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TO THE READER.
THIS unhappy controversy, about the received ceremonies
and discipline of the Church of England, which hath so long time withdrawn so many of her ministers from their principal work, and employed their studies in contentious oppositions ; hath by the unnatural growth and dangerous fruits thereof, made known to the world, that it never received blessing from the Father of peace. For whose experience doth not find, what confusion of order, and breach of the sacred bond of love, hath sprung from this dissension; how it hath rent the body of the church into divers parts, and divided her people into divers sects; how it hath taught the sheep to despise their pastors, and alienated the pastors from the love of their flocks; how it hath strengthened the irreligious in their impieties, and hath raised the hopes of the sacrilegious devourers of the remains of Christ's patrimony; and given way to the common adversary of God's truth, and our prosperity, to grow great in our land without resistance ? who seeth not how it hath distracted the minds of the multitude, and shaken their faith, and scandalized their weakness, and hath generally killed the very heart of true piety, and religious devotion, by changing our zeal towards Christ's glory, into the fire of envy and malice, and heart-burning, and zeal to every man's private cause? This is the sum of all the gains which the tedious contentions of so many years have brought in, by the ruin of Christ's kingdom, the increase of Satan’s, partly in superstition and partly in impiety. So much better were it in these our dwellings of peace, to endure any inconvenience whatsoever in the outward frame, than in
desire of alteration, thus to set the whole house on fire.
But the love of God and of his country, whose greatest danger grew from this division, made his heart hot within him, and at length the fire kindled, and amongst many other most reverend and learned men, he also presumed
, to speak with his pen. And the rather, because he saw that none of these ordinary objections of partialities could elevate the authority of his writing, who always affected a private state, and neither enjoyed, nor expected any the least dignity in our church. What admirable height of learning and depth of judgment dwelled within the lowly mind of this true humble man, great in all wise men's eyes, except his own; with what gravity and majesty of speech his tongue and pen uttered heavenly mysteries, whose eyes in the humility of his heart were always cast down to the ground; how all things that proceeded from him were breathed, as from the spirit of love, as if he like the bird of the Holy Ghost, the dove, had wanted gall; let them that knew him not in his person, judge by these living images of his soul, his writings. For out of these, even those who otherwise agree not with him in opinion, do afford him the testimony of a mild and a loving spirit: and of his learning, what greater proof can we have than this, that his writings are most admired by those who themselves do most excel in judicious learning, and by them the more often they are read, the more highly they are extolled and desired ?
which is the cause of this fourth edition of his former books, and that without any addition or diminution whatsoever. For who will put a pencil to such a work, from which such a workman hath taken his? There is a purpose of setting forth the three last books also, their father's Posthumi. For as in the great declining of his body, spent out with study, it was his ordinary petition to Almighty God, that if he might live to see the finishing of these books, then, Lord, let thy servant depart in peace, (to use his own words,) so it pleased God to grant him his desire. For he lived till he saw them perfected ; and though like Rachel he died as it were in the travail of them, and hastened death upon himself, by hastening to give them life: yet he held out to behold with his eyes, these partus ingenii, these Benjamins, sons of his right hand, though to him they were Benonies, sons of pain and sorrow. But some evil disposed minds, whether of malice, or covetousness, or wicked blind zeal, it is uncertain, as if they had been Egyptian midwives, as soon as they were born, and their father dead, smothered them, and by conveying away the perfect copies, left unto us nothing but certain old unperfect and mangled draughts, dismembered into pieces, and scattered like Medea's Absyrtus, no favour, no grace, not the shadows of themselves almost remaining in them. Had the father lived to see them brought forth thus defaced, he might rightfully have named them Benonies, the sons of sorrow.
But seeing the importunities of many great and worthy persons will not suffer them quietly to die and to be buried, it is intended that they shall see them as they are. The learned and judicious eye will yet perhaps delight itself in beholding the goodly lineaments of their well set bodies, and in finding out some shadows and resemblances of their father's face. God grant that as they were with their brethren dedicated to the church for messengers of peace, so in the strength of that little breath of life that remaineth in them, they may prosper in their work; and by satisfying the doubts of such as are willing to learn, may help to give an end to the calamities of these our civil wars.
TO THEM THAT SEEK (AS THEY TERM IT)
THE REFORMATION OF THE LAWS
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
The cause and occasion of handling these things, and what might be wished in them, for
NHOUGH for no other cause, yet for this ; that posterity
may know we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream, there shall be for men's
information extant thus much concerning the present state of whose sakes the Church of God established amongst us, and their careful pains is
endeavour which would have upheld the same.
[2.] The wonderful zeal and fervour wherewith ye have withstood the received orders of this church, was the first thing which caused me to enter into consideration, whether