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Consequences can justly be charged upon a Body of
View of Men, who make it a chief Qualification in the elect-
I have, for the Sake of those who not only own the
They that are acquainted with Ecclesiastical
without Quotations, may be found in his Lives of the Apostles; from whence I have taken the Liberty to borrow what I thought might contribute towards the perfecting my Design; the Criticisms of their History, which are omitted, are more proper to entertain the Curiosity of the Learned, than the Devotion of well-disciplined Minds.
And indeed what Arguments can prevail upon Men to engage them to keep a Conscience void of Offence, that may not be deduced from the frequent Meditation of the Mysteries of our Redemption? What Means so proper to perfect our Natures, as to set before ourselves the Examples of the Primitive Saints who excelled in the truest Wisdom? It is the unhappy Method of the World to form Christian Heroes upon Pagan Models, which should make it no wonder that so few Christian Princes distinguish themselves by what is properly their Glory; but if we design to attain that Happiness the blessed Saints now enjoy, we must tread in their Steps; and to acquire true Firmness and Resolution of Mind, we must propound for our Imitation the Examples and Patterns of those holy Men gone before us, who in their respective Ages, have given remarkable Testimonies of their Faith in God, and constant Adherence to his Truth.
Among those crying Abominations, which like
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 This barbarous and unchristian Prac among us. 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 Maxim 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 MinisLuke x. 16. ters of the Gospel, he despiseth him that sent them.
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 prevent Parents from instructing their Children, and Masters their Servants, in those Duties that relate to themselves ; 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 so 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