IT is a popular reproach usually cast upon writers in morality, and persuaders to devotion, that while they with pompous words represent vertu as a sufficient reward to her self, and exhort to the contemt of Glory; they prefix their names to their labors, and make the Title-page a confutation of the Book that follows it.
Our Author has effectually averted this objection, having bin so far from seeking a name from others, as not to have left a possibility for the discovery of his own: but like the river Nilus that gives fertility and blessing wheresoe're he passes, hides his head; and permits himself to be only known in the benefits which he dispenses.
By what methods the other most useful works of this excellent Author have stoln themselves into the world, I am not enabled to relate; but having been made a party to the publication of this present, it may be expected that I render some account thereof. For altho the curiosity of inquiring into that which is industriously conceled, be such a rudeness, and injustice also, as by no means deserves to be encouraged; yet where a benefit has bin receiv'd, for those who are oblig'd, to desire to acquaint themselves with the Person unto whom they stand endebted, that they may pay a respect at least, if they can reach at no more equal retribution; this has such a pretence to gratitude, as may justly demand to be considered. And it will be some satisfaction to the ingenuous enquirer, that tho he have not enform'd himself in the particulars which he desires, he has not been deficient in the inquest, & knows as much as is possible.
The Reader therefore may please to understand, that somwhat more then two months since, I receiv'd a Letter, accompanied with a roul of Papers; opening the which, I found it was written by a hand which I was utterly a stranger to, and that had no name subscribed; the purport thereof was as follows.
THe general report of your candor persuades me you will not reject an address, tho from an unknown hand, which encourages me to the sending these Papers to you, with a desire you would please to peruse them, and commit them either to the Press, or the Fire as you find them worthy. I shall not need to tell you who I am, for if my suit be accepted, I have what I desire without it if it be not, 'tis my interest you should not know who 'tis that has thus importun'd you. Your Charity I assure my self will at a venture pardon,
Your humble Servant.
'Twill be superfluous to say how much I was surpriz'd with this so unusual address, how much affected with the singular modesty and humility which it exprest: and after all how much transported upon viewing the Treasure, which was thus as from the Clouds dropt into my hands Nor was I long to determine which of the two waies of disposal proposed unto me, was to be made use of: and indeed I should much sooner have perform'd my trust, and taken care that this excellent Tract had immediatly seen the light, had it not bin needful to transcribe the whole, before it could safely be committed to the Press.
This I mention not only to excuse the delay of the Edition, but more especially to beg a pardon for the misadventures of it. It being not easy in a written Copie where a recourse is not to be had unto the Author, to do him justice; and avoid faileurs and mistakes: which in the present instance was the more hazardous, in that every departure from the Authors inimitable pattern, would certainly be for the worse.
But Excuse and complement are any where a very insipid foolish thing, and most intolerable in a serious concern: I shall not therefore say ought that looks that way; only offer a short request which I suppose will be equally in the behalf of the Author of this Tract the Editor and the Readers of it, Which is, that whoever takes this book in hand would seriously consider it; and doing so, receive the infinite benefits of uniform vertu, and sincere piety; the documents whereof, are herewith all possible advantages propos'd: and thereby give the Author, that greatest of blessings, the being an instrument to the eternal happiness of souls: and as to us who deal in the affair of Printing afford some share in this most desirable event absolving us from the Charge of having don mischief, instead of service to the world. For, to say the truth, no book is so fatally destructive as that which convinces of duty but fails of persuading to it. And if the best books can do harm, 'twill certainly be difficult to make a plea for the multitudes of a contrary kind which now especially usurp upon the Age.