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P R E F A CE.
T'a time, when Infidelity and Irreligion abound
on the one hand, and Popery and other heretical tenets are making large strides upon the Reformed Religion on the other; it hath been thought necessary, by many serious persons, of all the Protestant Denominations among us, to oppose a torrent of wickedness and delusion, which threatens to bear down all before it. The Judgments of GOD, which seem to hang over us as a Nation, and the dreadful scourge of war, with which we are already visited, may justly be imputed to the prevailing iniquity of the times, the dissoluteness of our public principles and manners, and the open disregard for the LORD OF Hosts, which so many among us, in practice if not in words, have dared to avow. We have reason to tremble as a nation, under the awful visitations of the ALMIGHTY; and to fear, that, unless a reformation of our general conduct take place, and a greater regard be paid to the interests of Religion and Truth, we shall be afflicted with yet heavier dispensations, and that what we see already, is only the beginning of sorrows.
With this view it hath been suggested, that (as nuthing makes stronger impressions upon the mind than Example) a Review of the Lives and Principles of the most Eminent Persons in the Protestant Churches, from the beginning of the Reformation to the present day, might be a providential means of assisting, at least, in giving a check to this general inundation of infidelity and false opinions. The attentive perusal and consideration of what those great and good men main
tained, suffered for, or died in possession of; may, in the Hand of GOD, be instrumental in leading others to follow their example, and at least deter many from reviling and contemning those peculiar principles of the Protestant Doctrine, which their Indolence or their Ignorance have not suffered them to understand. It may safely be said, that nothing has contributed so much to the reception of impious or superstitious tenets among us, as the spiritual darkness of our present enlightened age, which indeed has made great improve- . ments in the knowledge of every thing but one-and that is, the One Thing Needful. Our Youth are trained up, according to the fashion, in the ignorance and
every thing sacred; and no man is allowed either sense or discretion, unless he is quite at ease with respect to religion, and indifferent to the great concerns of eternity. In short, to be polite, in the common acceptation, is to be profane ; and to gain a character of understanding and honour, a man must affect to despise the conscientious purity of the gospel, and openly disregard the Author of all Wisdom. What can be hoped for from maxims like these ; but what we have already found ; viz. Irreligion on the one side, and spiritual error on the other? And these, we may expect, will draw upon us (as they did upon the Churches of Asia) the dreadful scourges of GOD, by outward calamities, and in the progress of inward blindness or abandonment.
Every man, therefore, who has any concern for the glory of GOD, the purity of the gospel, and the best interests of posterity, will readily (we should hope) give his earnest encouragement to a work, which seems calculated for these important purposes, as well as his own edification. It is a FAMILY-Book, and may be put into the hands of youth, both for their information as a History, and for their profit as an Instruc
tor. Mr Fox's Acts and Monuments were ordered by Authority to be placed in every Church, that the people of the several parishes in the kingdom, might be led, to a thorough detestation of the poisonous principles and bloody practices of the Papists. It is to be regretted, that this order, like many others, is grown obsolete. Perhaps, in no case, is the disuse of wholesome Injunctions more to be lamented, than in the unbridled liberty, which is taken in the education of our youth. People, of the worst principles, may without examination, inculcate them freely upon the rising generation : And thus, insidiously, Popery, Infidelity, and Immorality, are scattered all over the land. However, it cannot be unseasonable for Parents, in particular, to lay a work of this kind before their children, when the tenets of Rome, dangerous to all civil and religious liberty, seem to be gaining ground among us. Those, indeed, are the most ignorant of the community, who are infected or most likely to be infected by that corrupt leaven; for, it may be truly said, no man was ever seduced into its erroneous principles, either by the conviction of his Reason or his Senses, and much less by the sanctions of Scripture. And we must do the Papists the justice to say, that they do not attempt this sort of conviction. Their Arguments and Inducements are laid in the fears of the Simple, who know neither the true doctrines of Christianity nor themselves, and in their own self-sufficient, or rather all-sufficient, Authority; which, if it was properly explained, would sooner excite the contempt and abhorrence, than the approbation of any reasonable being.
As to the work itself, we have freely made use of the several Authors who penned the lives of these illustrious men ; omitting what was either too prolix for our plan, or what, upon comparison with other
accounts, did not appear sufficiently founded ; and adding many circumstances, which had escaped them, or had since been collected by others. By this method, we may, without vanity, hope, that these relations are in general more complete than those which have been hitherto offered to the Public. In the several accounts of these evangelical men, the great object of our plan has been the general edification, as well as information; and, for this end, the Reader will find many serious reflections interspersed throughout the work. How far we have succeeded, must be submitted to the judgment of the Reader; whom, if a sincere Christian, we shall trust to please ; and, if otherwise, we ought not to be anxious about it.
We will only detain the Reader to assure him, that no bigotted partiality to Sects or Denominations, whether established or tolerated, will be found in this Collection ; but our whole attention has been paid to truly great and gracious characters of all those persuasions, which hold the distinguishing principles of the Gospel, and are united in the main endeavour to promote our common Christianity.
The Copper-plates are the performance of an ingenious young Artist, and sufficiently bespeak his merit. The encouragers of this undertaking will perceive, that this part of the work has been performed in a manner much superior to what is generally given; and, we doubt not, it will be fully agreeable to their expectation.
May the GOD of all Grace be pleased to bless our attempt; to the instruction of the Ignorant and then that are out of the way ; to the edification of humble Professors of the Gospel; and to the satisfaction of all those, whatever be their outward denomination, who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.