« ZurückWeiter »
state of separation in the dark, in hidden and undiscerned regions; but he hath opened the windows of heaven, and given great light to us, teaching how we are to demean ourselves in the state of conjunction. Concerning the salvation of heathens he was not pleased to give us account; but he hath clearly described the duty of Christians, and tells upon what terms alone we shall be saved. And although the not inquiring into the ways of God and the strict rules of practice have been instrumental to the preserving them free from the serpentine enfoldings and labyrinths of dispute, yet God also, with a great design of mercy, hath writ his commandments in so large characters, and engraven them in such tables, that no man can want the records, nor yet skill to read the hand-writing upon this wall, if he understands what he understands, that is, what is placed in his own spirit. For God was therefore desirous that human nature should be perfected with moral, not intellectual excellencies; because these only are of use and compliance with our present state and conjunction. If God had given to eagles an appetite to swim, or to the elephant strong desires to fly, he would have ordered that an abode in the sea and the air respectively should have been proportionable to their manner of living ; for so God hath done to man, fitting him with such excellencies, which are useful to him in his ways and progress to per
fection. A man hath great use and need of justice, and all the instances of morality serve his natural and political ends; he cannot live without them, and be happy: but the filling the rooms of the understanding with airy and ineffective notions, is just such an excellency, as it is in a man to imitate the voice of birds ; at his very best the nightingale shall excel him, and it is of no use to that end, which God designed him in the first intentions of creation.
In pursuance of this consideration, I have chosen to serve the purposes of religion by doing assistance to that part of theology, which is wholly practical ; that which makes us wiser, therefore, because it makes us better. And truly, my Lord, it is enough to weary the spirit of a disputer, that he shall argue till he hath lost his voice, and his time, and sometimes the question too; and yet no man shall be of his mind more than was before. How few turn Lutherans, or Calvinists, or Roman Catholics, from the religion either of their country or interest ! Possibly two or three weak or interested, fantastic and easy, prejudicate and effeminate understandings, pass from church to church, upon grounds as weak as those, for which formerly they did dissent; and the same arguments are good or bad, as exterior accidents or interior appetites shall determine. I deny not but, for great causes, some opinions are to be quitted : but when I consider how few do for
sake 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, “ In 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
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