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It is as such that I court your Lordship's attention to my work ; and being, above all things, desirous to know the truth, the knowledge of my errors is a benefit I may hope to attain from that union of amenity and condescension with the most highly cultivated abilities, which I know your Lordship to possess.
I have the honour to be
Your Lordship’s respectful Servant,
London, October 8, 1817.
The Writer of the following pages is too anxious for success in his main object to be indifferent to the favour of his readers; and would disarm criticism where he most fears it, by the humility of his pretensions.
The graces of composition will not be looked for from one who shall announce himself to have been, from a very early age, employed in
learning and labouring truly to get his own living in a state of life” incompatible with minute attention to the more polished refinements of language.
For the style of his work, therefore, he trusts that a severe account will not be exacted: but although he may plead want of leisure and cultivation to procure indulgence on this head, he disclaims any plea for favour in regard to the subject matter. His best abilities have been employed to bring to the test of scripture the notions that have suggested themselves to his mind; and the result is such entire and undoubting conviction, that he courts the most rigid scrutiny, which he will consider as the co-ope
ration of a friend that must tend either to detect error, or to confirm the truth.
who may mentally disbelieve or doubt the doctrine here combated, and yet wish to retain it as an advantageous delusion, he suggests that, as Christians, they are the disciples of a God of truth, and begs them to recollect who is the father of lies: and in viewing the doctrine practically, he entreats them to consider, that if it be not truly a part of Christianity, yet is preached as such, and declared to be necessary to be believed, before mankind can have an interest in that system: how great an obstacle is raised to their wishing Christianity to be true, who must first believe, contrary to their natural feelings, and their experience of God's goodness, that to be a revelation from Him, which appears to them to represent Him as malignant, vindictive, and inexorable! This obstacle, if founded in misapprehension, all must rejoice to see removed ; and all must exult in the dispersion of those heavy portentous clouds that have shed a gloom over the closing hours of millions of Christians.
It may be right to say a few words on the origin of the present work. It happened, in the village in which the author lives, that on successive Sundays two clergymen preached on
the subject of Eternal Misery; and he doubted now who never did before. The difficulties that occurred to him led him to search the scriptures, and the writings of the most distinguished advocates for the doctrine; and he did not read the works of its opponents (except so far as they were quoted to be refuted,) until the present argument was arranged. His prejudices, therefore, were in favour of the doctrine he now opposes.
The author is anxious to guard against prejudication on two points; one, that his work is but an iteration of the common difficulties that are objected to the doctrine of Eternal Misery, and which objections cannot be conclusive upon the consistent believer, so long as he thinks the doctrine to be asserted in express terms in scripture :--the other, that the present attempt, whatever novelty it may embrace, is but the result of a first concoction; or to express the objection, as was most condescendingly done to the author by an amiable prelate, who once filled the divinity chair at Oxford, and who, from his attainments in learning can afford to be humble “Experience of what has frequently happened to myself, has taught me to look with distrust at new interpretations, though it is evident they may sometimes be just ; but with respect to my own, I have generally discovered, on further consideration, that they were not maintainable, and in most instances have found, by more extended search, that they had occurred to former commentators, and not having been adopted at the time had been forgotten.”
In reply to the first point, the author professes to seek the conviction of his readers from the literal words of scripture, strictly considered, and not to bend them to a preconceived theory of natural religion ; and his leading argument presents his subject in a new point of view, since it is an attempt to prove the mortality of the human soul (except so far as it is made immortal by faith in Jesus Christ), from the sacred scriptures, and from them alone.
To the second, he replies, that he has pondered long and sought diligently; he has, as he best could, introduced himself to those most distinguished for rank, for talents, for zeal, in the Christian Ministry-he has solicited the objections of those who most warmly preach the doctrine he opposes, and-his conviction has been strengthened; to the word and to the sanctuary then he appeals, thinking he cannot better do his duty than by studying God's word, as in His
presence. In the important attempt here ventured on, the writer feels he must have the wishes of all