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greatest Pretenders make it only a Trick to cheat the World. Whether that Prophaneness, which hath too much of late incroached upon this Western VVorld, do not owe its Original to fuch Religious Pretences of Men, who, under the Name of Juftice and Sanctity, have dared to do that which Heathens would have trembled at, I leave to wiser Men than my self to judge.
Only I cannot but take notice of a strange Effect, which our Sermons have accidentally, as the Sun doth Snakes and Serpents when thining upon unclean Dunghils, produced in the Lives of too many, of whom we might juftly have expected better returns in Religion; for while we have been difcouraging them from Hypocrife, they have run out into Debauchery; and while we have endeavoured to clear our Church from fuch as have but a Form of Godliness, they have made our Attempt an opportunity to indulge themselves in their Lufts, and thought, that the way to approve themselves true Members of our Church, was to Drink, "Swear, and be Lewd, and to commit those Sins openly, which the other, may be, did in fecret. Excellent Sons of the Church! that, Viper like, tear up her Bowels, and, by a kind of Gallantry fetch'd from Hell, rail at their Mother more than Shimei did at David. I is no Church this day in all the Chriftian World, that in her Doctrine doth either encourage Real Goodness more, or strives more to keep the Balance even, that God may have the Things which are God's, and Man the Things which are Man's, than that we
may be bold to affirm, That there David. İ
live in Yet to our Sorrow we find, that while we have given People leave to laugh at Religious Diffimulations, they have laughed themselves into Licentiousness; and while they have taken liberty to cavil at a falfe Religion, they have at laft learned to be averfe from all that looks like Holiness. This hath made me fometime admire, what thefe Men do with their Reason, and that they do not prefently forfwear buying any more Pearls, because fome there are, that fell Counterfeit ones for True; Strange! They fhould, to avoid one Extreme, run into another; and to fhun Deceptions in Religion, run as far from it, as the Devil can mislead them: How foon might the Folly of both Extremes be discovered, if Men were but willing to think more than they do! but while they go on in a Road of a few outward Duties, and confider not how unworthy of that Church and Gospel they live, whose Friends they profefs themselves to be, no marvel if they fright Men away from our Affemblies, and bring Darkness upon all the Land of Gofben.
The juft Indignation I have taken at the Injuries our Church fuffers from thefe Scandalous Men, hath been partly the occafion of this Trea tife. For I fee, Men's Cures lie within their own Breasts, and that fo many are fick unto Death, and ready to perish, the reafon is, because they will not reflect, what unreasonable Men they are; nor represent to themselves the Wrong they do to their Souls by a lively Confideration, as will evidently appear in the enfuing Difcourfe.
I confefs, divers Accomplishments which render a Book acceptable to curious Palates, such as are Rhetorick, Elegancy of Style, Fancy, Wit, and frequent Quotations of Authors, &c. will be found wanting here; but, as I profefs no Skill that way, to my Design was not fo much to fill Men's Heads with Notions, as their Hearts with Fire. It was to engage the Ignorant and Careless to a fubftantial Improvement of their Reason. And if what I have faid, can prevail with those that have lived like Beafts, to recover themselves into Men again; I both undervalue the little Cenfures of Supercilious Men, and content my self with that Succefs. We cannot all fhine as Stars of the first Magnitude, in the wide Firmament of the Church; thofe that cannot muft give fuch Light as they are able to difpenfe: I envy not our Eagles in Divinity, that they fee far more than I, but thank God I see so much: And while the greater Sages offer Gold, and Myrrhe, and Frankincenfe, I am happy enough, if I may be allowed to bring Goats Hair, and Badgers Skins, towards the Accomplishment of the Tabernacle. A Critical Eye may spy Faults in this Free-will Offering, and I do not wonder at it; for my duller Sight, now I have done, discovers more than I wish there were in't. But my Difcourfe is fitted to my End. Doing good is my Intent; if I fucceed not, it's no morc but what greater Men have failed of.