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He has not published so much as might have been expected: however, enough to shew his sentiments concerning natural and revealed religion, and to justify the character I have given
So the apostles of Christ, and their companions, usually called apostolical men, as an ancient writer observes, either wrote nothing at all, or but little: (neither the gospels, nor the epistles of the New Testament, being of any great length) yet they have ever been esteemed the most eminently, and most extensively useful ministers of Christ's kingdom. They who have received knowledge from him, will communicate it to others, both in public and private, in discourse and writing. Upon the whole, I always esteemed Dr. Hunt as useful a minister as any in his time. Which opinion has been as much founded upon the usefulness of his conversation, as of his preaching and writing.
His sentiments in religion appear to be very just, and to deserve an attentive regard.
He was of opinion, that the facts, upon which the Christian religion is founded, have a .*stronger proof than any facts at such a distance of time: and that the books, which convey them down to us, may be proved to be uncorrupted and authentic with greater strength than 'any other writings of equal antiquity.
Piety,' says he, and extensive virtue, are final in religion. Principles of truth are instru'mental. What is positive is to be regarded only as means.'
Again: The principles of truth, relating to natural or revealed religion, and particularly 'to the Christian doctrine, are to be considered as instrumental, and designed to bring us to 'sobriety, righteousness and godliness. And are not available to our perfection and happiness, unless these are produced by them."
The respect due to moral and positive precepts is happily and briefly expressed by him in this manner: Let us take care, that we do not raise positive duties above moral, which are of eternal aud immutable obligation, and the end of true religion. And yet let us be careful to observe what bears the stamp of divine authority: let us not insolently make a religion for 'God, but receive it as he has delivered it to us by reason and revelation."
The design of the ordinance of the Lord's supper has been thus represented by him: By receiving the sacrament men do not enlist themselves in any party: but only in general profess themselves Christians, and thereby declare their resolution to pursue steadily religious virtue,, 'as the last design of the institution of Christ.'
If it should be asked, what is meant by religious virtue, some other words of his will explain. Virtue is doing what is right, fit, and agreeable to the truth of things. And it becomes religious virtue when practised out of a regard to God: who, as a perfect moral agent, must in consequence, will, that such creatures as are made capable of it, should conform to what 'reason dictates.'
Our friend, whose decease we lament, had a wonderful strength of mind. I remember him to have said to me some years ago, though without vanity (from which no man was more free) that he believed he could with consideration recollect almost all the sermons he had ever preached. This has been lately confirmed to me, and more distinctly, by a common friend, in these very words: His judgment was so exact, that when he had once fixed the sense of a text, 'his memory could retain it for many years; and he could easily, and in a very little time, recollect the method in which he had treated it, the inferences he had made, and the whole ser'mon. This was surprising, as he had no notes: and yet I have known him preach a sermon ' upon half an hour's recollection, which he had preached about fourteen years before: and he ⚫ himself told me, he did not believe he had missed three sentences. This was not a peculiar 'case: but he had fixed his sermons in general in his head. What an uncommon strength of judgment and memory was this!"
This great capacity had been cultivated with care and diligence: accordingly his acquired attainments were proportionable. As much may be easily inferred from what was before said of his preparatory studies. He well understood the several schemes of ancient and modern philosophy. To the very end of his life he continued to read, by way of amusement at least, the celebrated ancient writers both Greek and Roman, whether poets, philosophers, or historians. These are authors, with which men of the learned professions are generally acquainted.
* Σπάδης της περι το λογογράφειν μικραν ποιόμενοι φροντίδα. Eus. Η. Ε. l. 3, c. 24, p. 94. D.
But I presume, I may say, without disparagement to any, that he was a better judge of their beauties and perfections, blemishes and defects, than most are. He had also read the remains of the ancient Greek mathematicians, which is an uncommon part of literature. He had a good knowledge of the civil law. In early life he was celebrated for skill in the Hebrew language and Rabbinical learning. He was well acquainted with ecclesiastical history, and had read the ancient Christian writers. But the Bible was his principal study: and the knowledge, in which he most excelled, was the knowledge of the scriptures. Few men, I believe, can be named in any age, who have equalled him therein.
