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THE kind Reception which has been given to all the other Works of this incomparable Author, particularly to his Private Thoughts, written in his younger Years; has encouraged the Publishing of another Volume of his Thoughts, upon Subjects of the most importance to the Christian Life, in all the chief Scenes of it; and those compos’d when Age and Experience in the Course of his Parochial Ministry had taught him, what Directions were most necessary for the Conduct of every Disciple of Christ, through all the Stages of that Race that is set before us, that he so run that he vimay obtain. Accordingly the Reader is here furnish’d, not only with such Instructions, as are most proper for the Entrance upon this Race, and the early Discipline of those who are new listed under Christ’s Banner; but also with such other Points both of Faith and Practice, as are most fit to be afterwards inculcated and press’d upon them, for their successful carrying on of this Holy Warfare, and finishing their Course, so as at last to attain the Crown of Righteousness, laid up for all those that continue Christ’s faithful Soldiers and Servants to their lives end.
AS in, his Private Thoughts and Resolutions, this Excellent Bishop seems to have chiefly aim’d at settling his own Principles, and regulating his Practice, as became a Follower of the Holy Jesus, and viia Minister of his Gospel: So in These which are more Publick, he carries on the same pious Design with respect to others, and Executes that Sacred Office, for which Those were to prepare him. Indeed, great and indefatigable as his Labours were (for few ever labour’d more) the End of them was always the Salvation of Souls. And as that Spirit of Piety which runs through all his Writings, together with his plain, unaffected, familiar, and yet most solid way of Argument and Perswasion, are both admirably adapted to this great End: (to say nothing of all his other daily and unwearied pains in the Ministry while living) so, through God’s great Blessing upon his Endeavours, they were then, and have been since crowned with great Success; and it is the Hopes and Prayers of all good Men, that they may continue so viiito be, to the End of the World, and daily add to our Holiness, and his Happiness.
AMONG many Instances that might be given of this happy Success, I have now one before me in a Relation of the Behaviour of one of this vigilant Pastor’s Flock, in his last Sickness, as it is Attested by Eye-witness of it, I will not trouble the Reader with the Particulars; the sum is, That this pious Gentleman, with his last Breath, expressed so much Resignation to God’s Will, and so little fear of Death, such Comfort in reflecting upon the better part of his Life, especially his Charity to the Poor; and so much Zeal in recommending that Duty to those about him; and above all, such an Anticipation of those Extasies of Joy and Happiness which he was going to in ixanother World, and so uncommon and enlarg’d an Understanding of the great Mysteries of Religion; that if, in the midst of these Holy Raptures, he had not own’d his great Obligations to Dr. Beveridge, for these Spiritual Blessings, yet we might have easily judged that so great a Proficient in the School of Religion, could be indebted, under God, to the Care and Instruction of no less a Master for such extraordinary Acquirements.
AND, with respect that Good, which it is piously hoped this great Prelate’s Works have done since his Death, and may continue to do daily; it has been observ’d by some devout Persons, that since the Publication of them, our Churches have been generally fuller than they us’d to be; to which, as nothing would contribute more, than that Spirit of Devotion xand true Piety, which in all his practical Writings this Holy Man both expresses himself, and labours to create in others: So, if after all these Pious Endeavours to Cultivate and Promote it in the World, we are sensible of the least growth of it, I know not why we may not ascribe so good an effect to the Blessing of God upon so probable a Cause.
HOWEVER, if the Piety of some among us, which we hope increaseth, be not a sufficient Argument of a probable increase of true Religion, to be expected from the Influence of this great Man’s Works, yet I am sorry to say, that the Wickedness of others does abundantly make up that Defect; I mean the restless Endeavours of all the Enemies of God and Religion, to Discredit and Defame them; if by any means xithey could be able to ward such a Blow to the Kingdom of Darkness, as they seem to apprehend from his pious Labours. And what wonder if those who mock God, and would bring Religion itself into Contempt, use their utmost Endeavours to blast the Reputation of an Author, whose Writings are so eminently serviceable to Religion, and tend so much to advance the Glory of God? All their Attempts of this Nature, are so many Arguments of the Excellency of what they would decry; they are the Testimonies even of Enemies, in behalf of those admirable Books which they pretend to Ridicule: And all the Scorn and Contempt they express upon this Occasion, reflects more Honour upon Bishop Beveridge and his Works; I had almost said, even than the Approbation and Esteem of all his xiiand Religion’s Friends. So, much Good does God in his Infinite Wisdom and Mercy produce out of the greatest Evil, by turning all the Wit and Malice of these Reprobates against themselves, and making them, even against their own Wills, Instruments of sounding forth the Praises of this Excellent Writer, at the same Time, and by the very same Means, that they vainly attempt to Dishonour and Reproach him. As the Devils themselves were forc’d to own our Blessed Saviour, though they knew he came on purpose to destroy them. It were only to be wished, that in this, as in most other Instances, those Children of this Word were not in their Generation, so much wiser than the Children of Light. ’Tis true, we may as well fear, that Dogs should bark out the Moon, as that the utmost Malice of these Enemies to xiiiTruth, shall ever be able to sully a Reputation, that has long shin’d, with so much brightness, among all Learned and Good Men, both at home and abroad: Insomuch, that when this Illustrious Prelate was dying, one of the Chief of his Order, deservedly said of him, There goes one of the greatest, and of the best Men that ever England bred. No, we have seen that all their Attempts against him, do but add lustre to his Fame: However, it cannot be less the Interest of Religion to promote the Works of so able a Divine, than it is that of Atheism and Irreligion to oppose them; and if all good Men would shew as much Zeal in the defence of them and their great Author, and be as industrious to recommend both his Writings and Example, as Atheists and Libertines are to Obstruct the Influence of both, this would still be another xivAddition to the Glory of so great a Name; and the good Effects we might hope or, on the Lives of Men, from such Excellent Books, dispersed into many Hands, would be, at once, the best Attestation that could be given to the wondrous Benefit and Usefulness of them, and also the most effectual Means to stop the Mouths of Gainsayers, by lessening the number of them daily, and bringing them over from Infidelity, and Atheism; to the Cause of God and Religion.
AND, I cannot close this Preface better, than with earnest Prayers to God, that this, and all the other Works of Bishop Beveridge may have that Blessed effect; and that in return to all the Malice of those, who seem to Envy us the great Good we may hope for from such Pious xvand Instructive Discourses, they may, by degrees, instill even into their Breasts, some of that Spirit of Piety, diffus’d through every Page; and of Atheists and Libertines, make them sober Men, and Christians.
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