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preaching, they less desire it; their long fasting makes them not to love their meat ; and so we have cause to fear, the people will fall to an atrophy, then to a loathing of holy food ; and then God's anger will follow the method of our sin, and send a famine of the word and sacraments. This we have the greatest reason to fear, and this fear can be relieved by nothing but by notices and experience of the greatness of the Divine mercies and goodness.
Against this danger in future, and evil in present, as you and all good men interpose their prayers, so have I added this little instance of my care and services; being willing to minister in all offices and varieties of employment, that so I may by all means save some, and confirm others; or at least that myself may be accepted of God in my desiring it. And I think I have some reasons to expect a special mercy in this, because I find, by the constitution of the divine providence, and ecclesiastical affairs, that all the great necessities of the church have been served by the zeal of preaching in public, and other holy ministries in public or private, as they could be had. By this the Apostles planted the church, and the primitive bishops supported the faith of martyrs, and the hardiness of confessors, and the austerity of the retired. By this they confounded heretics, and evil livers, and taught them the ways of the Spirit, and them without pertinacy, or without excuse. It was preaching that restored the
splendour of the church, when barbarism, and wars, and ignorance, either sat in, or broke, the doctor's chair in pieces: for then it was that divers orders of Religious, and especially of preachers, were erected; God inspiring into whole companies of men a zeal of preaching. And by the same instrument, God restored the beauty of the Church, when it was necessary she should be reformed ; it was the assiduous and learned preaching of those whom God chose for his ministers in that work, that wrought the advantages and persuaded those truths which are the enamel and beauty of our churches. And because, by the same means, all things are preserved by which they are produced, it cannot but be certain, that the present state of the church requires a greater care and prudence in this ministry than ever ; especially since, by preaching, some endeavour to supplant preaching, and by intercepting the fruits of the flocks, to dishearten the shepherd from their attendances.
My Lord, your great nobleness and religious charity have taken from me some portions of that glory, which, designed to myself in imitation of St. Paul towards the Corinthian church; who esteemed it his honour to preach to them without a revenue ; and though also, like him, I have a trade, by which, as I can be more useful to others, and less burdensome to you; yet to you also, under God, I owe the quiet, and the opportunities, and circum
stances of that, as if God had so interweaved the support of my affairs with your charity, that he would have no advantages pass upon me, but by your interest; and that I should expect no reward of the issues of my calling, unless your Lordship have a share in the blessing.
My Lord, I give God thanks that my lot is fallen so fairly, and that I can serve your Lordship in that ministry, by which I am bound to serve God, and that my gratitude and my duty are bound in the same bundle ; but now, that which was yours by a right of propriety, I have made public, that it may still be more yours, and you derive to yourself a comfort, if you shall see the necessity of others saved by that which you heard so diligently, and accepted with so much piety, and I am persuaded have entertained with that religion and obedience, which is the duty of all those who know, that sermons are arguments against us, unless they make us better, and that no sermon is received as it ought, unless it makes us quit a vice, or be in love with virtue ; unless we suffer it, in some instance or degree, to do the work of God upon our souls.
My Lord, in these sermons I have meddled with no man's interest, that only excepted, which is eternal; but if any man's vice was to be reproved, I have done it with as much severity as I ought. Some cases of conscience I have here determined ; but the special design of the whole is, to describe the greater
lines of duty, by special arguments: and if any witty censurer shall say, that I tell him nothing but what he knew before; I shall be contented with it, and rejoice that he was so well instructed, and wish also that he needed not a remembrancer: but if, either in the first, or in the second ; in the institution of or the reminding of others, I can do God any service ; no man ought to be offended, that sermons are not like curious inquiries after new nothings, but pursuances of old truths. However, I have already many fair earnests, that your Lordship will be pleased with this tender of my service, and expression of my great and dearest obligations, which you daily renew or continue upon, my noblest Lord,
Your Lordship’s most affectionate,
And most obliged Servant,
A PRAYER BEFORE SERMON.
O LORD God, fountain of life, giver of all good things, who givest to men the blessed hope of eternal life by our Lord Jesus Christ, and hast promised thy Holy Spirit to them that ask him; be present with us in the dispensation of thy holy word [and sacraments :*] grant that we, being preserved from all evil by thy power, and, among the diversities of opinions and judgments in this world, from all errors 'and false doctrines, and led into all truth by the conduct of thy Holy Spirit, may for ever obey thy heavenly calling : that we may not be only hearers of the word of life, but doers also of good works, keeping faith and a good conscience, living an unblamable life, usefully and charitably, religiously and prudently, in all godliness and honesty before thee our God, and before all the world, that, at the end of our mortal life, we may enter into the light and life of God, to sing praises and eternal hymns to the glory of thy name in eternal ages, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In whose Name, let us pray, in the words which Himself
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ; thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven: give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil : for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
This clause is to be omitted, if there be no sacrament that day.