To this last particular, more especially, I apprehend to be owing the great contempt he had for infidels, commonly called deists; who pretend to condemn revelation, without ever having carefully studied and considered it: and though they are apt to give themselves airs of superior knowledge, he looked upon the whole body of them as a sort of men who have only a very superficial knowledge both of scripture and antiquity. To this ignorance of theirs he in part ascribed their infidelity: for he used to assert, that all antiquity confirms and corroborates revelation; and he had a strong persuasion, that the next age would be as remarkable for enthusiasm, as this for infidelity: forasmuch as those two extremes, he said, take turns, and mutually produce, or occasion each other.
If our friend was a man of great capacity, and various learning; yet sincere piety, uncommon meekness of temper, and mildness of speech and behaviour, most amiable and unaffected modesty, and remarkable inoffensiveness and peaceableness, are as distinguishing parts of his character, as learning and knowledge.
He was a tender husband: as he too was happy in a consort, who by her prudent management of the affairs of the family afforded him entire liberty to pursue his studies, and discharge the offices of his ministerial function without distraction.
What care he took to instil the best principles, and impart the most useful knowledge to his children, as their minds gradually opened, their own consciences will bear him witness: and it is to be hoped (which indeed I have no cause to distrust) that their future behaviour in life will shew, that his paternal care and concern have not been in vain; and that they will prove every way worthy of such constant, familiar instruction and example.
The benevolence of his temper, his sincerity, disinterestedness, and communicativeness, rendered him a most desirable and valuable friend.
He sympathised with the afflicted: and though he was a man of strong reason, and had a rightly informed judgment and understanding, he did not deny the use of the passions; which have been placed in us by our Creator, and make a part of our constitution.
I have reason to think, that he was liberal to the poor to the utmost of his circumstances, if not beyond them. And he has wished, that men of wealth would sometimes visit the habitations of the poor and sick: supposing, that a near view of their scanty accommodations might soften their temper, and dispose them to afford all the relief that is in their power.
In his latter years he has been several times afflicted with severe fits of the stone and gravel, the acute pains of which he bore with exemplary patience and resignation. And he had behaved likewise with great firmness and steadiness under some very trying afflictions and difficulties, which he met with in the former part of his life.
For about a year before he died, there appeared in him a visible decay; and he seemed to feel it himself: for his prayers and conversation turned much upon his approaching change. He would also lament, that he could be useful no longer, and was afraid of outliving his usefulness. But when he spake of death, it was with great calmness and composure of mind: and he declared, he was more afraid of the pain of dying, than of the consequences of death. However in that he was greatly favoured. For about a month before his death, he seemed more brisk and cheerful than he had been for some time: and his friends hoped they might have enjoyed him longer. But as he was walking a little way into the country, to see a friend, he had an unhappy fall, which bruised his leg. No danger was apprehended at first: but on the fourth day it threw him into a fever, the place mortified, and the mortification brought on a lethargy. All proper means were used, but in vain. When his friends roused him, he answered very sensibly: but soon fell into his dosing again, from which he never awaked. For on Wednesday morning, a little after nine of the clock, the fifth of this month, without either sigh or groan, or the least struggling, he in the most easy and composed manner breathed his last. An affec
tionate friend, who stood by his bed-side, tells: Though he never could bear to see any one • die before, yet he saw nothing formidable, or to give him any uneasiness, except that he was losing his dear and faithful friend.'
Such has been the life, and such the death of our honoured friend. His life has been a course of laborious service in the church of God, and an example of uniform, stedfast, growing virtue; and his end has been peace. If we copy his example, and observe the rules of life, faithfully taught, and earnestly inculcated by him, we may hope to meet him again in a state of perfection and happiness. With these, and such like thoughts and considerations, let us comfort ourselves, and others, who sympathise with us, and mingle their tears with ours; being affected with the loss which both we and they have sustained.
4. Lastly, This subject is confirming and animating, as well as comforting.'
In our Father's house are many mansions. There are regions of light and immortality: there is a world, wherein dwells righteousness: where intelligent beings are admitted to the sublimest entertainments: where there is no death, nor pain, and where all sorrow and sighing are fled away. Forasmuch as such a joy is set before us, let us lay aside every weight, and perform the services now lying before us with fidelity and diligence.
We have had a new testimony to the truth of religion. Our deceased friend was "an Israelite indeed, in whom was no guile," John i. 47. Of his sincerity there were many undeniable proofs, and it was liable to no suspicions. He had as good reason, as any, to know, whether virtue has a real excellence, and whether it be recommended by religion, or be the will of God: whether it has any delights and comforts here, and may expect a reward hereafter. He has spoken and acted as if these things were true and certain; and, if they were not so, he would have told us.
