The following paragraphs are the openings to the five sections of The Centuries.

1 An empty book is like an infant's soul, in which anything may be written. It is capable of all things, but containeth nothing. I have a mind to fill this with profitable wonders. And since Love made you put it into my hands I will fill it with those Truths you love without knowing them: with those things which, if it be possible, shall shew my Love; to you in communicating most enriching Truths: to Truth in exalting her beauties in such a Soul.

2 THE Services which the world doth you, are transcendent to all imagination. Did it only sustain your body and preserve your life and comfort your senses, you were bound to value it as much as those services were worth: but it discovers the being of God unto you, it opens His nature, and shews you His wisdom, goodness and power, it magnifies His love unto you, it serves Angels and men for you, it entertains you with many lovely and glorious objects, it feeds you with joys, and becomes a theme that furnishes you with perpetual praises and thanksgivings, it enflameth you with the love of God, and in the link of your union and communion with Him. It is the temple wherein you are exalted to glory and honour, and the visible porch or gate of Eternity: a sure pledge of Eternal joys, to all them that walk before God and are perfect in it.

3 WILL you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? Those pure and virgin apprehensions I had from the womb, and that divine light wherewith I was born are the best unto this day, wherein I can see the Universe. By the Gift of God they attended me into the world, and by His special favour I remember them till now. Verily they seem the greatest gifts His wisdom could bestow, for without them all other gifts had been dead and vain. They are unattainable by book, and therefore I will teach them by experience. Pray for them earnestly: for they will make you angelical, and wholly celestial. Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions of the world than when I was a child.

4 HAVING spoken so much concerning his entrance and progress in Felicity, I will in this century speak of the principles with which your friend endued himself to enjoy it. For besides contemplative, there is an active happiness, which consisteth in blessed operations. And as some things fit a man for contemplation, so there are others fitting him for action: which as they are infinitely necessary to practical happiness, so are they likewise infinitely conducive to contemplative itself.

5 THE objects of Felicity, and the way of enjoying them, are two material themes; wherein to be instructed is infinitely desirable, because as necessary as profitable. Whether of the two, the object or the way be more glorious, it is difficult to determine. God is the object, and God is the way of enjoying. God in all His excellencies, laws, and works, in all His ways and counsels is the sovereign object of all Felicity. Eternity and Time, Heaven and Earth, Kingdoms and Ages, Angels and Men are in Him to be enjoyed. In Him the Fountain, in Him the End, in Him the Light, the Life, the Way, in Him the glory and crown of all. Yet for distinction sake we will speak of several eminent begining particulars, beginning with His attributes.