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SIR MATTHEW HALE TO HIS CHILDREN.
May 20. I INTENDED to have been at Alderly this Whitsuntide, desirous to renew those counsels and advices which I have often given you, in order to your greatest concernment; namely, the everlasting good and welfare of your souls hereafter, and the due ordering of your lives and conversations here.
And although young people are apt, through their own indiscretion, or the ill advice of others, to think these kind of entertainments but dry and empty matters, and the morose and needless interpositions of old men; yet give him leave to tell you, that very well knows what he says, these things are of more importance and concern. ment to you, than external gifts and bounties (wherein) nevertheless I have not been wanting to you according to my ability.
This was my intention in this journey; and though I have been disappointed therein, yet I thought good, by letters and messages, to do something that might be done that way for your benefit, that I had otherwise intended to have done in person.
Assure yourselves, therefore, and believe it from one that knows what he says, from one that can neither have any reason or end to deceive you, that the best gift I can give you is good counsel ; and the best counsel I can give you is that which relates to your great import and concernment, namely, religion.
And, therefore, since I cannot at this time deliver it to you in person, I shall do it by this letter ; wherein I shall not be very large, but keep myself within the bounds proper for a letter, and to those things only at this time which may be most of present use and moment to you; and by your due observance of these directions, I shall have a good character, both of your dutifulness to God, your obedience to your father, and also of your discretion and prudence : for it is most certain, that as religion is the best means to advance and rectify human nature, so no man shall be either truly wise or truly happy without it and the love of it; no, not in this life, much less in that which is to come.
First, therefore, every morning and every evening upon your knees humbly commend yourselves to Almighty God in prayer, begging his mercy to pardon your sins, his grace to direct you, his providence to protect you; returning him humble thanks for all his dispensations towards you, yea, even for his very corrections and afflictions ; entreating him to give you wisdom and grace to make a sober, patient, humble, profitable use of them, and in his due time to deliver you from them, concluding your prayers with the Lord's prayer. This will be a certain mean to bring your mind into a right frame, to procure you comfort and blessing, and to prevent thousands of inconveniences and mischiefs, to which you will be otherwise subjected.
Secondly. Every morning read seriously and reverently a portion of the Holy Scripture ; acquaint yourself with the history and doctrine thereof: it is a book full of light and wisdom, will make you wise to eternal life, and furnish you with directions and principles to guide and order your life safely and prudently.
Thirdly. Conclude every evening with reading some part of the Scriptures, and prayer in your family. · Fourtbly. Be strict and religious observers of the Lord's day; resort to your parish church twice that day, if your health will permit, and attend diligently and reverently to the public prayers and sermons. He cannot reasonably expect a blessing from God the rest of the week, that neglects his duty to God in the due consecration of this day to the special service and duty to God which this day requires.
Fifthly. Receive the sacrament at least three times in the year, and oftener, as there is occasion, in your parish church. The laws of the land require this, and the law of your Saviour requires it, and the law of duty and gratitude requires it of you. Prepare yourselves seriously for this service beforehand, and perform it with reverence and thankfulness : the neglect of this duty procures great inconvenience and strangeness; and commonly the neglect hereof ariseth from some conceited opinion that people inconsiderately take up, but most ordinarily from a sluggishness of mind and an unwillingness to fit and prepare the mind for it, or to leave some sinful or vain course that men are not willing to leave, and yet condemn themselves in the practice of it.
Sixthly. Beware of those that go about to seduce you from that religion wherein you have been brought up hitherto, namely, the true Protestant religion. It is not unknown to any, that observe the state of things in the world, how many erroneous religions are scattered abroad in the world, and how industrious men of false persuasions are to make proselytes. There are Antinomians, Quakers, Anabaptists, and divers others that go about to mislead themselves and others : nay, although the laws of this kingdom, and especially the statute of 23 Eliz, cap. i, have inflicted the severest penalty upon those that go about to withdraw persons to the Romish religion from the religion established in England, as any man that reads that statue may find; yet there are scattered up and down the world divers factors and agents, that under several disguises and pretences endeavour the perverting of weak and easy persons. Take heed of all such persuaders. And that you may know and observe the better, you shall ever find these artifices practised by them:
1. They will use all flattering applications and insinuations to be master of your humour, and when they have gotten that advantage, they that seemed before to serve you will then command you.
2. They use all possible skill to raise in you jealousy and dislike towards those that may otherwise continue and keep you in the truth : as, to raise dislike in you against your minister ; nay, rather than fail, to raise dissensions among relations ; yea, to cast jealousies and surmises
among them, if it may be instrumental to corrupt them.
3. They will endeavour to withdraw people from the public ministry of God's word, encourage men to slight and neglect it, and when they have once effected this, they have a fair opportunity to infuse their own corrupt principles. * 4. They will engage you by some means or other to them, either by some real, but most ordinarily by some pretended kindness or familiarity, that in a little time you shall not dare to displease them : you must do and speak what they will have you, because some way or other you are entangled with them, or engaged to them; and then they become your governors, and you will not dare to contradict or disobey them.
These are some of those artifices whereby crafty and subtile seducers gain proselytes, and bring men under captivity.
Seventhly. Be very careful to moderate your passions, especially of choler and anger. It inflames the blood, disorders the brain, and, for the time, exterminates not only religion, but common reason : it puts the mind into confusion, and throws wildfire into the tongue, whereby men give others advantage against them ; it renders a man incapable of doing his duty to God, and puts a man upon acts of violence, unrighteousness, and injustice to men. Therefore keep your passions under discipline, and under as strict a chain as you would keep an unruly cursed mastiff. Look to it, that you give not too much line at first; but if it hath gotten any fire within you,