Let us improve this thought for our establishment: let us reckon ourselves obliged to weigh. maturely, and recollect frequently, what we have heard from him upon these important points, whether in public or private. Far be it, that any of the stated hearers, near relatives, or intimate friends of this excellent man, and faithful servant of God, should be so far misled by the temptations of the times, as ever to become infidels in opinion, or libertines in practice. I rather hope and believe, that remembering how he taught, and how he walked; and mindful of other helps, still afforded them; not forsaking the assemblies of divine worship, as is the manner of some; but by an open profession of religion animating and confirming each other; and joining with a love of liberty a hearty zeal for true piety, they will withstand the snares of an evil world, and maintain their integrity to the end of life: and so be to him a crown of glory, and rejoice with him in the day of the Lord, Heb. x. 23-25:
Finally," my beloved brethren, let us be stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord: forasmuch as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord," 1 Cor. xv. 58..
SERMONS UPON VARIOUS SUBJECTS..
THE DUTY OF CONSIDERATION.
I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. Psal. cxix. 59.
In these words two things are observable; first, the Psalmist's practice: "He thought on his ways." Secondly, the result and consequence of that practice: "He turned his feet unto God's testimonies.
The text therefore presents to us these two points, consideration, and the happy effect of it; reformation, or amendment. These will be the subjects of the present discourse: and this is the method to be obscrved by us:.
I. To shew what is implied in consideration, or thinking on our ways.
II. To observe the proper effect thereof, which is amendment.
III. After which, in the way of application, I would recommend the practice of consideration by some motives.
I. I am to shew, in the first place, what is implied in consideration, or thinking on our ways. 1. It implies a recollecting, and taking a survey of our past conduct, with a view of detecting the sins and errors of it, as well as observing the good we have done.
To think on our ways is to recollect and bring to remembrance the past actions of our life, good and bad: more especially our latter, but also our former conduct: nor only our outward actions, but likewise our thoughts and intentions, the principles and views of our actions, in the several past periods of our life, and the various circumstances we have been in: how far our behaviour has been suitable to the dispensations of Divine Providence towards us: what we have been, and what we have done: how we have behaved in times of prosperity, or of adversity: how far we have regarded and performed, or neglected and omitted, the duties owing to God or men, in the stations we have been in; by which it may appear, that this is a wide field of meditation to expatiate in.
2. In the practice of this duty is implied seriousness and deliberation.
"I thought on my ways." I recollected them, as just shewn: and that seriously and deliberately. I did not bestow only some few slight and cursory reflections on myself and my past conduct: but I acted with seriousness and deliberation, being sensible, it is a thing of no small moment. I allotted some time to this work, and called off my thoughts from other matters, to think of myself and my ways. I laid aside other business, and redeemed some time from the hurries of life, for the sake of this necessary review. I desisted from farther pursuits until I had surveyed my past conduct, and could judge how far it has been right, or how far wrong: whether I ought to proceed in the present course, or whether it ought not in several respects to be altered and corrected.
3. "I thought on my ways:" I considered and examined them impartially.
This I did, knowing that God sees all things, and that he is acquainted with all my wanderings. He tries the hearts, and knows all the ways of the sons of men. He is the best judge of integrity, and will approve of it: he is not to be deceived by false pretences, and specious appearances. All the actions of my life, and all the purposes of my heart, ever since I have enjoyed this rational nature, and have arrived to the exercise of its powers, have been under his notice: and he discerns the present frame and actings of my mind.
When therefore I thought on my ways, I resolved to do it in the fear, and as in the presence of God. I set aside partial and too favourable regards for myself, and resolved not to heed now the fair, and too agreeable speeches of friends or flatterers: but to know the truth concerning myself, and to pass a right judgment upon my ways.
I examined myself, then, and weighed my actions in an equal balance, without a favourable and partial indulgence: but yet, as I was persuaded I ought to do, without a rigour and severity that has no bounds, and directly, and necessarily leads to despair and despondency: believing, that equity, mercy, and compassion, are branches of eternal righteousness, and some of the glories of that infinitely perfect Being who made the world. He certainly is not strict to mark iniquity: he knows all the weaknesses and disadvantages of his creatures, as well as the and advantages he has bestowed upon them. He does not equally resent involuntary and undesigned failings, and deliberate and wilful wickedness. He is ever ready to pardon the penitent, and accepts the sincere and upright, though they are not perfect.
