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THE

GENERAL CONTENT S.

HE Preface, by fundry English Divines.
Mr. Manton's Epiftle to the Reader.

TH

1. The Confeffion of Faith.

II. The Larger Catechifm.
III. The Shorter Catechifm.
IV. The Sum of Saving Knowledge.
V. The National Covenant.

VI. The Solemn League and Covenant.
VII. The Acknowledgment of Sins, &c.
VIII. The Directory for Publick Worship.
IX. The Form of Presbyterial Church-Government.
X. The Directory for Family-worship.

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and fo eminently owned by the Lord in all ages with his blefling,but that our fad experience tells us this duty is not more needful than'tis of late neglected. For the reftoring of this duty to its due obfervane, give us leave to fuggeft this double advice.

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The first concerns heads of families in refpect of themfelves, that as the Lord hath fet them in place above the rest of their family, they would labour in all wifdom and fpiritual understanding to be above them alfo. 'Tis an uncomely fight to behold men in years babes in knowledge; and how unmeer are they to inftruct others, who need themselves to be taught which be the firft principles of the oracles of God?' Heb. v. 12. Knowledge is an accomplishment fo defireable, that the devils themfelves knew not a more taking bait by which to tempt our first parents, than by the fruit of the tree of knowledge. So fhall you be as gods, knowing good and evil.' When Solomon had that favour fhewed him of the Lord, that he was made his own chufer what to afk, he knew no greater mercy to beg than Wifdom, 1 Kings iii. 5, 9. The underftanding is the guide and pilot of the whole man, that faculty which fits at the ftern of the foul: But as the most expert guide may miftake in the dark, fo may the understanding when it wants the light of knowledge; Without knowledge the mind cannot be good,' Prov. xix. 2. Nor the life good, nor the eternal condition fafe, Eph. iv. 18. My people are deftroyed for lack of knowledge,' Hof. iv. 6. 'Tis ordinary in fcripture to let profanenefs and all kind of mifcarriages upon the score of ignorance. Difeafes in the body have many times their rife from diftempers in the head, and exorbitancies in practice from errors in judgment: And indeed in every fin there is fomething both of ignorance and error at the bottom; for, did finners truly know what they do in finning, we might fay, of every fin, what the apofle fpeaks concerning that great fin, Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory;' did they truly know that every fin is a provoking the Lord to jealoufy, a proclaiming war against heaven, a crucifying the Lord Jefus afresh, a treasuring up wrath unto themselves against the day of wrath,' and that, if ever they be pardoned, it must be at no lower a rate than the price of blood, it were scarce poffible but fin, inftead of alluring, fhould affright, and inftead of tempting, fcare. 'Tis one of the arch devices and principal methods of Satan to deceive men into fin: thus he prevailed against our first parents, not as a lion but as a ferpent, acting his enmity under a pretence of friendship, and tempting them to evil under an appearance of good; and thus hath he all along carried on his defigns of darknefs, by transforming himfelf into an angel of light, making poor deceived men in love with their miferies, and hug their own deftruction. A moft fovereign antidote againft all kind of errors, is to be grounded and fettled in the faith: Perfons, unfixed in the true religion, are very receptive of a falfe; and they whe

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are nothing in fpiritual knowledge, are easily made any thing. Clouds without water are driven to and fro with every wind, and fhips. without ballaft liable to the violence of every tempeft. But yet the knowledge we especially commend, is not a brain knowledge, a mere fpeculation; this may be in the worft of men, nay, in the worst of creatures, the devils themselves, and that in fuch eminency, as the beft of faints cannot attain to in this life of imperfection: But an inward, a favory, an heart-knowledge, fuch as was in that martyr, who, tho' fhe could not difpute for Chrift, could die for him. This is that fpiritual fenfe and feeling of divine truths, the apoftle fpeaks of Heb. v. 14. "Having your fenfes exercifed, &c.

But, alas, we may fay of the moft mens religion what learned Rivet fpeaks concerning the errors of the Fathers," they were not fo much "their own errors, as the errors of the time wherein they lived." Thus do moft men take up their religion upon no better an account than Turks and Papifts take up theirs, because 'tis the religion of the times and places wherein they live; and what they take up thus flightly they lay down as eafily. Whereas an inward taste and relish of the things of God, is an excellent prefervative to keep us fettled in the most unfettled times. Corrupt and unfavory principles have great advantage upon us above thofe that are fpiritual and found; the former being fuitable to corrupt nature, the latter contrary; the former fpringing up of themselves, the latter brought forth not without a painful induftry. The ground needs no other midwifry in bringing forth weeds, than only the neglect of the husbandman's hand to pluck them up; the air needs no other caufe of darkness, than the abfence of the fun; nor water of coldnefs, than its diftance from the fire, because these are the genuine products of nature: Were it fo with the foul (as fome of the philofophers have vainly imagined) to come into the world an "ab rafa Tabula," a mere blank or piece of white paper, on which neither any thing written, nor any blots; it would then be equally receptive of good and evil, and no more averfe to the one than to the other: But how much worfe its condition indeed is, were fcripture filent, every man's experience does evidently manifeft. For who is there that knows any thing of his own heart, and knows not thus much, that the fuggeftions of Satan have fo eafy and free admittance into our hearts, that our utmost watchfulness is too little to guard us from them? whereas the motions of God's Spirit are fo unacceptable to us, that our utmost diligence is too little to get our hearts open to entertain them. Let therefore the excellency, neceffity, difficulty of true wisdom ftir up endeavours in you, fomewhat proportionable to fuch an accomplishment; Above all getting, get understanding,' Prov. iv, 7. And fearch for wisdom as for hidden treafures,' Prov. iv. 4. It mach concerns you in refpect of yourfelves.

Our fecond advice concerns heads of families, in refpect of their fa

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* Rivet, Crit. Sacr.

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