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GRACE's labours for the welfare of the Church of God may long be blessed with abundant fruits of righteousness and peace, is the earnest
faithful and humble Servant,
The first wishes for the existence of a collection,
a similar in design to that which now appears, were excited in my mind not less than ten years ago, and often recurred to it, during a residence in the University of Cambridge; though I do not remember to have entertained then, any very confident expectations, that the work would ever be undertaken by myself.
But when, after the expiration of something more than half the above-named period of years, I had been called to Lambeth, to the service of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, by tract of time, the probable advantages of such a collection appeared continually to my mind, rather to increase, than to be diminished; and when some
; efforts which I had made to bring about the execution of this design, from another quarter, on a contracted scale, had yet produced no effect, I determined to turn my own hands to the work :--and it now becomes my duty to state the views and motives upon which it was begun, and the way and manner in which it has been performed. The mention, in the outset, of the places where the wish for the existence of this work was first conceived, and where it has been prepared for publication, I judge not to be impertinent, because these circumstances may probably have had a considerable influence on its contents and character; and therefore the knowledge of them may lead the reader, by a natural and easy progress, to a further explanation of the principles on which it has been compiled.
A protracted residence in either of our Universities, and afterwards in that service which I have mentioned, it will easily be understood, was likely to engage any man in ardent wishes and desires for the general prosperity and welfare of sincere piety and true religion : and to inspire him more particularly with an honest concern that those most important interests should ever advance and flourish among our Theological Students and the Clergy; and through their means and labours, with the divine blessing, in every rank of society.
It appeared then, to the present writer, that there were extant, among the literary productions of our country, many scattered narratives of the lives of men eminent for piety, sufferings, learning, and such other virtues, or such vices, as render their possessors interesting and profitable subjects for history, many of which were very difficult to be procured, and some of them little known; and that, thefore, the benefit which might have been expected to result from their influence, was in a
great degree lost. These I thought it might be a labour well-bestowed to restore to a capacity of more extensive usefulness, and to republish them in one collection; not merely with a view of affording to many
a readers an opportunity of what they could not otherwise enjoy; but also from the hopes, that the serviceable effect of each might be increased by their union and juxta-position; and, that through the help of a chronological arrangement, a species of Ecclesiastical History might result, which though undoubtedly very imperfect, might yet answer, even in that view, several valuable purposes; while it would possess some peculiar charms and recommendations.
A scheme of this nature, it is easy to conceive, could not well be undertaken without many limitations. Besides those obvious ones of restricting the history to that of our own country, and to the lives of our fellow countrymen, there appeared to me many reasons, why the work should begin with the preparations towards a Reformation by the labours of Wickliffe and his followers, and not a few why it might well stop at the Revolution. Within those limits are comprehended, if we except the first establishment of Christianity, and the growth of the Papal power amongst us, the rise, progress, and issue of the principal agitations and revolutions of the public mind of this country in regard to natters of Religion :-namely, the Reformation from Popery, and the glories and horrors attending that hard-fought