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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, by the sleight 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 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 Eph. iv. 14.
+ 2 Cor. vi. 8.
charge. And I dare undertake for those whose modesty, as before observed, too often withholds 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 the best method of obtaining pardon of their sins, and quieting their consciences.
I have long thought a design of this nature might be serviceable to the interest of religion, and might contribute something towards reviving the piety and devotion of the primitive times; to which I wish we were as conformable in our practices, as I am well satisfied we are in our doctrines. It is for this reason I have ventured to make this essay, not knowing how better to employ that leisure and command of time which the good providence of God has entrusted me with, than by consecrating it to this service; depending upon the same good providence that suggested the thought, to enable and support me in the execution of it. And I hope a layman may be allowed at least to express his desire to see religion flourish, when so many in the same rank make bold attempts, in those vile and wicked pamphlets that daily abound among us, to undermine the Christian priesthood, and to ridicule the mysteries of our redemption; the mischievous consequences whereof the state, as well as the church, may feel, if not timely prevented.
I am not much concerned for those just censures the world may fix upon the meanness of this performance; the design of it will, with good people, atone for many
imperfections; besides, a man of moderate attainments may be serviceable to those that have lesser degrees of knowledge, as also to such who, though they may have capacity, yet have not leisure nicely to enquire into those matters. And provided I can but in the least manner promote a sense of religion among those that want it, or contribute to the increase of it where it is already entertained, I shall be much better pleased than to deserve the praises of the most accomplished critic.
And if there be any such readers as shall be prevailed upon by my weak endeavours to become more careful and solicitous about the one thing necessary; and shall be persuaded or enabled to improve the holy seasons of the church to the advantage of their souls; let God's holy name have the glory, who was pleased to bless the meanest instrument in so great a work. Let me only beg the favour of their prayers, that when, upon such occasions, they prostrate themselves at the throne of grace, and approach the holy altars of God, they would, in the fervour of their devotions, offer up a petition for the unworthy author; that among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, his heart may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; and that while he is solicitous about the salvation of others, he may not fall short in securing
All Saints, 1703.
A TABLE OF ALL THE FEASTS THAT ARE TO BE OBSERVED IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND THROUGHOUT THE YEAR.
The Days of the Feast of
ALL SUNDAYS in the Year.
The Circumcision of our Lord Jesus CHRIST.
The Holy Innocents.
Vigils before The Evens or
OF ABSTINENCE TO BE OBSERVED IN THE
The Nativity of our Lord.
Monday, then the Vigil or Fast-day shall be kept
DAYS OF FASTING OR ABSTINENCE.
I. The Forty Days of Lent.
Four Seasons being the Sthe frestu Pentecost,