As therefore I would confess and acknowledge all the offences I can descry, with hopes of finding favour with God; so would I humbly rejoice, and take satisfaction in every instance of virtuous conduct, hoping it may be graciously approved of and accepted by him to whom I am accountable; and who is greater than my heart, and knoweth all things.
4. "I thought on my ways." It may be herein implied, I have done it frequently.
"I thought on my ways:" This is a practice, which I have supposed to be incumbent on The heat of action, and the hurry and business of life, occasion much inconsideration: and various circumstances there are which throw us off our guard: and temptations prevail, before we are aware.
Various are the temptations of this world: and my strong affections are apt to carry me
beyond the bounds of reason. In the multitude of my words, in my many thoughts and actions, I fear there has not wanted some, if not much sin and folly. I have therefore thought it, in the course of my life, a fit and proper practice, frequently to review my conduct, and call myself to an account, and not to suffer any long space of time to pass without this exercise of my
5. “I thought on my ways:" and when I did so, I carefully compared them with the rule of right; the reason of things, and the revealed will of God.
As already observed, I have recollected my past conduct; I have reviewed it seriously and deliberately; sincerely and impartially; and frequently, laying hold of all fit opportunities for so doing and whenever I did so, it was my concern, carefully to compare my actions by the rule of right; the reason of things, and the will of God, as revealed in his word.
I then observed the intrinsic excellence, and the beauty and comeliness of virtue, and all holiness; and the real evil and foul deformity of vice. I discerned the reasonableness and perfection of God's precepts: that what he commands is fit to be done, and that what he forbids ought to be avoided by every rational being: "All the statutes of the Lord are right," Ps. xix. 8, and should be steadily regarded by his creatures. I perceived therefore, that all my thoughts and actions, which agreed not with the rule of God's word, were foolish and wicked, such as ought to be condemned by me, of which I have reason to be ashamed, and for which I now humble and abase myself. All such actions have been contrary to the will and pleasure of my sovereign, and unsuitable to the dignity of my nature. And all the while I have wandered from the right way of holiness and obedience to God, I have been weakening and sinking the powers of my mind, and have more and more indisposed myself for the enjoyment of true happiness.
6. "I thought on my ways:" and when I did so, I considered the several advantages I have enjoyed, and the peculiar obligations I have been under; and was thereby led to take notice of the many aggravations of my transgressions, and my defects.
Every thing contrary to truth, purity, and righteousness is evil, in all beings who have reason and understanding: but the guilt of transgressors increases in proportion to the knowledge they have of the will of God, and the reasonableness and equitableness of what is required of them. Some have clearer discoveries concerning duty, than others: and by the many blessings, vouchsafed them in the course of providence, they have been laid under special obligations to attend to the indications of the Divine Mind.
When I thought on my ways, I could not but own this to be my case. The divine will, and motives to obey it, have been often set before me in a clear and affecting manner. I have had many means and helps for preventing sin, and securing a virtuous conduct: and the favours of Divine Providence have laid me under strong obligations to improve those helps, and to excel, and be steady in virtue.
I see reason therefore to own, that I have acted against convictions of duty, and that by temptation I have been induced to act contrary to resolutions, formerly made. I can recollect too, that I have not kept that strict watch over myself, which I knew to be fit and needful in this present world, so beset with dangerous snares and temptations.
Upon the whole, in recollecting and reviewing my conduct I discerned many things for which no good excuse or apology can be made: and therefore I saw great reason to condemn and blame myself on that account. And considering the advantages, which I have enjoyed; my many past transgressions, and my still remaining defects are attended with no small aggravations.
7. "I thought on my ways," and considered the rewards and encouragements of virtuous conduct, and sincere obedience to God: and the sad consequences of sin, and the unavoidable ruin and misery of such as persist in it.
For a difference there is in things, as I am fully persuaded, and see plain reason to believe: and God, the Lord and Governor of the world, is perfectly righteous and holy: and he cer tainly will some time make a difference between the obedient and faithful, and the disobedient and unfaithful among his creatures. It is altogether fit and reasonable he should do so: it is impossible therefore for me to reconcile the hopes of happiness with wilful sin, persisted in, and unrepented of. It must be confessed, and forsaken: or I can never think of finding mercy with God, so as to entertain any prospect of the reward that shall be bestowed on the righteous.