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consciences: and though I keep a sincere and painful sense within me of my great defects on either side, yet I must still pursue the same attempt ; and with reverence and zeal I beg leave to trace the footsteps of my brethren, who come nearest to this shining character.

In all these things I rejoice, and cannot conceal my joy, that my kind and faithful companion in the service of your souls, practises his ministry with the same views and designs; and he hath been sensibly owned and assisted of God, to support and to build up the church, during my long confinement. His labours of love both for you and for me, shall ever endear him both to me and you. May the divine blessing gloriously attend his double services in the seasons of my absence and painful restraint! May your united prayers prevail for my restoration to the full exercise of my ministry among you! And may you all receive such lasting benefit by our associated labours, that you may stand up, and appear as our crown and our joy in the great day of the Lord! This is the continual and hearty prayer of,

My dear friends,
Your affectionate and afflicted
Servant in the gospel,

Į. WATTS.

Theobalds in Hertfordshire,

February, 21, 1720-21,

1

PREFACE*.

I AM bound to give thanks to God always, for the acceptance that my sermons have found among the more pious and religious part of mankind. As it bath been the chief design of my ministry to explain the common and most important things of our religion, to the understanding of every christian, and to impress the most necessary duties of it on the spirit and conscience, so when I am solicited to make my labours yet more publie, I would repeat the same work; I would fain give my readers the clearest conceptions of some of the great articles of christianity, and draw out the plain principles of truth which are in the head, to a powerful and holy influence over the heart and life.

These discourses have but little hope to gratify those curious minds, who turn over the leaves superficially to search if there be any new discoveries in them, and being disappointed, lay down the book with disdain : My chief intent was to entertain and assist those humble christians, who converse in secret with God and their own souls.

And since it is the custom of many persons to read a sermon in the evening of the Lord's-day, as part of their family-worship, I was desirous also to suit the sermons which I publish to such a pious service. Now when the discourses, which are rehearsed in families have much of criticism and speculation in them, or long and difficult trains of reasoning, every one may observe, what a negligent air sits upon the faces of the hearers, what a drowsy attention is given to this religious exercise, and the greatest part of the household find very little improvement.

I grant, it is sometimes nécessary to preach, and print such discourses which are more critical and laborious in exposition of difficult texts, and which by artificial trains of argument, may penetrate deep into the hidden things of God, and bring forth things new as well as old. But I am content to wave the honour of such performances in the more general course of my labours, whether of the pulpit or the press, and chiefly to pursue those methods which more directly tend to the edification of the bulk of mankind, in the knowledge of Christ and in practical godliness.

We are too often ready to judge that to be the best sermon, which has many strange thoughts in it, many fine hints, and some grand and polite sen tinents. But a christian in his best temper of mind will say, “ That is a good Sermon which brings my heart nearer to God, which makes the grace of Christ sweet to my soul, and the commands of Christ easy and delightful : That is an excellent discourse indeed which enables me to mortify some unruly sin, to vanquish a strong temptation, and weans me from all the the enticenents of this lower world; that which bears me up above all the disquietudes

* In the fifth edition the three volumes in 12mo were reduced into two in octaro, and the prefaces abridged and united by the author.

of life, which fits me for the hour of death, and makes me ready and desirous to appear before Christ Jesus my Lord.” If the publication of these discourses shall be so happy, as through the influence of the Blessed Spirit to attain these ends, I have obtained my best aim and hope, and will ascribe the glory to God my Saviour.

The first sermons which I published* were taken up chiefly in the more spiritual parts of our religion, and such as relate more immediately to the secret transactions of the soul with God, and with his Son Jesus Christ. In several following discourses, I have attempted to explain many duties of the christian life which refer to our fellow-creatures. I bope no man who loves the gospel of Christ, will knit bis brow and throw disgrace upon the book, with a contempt of dull morality: If such a person would give himself leave to peruse these sermons, perhaps he would meet with so much of Christ and the gospel in them, that he might learn to love his Saviour better than ever he did, and find how necessary moral duties are to make his own religion either safe or honourable: While we are saved by faith in the blood and righteousness of the Son of God, we must remember also, that it is such a faith as worketh by love, for faith without works is deail, and useless to all purposes of hope and salvation.

My design in these sermons is to represent vice and virtue in their proper colours. I foresee that many readers will quickly spy out their neighbours' names amongst the vicious or unlovely characters; but it would turn perhaps to their better account, if they can find their own : for there is many a description here that a hundred persons may lay a righteous claim to. my business to set a faithful glass before the face of conscience, by which we may examine ourselves, and learn what manner of persons we are ; and I pray God to keep it daily before my own eyes. I acknowledge my defects, and stand corrected in many of my own sermons. Blessed be God for a Mediator who is exalted to give repentance and forgiveness of sins,

Yet it may not be an improper or unsuccessful method of reproof to fold down a useful leaf now and then for a friend, and give him notice in such an inoffensive manner of any blemishes that may belong to his character. Thus the silent page shall bestow upon him the richest benefit of friendship; it may whisper in his ear a secret word of admonition, and convey it to bis conscience without offence. Such a gentle monitor may awaken him to inward shame and penitence; may rouse his virtue to shine brighter than ever, and scatter the clouds that hung dark upon the evidence of

It was

his graces.

