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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.
In the Notes which I have added, my aim has been occasionally to correct my Author ; but much more frequently to enforce his positions, and illustrate him, and that especially in matters relating to doctrines, opinions, manners, language, and characters. Their number might easily have been increased, but I was unwilling to distract the reader's eye from the object before him, except where I thought some salutary purpose might be answered. Where the notes are designated by letters, 4, &c. or are inserted between brackets (), it is to be understood, that they are not the Editor's, but are derived from the same source as the text.
Upon the whole then, my desire has been to bring forward in the way, and by the means which I have stated, a work which might deserve some humble station in the same rank with those productions which have been found to benefit the high and holy cause of pure taste, and virtue, and piety. It is presumed that this object may in some degree have been obtained, by the examples which will be found here recorded, and the manner in which the several narratives are told, of patient enduring of affliction for conscience' sake; of suffering even to bonds and imprisonment, and death itself, in the cause of the everlasting Gospel ; of stedfast labour and perseverance in the various duties and good works of many several callings and stations in society: of the successive stages, and the vicissitudes of the progress of the Christian life, from its first beginnings in the grace and mercy of God, to its earthly consummation in a peaceful happy death :-and, on the other hand, by the contrast, which will be found occasionally manifested and displayed, in the goings on and the fate of error and vice, and earthly-mindedness. From the multitude of secular concerns which
press upon us on every side, we have all continual need to be called to the contemplation of the things of the future world, and to be reminded that this life is chiefly important because of its connexion with the other. My hope is, that the histories of life and death, here delivered into the hand of my reader, may bring some aid to the side of those salutary impressions.
If it be likewise thought that the Editor has been influenced by a further aim and desire to promote the interests of religion and piety, especially as they are professed within the pale of the church of England, the surmise, he confesses, is well-grounded; and it will greatly add to whatever satisfaction he looks for from his labour, if he shall find that it has indeed operated to that effect : for he is persuaded that whatever is gained in that cause, is gained in the way which is most likely to secure and serve “the edifying of the body of Christ in love.” And yet, if he could any where have found Popery associated with greater piety and heavenly-mindedness than in Sir Thomas More, or non-conformity united with more eminent gifts than in Richard Baxter, those examples also should have obtained their station in this work, for the honour of God, for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness.
It has then been no part of my design to give occasion of offence to any.
If indeed occasion be taken, where none was intended to be given; if the errors and the evil practices of popery, the truths of Protestantism, the sufferings of martyrs and confessors, and the intolerance and cruelty of persecutors; if the madness of fanatics, and the evils of civil and religious war, cannot be described and deplored without blame; if the wisdom to be derived to present and future ages from the records of the past cannot be obtained by ourselves, without exciting displeasure in other bosoms; there may be circumstances which shall call forth our concern and sorrow for the pain of a suffering fellow-creature; but the consequences must be endured, as no part of our design, but only accidental to it; and the complainant may bear to be admonished, whether, instead of casting harsh imputations upon us, he would not be better employed in re-examining the grounds and principles of his own faith, and enquiring whether all which has been done in what he blames is not that cause hath been afforded to him of rendering thanks and praise to the mercy of God, for giving him another call and summons to escape from error, and forsake his sin.