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TO THE READER.
It is not the respect for the Reformer of these Devotions, which I acknowledge to be very great, nor any thoughts of advantaging the bookseller, for which I write this Preface, bụt a pure and uninterested desire to give some account and character of this book, which, in one dress or other, hath been sent abroad no less than twelve times into the world.
It hath had four editions unreformed from the Roman Catholics, in the last of which is added, The Office for the Blessed Virgin, which, J. S. in the Epistle Dedicatory before the second edition, assures us was begun by the excellent Author before he died, who intended to annex it to his Devotions; and truly, I cannot but wonder, who he was that durst undertake to finish a piece, that this Apelles left imperfect, especially after so great a judge of
sense and style as Mr. S. hath said, that, “ It was so inimitably excellent, that scarce any would be found, in all respects, able to match his sense and expression, or finish it as it ought.” It hath had five editions more, as it was reformed by the Reverend and worthy Mr. Dorrington, and a great part of it hath had divers other editions in stolen books of devotions, whose mercenary authors have wisely concealed their names, lest their plagiary practices should be proved upon them. It now presents itself the fifth time in a new reform unto the world, in which I do not doubt, but it will yet have many more editions, and, perhaps, as many as any book of devotion, in what language soever, except the Psalter, ever had. For though Mr. Dorrington's reform of it hath very well deserved the good reception it hath found, yet it was not altogether so acceptable to some discerning, as well as devout persons, who ! were skillful in Divine offices, and curious in the theory, as well as constant in the practice of devotions. Among these I have known not a few, who chose to mark with their pencils whatever was amiss in the unreformed devotions, that they might use them for own private benefit in the Author's own method, rather than in that of Mr.Dorrington, which, in their judgment, was not so inflaming, nor fitted for the great and delightful benefit of social devotions, for which the divine Author (so cannot but call him) seemed principally to contrive his book, though it is no less fit for solitary devotions, than that of Mr. Dorrington's is.
Besides, they objected, that Mr. Dorrington had contracted the four daily offices into two, that he had omitted the Lessons; as many of which as are Canonical Scripture, the devout Author of this reform hath continued in the version of the Church of England ; that he had not reformed the Office for the Dead; that in the other he had left out many things, which they think as useful as any he had taken in, together with the Versicles, Responsories, and Antiphons, as such; which with the Psalms make up that alternate way of devotion; which, as being the most edifying and excellent way of worship, was used in the best and purest ages of Christianity, and truly resembles the worship and devotions of the great choir of saints and angels in the Church triumphant, that most glorious Jerusalem, which is above.
Wherefore to oblige those devout persons, who desired another reformation of those devotions, another is here presented to them in the Author's own way, from the pen of a most pious, as well as ingenious, and ready writer, who hath not left out, or altered anything, but some few sentences and expressions which hindered those offices from being introduced into the closets and oratories of the more devout sons and daughters of the Church of England, especially of those who delight in the more heavenlike way of worship; I mean in alternate, or chorallike devotion, which it is in the power of every devout master or mistress of a family, or any two or more religious persons, who happen to live in the same house or neighbourhood, or to travel together in the same journey, to exercise themselves in at vacant times, to the honour of God, Whom they delight to worship; the comfort and satisfaction of their own consciences, when they find their souls so quickened and delighted in bearing their parts in such harmonious devotions; nay, to the unspeakable inward joy and exultation of the immortal spirits within them, which have ravishing foretastes of heaven in those heaven-like exercises, which make this life, much more than solitary devotions, resemble that which is to come.
But of all others, none have it in their power to practise this most delightful way of worship in the heaven-like fellowship of alternate devotion to so much advantage as religious societies, consisting of two or three or greater numbers. It is to such votaries that I particularly recommend this book of devotions, which, in other forms, hath already more than once been recommended to the Christian world. J. S. who, I suppose, is Mr. John Serjeant, in the Epistle Dedicatory of the Second Edition tells us, "That it is the most substantial part of Divinity, rendered usefully practical, the best matter delivered in the best manner, and that it neither needs nor courts any man's patronage to set it off, as being above all the ends at which dedications commonly aim, nay, above all the world itself, as confining upon its nearest neighbour heaven." The Reverend and most worthy Mr. Dorrington, to whom the world is so much obliged for the first reform of it, tells us,