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L E T T E R
To the dearly beloved Ministers of the
Gospel, (much to be reverenced in Christ) now at length, by the wonderful Providence of God, restored to Liberty: Addressed as a humble Supplication to the more aged, and as an Exhortation to younger Ministers and Candidates.
Reverend Fathers, and Brethren in Chrift,
to our fancy, yet we ought to have a great liking to those, which the Spirit himself hath authorised in fcripture. There he hath represented, and painted to the life, the deliverance of his fuffering church, by the sweet delights of the advancing Spring, Cant. ii. 12.
In the Spring, the Earth, like a moft bountiful parent, opens her bosom, produces variety of herbs, adorns the meadows with abundance of flowers; the trees, which had been stript of their former green leaves, are clothed with new ones; the cold being now driven away, the air becomes warm, and the cattle bring home udders full of milk; Then joyous birds, frequent the lonely groves.
. All nature is renewed and fmiles; the season is kindly, favourable, and admirably well adapted to the benefit of all things, chiefly of those endued with life. All which things have been, in a very elaborate and ingenious manner, applied by our learned countryman Brightman, to that remarkable period, when Cyrus published that edict of his, (which can never
* This letter was originally wrote in Latin, the author judging it neceffary to be fo; as'what allowed him a greater freedom of expresfion, than might seem convenient at that time in the common language ; yet, that every reader might be profited by it, the pub. lilber of this edition hath thought fit to translate it into English. It has a reference to the troubles before, and the bleflings after the Revolution.
e fufficiently commended) for fetting God's people at liberty. "he enlivening beams of a like providential interposition, like ne fun entering the sign of Aries, have made us, who were alf-dead, to revive.
We are not infensible, as our wounds are yet green, what reat and sharp afflictions we have fuffered for many years byaft, for confcience fake. Alas, what fad things have we not een! what oppressions have we not unjustly endured, during his rough, difmal, and every-way destructive winter? We have een the sea swelling with dreadful storms, by reason of which, ome being amazed and confounded, they hoised fail to any vind whatsoever: 'we have feen trees that excelled others, both n fruitfulness and comelinefs, beat down and laid low by the tormy winds; others, which bare neither fruit nor leaves, have been, as it were, blasted. Mountains have we seen become white with hoar-frost, rivers locked up in ice, lands covered, nay, buried in snow ; flocks of fowls, and herds of cattle starved with hunger, wandering up and down in great want ; cunning fowlers spreading their nets, and infnaring many: In a word, we have feen Christ's church (alas !) piereed with arrows. winged with her own feathers; the civil ftate founded on laws, almoft fubverted by laws; every thing having a bad aspect, and growing daily worse and worse.
Long and fore have we been tossed in the sea of trouble ; in our youth we were plunged into it, we are come out of it in
age : our case has been the same with what happened at the fiege of Tyre, Ezek. xxix. 18. Every head is made bald, and every shoulder is peeled; but yet all these things seem troublesome rather than wonderful, to any one who seriously considers the things prophesied by the great apostle, 2 Tim. üi. 1. In the last days, perilous times fhall come. Of which perilous timtes, * Lactantius writes thus: “When the end of this world' is approaching, the state of human affairs must needs be
greatly changed, and grow worse, through the prevalency of . wickednefs; in fo much that this present age, wherein fin and " wickedness have been arrived to the greatest pitch, may,
when compared with that abandoned and incorrigible age,
be juftly deemed the happy and golden one. For then righ'teousness shall decrease, and ungodliness, avarice, ambition, + and lust increase: so that whofoever shall happen then to be
fober and religious, shall become a prey to the wicked, and • be greatly harrassed by the unrighteous ; the vicious alone
* Lattan. Hih, 70. de divino pramio, p. 578, 579.
,' shall be prosperous and happy, while the people of God thall • meet with every kind of bad treatment, and be reduced to ' extreme poverty. All right shall be confounded, laws thal
perish; then no body shall pofless any thing but what is ill got, or what he is obliged to defend by force ; rapine and vi
olence shall carry every thing before them: there shall be no « fidelity among men, no peace, no humanity, do shame, no • truth, and neither safety nor order, nor any reft from trouble;
for the whole earth shall be in confufion, and the noise and
din of war heard every where; all nations shall be up in ' arms, and attack one another ; neighbouring states thall war ' among themselves ; destruction shall run over the face of the • earth, cutting down every thing, and laying it along, as corn. • fields are in harvest. The reason of which dreadful calami
ty and strange confusion, will be this, That the Roman name,
which has subdued the whole world, shall then (I tremble to • utter it, but, since it is certain, utter it I must) be quite ex. tinat.'
What think you, reader, is not this a description of our own times, or must we wait longer, till that pernicious and wicked race of men shall appear upon the stage? That this hath been fulfilled in our late troubles, none fure can hesitate that hath any discernment.
