one account and another.
So is God's will, through his wonderful grace, that the prayers of his saints should be one great and principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, it is his will that there should precede it the extraor