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IVE are usually read with a greater pleasure and application, than any other kind of writing ; and it must be owned, that when rightly chosen, they give us the most useful views of human nature, and the justest representations of virtue and vice.
But then it is observable, that the world is chiefly fond of knowing their story, who have acted the most embroiled and busy parts of life; have commanded armies, or managed furprizing turns of state ; have by policy or, war made themselves famous, the subject of common observation and discourse; or hurried on by ambition, and other destructive parlions, have laid countries waste, and done fatal mischiefs to mankind.
And so far have men's inclinations been gratified and encouraged, that the world is daily more and more over-stocked with this fort of lives, which, as commonly written, have a fatal influence upon our minds, and prove very pernicious to religion. They
give a dangerous turn to our thoughts, and infect the soul with wrong notions of things. The little regard that is had to justice and piety, in the characters of princes and warriors; and the praises that are given to all their successful actions, however violent and bloody ; the magnificent descriptions of armies and battles, with the glory that still surrounds the head of the fortunate and bold : all these inflame these paffions in us, which our religion requires us to subdue. A wild ambition fires the mind, and drives it furiously on, in pursuit of mistaken honour, until at last the true iemper of Christianity is quite destroyed; that humility and meekness; that deadness to the world, and submission to the will of God; with that justice and charity to men, which make up so great a part of the Christian life : for it will be hard to persuade mankind, that violence and injustice are crimes, while those who committed them are applauded in story: or that to be meek and lowly, are neceflary duties, while even in Christian annals, the cruel and vain-glorious make the greatest figures, and are the constant subject of panegyric and praise.
To remedy these mischiefs in some measure, it were greatly to be desired, that the world were furnished with a sufficient number of another kind of lives; of those who have been great in religion and goodness; and studied to conquer their corruptions, as their most dangerous, if not only enemies; who have spent their lives in the service of God, and made it their constant business to do good to mankind.
Such lives as these, we might reasonably hope, would very much ferve the interests of religion, by proving an antidote to the poison of those other histories, which are so destructive to it. They would represent piety, not in notion, but in life, with all its charms about it, and shew, not only the possibility, but delightful easiness of a religious conversation. The pleature of narrative would still engage our attention, and prevent a weariness, which few can escape, when only books of reasoning and argument are before them. And bright examples of holiness, faithfully represented, could hardly fail of awakening good thoughts in our minds : of touching us with sad reflections upon our own behaviour, fo different from what we read of others; and exciting strong desires of following such pat
This is the end proposed in publishing the following life. It is hoped that the character of one, in whom every Christian grace did so eminently shine, may contribute fomewhat towards raising a spirit of true religion in this age; that the consideration of his early piety, may animate the youth among us; of his constant devotions, may quicken our zeal; of his justice, his charity, and universal goodness, may ftir up lasting resolutions in our minds, of following so great an example of these, through all the parts of virtue and holiness.
And so well was the character of that excellent person established and known, that he was very few days laid in his grave, when several good men, without being acquainted with one another's thoughts, conspired in opinion; that a faithful account of his life and virtues, was what might benefit the world; which they accordingly at several times proa posed to a person nearly concerned in his memory; and who, they believed, would be most zealous to have such a work undertaken.
Nor would thefe hopes have appeared in the least ill-grounded, had Mr. Bonnell's life been the work of a pen, which it was once expected, or rather, defired, would have been employed in it; which could have set his viriues in their true light, and drawn his character with all its just advantages. But since these expectations have failed, the world must be satisfied with this work, as it is now published; of which I can only say, that I have put the informations, which were given me, faithfully together; for though I was no stranger to Mr. Bonnell, yet I could not, from any knowledge or observation of my own, pretend to give the world his character.
But this defect was in great measure made up by the materials wherewith I was furnished for a work of this nature: I had large memorials of his life put into my hands, drawn up by his most intimate friends, both in
England and Ireland, by those, upon whose knowledge and fidelity the reader may safely depend; chiefly the Reverend Mr. Strype, mentioned inore than once in the life ; who, as he knew Mr. Bonnell from his childhood, so very much encouraged the publishing his character; and readily gave his assisting hand to this work, without which, it must have been much more imperfect than it now is.
But the reader will easily perceive, that the principal materials for Mr. Bonnell's life, are his own private papers, and that to them the world is chiefly indebted for his character; my chief business being, to put fuch of his meditations together, as gave most light to any passages of his life, or confirmed the instances given of his piety.
And now that I have named his private papers, which are so often referred to in the life; I must acquaint the reader, that Mr. Bonnell, for many years together, almost every day, put down some devout thoughts in writing; and has left behind him many volumes of medications and prayers on every duty of religion; on the difficulties, and on the comforts of it: on every virtue, and every sin; on the weakness and wickedness of man; on the mercy and goodness of God; on all the mysteries of our faith, and the wonderful methods of divine Providence to redeem and save us ; on death and judgment; the pains of hell, and joys of Heaven. These papers fhew the constant frame and