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REASONS FOR PUBLISHING THIS BOOK.
THOUGH I may possibly incur the displeasure of those whose secular views may be frustrated or disappointed by the publication of this New Week's Preparation; yet I have the consolation of being fully assured, that this present undertaking will want no apology to those who have religion truly at heart. Nor am I under any apprehension of being condemned for adding one more to the number of devotional books, already extant upon the subject of the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper; because the tempers and talents of men are so different, that what does not affect one may possibly touch another. I am also persuaded that the present proprietors of Keble's Old Week's Preparation, cannot desire the continuance of a book which has already been found so injurious to Christianity; for it abounds with rapturous and wanton expressions, and warmth of constitution, not reason, much less religion, has the chief and sovereign influence. doubtedly writers of this cast have shamefully suffered the softer passions to mix too strongly with their zeal for religion.
BY WHAT MEANS TRUE DEVOTION IS DESTROYED.
Here the true spirit of devotion, which is in its own nature a liberal and reasonable service, is made wholly to evaporate in unnatural heats, and ecstatic fervours, such as are a disgrace and reproach to the dignity of a rational nature. And instead of speaking the language of a serious, rational, unaffected piety, they abound wholly with rapturous flights of unhallowed love, and strains of mystical dissoluteness; or, as an ingenious author terms it, spiritualized concupiscence, invented by the carnal and wanton appetites and wishes of the unmarried nuns and friars; and thence, either by design, or by the delusion of the devil, or both, foisted into the devotions of the re
formed church, under a pretence of purer flames of divine love and spiritual rapture; whereas they pollute the soul with luscious images, warm it into irregular ferments, and fire it with a false passion; dissipating all due composure and recollection of mind, and laying open the heart to all the wild extravagancies of frantic enthusiasm ; a manner of address much fitter for a dissolute lover, than an acceptable worshipper of the all-pure and all-knowing God.
It was against this kind of devotion, that great light of the church of England, the learned and pious Bishop Stillingfleet thus exclaimed: "Is it possible (said he) that any man can imagine it is no dishonour to the Christian religion to make the perfection of the devotion of it to consist in such strange unaccountable unions and raptures, which take away the use of all (modesty) reason and common sense!"
IN WHAT THE LOVE OF GOD CONSISTS.
"It is true, we are commanded often to love God with all our heart, but withal we are told, we must not fancy this love to be a mere languishing passion; no, the love of Christians towards God is no fond amorous affection, but a due apprehension and esteem of the divine excellencies, a hearty sense of all his kindness to us, and a constant readiness of mind to do his will. And thus the beloved Son of God hath declared what he means by the love he expects from his disciples: if ye love me, (says Christ,) keep my commandments; ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. And if (says St. John) any man say I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen? No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Thus the beloved disciple, who understood the great mysteries of divine love, hath expressed them to us. And,
"Here (you see) are no blind elevations of the will; no ecstatic or luscious expressions; no, it is very plain that all such mystical notions, and luscious metaphors and expressions had another spring and a more impure foun
tain, than the Christian doctrine." For, as the said devout and judicious prelate adds, "supposing that mystical way of perfection were possible, I could see no necessity at all of Christ's coming into the world, nor of any influence his death, or suffering, or doctrine, could have upon the bringing men to a state of happiness.'
For these reasons I thought it my duty, as a Christian, to explode that fulsome and luscious method of the Old Week's Preparation, which has most scandalously put into the mouth of the devout reader such carnal expressions as are there mentioned and in their stead I have endeavoured to substitute such prayers and meditations, as may be warranted from the word of God: being thoroughly sensible how well grounded that complaint of the pious Bishop Fleetwood is, "that the devotions of the ignorant are generally superstitious and gross, fixing themselves commonly on sensible objects; whereas in true religion all is intelligible and divine,-and God, who should be the only object of their devotion, hath hardly any share therein."
SOME ACCOUNT OF THIS WORK.
As it has been my endeavour on the one hand not to flatter sinners; so, on the other, I have been careful not to fill the minds of any with unnecessary fears and scruples, with respect to a duty, which ought to be the practice of their whole lives; as if no body ought to go to this sacrament, but such as are as perfect as ever they can hope to be.
On the contrary, it is the judgment of the most orthodox divines, that (abstracting from particular circumstances) the receiving of the blessed sacrament is the most divine and solemn act of our religion; and it ought to be the zealous endeavour of every true Christian, by God's assistance, to prepare his soul with the most serious, and most devout dispositions he possibly can, to approach the holy altar: a man cannot too often commemorate our Lord and his passion, nor too often return devout thanks and praises for the same, nor too often repeat his resolutions of amendment, nor too often renew his solemn engagements, nor too often receive pardon of
sins, and fresh succours of divine grace: and if coming to the Lord's table (prepared or unprepared) were a sure and infallible way to answer these good and great ends, there could then be no question, but that it would be both our wisdom and our duty to communicate as often as opportunities should invite, and health permit. But it is certain, on the other hand, that bare communicating is not the thing required, but communicating worthily. Here lies the main stress of all, not to urge frequency of communion so far as to render this holy sacrament hurtful or fruitless to parties concerned; neither yet to abate so far of the frequency as to make a kind of dearth or famine of this so salutary and necessary food. For the clearer understanding of this matter, it may be necessary to take notice, that since it is allowed on all hands that there can be no just bar to the frequency of communion, but the want of preparation, which is only such a bar as men may themselves remove, if they please; it concerns them highly to take off the impediment as soon as possible, and not to trust to the vain hopes of alleviating one fault by committing another. The danger of misperforming any religious duty, is an argument for fear and caution, but no excuse for neglect; God insists upon the doing it, and the doing it well also. It was no sufficient
plea for the slothful servant, under the gospel, that he thought his master hard to please, and thereupon neglected his bounded duty: but, on the contrary, the use he ought to have made of that consideration was to have been so much the more wakeful and diligent in his master's service. Therefore in the case of the holy communion, it is to very little purpose to plead the strictness of the self-examination or preparation, by way of excuse either for a total, or for a frequent, or for a long neglect of it. A man may say, that he comes not to the Lord's table because he is not prepared, and so far he assigns a good reason; but if he should be further asked, why he is not prepared, when he may, then he can only make some trifling, insufficient excuse, or remain speechless.
But to return; I have spared no pains to render these meditations and prayers as generally useful, as can be expected in a book of this kind; yet as the best per