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WORSHIPFUL, MY MUCH HONOURED FRIEND,
RICHARD HAMPDEN OF HAMPDEN, Esq.
AND THE LADY LETITIA, HIS WIFE,
GRACE AND PEACE BE MULTIPLIED.
YOUR name stands here in the front of this Treatise, on a double account. First, that (the custom of writers having given me such an advantage) I may tell the present and future ages, how much I love and honour your piety, sobriety, integrity and moderation, in an age when such virtues grow into contempt, or into lifeless images and names: and how much I am myself your debtor, for the manifold expressions of your love; and that in an age when love directed by the superior faculties is out of fashion; and towards such as I, is grown a crime. Sincerity and love are things that shall be honourable, when hypocrisy and malice have done their worst; but they are most conspicuous and refulgent in times of rarity, and when the shame of their contraries set them off.
Secondly, to signify my love and gratitude by the best return which I can make; which is, by tendering to you and to your family, the surest directions, for the most noble, manly life on earth, in order to a blessed life in heaven. Though you have proceeded well, you are not yet past need of help: so great a work doth call for skilful counsel, and studious learning, and industrious and unwearied practice. And your hopeful children may be the readier to learn this excellent life from these directions, for the love of your prefixed names. And how happy will they be, if they converse with God, when others are wallowing in the filth of sen
suality! When the dead-hearted sinner thinketh not of another world, with the wisdom of a foreseeing man, till he is going out of this, 'securus quo pes ferat, atque ex tempore vivit,' ut Per. et quibus in solo vivendi causa palato est,' ut Juv. When such sensual souls must be dragged out of their pampered, corruptible flesh, to Divine revenge, and go with the beginnings of endless horror to the world where they might have found everlasting rest; what joy will then be the portion of mortified and patient believers, whose treasures, and hearts, and conversations in heaven, are now the foretaste of their possession, as the Spirit of Christ which causeth this, is the seal of God, and the pledge and earnest of their inheritance. If a flesh-pleasing life in a dark, distracted, brutish world, were better than a life with God and angels, methinks yet they that know they cannot have what they would, should make sure of what they may have and they that cannot keep what they love, should learn to love what they may keep. Wonderful stupidity! that they who see that carrying dead bodies to the grave, is as common a work as the midwifes' taking children into the world, and that this life is but the road to another, and that all men are posting on to their journey's end, should think no more considerately whither so many souls do go, that daily shoot the gulf of death! And return no more to the world which once they called their home! That men will have no house or home, but the ship which carrieth them so swiftly to eternity! And spend their time in furnishing a dwelling on such a tempestuous sea, where winds and tide are hastening them to the shore! And even to the end are contriving to live where they are daily dying; and care for no habitation but on horseback! That almost all men die much wiser than they lived; and yet the certain foreknowledge of death will not serve to make them more seasonably and more safely wise! Wonderful! that it should be possible for a man awake, to believe that he must shortly be gone from earth, and enter into an unchangeable, endless life, and yet not bend the thoughts of his soul, and the labours of his life, to secure his true and durable felicity! But Adam hath given sin the antecedency to grace, and madness the priority to wisdom; and our wisdom, health and safety, must now come after, by the way of recovery and cure. The firstborn of lapsed man was a malignant,
persecuting Cain. The firstborn of believing Abraham, was a persecutor of him that was "born after the Spirit;" 1 John iii. 12. Gal. iv. 29. And the firstborn of this Isaac himself, was a "profane Esau, that for one morsel sold his birthright;" Heb. xii. 16. And naturally we are all the offspring of this profaneness, and have not acquaintance enough with God, and with healthful holiness, and with the everlasting, heavenly glory, to make us cordially prefer it before a forbidden cup, or morsel, or a game at foolery, or a filthy lust; or before the wind of a gilded fool's acclamation and applause; or the cap and counterfeit subjection of the multitude. But the Fortunæ, non tua turba' (ut Ov.), et'quos sportula fecit amici,' (ut Juv.,) who will serve men's lusts, and be their servants, and humble attendants to damnation, are regarded more than the God, the Saviour, the Sanctifier, to whom these perfidious rebels were once devoted. That you and yours may live that more wise and delightful life, which consisteth in the daily sight of heaven, by a living faith, which worketh by love, in constant obedience, is the principal end of this public appellation: that what is here written for the use of all, may be first and specially useful to you and yours, whom I am so much bound to love and honour; even to your safe and comfortable life and death, and to your future joy and glory, is the great desire of
Your obliged Servant,
Feb. 4, 1669.