« PreviousContinue »
RIGHT WORSHIPFUL AND WELL-BELOVED
THE PARISHIONERS OF ST. CLEMENTS,
Mercy unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.
IF I should be at any time unmindful of your
commands, you might well esteem me unworthy of your continued favours; and there is some reason to fufpect I have incurred the interpretation of forgetfulness, having been fo backward in the performance of my promises. Some years have paffed fince I preached unto you upon fuch Texts of Scripture as were on purpose felected in relation to the CREED, and was moved by you to make those meditations publick. But you were pleased then to grant what my inclinations rather led me to, that they might be turned into an Expofition of the Creed itfelf; which, partly by the difficulty of
the work undertaken, partly by the intervention of fome other employments, hath taken me up thus long, for which I defire your pardon. And yet an happy excufe may be pleaded for delay, meeting with a very great felicity, that as faith triumpheth in good works, so my Expofition of the Creed fhould be contemporary with the re-edifying of your Church. For though I can have little temptation to believe that my Book fhould laft fo long as that fabrick; yet I am exceedingly pleased that they fhould begin together; that the publishing of the one should fo agree with the opening the other. This, I hope, may perfuade you to forget my flackness, confidering ye were not ready to your own expectation; your experience tells you the excufe of church-work will be accepted in building, I befeech you let it not be denied. in printing.
That bleffed Saint, by whofe name your Parifh is known, was a fellow-labourer with St. Paul, and a fucceffor of St. Peter; he had the honour to be numbered in the Scripture with them whofe names are written in the book of life; and when he had fealed the Gospel with his blood, he was one of the first whose memory was perpetuated by the building a Church to bear his name. Thus was St. Clement's Church famous in Rome when Rome was famous for the faith Spoken of throughout the whole world. He wrote an Epistle to the Co
rinthians infefted with a fchifm, in imitation of St. Paul, which obtained fo great authority in the primitive times, that it was frequently read in their publick congregations; and yet had for many hundred years been loft, till it was at laft set forth out of the library of the late King.
Now as, by the providence of God, the memory of that primitive Saint hath been restored in our age, fo my design aimeth at nothing elfe but that the primitive Faith may be revived. And therefore in this Edition of the Creed I shall speak to you but what St. Jude hath already spoken to the whole Church. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common falvation, it was needful for me to write unto you that ye should earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered to the
Saints. If it were fo needful for him then
to write, and for them to whom he wrote to contend for the first Faith, it will appear as
needful for me now to follow his writing, and for you to imitate their earneftnefs, because the reafon which he renders, as the caufe of that neceffity, is now more prevalent than it was at that time, or ever fince. For, faith he, there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation; ungodly men, turning the grace of God into lafcivioufness, denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jefus Chrift. The principles of Christianity are now as freely queftioned as the moft doubtful and
controverted points; the grounds of Faith are as fafely denied as the most unneceffary fuperstructions; that Religion hath the greateft advantage which appeareth in the neweft drefs, as if we looked for another faith to be delivered to the Saints: whereas in Christianity there can be no concerning truth which is not ancient; and whatsoever is truly new, is certainly falfe. Look then for purity in the fountain, and strive to embrace the firft Faith, to which you cannot have a more probable guide than the Creed, received in all ages of the Church; and to this I refer you, as it leads you to the Scriptures, from whence it was at firft deduced, that while those which are unskilful and unflable, wreft the words of God himself unto their own damnation; ye may receive fo much inftruction as may fet you beyond the imputation of unfkilfulness, and fo much of confirmation as may place you out of the danger of instability; which as it hath been the conftant endeavour, so shall it ever be the prayer of him, who after fo many encouragements of his labours amongst you, doth ftill defire to be known as
Your moft faithful
Servant in the Lord,