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La storia degli uomini ci dà l'idea di un immenso pelago di errori, fra i quali poche e confuse, e a grandi intervalli distanti, verità soprannuotano.
BECCARIA dei delitti e delle pene.
The publication of the present work is not the result of the importunity of friends, nor of any of the motives usually assigned by authors for obtruding their productions on the notice of the world.
It is at once and unhesitatingly avowed, that the importance of the views respecting the subject of religion which these volumes contain, renders their suppression, inconsistent alike with a sense of duty, and with that strong attachment to the family of God, under the influence of which it is the privilege of all who belong to it continually to live.
Although supported by a congregation, the much endeared members of which are pleased to think that they are profited by his labours, religion is not with the
author a trade. Indeed, at no time is he conscious of having intentionally rendered it subservient to the promotion of his secular interests. From an early period of life impressed with a deep conviction of the importance of the subject, and having had it almost always present to his mind, his great, his paramount anxiety was, to find out, if possible, what in regard to it might be the truth. Years, however, rolled on, without bringing to him what he so ardently desired. The study of different systems of religion, and still more of the characters of those by whom these different systems had been broached and supported, instead of satisfying, contributed but the more to puzzle and perplex him. Frequently, before his mind opened to the truth, did he fancy that he had attained to the object of his wishes; and yet, as often as, in calm sobriety, he allowed himself to consider the theory which at first sight had captivated him, he discovered about it a hitch, a something which could not abide the test of strict examination; and above all, although, by means of it, conscience might for a time have been lulled asleep, he soon found it rising again in all its majesty, asserting its natural supremacy, and charging him with guilt in a way, which the particular theory did not enable him fully, finally, and triumphantly to refute. Besides, when he
looked to the characters and conduct of professors of religion in general, he observed in them nothing which he conld not account for on principles with which he was already and naturally acquainted. Can it be surprising if, under such circumstances, and with a mind constituted as his is, the author should long have continued the victim of mental torture and disquietude ?
Even the first glimpse which he had of the truth as it is in Jesus, by no means at once relieved the author from all his embarrassments. Although, by perceiving the love of God to himself personally, he was introduced into the church of God, and became a partaker of the apostolic faith, it was long before his mind so far expanded to spiritual things, as to enable him to take an enlarged and comprehensive view of them. He had, as has happened to other Christians before him, to pass through his noviciate. In this state of mind he was called upon to take charge of a congregation,-set before them the views which at that time interested and occupied his own thoughts,—broached sentiments which, although true in the main, and of supreme importance, were frequently ill-expressed, and on some occasions mixed up with no inconsiderable proportion of error,—drew down upon himself, from certain respectable individuals, chiefly of the Pharisaical and Sadducean sorts, a charge of heresy,—and was tried and condemned by judges, the majority of whom, he clearly perceives, were ignorant of the gospel; but some of whom, it is probable were, like himself, in the first stages of Christianity; and, labouring thereby under partial and limited views of the subject, were unable to make the requisite allowances for a mind, supremely attached to God's word, and struggling to emancipate itself from the thraldom of early and long-cherished prejudices ?*
* The event alluded to in the text, occurred in September, 1825. Only two members of the Ecclesiastical Court by which the author was condemned, dissented from, and protested against, the sentence pronounced upon him. The persons alluded to were, Mr. Thomas Lockerby, minister of Cadder, and Mr. John Dick, minister of Rutherglen. Of the former gentleman, as still alive, it would be indelicate to speak in terms of commendation. But with regard to the latter, as having several years since “shuffled off this mortal coil,” the author may be permitted to indulge in the language of truth and affection. He can say, without the slightest exaggeration, that he never knew a human being, his intercourse with whom, (and his deep regret now is, that with Mr. Dick it had not been greater), has left a more pleasing impression on his mind. If consummate modesty, sterling integrity, unsophisticated good sense, the most amiable dispositions, and boundless Christian philanthropy, and all these set off and enhanced by a total want of priestly intolerance, entitle a man to the respect of his contemporaries and posterity, to that, in no ordinary degree, John Dick was entitled. True, while alive he was but little known; his constitutional shyness of character, and aversion to strife, having stood in the way of his taking an active and distinguished part in the stirring events of his time; nor has he left behind him any of those memorials, by which a literary reputation is established with after ages. But he was himself a living epistle ; and as such he is embalmed in the recollections of his friends and acquaintances. Excellent man! Methinks I see thee yet, with thy benign aspect, and gentle, retiring, Christian-like demeanour. Primitive simplicity, child-like guilelessness of character, were thine. Thou mightst not have coincided in opinion in all respects with the writer of these pages; but thine