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QUOD ENIM MUNUS REIPUBLICÆ AFFERRE MAJUS MELIUSVE POSSUMUS, QUAM
SI DOCEMUS ATQUE ERUDIMUS JUVENTUTEM? HIS PRÆSERTIM MORIBUS ATQUE TIMPORIBUS, &c.
CICERO DE DIV. LIB. II. CAP. I.
CHURCH OF CHRIST, IN NORTHAMPTON,
UNDER MY MINISTERIAL CARE.
MY DEAR FRIENDS! As I reckon the providence which fixed me with you, in the pastoral relation, amongst the most singular blessings of my life; I would always retain a sense of those engagements which it brings me under, to labour to the utmost for your spiritual improvement. And through the divine goodness, I find it a delightful work; as your candid and serious temper adds a freedom and pleasure, both to my public ministrations, and private converses with you.
I take this opportunity of renewing the assurances I have often given you, that I could gladly converse with you more frequently at home; did not the other work, in which I am engaged, as a tutor, demand so large a share of my time. I heartily thank you, that you so kindly consider it, and make all the allowances for it I could reasonably desire.
I trust, God is my witness, that it is a sincere concern for his glory, and the interest of a Redeemer in the rising age, that has determined me to undertake the additional labour of such an employment: And as you voluntarily chose to sacrifice something of your private satisfaction, to these great and important views, I hope you will have the pleasure to see them answered, and that you yourselves will not, on the whole, be losers by them. You know, it is my desire, that as my pupils advance in the course of their preparatory studies, they would endeavour by their religious visits, conversation and prayer, to supply in part, that lack of service to you, which my care for them must necessarily occasion; and it is as a farther supply of it, that I now offer you those Sermons on the Religous Education of Children, which you heard from the pulpit some months ago.
The indulgence and thankfulness with which you then received them, is one instance, amongst many others, of your relish for plain and practical preaching: When some of you expressed your desire that they might be made more public, I confess I knew not well how to deny you; and I was the more willing to comply with your request, because it is a subject which cannot be often handled, so largely, in the course of preaching.
That tender concern for you and yours, which led me to treat of educa. tion, engaged me also to manage it in such a inanner, as I apprehended might be most for your advantage and for theirs; that is, to make it, as far as I could, a warm and serious address to you. I have likewise, for the same reason, retained that form in transcribing them for the press; though I am sensible it might have appeared more fashionable and polite, to have cast them into a different mould, and to have proposed my remarks in a more cool and general way.
It is indeed my deliberate judgment, that there is an important difference between popular discourses and philosophical essays. The more I CÓAverse with the most celebrated speakers of antiquity, the more I am confirmed in that thought; and I will take the liberty to add, that, for the sake of common christians, I could wish it were more generally considered. But whether in this respect I am in the right or the wrong, I must say with the apostle to the CORINTHIANS, Brethren, it is for your sakes.
I would not willingly disgust persons of elevated genius and refined education ; but I must confess, the great labour of my life is to bring down my discourses to common apprehensions, and to impress the consciences of men by them in subserviency to the momentous design of their eternal salvation. And as I am your shepherd, and you in a peculiar manner the people of my care, whom God has committed to my hand, and of whom he will require an account from me, I would always cherish a peculiar concern for you; and desire that, whenever I appear amongst you, my heart may overflow with a kind of parental tenderness for you. There are, perhaps, some traces of this in these discourses, which a severe critic may censure, and a profane wit may deride; nevertheless I have a cheerful hope, that they will be accepted by God, and approved by you. If divine grace render them useful to others, I would own it as an additional favour; and that they might be so, I have diligently avoided whatever might offend any serious reader: yet they are yours by a peculiar claim. For you I composed them; for you I published them; and to you I now present them; humbly commending them and you to the blessing of God, and entreating your continued prayers, that it may attend all the labours of
Your very affectionate Brother,
and obliged Servant,
P. DODPRIDGE. Newington, July 14, 1732.
I HOPE the reader will pardon me, that I trouble him with the mention of two things, which, for some obvious reasons, I thought it not proper to omit.
The one is, that as my very worthy and condescending friend, Dr: Watts, had promised the world an Essay on Education, I would not have published these papers, without his full approbation of the design, as no way injurious to bis; and I have omitted some particulars I might have mentioned, that I might interfere with him as little as possible.
The other is, that when I came to look over Dr. Tillotson's Sermons, and some other treatises on this Subject, I found many of the thoughts I had before inserted in my plan. They seemed so obvious to every considerate person, that I did not think myself obliged to mention them as quotations. What I have expressly taken from others, I have cited as theirs in the mar. gin; and if I have been obliged to any for other thoughts or expressions, which is very possible, though I do not particularly remember it, I hope this general acknowledgment may suffice
The subject of the following Discourses is of high importance to the
interest of religion, and justly claims a share in our labours, if we would fulfil the ministry we have received in the Lord, and give a good account of it another day. This led the author to insist upon it, in the congregation under his care. What was delivered from the pulpit met with a favourable reception, and many who heard these Sermons, have importunately desired they might be published, for the benefit of others. I have perused them with some attention, and such special satisfaction, that I heartily concur in the same request.
The neglect of the rising generation, which so generally prevails, ought, surely, to awaken our serious concern for it; and I persuade myself, that the present attempt will be welcome to all who are duly impressed with that concern; for so far as I am capable of judging, it is well adapted to answer its intended purposes. The method is natural and easy, the language correct, the reasoning strong, the address pathetic and convincing; and the whole is so agreeably adjusted, that I can with pleasure recommend it as a valuable and useful performance.
The peculiarities of the christian scheme are frequently and pertinently interspersed, through the several parts of this work; which will be acceptable to them, who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. I look upon these as the brightest ornaments of practical discourses; and when they are introduced in this view, it must evidently appear, that the principles of our holy religion, are pot merely refined speculations for the entertainment of curious and inquisitive minds, but doctrines according to godliness, and the great support of virtue and goodness in the world. When arguinents are drawn from the glorious dispensation of the grace of God, to persuade us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; such endearing motives represent duty in its most amiable light, and have a most direct tendency to engage our cheerful compliance. It deserves our serious consideration, whether this be not a proper method to prevent the growth of infidelity; if not to reclaim those, whose arguments against the sacred scriptures are mere banter and ridicule, and who are gone so far as to glory in their contempt of the gospel, yet, at least, to prevent the spreading of that dangerous infection.
It has been justly observed by an excellent person*, whose practical writings meet with that general acceptance wbich they so justly deserve, " That when men have heard the sermons of their ministers, for many years together and find little of Christ in them, they have taken it into their heads,
* Dr. Watts.