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To the Right Honourable Hugh, Lord Willoughby, Baron
My LORD, I take the liberty to dedicate to your Lordship, some Memoirs of the life of an excellent person, who was your countryman, and one for whom your Lordship had a just esteem. It is not to recommend to your Lordship any party of men among us, but plain christianity in legible and lively characters; and to remove a common objection against the most excellent precepts of our blessed Saviour, that they are hard sayings, and impracticable things. Here in a very plain manner is presented to your view, a minister of Jesus Christ, who had no other design in the world, but that of doing good to mankind, and is now partaking of the eternal joy of his Lord and Master, to whom he was so entirely devoted. It is your Lordship’s quality, and ancient, and noble extraction that sets you above the common level of mankind, and draws the eyes of the world upon you ; but there is somewhat greater, your exemplary piety and zeal for our holy religion, (in such a degenerate and licentious age,) and the countenance you give to serious piety, wherever you find it among all the different parties into which we are so unhappily broken, that makes you the ornament of your country, and highly esteemed by wise and good men, and obliges me to be with all imaginable respect,
THE great God is clearly seen in the smallest things ; a poor sparrow lighting on the earth, and a minute hair of men's heads, are regarded by the Omnipotent Providence. How much more doth the glorious Jehovah order the affairs of the children of men, and most of all the concerns of his church which is the sanctum sanctorum, the inmost circle of divine Providence ? It is congruous to the church's state in this world to be militant; a lilly among thorns; her husband was a man of sorrows, and it becomes not his bride to be a wife of pleasures. If the head was crowned with thorns, the members must not think much to be conformable ;* if they do these things to the green tree, what will they do to the dry ? Nay, it is necessary and salutary for this body to be purged; this herb grows best when most trodden down; these vessels are brightest when most scoured. There is great need that God's children should be in heaviness, to poise their spirits, and prevent sensual indulgence. The vine must be lopt or it will grow wild; corn-bearing fields must be broken up. Afflictions never do the church hurt, but prosperity often lulls and rocks it asleep to its great prejudice, if not its utter subversion. Ministers usually stand in the front and are put upon the hottest service; the fire is continually burning on the brazen altar; the priests of old must first enter Jordan, and be the last standing in the midst thereof.t Satan's malice is most levelled at them, and God usually furnishes them with more magnanimity than others. He that still governs the world with infinite wisdom, hath appointed to the sons of men their peculiar office, station, and employment in the world, and qualifies them with gifts proportionably; he manageth their work for them,
Non oportet membra deliciari sub capite spinis coronato. + Josh. iii. &17.
prospereth their undertakings, accepteth their faithful service, and will give them abundant recompence; yea, their work is their
wages; it comes with a supply of meat in its mouth. A gracious heaven is the preludium of a glorious heaven; there is even much of glory upon a suffering Minister or Christian , when they are loaded with aspersions and obloquy, even then the Spirit of glory and of God resteth on them.* It is no diminution, but a manifestation of God's glory, when it shines through the glass of creatures; yea, the less of the creature's worth is discovered, the more of God is illustrated. We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. King Solomon must have a thousand, if vine dressers and fruit keepers have their two hundred.t Let ministers be invisible, so Christ be illustrious. As precious Mr. Wadsworth said, if God's work be done, I am content to be withdrawn out of sight. So some interpret that text, John ïïi. 29; as though the friend of the bridegroom will not be seen in the treaty, but he stands behind the curtain, and hears the bridegroom's voice, and the bride's consent, and greatly rejoiceth because the match is likely to go on. But the more completely a minister is nothing in his own eyes, the more doth God magnify him; as the wife shines in the beams of her husband's honour or riches, so also doth God in some sense shine in his servants' gifts and graces; our thoughts must go beyond the gift to the giver. A clear transparent glass set in the sun renders the sun most refulgent, the crystal is scarce visible, the sun is all ; yet to our eyes the radiant sunbeams are more beautiful by the transmission through the glass, than shining directly upon us; but the glass gives not splendour to the sun, it only receives all from him. Thus is Christ all in all, and as these glasses are quickly broken and rendered useless, so are ministers, but the sun remains in its motion and shines still; for the sun depends not on the glass, but the glass on the sun; yea,
God sometimes thinks fit to break the glass we are admiring, that our eyes may be intent upon the Sun of Righteousness, and behold all beauties in him, who is the Lord our rightecus
God in wisdom hath thought fit to cause an eclipse in the firmament of his church in these nations, by hiding many * 1 Peter. iv. 14.
