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. Whoever reads the accounts of conviction recorded in the New Testament, particularly those mentioned in the A&ts, will find that when men were converted under the preaching of the Apof. tles, their distress of soul was very great, that “they were pricked in their hearts,” Ałts ii. 37 ; that they came “trembling and fell down,” importunately crying out, “Sirs, what must we do to be saved,” Acts xvi. 30.
I would not be understood from what I have said, to approve, altogether, much less to encourage these vociferous meetings; for I believe the grand work of conversion may be carried on with equal effect in perfect silence; but I have adduced the above ina stances only to prove that such expresfions of fervour, are not as many have supposed, inconsistent with true Religion, and do not originate merely from an heated imagination. And it is my real opinion, founded on good authority, that they have often been. the fruits of a sincere repentance, and that in many cases if these meetings have not immediately produced, they bave at least pre. ceded a total reformation of life and manners, amongst numbers of the inferior classes of society.
It appears however to me, that when these sudden conversions happen in a public place of worship, it is far more eligible, where it can be done, for the person so affected to retire into a private house, accompanied by one or two of his friends, who may ex. hort and pray with him till his soul be set at liberty, and his mind made happy. Mean time, let us remember that we have different ways of expressing the same feelings; and we should make al. lowances for the difference of disposition, of conftitution, of education and of habit.
Instead therefore of censuring as preposterous and absurd, thofe actions in others which do not accord with our own ideas and. feelings upon the subjeet, let us rather bear with one another's failings, cast a veil over their imperfections; and howsoever we may differ from some of our brethren in matters of small moment, let us“ put away from us all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, with all malice," Eph. iv. 31. and endeavour as far as we can, to live peaceably and amicably with all men. SECTION III. Of the general Character of the PREACHERS. . Our blessed Lord previous to his death, animated his Apostles with an encouraging promise of divine assistance, requisite for all their future engagements, affectionately assuring them that he would not leave them comfortless. “ I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you' for ever ; even the Spirit of truth. He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have faid unto you," John xiv. 16, — 26. Accordingly we read, "that when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one ac, cord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven,
as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were Gitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,” Acis ii. 1, 2, 3.4.
In consequence of this divine influence, the Apoftles were in. spired with the knowledge of different languages, went into va. rious countries, spake the word with boldness, and were enabled to confirm their mission by miracles and other spiritual gifts. Now, although these miraculous powers were confined to the early ages of Christianity, yet the saving and sanctifying graces of the Spirit still remain ; “ for the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal,” 1 Cor. xii. 7. But there is a diversity of gifts, or different operations of the same Spirit. To some is given in a more remarkable degree the Spirit of faith; to others the Spirit of prayer, and to others the Spirit of resignation.
Some are gified with shining talents, whose light may illumine those who sit in darkness; whilst others in humble and obscure ftations are made happy in the love of God, and enjoy in silence a sweet serenity of mind, which can only arise from the secret workings of God's Spirit upon their souls. Again, some are called in a more especial manner to preach the Gospel, and are endowed with gifts which enable them to discharge the duties of their ministry, with boldness and with effect.
And that this gift proceeds immediately from God, or the par. zicular operation of the Spirit, is evident from many passages of the New Testament. We find in the tenth chapter of the Acts, both Jews and Gentiles were converted under the preaching of Peter, and that as soon as the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured upon them, “ they spake with tongues, and magnified God," ver, 45, 46. And if, as we are informed, holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Spirit, 2 Pet. i. 21; so it is equally certain that at this day “ no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost,” 1 Cor. xii. 3.
It is not necessary ihat a Preacher of the Gospel should be a man of extensive knowledge, of a polished education, or natusally strong parts. So far is this from being required, that the Apostle tells us, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God," 1 Cor. iii, 19. " Where is the wife ? where is the fcribe? where is the disputer of this world ? hath not God made foolish the things of this world ? ” 1 Cor. i. 20. “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, God hath ordained strength. Which things also we speak not in the word man's wisdom teacheth ; but which the Holy Ghost teacheth," i Cor. ii. 13. Many of our preachers are men of mean birth, without education, accustomed to earn their livelihood by manual labour, and have enjoyed few of those ad. vantages of reading and conversation, which are so amply afforded to the higher classes of society. Their manners may be unpolished, their language coarse, the sound of their voice unharmonious, and
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their expression vulgar, yet with all these defects, they may preach with power, and be instrumental in bringing many souls to repen. tance, and to the knowledge of the true God. · The qualifications therefore which the rules of our society require, for a preacher to be received into full connection, are the following: He must have experienced the pardoning love of God. He must have the love of God abiding in him. He must seek and desire nothing but the glory of God, and be holy in all manner of conversation. He must have read and studied the Scrip. ture, and have a just conception of salvation by faith, and the fanétifying influences of the Holy Spirit. He must have a tole. rable degree of utterance. He must speak justly, readily and clearly ; and evidence must be given that some have been truly convinced of fin, and converted to God by his preaching. “ As long as these marks concur in any one, we believe he is called of God to preach. These we'receive as sufficient proof, that he is moved thereto by the Holy Ghost."*
If we consider our preachers in their ministerial capacities, we find them exceeding active and laborious in the discharge of their fun&tions. They feldom pass over a day without preaching fomewhere; not content with their duty on appointed days at their own chapels, they traverse the country round, officiating at various private houses, seeking out opportunities of doing good, advising. exhorting, reproving, and praying with the people, as they see occasion. Not having the fear of man before them, they speak the truth with boldness and fimplicity; they adapt their manner and their subject to the Gituation, wants, and disposition of their hearers; they attack their darling fins, and combat their moft rooted prejudices; their discourses are alike calculated to awaken the impenitent finner, and to pour the balm of consolation into the broken and contrite spirit. And thofe who have already been justified by faith, and have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, are powerfully invited to “ stand fast in that liberty, where. with Chrift hath made them free," and to bring forth the fruits of “ the Spirit, in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth,” Eph. v. 9.
