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Preface.

The glass of our lives seems to run and keep pace with the extremity of time. The end of those “ends of the world”11   1 Cor. x. 11, Τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων. which began with the gospel is doubtless coming upon us. He that was instructed what should be till time should be no more,22   Rev. x. 6. said it was ἐσχάτη ὥρα,33   John ii. 18; Matt. xxiv. 33. the last hour, in his time. Much sand cannot be behind, and Christ shakes the glass; many minutes of that hour cannot remain; the next measure we are to expect is but “a moment, the twinkling of an eye, wherein we shall all be changed.’’44   1 Cor. xv. 52; Zanch. de fine sec. Mol. acc. Proph. Now, as if the horoscope of the decaying age had some secret influence into the wills of men to comply with the decrepit world, they generally delight to run into extremes. Not that I would have the fate of the times to bear the faults of men,55   Rom. ix. 19. like him who cried, Οὐκ ἐγὼ αἴτιός εἰμι ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς καὶ μοῖρα, to free himself, entitling God and fate to his sins; but only to show how the all-disposing providence of the Most High works such a compliance of times and persons as may jointly drive at his glorious aims, causing men to set out in such seasons as are fittest for their travel. This epidemical disease of the aged world is the cause why, in that great diversity of contrary opinions wherewith men’s heads and hearts are now replenished, the truth pretended to be sought with so much earnestness may be often gathered up quite neglected between the parties litigant. “Medio tutissimus” is a sure rule, but that fiery spirits, —

Pyroeis, Eous, et Æthon,

Quartusque Phlegon,” —

will be mounting. In the matter concerning which I propose my weak essay, some would have all Christians to be almost ministers; others, none but ministers to be God’s clergy. Those would give the people the keys, these use them to lock them out of the church; the one ascribing to them primarily all ecclesiastical power for the ruling of the congregation, the other abridging them of the performance of spiritual duties for the building of their own souls: as though there were no habitable earth between the valley (I had almost said the pit) of democratical confusion and the precipitous rock of hierarchical tyranny. When unskilful archers shoot, the safest place to avoid the arrow is the white. Going as near as God shall direct me to the truth of this matter, I hope to avoid the strokes of the combatants on every side; and therefore will not handle it ἐριστικῶς, with opposition to any man or opinion, but δογματικῶς, briefly proposing mine own required judgment: the summary result whereof is, that the sacred calling may retain its ancient dignity, though the people of God be not deprived of their Christian liberty. To clear which proposal some things I shall briefly premise.


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