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In so general an inundation of profaneness and licentiousness, Providence seemed indeed to have raised up this great and good man to stand in the gap, and stem the tide against it : but where the torrent is so impetuous, and the forces, that should unite in striving to divert it, so weak and pusillanimous, there is more danger the very opposers should be borne down the stream, than there are hopes of making good the opposition. But, however the doctrine and discipline of our church may be misrepresented, exploded, and despised, and our holy religion become only a name, which is almost every where spoken against; this good Bishop will, nevertheless, have the honour, as he already enjoys the reward, not only of bearing testimony against the growing ill, but of having done all that he could (and who could do more than he?) to restrain and subdue it.
It may, perhaps, be thought a bad omen to our church, to have lost so able a champion, when she seems to stand so much in need of him. But, blessed be God, we have not altogether lost him he has left us behind him, in these excellent papers, (to say nothing of his sermons, and other incomparable writings,) such clear reasoning, and convincing arguments for the grounding of our principles, and such useful rules and directions for the government of our conversation, that we may yet hope for a happy reformation in both, if we are not wanting to ourselves in the use and application of them.
Would the clergy, the younger sort espe
cially, take this method, upon their first admission into holy orders, (and it ought to be no hard matter to persuade them to it, since it is the very end and design of their ministry,) it could not fail, by the blessing of God, of producing very admirable effects. Their principles thus prudently settled, would stand the shock, even of a fiery trial; and their resolutions thus maturely formed, would undauntedly bear up against the most powerful temptations.
This, if any thing, would raise the dignity of the priesthood to its first institution, silence all the loud clamours, as well as malicious whispers, that, like echoes, are redoubled and reverberated upon them; and gain them such an interest and reputation among the people, and such an honour and authority in the discharge of their function, that from reverencing the person, and commending the pattern, they would insensibly proceed to the imitation of it; till, by degrees, the flock too, as well as the shepherd, would become wise to salvation, would devoutly sanctify the Lord God in their hearts; and not only so, but be ready always to give an answer to every one that should ask them a reason of the hope that is in them.
And were both clergy and laity thus rightly principled, and firmly resolved, the enemies of our Zion would have both less encouragement to attack, and less power to hurt us; our national church might then despise all the wicked attempts and designs that are daily made and formed against her, and assume to herself that comfortable promise and assurance, that our
Saviour himself has given, that even the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail against her.
All that I have farther to say, is only to apologize for having said so much, upon a subject that so little needs it; and to close the whole with my hearty prayers to the throne of grace, that this pious and excellent book may meet with that desired effect and success, which the author aimed at in the composing of it, and may be as useful to others, as it was to himself.
WHEN in my serious thoughts and more retired meditations I am got into the closet of my heart, and there begin to look within myself, and consider what I am, I presently find myself to be a reasonable creature; for, was I not so, it would be impossible for me thus to reason and reflect. But, am I a reasonable creature? Why then I am sure within this veil of flesh there dwells a soul, and that of a higher nature than either plants or brutes are endued with; for they have souls indeed, but yet they know it not; and that because their souls or material forms (as the philosophers term them) are not any thing really and essentially distinct from the very matter of their bodies; which being not capable of a reflexive act, though they are, they know it not, and though they act, they know it not; it being not possible for them to look within themselves, or to reflect upon their own existences and actions. But it is not so with me; I not only know I have a soul, but that I have such a soul which can consider of itself, and deliberate of every particular action that issues from it. Nay, I can consider that I am now considering of my own actions, and can reflect upon myself reflecting; insomuch that had I nothing else to do, I could spin out one reflection upon another to infinity.
And indeed was there never another argument in the world to convince me of the spiritual nature of my soul, this alone would be sufficient to wrest the belief and confession of it from me: for, what below a spirit can thus reflect upon itself? or, what below a spirit can put forth itself into such actions, as I find I can exercise myself in? My soul can, in a moment, mount from earth to heaven, fly from pole to pole, and view all the courses and motions of the celestial bodies, the sun, moon, and stars; and then the next moment, returning to myself again, I can consider where I have been, what glorious objects have been presented to my view, and wonder at the nimbleness and activity of my soul, that can run over so many millions of miles, and finish so great a work, in so small a space of time. And are such-like acts as these the effects of drossy earth, or impenetrable matter? can any thing below a spirit raise itself so much beyond the reach of material actions?
But stay a little; what is this soul of mine that I am now speaking of, that it is so nimble in its actions, and so spiritual in its nature? Why, it is that which actuates and informs the several organs and members of my body, and enables me not only to perform the natural actions of life and sense, but likewise to understand, consult, argue, and conclude; to will and nill, hope and despair, desire and abhor, joy and grieve, love and hate; to be angry now, and again appeased. It is that by which, at this very time, my head is inditing, my hand is writing, and my heart resolving, what to believe, and how to practise. In a word, my soul is myself; and therefore when I speak of my soul, I speak of no other person but myself.
Not as if I totally excluded this earthly substance of my body from being a part of myself: I know it is. But I think it most proper and reasonable to denominate myself from my better part: for, alas! take away my soul, and my body falls, on course, into its primitive corruption, and moulders into the dust, from whence it