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To the Congregational Churches of Christ at Providence Chapel in London, and at Richmond in Surry.
Dearly beloved in the Lord Jesus, and longed for in the bowels of Christ; whom I love in the faith, and to whom the love of Christ hath constrained me to become a debtor; grace, mercy, and peace, be multiplied among you, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I CHOSE CHOSE to dedicate this little treatise to you, because, sometimes those providences which appear rather out of the common line are hard nuts in the mouth of a weak believer; but some of you have known me from the beginning, and have been eyewitnesses of most of the facts which I am going to relate. And, if you will allow me to make an honest confession, my conscience has often lashed me for not keeping a diary, or rather minuting down the many conspicuous providences of God, which have appeared to me in times of trouble. But, like ungrateful Israel, I went the only way to forget his works, and to be unmindful of the Rock of my salvation; and now I have nothing to trust
to on this occasion but my own treacherous memory, unless the Lord be pleased to send the Comforter to me; and, if he come, he will bring all things to my remembrance, whatsoever God hath said unto me in a way of providence.
I am sure "the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein;" all the cattle of the forest are his, and so are the flocks of a thousand hills; yea, the corn, and the wine, the oil, the wool, and the flax; yea, and even the wicked deceiver, as well as the deceived, are the Lord's; and it is he that maketh one man poor and another rich; that bringeth down and lifteth up; and no man can add to the fixed stature of God, whether the stature be in grace or in providence.
The battle, saith the wise man, is not to the strong, nor the race to the swift, nor bread to men of skill, Eccles. ix. 11; the weak are often seen to win the field, and the cripple to win the heavenly race; and even fools to accumulate the greatest fortunes. There is no adding a cubit to this stature, even in the least circumstance; then why take we thought for the rest?
I believe God never intended me to be a preacher to the rich, because he has ever kept me dependent on his providence. Had I been rich, I might have been tempted to trust in uncertain riches; and I know well that where the treasure is there will the heart be also. It must be a hard task to preach against covetousness while the heart
is trading at the stocks. I fear this is the case with some who are called ministers; but sin always brings its own punishment with it; such can have no communion with God nor peace of conscience; for it is sin that separateth between God and the soul; and the love of money is the root of all evil. Nor have I any reason to believe that God ever intended me for a preacher to please pharisees, because he hath for many years given me an humbling sight, and a deep sense, of my own wretched depravity; so that I dare not place any confidence in the flesh, nor even in the fruits of faith; knowing that a man can merit nothing, allowing that he were able to keep the law perfectly: "When ye shall have done all those things which are com manded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do." But I come infinitely short of doing all, therefore can never boast of doing a part. By nature we are all fond of a specious form of religion; and God permitted me to use a dry form for many years; but he never regarded any of those prayers put up by me, nor removed the guilt of my sin, in answer to them therefore, to use an English proverb, I shall never speak well of that bridge, because it never bore me safe over the stream.
I know that God tells us to turn away from those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. And dry forms of devotion, used by people who deny the grace and Spirit of God, are no better than a stage for antichrist, a varnish
for sepulchres, Matt. xxiii. 27; an apparel for harlots, Isa. iv. 1; a winding-sheet for pharisees, Isa. xxx. 1; a bribe of dead works put into the hands of an honest conscience, Heb. ix. 4; a trading stock for blind guides, Isa. lvi. 11; a dish of husks to stifle convictions, Luke xv. 16; a mongrel service offered to God and mammon, Matt. vi. 24; the mimicry of hypocrites, Matt. xv. 8; a starting hole to shun the cross, Isa. xlii. 22; and infidelity's last refuge.
God permitted me for many years to try what a form of devotion would do for me; but, like the poor woman in the gospel, I got worse instead of better; therefore was obliged to lay it by, and let the words of my mouth be the meditations of my heart. In this way the Holy Ghost helped my infirmities; therefore I must preach up spiritual prayer; and, as Christ answered the Spirit's call, I must preach Jesus as the eternal God that hears and answers prayer. This is a part of the ministry which I have received of the Lord; and I hope, through grace, to take heed to it, and fulfil it.
I believe God intended that I should preach faith; because he has kept me dependent by faith on himself both for spiritual and temporal supplies. And I am persuaded that he intended me for a minister to the ignorant and to the poor. To the ignorant, because he sent me to preach, and gave. me many seals to my ministry, before I could read a chapter in the Bible with propriety; to the poor, because he sent me without a penny in my pocket;
therefore as a minister of the poor I hope to magnify mine office.
The vanity of worldly wisdom; the excellency of divine knowledge; the uncertainty of worldly riches; the preciousness of faith's wealth; the blessed religion of Jesus, and the insufficiency of human inventions; all these seem to be some of the things belonging to the gospel which is committed to my trust. And I know that it becomes a steward to be found faithful, and not to waste his master's goods.
What further convinces me of my being appointed by God for a preacher to the poor is this; that the many seals of my ministry consist chiefly of the poor, both in town and country; so that I can adopt with propriety the language of the apostle, and say, "You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence," 1 Cor. i. 26-29.
Although my ministry is chiefly among the poor, yet it is a copy the Saviour has set, and it is very much like his own: for no man can prove Jesus a rich man after the flesh, nor a scholar after