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BEING FOR THE
BEGINNING ON ADVENT SUNDAY, AND ENDING ON THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
AND TRULY NOBLE
RICHARD LORD VAUGHAN,
EARL OF CARBERY, &c.
I HAVE now, by the assistance of God, and the advantages of your many favours, finished a year of sermons; which if, like the first year of our Saviour's preaching, it may be annus acceptabilis,'' an acceptable year' to God, and his afflicted handmaid the Church of England, a relief to some of her new necessities, and an institution or assistance to any soul; I shall esteem it among those honours and blessings, with which God uses to reward those good intentions, which himself first puts into our hearts, and then recompenses upon our heads. My Lord, they were first represented to God in the ministries of your family: for this is a blessing, for which your Lordship is to bless God, that your family is, like Gideon's fleece, irriguous with a dew from heaven, when much of the vicinage is dry; for we have cause to remember, that Isaac complained of the Philistines, who filled up his wells with stones, and
rubbish, and left no beverage for the flocks; and therefore they could give no milk to them that waited upon the flocks, and the flocks could not be gathered, nor fed, nor defended. It was a design of ruin, and had in it the greatest hostility, and so it hath been lately;
Usque adeò turbatur agris. En! ipse capellas
But, my Lord, this is not all I would fain also complain, that men feel not their greatest evil, and are not sensible of their danger, nor covetous of what they want, nor strive for that which is forbidden them; but that this complaint would suppose an unnatural evil to rule in the hearts of men; for who would have in him so little of a man, as not to be greedy of the word of God, and of holy ordinances, even therefore because they are so hard to have? and this evil, although it can have no excuse, yet it hath a great and a certain cause; for the word of God still creates new appetites, as it satisfies the old; and enlarges the capacity, as it fills the first propensities of the Spirit. For all spiritual blessings are seeds of immortality, and of infinite felicities, they swell up to the comprehensions of eternity; and the desires of the soul can never be wearied, but when they are decayed; as the stomach will be craving every day, unless it be sick and abused. But every man's experience tells him now, that because men have not
preaching, they less desire it; their long fasting makes them not to love their meat; and so we have cause to fear, the people will fall to an atrophy, then to a loathing of holy food; and then God's anger will follow the method of our sin, and send a famine of the word and sacraments. This we have the greatest reason to fear, and this fear can be relieved by nothing but by notices and experience of the greatness of the Divine mercies and goodness.
Against this danger in future, and evil in present, as you and all good men interpose their prayers, so have I added this little instance of my care and services; being willing to minister in all offices and varieties of employment, that so I may by all means save some, and confirm others; or at least that myself may be accepted of God in my desiring it. And I think I have some reasons to expect a special mercy in this, because I find, by the constitution of the divine providence, and ecclesiastical affairs, that all the great necessities of the church have been served by the zeal of preaching in public, and other holy ministries in public or private, as they could be had. By this the Apostles planted the church, and the primitive bishops supported the faith of martyrs, and the hardiness of confessors, and the austerity of the retired. By this they confounded heretics, and evil livers, and taught them the ways of the Spirit, and them without pertinacy, or without excuse. It was preaching that restored the