Abernathy - Houston-Packer Collection BX9178.A33 S4 1748 v.1

SERMONS O N VARIOUS SUBJECTS. Containing, I. Of Self- Denial. II. The Gofpel a Law of Li- berty. III. Of Repentance. IV. Of Repentance. V. Peter's Denial of his Mailer, pradtically improved. VI. Of Juftification by Faith. VII. Of a Confcience void of Offence. VIII. Perte& Love gives Bold - nefs in the Day of judgment. IX. Loving Chrifl above all, the Character of his true Difciples. X. Of the proper Improvement of Occafions of Sorrow. XI. The Happinefs of the Righ- teous in all Circumftances il- !nitrated. XII. The Path of the Jun, like the íhining Light. By JOHN 11BERNE7'HY', M.A. With a LARGE PREFACE, Containing the LIFE of the AUTHOR. In TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I. LONDON: Printed for D. BROWNE, without Temple -Bar; C. DAVIS, in Holborn; and A. MILLAR, oppofite Katherine - ffreet in the Strand. M.DCC.XLVIII.

PREFAC K. F publifhing the following memoirs fould appear to need any apology, no apology could be fufacient : But it is hoped, that upon a perufal of them, they will be found not unacceptable. Indeed life, in fuch a fla- gon as that in which Mr. Abernethy was placed, cannot furnifh thofe incidents which are moll ami ing to the imagination, or which have great influence upon the fate of mankind and public ea' irs : It is the hory of a few only, the great and powerful, that gives entertainment of this kind; but the in- genuous and thinking mug be fen ible, that in other fiations the moll illufrions patterns of virtue are often fòund; and the man who wants to make his heart better, by Purveying human nature in all the finings of virtuous improvement, and the various methods of dif- cipline, by which the perfè5lion of it is to Vo L. I. a be

ii The PREFACE. be attained, will find his account happily iu fuck lives as that of Mr. Abernethy : It may be very ferviceable to all who attentively perufe it, particularly to thofe, who have chofen the holy minillry for the bu fnefs of their lives: They will fie this flagon adorned with every thing necefary to render it reputable and ufful ; one of the found jl minds joined with one of the belt of hearts ; and a life under the power of the worthicfi principles. .H E was the fon of Mr. f ohn Abernethy, diffenting minifter in Colrain. His mo- ther was a daughter of Walkingfhaw of Walk - ingfha'w, in Renfrewfhire in Scotland. He was born Ohlober 19, 168o, and continued nine years under the care of his parents. In 1689, he was feparated from them, his father being fent by the diffenting tniniffers to London, to follicit fome , public affairs ; his mother, in the tumult occafioned by the infurre &ion of the !rig, withdrew, from her own dwelling to Derry. He at this time was with a relation in Ballymenagh, who, in that general confufion, determined to remove to Scotland ; and, having no op- portunity of conveying this child to his mother,

The PREFACE. iii mother, carried him along with him. This was the means of his efcaping the hard- fhips of the fiege of Derry, in which Mrs. Abernethy loft all her other children. When he had been three years in Scotland, which he fpent at the grammar - fchool, he returned to his father's family, then fixed in Colrain. Here he continued at fchool, till he was thirteen, and then was fent to Glafgow- college : This he often regretted as an error in the management of his edu- cation ; feeing however parents might flatter the genius of a child in their own ima- ginations, it could not be reafonably thought, that he had fufficient knowledge of clafí'i- cal authors, to fit him for academical ffu- dies, or that his mind was enough ripened for that reflefion, which is neceffary to make them fuccefsful. IT may not perhaps be difagreeable to the . reader, to mention a very remarkable in- terpofition of providence in preferving his life, when on his way to Scotland. At Belfajl, he was diverting himfelf with a fervant who attended him, upon the great bridge, by which that town is joined to the county of Down; they flood upon the bridge az a

iv 7e PREFACE. confiderable time ; but Mr. Abernethy hapening to cart his eye upon fomething at a diftance which catched his fancy, they ran off on a fudden ; and, the moment they removed, the arch, upon which they had been Handing, fell down ; fo they very nar- rowly efcaped being crufhed to pieces. HE continued at college, till he took the degree of Mailer of Arts : Then his own inclination led him to the ftudy of phyfic ; but he was diverted from this by the advice of his friends, and applied hitnfelf to that of divinity ; in purfuance of which he went to Edinburgh, and was force time under the care of the celebrated profeffor Campbel. Upon his return home, he pro- ceeded in his ítudies with great fuccefs, and was foon taken notice of by the prefbytery of Route, (of which his father was a mem- ber) and, under their direction, went through the ufual trials, as a candidate for the miniftry. He was licenfed to preach, before he was one and twenty. In yune 1701, he had an invitation to preach in the diffenting congregation at Antrim, which was then vacant ; and the people, upon hear- ing him, expreffed an inclination to call him to

