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indignation in the minds of some, who are perhaps sensible that many things in it touch them in too tender a part; yet on the other hand it has brought me such serious acknowledgments from many persons, to me otherwise unknown but by their letters, of the benefit they received by it; that I humbly bless God who made me an instrument in any sort of promoting his glory, and edifying his church, by awakening the consciences of so many clergymen to a better sense of their duty, and to more diligence in the discharge of it.
I am now in the 70th year of my age, and as I cannot speak long to the world in any sort, so I cannot hope for a more solemn occasion than this of speaking with all due freedom both to the present and to the succeeding ages. Therefore I lay hold on it to give it a free vent to those sad thoughts that lie on my mind both day and night, and are the subject of many secret mournings, I dare appeal to that God to whom the secrets of my heart are known, and to whom I am shortly to give an account of my ministry, that I have the true interests of this church ever-before my eyes, and that I pursue them with a sincere and fervent zeal; If I am mistaken in the methods I follow, God, to whom the integrity of my heart is known, will not lay that to my charge. I cannot look on, without the deepest concern, when I see imminent ruin hanging over this church, and by consequence over the whole reformation. The outward state of things is black enough, God knows'; but that which heightens my fears rises chiefly from the inward state into which we are unhappily fallen. I will, in examining this, confine myself to that which is the subject of the following book; I mean the clergy.
Qur ember weeks are the burden and grief of my life. The much greater part of those who come to be ordained are ignorant to a degree, not to be apprehended by those who are not obliged to know it. The easiest part of knowledge is that to which they are the greatest strangers; I mean the plainest parts of the scriptures, which they say, in excuse of their ignorance, that their tutors in the universities never mention the reading of to them; so that they can give no account, or at least a very imperfect one, of the contents even of the gospels. Those who have read some few books, yet never seem to have read the scriptures. Many cannot give a tolerable account even of the catechism itself, how short and plain soever. They cry and think it a sad disgrace to be denied orders, though the ignorance of some is such, that in a well-regulated state of things, they would appear not knowing enough to be admitted to the holy sacrament.
This does often tear my heart. The case is not much better in many, who having got into orders come for institution, and cannot make it appear that they have read the scriptures or any one good book since they were ordained, so that the small measure of knowledge upon which they got into holy orders not being improved, is in a way to be quite lost; and then they think it a great hardship if they are told, they must know the scriptures and the body of divinity better, before they can be trusted with a care of souls. These things pierce, one's soul, and make him often cry out, Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest ! What are we like to grow to? in what case are we, to deal with any adversary, Atheist, Papist, or Dissenter, or in any sort to promote the honour of God, and carry on the great concerns of the gospel, when so gross an ig
norance in the fundamentals of religion has spread itself so much among those who ought to teach others, and yet need that one teach them the first principles of the oracles of God?
Politics and party eat out among us not only study and learning; but that which is the only thing that is more valuable, a true sense of religion, with a sincere zeal in advancing that for which the Son of God both lived and died, and to which those who are received into holy orders have vowed to dedicate their lives and labours. Clamours of scandal in any of the clergy, are not frequent, it is true, and God be thanked for it: but remiss unthinking course of life, with little or no application to study, and the bare performing of that, which, if not done, would draw censures when complained of, without ever pursuing the duties of the pastoral care in any suitable degree, is but too common as well as too evident.
But if there is too visible a coldness among us, in that which requires our greatest heat and zeal; there is a great deal of faming heat about matters, in which more gentleness and a milder temper would both look better, and more effectually compass that which is designed by it; I mean the bringing the Dissenters into our communion. Bitter railings, and a rough behaviour, cannot make many converts. To study the grounds of their seperation thoroughly, to answer them calmly and solidly, and to treat their persons with all gentleness, expressing no uneasiness at the liberty granted them by law, is a method that will never fail of succeeding to a great degree, especially on the rising generation. Other methods do confirm their prejudices, and heighten their aversion to those
who treat them as enemies on design to ruin them, and not as friends on design to gain them.
God be thanked we are delivered from a remnant of Popery, that stuck too long to us, I mean persecution for conscience sake: for the breaches on a man's liberty or goods are as really a persecution, as that which strikes at his person.
They may be in some instances more uneasy; as a single death is not so formidable, as to be forced to live under great necessities, perhaps with a numerous family. And if we judge of this matter by our Saviour's rule, of doing to others what we would have others do to us, our consciences would soon decide the question: If we will but honestly ask ourselves how we would have those of another religion dea if we were living in countries where we must depart from the legal establishment, if we do truly follow the dictates of our conscience. But if our zeal in point of conformity seems too strong, there is no great reason to suspect many of much zeal, with relation to Popery, though that is our standing enemy, perpetually employed in working our ruin, with many hands and much heat; while we seem to be in a state of indolence and insensibility on that side, as if there was no danger from thence. When at any time we are in a fright, we are apt to cry out; but that is no sooner over, than we are in no apprehensions of any further danger. And to their great comfort, we have found out a new division to add to those we laboured under before; which we know they managed very dexterously for their own ends; shifting sides as a turn was to be served by it: But now the mine is more successfully played, since not only the breach between us and Dissenters is very artfully widened, but
we are unhappily broken among ourselves, and under the names of High and Low Church, there is a new scene opened for jealousy and animosity, which has been managed with such art and success, that bodies of men owning the same religion and worship, and the same government both in temporals and spirituals, are yet as much alienated from one another, if not more, than if their differences were ever so great and visible.
I will say nothing that may justly provoke any; but since I myself am ranked among the Low church-men I will open all that I know that is particular to them, and then leave it to others to judge what reason can be given for entertaining such hard thoughts of them.
They are cordially and conscientiously zealous for the church, as established by law: but yet they think no hu- .* man constitution is so perfect, but that it may
be made better, and that the church would be both more secure and more unexceptionable, if the administration of the discipline were put into other hands, and in a better method. They lay the foundation of all that they believe in the christian religion in the scriptures: These and these only are the measures and standard of their faith. No great names nor shews of authority over-awe them: They search the scriptures, there they seek and find their faith.
They think that in matters declared to be indifferent, no harm could follow on it, if some regard were had to the scruples of those who divide from us, in order to the fortifying the whole by uniting us among ourselves. but till that can be done, they think a kind deportment towards Dissenters softens their prejudices, and disposes them to hearken to the reasons which they offer to them,