This is one of the many tracts which I made at Paris on several subjects, at the instance of those two incomparable Princesses, who there for many years continually employed me in their service. What use they were pleased to make of them, your Ladyship knows best, being often admitted, with some other persons of quality, to their private devotions: therefore, when I present you with these papers, I but repeat and ratify their gift, and, by this public address, pay that respect which I owe (besides what is due upon other accounts) to that singular esteem and kindness which they ever had for your Ladyship.
Those great and holy souls had no desire more earnest than to contemplate and embrace the Christian religion in its original beauty, and see it freed from the encumbrance. which ordinary controversies most commonly throw upon it. And really, though they did understand all these scholastic points as well or better than their teachers, (especially the Princess of Turenne, whose clear and quick apprehension, and neat and unartificial eloquence, were wonderful), yet they cared so little for them, that they deplored very often the unhappy necessity that had filled the Church with such weapons, and had so flanked about (to use here their expression) Jerusalem with bastions, that one could hardly see the Temple.
I can assure you, Madam, that upon this account, the holy Communion, which is as the tree of life in the paradise of God, the most generous plant in his vineyard of the Church, hath been the worst dealt with. For as it was most despitefully treated by popery, the Protestants did spend most of their care this way to secure, it; whereby it could not be well expected, that men thus taken up in raising fences, in planting thorns and quicksets against wild boars, could have much time to dress and improve better plants. Then came from Germany Anabaptists, and from other parts Socinians, who pretend, that the best way of pruning luxuriant excrescences is to cut up by the roots.
Here then, Madam, while the Romanists having made havoc of the vineyard, and laid it waste, the fatness of the ground brought forth that poisonous wild vine of the Roman mass; and others left nothing but dead sapless branches and dry leaves, the empty figures of fanatic heretics, I make it my endeavour to rescue it out of the hands of such husbandmen, and to restore all back again, both to the full meaning and institution of Christ, who is the planter as well as the master of the vineyard; and to the practice of the holy fathers, who for several hundreds of years dressed it, and made it beat excellent fruit. So here I take no more notice of either Papists or Sectaries, no nor Protestants neither, than as if the former had never appeared in the world to trouble and spoil the Church of God, nor the latter to assert and redress it.
The holy Sacrament being thus set at liberty, and enlarged to its full extent, will appear presently attended with all its duties and blessings, as the ladder of Jacob did, with ascending and descending angels. This may be soon perceived by any one who will but take the trouble to read this book, so he do it with some attention, and distinctly in parcels; a caution which I desire may be adverted to. Chronicles, or eloquent discourses, may best please when they are cursorily run over; but mysteries must be studied, or they cannot well be understood; and God knows how much more is here required at our hands besides bare understanding. Therefore I have added to the discourse that refers to the advancing the mind in knowledge, meditation and prayer, the two usual attendants on devotion; which, being joined together, are the only probable means of dealing successfully with holy things, and of attaining, by the use, to the true end of this Sacrament, which aims at nothing less than a mutual Communion between us and Christ, even here on earth, while we seem to be absent from him; and withal at such a reciprocal correspondency between God and his Church, as may both open our hearts toward him in holy duties and performances, and open his hand and bowels toward us in all necessary mercies.
I know, Madam, that for the confirming of all this, I need but appeal to your own experience. And it is partly on this account, that, without so much as asking leave, I have made bold to put your name before this book; because it having been first written for the peculiar use of two persons whom God had sanctified, in all respects, much above the rate of these times, it seems to claim a special title to their acceptation and reading, who intimately knew the worth of those Princesses, and walk after their steps, at so near a distance as your Ladyship doth, to whom I am,
MADAM, A most humble and faithful Servant,
Durham, Jan. 24, 1673.