+ 2 Cor. iv. 7. Songs viii. 12. VOL. I.
lights under a bashel, about thirty years; and also translated most of them unto an upper region, where they shine brightest in their proper orbit, though “to us they disappear; the breaking of the shell is the brightening of the pearl; they were never so bright below as they are now above; once they saw through a glass darkly, now face to face; and laying aside this glass, face immediately they behold the glory of the Lord, and are changed into the same image from glory to glory.*
These blessed souls now with God, are exposed neither to the black mists of human ignorance, nor to the foggy vapours of sinful defects, nor do they feel or fear any bespattering from opprobrious scorners, or black-mouthed slanderers, but are received up into heaven by this cloud of death, that hath hid them out of our sight, and hindered our converse with them; yet they have dropt the mantle of good example, which still we have ; and observant eyes, and diligent pens have drawn some renowned champions in lively colours, in which we may behold much of God's image in the face of their intercourse with men, and conversation, both in their personal and public capacities: this is a petty resurrection, and much good service is thus done to succeeding ages, by which they being dead yet speak; yea, spiritual life is transfused to readers, through the lines and leaves, transmitted to them ; blessed be God for these famous heroes. If the Jews mentioned illustrious men dead, with some distinguishing epithet, as Rabbi Hillel, of blessed memory; why should not the memory of the just still be blessed ?+ Certainly there is a vast difference in the ears of Protestants betwixt blessed Bradford and bloody Bonner.
Men usually say when they have interred the remains of their deceased relations, and left them in the dust, that they have done their last office to them or for them. But I judge that to be a gross mistake, for there are several offices to which we are bound on their behalf. 1. We ought to lament their death as a sad loss to the church of God, (I speak of pious and useful persons) decent funeral solemnities anciently lasted a considerable time, as we find in scripture. t 2. Observing and complying with the commands and the counsels of the departed, as in the case of Joseph's brethren. 3. Giving them deserved commendation. 4. Vindication of their reputation according to truth. 5. Erection of monuments constructed for a memorial, as Jacob's over Rachel's grave.* 6. Composition of funeral elegies, as David's over Saul and Jonathan. 7. Owning our fathers' God and covenant; as Solomon was directed to do. 8. Manifesting evidence of the deceased's charity and piety as the widows did in reference to Dorcas. 9. An exact imitation of their praiseworthy acts. + 10. Communion with departed saints, believing that they as such are rejoicing in their glory; hoping in a short time to be with them, thinking of them, studying conformity to them, that we may do God's will on earth as it is done in heaven. I 11. Yea, something is also due from us, to the surviving relations of our pious deceased friends, as David shewed kindness to Jonathan's seed. All this, and possibly more, without the imputation of saint worship, may surviving Christians do, when their religious friends and relations disappear in this lower world; only let us not admire them, but God in them, so saith the text 2 Thess. i. 10, “When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe." Mark it, God's holiest saints must not be admired but God in them, our admiration must not respect men simply, but be terminated upon God through them ; creature worship is very natural to us, especially if we see more than ordinary excellence in the creature, or receive some singular benefit thereby. The great apostle John was twice guilty of angel adoration, and was twice admonished against it. But doubtless it is a good practice, and no despicable office of surviving friends to commemorate the imitable acts of departed Ministers or Christians of considerable éminence and figure in the church. This is my apology for writing this history, knowing how acceptable it will be to christian friends, natural rela_ tions, and to the church of God; indeed he was amiable to all, and very imitable in the passages of his life, and the circumstances that relate to his death; of what was praiseworthy in him, let God have the glory; and over what is defective in the copy or transcriber let charity draw a veil.
* I Cor. xiii. 12. 2 Cor, iii. 18. + Prov. x. 7. Gen. l. 10.