« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
vi ) Some perhaps may smile at my title, as affe&ting quaintness. I confess I wish it to strike the eye, in these days of Apologies. I have introduced the term “vital religion," for which the excellent Mr. Wilberforce has been so much ridiculed; and I adopt it, because I would have the Reader at once understand what cause we wish to diffuse by Village Preaching; and because it imports that life, vigour, and warmth in religion, without which the most excellent doctrines are a dead letter; and the persons who use Modes of Worship most approved among all Denominations, are little better than machines.
I have endeavoured to watch and pray against an improper spirit, that I might “ speak the truth in love." Should, however, any thing occur in the following pages, which may grieve any pious person, I intreat such an one to be assured, that he mistakes the temper in which the Author wrote.
I have now only to intreat the candour of my Readers, especially of my Brethren, whom I have taken the liberty to address. The critical eye will observe perhaps redundancies, omissions, faults in the arrangement and the stile, and repetitions of the same thoughts, which are introduced in various connexions, for the particular purpose of bringing up again and again the ends we had in view by our Village Preaching.--As a plea for the exercise of candour, I add, that the whole was drawn up, and prepared for the press, in a state of great bodily weakness, while recovering from a fevere and alarming indispofition.
oct. 20, 1798.
To do good to his fellow-creatures is one of
1 the noblest objects that can excite the generous ambition, or occupy the active mind of man. To attempt to rescue deathless souls from the bondage of ignorance and vice, from the tormenting rage of domineering evil passions, from the gnawing worm of guilt, and from endless misery ; to render them happy and wise; and to make those who are likely to be pests, blessings to society, is a fpecies of benevolence which is amiable and praiseworthy, and deserving the approbation and grati tude of all mankind.
This is the grand and gracious end of the Preaching of the Gospel; the design of God in the institution of this despised ordinance; and that which is, or ought to be, the first wish and
the ultimate object in subordination to the divine glory) of every one who engages in that arduous employment.
Well then, might we stand mute with astonishment, did we not know something of the “ enmity of the carnal mind against God,” and the opposition which has in all ages been made to the glorious Gospel, that the plans lately projected, by serious and benevolent Christians of various denominations, for diffusing the light and power of real, vital, and practical Christianity in dark places, should be so egregiously misrepresented as they are. They have been held up to view ‘as monsters teeming with mischief. There have not been wanting some, that have said the design has been even to sow the seeds of infidelity; others, that “ their real object is not religious, 66 but political ; and that this object leads to « alienate the attachment of the people to the “ established church, as the ground-work and “ foundation of some secret design in the field of “politics.” A writer, under the appellation of “a Clergyman of the Diocese of Salisbury,” has -brought forward this cruel charge, * Fæin would I hope, for the honour of the Protestant Clergy, that no one of that respectable order, in the
* See An Appeal to the People, on the Alleged Causes of the Diffenters' Separation, ” &c. p. 3. N. B. The figures in the text will, for the future, refer to the pages of the “ Appeal."
Church of England, could be capable, first to hatch a scheme fufficiently diabolical and hypocritical to have disgraced the ancient Jesuits, and then to lay it at the door of the Protestant Direnters. Surely it must have been some enemy who has done it, with the hope to expose all religion to common ridicule; or some bigoted fon of the Church of Rome, who imagines himself “God's vicegerent and representative;” (p.20) “ and that those people, who, through a defici“ ency in their education, are incapable of forming “ a decisive and correct judgment on such im“portant subjects of religion, would act a safe and “ wise part, implicitly to rely on their ministers, “ who are legally established to instruct them.” -(p. 25) Is not this strongly scented with popery?
Weak and foolish as the charge is, yet, in these days, in which suspicion and a spirit of party so much prevail, it is not unlikely that it may be believed by those who are ignorant of us and our principles, and who may be disposed to imbibe prejudices against all Disfenters, and their designs, without discrimination. I feel myself called upon to explain and defend the views, motives, and conduct of the itinerants, in these parts of the country, with which I am acquainted; and, I presume, what will be said, may be equally applicable to others who labour in the same way, in different parts of the kingdom. B2 .
In the year 1795, the Missionary Society was formed in London. A plan was struck out, and has since been acted upon, to send the Gospel to the Heathen, especially into the islands of the Pacific Ocean, &c. * It was objected by many,—" Have “ you not Heathens enough at home? Attend to 6 them.” This suggestion awakened dormant Con. fideration. She has opened her eyes, and looked around; she has beheld multitudes in our neighbouring villages and forests, who were far from any means of instruction, perishing for lack of knowledge, living without Chrift, without hope, without God in the world. Benign Pity followed Consideration : her heart melted and mourned. Benevolent endeavours were first privately exerted. At length the sacred fire expanded it's flame, and was communicated from breast to breast, and from place to place. Situations were fought where there was the least instruction. We confess that “ the 66 very dregs of the people we were anxious and in“ defatigable to convert; men possessed of no pro$5 perty, and of understandings weak and unprin“ cipled, without opinion and without thought.” (p. 32.) These are the persons who claimed our pity, who needed our help; and where shall we
* The plan has succeeded. The ship Duff, which failed in Oca tober, 1796, after traversing above twice the circumference of the globe, having left the missionaries at Otaheite, &c., has returned fafe, without the least fatal accident.,