It is the business also of the preachers, to meet the classes oca casionally, to be present at all the love feasts, and to meet the fo. ciety after public service on the Sabbath, when opportunity occurs. In the private walks of life, the character of our preachers in general is distinguished by an uniformity of conduct, corresponding to the doctrines they teach. They endeavour to adorn the Gospel of God their Saviour in all things. They are regular and constant in their devotions, in family prayer and private meditations ; their manners simple, their conversation edifying, their dress plain, and their deportment grave. They are seldom ur never triflingly employed, they have neither time nor inclination to mix in the giddy
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amusements of the world: They do not affect to be gentlemen ; they look upon themselves as the servants of all. They are temperate and sober, have no supernumerary hours to waste in sleep ; their chief study is, how to redeem the time, and their greatest pleasure consists in reclaiming men from sin, in beholding the downfall of the kingdom of satan, and the diffusion of religious Jight and liberty. But there is still another point of view in which I Ihall consider them before I close this section, and that is, as visiters of fick and dying persons.
Their affectionate exhortations, and fervent prayers in behalf of the unhappy sufferers, are often rendered great blessings. No time is lost in unnecessary enquiries, in idle speculations, or ab. ftra&t reasonings; if they have lived in wickedness, they are eare nestly solicited to call upon the Lord, saying, “ God be merciful to me a finner !" They are directed to fly to that fountain for guilt and fin which is open to all, and by which alone they can be cleansed from their iniquities, “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” God defireth not the death of a finner ; he invites you, he encourages you to come unto bim; he points out a road by wbich you may find access, through faith; Christ has not only died for your sins, but now liveth, making interceffion for you at the ziglie hand of his Father. Give him then your whole heart ; cast all your care upon him who careth for you ; pray to him to give you faith; cry to him for mercy ; remember that Chrișt came not to call the righteous but finners to repentance, that “his blood can wash the foulert clean," that the grace of God is sufficient for you, that his strength is perfected in your weakness. Look up, be of good cheer, perhaps this night your sins may be forgiven you. God himself waiteth to make you happy, the angels of Heaven shall rejoice in your con. version, and you shall find joy and peace and reft to your souls."
When called to visit those who have lived in the fear and love of God, our preachers endeavour to bring to their recollection the, gracious promises of the Gospel, and the happy end which awaits the righteous; they attempt to in press upon their minds, those paffages of Scripture in particular, where the Deity is represented as delighting in mercy, rather than in judgment, as chastening every fon whom he loveth, as afflicting us only to bring us near er to himself; to prove our faith, to try our patience, and at laft to crown us with a brighter diadem. They tenderly exhort them “ to hold fast the beginning of their confidence unto the end, ** to count the sufferings of this life as gain, to look forwards to that blessed inheritance which is reserved for the saints on high, where forrow, pain, and sickness shall flee away, where those that have fown in tears, shall reap in joy, and where they shall be as the angels of heaven, singing praises to God and the Lamb, to, the endless ages of eternity.
Several are the instances ! myself have witnefed of the happy fruits of these visits. Many a troubled soul has found rehte
many a weeping heart has leaped for joy; the sting of Death has been withdrawn; the grave has lost its victory. Even now while I am writing this, there are some whom I could mention, praising. God and triumphing in hope, whose feeble tongues can scarcely articulate their Redeemer's name, whose abode here will be very short ; probably in a few days their worn out bodies will be consigned to the dark and dreary chambers of the grave, and their en.. raptured souls wing their flight to the regions of bliss and glory. . SECTION IV. Of the influence of Methodism, on Human
Happiness and Conduct. By the term Methodism, I would not be understood to signify a system of opinions confined altogether to a particular sect of Christians. There are no doubt in the Church, and in every re. ligious fociety, men, who are ornaments to their profession, whose life and conduct are in exact conformity to the doctrines they preach, and whose highest ambition it is, to render themselves useful to their fellow creatures. When therefore I speak of Me thodism, I use the word not from prepossession or from choice, but because it has been applied by way of distinction to that class of people, with whom I have lately entered into connection. So that in considering the present part of my subject, I must be supposed to refer equally to all those Christians wherever they are, who hold opinions similar to those of the Methodists, and whose life and conversation are corresponding thereunto.
Opinions or principles of belief, are only valuable so far as they influence our happiness, and regulate our conduct. To be a Christian by name or profession is a very easy thing; but to be acquainted experimentally with the grand truths of Christianity, is not always so readily attainable. We cannot serve two masters; we cannot be the servants of the world and the Children of God at the same time; and as long as we halt between two opinions, we ought not to be disappointed if we find happiness in neither.
My friend will pardon me, if I call to his recollection a fentia ment he has more than once expresled in my hearing, viz.“ That there was nothing in this world worth living for, that Human ex. istence was a complicated series of calamity and distress, and that even its highest enjoyments never failed to leave a fting behind." From whence, give me leave to enquire, do these gloomy ideas originate? Are they founded in reality? Does the experience of others confirm them? Do they not rather arise from some misapprehension and misconduct of your own, which have led you to seek for happiness where it is not to be found ? To go in quest of pleasures, which from the very nature of things, are sure to end in disappointment and remorse ? In short, a man without Religion, is like a ship without pilot. He is cast to and fro, tost upon the waves of uncertainty, agitated by contending passions, and if he experience now and then a temporary calm, it only ferves to render the succeeding storm so much the more terrible.