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led, and established by the laws of the country; and if the wind should turn, and the public authority think (it to establish another religion, they can (hist their sail, and steer a contrary course.
But now, reader, let me tell thee, that if ever God fend forth thsse two grim serjeants, his law, and thine own conscience, to arrest thee for thy sins, if thou find thyself dragged a* way by them towards that prison from whence none return, that are once clapt up therein, aud that in this unspeakable distress Jesus Christ manisest himself to thy soul, and open thy heart to receive him, and become thy surety with God, pay all thy debts, and cancel all thy obligations, thou wilt love him at another rate than others do; his blood will run deeper in thine eyes than it doth in the fhallow apprehensions of the world; he will be altogether lovely, and thou wilt account all things but dung and drols in comparison of the excellency of Jesus Christ thy Lord. To work thy heart to this frame, these things are written, which the Lord prosper upon thy soul, by the biesÆng of his good Spirit upon then.
Blessed be God for Jefus Qr&
**" Dear Friends,
"* M O N G all the creatures in this lower world, none
"j\ deserves to be stiled great, but man; and in man
t nothing is found worthy of that epithet, but his
foul *." The study, and knowledge of hhjiul was, therefore, always reckoned a rich, and neceflary improvement of time. All ages have magnified these two words, "Knew thyself, as an oracle descending from heaven f."
"No knowledge, faith Bernard %, is better than that where'' by we know ourselves; leave other matters therefore, and "search thyself; run through thyself, make a stand in. thy-' * self; let thy thoughts, as it were, circulate, begin and end "in thyself." Strain not thy thoughts in vain about other things, thyself being neglected.
The study and knowledge of Jesus Christ must still be allowed to be the most excellent and necessary: But yet the worth,
* Nihil in terra magnum prater hominem, nihil in homine prater mentem, Favorini
t E.ccelo desceniit, ywS-t mtura." Juvenal. Sat. 11. v. 27.
X Nulla scientia melior ilia, qua homo novit seipsum; relinque fgi ctetera, et teipsum discute : per te curre, in te conjistc i a te 'tipiai cagitatio ttta, tt in te fniatur.
and necessity of Christ is unknown to men, till the value, Wants,
and dangers of their own souls be first discovered to them.^-fe',
The difaffectedness, • and avursation of men to the study of their own souls, is the more to be admired; not only because of the weight and necessity of it, but the alluring pleasure, and sweetness that is found therein. What (| Cardan speaks, is experimentally selt by many, "That scarce any thing is more ** pleasant and delectable to the foul of man, than to know "what be is, what he may, and shall be; and what those di"vine and supreme things are, which he is to enjoy after death, '* and the vicissitudes of this present world." For we are creatures conscious to ourselves of an immortal nature, and that we have something about its which must overlive this mortal flesh, and therefore is ever and anon some way or other hinting, and intimating to us its expectations of, and designation for a better lise than that it now lives in the body, and that we shall not cease to be, when we cease to breathe. • <f
And certainly, my friends, discourses of the foul, and its immortality; of heaven, and of hell, the next, and only receptacles \ of unbodied spirits, were never more seasonable, and necestary '} than in this atheistical age of the world, wherein all serious piety, and thoughts of immortality are ridiculed, and hissed out of the company of many: As if those old condemned Heretics, the QvXivfyvx,n<u, who asserted the corruptibility, and mortality of J the foul as well as body, had been again revived in our days.
And as the Atheism of some, so the tepidity, and unconcerned carelesness of the most, needs and calls for such potent remedies, as discourses of this kind do plentifully afford: I dare appeal to your charitable judgments, whether the conversations! and discourses of the many, do indeed look like a serious pursuit of heaven, and zflight from hell?
Long have my thoughts bended towards this great and excellent subjeEi, and many earnest desires 1 have had, (as I believe all thinking persons must needs have) to know what I (hall be when I breathe not. But when I had engaged my meditations about it, two great rubs opposed the farther progress of my thoughts therein: Namely,
I. The difficulty of the subject I had chosen: And
H, The distractions of the times in which I was to write upon it.
|| Quidjucundius quant scire'quid simus, quid suerimttr, quid erirnus, et cum his .etiam dwintt atque suprema ilia post obltfim wundique vicijsitudines. ........:..'
