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THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.
To the Honourable Colonel Alexander Popham, a Member of Parliament.
SIR, Dedications, though often abused to a vain flattery, are of ancient use, and may be of great profit. The custom is the less to be disparaged, because we find it hallowed by the practice of one of the penmen of the Holy Scriptures, St Luke, in his Gospel and the Acts, Luke i. 3, Acts i. 3, both which he inscribeth to Theophilus, a person not only eminent in religion, but dignified with birth and place;11So much I conceive is intimated in that form of address, κράτιστε Θεόφιλε, a term which is wont to be given to persons of honour, as Acts xxiv. 3, κράτιστε Φήλιξ, and Acts xxvi. 25, κράτιστε Φῆστε, in both places we render noble. And so by Justin Martyr to Diognetus, to whom he giveth an account of the Christian religion, κράτιστε Διόγνητε. (Just. Mart. Epist. ad Diog.) which hath been imitated by the holy men of God in all ages; their aim in such inscriptions being, partly to signify their thankfulness for favours received in this public and spiritual way of return; partly to oblige persons eminent by the respects of the church, and by the honour of their name, to commend their labours to public acceptance; partly by an innocent guile to bring them under a greater obligation in the profession and practice of the truths of religion. It is usual in scripture to ascribe a testimony, producible at the day of judgment, to the more notable circumstances and accidents of human life; as to the rust of hoarded money, James v. 3; to the solemn publications of the gospel, the dust of the apostles, feet, Matt. x. And so, I remember, in the primitive times, when grown persons were baptized, they were wont to leave a stole and white garment in the vestry of the church for a testimony and witness. Wherefore, when one Elpidophorus had revolted from the faith, the deacon of the church came and told him, `O Elpidophorus, I will keep this stole as a monument against thee to all eternity., And truly books, being public monuments, are much of this nature, a testimony likely to be produced in the day of judgment, not only against the author, but the persons to whom they are inscribed, in case, on either side, there be any defection in judgment or manners from the truths therein professed; for they being consigned to their respect and patronage, they are drawn into a fellowship of the obligation.
Sir there are many reasons why I should prefix your name to this work ,Besides the general relation you have to the place where,22Stoke-Newington. by the blessing of God, I have enjoyed a quiet and successful ministry and service in the word for these seven years, I have good cause to remember your frequent attendance upon these lectures and countenancing of religion, whilst the Lord continued your abode amongst us; your private respect to my person; your often repairing those breaches which at any time were made in my estate by the hand of violence: for all which, if the Lord would make me an instrument, by the present exercises, of promoting your spiritual welfare, or warming your heart into any raisedness of zeal and religious eminency, that by your example others may be provoked to the emulation of the like virtue, I shall have my aim and the fruit of my prayers. By this inscription the book is become not only mine but yours; you own the truths to which I have witnessed, and it will be sad for our account in the day of the Lord, if, after such a solemn profession, you or I should be found in a carnal and unregenerate condition.
Good sir, make it your work to honour him that hath advanced you. Those differences of high and low, rich and poor, are only calculated for the present world, and cannot outlive time. In the grave, at the day of judgment, and in heaven, there are no such distinctions. The grave taketh away all civil differences; skulls wear no wreaths and marks of honour: Job iii. 19, ,The small and the great are there, and the servant is free from his master.` So at the day of judgment: ,I saw the dead, both great and small, stand before the Lord,` Rev. xx. 12. None can be exempted from trial at Christ`s bar. When civil differences vanish, moral take place. The distinction then is good and bad, not great and small. Oh, sir, then you will see that there is no birth like that to be born again of the Spirit, no tenure like an interest in the covenant, no estate like the inheritance of the saints in light, no magistracy like that whereby we sit at Christ`s right hand, judging angels and men, 1 Cor. vi. 2, 3. How will the faces of great men gather blackness, that now flourish in the pomp and splendour of an outward estate, but then shall become the scorn of God, and saints, and angels! And those holy ones of God shall come forth and say, ,Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness!` Ps. lii. 7. Ah! sir, wealth and power are of no use in that day, unless it be to aggravate and increase judgment. Many that are now despicable, so obscure that they are lost in the tale and count of the world, shall then be taken into the arms of Christ; he will not be ashamed to confess them man by man before his Father, Luke xii. 8—;Father, this is one of mine. Oh! it is sweet to hear such an acknowledgment out of Christ's own mouth. So also in heaven there are none poor. All the vessels of glory are filled up. If there be any difference in the degree, the foundation of it is laid in grace, not greatness.
Sir, you will find in this epistle that men of your rank and quality are liable to great corruptions;33See the notes on James i. 9, 11, and ii. 1-7, and v. 1-5. they soon grow proud, sensual, oppressive, worldly, stubborn against the word: ,I went to the great men, but they had altogether broken the yoke,` Jer. v. 5. To a spiritual eye, the condition is no way desirable but as it giveth fairer advantages of public usefulness and a more diffusive charity. Greatness hath nothing greater than a heart to be willing, and a power to be able to do good.44“Nihil habet fortuna magna majus quam ut possit, et natura bona melius quam ut velit, benefacere quamplurimis.”—Tullius, Orat. pro Rege Deiotaro. Then it is a fair resemblance of that perfection which is in God, who differeth from man in nothing so much as the eternity of his being, the infiniteness of his power, and the unweariedness of his love and goodness.55“Τρία ἔστιν ἐν οἷς διαφέρων ἔστιν ὁ Θεός, αἰδίοτητι ζώης, περιουσίᾳ δυνάμεως, καὶ μὴ διαλείπειν εὐποιεῖν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους,”—Themistius. It is the fond ambition of man to sever these things. We all affect to be great, but not good; and would be as gods, not in holiness, but power. Nothing hath cost the creature dearer since the creation. It turned angels into devils, and Adam out of paradise. In these times we have seen strange changes. God hath been contending with the oaks and cedars, Amos ii. 9, and staining all worldly glory. Certainly there is no security in anything on this side Christ; whatever storm cometh, you will find his bosom the surest place of retreat. The Lord give you to lay up your soul there by the sure reposal of a lively and active faith!
Sir, you will bear with my plainness and freedom with you; other addresses would neither be comely in me, nor pleasing to you. Our work is not to flatter greatness, but, in the scripture sense (not in the humour of the age), to level mountains, Luke iii. 5. Now, sir, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you with all spiritual blessings in Christ; as also your pious consort, your hopeful buds, with all the worthy relatives and branches of your family, that the name of Popham may yield forth a sweet and fresh perfume in the churches of Christ; which I desire to fix here, as the prayer of him who is, sir, yours, in all Christian observance,
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