My Young Friends, The formation of your principles, the instruction of your minds, and the salvation of your souls, are, unquestionably, objects of high importance to yourselves, to your connexions, and to the protestant interest at large. When your fathers are translated from the church militant to the church triumphant, you will inherit their property, and will occupy their stations. On you it will devolve to manage the affairs of religion, to be zealous for its interests, and active for its prosperity. But, if you be ignorant of its principles and destitute of its blessings, this zeal and activity cannot be expected. By enlightening your understandings with truth, and by impressing your hearts with the power of religion, we hope to secure your attachment to the cause of God, and to engage your talents and your future influence in its service.
Of all books which can be put into your hands, those which relate the labours and sutFerings of good men are the most interesting and instructive. In them you see orthodox principles, christian tempers, and holy duties, in lovely union and in vigorous operation. In them you see religion shining forth in real life, subduing the corruptions of human nature, and inspiring a zeal for every good work. In them you see the reproaches and persecutions which the servants of God have endured; those gracious principles which have supported their minds; and the course they have pursued in their progress to the kingdom of heaven. Such books are well calculated to engage your attention, to affect your feelings, to deepen your best impressions, and to invigorate your noblest resolutions. They are well calculated to fortify you against the allurements of a vain world; to assimilate your characters to those of the excellent of the earth; to conform your lives to the standard of holiness; and to educate your souls for the mansions of glory.
The Puritans were a race of men of whom the world was not worthy. They devoted their days and nights to hard study; they cherished devotional feelings; and they enjoyed intimate communion with God. The stores of their minds were expended, and the energy of their souls was exerted, to separate the truths of the gospel from the heresies of the times in which they lived; to resist the encroachments of arbitrary power; to purify the church from secularity and corruption; and to promote the power of religion among the people. They persevered in this course amidst a host of difficulties, and in defiance of the most powerful opposition. The rulers of those times persecuted them with wanton cruelty, in total contempt of every sacred law, of every just principle, and of every humane feeling.
From these volumes you will learn, that the glorious cause of Nonconformity has been adorned by the holy lives of a multitude of good men; has been consecrated by the blood of martyrs; and has been sanctioned by the approbation and protection of heaven.
For their exalted attainments in piety*. their assiduous researches in literature and divinity, and their unwearied exertions in the cause of God and their country, the Puritan divines are entitled to the admiration and reverence of every succeeding age. Our political freedom, our religious liberty, and our christian privileges, are to be ascribed to them more than to any other body of men that England ever produced. When you learn
by what struggles these blessings have been acquired, and at what price they have been obtained, you will know how to estimate their value; and you will regard the men to whom we are indebted for them as distinguished benefactors to the English nation and the church of God.
For the sacred cause of religion, the Puritan divines laboured and prayed, wrote and preached, suffered and died; and they have transmitted it to us to support it, or to let it sink. With what feelings will you receive this precious inheritance ? Will you lightly esteem what they so highly valued? Will you stand aloof from the cause which they watched with jealous vigilance, and defended with invincible courage? If the blood of these men run in your veins, if the principles of these men exist in your souls, most assuredly you will not.
That you may learn the wisdom, and imbibe the spirit of the Puritans;—that you may take them as patterns, imitate them as examples, and follow them as guides, so far as they followed Christ;—that you may adhere to the cause of religion with the same firmness, adorn it with the same holiness, and propagate it with the same zeal, is the fervent prayer of
October 6, 1813.