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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 among us. This barbarous and unchristian practice, 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 commission, 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 ministers 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
• Luke x. 16.
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,t 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: desdes, a man i moderate attainments mas je serveeasie so suse jat jare lesser degrees of krowiecie. as aiso sich 70, Quen they may have capacity. vet jase not sure ncey enquire into those macers Lad mededi I un jur ne feast manner promute a sense of icon amung muse saat vant it, or controude v se increase it where I s aiready entertained, I sgail je nach better giessei man to teserve the praises of we must aceompished IEC.
Lu i here je any such readers as snail be prevailed upen br ny weak endeavous y jeeume mure careful and vicious about the me sung vecessit: and shall be persuauei ur enajied to imprire bie boiy seasons of the ciurà bo sie aurange of their sus: let God's holy name Jare se glory, vid mis piesei o bless the meanest instrument in s great a wers. Let me only beg the tavour of their prayers, that vien, pun suci occasions, ther prostrate themsires at the Carine of grace, and approduit de hey aitars ut God, diey Fu in the fervour of their devetons uiter up a gecgen for the unworthy autier; that among si tie ciances and chances of this Unai e his heart nar sureis were be ixed where true Joisane w be found ; ani sat viiie be is sclicitous about the set of others he may 200 fail short in securing
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.