Since I first published these discoursest, the world has heen furnished with a more complete account of most of these subjects, in that excellent treatise called the “ Christian Temper," which my worthy friend Doctor Evans hath sent abroad, and which is, perhaps, the most complete summary of those duties which make up the christian life, that bath been published in our age.

The next three sermons are employed on that divine subject, which I am ready to call the chief wonder and glory of the christian religion, that is, “ the great atonement for sin made by the death of Christ, and the practical

* 21st February, 1720-21.

+ 25th March, 1723.

tases derived thenice*. This is the blessed foundation of our hope, which I bave endeavoured to set in a clear light, and to support by reasoning drawa from the types and predictions of the Old Testament and the clearer language of the New. This is that grace and that righteousness which was witnessed by the law and the prophets, as St. Paul expresses it ; Rom. iii. 24. This is that important work of the blessed Saviour, who was promised to the guilty world ever since the fall, and whose various glories have been well represented, according to ancient prophecy, in a happy correspondence with the doctrine of the New Testament, by a volume of “ Discourses on the Messiah," lately published by Dr. William Harris. I wonder how any man can read all these correspondencies of the type, prophecy and history, and not be convinced that Jesus was the appointed Saviour of the world.

The several sermons that follow next, are all formed upon some of the most momentous concerns of a christian, viz. How to improve every thing for the advantage of our own souls ; how to look on all things as working for our good ; how to employ the time of life to noble purposes, and such as the saints above can never be employed in ; and to improve the death of others to Faluable ends in the christian life, and especially to a preparation for our own departure. The death of that worthy gentleman and excellent christian, Sir Thomas Abney, gave the first occasion to some of these meditations, for the use of the mourning family, which were much amplified afterwards in my public ministry. Here I have endeavoured to awaken myself and my friends to an immediate and constant readiness for a dismission from this sinful, and sorrowful, and tempting world: And God grant when that awful hour арproaches, I may be so far honoured by divine grace, as to become an example as well as a teacher.

The last discourse of all, exhibits the most plain and obvious representation of the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, as it lies in the bible, and the great and neressary use that is to be made of it in our religion." It is a doctrine that runs through the whole of our serious transactions with God, and therefore it is necessary to be known by men. Without the mediation of the Son, and the influences of the Spirit, we can find no way of access to the Father, nor is there any other hope of his favour proposed in the gospel.

I thought it proper also, to publish it at this season, to let the world know, that though I have entered into some further enquiries on this divine subject, and made homble attempts to gain clearer ideas of it, in order to vindicate the truth and glory of this sacred article; yet I have never changed my belief and profession of any necessary and important part of it, as will here appear with abundant evidence.

In this sermon I have followed the track of no particular scheme whatsoever ; but have represented the sacred Three, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in that light which they seem to lie most open to the common view of mankind in the word of God: And I am glad to find what I have drawn out in this manner in seventeen propositions, appears so agreeable to the general sense of our fathers in this article, that I do not think any one of these propositions would be denied or disputed by our divines of the last or present age, who have bad the greatest name and reputation of strict orthodoxyt. If I may express the substance of it in a few words, it is this: It seems to me to be plainly and evidently revealed in scripture, “ That both the Son and the Holy Ghost have such a communion in the true and eternal God - head, as to bave the same names, titles, attributes and operations ascribed to them, which are elsewhere assribed to the Father, and which belong only to the true God: And yet that there is such a plain distinction between them, as is sufficient to support their distinct personal characters and offices in the great work of our salvation.” And this is what has been generally called the Trinitarian Doctrine, or the doctrine of Three Persons and ore God.

* They were first published 25th March, 1727. + In this complete collection of the author's works there are large additions, as well as many alterations inserted in this sermon. On the Doctrine of the Trinity,' from the author's manuscripts. 1734.

At the end of the latter sermons I have endeavoured to assist christians in the devout collection of what they hear or read in a way of pious converse with their own hearts, and with God. In most of those meditations, the reader will find the principal heads of the foregoing sermons rehearsed.

Where the sermons are too long to be read in a family af once, I have marked out proper pauses, that the religious service may not be made tedious. May the great God vouchsafe to send his own Almighty Spirit, wheresoever his providence shall disperse these weak labours of mine in the world, and attend them with his sovereign power and blessing for the welfare of immer tal souls! Amen.

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