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Generosity and Benevolence have been conspicuous, in fo promoting the Welfare of their Country, and the Good of Mankind.
And such, Gentlemen, are you, the Encouragers of Learning,
of Learning, and, the Rewarders of Merit; there are Numbers to witness the one, and your Clergy may witness the other.
For not to mention you in your private Capacities, as Promoters of Common Learning, as the Helpers and Supporters of Schools of CHARITY, one great Blessing of your Community: You in your publick Stations uphold a nobler Literature, and assist a more generous Education : You not only lay the Ground-works here, but you help to the Top of Arts and Sciences, in the greater Schools of Learning.
Nor is it less certain that you have always been eminent, and that not only in your own Country, but in distant Parts, for the Support of an Orthodox and learned Clergy: Your Fame for maintaining them, and your Regard to merit in choosing them, being every where spoken of.
Justly therefore are you intitled to Performances of this Nature, bụt in a more especial Manner to this in particular; it being the genuine Offspring of your Generosity. As I am sensible that you
have bless'd me with the most inestimable Favours, so I am bound in Duty, and by all the Tyes of Gratitude, to lay the First-Fruits of my Labours at your Feet; hoping that as you have been very instrumental in occasioning them, so you will receive them under your Care and Protection.
And this I also hope for, not as they are a Work of Merit, or worthy of being dedicated to such Patrons: For I am justly fenfible of the Meanness of their Desert, and their Unworthiness of that Honour; but as they are an Indication of the fincerest Thankfulness and Gratitude of,
Your most obliged
· And most bumble Servant,
Τ Η Ε
Jav HE following Sheets are a few of
that vaft Number of Ceremonies and Opinions, which are held by the Common People; such, as they solely or generally observe. For tho*
some of them have been of national and others perhaps of universal Observance, yet at present they would have little or no Being, if not observed among the Vulgar.
I would not be thought a Reviver of old Rites and Ceremonies to the Burdening of the People, nor an Abolisher of innocent Customs, which are their Pleasures and Recreations : 1 aim at nothing, but a Regulation of those which are in Being amongst them, which they themselves are far from thinking burdensome, and abolishing such only as are finful and wicked.
Some of the Customs they hold, have been originally good, tho' at present they retain little of their primitive Purity; the true Meaning and Design of them, being either loft, or very much in the Dark through Folly and Superstition. To wipe off therefore the Duft they have contracted, to clear them of Superstition, and make known their End and Design, may turn to some Account, and be of Advantage; whereas observing them in the
present Way, is not only of no Advantage, but of very great Detriment.
Others they hold, are really finful, notwithstanding in outward Appearance they seem very harmlesi, being a Scandal to Religion, and an encouraging of Wickedness. And therefore to aim at abolishing these, will I hope be no Crime, tho' they be the Diverfions of the People.
As to the Opinions they hold, they are almost all fuperftitious, being generally either the produce of Heathenism; or the Inventions of indolent Monks, who having nothing else to do, were the Forgers of many silly and wicked Opinions, to keep the World in awe and Ignorance. And indeed the ignorant Part of the World, is so still aw'd, that they follow the idle Traditions of the one, more than the Word of GOD; and have more Dependance upon the lucky Omens of the other than his Providence, more dread of their unlucky ones than his Wrath and Punishment.
The regulating therefore of these Opinions and Cuftoms, is what I proposed by the following Compositions, whatever has been suggested to the contrary: And as to the Menaces of fome, and the Censures of others, I neither fear nor regard them, I fall be always ready to own any Mistake, and in what I justly may, to vindicate myself.
Τ Η Ε
CH A P. I. of the Soul-Bell; its Antiquity; the Reason of its
Inftitution ; the Benefits and Advantage of it; an Exhortation to the use of it according to its first Inftitution.
Page 1 CH A P. H. Of Watching with the Dead.
CH A P. III. Of following the Corps to the Grave; what it is an
Emblem of: Of carrying Greens in our Hand; what it may signifie; what Use it may be of: Of Psalmody, its Antiquity, the Advantage of it.
CHAP IV. Of Garlands in Country Churches : Of strawing Flowers
on the Grave; the Antiquity of these Cuftoms, the Innocency of them.
39 CH A P. V. Of Bowing towards the Altar at the first coming into
the Church; a Custom generally observed by ignorant People; its Meaning, and Antiquity.
44 CH A P. VI. Of the I ime of Cock-crow: Whether evil Spirits wan
der about in the Time of Night; and whether they fly away at the Time of Cock-crow: Reflections upon this, encouraging us to have Faith and Trust in GOD.
54 CH A P. VII. Of Church-Yards; why the Vulgar are generally afraid of passing through them at Nights: The Original of