The PRE FACE. y to the paftoral charge ; but he refolved, before he fettled any where, to fpend fome time in Dublin. He preached in feveral congregations in the city, particularly that of Wood/lreet, from which he received an invitation to flay with them force time : This they defired, with an intention of choofii g him to the pafloral office, in con - junftion with the late Reverend Mr. Boyfè ; but his father's advice, not difagreeable to his own inclinations, determined him to re- turn to the north. he quickly received an unanimous call from the congregation of Antrim ; but before he was ordained there, his father died ; of whom all who knew him, had an high efteem : And a judicious friend, who was intimately acquainted with him writes thus concerning him : He was an eminent chriftian, a learned di- " vine, a vigilant, laborious pallor, a man " of deep penetration, and folidity of judg- e ment, of a ftrength of memory almoft " unparalled, of an extenfive public fpirit, a delicate tafle for correct fpeaking and " writing, and a man of polite behaviour " an addrefs." a 3 CO L RRINE

vi The PREFACE. C 0 L RA I N E being vacant by the death of the father, prefented a call to the fon ; fo there being a competition between that con- gregation and Antrim, the matter was referred to the general * fynod, who gave their de- cifion in favour of Antrim, where Mr. Abernethy was ordained, Augufl 8, 1703. A little after this he married Mrs. Sufannah yordan, whole father was dead, and her mother married to Dominic Heyland, Efq; of Ca/lleroe. Mrs. Heyland was a woman of a very uncommon charaaer, much ad- mired, efpecially for the generofity of her fpirit and tender affe&ions, and for molt exemplary piety. Her daughter Abernethy had, with great fuccefs, imitated the fair pattern the had every day before her; and Mr. Abernethy found himfelf every way happy in the conjugal relation. His congregation at Antrim was a large one, and he applied himfelf to the paftoral * That is, the yearly meeting of the whole diffent- ing minifters afòciated in the North, with a ruling elder for each minifter. This, according to their con f4itution, is the high& church judicatory, to which ap- peals he from letter affociations, ufually called Subfy- nods: As to thefe la{}, appeals lie from the feveral Pre - fbytries within their bounds. work

The PREFACE. vii work with great diligence. He became much admired for his public performan- ces ; and, as his heart was much let upon the acquifition of knowledge, he was very induftrious in reading. Hs was, indeed, the principal life of a fociety of minifters and candidates in thole parts, who, from time to time met, to fpend a day in ufe- ful converfation, and in communicating their fludies ; an excellent defign, and which was carried on for feveral years, not without con - fiderable fuccefs. HE was in great efleem, with the gentle- men of the firft rank in the neighbourhood. The vivacity of his fpirit, true wit, fo correted, as to be perfectly confluent with the gravity of his charaaer ; an exalt pu- rity of manners and good -breeding, recom- mended him to the belt company; and his abilities foon became the fubjet of ge- neral obfervation to his brethren in the mi- niftry. It may be truly Paid, that in the general fynod, which is a very large afI'o- ciation, there was no one more, or as much taken notice of. The greateft refpet was paid him from his firft appearances, as a perfon not only of very uncommon genius, a ¢ but

viii The PREFACE. but of admirable wifdom and difcretion, of perfet candor and great modefty. He foon became one of thofe, upon whom the fynod molt depended in the management of public affairs, and had a very large (hare in it. As a fpeaker, he was confidered as their greateft ornament : And it is very well known, that he maintained his character and efleem in thefe refpe&s, through the whole of that tedious courfe of debates, which afterwards fell in upon the point of chriflian liberty, even with thofe, who were the fierceft antagonifts to the caufe he efpoufed. i)li WHEN he had been nine years in Antrim, he received a call from the diffenting con- !'! gregation in Derry, who with great earneft- nefs follicited his removal thither. He was, indeed, fo generally admired, that it was natural, the molt confiderable congrega- tions fhould turn their eyes on him, in cafe of a vacancy : But this attempt was with- out fuccefs. He thought himfelf very hap- py in his fituation at Antrim, and that the great ends of his miniftry might be ferved as cffe livally there as any where elfe. He d loved his people, and had a pleafing pro- fpeli

The P REFACE. ix fpea of fuccefs among them. The gene- ral fynod, when this matter was debated be- fore them, determined his continuance at Antrim. SOON after this, in the year 1712, his wife, by whom he had a fon and three daughters, died, which made a very deep and lafting impreffion upon his mind : He loved her with the greateft tendernefs ; and, though he bore up under his grief with all. poffible decency, yet there were plain ap- pearances that it was exceedingly intenfe. For a confiderable time afterwards he chofe retirement from the world, as much as it was confiftent with the bufinefs of his fta- tion. But whatever he fuffered upon this occafion, it was abundantly cotnpenfated, by his apparent growth in knowledge and all virtuous improvements, the belt proof, that he knew how to receive affliétion, and make the proper ufe of it. HE has left behind him a diary of his life, which begins February, 171 z -13 ; it makes fix large volumes in quarto, very finall writing, and very clofe: It is indeed an amazing work ; the temper of his mind all along

The PREFACE. along reprefented with much exadtnefs ; the various events he met with, his reflections upon them, and his improvements of them : The whole bearing fuch charaâers of a reverence, and awe of the divine prefence upon his mind, of fimplicity and fincerity of fpirit, and the molt careful difcipline of the heart, that, how great foever his repu- tation in the world was, it (hews its real worth rather exceeded it. Tins diary begins with a review of his paft life, even from childhood, and a very careful examination of the prefent moral "late of his mind ; which takes up many pages, and is too long to be here inferted. But it difcovers a fpirit thoroughly fenfible of the importance of religion, fully con- vinced of the truth and divine authority of the religion of Chrift, and in calling him - felf to an account, not only impartial but Leyere. He fearches narrowly into his own defefs, and writes like one that wrote only for himfelf, laying open the inmoft of his heart. Then he confiders the true defrgn of chriftianity by the knowledge of which we are helped to a right underflanding of the terms of our acceptance with God. He obferves

