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beseech him to prevent the like in all that be alive. And I pray you consider what reputation he is like to gain, that in a church having eight or nine thousand parishes, and perhaps as many clerks, or more, shall make it his business to ravel into sixty years backward, (twenty of which were a miserable anarchy,) and to collect the imprudenter dicta of young and weak preachers, to weed their books, and make a composure, loathsome to all good men, delightful only to such as make a mock of sin. Besides, you have imposed upon the reader, by charging the clergy of the church of England with those wild notions which were delivered by fanatics, qualified neither with orders nor arts. As for instance, (pag. 71. viz.) that the worm Jacob is a threshing worm, &c. It was delivered in Blackfriars church, London, in the year 1654, by a fanatic mechanic, who at that time was one of colonel Harrison's regiment, one of the late king's murderers. This is attested by a person of quality, who then was an ear-wit
Sir, by this time I hope you are willing to consider, 1. Whether it had not been better to have thrown a cover of silence over all your instances. I will tell you a sad inconvenience that comes from the mere relation of the abuses of holy Scripture, made either by profane wit or weak folly. They do Baσaviçe every pious soul that hears or reads them. They infest the memory or fancy, and, (as the fowls that came down upon Abraham's sacrifice,) by presenting themselves, trouble a man's mind whilst he is reading the word of God, and should only attend to the pure meaning of the Spirit. Besides, one relation begets another, and so on still they engender, till profaneness become tradition. And therefore wise men make a conscience of making rehearsal of witty applications that wrong the text.
2. Whether the event have not overreached your intent. The pretence of your book was to shew
the occasions; your book is become an occasion of the contempt of God's ministers.
3. What service you have done, and what thanks you may expect from God, the church, and state, if your book shall (by accident only) deter but one ingenuous youth, one hopeful gentleman, one noble man of good and great endowments, from entering into holy orders; the expedient appointed by God for saving souls.
But blessed be God, who hath secured the honour of the function from being disparaged by the misdemeanours of men that officiate in it; or by the malignity of such as observe their failings, with design to revile them.
Though the vulgar ordinarily do not, yet the nobility and gentry do, distinguish and abstract the errors of the man from the holy calling, and not think their dear relations degraded by receiving holy orders.
He that would see a fair catalogue of ancient nobles who were consecrated bishops, (well toward the primitive times of Christianity,) let him read the epistle dedicatory of the rev. Dr. Cave's book, intituled, Primitive Christianity. And for our late and present times, accept of that which here followeth.
I have read, that Henry the Eighth was by his father designed to the archbishopric of Canterbury, if his brother, prince Arthur, had lived to succeed in the crown.
Dr. Montague, who was bishop of Winchester, (when I was young,) was uncle to the lord chamberlain that last died, or at least nigh of kindred to his father, who, after he passed through many honourable offices, died president of the king's most honourable privy council.
The old earl of Westmorland did dedicate one of his sons to God's service in the sanctuary; and he became a good example of gravity and piety to
those of that calling; and, for any thing I know, is so till this day.
So did the old lord Cameron, (father to Ferdinando lord Fairfax,) a son of his; who was first a regular and sober fellow of Trinity college in Cambridge, and afterward rector of Bolton-Percy in Yorkshire, where he was sequestered (we may well conclude) for his good affection to God and the king, if his brother or nephew could not secure him.
There was a brother of the lord Gray's of Wark in Cambridge, in my time, who was very studious and virtuous, and after that entered into holy orders, and took a charge of souls upon him, and discharged it as became him.
The rev. Dr. Gray, rector of Burbidge, in the county of Leicester, was earl of Kent, about the year of God 1640.
There be divers persons of noble extraction, which have lately entered into holy orders, and are most worthily dignified and promoted in this church.
One is, the right rev. Dr. Henry Compton, now lord bishop of Oxon, brother to the right hon. earl of Northampton that now is, and son to that valiant earl, who was slain in the high places of the field, fighting for his God and for his king, in the year 1643.
The rev. Dr. Greenvill, brother to the right hon. the earl of Bath, is another.
The right rev. Dr. Crew, clerk of the closet to his majesty, now the right rev. lord bishop of Durham, and son to the right hon. lord Crew, is another.
The rev. Mr. John North, late fellow of Jesus college, and public professor of the Greek tongue in the university of Cambridge, and prebendary of Westminster, son to the right hon. the lord North of Cartledge, is another.
The rev. Dr. Brereton, son to the late lord Brereton of Brereton-Green in Cheshire, is another.
My hopes that there be more (I pray God make them an hundredth times more) noble worthy persons entered into holy orders, admonish me to beg pardon of all such whose names I have (not pretermitted, but) omitted, only out of a mere negative ignorance, occasioned by my private condition.
These noble persons, so excellently qualified with virtues, learning, and piety, by bringing along with them into the church the eminency of their birth also, have cast a lustre upon the clergy, (as greater stars help to brighten up their less-shining neighbours,) and have advanced their Christian priesthood to the height it was at under the law of nature, when it was the hereditary honour and prerogative of the first-born of the chief family to be the priest of the most high God.
And surely these noble persons have shewed (and so will all the nobility that follow them shew) a twofold wisdom in their choice of this holy function. For first, the calling gives them better opportunities to get heaven: and secondly, it gives them title to the good things of the earth, (rectories, donatives, dignities,) their portions in the church's patrimony, which cannot miss them, being doubly so well qualified.
The advantage of doing God service, which height of birth gives to a nobleman or gentleman, over what a clerk of lower parentage hath, is very considerable. The truth taught by them is sooner believed; a reproof bestowed by them is better received; an example of virtue shewed by them makes deeper impression, than the same coming from one of meaner extraction would do. This observation I first made in those two great lights of our church, Dr. Fern, lord bishop of Chester, who was a knight's son; and Dr. Hammond, who was of an ancient family. And the reader will observe more in this book, whose author was a person nobly descended.
The wisdom of this land confirms this truth. Our
laws give that privilege to higher birth, which a man of meaner descent must stay, and study, and perform divers exercises for, by the space of fourteen years. To be a knight's son, born in wedlock, is as good a qualification for some preferments, as to be a bachelor in divinity.
The example and wisdom of these noble persons will save me the labour of beseeching the other nobility and gentry of this kingdom; 1. To think the priesthood a function not unworthy of them, or their relations. 2. To look upon the patrimony of the church, as a good provision for their own dear children as it is also for every mother's son of the commonalty that is duly qualified. And, 3. Therefore, that it is not only an impious thing, because sacrilege, but also an impolitic deed, because destructive of the means of a man's own and his children's well-being, to wish or desire, much more to consent to, or endeavour, the taking away of churchmeans devoted to God for the maintenance of such as attend his service.
This address to the nobles has not made me forget T. B. I mean to take my leave of him in as friendly a manner as I begun; and the rather, because he intimates a wish, that some augmentation of means might be made to the poor clergy. A thing that my soul desireth: and more; I intend to endeavour it, when and wherever it lies in my power. If I had ten thousand pounds, I would give nine thousand of it to that use. A thing which the cathedral church of Worcester hath carefully done and I know not any cathedral that hath left it undone.
I know a prebendary of the cathedral church of York, that refused three hundred pounds fine for renewing a lease of an impropriation; and chose rather to settle half the clear profits of the tithes for an augmentation upon the vicar. the vicar. And another, of another church, that hath settled a tithe that cost