I. As for the subject, such is the subtility aud sublimity of its'nature, and such the knotty controversies in which it is in* volved, that it much better deserves that inscription, than Minerva's temple at Saum did, * " Never did any mortal reveal "me plainly."
"It is but little that the most clear, and shatp-fighted do dis"cern of their own souls, now in the state of composition; and "what can we positively, and distinctly know of the lise they "live in the state of separation? The darkness in which these "things are involved doth greatly exercise, even the greatest "wits, and frequently elude and frustrate the most generous "attempts f." Many great scholars, whose natural and acquired abilities singularly furnished and qualified them to make a clearer discovery, have laboured in this field, usque adsudorem etpallorem, even to sweat and paleness, and done little more but intangle themselves, and the subject more than before;. this cannot but discourage new attempts.
And yet, without some knowledge of the hahility, and subjective capacity of our souls to enjoy the good of the world to come, even in a state of absence from the body, a principal relief must be cut off from them, under the great, and manifold trials they are to encounter in this evil world.
As for myself, I assure you, I am deeply sensible of the inequality of my shoulders to this burden;. and have often thought (since I undertook it) of that grave and necessary caution of the poet %, to weild and poise the burden as porters use to do, before I undertook it. Zuinglius blamed Carolostadius (aslome may do me) for undertaking the controversy of that age; because, saith he, Non habetsatis humerorum; his shoulders are too weak for it.
And yet I know mens labours prosper not, according to the art and elegancy of the composure, but according to the divine
\ Animan prasentem mentis acie vix, aut ne vix. quidem affe^ quimur ; fed qualit Jit sutura, quemodo indagabimut? . Laborant hie viaxima ingenia, et caligo conatus etiam generofss non raro etudit. Jos. Stern, de morte, cap. 20.
J Sumite materiam vefiris, qui feribitis, ecquatn,
Viribus: et versate diu, quid serre recusent,
OPuid valfant humcri—— Horat, de arte poet. \. 37.
Examine well, ye writers, weigh with care
What suits your genius, What your strength can hear;
For when a well-proportion'd theme you chuse,
Nor words nor method will their aid resuse; . .;
blessing which pleaseth to accompany them. Ruffinus tells us of a learend philofopher at the Council of Nice, who stourly desended his thesis against the greatest wits, and scholars there,and yet was at last sairly vanquished by -a man of no extraordinary parts: of which conquest the philofopher gave this candid, and ingenuous account; Against words (said he) / oppofed -wards; and what was spoken, J overthrew by the art cf speaking: But when, instead of words, power came out of the mouth of the speaker, words could no longer withstand truth; nor man oppofe the power of God.
O that my weak endeavours might prosper, under the influence of the like spirit, upon the hearts of them that shall read this inartificial, but well-meant discourse. . I am little concerned about the contempts and censures of sa* stidious readers. I have resolved to say nothing that exceeds so* 'briery,-Hor'to provoke any man, except my dissent from his unproved dictates rouir be his provocation. .: Perhaps there are some doubts, and difficulties relating to this subject, which will never fully be solved till we come to heaven. For man, by the sall, being less than himself, doth not understand himself, nor will ever persectly do so, until he be fully restored to himself; which will not be whilst he dwells in a body of sin and death. And yet it is to me past doubt, that this, as well as other subjects, might have been much more cleared than it is, if instead of the proud contendings of masterly wits for victory, all had humbly, and peaceably applied themselves to the impartial search of truth.
Truth, like an orient pearl in the bottom of a river, would have discovered itself by its native lustre, and radiancy, had not the seet of Heathen philosophers, cunning Atheists, and daring school divines, disturbed and fouled the stream.
If. And as the difficulties of the subject are many, so many have been the interruptions and avocations I have met with, whilst it was under my hand: Which I mention for no other end but to procure a more savourable censure from you, if it appears less exact than you expected to find it. Such as it is, I do with much respect and affection, tender to your hands, humbly requesting the blessing of the Spirit may accompany it to your hearts. If you will but allow yourselves to think close to the matter before you, I doubrnot but you may find somewhat in it apt, both to inform your minds, and quicken yoiir affections. I know you have a multiplicity of business under your hands, but yet I hope your great concern makes all others daily to give place; and that how clamorous, and importunate soever the as