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Resolutions concerning my conversation in general. 108
Resolutions concerning my thoughts
Resolutions concerning my affections
Resolutions concerning my words
Resolutions concerning my actions
Resolutions concerning my relations
AFTER so great a name as that of Bishop BEVERIDGE in the title, it were as superfluous to attempt any farther recommendation of these papers, as it would be impossible to effect it. If any thing can add to the esteem they must every where meet with upon the account of so great an author, it must be a serious perusal and application of them.
Those that read them with the same spirit of candor with which this great man always read the works of others, and with the same spirit of piety with which he wrote his own, will undoubtedly discover in them such a lively idea of the great genius of the author, and so sensibly experience the good influence of them upon their minds, as will more effectually engage their approbation, than the highest encomiums from another hand.
The great misfortune is, that those who have most need to be instructed and reformed, have no true taste or relish for books of this nature: their eyes are dazzled with the glittering appearances of the objects of sense and their hearts enslaved to the works of darkness; so that the beams of divine light are but troublesome and
offensive to them; every point of faith is a contradiction to their principles, and every precept enjoined a reproach to their morals. And, therefore, in order to stave off those self-condemning thoughts, that naturally arise from the serious perusal of such sort of treatises, they scoff at and despise them, as dull and insipid, not worth the consideration of men of more refined parts and deeper penetration; who are too wise to be guided by the rule of God's word, and too obstinate to be persuaded to walk in any other path, but that which the devil has chalked out for them, the path that leads to destruction.
But these men would do well to consider, before they are wholly under the power of delusion, that this is not really owing to any flaws or defects in such performances, but to their own reprobate minds and depraved judgments, which tarnish the beauty, cast a mist before the truth, frustrate the influence, and pervert the design of them; like a vitiated palate, which nauseates the most delicious tastes, or a foul and disordered stomach, that turns the most wholesome food into poison and corruption. So that they must first divest themselves of their lust and pride, their prejudice and partiality, before they can ever expect to reap any benefit or advantage by this or any other discourses, that tend to the promoting of piety and religion.
Having thus opened the way to the reading of this book, it may not be improper, in order to set it in its true light and do justice to the author of it, to say something more particularly concerning both, and to advertise the reader, that the following sheets were writ by the Bishop in his younger years, upon his first entrance into
holy orders. And though they may not perhaps be so perfect and correct, as if he himself had lived to give the finishing stroke to them and fit them for the press with bis own hand, yet, as the roughness of a jewel doth not lessen the worth and value of it, when the brightness of its natural lustre, even under that disadvantage, outshines that of others, which are polished and refined by art; so it is to be hoped, the candid and judicious reader will, in this well-designed piece, however unfinished, discover such singular beauties and graces, as few others, even at the highest pitch of their attainments and with the utmost care and diligence, are able to come up to.
As to the author's design in writing these papers, it is sufficiently set forth in the title of them. He considered, that truth of doctrine and innocency of life were both absolutely necessary to the due exercise of the sacred function, which he had the honor and happiness to be admitted into. He knew the power of example to prevail even beyond that of precept, and was very solicitous, with the blessed apostle, to make his own calling and election sure, lest that by any means, when he had preached to others, he himself should be a cast-away. To the end, therefore, that he might both save himself and them that heard him, that both "by his life and doctrine, he might set forth the glory of God, and set forward the salvation of men," he drew up these Articles to settle his principles in point of faith, and formed these Resolutions upon them to regulate his actions with regard to practice.
What great things might not the church promise herself from a foundation so well laid, from principles settled with so much learning and judgment, and resolutions
formed upon such strict rules of piety and religion? What glorious expectations in an age of that degeneracy of faith and manners, wherein he then lived, might not be justly raised from hence, for the future reformation of "both?
And indeed this excellent person did even more than satisfy all these extraordinary hopes, which the early and ample specimens he gave of his virtue and knowledge had made the world conceive of him; for having taken this prudent and effectual care to ground and determine his own faith and practice, and being ever mindful of that injunction laid upon him, when he was ordained priest, "To consider the end of his ministry towards the children of God, towards the spouse and body of Christ; he never ceased his labor, care, and diligence, until he had done all that in him lay," (as our holy Church does most admirably express the duty of that order)" to bring all such as were committed to his charge, unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there should be no place left among them for error in religion, or for viciousness in life."
While his care of souls was chiefly confined to the bounds of a single parish, with what labor and zeal did he apply himself to the discharge of his ministry in the several parts and offices of it! How powerful and instructive was he in his discourses from the pulpit! How warm and affectionate in his private exhortations! How orthodox in his doctrine! How regular and uniform in the public worship of the church! In a word, so zealous was he and heavenly-minded in all the spiritual exercises