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To a Person newly converted to the Church of England.
I BLESS God I am safely arrived, where I desired to be after my unwilling departure from the place of your abode and danger and now because I can have no other expression of my tenderness, I account that I have a treble obligation to signify it by my care of your biggest and eternal interest. And because it hath pleased God to make me an instrument of making you to understand in some fair measure the excellences of a true and holy religion, and that I have pointed out such follies and errors in the Roman church, at which your understanding, being forward and pregnant, did of itself start as at imperfect ill-looking propositions, give me leave to do that now which is the purpose of my charity, that is, teach you to turn this to the advantage of a holy life, that you may not only be changed but converted. For the church of England, whither you are now come, is not in condition to boast herself in the reputation of changing the opinion of a single person, though never so excellent; she hath no temporal ends to serve, which must stand upon fame and noises; all that she can design, is to serve God, to advance the honour of the Lord, and the good of souls, and to rejoice in the cross of Christ.
First; therefore I desire you to remember, that as now you are taught to pray both publicly and privately, in a language understood, so it is intended your affections should be forward, in proportion to the advantages which your prayer hath in the understanding part. For though you have been often told and have heard, that ignorance is the mother of devotion; you will find that the proposition is unnatural, and against common sense and experience; because it is impossible to desire that of which we know nothing, unless the desire itself be fantastioal and illusive: it is necessary that in the same proportion in which we understand any good thing, in the same we shall also desire it; and the more particular and minute your notices are, the
more passionate and material also your affections will be towards it; and if they be good things for which we are taught to pray, the more you know them, the more reason you have to love them. It is monstrous to think that devotion, that is, passionate desires of religious things, and the earnest prosecutions of them, should be produced by any thing of ignorance or less perfect notices in any sense. Since therefore you are taught to pray, so that your understanding is the precentor or the master of the choir, and you know what you say; your desires are made human, religious, express, material (for these are the advantages of prayers and liturgies well understood): be pleased also to remember, that now if you be not also passionate and devout for the things you mention, you will want the spirit of prayer, and be more inexcusable than before. In many of your prayers before (especially the public), you heard a voice, but saw and perceived nothing of the sense; and what you understood of it was like the man in the Gospel that was half blind, he saw men walking like trees, and so you possibly might perceive the meaning of it in general; you knew when they came to the Epistle, when to the Gospel, when the Introit, when the 'Pax,' when any of the other more general periods were; but you could have nothing of the spirit of prayer, that is, nothing of the devotion and the holy affections to the particular excellences, which could or ought there to have been represented; but now you are taught how you may be really devout, it is made facile and easy, and there can want nothing but your consent and observation.
2. Whereas now you are taken off from all human confidences, from relying wholly and almost ultimately upon the priest's power and external act, from reckoning prayers by numbers, from forms and outsides; you are not to think that the priest's power is less, that the sacraments are not effective, that your prayers may not be repeated frequently: but you are to remember, that all outward things and ceremonies, all sacraments and institutions, work their effect in the virtue of Christ, by some moral instrument: the priests in the church of England can absolve you as much as the Roman priests could fairly pretend; but then we teach that you must first be a penitent and a returning person, and our absolution does but manifest the work of God, and comfort
and instruct your conscience, direct and manage it: you shall be absolved here, but not unless you live a holy life; so that in this you will find no change but to the advantage of a strict life; we will not flatter you and cozen your dear soul by pretended ministries, but we so order our discourses and directions, that all our ministrations may be really effective. And when you receive the holy sacrament of the eucharist or the Lord's supper, it does more good here than they do there; because if they consecrate rightly, yet they do not communicate you fully; and if they offer the whole representative sacrifice, yet they do not give you the whole sacrament; only we enjoin that you come with so much holiness, that the grace of God in your heart may be the principal, and the sacrament in our hands may be the ministering and assisting part. We do not promise great effects to easy trifling dispositions, because we would not deceive, but really procure to you great effects; and therefore you are now to come to our offices with the same expectations as before, of pardon, of grace, of sanctification; but you must do something more of the work yourself, that we may not do less in effect than you have in your expectation; we will not, to advance the reputation of our power, deceive you into a less blessing.
3. Be careful that you do not flatter yourself, that in our communion you may have more ease and liberty of life: for though I know your pious soul desires passionately to please God and to live religiously, yet I ought to be careful to prevent a temptation, lest it at any time should discompose your severity: therefore as to confession to a priest (which how it is usually practised among the Roman party, yourself can very well account, and you have complained sadly, that it is made an ordinary act, easy and transient, sometime matter of temptation, oftentimes impertinent, but), suppose it free from such scandal to which some men's folly did betray it, yet the same severity you will find among us for though we will not tell a lie to help a sinner, and say that is necessary which is only appointed to make men do themselves good; yet we advise and commend it, and do all the work of souls to all those people that will be saved by all means, to devout persons, that make religion the business of their lives; and they that do not so in the churches of the Roman communion, as they find but little advantage by pe
riodical confessions, so they feel but little awfulness and severity by the injunction. You must confess to God all your secret actions, you must advise with a holy man in all the affairs of your soul, you will be but an ill friend to yourself if you conceal from him the state of your spiritual affairs. We desire not to hear the circumstance of every sin, but when matter of justice is concerned, or the nature of the sin is changed, that is, when it ought to be made a question; and you will find that though the church of England gives you much liberty from the bondage of innumerable ceremonies and human devices, yet in the matter of holiness you will be tied to very great service, but such a service as is perfect freedom, that is, the service of God and the love of the holy Jesus, and a very strict religious life: for we do not promise heaven, but upon the same terms it is promised us, that is 'repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus' and as in faith we make no more to be necessary than what is made so in Holy Scripture, so in the matter of repentance we give you no easy devices, and suffer no lessening definitions of it, but oblige you to that strictness which is the condition of being saved, and so expressed to be by the infallible word of God; but such as in the church of Rome they do not so much stand upon.
Madam, I am weary of my journey, and although I did purpose to have spoken many things more, yet I desire that my not doing it may be laid upon the account of my weariness; all that I shall add to the main business is this.
4. Read the Scripture diligently, and with an humble spirit, and in it observe what is plain, and believe and live accordingly. Trouble not yourself with what is difficult, for in that your duty is not described.
5. Pray frequently and effectually; I had rather your prayers should be often than long. It was well said of Petrarch, "Magno verborum fræno uti decet, cum superiore colloquentem :" "When you speak to your superior, you ought to have a bridle upon your tongue;" much more when you speak to God. I speak of what is decent in respect of ourselves and our infinite distances from God: but if love makes you speak, speak on, so shall your prayers be full of charity and devotion: "Nullus est amore superior; ille te coget ad veniam, qui me ad multiloquium;" love makes
God to be our friend, and our approaches more united and acceptable; and therefore you may say to God, "The same love which made me speak, will also move thee to hear and pardon:" love and devotion may enlarge your litanies, but nothing else can, unless authority does interpose.
6. Be curious not to communicate but with the true sons of the church of England, lest if you follow them that were amongst us, but are gone out from us (because they were not of us), you be offended, and tempted to impute their follies to the church of England.
7. Trouble yourself with no controversies willingly, but you may best please God by a strict and severe conversation.
8. If any Protestant live loosely, remember that he dishonours an excellent religion, and that it may be no laid upon the charge of our church, than the ill lives of most Christians may upon the whole religion.
9. Let no man or woman affright you with declamations and scaring words of heretic,' and 'damnation,' and 'changeable;' for these words may be spoken against them that return to light, as well as to those that go to darkness; and that which men of all sides can say, it can be of effect to no side upon its own strength or pretension.