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PR E FACE

TO

THE SECOND EDITION.

In presenting to the public a second edition of the following sermons, it may not be unfit to notice some remarks which have been made on particular passages in the volume; and, at the same time, to show my reasons for reprinting it, except in one instance, without any alteration.

With respect to its style, I was aware from the first that it was susceptible of improvement; --but I am of opinion, that a composition once completed is rarely changed for the better by subsequent retouching; and that criticisms on an author's style are more capable of benefitting his future writings, than of correcting what he has already written.

In more important points, however, alteration of any thing that had seemed to me justly objectionable, would have been a duty, which, I

trust, I should neither have been too proud nor too indolent to perform. Accordingly I have corrected a passage in the sixteenth sermon, in which I had inadvertently limited too closely the meaning attached in the Scriptures to the expression, “ the Kingdom of God.” Feeling strongly the evils of exaggerating the benefits of a mere profession of Christianity, and believing that to be the extreme into which men are, and ever have been, too apt to fall, I have, perhaps, inclined too much to the opposite side; and in striving to enforce the high purity of the Gospel, I may not have sufficiently expressed that indulgent and comprehensive spirit for which it is no less admirable. And I am thankful to have been taught more fully, by this additional experience, the great difficulty of representing faithfully, and in its just proportions, the perfect picture of truth and goodness contained in the Scripture itself;—and how the slightest overcharging of any single feature alters that exact expression of the mind of the Spirit, whose likeness it should be our daily prayer and labour to be conformed to.

13

A doubt has been suggested to me as to the beneficial tendency of the seventh sermon.

It has been said, that whatever be the abstract truth of the sentiments there expressed, they may needlessly encourage an excessive indifference as to variety of religious opinions, and too low an estimate of the advantages of agreement even in the outward forms of Christianity. If, indeed, I could be convinced that the sermon in question contained any thing either untrue, or unfitted to the present times, I should at once have altered or omitted it. No doubt there are many minds which do not require the particular lesson there inculcated :—there are many situations in which it would be impertinent to deliverit. Had it ever been my lot to be the regular minister of a parish, where, in spite of my sincere and active endeavours to benefit the souls committed to my care, dissent from the church was a growing evil ;- where ignorant and coarse-minded teachers, to gratify their own vanity or sectarian spirit, were continually decrying the ordinances of the Church, and tempting the people to follow them, by an exaggerated representation of the truths of the Gospel, even while they did not in substance pervert them: or did I imagine that this present volume were likely to be read principally or generally by Dissenters, then assuredly the seventh sermon would neither have been preached or published in its present form. But I preached against the particular evils with which my own experience had made me most acquainted; and I have published what I thought most likely to benefit those among whom the volume would probably circulate. It is still my opinion, that readers in the higher classes of society are inclined to underrate the importance of a Christian unity of spirit, and to overrate the evils of dissent from the Establishment, and to judge of the act of dissent itself too harshly. On this ground I have republished the sermon in question, without alteration, not as required by all readers, but as intended to benefit those who I imagine are most likely to read it.

Laleham, January 22nd, 1830.

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