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TO THE RIGHT WORSHIPFUL

EDWARD ATKINS,

SERGEANT AT LAW, AND FORMERLY ONE OF THE JUSTICES OF THE COMMON-PLEAS.

Honoured Sir,

THOUGH at first it was free, and in my choice, whether I should publish these discourses, yet the publication being once resolved, the dedication was not so indifferent; the nature of the subject, no less than the obligations of the author, styling them in a peculiar manner yours: for since their drift is to carry the most endangered and endangering truth, above the safest, when sinful, interest; as a practice upon grounds of reason the most generous, and of Christianity the most religious; to whom rather should this assertion repair as to a patron, than to him whom it has for an instance? Who, in a case of eminent competition, chose duty before interest; and when the judge grew inconsistent with the justice, preferred rather to be constant to sure principles, than to an unconstant 54government: and to retreat to an innocent and honourable privacy, than to sit and act iniquity by a law; and make your age and conscience (the one venerable, the other sacred) drudges to the tyranny of fanatick, perjured usurpers. The next attempt of this discourse is a defence of the ministry, and that, at such a time, when none owned them upon the bench, (for then you had quitted it;) but when, on the contrary, we lived to hear one in the very face of the university, (as it were in defiance of us and our profession,) openly in his charge to defend the Quakers and fanaticks, persons not fit to be named in such courts, but in an indictment. But, sir, in the instructions I here presumed to give to others, concerning what they should do, you may take a narrative of what you have done: what respected their actions as a rule or admonition, applied to yours is only a rehearsal, whose zeal in asserting the ministerial cause is so generally known, so gratefully acknowledged, that I dare affirm, that in what I deliver, you read the words indeed of one, but the thanks of all. Which affectionate concernment of yours for them, seems to argue a spiritual sense, and experimental taste of their works, and that you have reaped as much from their labours, as others have done from their lands: for to me it seemed always strange, and next to impossible, that a man, converted by the word preached, should ever hate and persecute a preacher. And since you have several times in discourse declared yourself for that government in the church, which is founded upon scripture, reason, apostolical practice, and antiquity, and (we are sure) the only one that can consist with the present government of state, I thought the latter discourse also might fitly address itself to you; in the which you may read your judgment, as in the other your practice. And now, since it has pleased Providence at length to turn our captivity, and answer persecuted patience with the unexpected returns of settlement; to remove our rulers, and restore our ruler; and not only to make our exactors righteousness, but, what is better, to give us righteousness instead of exaction, and hopes of religion to a 55church worried with reformation; I believe, upon a due and impartial reflection on what is past, you now find no cause to repent, that you never dipt your hands in the bloody high courts of justice, properly so called only by antiphrasis; nor ever prostituted the scarlet robe to those employments, in which you must have worn the colour of your sin in the badge of your office: but, notwithstanding all the enticements of a prosperous villany, abhorred the purchase, when the price was blood. So that now, being privileged by an happy unconcernment in those legal murders, you may take a sweeter relish of your own innocence, by beholding the misery of others guilt, who being guilty before God, and infamous before men, obnoxious to both, begin to find the first-fruits of their sin in the universal scorn of all, their apparent danger, and unlikely remedy: which beginnings being at length consummated by the hand of justice, the cry of blood and sacrilege will cease, men’s doubts will be satisfied, and Providence absolved.

And thus, sir, having presumed to honour my first essays in divinity, by prefixing to them a name, to which divines are so much obliged; I should here in the close of this address contribute a wish at least to your happiness: but since we desire it not yet in another world, and your enjoyments in this (according to the standard of a Christian desire) are so complete, that they require no addition; I shall turn my wishes into gratulations, and congratulating their fulness, only wish their continuance: praying that you may still possess what you possess, and do what you do; that is, reflect upon a clear, unblotted, acquitting conscience, and feed upon the ineffable comforts of the memorial of a conquered temptation, without the danger of returning to the trial. And this, sir, I account the greatest felicity that you can enjoy, and therefore the greatest that he can desire, who is

Your’s in all observance,

ROBERT SOUTH.

Ch. Ch. 25. of
May 1660.

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