Tolle malos, extolle pios, cognosce teipsum:
Sacra tene, paci consule, disce pati.
Christ Jesus, the Prince of princes, bless your Highness with length of days, and an increase of all graces, which may make you truly prosperous in this life, and eternally happy in that which is to come.
Jonathan shot three arrows to drive David further off from Saul's fury; and this is the third epistle which I have written, to draw your Highness nearer to God's favour, by directing your heart to begin, like Josiah, in your youth to seek after the God of David, and of Jacob, your father. Not but that I know that your Highness does this without my admonition, but because I would, with the apostle, have you to abound in every grace, in faith and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to God's service and true religion. Never was there more need of plain and unfeigned admonition; for the Comick in that saying, seems but to have prophesied of our times, |Obsequium amicos, veritas odium parit.| And no marvel; seeing that we are fallen into the dregs of time, which being the last, must needs be the worst days. And how can there be worse, seeing vanity knows not how to be vainer, nor wickedness how to be more wicked? And whereas heretofore those have been counted most holy, who have shewed themselves most zealous in their religion (Matt. xv.1), they are now reputed most discreet, who can make the least profession of their faith. And that these are the last days, appears evidently (2 Tim. ii.4), because the security of men's eternal state hath so overwhelmed all sorts (as Christ foretold it should), that most who now live are become lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; and of those who pretend to love God, O God! what sanctified heart cannot but bleed, to behold how seldom they come to prayers! how irreverently they hear God's word! what strangers they are at the Lord's table! What assiduous spectators they are at stage-plays; where, being Christians, they can sport themselves to hear the vassals of the devil scoffing religion, and blasphemously abusing phrases of holy scripture on their stages, as familiarly ag they use their tobacco-pipes in their bibbing-houses! So that he who would now-a-days seek in most Christians for the power, shall scarce almost find the very shew of godliness. Never was there more sinning, never less remorse for sin. Never was the Judge nearer to come, never was there so little preparation for his coming: and if the bridegroom should now come, how many who think themselves wise enough, and full of all knowledge, would be found foolish virgins, without one drop of the oil of saving faith in their lamps? for the greatest wisdom of most men in this age consists in being wise, first, to deceive others, aud in the end to deceive themselves. And if sometimes some good book haps into their hands, or some good motion cometh into their heads, whereby they are put in mind to consider the uncertainty of this life present, or how weak assurance they have of eternal life if this were ended, and how they have some secret sins, for which they must needs repent here, or be punished for them in hell hereafter, security then forthwith whispers the hypocrite in the ear, that though it be fit to think of these things, yet, it is not yet time, and that he is yet young enough, though he cannot but know, that many millions as young as himself are already in hell for want of timely repentance. Presumption warranteth him in the other ear, that he may have time hereafter, at his leisure, to repent, and that howsoever others die, yet he is far enough from death, and therefore may boldly take yet a longer time to enjoy his sweet pleasures, and to increase his wealth and greatness; and hereupon, like Solomon's sluggard, he yields himself to a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep in his former sin, till at last, despair (security's ugly handmaid) comes in unlooked for, and shews him his hourglass, dolefully telling him that his time is past, and that nothing now remains but to die, and be damned. Let not this seem strange to any, for too many have found it too true; and more, without more grace, are like to he thus soothed to their end, and in the end, snared to their endless perdition.
In my desire, therefore, of the common salvation, but especially of your Highness's everlasting welfare, I have endeavoured to extract out of the chaos of endless controversies the old practice of true piety, which flourished before those controversies were hatched; which my poor labours, in a short while, now come forth again under the gracious protection of your Highness's favour, and by their entertainment seem not to be altogether unwelcome to the church of Christ. If to be pious has in all ages been held the truest honour, how much more honourable is it, in so impious an age, to be the true patron and pattern of piety? Piety made David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezechias, Josias, Zerubbabel, Constantine, Theodosius, Edward the VI., Queen Elizabeth, Prince Henry, and other religious princes, to be so honoured, that their names, since their deaths, smell in the church of God like a precious ointment, and their remembrances are sweet as honey in all mouths, and as music at a banquet of wine; whereas the lives of others, who have been godless and irreligious princes, do rot and stink in the memory of God's people -- and what honour is it for great men to have great titles on earth, when God counts their names unworthy to be written in his book of life in heaven?
It is piety that embalms a prince's good name, and makes his face to shine before men, and glorifies his soul among angels. For as the face of Moses, by often talking with God, shined in the eyes of the people, so by frequent praying, which is our talking with God, and hearing the word, which is God speaking unto us, we shall be changed from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord, to the image of the Lord. And seeing this life is uncertain to all, especially to princes, what argument is more fit both for princes and people to study, than that which teacheth sinful man to deny himself by mortifying his corruptions, that he may enjoy Christ, the author of his salvation -- to renounce these false and momentary pleasures of the world, that he may attain to the true and eternal joys of heaven -- and to make them truly honourable before God in piety, who are now only honourable before men in vanity? What charges soever we spend in earthly vanities, for the most part they either die before us, or we shortly die after them; but what we spend, like Mary, in the practice of piety, shall remain our true memorial for ever. For piety hath the promise of this life, and of that which shall never end; but without piety there is no internal comfort to be found in conscience, nor external peace to be looked for in the world, nor any eternal happiness to be hoped for in heaven. How can piety but promise to herself a zealous patron of your Highness, being the sole son and heir of so gracious and great a monarch, who is not only the defender of the faith by title, but also a defender of the faith in truth, as the Christian world hath taken notice, by his learned confuting of Bellarmine's overspreading heresies, and his suppressing in the blade of Vorstius's Athean blasphemies? And how easy it is for your Highness to equal, if not exceed, all that were before you, in grace and greatness, if you do but set your heart to seek and to serve God, considering how religiously your Highness hath been educated by godly and virtuous governors and tutors; as also that you live in such a time, wherein God's providence, and the King's religious care, hath placed over this church, to the unspeakable comfort thereof, another venerable Jehoiada, that doth good in our Israel both towards God and towards his house; of whom your Highness at all times, in all doubts, may learn the sincerity of religion, for the salvation of your inward soul, and the wisest counsel for the direction of your outward state. And to excite you the rather to the zealous practice of divine piety, often suppose with yourself, that your Highness hears your religious father James speaking unto you, as sometimes holy David spake to his son Solomon: and thou Charles my son know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
To help you the better to seek and serve this God Almighty, who must be your chief protector in life, and only protector in death, I here once again, on my bended knees, offer my old mite new stamped into your Highness's hands; daily, for your Highness, offering up unto the Most High my humblest prayers, that as you grow in age and stature, so you may, like your master Christ, increase in wisdom and favour with God and all good men. This suit will I never cease. In all other matters I will ever rest,
Your Highness's humble servant,
during life to be commanded,