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PIOUS COUNTRY PARISHIONER,
OF all the wonderful. Works of God the noblest and most exalted of any in this lower World, is Man. For though his Body beformed out of the Dust of the Ground, yet in this frail and corruptible Body, God hath placed a most excellent and heavenly Inhabitant, a rational and immortal Soul, capable of knowing, loving, and serving its Maker here, and of enjoying him for ever in the Kingdom of Heaven hereafter. The Thought of this will lead every considerate Man to stand amazed at the extreme Folly and Blindness of Mankind, to see how childishly they prefer poor fleeting Satisfactions, before those that are lasting, solid, and eternal. The poorest Person in your Parish (though the Rich may look on him with Scorn) has an immortal Soul, worth more than the whole World, and all its tempting Glories; and, if he will but do his best, through the Divine Assistance, to live in Obedience to God's Laws, he will most assuredly die in his Favour, and through the Merits of Christ rise again at the last Day, and so be ever with the Lord. Do you then act like a Man, and what is more, like a Christian, that
you lose not your Hope in so glorious an Enterprize. Eternity is at Stake, and Heaven is set before you as your Inheritance, and exceeding great Reward. That Heaven for which many holy Men and Women have spent those precious Hours in Works of Piety and Devotion, which careless and wicked People waste in Rioting and Drunkenness. That Heaven, for which Martyrs have laid down their Lives: This Heaven is freely offered to you. What a prodigious Folly is it for Men to betake them-selves with so much Eagerness to the managing of their Earthly Affairs, and yet be so grossly negligent in what concerns their Soul! They will toil and sweat for the fading Possessions of this Life; but express too little Concern for that blissful State, which shall never have an. End. It is quite the Reverse in other Matters. Behold! the busy Contriver will bustle through all Difficulties to bring about his Designs. The ambitious Man spends restless Days and sleepless Nights, to raise himself to a Post of Honour. You in the Country rise early, late take rest, and eat the Bread of Carefulness, in order to support yourselves, or increase your Acres of Land. Thus do Men of all Ranks, with great Application bestow their Thoughtsand Labours on Matters relating to this mortal Life, and sadly neglect the weightier Concerns of Eternity.
You cannot but have heard, how many sions still sit in Darkness and in the Shadow of Death, whose pitiable Case is to live and die without the Knowledge of the true God, or of
Jesus Christ, our only Lord and Saviour: You commiserate and bewail their Ignorance: What will be the Portion of the benighted Heathen at the last Day, upon whom the Light of the glorious Gospel hath not shined, becomes not us to determine. We may be assured of this, that the merciful Judge of all the Earth will do right. But certainly, they who boast of the glorious Title of being Christians, and nevertheless lead Lives contrary to that holy Profession, are in a far worse State than a heathen Man or an Infidel. Our all gracious God, that Men might not foolishly cast themselves away, by doating on the Follies of this vain Life, has by the greatest Hopes and most awakening Threatenings, and by all the wise Arts of Love, endeavoured to rescue them from the Ways that lead to Destruction.
He strictly commands Parents, Masters of Families, and Ministers of the Gospel to quicken your Apprehensions of Sin, and shew the unawakened Soul the dreadful Consequences of it. And many good, People, by an unblemished Life, by public and private Instructions, and by writing Devotional Treatises, have and still do endeavour to remove that thick Veil, which clouds the Understandings of inconsiderate and ungodly Men.
The Age we live in (Thanks be to God) abounds with pious Books; and it is to be hoped that the World is bettered by them. If some shall therefore censure this Performance as unnecessary, I say that I do not remember to have seen any Tract of this Nature, which contains,
contains, in so narrow Compass, all the Duties requisite to Salvation. Besides, some People like one Book, some another: What does not affect one may sensibly touch another. This Variety is here put into one Manual, that by its Cheapness and Brevity it may be purchased by such as have not Money to go to the Price of, or Leisure to turn over many Books. And if but one Sinner is reclaimed, the Author has his Reward; and he hopes he shall be able always to bear any Censure, when the Providence of God offers him an Opportunity of doing good.
No Words can express of how great Use these devout Breathings of the Soul towards God will be, to preserve you in a devout Frame at all Times and in all Places. For what Temptation is likely to overcome the Man that is well fortified, and upon his Guard all the Day long! Many Enemies have you to struggle with; Enemies that are continually active and industrious to lay Baits, and suggest Temptations to rob you of your Innocence; and your treacherous Heart will be too apt to join Confederacy against yourself. Think, therefore, my Friend and Parishioner, for it concerns you nearly, think that the Time will quickly come, when your Flesh, after all your Care of it will sink into a noisome Carcase, and be only Food for Worms. Spend, therefore, some Leisure Hours in adorning your Soul with good Works, and rendering it agreeable in the Sight of God, and of his holy Angels, before whom it must appear, and perhaps very soon. For how often