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To my beloved Brethren and Friends assembling at Providence Chapel, Gray’s-Inn Lane, and in sundry other places,
Wishing you much of the presence of Him, who is the
Lord's saving health among all nations, the chiefest among ten thousand, whose mouth is most sweet, yea he is altogether lovely,
When the apostle Paul arrived at Athens, it is said, that “his spirit was stirred in bim, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry,” Acts xvii. 16. And so given up to the love of idols were the people, that, lest any one should fail of being respected by them, they dedicated one altar " to the unknown God;” intimating that, if there was any other besides those of whom they had a knowledge, this inscription would include him also. A sight of their superstition and falsehood had such an effect upon the apostle, that “his spirit was stirred:” he felt such a zeal for God, such tenderness and toncern for his honour and cause in the world, that directly he began, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, that spring of living water in his soul, to oppose truth to falsehood, and the true God 10 idols. “Whom therefore ye ignorantiy worship, hiin declare I unto you ;" Acts xvii. 23. And he kept on at this good work, in this and other places, with such success, that at Ephesus, it is said, “ many that believed came and confessed, and shewed their deeds; many also of them which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men : and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver,” (about fifteen hundred and sixty two pounds ten shillings of our money); “sQ mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed;" Acts xix. 18—20. And, if every thing that obtains a place in our affections, that opposes Christ, or is contrary to him, that robs him of his glory, and dishonours his blessed name, is a rival, and therefore an idol, as assuredly it is, for a covetous man is called “an idolater,” Eph. v. 5; and if every one that trusts in his own righteousness and rejects Christ's, or in any thing of which he is not the sum and substance, are idolaters also, as much so in God's sight as any that bowed the knee to Baal, or kissed the calves that Jeroboam set up at Bethel and Dan; then the number of idols in our days, and their worshippers and admirers, are not far short of those in Paul's time, as may generally be imagined.
: The superficial experience and profession of our church state are notorious; and every destructive error that has disgraced the profession of men is to be found amongst us, openly proclaimed and propagated by men of the most bold, hardened, and awfully presumptuous spirits, that is possible I believe for the adversary of souls to furnish them with. And, when those that do know, love, and fear God, are led seriously to consider the present low estate of the church, that it is with us almost as when a standard-bearer fainteth, Isaiah x. 18; the awful departure from the faith of Christ, and the truth as it is in him; there being so few ministers of the Spirit who experimentally preach Christ crucified, called a standard that the Holy Spirit lifts up, or testifies of, in the souls of the saints, when Satan's temptations, evil suggestions, and the heresies of which he is the author come in like a flood, ready to carry all before them, and by which he is put to flight, Isai. lix. 19; so few to exalt the Root of Jesse, which in our nature stands for an ensign of the people, called also the Rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch that grew out of his roots, as his human nature did; and to unfold and display the banner of eternal love with all the saving blessings and benefits that attend it, and which are all treasured up in, and communicated from his inexhaustible fulness; to whom all the elect among us Gentiles are to seek, and all such seekers do find his rest to be glorious, Isai. xi. 10, 11; Song ii. 4; Psalm lx. 4; when there are so few girded with truth as a shield and buckler, to oppose the torrent of false experience and false doctrines, that have almost deluged the land ;-I say these considerations, exclusive of a variety more that might be urged, ought to be sufficient to impress the ininds of the children of God with a becoming zeal for his honour, his cause, ånd interest; and, according to their several ability, (and the power, presence, and blessing of God shall ever be found to attend them in their labours) to stand forth to circulate and defend the gospel of Christ to the utmost of their power; “ For they that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits,” in the worst of times.
Two passages of scripture enforce, upon all such as are fed with experimental knowledge, and spiritual understanding, what they should attend to; and may the Master of Assemblies fasten them as nails or as goads in all their hearts ! First, It is called a strife; “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; that whether I come to see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel ;" Phil. i. 27. Intimating, that many heretics and hypocrites will attempt to seduce and draw us away from the truth and simplicity of the gospel of Christ. Secondly, It is compared to a severe contention between two parties, each mustering up all the strength that he is in possession of; something similar to that
the gospel ise be ab