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[125] mentioned without tears; for some of them were the dearest members of your families, and your nearest connexions; your fathers or your mothers, your brothers or your sisters, your husbands or your wives, or your dearly beloved children. And some also were among the firmest friends of religion, and the most substantial supporters and pillars of the church and society here. You cannot see them again till the heavens be no more. Let it then be your chief concern to be followers of them, wherein they were followers of Christ, and be prepared to meet them at the right hand of God, in the coming world. Such are the changes and events, that have taken place in this church and congregation. Let us now take a view of the alterations and improvements, that make a distinction in our favor, as a society and town.

Compare your situation now, to what it was twenty-one years ago. Then you had troublesome times. You had been destitute of a minister almost five years,1 without stated preaching on the sabbath, and without the regular administration of the ordinances of the gospel. As sheep without a shepherd, you were scattered, and exposed to “grievous wolves.” There were divisions among you, and discord, and alienation of affection. A new society under a new denomination had been set up; not to introduce a new religion, nor to preach any other gospel, than what was already preached; but merely to change one denomination of christians to another, unhappily dividing a society already small, and when united not more than competent to a decent support of a minister, with ease to yourselves; a division occasioned by a distinction in the form of godliness, rather than its power; assumed to designate a party, distinct and separate from the body of the christian church; for you were not in the state of those unchristianized and unchristened Jews and Gentiles to whom the gospel was first preached, who had never before heard of Christ or the way of salvation through him; but you were born of christian parents, were baptized into the name of Christ, from children had known the holy scriptures, had been instructed in the doctrines and duties, and lived in the peaceable enjoyment of the ordinances of the gospel salvation. While in this situation, you were broken in upon, and “soon became as an house or kingdom divided against itself.” Some, who were members of this church, “went back, and walked no more with Christ.” The walls of partition were set up. The number of regular religious professors diminished. For more than five years no additions were made to the church. The spirit of Christ and the gospel, and the true interests of religion seemed to be lost in zeal for party notions, and in contention for victory. The consequence was, the actual declension of real religion. Doubts were created in the minds of some; “halting between two opinions;” indifference in those of others; and a total neglect of

1 The church was gathered Sept. 9, and Rev. Mr. Cooke was ordained Sept. 12, 1739, and died June 4, 1783, in the seventy-fifth year of his age, and forty-fourth of his ministry. The number of baptisms during his ministry was 943, and the admissions into the church were 224.

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