« PreviousContinue »
TO THE READER.
THE substance of the following attempt to relieve discouraged christians, was delivered in a sermon at an annual association, held at Northampton, May 26, 1779, and was by the Ministers and Messengers of the churches desired to be printed. But most of the said Ministers, and many of my friends, apprehending afterwards that the great variety and vast importance of the subjects attended to, would not admit of their being properly treated in so small a compass as that of a sermon, they requested that the plan might be enlarged, and the ideas expanded; and advised to print it by subscription.
This proposal I could not immediately comply with, as it materially differed from, and greatly exceeded, what was at first desired ; and therefore I resolved not to publish in any form, till the sense of the associate brethren could be taken. Accordingly at their next annual meeting, I gave my reasons why I had not complied with their request ; of which they approved, and earnestly desired the last-mentioned plan might be adopted and pursued.
I should not perhaps have mentioned the above, only for the satisfaction of those who have complained of the long delay. Being in a state of entire suspense for one year, and waiting to collect the names of subscribers afterwards, were the chief, though not the only reasons of the publication being postponed ; for various providential occurrences have contributed to the delay.
Respecting what I have written, I have only to say, the establishment of truth, the relief of distressed souls, the increase of brotherly love among the godly of every denomination, delight in the adorable and boundless perfections of the great Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, and conformity to his righteous will, are the ends I have had in view, and which I earnestly wish may be accomplished. But whether the manner of treating the several subjects be calculated to answer such purposes, I cannot say. I am habitually afraid, lest truth should suffer through my weakness, and on that account have often repented that I complied with the request of my friends. However, having been greatly perplexed with most of the difficulties referred to, I am not without hope that the commuuication of what has been relieving to my own mind, may be of use to others in similar exercises, through the blessing of God, which it is earnestly desired may attend every reader. And for which end may each one endeavour to lift up his heart unto him who hath said, The meek he will guide in judgment, and teach his way. Finally, brethren, pray for me, that I may live under the influence of truth, and in the prospect of eternal glory!
ROBERT HALL. ARNSBY, Leicestershire,
May 21, 1781.
TO THE SECOND EDITION.
TWENTY-EIGHT years have elapsed since that Sermon was delivered, in my Father's Pulpit, at Northampton, before the Baptist Association, which Mr. 'Hall afterwards enlarged into the following Treatise. As I then united with many others in earnestly soliciting its publication, so I have since repeatedly perused it with much satisfaction. When, therefore, the Publisher of the present Edition applied to me for a recommendatory Preface, I felt no hesitation but what arose from the early impressions of veneration for one of the wisest and best of men, to whom I was habituated to look up with such respect, as made this office feel to me assuming and arrogant. But when I reflect that he has been removed from our world for more than sixteen years, (and verily I miss no man more !) and consider that, since his decease, many have joined our churches, who never had opportunity duly to appreciate his worth ; it seems
not to be taking too much upon me, to testify in what high estimation he was justly held by those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. Strong natural powers, ardent piety, deep exercises of mind, a series of singular and sanctified trials, with a special unction from the Holy One, rendered him a man of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord.
Deeply convinced of human guilt and depravity, and very zealous for the honour of sovereign grace ; but no less concerned for internal holiness and practical religiou; he was careful to walk in the midst of the paths of judgment, and to beware of turning aside to the right hand or the left.
Open to conviction, and willing to follow the light of Revelation, let it lead him whithersoever it would, he believed that, about fourteen years before his death, he had formed a more excellent way of solving some theological difficulties, than he had adopted in the earlier part of his ministry.
He called no man upon earth master, in respect of his religious sentiments, but he took a peculiar delight in the writings of president EdWARDS; and two Sermons by Mr. Smalley, (which I borrowed of our venerable friend Mr. Newton of Olney, and after transcribing them, lent them to Mr. Hall,) contributed much to strengthen his