« AnteriorContinuar »
any, and when any do, oftentimes they choose the wrong side, and they that take the righter, do it so by contingency, and the advantage also is so little, I believe that the triumphant persons have but small reason to please themselves in gaining proselytes, since their purchase is so small, and as inconsiderable to their triumph, as it is unprofitable to them, who change for the worse or for the better upon unworthy motives. In all this there is nothing certain, nothing noble. But he that follows the work of God, that is, labours to gain souls, not to a sect and a subdivision, but to the Christian religion, that is, to the faith and obedience of the Lord Jesus, hath a promise to be assisted and rewarded : and all those that go to heaven, are the purchase of such undertakings, the fruit of such culture and labours; for it is only a holy life that lands us there.
And now, my Lord, I have told you my reasons, I shall not be ashamed to say, that I am weary and toiled with rowing up and down in the seas of questions, which the interests of Christendom have commenced, and in many propositions, of which I am heartily persuaded I am not certain that I am not deceived ; and I find that men are most confident of those articles, which they can so little prove, that they never made questions of them : but I am most certain, that by living in the religion and fear of God, in obedience to the King, in the charities and duties of communion with my spiritual
guides, in justice and love with all the world in their several proportions, I shall not fail of that end, which is perfective of human nature, and which will never be obtained by disputing.
Here, therefore, when I had fixed my thoughts, upon sad apprehensions that God was removing our candlestick, (for why should he not, when men themselves put the light out, and pull the stars from their orbs, so hastening the day of God's judgment?) I was desirous to put a portion of the holy fire into a repository, which might help to reenkindle the incense, when it shall please God religion shall return, and all his servants sing, convertendo captivitatem Sion,” with a voice of eucharist.
But now, my Lord, although the results and issues of my retirements and study do naturally run towards you, and carry no excuse for their forwardness, but the confidence that your goodness rejects no emanation of a great affection; yet in this address I am apt to promise to myself a fair interpretation, because I bring you an instrument and auxiliaries to that devotion, whereby we believe you are dear to God, and know that you are to good men. And if these little sparks of holy fire, which I have heaped together, do not give life to your prepared and already enkindled spirit, yet they will sometimes help to entertain a thought, to actuate a passion, to employ and hallow a fancy,
and put the body of your piety into fermentation, by presenting you with the circumstances and parts of such meditations, which are symbolical to those of your daily office, and which are the passe-temps of your severest hours. My Lord, I am not so vain to think, that in the matter of devotion, and the rules of justice and religion, (which is the business of your life,) I can add any thing to your heap of excellent things: but I have known and felt comfort by reading, or hearing from other persons, what I knew myself; and it was unactive upon my spirit, till it was made vigorous and effective from without. And in this sense I thought I might not be useless and impertinent.
My Lord, I designed to be instrumental to the salvation of all persons, that shall read my book : but unless (because souls are equal in their substance, and equally redeemed) we are obliged to wish the salvation of all men, with the greatest, that is, with equal desires, I did intend, in the highest manner I could, to express how much I am to pay to you, by doing the offices of that duty, which, although you less need, yet I was most bound to pay, even the duties and charities of religion ; having this design, that when posterity (for certainly they will learn to distinguish things and persons) shall see your honoured name employed to separate and rescue these papers from contempt, they may with the more confidence
expect in them something fit to be offered to such a personage. My Lord, I have my end, if I serve God and you, and the needs and interests of souls; but shall think my return full of reward, if you shall give me pardon, and put me into your litanies, and account me in the number of your relatives and servants; for indeed, my Lord, I am most heartily
Your Lordship's most affectionate
And most obliged Servant,
Christian religion hath so many exterior advantages to its reputation and advancement, from the Author and from the Ministers, from the fountain of its origination and the channels of conveyance, (God being the Author, the Word Incarnate being the great Doctor and Preacher of it, his life and death being its consignation, the Holy Spirit being the great argument and demonstration of it, and the Apostles the organs and conduits of its dissemination,) that it were glorious beyond all opposition and disparagement, though we should not consider the excellency of its matter, and the certainty of its probation, and the efficacy of its power, and the perfection and rare accomplishment of its design. But I consider that Christianity is therefore very little understood, because it is reproached upon that pretence, which its very being and design does infinitely confute. It is esteemed to be a religion contrary in its principles or in its precepts to that wisdom“, whereby the world is governed, and commonwealths increase, and greatness is acquired, and kings go to war, and our ends of interest are served and promoted; and that it is an institution so wholly in order to another world, that it does not at all communicate with this, neither in its end nor in its discourses, neither in the policy nor in the philosophy; and therefore, as the doctrine of the cross was entertained at first in scorn by the Greeks, in offence and indignation by the Jews, so is the whole system and collective body of Christian philosophy esteemed imprudent by
Fatis accede deisque,