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need not make an apology for dedicating this severe book to you. You know, according to the prudence which God hath given you, that he that flatters you is your enemy, and you need not be flattered; for he that desires passionately to be a good man and a religious, to be the servant of God and be saved, will not be fond of any vanity, and nothing else can need to be flattered; but I have presented to your Lordship this discourse, not only to be a testimony to the world, how great a love, and how great an honour I have for you, but even by ascribing you into this relation, to endear you the rather every day more and more to the severest doctrines and practices of holiness. I was invited to make something to this by an honourable person who is now with God, and who desired his needs should be served by my ministry. But when I had entered upon it, I found it necessary to do it in order to more purposes, and in prosecution of the method of my other studies. All which as they are designed to God's glory and the ministry of souls, so if by them I can signify my obligations to your Lordship, which by your great nobleness do still increase, I shall not esteem them wholly ineffective, even of some of those purposes whither they are intended; for truly, my Lord, in whatsoever I am or can do, I desire to appear,
My noblest Lord,
Your Honour's most obliged, and
THE RIGHT REVEREND AND RELIGIOUS FATHERS,
BRIAN, LORD BISHOP OF SARUM;
JOHN, LORD BISHOP OF ROCHESTER;
AND TO THE MOST REVEREND AND RELIGIOUS CLERGY OF ENGLAND, MY DEAR BRETHREN.
MEN, BRETHREN, AND FATHERS,
THE wiser part of mankind hath seen so much trifling in the conduct of disputations, so much partiality, such earnest desires of reputation, such resolution to prevail by all means, so great mixture of interest in the contention, so much mistaking of the main question, so frequent excursions into differing matter, so many personal quarrels and petty animosities, so many wranglings about those things that shall never be helped, that is, the errors and infirmities of men; and, after all this (which also must needs be consequent to it), so little fruit and effect of questions, no man being the wiser, or changed from error to truth, but from error to error most frequently and there are in the very vindication of truth so many incompetent, uncertain, and untrue things offered, that if by chance some truth be gotten, we are not very great gainers, because, when the whole account is cast up, we shall find, or else they that are disinterested will observe, that there is more error than truth in the whole purchase; and still no man is satisfied, and every side keeps its own, unless where folly or interest makes some few persons to change; and still more weakness and more impertinences crowd into the whole affair upon every reply, and more yet upon the rejoinder; and when men have wrangled tediously and vainly, they are but where they were; save only, that they may re
member they suffered infirmity, and, it may be, the transport of passions, and uncharitable expressions; and all this for an unrewarding interest, for that which is sometimes uncertain itself, unrevealed, unuseful, and unsatisfying; that in the event of things, and after being wearied for little or nothing, men have now in a very great proportion left it quite off, as unsatisfying waters, and have been desirous of more material nourishment, and of such notices of things and just assistances, as may promote their eternal interest.
And, indeed, it was great reason and high time that they should do so for when they were employed in rowing up and down in uncertain seas, to find something that was not necessary, it was certain they would less attend to that, which was more worthy their inquiry: and the enemy of mankind knew that to be a time of his advantage, and accordingly sowed tares while we so slept; and we felt a real mischief while we contended for an imaginary and fantastic good. For things were come to that pass, that it was the character of a good man to be zealous for a sect, and all of every party respectively, if they were earnest and impatient' of contradiction, were sure to be saved by their own preachers; and holiness of life was not so severely demanded, but that men believe their country articles; and heaven-gates at no hand might be permitted to stand open to any one else. Thence came hatred, variance, emulation, and strifes; and the wars of Christendom which have been kindled by disputers, and the evil lives which were occasioned and encouraged by those proceedings, are the best confutation in the world of all such disputations.
But now when we come to search into that part of theology, which is most necessary, in which the life of Christianity, and the interest of souls, the peace of Christendom, and the union of minds, the sweetness of society, and the support of government, the usefulness and comfort of our lives, the advancement of virtue, and the just measures of honour; we find many things disordered, the tables of the commandments broken in pieces, and some parts are lost and some disordered, and into the very practice of Christians there are crept so many material errors, that although God made nothing plainer, yet now nothing is more difficult and involved, uncertain and discomposed, than many of the great lines
and propositions in moral theology: nothing is more neg lected, more necessary, or more mistaken. For although very many run into holy orders without just abilities, and think their province is well discharged if they can preach upon Sundays; and men observing the ordinary preaching to be little better than ordinary talk, have been made bold to venture into the holy sept, and invade the secrets of the temple, as thinking they can talk, at the same rate which they observe to be the manner of vulgar sermons: yet they who know to give a just value to the best things, know that the sacred office of a priest, a minister of religion, does not only require great holiness, that they may acceptably offer the Christian sacrifices and oblations of prayer and eucharist for the people, and become their fairest examples; but also great abilities, and wise notices of things and persons, strict observation, deep remembrances, prudent applications, courage and caution, severity and mercy, diligence and wisdom, that they may dispense the excellent things of Christianity, to the same effect whither they were designed in the councils of eternity, that is, to the glory of God and the benefit of souls.
But it is a sad thing to observe how weakly the souls of men and women are guided; with what false measures they are instructed, how their guides oftentimes strive to please men rather than to save them, and accordingly have fitted their discourses and sermons with easy theorems, such which the schools of learning have fallen upon by chance, or interest, or flattery, or vicious necessities, or superinduced arts, or weak compliances. But from whatsoever cause it does proceed, we feel the thing: there are so many false principles in the institutions and systems of moral or casuistical divinity, and they taught so generally, and believed so unquestionably, and so fitted to the dispositions of men, so complying with their evil inclinations, so apt to produce error and confidence, security and a careless conversation, that neither can there be any way better to promote the interest of souls, nor to vindicate truth, nor to adorn the science itself, or to make religion reasonable and intelligible, or to promote holy life, than by rescuing our schools, and pulpits, and private persuasions, from the believing such propositions which have prevailed very much and very long, but
yet which are not only false, but have immediate influence upon the lives of men, so as to become to them a state of universal temptation from the severities and wisdom of holi
When therefore I had observed concerning the church of England [which is the most excellently instructed with a body of true articles, and doctrines of holiness, with a discipline material and prudent, with a government apostolical, with dignities neither splendid nor sordid, too great for contempt, and too little for envy (unless she had met with little people and greatly malicious), and indeed with every thing that could instruct or adorn a Christian church, so that she wanted nothing but the continuance of peace, and what she already was]; that amongst all her heaps of excellent things, and books by which her sons have ministered to piety and learning both at home and abroad, there was the greatest scarcity of books of cases of conscience; and that while I stood watching that some or other should undertake it according to the ability which God gave them; and yet every one found himself hindered or diverted, persecuted or disabled, and still the work was left undone, I suffered myself to be invited to put my weak hand to this work, rather than that it should not be done at all. But by that time I made some progression in the first preparatory discourses to the work, I found that a great part of that learning was supported by principles very weak and very false: and that it was in vain. to dispute concerning a single case whether it were lawful or no, when, by the general discoursings of men, it might be permitted to live in states of sin without danger or reproof, as to the final event of souls. I thought it therefore necessary, by way of address and preparation to the publ cation of the particulars, that it should appear to be necessary for a man to live a holy life; and that it could be of concern to him to inquire into the very minutes of his conscience for if it be no matter how men live, and if the hopes of heaven can well stand with a wicked life, there is nothing in the world more unnecessary, than to inquire after cases of conscience. And if it be sufficient for a man at the last to cry for pardon for having all his life-time neither regarded laws nor conscience, certainly they have found out a better compendium of religion, and need not be troubled