FIFTY-TWO PLAIN AND SHORT DISCOURSES
PRINCIPAL DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL: INTENDED FOR THE USE OF FAMILIES, SUNDAY SCHOOLS, OR COMPANIES ASSEMBLED FOR, RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION IN COUNTRY VILLAGES.
REV. GEORGE BURDER.
Come, let us go forth into the field; let us lodge in the villages." SONG OF SOLOMON
The following Sermons are intended, primarily, for the use of those pious and zealous persons who, pitying the deplorable ignorance of their poor neighbours, are accustomed to go into country villages to instruct them; a practice which, though but lately adopted, bids fair to produce the most substantial and extensive advantages. A scarcity of discourses, exactly fitted for this benevolent purpose, has been justly complained of; for though there are hundreds of admirable sermons extant, yet as most of them were originally calculated to edify intelligent and well-informed congregations, and were published on account of some superior elegance in style or composition, they are ill suited to the instruction of a rustic and untaught people. This has induced the Author to attempt a few Village Sermons,—very plain and short, yet on the most interesting subjects, and with frequent appeals to the conscience.
These discourses maybe useful to families, especially those who cannot procure more expensive volumes. Serious masters may permit them to be laid in the kitchen for the use of the servants. The Teachers of Sunday Schools, especially where the means of grace are not enjoyed, may, perhaps, think proper to read them to the children. And, as each Sermon is printed independent of the rest, and may be readily separated, generous Christians may have opportunity to distribute among their tenants, workmen, or servants, a number of religious tracts, at a very small expense, adapting the subject to the particular object of their charity.
The Author begs leave to suggest, that after a Sermon has been read in a Village, it may be expedient to leave copies of it, or one at least, with the people, that by a second reading, in private, the important truth, that was publicly recommended to their attention, may be better understood, and more deeply considered.
In several different Sermons, some of the same sentiments may be observed to occur; this the Author was not anxious to avoid, because he judged that the persons, whose profit he had in view, needed to have "line upon line, and precept upon precept." Happy will he be if, by the perusal of them any of his fellow men "be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God;" to whose blessing the following pages are committed.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND VOLUME.
The rapid sale of the first volume excites hopes in the Author's breast, that his labours have not been in vain in the Lord. He takes this opportunity of expressing his thankfulness to God, and his obligations to the candour of the public. It gives him sensible pleasure to think that so many serious Christians are employed, from day to day, in the instruction of their neighbours, by reading these and other sermons to them; and he hopes that private individuals and families may reap spiritual advantage from perusing them. The favourable reception of the former Volume, together with the request of several respected friends, and the hope of further usefulness, have induced him to publish twelve more Discourses. They are all upon very important subjects; the first is addressed to Children, and the last is intended as a check to infidelity. They are a little longer than the former Sermons, several persons having complained that they were too short. May a gracious God vouchsafe his blessing.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THE THIRD VOLUME.
It was far from the Author's intention to publish so many of these very plain discourses; but he can truly say, they have been called for by the importunity of his friends and the public. He has therefore pursued this work with delight, judging "that nothing which looks like a call of Providence, directing to an opportunity of doing good to the souls of men, should be neglected."
These sermons having proved as acceptable as the former, he has been induced to attempt another volume, containing sixteen more; making in the whole, fifty-two —a sermon for every Sunday in the year.
TO THE FOURTH VOLUME.
A desire to encourage and facilitate the laudable practice of reading Sermons to the uninstructed poor of country villages, gave occasion to the publication of the first volume of these plain discourses; and the very favourable manner in which they were received by the public, induced the author to compose a second, and afterwards a third volume of the similar kind. These also proving acceptable, he was desirous of perfecting the work, by the addition of sixteen sermons more, that those charitable persons who are in the habit of reading them in the villages, or the heads of families who read them at home, might be furnished with a complete set, or one sermon for every Sunday in the year.
Through the good hand of my God upon me, I have been spared to finish this work; and I desire to close it with my grateful acknowledgements to Him, for the facility and pleasure with which he has enabled me to perform it; for the kind encouragement I have received from many valuable ministers and friends to proceed with it; for the satisfaction I feel in reflecting, that even in these degenerate days, there are thousands among us who respect the doctrines of the gospel, though presented to them in the simplest garb; for the intimation of some good already done by these sermons; and for the humble hope, that when the author can no longer employ his tongue or his pen for Christ, they may continue to be useful to the next generation.
To render this volume more generally serviceable, I have added some discourses on the nativity of Christ— on his Death and Resurrection—and on the Descent of the Holy Spirit. In these I had a view to the edification of those Christians who thought proper to notice such subjects at the seasons appropriated to them; for in this matter I would be regulated by the advice of St. Paul—"He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord, and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it." In these sermons, I have endeavoured to suggest such hints as may tend to prevent the common abuse of Holidays, as they are called, and to show how they ought to be sanctified by those who observe them.
I thought it necessary also to add some sermons purely of a practical nature, (though I trust I have uniformly endeavoured to treat all the doctrines of grace practically.) But I have given some discourses particularly on the Christian Temper and the Christian Walk; for I look upon holiness as an essential part of Christ's salvation, and apprehend that the dispositions and duties of believers deserve a place in our ministry, as well as the peculiar doctrines and privileges of the gospel. And I am sorry there should be any advocates for the truth who are so ill-informed, or so ill-disposed, as to wish to separate what God has joined, or to treat the faithful preaching of practical religion as "legal, low, or Arminian stuff." This is that evil long ago complained of by the great and good Dr. Owen. "This objection," saith he, "we must expect to meet at every turn. Men will not believe there is a consistency between God's effectual grace and our diligent obedience."—"A command, they suppose, bears no room for a promise; and a promise, they think, takes off the influencing authority of a command. If holiness be our duty, there is no room for grace; and if it be an effect of grace, there is no place for duty. But all these arguings are a fruit of the wisdom of the flesh; the wisdom that is from above teacheth us other things. It is true, that works and grace are opposed in the matter of justification; but our duty and God's grace are no where opposed in the matter of sanctification, for the one supposes the other. Neither can we perform our duty herein without the grace of God; nor does God give us his grace to any other end than that we may rightly perform our duty. He who denies either that God commands us to be holy in a way of duty, or promises to work holiness in us in a way of grace, may with as much modesty reject the whole Bible."
To the condescending blessing of the great Head of the Church, the "author and finisher of our faith," these plain Sermons are now committed. To Him, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, be glory in all the churches, world without end. Amen.
Coventry, January 1, 1800.