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EDITOR OF THE ATTIC GREEK ORATORS AND SOPHISIS, &c. &c. &s
*HE PARISHIONERS OF ST. CLEMENTS
Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.
.r I or old be at any time unmindful of your commands, you might well esteem me unworthy of yo-re.ntinued favours; and there is some reason to suspect I have incurred the interpretation of forgetfulness, having been so backward in the performance of my promises. Some years have passed since I preached unto you upon such texts of Scripture as were on purpose selected in relation to the CREED, and was moved by you to make those meditations publick. But you were pleased then to grant what my inclinations rather led me to, that they might be turned into an Exposition of the Creed itself; which, partly by the difficulty of the work undertaken, partly by the intervention of some other employments, hath taken me up thus long, for which I desire your pardon. And yet a happy excuse may be pleaded for delay, meeting with a very great felicity, that as faith triumpheth in good works, so my Exposition of the Creed should be contemporary with the re-edifying of your Church. For though I can have little temptation to believe that my book should last so long as that fabric, yet I am exceedingly pleased that they should begin together; that the publishing of the one should so agree with the opening of the other. This, I hope, may persuade you to forget my slackness, considering ye were not ready to your own expectation; your experience tells you the excuse of church-work will be accepted in building, I beseech you let it not be denied in printing. That blessed Saint, by whose name your Parish is known, was a fellow-labourer with St. Paul, and a successor of St. Peter; he had the honour to be numbered in the Scripture with them “whose names are written in the book of life;” and when he had sealed the Gospel with his blood, he was one of the first whose memory was perpetuated by the building a Church to bear his name. Thus was St. Clement's Church famous in Rome, when Rome was famous for the “faith spoken of throughout the whole world.” He wrote an epistle to the Corinthians infested with a schism, in imutation of St. Paul, which obtained so great authority in the primitive times, that it was frequently read in their public congregations; and yet had for many hundred years been lost, till it was at last set forth out of the library of the late king. Now as, by the providence of God, the memory of that primitive Saint hath been restored in our age, so my design aimeth at nothing else but that the primitive faith may be revived. And therefore iu this edition of the Creed I shall speak to you but what St. Jude hath already spoken to the whole Church: “Beloved, when I give all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” If it were so needful for him then to write, and for them to whom he wrote to contend for the first faith, it will appear as needful for me now to follow his writing, and for you to imitate their earnestness, because the reason which he renders, as the cause of that necessity, is now more prevalent than it was at that time, or ever since. “For (saith he) there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation; ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The principles of Christianity are now as freely questioned as the most doubtful and controverted points; the grounds of faith are as safely denied as the most unnecessary superstructions; that religion hath the greatest advantage which appeareth in the newest dress, as if we looked for another faith to be delivered to the saints: whereas in Christianity there can be no concerning truth which is not ancient; and whatsoever is truly new, is certainly false. Look then for purity in the fountain, and strive to embrace the first faith, to which you cannot have a more probable guide than the CREED, received in all ages of the Church; and to this I refer you, as it leads you to the Scriptures, from whence it was at first deduced, that while “those which are unskilful and unstable, wrest” the words of God himself “unto their own damnation;" Joe may receive so much instruction as may set you beyond the imputation of unskilfulness, and so much of confirmation as may place you out of the danger of instability; which as it hath been the constant endeavour, so shall it ever be the prayer of him, whe after so many encouragements of his labours amongst you, doth still desire to be known as
Your most faithful Servant in the Lord,