« AnteriorContinuar »
Mr THOMAS MANTÓN'S Epistle to the Reader.
Christian READER, I Cannot fuppose thee to be such a stranger in England, as to be I ignorant of the general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and more efpecially of the great corruption of youth. Where-ever thou goest, thou wilt hear men crying out of bad children and bad servants; whereas indeed the fource of the mischief must be sought a little higher: it is bad parents and bad masters that make bad children, and bad servants, and we cannot blame fo much their untowardness, as our own negligence in their education.
The devil hath a great spite at the kingdom of Chriff, and he knoweth no fuch compendious way to crush it in the egg, as by the perversion of youth, and supplanting family-duties. He striketh at all duties, those which are public in the affemblies of the faints, but these are too well guarded by the folemn injunctions and dying charge of Jesus Christ, as that, he should ever hope totally to subverti. and underinine them; but at family-duties, he striketh with the morë fuccess, because the institution is not fo folemn, and the practice not so seriously and confcientiously regarded as it should be, and the o. ntission is not so liable to notice and public cenfure. Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh tớ crush it; the families of the Patriarchs wčre all the Churches God had in the world for the time, and therefore (I suppose) when Cain went out from Adam's family, he is said to go out from the face of the Lord, Gen. iv. 16. Now the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to pretent the succellion of Churches: If he can fubvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigour; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and future.
For the present, a family is the seminary of Church and state ; and, if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second ; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in Church and cominon-wealth; there is the first making or marring, and the presage of their future lives to be thence taken, Pro. XX. II. By family-discipline, officers are trained up for the Church, 1. Tim. iii. 4. One that rulcih well his own house, &c.; and there are men bred up in subjection and obedience, it is noted, Acts xxi. 5. that the disciples brought Paul on his way with their wives and children ; their children probably are mentioned, to intimate, that their parents would, by their own ex-ky ample and affectionate farewell to Paul, breed them up in a way of reverence and respect to the pastors of the Church,
For the future, it is comfortable certainly to see a thriving nurse. ry of young plants, and to have hopes that God shall have a people to serve him when we are dead and gone : The people of God com: forted themselves in that, Pfal. cii. 28. The children of thy fer. vants Mall continue, &c.
Upon all these considerations, how careful should Ministers and parents be to train up young ones, whilst they are yet pliable, and; like wax, capable of any form and impression, in the knowledge and fear of God; and betimes to inftill the principles of our most holy faith, as they are drawn into a short fum în catechisms, and so altogether laid in the view of conscience ? Surely these seeds of truth planted in the field of memory, if they work nothing else, will at least be a great check and bridle to them, and, as the casting in of cold water doth stay the boiling of the pot, fomewhat allay the fervours of youthful lufts and paflions.
I had, upon’entreaty, resolved to recommend to thee with the greatest earneltness the work of catechising, and, as a meet help, the usefulness of this book, as thus printed with the scriptures at large : but meeting with a private letter of a very learned and godly di: vine, wherein that work is excellently done to my hand, I shall make bold to transcribe a part of it, and offer it to publịc view.
The author having bewailed the great distractions, corruptions, and divisions that are in the Church, hệ thus represents the cause and cure : « Aniong others, a principal cause of these mischiefs is the great and common neglect of the governors of families, in the discharge of that duty which they owe to God for the souls that are under their charge, especially in teaching them the doctrine of Chrif. tianity. Families are societies that must be fanctified to God, as well as Churches; and the Governors of them have as truly a charge of the souls that are therein, as Pastors have of the Churches. But, alas, how little is this confidered or regarded ! But while negligent Ministers are (deservedly) cast out of their places, the negligent masters of families take themselves to be almost blameless. They of fer their children to God in baptisin, and there they promise to teach them the doctrine of the gospel, and bring them up in the nurture of the Lord; but they easily promise, and easily break it ; and educate their children for the world and the fleih; although they have renounced these, and dedicated them to God. This covenantbreaking with God, and betraying the souls of their children to the devil, inust lie heavy on them here or hereafter. They beget children, and keep families, merely for the world and the flesh: but little consider what a charge is committed to them, and what it is to bring up a child for God, and govern a family as a sanctified society.