But God at length, pitying our distreffes, hath raised up a man *, both zealous for the truth, and a lover of godliness, boldly to affert his cause in the face of danger and toil, and to put a new face on things. Concerning this time it shall be said, What wonderful things hath God done ? Now every impediment being removed, and the dreadful storm calmed, (which scatters up and down like stubble) our gracious God doth in this manner bespeak us, Rise up, my love, my fair öne, and come away; for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the sings ing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in cur land. As if he had said, You have been long enough confined at home; come now (for you may safely come) abroad. There is the greatest appearance of safety and incitement to labour every where. Thus the severity of the Winter recommends to us the pleasures of the Spring. For
my part, I had no sooner heard the joyful news of Liberty, than presently I began to prepare myself for my proper and much longed for:work; for if so much pleasure is found
* WILLIAM III. Prince of ORANGE.
in the study of the mathematics, that when one has tasted of it, he is so ravished and bewitched with it, that he cannot be taken off from the study of them; it will certainly be the sweetest pleasure of all, to employ our labours, however much we are exhausted, for the glory of Christ, and good of souls : it gives me therefore no small pleasure, that at length I may put in my fickle, which hath been long in disuse, into the
Lord's harvest, together with the rest of my fellow-labourers. Thanks to my God, who hath not only seasonably opened a door of opportunity, but hath also (which I earnestly supplicated for) given me to see the happy effects of found doctrine, and hath long ago blessed it unto many.
These first-fruits of Restored Liberty, and which many have importuned me to publish, I now molt humbly offer unto you. Indulge a brother, the weakest of all, and one who reckons him. self justly inferior to all the servants of Christ; if, on this figo nal and most extraordinary occasion, Christian zeal should break forth a little more freely than may be suitable either to my small share of learning or experience.
Here your preacher hath not fought after the pomp of eloquence. Through the whole I have used a popular, not polite, ftile; pithy, not showy: for I thought it might be justly faid concerning Theology, what Cicero fays of Philosophy, That to talk
upon subjects of that nature in an elaborate stile, is childish; but to be capable of delivering with plainness and perfpicuity, is the part of a learned and knowing man. I should be justly displeased with myself, if I preached the doctrine of a crucified Christ, in a stile unbecoming his cross; which surely is the character of a stile pompous and swelling.
These things being premifed, I. Let us rejoice in our liberty, with a joy duely moderated ; mean, with a joy equally balanced, and guarded on all hands by grief for past íns, and dread of future ones. We read in Jeremiah, of the voice of fighing and weeping, with which the faithful would, about the time of their deliverance, confess their fins, by which they had provoked God, and would fincerely bewail them with contrite hearts. And how suitable was that fong of the church, even at the laying the foundation of the second temple; a song equally composed of joyful shouting, and abundant weeping, Ezra iii. 10. 6 Many weeped with
a loud voice, many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people " could not discern the noise of the shout of joy, from the noise " of the weeping of the people.” Nor are the faints afhamed
to confess their falls and shameful deeds to the glory of Gode wicked for nothing is a lofs to us, which redounds to his glory. Oựr tantius countenance must in his light be comely and amiable, when he
a free fees penitential tears mixed with those of joy and thanksgivingo enjoy It is the character of a true penitent to lament his faults, that he may not again commit things to be lamented.
ito de Afaph has set before us an illustrious example of penitence
, Pfal. Ixxiv. 8. Remember not (fays he) against us our former mer iniquities. God is said to remember iniquities, when calling
W. fins to an account, and judging of their greatness and number, he resolves to punish. Afaph speaks of God after the manner but h of men ; for they, when greatly offended, and about to punith
. their children, do then call to mind all their former faults : let
the us, in like manner, reflect on ours, and sincerely bewail our past Nothful conduct, an unhappy concomitant of liberty: Thus. we have neither flamed with ardent love on the one hand, nor grieved with that degree of forrow which was requisite on the other : we have oftentimes spoken more from the head than from the heart. We have both prayed and preached too too "ger coldly
about matters the most awful and important. We have not followed the footsteps of those worthies that went before usi in the last age, so as to come up with them. We have beerat finall pains to fupport the majesty of religion, by the gra
frc vity of our conversation, and the usefulness of our discourses. sca For which cause our God has conceived juft anger againft us
, and has manifested that by the past calamities; and by fo manifesting it hath plainly admonished us to be on our guard for the time to come.
II. Therefore brethren, I earnestly beg of you, in the bowels. of Christ, that you will not forget these words of the apostle, if it be pollible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men, Rom. xii. 18. There is added a twofold limitation, firlty If it be possible, that is, consistently with justice, piety, and truth : Such a regard is not to be had to truth, as that the study of peace be entirely neglected ; nor is such unity to be fought after, as destroys truth; but speak the truth in love, as the fame apostle exhorts, Eph. iv. 15. For, as our countryman Mr. Davenant juftly observes, they love neither from the heart, who love not both. Christians therefore, when they both live peaceably in owning the truth, and speak the truth in love, a great ornament to their profession. The other limitation is, As much as lieth in you, that is, live in friendship with all
, if it be possible, and if they will not be friendly, on their sure you be lo on yours. Truth begets hatred among