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The first wishes for the existence of a collection, similar in design to that which now appears, were excited in my mind not less than ten years ago, and often recurred to it, during a residence in the University of Cambridge ; though I do not remember to have entertained, then, any very confident expectations, that the work would ever be undertaken by myself.
But when, after the expiration of something more than half the above-named period of years, I had been called to Lambeth, to the service of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, and, in process of time, the probable advantages of such a collection appeared continually to my mind, rather to increase, than to be diminished ; and when some efforts which I had made to bring about the execution of this design, from another quarter, on a contracted scale, had yet produced no effect, I determined to turn my own hands to the work :-and it now becomes my duty to state the views and motives upon which it was begun, and the way and manner in which it has been performed. The mention, , in the outset, of the places where the wish for the existence of this work was first conceived, and where it has been prepared for publication, I judge not to be impertinent, because these circumstances may probably have had a considerable influence on its contents and character ; and therefore the knowledge of them may lead the reader, by a natural and easy progress, to a further explanation of the principles on which it has been compiled.
A protracted residence in either of our Universities, and
afterwards in that service which I have mentioned, it will easily be understood, was likely to engage any man in ardent wishes and desires for the general prosperity and welfare of sincere piety and true religion : and to inspire him more particularly with an honest concern that those most important interests should ever advance and flourish among our theological students and the clergy; and through their means and labours, with the divine blessing, in every rank of society.
It appeared then, to the present writer, that there were extant, among the literary productions of our country, many scattered narratives of the lives of men eminent for piety, sufferings, learning, and such other virtues, or such vices, as render their possessors interesting and profitable subjects for history, many of which were very difficult to be procured, and some of them little known; and that, therefore, the benefit which might have been expected to result from their influence, was in a great degree lost. · These I thought it might be a labour well-bestowed to restore to a capacity of more extensive usefulness, and to republish them in one collection; not merely with a view of affording
1 to many readers an opportunity of possessing what they could not otherwise enjoy; but also from the hopes, that the serviceable effect of each might be increased by their union and juxta-position; and that, through the help of a chronological arrangement, a species of ecclesiastical history might result, which though undoubtedly very imperfect, might yet answer, even in that view, several valuable purposes; while it would possess some peculiar charms and recommendations.
A scheme of this nature, it is easy to conceive, could not well be undertaken without many limitations. Besides those obvious ones of restricting the history to that of our own country, and to the lives of our fellow countrymen, there appeared to me many reasons, why the work should begin with the preparations towards a Reformation by the labours of Wickliffe and his followers, and not a few why it might well stop at the Revolution. Within those limits are comprehended, if we except the first establish'ment of Christianity, and the growth of the papal power amongst
us, the rise, progress, and issue of the principal agitations and revolutions of the public mind of this country in regard to matters of Religion :-namely, the Reformation from Popery, and the glories and horrors attending that hard-fought struggle; the subsequent exorbitancies and outrages of the Antipopish spirit, as exemplified by the Puritans; the victory of that spirit, in illsuited alliance with the principles of civil liberty, over loyalty and the established church, in the times of Charles the first; the wretched systems and practices of the sectaries, during the Commonwealth, and the contests for establishment between the Presbyterians and Independents at the same period; the hasty return of the nation, weary and sick of the long reign of confusion, to the antient constitution of things, at the Restoration ; the operation of those confusions, and of the ill-disciplined triumph of a portion of the adverse party upon the state of morals and religion, during the early part of the reign of the second Charles ; the endeavours of Charles and his brother to restore Popery, and introduce despotism; the noble exertions of the clergy of the church of England, at that interval, in behalf of natural and revealed religion, and protestantism, and civil liberty; the Revolution of 1688, together with the ascertainment of the distinct nature and rights of an established church, and a religious toleration ; and the principles of the Non-jurors.
A narrative of these grand particulars, together with many others of inferior moment, obtained in connexion with a description of the virtues, private life, and character of the agents principally concerned in them would, I thought, be considerably interesting and useful, and especially in regard to those objects which I have above referred to; without descending to later times, less productive in some respects than the preceding, and more so indeed in others, but on both accounts the less fitted to constitute any part of this design. At the Revolution, a degree of stability was given both to our ecclesiastical and civil establishments, which they never before possessed ; and hence a great part of the age which followed was less fertile, at least in historical interest : and from that æra, the growing abundance and extent of biographical memoirs, were felt, of themselves, as a discouragement against attempting the admission of any portion of them into a collection like the present.
It was no part of my original plan to go in quest of any thing new, but merely to revive the old. Yet, when his grace the Archbishop of Canterbury generously gave me permission to avail myself of the stores contained in the manuscripts in the Archiepiscopal Library at Lambeth, I could not forbear, in justice to that liberality, to exert such a further portion of industry, as might seem best calculated to increase the value and usefulness of my publication. For this reason, and from this source, the reader will find here a copious Life of Sir Thomas More, never before published; a new edition of Cavendish's Life of Cardinal Wolsey, so much surpassing in value those which have preceded it, as almost to deserve the name of a new work; and some large and interesting additions to the Memoirs of the Nicholas Ferrars; besides many occasional extracts inserted in the notes : for all which I desire in this place to return humble thanks to my most honoured Patron.
That which occasioned me the greatest labour and difficulty, with regard to the remainder of my materials, was the laying in the first stores, and afterwards making a selection out of them. The contents of these volumes are but a very small part of what I have gathered together, not without a considerable expence of time and pains. From the same heap, another man perhaps would have made now and then a different choice. But the principles upon which I proceeded will, I trust, be made sufficiently apparent to my readers in the course of this preface: further I have nothing to say, but that, proceeding upon those which I judge - the best principles, I made the selection the best I could.
It will be found (for which I imagine no apology is necessary), that I have preferred the ancient and original authorities, where they could be procured, before modern compilations and abridgments; the narratives, for instance, of Fox and Carleton, before the more artificial compositions of Gilpin.
Neither do I think that it will require any excuse with the judicious reader, that in the early parts of the series, I have been at some pains to retain the ancient orthography. It was one advantage which I contemplated in projecting this compilation, that it would afford, by the way, some view of the progress of the English language, and of English composition. This benefit would have been greatly impaired by taking away the old spelling. But I have always thought that the far more solemn interests of historic reality, and of truth, are also in a degree, violated by that practice.
The reader is desired further to observe, that in many cases the Lives are republished from the originals, entire, and without alteration ; but in others, the method pursued has been different. Wherever the work before me seemed to possess a distinct character as such, either for the beauty of its composition, the conveniency of its size, its scarcity, or any other sufficient cause, I was desirous that my reader should have the satisfaction of possessing it complete: but where these reasons did not exist, I have not scrupled occasionally to proceed otherwise : only, in regard to alterations, it is to be understood, that all which I have taken the liberty of making are confined solely to omissions. Thus, the Lives written by Isaac Walton, are given entire; but the accounts of Ferrar and Tillotson have been shortened.
Many of the Lives which are given from Fox's Acts and Monuments, and which the Editor looks upon as among the most valuable parts of his volumes, are brought together and compiled from distant and disjointed parts of that very extensive work; a circumstance of which it is necessary that any one should be informed, who may wish to compare these narratives with the originals. It will be found also, that in many places much has been omitted; and that a liberty has not unfrequently been taken of leaving out clauses of particular sentences, and single coarse and gross terms and expressions, especially such as occurred against Papists. But, here also, though he has not all Fox laid before him, yet the reader may be assured that all which he has is Fox.
| The edition followed is that of the year 1610.