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They hold in review those great essentials upon which we profess to stake our all, and stand forth as witnesses and monuments of these glorious transactions. Words are liable to be frittered away, and men, who have the talent of torturing, can twist them as they please; but actions, like figures, are permanent; two and two will stand for four, and if the artful casuist should rack his brains out he cannot prove it to the contrary. It was to perpetuate the deliverance from the Egyptian bondage, that the passover was kept; the feast of tabernacles reminded them of the Israelites dwelling in tents in the wilderness; and the pentecost, the giving of the law on mount Sinai; and if the remembrance of these notable transactions was carefully kept up by those regular feasts, much more those important concerns respecting our eternal redemption, A time might come when infidels would deny that Christ ever came to redeem a lost world, and that all which is said of the important affair, only fiction invented to deceive; but the annual commemorations keep up the sacred remembrance till the Lord shall come to judge the world.
As to the abuse of those Seasons, it is a proof of human depravity; for what is it which man hath not found out the art of abusing? If we lay aside every thing which he abuses, we must lay aside eating
and drinking; for what is gluttony and drunkenness but an abuse of those necessary ·aliments so needful in human life? I flatter myself the ensuing Discourses will have some tendency to impress the design of those solemn Institutions upon our minds, that the original intention may be fully accomplished in each of us to the honour of him who came to seek and save that which was lost. We need reminding of these important events, for we are apt to forget them, and therefore the annual return of these Festivals is intended as to be standing memorials till time shall be no more.
The substance of the ensuing Discourses has been delivered in several large towns, and I flatter myself not only with acceptance, but with a degree of edification, which incourages me to hope that they will not be read in vain. It is true, no man can convey that warm animation to paper which he may feel in his own Soul when in the pulpit; his action, his emphasis, and what he feels in his own mind, namely, the unction from above, are all calculated to impress an energy upon the hearers which cannot be expected in the reader; and yet reading is exceedingly profitable, and has this advantage even over hearing, viz. if a sentence is not at first understood, the reader can look it over again, whereas he cannot stop the speaker to repeat it over again: yet it is of
considerable advantage to read the Writings, and especially Sermons, of such as we have been accustomed to hear; for although they may be absent or dead, yet we are in effect hearing them speak. Reading is a great help to the understanding, and such as neglect it are seldom remarkable in that respect, and only hear Sermons with their passions, and the impression which is made that way is soon worn off; and hence it is that we have so many stony ground hearers.
My principal design in publishing the following Sermons is the same as was that of preaching them, viz. that of impressing upon the minds of my readers the importance of those glorious events which these seasons commemorate. If that is fully accomplished the great end of the author is fully ascertained.
Manchester, February 3, 1812.
ON THE NATIVITY.
Luke ii. 14.
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, AND GOOD WILL AMONG MEN.
THE works of God are great, and sought
out by all such as have pleasure therein. And we may easily observe, there are two grand ends to be answered in every thing which God has made: one is, his own glory; this is evidently manifest in the whole creation; and therefore the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Hence it is, that David's animating address in the three last Psalms is replete with beauty and propriety, in which he calls upon the whole creation, animate or inanimate, to form one grand chorus of praise to him who from nothing hath called them into existence; and closes
the whole with, Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
THE other circumstance pointed out in the works of God is, the happiness of his creatures. This is manifest to every attentive mind. It is true, that Sin has deranged the beautiful order and sweet harmony which we believe subsisted in the beginning when the deity beheld his works, and with a smile of complaisance pronounced them very good. But even in their present mutilated state, even in ruins, there is so much left through the covenant of redemption as to confirm what has already been hinted. God has adapted comforts to every creature, though they are to be obtained through labour and toil, and especially in the case of the human race. Infinite wisdom has made all the elements, the earth, the air, the fire and water contribute to his felicity, and innumerable animals of various sorts pay their tribute to our happiness and comfort, both to our food and medicine, to our raiment and habitations.
If we survey the economy of providence, the very same reasoning holds good. If he bless, or if he chastise, all is for the same valuable end. Even when he afflicts, it is for our profit; and as a father pities his children, children that have infirmities, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. He still