The PREFACE. xi obferves that the very effence of faith by which chriftians are juftified, confifts in a full confent of foul to the gofpel, as con- taining the will of God for our falvation ; and in purfuance of that, a chearful and unreferved fubmiffion to the laws of it ; the tendency of all which is to purify the heart and life, to deliver men from the fpirit of this world, that is, from pride, covetouf- nefs and all corrupt delire ; to prepare them for the love of God, refignation to him, confidence and delight in him ; and for the performance of all good offices to others with undiffembled charity. He obferves that the gofpel is admirably adapted to an- fwer thefe ends, not only by the excellency of its laws, but by the love and mercy of God to mankind, and the love of our Sa- viour, declared in it; by the promifes of all neceffary divine aid, and of a happy im- mortality. Then he reprefents his own fentiments and temper with refpet to all thefe things, and towards the conclufion goes on thus ; " I have, after calling upon God, reviewed all that I have written " upon this inquiry ; I dare fay, in his " fight, that my foul approves the defign " of the gofpel, and heartily concurs with C'

xii the PREFACE. it. I can fay without diffimulation, after " the bleffed Pialmift, that 7 hate every " fa ye way. I dare no more commit fin in fecret, than if I were in the fight of " the whole world. The deformity of it " appears to my mind loathfome and abo- " minable, and the remaining moral infir- " mities of my foul, which no mortal but " myfelf can know, are my greatefl trouble. " I can fay, my heart is determined to the " love of God, and that I choofe the light of " his countenance above all things ; that I " love the worfhip of God as the eflablifh'd " method of maintaining fellowfhip with him; that it is habitually my aim to " ferve the true ends of religious worfhip; " c and tho' I often find reafon to complain of myfelf, yet I can fay, I am never eafy " or fatisfied with that fervice, in which I " do not find my foul raifed to a frame " force way fuitable to it, and to force fer- " vor of affeäion. And as charity is a " character of the true difciples of Chrift cc often fpoken of in fcripture, and largely " infifted on by our faviour, I think, I " can truly fay, that the image and like - cc nefs of God wherever it is found, with- " out regard to party, condition in the world,

The PREFACE. xiii " world, or any other confideration, is the `c object of my fincere affection ; my heart `C would be glad to do a good office to a cc difciple in the name of a difciple, and to cc do good, as I have opportunity, to all " mankind. What then upon the whole " Thal! I conclude? That, according to the " gofpel declarations, I am in a Rate of favour with God ? Yes, I will, and muff do it. Surely thefe are the genuine cha- ratters of it, according to the fcriptures. " Therefore condemning myfelf for mani- c' fold pall offences, and adoring the rich " mercy of God, I will fay to my foul, `c that I am the objeft of his approbation " and love." Concluding all with praifes and thankfgiving in moll affectionate ffrains, and with refolutions of conducting his life for the future fo as to pleafe and honour God : particularly with refpect to his bufinefs as a minifter, of the dignity and importance of which he expreffes a high fenfe, and great pleafure in it, with earneft defires that he may, by the afliftances of God's holy fpirit, be enabled to anfwer the true ends of that honourable fiation. IT

xiv The PREFACE. IT will, I am perfuaded, be agreeable to many readers, to have fome farther ac- count of this record of his life, and his progrefs in cultivating good affe ±ions, and correcting whatfoever appeared amifs. But the defign of this preface does not admit of following him through the particulars of this kind, which would fwell it to a very great bulk. All that can be expeled, is, a general view of the defigns which he purfued, and his great application to ferve them ; to which it will not be improper to fubjoin force few paffages which (ball be faithfully trgnfcribed, that the reader may be able to form a juft idea of his fpirit. There are indeed very many which there is no occafion to infert here, for they contain his reafonings with himfelf upon religious fubjeds, and thefe are to be found in his fermons, where they are fet in the belt light. THE difcipline of the heart, is the great bufinefs which he appears in the whole of this diary to have purfued. His inqui- ries upon particular occafions into his own infirmities and defeäs, are very frequent. He relates the workings of his paflions, thefe

The PREFACE. xv thofe efpecially, which he apprehended had the afcendant in his natural complexion and temper, and by which he was in the great - eft danger of being betrayed into errors in conduft, with much exaftnefs, and many ufeful refletions upon them; with great care applying himfelf to find out the deceit - fitlnefs of fin, and to difcover that falfe co- louring of principles and affe &ions, which frequently impofes upon the unthinking and partial, and under the cover of which, bad difpofitions and actions often fhelter them- felves, indeed are recommended as virtuous. And as he was at pains to fortify himfelf by all proper means, againfi whatfoever might endanger that exalt integrity which was the fubje& of his confiant attention and care, fo where he was confcious of having failed in any infl:ance, he does particularly record it, and his exercife of repentance for it. And where he had aced his part hap - pily, and approved himfelf to his own heart, this is likewife fet down with proper re- fledions for his encouragement and effa- blifhment in virtue. Never fure was there a fcene where the various workings of the human heart, and the proper difcipline of it, are more fully and affctingly difplay'd. He

xvi The PREFACE: He likewife frequently compares the prefent Rate of his mind, with what it was in times pall, carefully obf rving, whether he made advances in religion and virtue, or was falling beneath former attainments ; and, as he was for fome years labouring under fre- quent depreflion of fpirit, tho' concealed from the world, his confli is with imagi- nation, while it diftreffed him, and his rea- fonings with himfelf for his fupport and en- couragement, are all fet forth very partial-, larly. BUT there is nothing he attended to with greater exaanefs, than the manner and temper in which he performed the public fervices of religion. The examining of thefe ap- pears to have been part of his bufinefs every fabbath- evening ; and in the refleaions made upon fuch oscafions, the fimplicity of his fpirit in purfuing the true ends of religion+ and the miniftry, and his ardent zeal, do molt affefingly appear. He expreffes great difpleafure with himfelf, when vain or un- reafonable thoughts had infinuated them - felves fo, as to leffen or interrupt his atten- tion to divine things ; or when he had not thofe feelings of devout affeéion, and of love

