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salvation, without deviating for once from that ordinary course of instruction, and addressing my younger hearers especially on some of the proofs and evidences of that faith, which it has been promised for them, which it is expected from them, that they should receive and practise. Of course from the pulpit they can only receive some of the most summary and compendious of the demonstrations, which are afforded, of those truths, which are most surely believed among us. But the train of reasoning, into which they may thus be led, may stimulate further inquiry, besides perhaps suggesting some proofs and evidences, which might not otherwise be presented to them. I therefore propose for some Sundays to come to offer you a more systematic and progressive course of instruction, first on the evidences, and then on the nature of our religion. To these discourses I invite the attention of you all, but particularly of my younger hearers, begging their guardians and regular instructors, as they value the sacred charge, committed to them, to second my endeavours by making what I shall say a thesis for subsequent examination, that
so, if possible, every child in this congregation may have his mind engaged, first in determining, that the christian religion is true, secondly in ascertaining what it teaches and requires, and lastly in inquiring, what share he himself has in its blessings, responsibilities, and promises. For the course, on which we are about to enter, will comprehend, first, the proof of the being of a God, and of the truth of the christian revelation, secondly, an epitome of that revelation itself, as comprised in the original righteousness of our nature, in its subsequent corruption through the fall, in the method of justification and sanctification, now remaining to us, and the hope of glory, set before us, and lastly, a practical application of the various conclusions, to which the inquiry may lead us. These subjects will all be treated elementarily. But, as I shall proceed every morning and evening till the close of them, I would remind those, who would really accompany me through this whole field of investigation, of the absolute necessity of being present both parts of the day, as well as of the importance of making some short abstract of the different points in discussion, for, the sake of easier reference and examination.
And you, to whom most of these truths are familiar, think not lightly of such a review even of the first elements of our faith! You have heard this day, how possible it is even for some, who have made proficiency in christian hope and practice, to be tempted to unbelief and apostasy and the text reminds you of the duty of being always ready, not for your own sake only, but for that of others, with a reason of the hope, that is in you. On the necessity of being well grounded in these reasons of our hope I have still more to say to you in the evening, when I shall have some distinctions to make, suited to the different conditions of human life, with their varying capacities, opportunities, and duties: and then on Sunday next, by the divine blessing, I shall begin the proposed inquiry by a brief sketch of some of the clearest and most obvious proofs of the existence and attributes of that being, in whose name and by whose power we are now gathered together. May his blessing be with us! May he give us a good hope through grace! May he establish us in every good word and work! and to him be all glory for ever!
1 Peter iii. 15.
Be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh you a reason of the hope, that is in you, with meekness and fear.
It was observed in the morning, that the readiness, injoined in the text, not only a readiness to give an answer, but included also a readiness to suffer for the name of Jesus: for the readiness to give an answer was in those days chiefly called into exercise by the sword of persecution. A poor Christian was suddenly summoned before a magistrate, to account for his faith. He was required either to blaspheme his saviour, or to sacrifice to idols; and, if he refused to do
either, he was commonly condemned to suffer death. But in refusing this demand it became him, as saint Peter here reminds him, to give a reasonable answer concerning the hope, that was in him, and to give it moreover with modesty, with meekness and fear, as a person, who had no confidence in himself, but relied for courage and constancy as well as for comfort on the power and faithfulness of his saviour.
But in order to give this answer according to the instruction of the apostle, it was necessary to have a reason to assign; and moreover previously to assigning any reason, it was necessary to have a hope in Christ: and therefore we in the first place inquired, what this hope implies. It implies first a hope of salvation, or of entire conformity to the will of our Maker, and secondly a hope of glory, or of that blessedness, which is inseparably annexed to such conformity. This is the hope, which every true Christian cherishes, and which he relies on Jesus Christ alone to accomplish.
It was observed therefore in the second