« PreviousContinue »
3. How ought such to demonstrate their gratitude, by a practical glorification of God, in their bodies, and in their spirits, which are his! Resemble thunder, in your boldness for God, and your zeal for truth : but let your lives shine as lightning, and flash conviction in the faces of those, who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ, and as falsely charge the doctrines of God with a licentious tendency.--But let not your zeal be of the inflammatory kind : let it be tempered with unbounded moderation, gentleness, and benevolence; and shine forth as the sun, with healing in its wings. Remember who it is, that hath made you to differ from others; and that a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven, John iii. 27.
Not unto us, therefore, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name alone, be the praise of every gift, and of every grace ascribed ; for thy loving mercy, and for thy truth's sake. Amen.
This sernion was first preached at St. Matthew, Bethnal Green, April 22. Some persons then present, to whose judgment and request
much of it as I could, the Sunday following, at St. Ann's; with a view to its being taken in short-hand, and published.
The loss of my nearest relative, soon after this sermon preached, and the many avocations occasioned by that lamented and unexpected event, account but too well, for the delay, with which the publication has been attended. Having, however, transcribed it at last, from the notes of the person who penned it at the time of its delivery, I now transmit it to the press, most affectionately and respectfully inscribed to my dear London friends ; whose favours, equally great, numerous and unmerited, I have no other public way of acknowledging.
London, July 3, 1770.
PARISHIONERS OF ST. MATTHEW, BETHNAL-GREEN.
Before the preceding sermon could get through the press, the Rev. Mr. Haddon Smith, who, it seems, serves you as curate, has thought proper to publish a discourse, which he delivered in opposition to this, the Sunday after I had the honour of preaching it before you.
It would render that unthinking, but, I would hope, well-meaning gentleman, much too considerable, were I either to address him by name, or descend to canvass a performance, wherein heat and scurrility endeavour to supply the total vacuity of argument.—For Mr. Smith to enter the lists, with such exceeding fierceness, against a sermon which he did not hear, and which, hitherto, he has had ņo possible opportunity of reading, discovers a weakness and temerity in him, which sink him as low beneath my notice, as the established doctrines of our excellent church rise superior to his impotence of censure. When the gentleman shall ap
pear to have at all considered the important articles of faith, on which he has presumed to animadvert : when the sails of his furious zeal shall be counterballasted by some little degree of judgment: and when he has learned to express himself, if not with Christian decency, yet with common grammatical propriety; then, and not till then, shall I deem him a proper object of attention.
You gentlemen, can testify, that I never once appeared in your pulpit, but at your own particular request: a request which I could not, possibly, have any interested motives for complying with, as I never accepted of the smallest gratuity for my attendance. Is it for this, that the enraged curate has repeatedly traduced me from the pulpit, and now insults me from the press ?
For my own part, I am so far from entertaining any resentment against Mr. Smith (with whom I do not remember to have exchanged five words in my life, and whom I should not even know at sight), or from being deterred by his unmerited abuse, that, should I live to see London again, I shall always deem myself happy to wait on you, as usual, whenever either your own desire, or the interest of your public charity, may command. And, as so many of you have favoured me with uncommon civility and attention, I am encouraged to offer one request; a request, not in behalf of myself, but of Mr. Smith; viz. that his ill-judged and unbecoming warmth may not so far alienate your affection from his person, as to make you persist in withdrawing those usual proofs of your beneficence, which formerly you have favoured him with ; and which, I am sorry to be informed, have of late, through his defect of candour and humility, been considerably lessened.
My sermon and his, are now before the public. The rashness, and seeming malignity, with which
he appears desirous to plunge into the depths of an unequal contest, might, in the opinion of some, justify ine in the amplest severity of animadversion. But I spare him.
him. I cannot prevail with myself, to render evil for evil, or railing for railing. On the contrary, I wish and pray, that divine grace may cause him to partake of the mind which was in Christ Jesus; and that he may, by the same Almighty influence, be made to experience, to believe, and to preach, the inestimable truths of that gospel, which Jesus taught.
Mr. John Wesley (on whose plan of doctrine, your curate seems in great measure, to have formed his own) is the only opponent, I ever had, whom I chastised with a studious disregard to ceremony. Nor do I, in the least, repent of the manner in which I treated him. To have refuted the forgeries and perversions of such an assailant, tenderly, and with meekness falsely so called, would have been like shooting at an highwayman with a pop-gun, or like repelling the sword of an assassin with a straw. I rather blame myself, on a review, for handling Mr. Wesley too gently; and for not acquainting the world with all I know, concerning the man and his communication. I only gave him the whip, when he deserved a scorpion.
But, as to Mr. Smith, he, hitherto, amidst all his ignorance and unguardedness, merits a milder treatment. Want of talents and of thought, appear in every paragraph of his sermon : but I am willing to believe him not wholly destitute of integrity. Though he opposes the doctrines of the church of England, with virulence; yet, he seems to do so, from principle. Under this persuasion, I at present, give him rope. Hereafter, should he rise into any thing like a respectable antagonist, I may perhaps hook him, and pull him in. Until then, I take my leave both of the curate and of his preachment, with that justly admired line, which is at once equally picturesque of his bebaviour, and expressive of my fixed determination;