The PREFACE. xvib love to, and concern for the flock to whom he miniftred, which he laboured above all things to preferve upon his mind. But he often reviews thefe fervices with great fatisfa Lion and pleafure, expreffing much joy in the exercife of the beft affections and confidence of divine acceptance. In one part of the diary he concludes his reflections with thefe words : " The great difference I " find in my mind, as to clearnefs and con- " fufion of thought, fometimes feized with " fwch languor and indifpofition, fuch ftu- " pidity and barrennefs, I can have no dif- " tinct perceptions, I cannot think with " any relifh ; at other times I find fuch " furprifing vigour and freedom of fpirit, fuch ftrongly affecting views of thofe " things, which before were covered with thick darknefs, and this attended with the greateít pleafure, that I feem to my- " felf quite another perfon ; this difference, " 'I fay, I cannot account for. I know not the dependance the foul has upon the " body, and how far the temper of the " one may be affected by the fiate of the " other ; but for the mind itfelf, furely `c fuch changes do not depend upon choice, VOL. I. b " or

xviii T h e P R E F A C E . " or an a61 of the will, here another caute " mull be acknowledged." BESIDES the daily fervices of the clofet, it appears from his diary, that he frequently Phut himfelf up the whole day, which he fpent in prayer, reading the fcriptures, and religious meditation. Thefe days he often marks, as very entertaining and ufeful to him ; and the exercifes of his mind, with refpel to the Elate of his own foul, that of his family, his congregation, and the pub- lic interefl, are all fet down, in which fuch a fpirit of piety and charity breathes, as is rarely to be met with. THE reader will, I believe, be pleafed with an account of the reafons of his fpend- ing fo much time in the fecret exercifes of devotion, in his own words, which are as follow: " I have refolved to fet apart this " day for the folemn exercifes of devotion; " not that I place religion in fuch things, " for certainly it confills in a conformity of the habitual difpofition of the mind to " the will of God, and an uniform tenor C` of converfation. When I was a child in e` religion (that is, beginning to be ferious) "'many

The PREFACE. xix " many a danger I was expofed to, particu- larly that of being impofed upon by a " warm imagination, laying too great ftrefs " upon what I accounted divine impreffions, " upon fervours and raptures in religion : " c This, I believe, fome young and unex- " perienced chriftians are apt to fall into ; " but true chriftianity confiffs in love to God, and charity to men, which is the " bond of perfèc`ln fr : It confifts in doing " juftly, and loving mercy ; in meeknefs " patience, and contentment. O ! my foul! " endeavour to grow in thefe virtues, that " is the fure way of pleafing God ; and it is effentially neceffary to real religion, that " a defign of pleafing God, be conflandy " and uniformly purfued; whenever that is " negle&ed, fincerity is loft. But I apply " myfelf to thefe exercifes, firft, becaufe " they are a noble employment of the mind, " moft worthy of its rational powers, tend - ing to their higheft perfedfion, and af- fording moft folid joy : Secondly, in fo- " lemn tranfalions with God, I may hope " for fuch a confirmation in virtuous fenti- ments and difpofitions ; and fuch advan- tages over worldly lufts, as may be of " great ufe to me in future life ; and this b 2 " hope

XX The PREFACE. C[ hope is juftified by experience. Thirdly, " I would lay ftrikter obligations upon my- " felf to greater watchfulnefs and caution " againft the fprings of error, and perplexi- " ty, and guilt, into which I have been " formerly milled, and my life rendered un- " comfortable." To all which it may be added, that to his converting fo much with himfelf, and thefe extraordinary labours in the clofet, were, no doubt, in a great meafure owing, not only the uncommon goodnefs of his fpi- rit, and the exalt regularity and ufefulnefs of his life ; but that intimate acquaintance with the human heart, and thofe amazing ftrains of reafoning, which appear in his fermons, which could be the effec`.t of no- thing but the clofet, application to thinking, and the moft careful attention to his own mind. BESIDES all this, he gives an account, in his diary, of feveral alterations of opi- nion in religious matters, and has been very particular in the reafons of them ; and upon what principles he embraced fotne opinions, contrary to what he had formerly received; and

The PREFACE. xxi and in feveral places fets down his reafon- ings upon the importance of various articles of faith, as they affect the chriftian life. One of thefe paffages concludes thus: My mind has been often difturbed about " fotne particular points of orthodoxy ; but I " am perfuaded, with that meafure of know- ledge God has given me (little, when compared with the attainments of others) " no miftake about the chriflian truth will cc deprive me of acceptance, unlefs, which u I. hope is not my cafe, it arifes from fel- " fifh iregular defires, oppofing the defign " of chriftianity itfelf: And the moft fub- " flantial enjoyment, conformable to the cc (cope of the gofpel, is that fincere fatis- " faction, which refults from a true difpo- fition, to fall in with it univerfally." IT has been already obferved, that his diary contains an account of all the impor- tant events that betel him, with his reflec- tions upon them ; his own refolutions and the principles upon which he founded them. In thefe things he has defcended very mi- nutely, and made many obfervations upon his own fchemes in life, and the many dif- appointments he met with, which tended b 3 to

xxii The PREFACE. to make his heart better, and to work in him a more finifhed refignation to the will of God. Upon occafion of a confiderable difappointment, he writes thus: " A dif- " paffionate temper of fpirit is that only " which will afford me folid peace. When " paffons of any kind prevail, they de- " prive me of comfort, they marr my beft " fervices to God; I go about my duty in " bitternefs, and the heat of my fpirit, " which I have fometimes lately found ; I " ought therefore to fummons all my power " to bear them down. Lord, af3iff me by the " f »irit of power, and of love, and of a " fund mind; and let me ever guard againft vain carnal thoughts, the delufive images " of pleafure, profit, or honour, and againft " difatisfaCtion with my prefent ftate ; all thefe tend to break in upon the fincerity " and tranquillity of my foul. Let me now " put the queflion ; what would I do, if " my circumf }ances were altered, according " to the imaginations that have often amufed me ? I anfwer to myfelf, I would apply myfelf chearfully to my bufineft, " as a chriftian and a minifler, ftudying higher degrees of knowledge, purity, " meeknefs, charity, and every thing vir- " tuous

