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PIOUS AND DEVOUT READER. .
In this sad declension of religion, the seers who are appointed to be the watchmen of the church, cannot but observe that the supplanters and underminers are gone out, and are digging down the foundations; and having destroyed all public forms of ecclesiastical government, discountenanced an excellent liturgy, taken off the hinges of unity, disgraced the articles of religion, polluted public assemblies, taken away all cognizance of schism, by mingling all sects, and giving countenance to that, against which all power ought to stand upon their guard :- there is now nothing left, but that we take eare that men be Christians. For concerning the ornament and advantages of religion, we cannot make that provision we desire; “Incertis de salute, de gloriâ minimè certandum :" for since they who have seen Jerusalem in prosperity, and have forgotten the order of the morning and evening sacrifice, and the beauty of the temple, will be tempted to
neglect so excellent a ministration, and their assembling themselves together for peace, and holy offices, and be content with any thing that is brought to them, though it be but the husks and acorns of prodigals and swine, so they may enjoy their lands and their money with it;-we must now take care that the young men who were born in the captivity, may be taught how to worship the God of Israel after the manner of their forefathers, till it shall please God that religion shall return into the land, and dwell safely, and grow prosperously.
But never did the excellency of episcopal government appear so demonstratively and conspicuously as now. Under their conduct and order we had a church so united, so orderly, so governed; a religion so settled, articles so true, sufficient, and confessed; canons so prudent and so obeyed; devotions so regular and constant; sacraments so adorned and ministered; churches so beauteous and religious; circumstances of religion so grave and prudent, so useful and apt for edification, that the enemies of our church, who serve the pope in all things, and Jesus Christ in some, who dare transgress an institution and ordinance of Christ, but dare not break a canon of the pope, did despair
of prevailing against us and truth, and knew no hopes but by setting their faces against us to destroy this government, and then they knew they should triumph without any enemy: so Balaam, the son of Bosor, was sent for, to curse the people of the Lord, in hope that the son of Zippor might prevail against them, that had long prospered under the conduct of Moses and Aaron.
But now, instead of this excellency of condition and constitution of religion, the people are fallen under the harrows and saws of impertinent and ignorant preachers, who think all religion is a sermon, and all sermons ought to be libels against truth and old governors, - and expound chapters that the meaning may never be understood,-and pray, that they may be thought able to talk, but not to hold their peace,-casting not to obtain any thing but wealth and victory, power and plunder. And the people have reaped the fruits apt to grow upon such crabstocks: they grow idle and false, hypocrites and careless; they deny themselves nothing that is pleasant; they despise religion, forget government; and some never think of heaven; and they that do, think to go thither in such paths which all the ages of the church did give men warning of, lest they should, that way, go to the devil,
But when men have tried all that they can, it is to be supposed they will return to the excellency and advantages of the Christian religion, as it is taught by the church of England; for by destroying it, no end can be served but of sin and folly, faction, and death eternal. For besides that no church that is enemy to this, does worship God in that truth of propositions, in that unblamable and pious liturgy, and in preaching the necessities of holy life, so much as the church of England does ;-besides this, I say, it cannot be persecuted by any governor that understands his own interest, unless he be first abused by false preachers, and then prefer his secret opinion before his public advantage. For no church in the world is so great a friend to loyalty and obedience, as she, and her sisters of the same persuasion. They that hate bishops, have destroyed monarchy; and they that would erect an ecclesiastical monarchy, must consequently subject the temporal to it. And both one and the other would be supreme in consciences; and they that govern there, with an opinion that in all things they ought to be attended to, will let their prince govern others, so long as he will be ruled by them: and, certainly, for a prince to persecute the protestant religion, is as if a physician should endeavour to
destroy all medicaments, and fathers kill their sons, and the master of ceremonies destroy all formalities and courtships; and as if the pope should root out all the ecclesiastic state. Nothing so combines with government, if it be of God's appointment, as the religion of the church of England, because nothing does more adhere to the word of God, and disregard the crafty advantages of the world. If any man shall not decline to try his title by the word of God, it is certain there is not in the world a better guard for it, than the true protestant religion, as it is taught in our church. But let things be as it please God: it is certain, that in that day when truth gets her victory, in that day we shall prevail against all God's enemies and ours, not in the purchases and perquisites of the world, but in the rewards and returns of holiness and patience, and faith and charity; for by these we worship God, and against this interest we cannot serve any hing else.
In the mean time, we must, by all means, secure the foundation, and take care that religion may be conveyed, in all its material parts, the same as it was, but by new and permitted instruments. For let us secure that our young men be good Christians: it is easy to make them good protestants :