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church, whose truly primitive constitution, pure and undefiled religion, I shall always admire and reverence; and, whatsoever her fate may be, I am chained to her fortunes by my reason and conscience, and shall ever esteem it more eligible to be crushed by her fall, which God avert, than to flourish and triumph on her ruins. But among
the many ill omens that threaten our church, there is one which seems to presage
prosperity; and that is, that such eminent stations in it, as your Lordship’s, are so excellently supplied. For although whether the part you are designed for, be to grace her triumphs or her funeral, is known only to the sovereign Disposer of events; yet this, my Lord, all that wish well to our church conclude, that God bestowed you upon her as a token of love: for which they have sufficient warrant, even from the daily experience they have of the prudence and vigilance of your government; the piety, integrity, and generosity of your temper; of your invincible loyalty to your prince; your undaunted zeal for the reformed religion; and your grave and obliging deportment towards all you converse with. I shall trouble your Lordship no further, but conclude this address with that which I am sure is the hearty prayer of all your honest clergy, That the God of heaven would long continue your Lordship a blessing to the church and to this diocese, an honour to your sacred order and the noble stock you descend from: and if what
I here present, prove but so prosperous as to do some good in the world, and obtain your Lordship’s acceptance, it will be a noble compensation of this well-meant endeavour. I am,
And most obedient servant,
I SHALL not trouble the reader with a long apology for the publication of the ensuing treatise, though I might plead (as other authors do) the importunity of friends, whose judgments I very much reverence. For, to say the truth, I do by no means think that, in an affair of this nature, it is safe or fit for a man to be overborne by the persuasions of those, whose judgments he hath just cause to suspect may be bribed by their friendships: and therefore had I not hoped that, in such an age as this, (wherein, through our own divisions and debaucheries, both in opinion and practice, and the hellish contrivances of our enemies, we have such a dismal prospect of things before us,) these papers might be of some use to religion and the souls of men, I would never have troubled the world with them; but hoping they might, I have ventured, upon that reason, to publish them.
I have for some years been a sorrowful spectator of the black cloud that is gathering over my native country, and, I must confess, have not been without my share of the fears and anxieties of the age: but being at last quite sick of looking downwards upon this uncomfortable scene of things, I had no other way to relieve my oppressed thoughts, but to raise them above this miserable world, and entertain them with the comforts of religion, and the hopes of a better state beyond the grave; wherein, I thank God, I have found such rest and satisfaction of mind, as rendered my blackest apprehensions of the ensuing storm very tolerable. And now, because I would not eat my morsel alone, and
enjoy my satisfaction to myself, I have endeavoured, by this following treatise of heaven, and the way thither, to break and distribute it among my distressed neighbours; that so, by carrying their minds from these dismal expectations into the quiet and happy regions above, and directing their lives and actions thither, I might communicate to them the blessed art, how to live happily in a distracted world. And, methinks, when our present state is so perplexed and uncertain, we should be more than ordinarily concerned to make sure of something, and to provide for a future well-being, that so we may not be miserable in both worlds. As for the argument I have undertaken, I may, without breach of modesty, say, it is a great and a noble one; it is the Christian life, which, next to the angelical, approaches nearest to the life of God. But as for the management of it, all that I can say is this, I have employed my best thoughts and skill about it; and if, after this, I have any where wronged or misrepresented it, it is more my unhappiness than my fault. Perhaps it may be thought, that in the first three chapters I have discoursed more speculatively than it is fit in a book that is designed for common use and edification; but it may be, when the reader hath considered the nature of the arguments I have there handled, and how necessarily they fall in with my
design, he will be convinced that it was unavoidable. And yet I doubt not, but with a little diligence and attention of mind, the plainest reader may be able to comprehend the main reason and evidence of what I drive at.
In the first place, I thought it would be necessary, in treating of the Christian life, to give some account of the blessed end it refers to, that so, from the nature of that, we might be the better able to judge of the necessity and usefulness of those means which Christianity prescribes in order to it. And this I have endeavoured in the first chapter; where I have only so far explained the nature of the heavenly state and felicities, as was necessary to light and conduct us through the ensuing design.
In the second place, I judged it would be no less expe
dient to give some general account of what kinds of means are necessary to our obtaining this end; that so we might be convinced how requisite both the principal and instrumental parts of the Christian life are to our everlasting happiness. And this I have attempted in the second chapter; wherein, from the consideration of the vast distance there is between the pure and blessed state of heaven, and this corrupt and degenerate state of human nature, I have endeavoured to shew, that it is not only necessary for us to practise and acquire those Christian virtues, in the perfection whereof the heavenly bliss consists ; but that to enable us to practise, acquire, and improve them, there are sundry other instrumental duties indispensably necessary; which duties, as I have there proved, are of no other use or significancy in religion, than as they are means of virtue and piety.
And having thus distributed the means into their proper kinds and order, I have, in the third chapter, treated largely of the first kind, to wit, the practice of the Christian virtues; in which, I confess, I have neither handled the particular virtues in their full extent and latitude, nor enforced them with all their moral reasons; that being done already to excellent purpose, in those two incomparable treatises of Holy Living and Dying, and of The Whole Duty of Man. Nor could I have done it without swelling this discourse, which is large enough already, into a volume too large for
And indeed all that was necessary to my purpose, was only so far to explain the nature of each particular virtue, as that the reader might thereby understand what is meant by them: but that which most concerned me, in pursuance of my main design, was to prove, that the practice of every virtue is an essential part of the Christian life, and a necessary means to the blessed end of it. And accordingly, as I have shewn from the express commands of our religion, our indispensable obligation to practise every virtue; so I have endeavoured to shew how, in the practice of it, we do naturally grow up to the heavenly state; as, on the contrary, how, in the course of a sinful