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MY LORD, If I were disposed to consider the value of that portion of these volumes, which is the result of my own labour, I could not but feel that the laying them at your GRACE's feet would constitute a most inadequate acknowledgment of the gratitude which I owe to your GRACE for many very great favours and benefits conferred upon me. In this view, there could be only one consolatory circumstance to sustain me; the knowledge that to you the homage of all my efforts is due, be they great or little: and he therefore who is already engaged for all, may seem to be released from the necessity of satisfying himself of the worthiness of any particular offering.

But, my Lord, there are considerations of a different nature, from which I may be permitted to tender these volumes to your GRACE's favourable regard, without the hazard of being thought so ill to understand the nature and extent of my own obligations, and the dignity of your Grace's name.

Many of the Lives, of which this Collection is composed, have already often obtained the praise of the wise and good, as calculated to promote, in a more than ordinary degree, the cause of pure taste, good morals, and true religion; objects of infinite importance, for the prosperity of which, they who well know your GRACE's unceasing cares and labours, may be excused if they bear testimony, that every endeavour to extend those great blessings, has a peculiar title to come forth under your Grace's protection.

The tendency which has been thus attributed to many of these Lives individually, it was my hope would not be impaired, but augmented, by combining them into one series, and by the addition of the few illustrations with which they are here accompanied. If therefore I have not been deceived in this expectation, I cannot deny to myself the pleasing assurance, that the present Publication will be received by your GRACE as an effort not uncongenial to your wishes, and, in however low a degree, subordinate to your own cares ; and, as having afforded therefore a not unsuitable engagement of a portion of such intervals of leisure, as I may have been able to obtain consistently with the demands of your GRACE's more immediate service, and of pastoral labours.

Again : This likewise is to be acknowledged, that it is owing to your Grace not only that these Volumes exist at all, but also that they exist such as they are. All that is new in them comes by your Grace's liberality and public spirit. Whatever pleasure then or profit any of my readers may receive, especially

from this part of my materials, it is fit that they should know that from the Archbishop of Canterbury the benefit is derived. And, at the same time, let it be further declared, that this is but a very humble instance of that love of good letters, and that public spirit, which have prompted your Grace to the exertion of many acts of munificence, for the increase of the literary treasures of your country, which exalt your GRACE's name to the same level with those of the most illustrious of your predecessors, Cranmer, and Parker, and Laud.

That your GRACE's labours for the welfare of the Church of God may long be blessed with abundant fruits of righteousness and peace, is the earnest prayer of

My LORD,

your GRACE's most devoted,

faithful and humble Servant,

CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH.

Lambeth, Nov. 22, 1809.

PREFACE.

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 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 establishment of Christianity, and the growth of the papal power amongst

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