To his much honoured and beloved Kinsman, Mr. John Flavel, of London, Merchant, and his virtuous Consort, the Author wisheth Grace, Mercy, and Peace.
My dear and honoured friends:
If my pen were both able, and at leisure, to get glory in paper, it would be but a paper glory when I had gotten it; but if by displaying (which is the design of these papers) the transcendent excellency of Jesus Christ, I may win glory to him from you, to whom I humbly offer them, or from any other into whose hands providence shall cast them, that will be glory indeed, and an occasion of glorifying God to all eternity.
It is not the design of this epistle to compliment, but to benefit you; not to blazen your excellencies, but Christ's; not to acquaint the world how much you have endeared me to yourselves, but to increase and strengthen the endearments betwixt Christ and you, upon your part. I might indeed (this being a proper place for it) pay you my acknowledgements for your great kindnesses to me and mine; of which, I assure you, I have, and ever shall have, the most grateful sense: but you and I are theatre enough to one another, and can satisfy ourselves with the inclosed comforts and delights of our mutual love and friendship.
But let me tell you, the whole world is not a theatre large enough to show the glory of Christ upon, or unfold the one half of the unsearchable riches that lie hid in him.
These things will be far better understood, and spoken of in heaven, by the noon-day divinity, in which the immediately illuminated assembly do there preach his praises, shall by such a stammering tongue, and scribbling pen as mine, which does but mar them.
Alas! I write his praises but by moon-light; I cannot praise him so much as by halves. Indeed, no tongue but his own (as Nazianzen said of Basil) is sufficient to undertake that task. What shall I say of Christ? The excelling glory of that object dazzles all apprehension, swallows up all expression. When we have borrowed metaphors from every creature that has any excellency or lovely property in it, till we have stript the whole creation bare of all its ornaments, and clothed Christ with all that glory; when we have even worn out our tongues, in ascribing praises to him, alas! we have done nothing, when all is done.
Yes, wo is me! how do I every day behold reasonable souls most unreasonably disaffected to my lovely Lord Jesus! denying love to One, who is able to compel love from the stoniest heart! yea, though they can never make so much of their love (would they set it to sale) as Christ bids for it.
It is horrid and amazing to see how the minds of many are captivated and ensnared by every silly trifle; and how others can indifferently turn them with a kind of spontaneity to this object, or to that (as their fancy strikes) among the whole universe of beings, and scarce ever reluctate, recoil, or nauseate, till they be persuaded to Christ. In their unconverted state, it is as easy to melt the obdurate rocks into sweet syrup, as their hearts into divine love.
How do the great men of the world ambitiously court the honours and pleasures of it? The merchants of the earth trade, and strive for the dear-bought treasures of it; whilst the price of Christ (alas! ever too low) falls every day lower and lower upon the exchange of this world! I speak it as a sad truth, if there were no quicker a trade (as dead as they say it is) for the perishing treasures of the earth, than there is for Christ this day in England, the exchange would quickly be shut up, and all the trading companies dissolved. (Part 2 following completes dedication to Kinsman).