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religion, and no way forfeited by them; then, I say, it might be reasonable to hope, that the innate power and virtue of the gospel would prove most victorious; Judaism, Mahomedanism, and Paganism, would melt away under its powerful influences, and Satan himself fall down as lightning before it, as naturally as the eyelids of the morning, do chase away the blackness of the night, when once they are lifted upon the earth.
But my design is chiefly to examine the true and proper cause of the non-progress of the gospel, as to the power of it, and its inefficaciousness upon the hearts and consciences of those that do profess it. And now, in finding out the cause hereof, I shall content myself to be wise on this side heaven, leaving that prying course of searching the decrees of God, and rifling into the hidden rolls of eternity, to those who can digest the uncomfortable notion of a self-willed, arbitrary, and imperious deity ; which, I fear, is the most vulgar apprehension of God, men measuring him most grossly and unhappily by a self-standard. And I dare not soar so high, so neither will I adventure to stoop so low, as to dive into particulars; which are differently assigned, according to the different humours and interests of those that do assign them; each party in the world being so exceedingly favourable to itself, as to be ready to say, with David, “ The earth and all the inhabitants of it, are dissolved; I bear up the pillars of it;" ready to think that the very interest of religion in the world is involved in them and their persuasions and dogmas, and that the whole church is undone, if but a hair fall from their heads, if they be in the least injured or abridged; which is a piece of very great fondness, and indeed the more unpardonable, in as much as it destroys the design of the gospel, in confining and limiting the Holy One of Israel, and making God as topical, as he was, when he dwelt no where upon earth, but at the temple in Jerusalem.
Waiving these extremes, therefore, I conceive the true cause, in general, of the so little prevalence of true religion in the hearts and lives of men, is, the false notion that men have of it, placing it where indeed it is not, nor doth consist.
That this must needs be a cause of the not prevailing of the gospel wherever it is found, I suppose every body will grant; and that it is almost every where to be found, will, I doubt, too evidently appear by that description of the true Christian religion, which the most sacred author of it, the Lord Jesus Christ, made to the poor Samaritaness; which I have endeavoured briefly to explain, according to the tenor of the gospel, in this small Treatise; which I first framed for private use, in a season when it was most necessary for me to understand the utmost secrets of my own soul, and do the utmost service I was able towards the salvation of those that were under my roof; expecting every day to render up my own or their souls into the arms of our most merciful Redeemer, and to be fully swallowed up into that eternal life, into which true religion daily springs up, and will, at length, infallibly conduct the Christian soul. This work, thus undertaken, and in a great measure then carried on, I have since perfected, and do here present to the perusal of my dear country, having made it public for no private end;
but if it might serve the interest of God's glory in the world; which I do verily reckon that I shall do, if, by his blessing, I may be instrumental to undeceive any soul, mistaken in so high and important a matter as religion is, or any way to awaken and quicken any religious soul not sufficiently ravished with the unspeakable glory, nor cheerfully enough springing up into the full fruition of eternal life.
What a certain and undefeatable tendency true religion hath towards the eternal happiness and salvation of men's souls, will, I hope, evidently appear from this small Treatise: but that is not all (though indeed that were enough to commend it to any rational soul, that is any whit free and ingenuous, and is not so perfectly debauched, as to apostatize utterly from right reason ;) for it is also the sincerest policy imaginable, and the most unerring expedient in the world, for the uniting and establishing of a divided and tottering kingdom : to demonstrate which was the very design of this preface. It is well known, O that it were but as well and effectually believed ! that “godliness is profitable to all things," and that it hath the promises and blessings of the “ life that now is, and of that which is to come;" that the right seeking of the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, hath no less than all things annexed to it. How immeasurable is that blessedness, to which all the comforts of this life are to be as an appendix to a volume !
But men are apt to shuffle off generals; therefore I will descend to instances, and show, in a few particulars, what a mighty influence religion, in the power of it, would certainly have, on the political happiness and flourishing state of a nation. Wherein I hope to make appear, that not religion, as some slanderously report, but the want of it, is the immediate troubler of every nation, and individual society; yea, and soul too; according to that golden saying of the holy Apostle, “ From whence come wars and fightings? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members ?” Here let me desire one thing of the reader, and that is, to bear in his mind all along, where he finds the word Religion, that I have principally a respect to the description given of it in the text, and that I mean thereby “ a divine principle implanted in the soul, springing up into everlasting life.”
And now I should briefly touch those faults, both in governors towards their subjects, subjects towards their governors, and towards each other, which destroy the peaceful state, and the sound and happy constitution of a body-politic: and indeed I fear it will produce some inconvenience, if not confusion, to waive this method.
But out of a pure desire to avoid whatever may be interpretable to ill-will, curiosity, presumption, or any other bad disposition, and that it may appear to any ingenuous eye, that I am more desirous to unite us, than to rake into sores, I will expressly show how religion would heal the distempers of any nation, without taking any more than an implicit notice of the distempers themselves.
First, then, It is undoubtedly true, that religion, deeply radicated in the nature of princes and governors, would most effectually qualify them for the most happy way of reigning. Every, body knows
well enough what an excellent euchrasy, and lovely constitution, the Jewish polity was in, under the influences of holy David, wise Solomon, devout Hezekiah, zealous Josiah, and others of the same spirit; so that I need not spend myself in that inquiry ; and 80, consequently, not upon that argument. Now, there are many ways, by which it is easy to conceive that religion would rectify and well-temper the spirits of princes.
This principle will verily constitute the most noble, heroical, and royal soul, in as much as it will not suffer men to find any unhallowed satisfaction in a divine authority, but will be springing up into a God-like nature, as their greatest and most perfect glory. It will certainly correct and limit the overeager affectation of unwieldy greatness and unbounded dominion, by teaching them that the most honourable victory in the world is self-conquest, and that the propagation of the image and kingdom of God in their own souls is infinitely preferable to the advancement or enlargement of any temporal jurisdiction.
The same holy principle, being the most genuine offspring of divine love and benignity, will also polish their rough and over-severe natures, instruct them in the most sweet and obliging methods of government; by assimilating them to the nature of God, who is infinitely abhorrent to all appearance pression, and hath most admirably provided that his servants should not be slaves, by making his service perfect freedom.
The pure and impartial nature of God cannot endure superstitious flatterers, or hypocritical profes