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Generosity and Benevolence have been confpicuous, in fo promoting the Welfare of their Country, and the Good of Mankind.
AND fuch, Gentlemen, are you, the Encouragers of Learning, and, the Rewarders of Merit; there are Numbers to witnefs the one, and your Clergy may witness the other.
For not to mention you in your private Capacities, as Promoters of Common Learning, as the Helpers and Supporters of Schools of CHARITY, one great Bleffing of your Community: You in your publick Stations uphold a nobler Literature, and affist a more generous Education: You not only lay the Ground-works here, but you help to the Top of Arts and Sciences, in the greater Schools of Learning.
NOR is it lefs certain that you have always been eminent, and that not only in your own Country, but in diftant Parts, for the Support of an Orthodox and learned Clergy: Your Fame for maintaining them, and your Regard to merit in choosing them, being every where fpoken of.
JUSTLY therefore are you intitled to Performances of this Nature, but in a more especial Manner to this in particular; it being the genuine Offspring of your Generofity. As I am fenfible that you have bless'd me with the most ineftimable Favours, fo I am bound in Duty, and by all the Tyes of Gratitude, to lay the Firft-Fruits of my Labours at your Feet; hoping that as you have been very inftrumental in occafioning them, so you will receive them under your Care and Protection.
AND this I alfo hope for, not as they are a Work of Merit, or worthy of being dedicated to fuch Patrons: For I am juftly fenfible of the Meannefs of their Defert, and their Unworthiness of that Honour; but as they are an Indication of the fincereft Thankfulnefs and Gratitude of,
HE following Sheets are a few of that vaft Number of Ceremonies and Opinions, which are held by the Common People; fuch, as they folely or generally obferve. For tho fome of them have been of national and others perhaps of univerfal Obfervance, yet at prefent they would have little or no Being, if not obferved among the Vulgar.
I would not be thought a Reviver of old Rites and Ceremonies to the Burdening of the People, nor an Abolisher of innocent Customs, which are their Pleafures and Recreations: I aim at nothing, but a Regulation of thofe which are in Being amongst them, which they themselves are far from thinking burdenfome, and abolifbing fuch only as are finful and wicked.
Some of the Cuftoms they hold, have been originally good, tho' at present they retain little of their primitive Purity; the true Meaning and Design of them, being either loft, or very much in the Dark through Folly and Superftition. To wipe off therefore the Duft they have contracted, to clear them of Superftition, and make known their End and Defign, may turn to fome Account, and be of Advantage; whereas obferving them in the
prefent Way, is not only of no Advantage, but of very great Detriment.
Others they hold, are really finful, notwithstanding in outward Appearance they feem very harmless, being a Scandal to Religion, and an encouraging of Wickednefs. And therefore to aim at abolishing thefe, will I hope be no Crime, tho' they be the Diverfions of the People.
As to the Opinions they hold, they are almost all fuperftitious, being generally either the produce of Heathenifm; or the Inventions of indolent Monks, who having nothing else to do, were the Forgers of many filly and wicked Opinions, to keep the World in Awe and Ignorance. And indeed the ignorant Part of the World, is fo ftill aw'd, that they follow the idle Traditions of the one, more than the Word of GOD; and have more Dependance upon the lucky Omens of the other than his Providence, more dread of their unlucky ones than his Wrath and Punishment.
The regulating therefore of thefe Opinions and Cuf toms, is what I propofed by the following Compofitions, whatever has been fuggefted to the contrary: And as to the Menaces of fome, and the Cenfures of others, I neither fear nor regard them, I shall be always ready to own any Miftake, and in what I justly may, to vindicate myself.