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Mr Thomas Man Ton's Epistle td the Reader.
CHRISTIAK A.EACER, f '. . . .
ICannot suppose thee to be such a stranger in England, as to be ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more especially of the great corruption of youth'. Where-ever thou goest, thou wilt hear men crying out of bad children and bad servants; whereas indeed the source of the mischief must be sought a little higher: it is bad parents and bad masters that make bad children, and bad servants; and we cannot blame so much their uritowardness, as our own negligence in tlieir education. .
The devil hath a great spite at the kingdom of Christ, and he' knbweth no such compendious way to crush it in the egg, as by the perversion of youth, and supplanting family-duties. He stiiketh at all duties", those which are public in the astemblieS of the saints; but these are too well guarded by the solemn injunctions and dying charge of Jesus Christ, as that, he mould ever hope totally to subvert and undermine them ; but at family-duties, he striketh with the more success, because the institution is not so solemn, and the practice not so seriously and conscientiously regarded as it mould be, and the onlifsion is not so liable to notice and public censure. Religion was1 first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to' crusli it; the families of the Patriarchs were all the Churches God had in the world for the time; and therefore (I suppose) when Cain went out from Adam's family, he is said to go out from the face os the Lord, Gen. iv. 16. Now the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to pretent the succession of Churches: If he can subvert families, Other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigour; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and future.
For the present, a family is the seminary of Church and state; and, if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in Church and conunon-wealth; there is the first making or marring, and the presage of their future lives to be thence taken, Pro. xx. n. By family-discipline, officers are trained up for the Church, I. Tim. iii. J}j One that rukih well his e<wn house, &c.; and there are men bred up in subjection and obedience, it is noted, Acts xxi. j. that the disciples brought Paul on his . way with their wives and children; their children probably are mentioned, to intimate, that their parents would, by their own example and affectionate farewell to Paul, breed them up in a way of reverence and respect to the pastors of the Church,.
F*or the future, it is comfortable certainly to see a thriving nurse, ry of" young plants, and to have hopes that God shall have a people to serve him when we are dead and gone: The people of God comsorted, themselves in that, Psal. CH. 28. The children ef thy fer* vants Jhall continue, &c.
Upon all these considerations, how careful should Ministers and parents be to train up young ones, whilst they are yet pliable, and, like wax, capable of any form and impression, in the knowledge and sear of God; and betimes to instil] the principles of our most holy faith, as they are drawn into a short sum in catechisms, and so altogether laid in the view of conscience? Surely these seeds of truth planted in the field of memory, if they work nothing else, will at least: be a great check and bridle to them, and, as the casting in of cold, water doth stay the boiling of the pot, somewhat allay the fervours of youthful lusts and paslions.
I had, upon entreaty, resolved to recommend to thee with the greatest earnestness the work ef catechising, and, as a meet help, the useFulriess of this book, as thus printed with the scriptures at large: but meeting with a private letter of a very learned and godly divine, wherein that work is excellently done to my hand, I shall make bold to transcribe a part of it, and offer it to public view.
The author having bewailed the great distractions, corruptions, and divisions that are in the Church, he thus represents the cause and cure: "Among others, a principal cause of these mischiefs is the great and common neglect of the governors of families, in the discharge of that duty which they owe to God for the souls that are under their charge, especially in teaching them the doctrine of Christianity. Families are societies that must he sanctified to God, as well as Churches; and the Governors of them have as truly a charge of the souls that are therein, as Pastors have of the Churches. But, alas, how little is this considered or regarded! But while negligent Ministers are (deservedly) cast out of their places, the negligent masters of families take themselves to be almost blameless. They offer their children to God in baptifin, and there they promise to teach them the doctrine of the gospel, and bring them up in the nurture of the Lord; but they easily promise, and easily break it; and educate their children for the world and the flesh; although they have renounced these, and dedicated them to God. This covenantbreaking with God, and betraying the souls of their children to the devil, must lie heavy on them here or hereafter. They beget children, and keep families, merely for the world and the flesh: but little consider what a charge is committed to them, and what it is to bring up a child for God, and govern a family as a sanctified society.