CC « CC CC CC CC CL CC CC CC CC CC LC <C 6C The PREFACE. xxiii tuous and praife- worthy. But am I not deceiving myfelf in this ? I cannot vindi- cate myfelf from fuch delufion other- wife, than by promoting thofe ends now to the utmoft of my capacity. If I do not do it now to my utmoft, I fhould not do it then ; for a mere change in the out- ward Rate will never make the heart bet- ter. If I am impatient that things do not come to pafs according to my fond defire, and fanguine imaginations, that is my fin ; and if fuch impatience of fpirit diverts me from my duty, it is a certain indication of infincerity in my profcffion as a chriftian." To conclude this general account of his diary, there runs through it a tender fpirit of fympathy with his friends : Many of their diftreffes are particularly reprefented, and the feelings of his heart, on their account, which Phew a very delicate fenfibility in fuch matters, and made him always ready to do his utmoft for their fupport and relief. With fuch variety of matter, omitting no- thing that was of any importance, he car- ried on the hiftory of his life, which, tho' manifeftly intended for his own ufe only, b4 and

txìv The PREFACE. and therefore written with the greateft fini plicity, yet difcovers in every part of it much ferions thinking, as well as fevere felf- government. THE few paffages I have tranfcribed, in giving the reader this view of the defign of it, are in the firft or fecond volumes; I (hall now add fome of his meditations many years after. " UPON a defigned confederation of thofe " important fubje &s, the methods of di- vine providence towards me, my own " behaviour, what I ought to do, and how fupport myfelf under the calamities of " life, and the fears of death (and, for fuch confideration, I have a good opportunity cc this Lord's day, being detained from the Lc public affembly by fuch an indifpofition, as does not render me incapable of me- " ditating) a great many thoughts arife in " my heart. It is of the laft confequence, indeed the foundation of all religion, and " all comfort, to preferve right fentiments " concerning the Deity and his providence. " I have given my heart free leave to bring forth all its objections (and, they all turn upon

rc CC CC CC CC Cc CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC << CC (C CC (C (C CC The PREFACE. xxf upon this one point, that they feem to argue againft the wifdom and kindnefs of providence to me) for furely the prin- ciples of religion are not fuch, as to re- quire that any objeäions againft them fhould be Rifled, as being too ftrong. The fum of my deliberate thoughts, af- ter a ferious enquiry, are, that if in- deed the gratifications of fenfe, of ani- mal affeEtions and pallions, be the per - fe&ion and true end of life, I am not able to anfwer the objeltion; for, though it is certain, I have many good things from God (and, I am perfuaded, there is more of them, than evil in my lot; and, it may be, the enjoyments I would further defire, might be hurtful to life upon the whole) yet I cannot fay, that this amounts to a fatisfying anfwer. But taking life in another view, and confi- dering the human nature, as made for the purpofes of virtue and religion, and for the final fruition of God in a perfeft Rate, and the objeìion vanifhes, there is no force at all in it; for then it appears, that the main ends of my being are not ob- ftruded, but promoted rather, and ferved, by the very troubles and difappointments " çomplained

xxvi CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC « CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC CC 41 The PREFACE. complained of, as experience fully de- monftrates : But that this is a true prin- ciple, is apparent, from a fair view of all the powers, affections, and enjoyments of our nature, taken together ; for virtuous fentiments, and affections, and enjoyments, are fo deep wrought into our conftitu- tion, that it is impoßïble to efface them. To refit} and ftrive continually againft them, is to make ourfelves compleatly miferable ; whereas, to refift the other affections and pallions, affords inward fe- renity and peace ; fo that, upon the con- trary principle to that which I now af- fert, the human nature would be an un- accountable work of God, a heap of ab- furdities and contradictions, like the fha- dow of death, without any light or or- der. But this principle mutt lie at the bottom of all religion, and, I hope, I need not Bill be laying the foundation from it, as I am fatisfied concerning the difpenfations of divine providence toward me, fo I fee my own faults, which con- fit} principally in oppofing and thwarting it, fetting my heart on thofe things, as the principal bufinefs and fruitions of life which really are not fo; and, upon this sc wrong

CC CC cc CC CC 6C CC CC CC CC CC CC CC The PREFACE. xxvii wrong ground, conducting my pallions, imaginations, and endeavours : If this be my error, return, my foul, to the con- trary difpofition and practice from all thy projects and counfels, and conduct all thy affairs by this one principle, that re- ligious virtue is the true end, and the highe/t enjoyment of life ; fo (halt thou poffefs equanimity in all events ; fo fhalt thou enjoy thy own exiftence with com- fort ; fo (halt thou be able to fupprefs tumultuous defires, perplexing fears,, and difcouraging griefs, the fcandals, weak- nef es, vices, and torments of nature." IN another place, with refped to the chriftian religion, he writes thus ; " Many " are the objections that are raifed againft " chriflianity. Sometimes they are fiarted " in my mind very unfeafonably, and tend " to beget an indifference to, and a difielifh of the gofpel fcheme : This certainly " muft be got over, otherwife I can never " enter into chriftian exercifes with that " fpirit, and thofe affections, that become " me. Still, it muff be acknowledged that " fince it pleafed God to reveal his will to " men, he treats them as men; and allows " them