o how sweetly and successfully would the work of God go on, if we would but all join together in our several places to promote it! Men need not then run without sending to be preachers : but they might find that part of the work that belongeth to them to be en nough for them, and to be the best that they can be employed in. Especially women should be careful of this duty; because as they are
most about their children, and have early and frequent opportuni. ties to instruct them, so this is the principal service they can do to God in this world, being restrained from more publick work. And doubtlefs many an excellent Magistrate hath been sent into the commonwealth, and many an excellent Paftor into the Church, and many a precious faint'to heaven, through the happy preparations of à holy education, perhaps, by a woman that thought herself useless and ynserviceable to the Church. Would parents but begin betimes, and labour to affect the hearts of their children with the great matters of everlasting life, and to acquaint them with the substance of the doctrine of Christ, and when they find in them the knowledge and love of Christ, would bring them then to the pastors of the Church to be tried, confirmed and admitted to the further privileges of the Church, what happy, well-ordered Churches might we have! Then one pastor need not be put to do the work of two or three hundred or thousand governors of families, even to teach their chil. dren those principles which they should have taught then long before; nor should we be put to preach to so many miserable ignorant fouls, that be not prepared by education to understand us: Nor should we have need to lhut out so many from holy communion upon the account of ignorance, that yet have not the grace to feel it and lament it, nor the wit and patience to wait in a learning Itate, till they are ready to be fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. . But now they come to us with aged self-conceitedness, being past cluldren, and yet worse than children still; having the igno.. rance of children, but being overgrown the teachạbleness of children ; and think themfelves wisę, yea, wise enough to quarrel with the wifest of their teachers, because they have lived long enough to have been wise, and the evidence of their knowledge is their ageď ignorance; and they are readier to flee in our faces for Church-privileges, than to learn of us, and obey our instructions, till they are prepar, ed for them that they may do them good; like snappish currs, that will map uş by the fingers for their meat, and match it out of our hands; and not like children, that stay till we give it them. Parents Have so used them to be unruly, that ministers have to deal but with too few but the unruly. And it is for want of this laying the foundation well at first, that profeslors themselves are so ignorant as most are, and that fo many, especiallly of the younger fort, do twallow down almost any error that is offered them, and follow any fest of dividers that will entice them, so it be but done with earneftpefs and plausibility. For, alas! though, by the grace of God, their hearts may be changed in an hour, (whenever they understand but the eflentials of the faith), yet their understandings must have time and diligence to furnish them with such knowledge as inust stablish them, and fortify then against deceits. Upon thesë, “ánd' many the Jike considerations, we should intreat alỊ Christjäri'families to take more pains in this neceflary work, and to get better acquainted Avịth the substance of Christianity. And to that end, taking along fome moving treatises to awake the heart,) I know not what work
fhould be fitter for their use, than that compiled by the Assembly at Westminster: a Synod of as godly, judicious divines, (notwithstand: ing all the bitter words which they have received from difcontented and self-conceited men), I verily think, as ever England saw. Though they had the unhappiness to be employed in calamitous times, when the noise of wars did stop mens ears, and the licentiousness of wars did fet every wanton tongue and pen at liberty to reproach them ; and the prosecution and event of those wars did exasperate partial discontented men, to dishonour themselves by seeking to dishonour them: I dare say, if in the days of old, when councils were in power and account, they had had but such a council of bishops, as this of presbyters was, the fame of it, for learning and holiness, and all minillerial abilities, would with very great honour, have been transmitted to pofterity.
I do therefore destre, that all masters of families would first study well this work themselves ; and then teach it their children and fervants, according to their several capacities. And, if they once understand these grounds of religion, they will be able to read other books more understandingly, and hear fermons more profitably, and confer more judiciously, and hold fast the doctrine of Christ more firmly, than ever you are like to do by any other course. First, let them read and learn the Shorter Catechism, and next the Larger, and lastly, read the Confession of Faith.
Thus far he, whose name I shall conceal, (though the excellency of the matter, and present style, will easily discover him), because I have publiflied it without his privity and consent, though, I hope, not against his liking and approbation, l'fhall add no more, but that I ain,
An ordinance of the Lords and Commons allembled in Parliament, for the
calling of an jsembly of learned and godly Divins, and others, to be con ulted with y the Parliament, for the festling of the government and liturgy of the Church of England; and for vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the said Church from fulse afperfions and interprétations. June 12. 1643.
. . . . W Hereas, amongst the infinite blessings of Almighty God upon
this nation, none is nor can be more dear unto us than the purity of our religion ; and for that, as yet, many things remain in the liturgy, discipline, and government of the Church, which do necesarily require a further and more perfect reforination, than as yet hath been attained ; and whereas it háth been declared and resolved by the Lords and Commons allembled in Parliament, that the present Church government by archbishops, their chancellors, commiffars, deans, deans and chapters, archdeacons, and other ecclefiaftical officers, depending upon the hierarchy, is evil and justly offensive ảnd burdensome to che kingdoin, a great impediment to reformation and growth of religion, and very prejudicial to the state and government of this kingdom; and tļierefore they are resolved that the same shall be taken away, 'arid that such a government shall be settled in the Church, as may be most agreeable to God's holy word, and most apt to procure and preserve the peace of the Church at home, and nearer agreemet with the Church of Scotland, and other reformed Churches abroad; and, for the better effecting hereof, and for the vindicating and clearing of the doctrine of the Church of England from all false calumnies and afperfiors, it is thought fit and necellary to call an Assembly of learned, godly, and judicious divines; who, together with fome members of both the houses of Parliament, are to confult and advise of such matters and things, toucliing the premisies, as shall be proposed unto them by both or either of the houses of Parliament, and to give their advice and counsel therein to both,' or either of the laid houses, when, and as often as they shall be thereunto required. Be it therefore orclained, by the Lords and Commons in this prefent Parliament aflembled, that all and every the persons hereafter in this present ordinance named, that is to fy,
And such other person or persons as shall be nominated and ap. pointed by both houses of Parliament, or fo many of them as shall not be letted by sickness, or other necessary impediment, shall meet and assemble, and are hereby, required and enjoined upon summons signed by the clerks of both houses of Parliament, left at their respective dwellings, to meet and aflemble themselves at Westminster, in the chapel called King Eenry the VIIth's chapel, on the first day of Ju: İy, in the year of our Lord One thousand fix hundred and fortythree; and after the first meeting, being at leait the number of forty,