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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
AND TRULY NOBLE
RICHARD LORD VAUGHAN,
EARL OF CARBERY, &c.
I HAVE now, by the assistance of God, and the advantages of your many favours, finished a year of sermons; which if, like the first year of our Saviour's preaching, it may be annus acceptabilis,'' an acceptable year' to God, and his afflicted handmaid the Church of England, a relief to some of her new necessities, and an institution or assistance to any soul; I shall esteem it among those honours and blessings, with which God uses to reward those good intentions, which himself first puts into our hearts, and then recompenses upon our heads. My Lord, they were first presented to God in the ministries of your family: for this is a blessing, for which your Lordship is to bless God, that your family is, like Gideon's fleece, irriguous with a dew from heaven, when much of the vicinage is dry; for we have cause to remember, that Isaac complained of the
Philistines, who filled up his wells with stones, and rubbish, and left no beverage for the flocks; and therefore they could give no milk to them that waited upon the flocks, and the flocks could not be gathered, nor fed, nor defended. It was a design of ruin, and had in it the greatest hostility, and so it hath been lately;
Usque adeò turbatur agris. En! ipse capellas
But, my Lord, this is not all: I would fain also complain, that men feel not their greatest evil, and are not sensible of their danger, nor covetous of what they want, nor strive for that which is forbidden them; but that this complaint would suppose an unnatural evil to rule in the hearts of men; for who would have in him so little of a man, as not to be greedy of the word of God, and of holy ordinances, even therefore because they are so hard to have? and this evil, although it can have no excuse, yet it hath a great and a certain cause; for the word of God still creates new appetites, as it satisfies the old; and enlarges the capacity, as it fills the first propensities of the Spirit. For all spiritual blessings are seeds of immortality, and of infinite felicities, they swell up to the comprehensions of eternity; and the desires of the soul can never be wearied, but when they are decayed; as the stomach will be craving every day, unless it be sick and abused. But every man's experience tells him now, that because men have not
preaching, they less desire it; their long fasting makes them not to love their meat; and so we have cause to fear, the people will fall to an atrophy, then to a loathing of holy food; and then God's anger will follow the method of our sin, and send a famine of the word and sacraments. This we have the greatest reason to fear, and this fear can be relieved by nothing but by notices and experience of the greatness of the Divine mercies and goodness.
Against this danger in future, and evil in present, as you and all good men interpose their prayers, so have I added this little instance of my care and services; being willing to minister in all offices and varieties of employment, that so I may by all means save some, and confirm others; or at least that myself may be accepted of God in my desiring it. And I think I have some reasons to expect a special mercy in this, because I find, by the constitution of the divine providence, and ecclesiastical affairs, that all the great necessities of the church have been served by the zeal of preaching in public, and other holy ministries in public or private, as they could be had. By this the Apostles planted the church, and the primitive bishops supported the faith of martyrs, and the hardiness of confessors, and the austerity of the retired. By this they confounded heretics, and evil livers, and taught them the ways of the Spirit, and them without pertinacy, or without excuse. It was preaching that restored the
splendour of the church, when barbarism, and wars, and ignorance, either sat in, or broke, the doctor's chair in pieces for then it was that divers orders of Religious, and especially of preachers, were erected; God inspiring into whole companies of men a zeal of preaching. And by the same instrument, God restored the beauty of the Church, when it was necessary she should be reformed; it was the assiduous and learned preaching of those whom God chose for his ministers in that work, that wrought the advantages and persuaded those truths, which are the enamel and beauty of our churches. And because, by the same means, all things are preserved by which they are produced, it cannot but be certain, that the present state of the church requires a greater care and prudence in this ministry than ever; especially since, by preaching, some endeavour to supplant preaching, and by intercepting the fruits of the flocks, to dishearten the shepherds from their attendances.
My Lord, your great nobleness and religious charity have taken from me some portions of that glory, which I designed to myself in imitation of St. Paul towards the Corinthian church; who esteemed it his honour to preach to them without a revenue; and though also, like him, I have a trade, by which, as I can be more useful to others, and less burdensome to you; yet to you also, under God, I owe the quiet, and the opportunities, and circum
stances of that, as if God had so interweaved the support of my affairs with your charity, that he would have no advantages pass upon me, but by your interest; and that I should expect no reward of the issues of my calling, unless your Lordship have a share in the blessing.
My Lord, I give God thanks that my lot is fallen so fairly, and that I can serve your Lordship in that ministry, by which I am bound to serve God, and that my gratitude and my duty are bound up in the same bundle; but now, that which was yours by a right of propriety, I have made public, that it may still be more yours, and you derive to yourself a comfort, if you shall see the necessity of others served by that which you heard so diligently, and accepted with so much piety, and I am persuaded have entertained with that religion and obedience, which is the duty of all those who know, that sermons are arguments against us, unless they make us better, and that no sermon is received as it ought, unless it makes us quit a vice, or be in love with virtue; unless we suffer it, in some instance or degree, to do the work of God upon our souls.
My Lord, in these sermons I have meddled with no man's interest, that only excepted, which is eternal; but if any man's vice was to be reproved, I have done it with as much severity as I ought. Some cases of conscience I have here determined; but the special design of the whole is, to describe the greater