xvrll CC 4C [C CC CC CC CC CC « [[ Cl « « CC LC « CC 6C CC CC « CC [C (C GC « CC The PREFACE. them the free ufe of their underftanding in examining it, to diflinguifh between true and falfe, and to form a right judg- ment of what is contained in his word. But the foundations upon which I have received chriftianity always appear to my moft deliberate thoughts concerning them, firm and unfhaken. I am perfely fen - fible they have often appeared fo in the freeft exercife of all my rational powers, and in the greateft, moft difpaffionate ferenity of mind. This farther I am fure of, that my moft exalted fentiments of virtue and moral perfe&ion, I have been led into from a contemplation of the rules, views, and motives of the gofpel. And tho' there be fome reprefentations and forms of fpeaking hard to be ac- counted for, yet the moft important paints, particularly the nature of future rewards, as confifting in the perfeälion of virtue, are declared according to truth, and the nature of things. The defign of Chrift's coming into the world, his dying, rifing, afcending, into heaven, (not as darkened by mens explanations and hy- pothefes, but in the fimplicity in which thefe points are declared in the New CC l efla ent)

The PREFACE. xxi, eC Teftament) are amazing of eds of Phi- " lanthropy. And the gift of the holy " fpirit, as reprefented in the fcripture, fo " far from being any way fnocking and ab- " Turd, I own, it appears to me moft " worthy of God, and a moft beautiful . part of the fcheme. When all thefe " things are confidered, I am perfecly fa- " tisfied. I confent to the gofpel covenant. " I find the greateft prejudices againft it at " c bottom, arife from the vanity of my own " heart, and the depravity of my affections. s` I therefore willingly go again to the " knowledge of Chrift, that I may learn " virtue, and upon the fame foundation on " which I have begun, and by the fame " means, to carry on a war againft fin. My " irregular appetites, my felfifh paffions, have even of late been very vexatious, " and providence has interpofed very re- " markably to controul them. Let dif- " content, anger, the love of the things of " this world, pride, with ail fantaftic and " unnatural affections, be hated and " oppofed. And as I am weak, Lord, " ftrengthen me by thy holy fpirit, that fo " the vigour of my mind may be preferved, " and I may every day, and by the con- " tinued

XXX The PREFACE. " tinued ufe of prayer, meditation, and IC every ordinance of God, be afpiring to " integrity. If I be thus feeking glory and " immortality, eternal life (for what is eter- " nal life, what is heaven, but the integrity and perfection of nature ?) is mine. And " how little ought this world to feem in " my account ? How little fhould I regard " men and their behaviour towards me ? 0 that the bleffed Jefus were more in my " efteem, and I endeavouring to walk even " as he walked. I repent of my former " follies, and I turn to the Lord with all " my heart. (L (C (( (C AGAIN, " God has not framed the human nature fo as to be neceffarily mife- rable. Nay, fuch is our conflitution, that the greateft comfort, the nobieft enjoy- ment, arifes from our acting agreeably to it. That is, from doing conftantly, and uniformly, what our minds approve. One would think, now, here is an eafy and ready way to be happy. But indeed the doing our duty, acting a reafonable part, conforming our practice to the deliberate fentiments which are the refuit of an im- partial inquiry, is rendered difficult by " our

The PREFACE. xxxi " our vehement appetites and tumultuous " paffions, which darken the mind, per - " Alex its counfels, diílipate its vigour, and, as I often find by experience, pre- " cipitate men into a ra_fh and finful conduct. " Yet I find no neceflîty laid upon me to be hurrid in that manner, and driven by the brutal impulfe of the mechanical " part of nature. It is in an unhappy cc choice, and in the prevalence of corrupt " affeftions, that the guilt confiffs. How " wonderfully is the glorious gofpel fuited " to this excellent defign of railing the " mind above all fervitude to appetites and " paffions, and of giving life and fpirit in " the performance of duty ? There is the " promife of pardon to be the foundation " of our dutiful return to God, when we " are confcious of having offended him. There is a promife that fin (hall not have dominion. The affiflance of the holy " fpirit is offered. Virtue is recommended " by a plain and eafily intelligible law, en- forced by a very powerful fandion. I cc do, therefore, betake myfelf to the re- " medy the gofpel has provided for me; I lay hold of the great falvation. I have " indeed for many years profeífed to do fo ; " but

xxxii The P R E F A C E. " but have not made the progrefs might have been expeEted over fin. I therefore " bemoan myfelf, but what fhall I do ? I " muft renew my application to the grace of " Chrift. I confent to the gofpel covenant engaging myfelf, anew, in the ftrength of God to perform all the duties it re- " quires, and to oppofe all fin, thofe fine " efpecially, which I have found warring " againft my own foul. And, O ! my " foul, return to thy reft, to a quiet refignation to the will of God, to a firm confidence in him, and a cheerful acquiefcence in his " providence, return to meeknefs,, purity, and charity. Tnrs is all that I fhall tranfcribe from the diary, excepting what is neceffary to give the reader a juft view of Mr. Abernethy's reafonings with himfelf upon fome important turns of life, and the principles upon which his refolutions were founded. To proceed with the account of his life. His behaviour as the head of a family, was, in all refpeks, exemplary. Befides the daily regular worfhip of God in it (a matter in which he was very exact himfelf, and which It