O how sweetly and successfully would the work of God go on, if we would but all join together in our several places to promote it! Men need not then run without sending to be preachers: but they might find that part of the work that belongeth to them to be enougb for them, and to be the best that they can be employed in. Especially women should be careful of this duty; because as they are ^ ■ molt most about their children, and have early and frequent opportunities to instruct them, so this is the principal service they can do t9 God in this world, being restrained from more publick work. And doubtless many an excellent Magistrate hath been .sent into the c,omT Jnonwealth, and many an excellent Pastor into the Church, and many a precious faint'to heaven, through the happy preparations of & holy education, perhaps, by a woman that thought herself useless and unserviceable to the Church. Would parent? but begin betimes, and labour to affect the hearts of £}ieir children with the great matters of eyerlafting life, and to acquaint them with the substanc^ of the doctrine of Christ, and when they find in them the knowledge and love of Christ, would bring them then to the pastors of the Church to be tried, confirmed and admitted to the further privileges, of the Church, what happy,' well-ordered Churches might we have! Then one pastor need not be put to do the work of two or three hundred or thousand governors of families, e ven to teach tlieir chil; dren those principles which they slioukl have taught them jong before; nor should we be put to preach to & many miserable ignorant fouls, that be hot prepared by education tp understand us: Nor slioul^ we have need to llvur. out so many from holy communion upon the account of ignorance, that yet have not the grace to feel it and lament it, npr the wit and patience to wait in a learning state, till they are ready to be feljow-citizens with the sapt?, and of the'household of God. . But nt>W they come to us with aged sclf-conceitedness, being past children', and yet worse than children still; having the ignorance of children, but being overgrown the teachahjeriejs of children; and think themselves wife, yea, wise enough to quarrel with the wisest of their teachers, because they have lived long enough to have been wise,' and the evidence of their knowledge is their aged igno^ranee; and they are readier to flee jnour faces for Church-privileges, than to learn of us, and obey our instructions, till they are prepared for them that they may do them good; like .snappish currs, that will fiiap us by the fingers for their meat, and snatch it put of our hands; and not like children, that stay till we give it thehi. Parents have so used them to be iinruly, that ministers have to c|eal but with too few hut the' unrujy. And it is for want of rtsis laying the foundation well at first, that profeflbrs themsclve§ are so ignorant as most are, aud that so many, especially of the younger sort, do swallow down almost any error that is offered them," and follow any sect of dividers that wj}l entice them, so it be but done' with earnestness and plausibility. For, alas! though, by the graep of God, thenhearts may be changed in an hour, (whenever"they 'understand but the essentials of the faith), yet their understandings must have time and diligence to furnish them wjth such knowledge as must stablifh them, and fortify them against deceits.' Upon rhese,''arid many the Jike considerations, we sliould intreat all Christian'families to take more pains in this neceslary work, and to get'better "acquainted with the substance of Christianity. And to that end,' (taking along fpnje moving treatises to awake the hea^t,} I know not what work
'- • ikould short] d be fitter for their use, than that compiled by the Assembly at Westminster: a Synod of as godly, judicious divines, (nor/withstand* ing all the bitter words which they have received from discontented and self-conceited men), 1 verily think, as ever England saw. Though they had the unhappiness to be employed irt calamitous times, v.hcn the noise of wars did stop mens ears, and the licentiousness of wars did set every wanton tongue and pen at liberty to reproach them; and the prosecution and event of those wars did exasperate partial discontented men, to dishonour themselves by seeking to dislionour them: I dare say, if in the days of old, when councils were in power and account, they had had but such a council of bifliops, as this of presbyters was, the fame of it, for learning and holiness, and all minis! erial abilities, would with very great honour, have been transmitted to posterity.
1 do therefore desire, that all masters of families would fiist study \rell this work themselves; and then teach it their children and servants, according to their several capacities. And, if they once understand these grounds of religion, they will be able to read other books more understandingly, and hear sermons more profitably, and confer more judiciously, and hold fast the doctrine cf Christ more firmly, than ever you are like to do by any other course. Fiist, let them read and learn the Shorter Catechism, and next the Larger, and lastly, re=d the Ccnfefficn cf Faith.
Thus far he, whose name I shall conceal, (though the excellency of the matter, and present style, will easily discover him), because I have published it without his privity and consent, though, I hope, not against his liking and approbation, I-shall add no more, but fliat I aui,
In the Lord's work,
An **** wm*m ****** ******* *«**
ordinance of the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, for the calling of ar. ssembiy os 'iearned and godly Uivhes, and others, to be comutted -with y the Parliament, for the- settling of the government and liturgy of the Church of England; and for vindicating and clearing of the doclrine of the said Church from false aspersions and interpretations. June f 2. 1643'. • ' ' ':'' • ;• •' ■ ■'
TjSTHereas, amongst the infinite bleflings of Almighty Gpd upon;
.7 this nation. none is nor can be more dear unto us than the purity of our religion; and for that, as yet> many things remain iii the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church, which do necessarily require a further and more perfect reforinatiori, than as yet hath been attained; and whereas it hath been declared and resolved by the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament, that the present Church government by archbishops, their chancellors, commissars, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical officers, dependinc upon the hierarchy, is evil and justly offensive arid burdensome to the kingdom, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom; and therefore they are refblvecj that the fame (hall be taken away,'arid that such a government shall be settled in the Church, as may be most agreeable Lo God's holy word, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home1, and nearer^agreement wjth the Church of Scotland, and other reformed Churches abroad; and, for the better effecting hereof, and for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the Church of England from all false calumnies and aspersions, it js thought fit and necessary to call an Assembly of learned, godly, and judicious divines^ who, together with some members of both the houses of Parliament, are to consult and advise'of such matters and things, touching the premisses, as shall be proposed unto them by both or either of the houses of Parliament, and, to give their advice arid counsel therein, to both,' or "either'bf the said houses, when, and as often as they shall be thereunto required. Be it therefore ordained, by the'Lords and Commons in this present Parliament aflembled, that all and every the persons hereafter in this present ordinance named, that is to fay, :"
And such other person or persons as shall be nominated and appointed by both houses of Parliament, or so many of them as shall not be letted by sickness, or other neceflary impediment, shall meet and assemble, arid are hereby^ required and enjoined upon summons signed by the clerks of both houses of Parliament, left at their respective dwellings, to meet and assemble themselves at Westminster, in the chapel called King Henry the Vllth's chapel, on the first day of July, in the year of our Lord One thousand six hundred aud fortythree; and after the iii it meeting, being at seall the number of forty, ■ > ■ 1 ■« ■■ '■<■ •"' lhaU