DEAR AND WELL-BELOVED FRIEND,
As thou art in thyself a rare jewel, a most precious stone, one of a thousand, yea, of ten thousand, being compared with the many thousands of common stones, I mean, external professors in the visible church, who rest on a bare name, and of whom that is verified in every nation, which our Saviour saith, Matth. xx.16. "Many are called, but few are chosen;" and of many of whom that is also too true in every generation, (and, oh! that it were not too manifest in this also,) which Paul observed in his time, Phil. iii.18, 19. "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things," -- and as to Christ thy Lord, most comely "as the lily among thorns," being his "love among the daughters," Cant. ii.2. so also, thou, in a special way, art the dearly beloved and longed for, the joy and crown, of every sincere servant of Christ in the gospel, Phil. iv.1. Thou art, if not the only, yet the chief object of their labours, their work being either to confirm and strengthen thee in thy way, that thou mayest so stand fast in the Lord, or remove impediments, make crooked things straight, and so prepare the way of the Lord before thee, or to guide thee by the light of God's word in the dark night of temptation and desertion. Now, as we are confident these sermons were preached at first by that blessed, serious labourer in the work of the ministry, Mr. Hugh Binning, with a special eye to the advancement of sincere seekers after fellowship with God, and seriously heaven-ward-tending Christians amongst his hearers, so to whom shall we direct this posthumous, and alas! unperfected work, but to thee, (O serious Christian,) who makest it thy work not only to seek after the knowledge of God in Christ, in a mere speculative way, that thou mayest know, and therein rest, as if thy work were done, but also to follow after the enjoyment of that known God, and believed on Saviour, and all the promised privileges of grace in this life, and of eternal glory in the life to come. To thee especially belong these precious soul-ravishing truths delivered in these sermons. Two things, we know, thou hast determined thy soul unto, and fixed thine eye on, as thine aim and mark in thy generation, viz. the light of knowledge and the life of practice. As to knowledge, we are confident that with the apostle Paul, 1 Cor. ii.2. thou hast determined to know nothing but "Christ, and him crucified;" and as to practice, with the said apostle thou prayest, that thou mayest be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory of God, Phil. i.10, 11; and that thou mayest be blameless and harmless, the son of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, shining as a light in the world, Phil. ii.15. Now in reading these sermons thou shalt perceive, that to help thee in both these, hath been the very scope and design of this serious preacher. Desirest thou to know Jesus Christ the Lord of life, either according to his eternal subsistence in the infinite understanding of the Father, as God, or as to his appearance in the flesh, as Man, or fitness as Mediator, to reconcile thee to God his Father, both in respect of willingness and ability to save? Then here thou shalt behold him delineate to the life. Wouldst thou be clearly informed anent(220) the only true and sure foundation of fellowship with God, the way of entertaining it, the honour or happiness of it, and sweet fruits of it, that fulness of joy that accompanies it? Here shalt thou find so clear a light as shall rejoice thy soul. Wouldst thou be fortified against the incursions and recursions of sin and Satan? Then come to this magazine, and be furnished abundantly. Desirest thou to have thy soul increased in the love of God, and to see manifest demonstrations of his love in Christ to thee? Oh! then turn in hither, and get satisfaction to thy soul's desires. If thou desirest with David, to hate sin with a perfect hatred, here, if any where, thou shalt obtain thy desire. Yet let none think that we limit the benefit and usefulness of these sermons to serious Christians only, and so by consequence exclude all others from any hope of soul-advantage in reading them. Nay, we declare, that though it be undeniable, that John did write this epistle with a special respect to the spiritual advantage of serious Christians, and that this holy preacher also had this same design, yet we dare be bold to invite all of what degree soever, to the serious perusing of them, assuring them that in so doing they shall not find their labour in vain in the Lord, for here are such pregnant demonstrations of a Deity, infinite, eternal, omnipotent, incomprehensible, governing all things by the word of his power, as may dash the boldness of the most metaphysical, notional, or profanely practical atheist, and with conviction of spirit make him cry out, as in Psal. lxxiii.22. "So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee!" Here are such clear discoveries of the vileness of sin, of its direct opposition to a holy God, and his most holy will, of its woful soul-damning effects, as may convince the most profane and stout-hearted carnalist, and awake him out of his soul-destroying sleep of security and presumption. Here are so glorious evidences of God's free and inconceivable love to the world, in Christ Jesus the Son of his love, as are able to enlighten with the light of consolation, the sadliest dejected and casten down soul, under the apprehension of the curse and wrath of God due to it for sin, and raise it up to the hope of mercy in and through so clearly a revealed Saviour. In a word, here are to be found convictions for atheists, piercing rebukes to the profane, clear instructions to the ignorant, milk to babes in Christ, strong meat for the strong, strength to the weak, quickening and reviving for such as faint in the way, restoratives for such as are in a decay, reclamations and loud oyeses(221) after backsliders to reveal them, breasts of consolations for Zion's mourners, whether under the first convictions of the law, and pangs of the new birth, or under the challenges and compunctions of heart for recidivations and relapses after conversion, even while they are groaning under the power and burden of the body of death, Rom. vii. And to add no more, here are most excellent counsels and directions to serious seekers of fellowship with God, to guide them in their way, and help them forward to the attainment of that fulness of a joy which is to be had in fellowship with the Father and the Son. That the Lord may bless all such to whose hands these sermons shall come, with blessings suitable to their soul's condition, especially the serious Christian, for whose soul's furtherance and advancement these sermons were first penned, and now printed, is the most affectionate desire of,
Thy servant in the gospel of our dearest Lord and Saviour, A. S.