The P R E P A C E. xxxiii Which with the greateft zeal he recommend- ed to others, accounting it one great caufe of the decay of religion, fo juflly complain- ed of in the prefent age, that family wor- íhip was fo much negleded) he let a part a day, from time to time, feveral hours of which he fpent with his family, inflruding his children and fervants, and praying with them. And he had the teflimony of all in his horde, and of all the neighbourhood, to the great meeknefs of his fpirit, the even- nefs of his temper, and a generous affe titi onate care of all that were under his roof. IT may be reckoned amongft his more private labours, that every fortnight, for feveral years, 'he fpent a day with the mem= bers of his feffion, or (as it is fometirnes called) confflory, and as many of the prin- cipal perfons in the congregation, as were difpof:d to attend fuch fervice, in prayer and converfation upon ufeful fubjec`ís. Many of thefe have fpoken frequently of it fence, as what was of great advantage to them. Several points in chriflianity, which are lefs obvious to the unlearned, were freely dif= courfed upon, and every man had oppor trinity of propofing his difficulties. But the Vo rw. L conver.

xxxiv The P R .E F 11 C E. converfation always turned principally upon matters relating to practice, and which might tend to edification. IN the public fervice he followed the rules then ufually obferved in the north ; Ex- pounding fome portion of fcripture, and preaching twice every Lord's day. On wednefday he always preached a fermon after which he fpent fome time in converting with the members of the feffion, about the Rate of the congregation ; and inquiring into any public fcandals, which were laid before them, according to the rules of dif- cipline obferved amongft the Diffenters, in which he was very exact. IN the year 1716, in purfuance of a project which had been long in his thoughts, he applied himfelf to labour among the na- tive Ir «h, in the neighbourhood of Antrim, who were (almoft univerfally) of the popifh perfuafion, to try if their prejudices would be removed, and they might be brought to embrace the proteftant religion. His heart was very much fet upon the execution of this defign; and for a confiderable time he managed it alone. He went frequently to Lough-

The PREFACE. xxxw Laughfide, a place in the neighbourhood, where the greateft numbers of them lived ; invited them to public lectures, which were appointed in the moil: convenient places. for their attendance ; went from houle to houle among them, and where they would ad- mit of it, converted freely with them, la- bouring to convince them of their errors, When he had continued in this courfe fome time, he had fuch encouragement from their attendance upon public worfhip, and the good impreffions made upon tome of them, that he defired the affiftance of the minifters of the neighbourhood in carrying on the de- fign, and with their help continued this at- tempt for a confiderable time. Sermons were frequently preached, and much time fpent in private converfation with the frith. There is nothing more frequently taken notice of in his diary than this affair, which he often very warmly and affeEtionately recommends to the divine care and bleffing. Nor did he ever exprefs greater zeal in any thing, than propagating the true proteflant principles, and delivering men from papal, and all other ecciefraftical tyranny, together with the un- happy prejudices on the one hand, and en- fnaring arts on the other, by which it is c 2 fuppor ted.

The P REFACE. fupported. His labours among the Ir) were not without fuccefs. Several were prevailed upon and embraced the proteftant religion. Some of thefe did indeed return to the pro- feflion of popery ; others continued firm to proteftant principles, and gave good evidence of being fincerely religious. IT will appear to the reader from the accounts already given, that Mr. Abernethy was a perfon of unwearied application and diligence. But no one who was not well acquainted with him, could imagine how little time he loft. It appears from his diary, that he very particularly knew the Rate and charmer of thofe who were under his paftoral care. They had always ready ac- cefs to him. He carefully vifited the fick; and his people had fo high an opinion of his wifdom, that in all difficulties and per- plexing cafes, he was their refuge. He was ready with a molt friendly fpirit to afìiift in their counfels, and had a very uncommon dexterity in conduEling aft-airs. He thought it not beneath him to ferve the meaneft of them, when he had an opportunity of doing good. From this it will be readily conclud- ed

The P R E F A C E. xxxvii ed that he gave much of his time to his people. IT is likewife known, that he had, very early in life, a large fhare in the manage- ment of the public affairs and bufinefs of the diffenters, and was obliged to be fre- quently abroad upon that account. His confiant attendance at the Elated meetings of his brethren took up much time; and, if any thing happened extraordinary that concerned the public interefl, he was al- ways celled upon as one, upon whofe dif- cretion in counfel, and diligence in execu- tion, his brethren had an intire depen- dance. And it will appear, from the ac- count to be given immediately, that his engagements and bufinefs of this kind mull be fuppofed greatly to increafe, when the debates concerning the power of the church, and chriflian liberty, were brought into the fynod. He was always looked upon as at the head of that party, which efpoufed the caufe of liberty, and had a principal fhare in conducing the counfels of his friends, with refpell to the public debates : In the bufinefs of their private focieties, he la- boured with great diligence, wrote many c 3 papers

xxsviii The PREFACE. papers himfelf upon the controverted points, feveral of which were publifhed, and af- fifted in thofe which were publifhed by his friends. BUT befides all this, he made very great progrefs in learning : The reader will per- ceive, from the account of his education already given, that he was too much haf- tened in it; but he laboured afterwards with fuch application, that there were few branches of learning, to which he could be called a ftranger. He had a tafte for the claffics, and underftood them ; and ufed to recommend the Rudy of them very warm- ly to young candidates. He had carefully read the heft fyftematical writers in divini- ty, and was fkilful in their controverfies. He was well acquainted with church hif- tory; underftood the modern improvements in philofophy, and was not a firanger to the various hypothefes of the antients. He was thoroughly verfed in the principles of na- tural religion and morality, and had made the principal authors, both antient and mo- dern, upon thefe arguments, perfectly fami- liar to him : His knowledge in thefe mat- ters belt appears, from the fermons he pub - lifhed

