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anxious to improve his taste and to form his style, he need not fear any deterioration of Christian Truth by ambiguous statements or a temporizing mode of expression.
On the difficult questions concerning the grace of God and the obligation of man, our author has adopted those views which most naturally reconcile with one another the declarations and exhortations of Scripture. He lays a just ground for addressing sinners, while he ascribes all saving influence to divine grace. Few writers have entered so unequivocally into the extent of man's responsibility; and, at the same time, so strongly insisted on the sovereignty, and so graphically described the operations, of the grace of God. He follows fearlessly whithersoever the Word of God seems to lead. Men may fetter themselves within the strict limits of a narrow system: but they must, not seldom, put forced and unnatural constructions on Scripture: and they will be compelled, if public teachers, either to teach in contradiction to some legitimate consequences deducible from their own system, or unduly to exalt or depreciate the power and obligation of man to obey the will of God. In the treatises entitled “ Practical Christianity,” “ The Doctrine of the Two Covenants," and “ The Almost Christian," our author has fully developed his views on these subjects.
On these views some persons would stigmatize Bishop Hopkins as a LEGAL writer. But let us understand terms. HỆ is a legal writer, who attributes to nature the power of doing the will of God, and to man any proper merit before God: but he is not a legal writer, who insists on the obligation of man to do the will of God; who condemns him for his disinclination; who yet deals with him as rational and responsible, and urges him to exert all his faculties, and to follow every motion of the Divine Spirit; and who ascribes all effectual and saving influence to that Spirit, and all merit and glory to Christ.
WERE you one of that sört of men, who value themselves by the bag or the acre, it might possibly be thought rather an affront, than a Dedication, to prefix your name to this Treatise. For, since it is purposely intended to beat down the price of the world, and to expose its admired vanities to public contempt, those sordid spirits, who have no other worth to commend them but what is summed up in their yearly revenues, would interpret such an address, not so much a tender of respect and service, as a design to undo and beggar them.
But, Sir, to you, whom God hath doubly blest with a large estate and a larger heart, I doubt not but this piece will be very - acceptable; if upon no other account, yet at least as the perusal
of it may be helpful to you to strip off, and as it were to sequester all your worldly advantages, that you may the better take an estimate of yourself according to your native and genuine worth, both as a Man and as a Christian.
I am not so much a cynic, as to plead for affected poverty, and a disdainful rejecting the gifts of Divine Providence. Such a morose and sour pride, I judge worthy to be chastised, not only with the censure of vanity, but impiety. We need not shelter ourselves under any Monastic Vow; nor fly to deserts and solitudes, to hide us from the allurements of the world. This is to run away from that enemy, whom we ought to
conquer. Certainly, religion allows us the possession of earthly comforts : only it regulates the use, and forbids the inordinate love of them. We may prize them as comforts, but not as treasures and, while we employ a due part of our abundance in the works of a generous charity and true piety, we may well look upon what is left, as a salary that God gives us for being faithful Stewards of the rest. Thus to use the world for the interests of heaven, to make its enjoyments tributary to God's glory, it is to convert and proselyte it; and turn that into an Offering, which others make an Idol. By this, we give earth a translation ; and, in a nobler sense than the new system of astronomy teacheth, advance it to be a star, and a celestial body. And, by this method, we change those helps, that vice had to make itself prodigious and infamous, into the most serviceable instruments, that virtue can have to make itself conspicuous and exemplary : for wealth and honour, in a virtuous person, are like the well-setting of a jem; which, though it makes it not more precious, makes it more sparkling.
But, Sir, I forget myself; and, instead of writing a Letter, am writing a Treatise. I shall make no other apology for it, but that the book being designed against Vanity, I would not have the Dedication of it guilty of that common and notorious one, to be filled only with compliments: and I hope you will not think it any thing of that strain, when I shall assure you, that my prayers to God for you are, that you may still enjoy all advantages of doing good here on earth, and hereafter receive the reward of it in heaven.
. Your most humble and
most obliged Servant,
Oxon, Feb. 1, 1663.