Page images

a Torrent have overspread the Nation, this Age seems
to distinguish itself by a great Contempt of the
Clergy, than which, I think, nothing can be a
greater Evidence of the decayed. State of Religion
among us. This barbarous and unchristian Prac-
tice, setting all particular Reasons aside, can be
resolved into nothing so surely, as into that great
Looseness of Principles and Corruption of Morals,
which have too much infected all Ranks and Orders
of Men; for though it may pass for a current
Marim among some, that Priests of all Religions
are the same; yet I am of the Opinion, it will appear
a much truer Observation by Experience, That they
of all Religions, that contemn the Priesthood, will,
be found the same, both as to their Principles
and Practice, sceptical in the one, and dissolute
in the other. To remedy, if possible, this great Evil,
I have endeavoured upon the Ember Fasts to explain
the Nature of the several Offices in the sacred
Function, to shew the Authority of their Com-
mission, the Dignity of the Priesthood, and those
Duties the Laity owe to their spiritual Superiors.
If these Subjects make any Impression upon Men's
Minds, as they will most certainly, if calmly and
seriously considered, it will startle the boldest Sinner,
to find that in contemning this Order of Men, he

affronts his Maker; and in despising the Minis-, Luke x. 16. ters of the Gospel, he despiseth him that sent


If ever a Convocation should think fit to revise the Catechism of the Church, to whose Authority and Judgment an Affair of that Nature ought to be entirely submitted, it is possible they may find it necessary to add some Questions concerning those who have the Power of administering Sacraments, and how they receive such an Authority, and what Duties are owing by God's Word to our spiritual Guides. Because such Sort of Instructions, early instilled into tender Minds, might in the next Generation retrieve that Respect to the sacred Order which we so scandalously want in this, and they would have this further Advantage, that they would be a Means of keeping Men stedfast to the Communion of the Church, and of preserving them from falling into Schisms, even in a State of Persecution; from the Possibility of which no human establishment can secure the Church of God, while she is Militant here upon Earth. And till this can be effected, it is to be wished the Reverend Clergy would more frequently instruct the People in such Duties; the Want of which necessary Knowledge makes the Principles of Church Communion so little understood that Men are tossed to and fro, and carried about with every Wind of Doctrine, Eph. iv. by the Slight of Men, and cunning Craftiness, whereby they lay in wait to deceive. I am very sensible great Modesty hath prevailed upon them to

divert their Thoughts from this Subject, lest it should be interpreted*a preaching up themselves; but the same Fears may as well predent Parents from instructing their Children, and Masters their Servants, in those Duties that relate to themseloes ; and since the Reason does not hold good in one Case, it cannot be thought conclusive in the other. And if, after all, People will misinterpret the Discharge

of their Duty, though never necessary, I hope they 2. Cor. 6. will think fit, with St. Paul, to approve themselves

the Ministers of God, by evil Report, as well as good Report, as Deceivers and yet true, rather than neglect what may have so great an Influence upon the Welfare of those Souls committed to their Charge. And I dare undertake for those whose Modesty, as before observed, too often with-holds them from magnifying their Office as they justly might : that 'they would not only be content, but very much rejoice to assist in all spiritual Affairs, such as shall make Application to them on those Accounts ; and take it for a great Comfort and Encouragement to their Labours, if they could find their Parishioners ready upon all Occasions to consult them in the Concerns of their Souls, either. for the Instruction of their Ignorance, for the Resolution of their Doubts, for Direction in order to the avoiding or withstanding Temptations, for their Consolation under Trials and Afflictions, or for

the best Method of obtaining Pardon of their Sins, and quieting their Consciences. ...more

- I have long thought a Designof this Nature might be serviceable to the Interest of Religion, and might contribute Something towards rediving the Piety and Devotion of the Primitive Times; to which I wish we were as conformable in our Practices, as I am well satisfied we are in our Doctrines. It is for this Reason I have entured to make this Essay, not knowing how better to employ that Leisure and Command of Time which the good Providence of God has entrusted me with, than by consecrating it to this Service; depending upon the same good. Prooidence that suggested the Thought, to enable and support me in the Execution of it. And I hope a Layman may be allowed at least to express his Desire to see Religion flourish, when so many in the same Rank make bold Attempts, in those vile and wicked Pamphlets that daily abound among us, to undermine the Christian Priesthood, and to ridicule the Mysteries of our Redemption : The mischievous Consequences whereof the State, as well as the Church, may feel, if not timely prevented...

· I am not much concerned for those just Censures the World may fix upon the Meanness of this Performance;. the Design of it will, with good People, atone for many Imperfections: Besides, a Man of moderate Attainments may be serviceable to those that have lesser Degrees of Knowledge, as also, to such who, though they may have Capacity, yet have not Leisure nicely to enquire into those Matters. And provided I can but in the least Manner promote a Sense of Religion among those that want it, or contribute to the Increase of it where it is already entertained, I shall be much better pleased than to deserve the Praises of the most accomplished Critic.

Upon this Account I have chose to throw the whole Subject of these Papers into á catechetical Form: hoping thereby they may become more universally instructive; for many can judge of the Force of an Answer who are very much puzzled to follow Reason through a Chain of Consequences.'

And if there be any such Readers as shall be predailed upon by my weak Endeavours to become more careful and solicitous about the one Thing necessary; and shall be persuaded or enabled to improve the Holy Seasons of the Church to the Advantage of their Souls ; let God's holy Name have the Glory, who was pleased to bless the meanest Instrument in so great a Work. Let me only beg the Favour of their Prayers, that when, upon such Occasions, they prostrate themseloes at the Throne of Grace, and

« PreviousContinue »