The PREFACE. xxxix liihed upon the divine attributes, which have been fo well received in the learned world, that it is unneceffary to fay any thing concerning them. BUT above all things, he applied himfelf to the ftudy of the holy fcriptures ; his thorough acquaintance with which, the reader will fee in the perufal of his fer- mons : No man could be more happy in pertinent quotations from them; or in explaining the more difficult and contro- verted paffages, comparing texts together, and calling' light upon them, by reafoning from the undoubted principles of religion, in which he had a great dexterity. Bur while he was thus employed in the north, and had acquired a very high repu- tation, he was, in the year 17i7, invited by the congregation of proteflant diffenters at Ufher's Quay in Dublin, to be their paf- tor, in conjunction with the late reverend Mr. Arbuckle, then their foie paftor. This affair gave him much trouble. He had con - traaed a very great affection for his people in Antrim, and had teen his labours among them fuccefsfnl. He highly efteemed the e 4 fociety

T h e PREFACE. R fociety of minifters in that neighbourhood, and was inexprefiibly dear to them : It was his own opinion, that he was capable of ferving the great purpofes of chriflianity, and of the diffenting intereft in Antrim, as effefually as he could in any other fitua- tion ; and thought it extremely hard, that any minifter fhould be removed by mere dint of the authority of a fynod, contrary to the judgment of his own mind. The affair was long depending, and took feveral turns, but at the laft came, to a decifion by the get neral fynod, in f 718. AT that time the congregation in Bel.. fa/I, ufually called the Old Congregation, wanted a minifter; the reverend Mr. yohn Macbride, their paftor, was then in a de- clining Rate, and unable to go through the minifterial fervices ; fo that congregation, while the affair of Ufher's Quay was de- pending, invited Mr. Abernethy : And many imagined, that, if he was obliged to leave .Antrim, it would be more agreeable to him to fix in Belfafi than Dublin ; and fome thought it would be more ferviceable to the common interel. The general fynod, af- ter

The PREFACE. xli ter a long debate among the parties, one for his going to Dublin, another for Befà/l, and a third for his remaining at Antrim, came to a determination in favour of the firit. MR. ABERNETHY now found hirn- felf in a good deal of perplexity ; lie was exceedingly dear to the congregation of An- trim, and they to him : His own judg- ment was, that his removal was like to be hurtful, rather than ferviceable to the public intercft of the difenters : At the fame time a great regard had been always fhown to fynodical decifions ; and there was appa- rent danger of incurring great inconvenien- cies, by adling in dired contradiftion to them. The fynod had appointed his remo- val to Dublin in three months ; during this time, he had frequent confultations with his friends : Many urged him to comply with the fynod, and had frightful appre- henfions of the confequences of fuch an ad of difobedience to their authority, as his continuing at Antrim muft be. That autho- rity had been generally efl-eemed indifpu- table, and any thing that was like to wea- ken, much more to bring it into contempt, was 4

xlii The PREFACE. was look'd upon with great jealoufy : Others convinced that the part the fynod had a fed, was an unjuft flretch of power, were clear for his following his own judgment in the difpofal of himfelf. The refult of his coun- fels was, to determine nothing finally for the prefent, and to Phew fo much refpef to the fynodical decifion, as to pay a vifit to the congregation of giber's Quay, and flay three months with them, that he might have a full view of the Efate of things in Dublin, and come to a conclufion in his own mind, upon the befl and moll im- partial inquiry he could make. In purfu- ance of this refolution he went to Dublin, and, after three months flay, returned to Antrim, with a fixed refolution of conti- nuing there. As this was the moll remark- able inflánce, in which the power of the general fynod was refifted, fo he faw it ne- ceffary, that he fhould be thoroughly fatis- fied concerning the grounds upon which he went into a meafure, to the generality fo very unpopular, to many provoking, and, in the account of fome, direftly criminal. Many of his reafonings with himfelf upon this fubjec`t, are written in his diary, in which, after comparing the arguments for and

The PREFACE. xliii and againft his removal, and balancing all things that could be fuggefted, he concludes thus : " I have all the encouragement I can " well expeét, in the prefent ftate of the " churches, to continue where I am ; I la- " bour among an affe ±ionate .people, and " not without hope of fuccefs : I am per- " fe&ly fatisfied, God has bleffed me in my " miniftrations here : I have work enough, " and that of the molt public nature; I can attend any where : My much efteemed " brethren in the neighbourhood, who have " the intereft of the gofpel, and the caufe of CC chriftian liberty at heart, prefs my continu- " ance among them, to join in the happy " work in which they are engaged ; and, I C` am convinced, that in this church parti- " cularly, and at this time, it both needs, and is worthy of all the aífiftance I can " give. Thefe arguments prevail, and the " main force of the other (viz, for his re= moval) depends upon fervile notions of t[ ecclefiaftical power, which are attended cc with confufion and fear, but without light, and they deftroy a rational choice. It is my prefent deliberate and full per- " fuafion, that no fynod has any fuch power, " as that of removing a minifter from place "

xliv C6 CC CC CC CC CC CC CC The PREFACE. to place without his own confent; and I believe, I ought to make a Rand againfl any fuch claim. But, O ! that I may carry with a becoming modefty, and dif- truft of my own judgment, fuch as may keep me always open to conviftion, and the Lord reclaim me when I go affray." THE mention made in this paffage of the caufe of chriftian liberty, naturally leads to fome account of the part Mr. Abernethy ailed in the long continued debates con- cerning it in the north, which produced ef- feEts, at firft not at all thought of by the contending parties. HE had very early in life difcovered, and been very fenfible of the pernicious tenden- cies of a party fpirit in matters of religion, and of the tyrannical exercife of ecclefiaíli- cal power, in what form or conflitution foever it obtained: He had all along fet himfelf againft this ; and was, when he had opportunity, either in the public miniftra' tions, or in private, very zealous in recom- mending chriftian charity : This evidently appeared to be a favourite fubje t of dif- çQurfe