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455

To the right honourable, the Commons of England, assembled in Parliament.

I need not give any other account of my publishing this ensuing short discourse, than that which was also the ground and reason of its preaching, — namely, your command. Those who are not satisfied therewith, I shall not endeavour to tender farther grounds of satisfaction unto, as not having any persuasion of prevailing if I should attempt it. Prejudice so far oftentimes prevails, even on good soils, that satisfaction will not speedily thrive and grow in them. That which exempts me from solicitousness about the frame and temper of men’s minds and spirits, in the entertainment of discourses of this nature, is the annexing of that injunction unto our commission in delivering the word of God: it must be done, “whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear.” Without, therefore, any plea or apology for whatever may seem most to need it in this sermon, I devolve the whole account of the rise and issue it had, or may have, on the providence of God in my call and your command. Only I shall crave leave to add, that, in my waiting for a little leisure to recollect what I delivered out of my own short notes and others’ (that I might not preach one sermon and print another), there were some considerations that fell in exciting me to the obedience I had purposed. The desire I had to make more public, at this time and season, the testimony given in simplicity of spirit to the interest of Christ in these nations, and therein to the true, real interest of these nations themselves, — which was my naked design, openly managed, and pursued with all plainness of speech (as the small portion of time allotted to this exercise would allow), — was the chief of them. Solicitations of some particular friends gave also warmth unto that consideration. I must farther confess, that I was a little moved by some mistakes that were delivered into the hands of report, to be managed to the discountenance of the honest and plain truth contended for, especially when I found them, without due consideration, exposed in print unto public view. That is the manner of these days wherein we live. I know full well that there is not any thing, from the beginning to the ending of this short discourse, that doth really interfere with any form of civil government in the world, administered according to righteousness and equity, — as there is not in the gospel of Christ, or in any of the concernments of it. And I am assured, also, that the truth proposed in it inwraps the whole ground of any just expectation of the continuance of the presence of God amongst us, and his acceptation of our endeavours about the allotment and just disposal of our civil affairs. Let others lay what weight they will or please, upon the lesser differences that are amongst us on any account whatever; if this shield be safe, — this 456principle maintained and established, that is here laid down, — and the just rights of the nation laid in a way of administration, suited unto its preservation and furtherance, I shall not easily be cast down from my hopes, that amongst us — poor, unprofitable, unthankful creatures as we are — we may yet see the fruit of righteousness to be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for evermore. For those, then, who shall cast their eve on this paper, I would beg of them to lay aside all those prejudices against persons or things, which their various contexture in our public affairs may possibly have raised in them. I know how vain, for the most part, expectations of prevailing in such a desire by naked requests are; but sick men must be groaning, though they look for no relief thereby. Wherefore, committing it into that hand wherein lie also your hearts and mine, I shall commend it, for your use, unto the sovereign grace of Him, who is able to work all your present works for you, and, which is more, to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified. So prays

Your Servant in the work of

Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel,

John Owen.

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