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Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1840,
BY JAMES B. DOW,
in the clerk's office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM A. HALL & CO.
21 Devonshire street.
The circumstances under which the following Discourses were written, may perhaps be regarded as constituting a claim on the indulgence and favor of the public. The author, after having had much previous experience of the ills resulting from inadequate means of support, was at length forced, by sickness in his family, to abandon his field of labor, and take up his residence, for a number of months, in a place where he could obtain no other employment than that furnished by the pen. Hence his thoughts were directed to the press as his only resource in the time of need; nor had he the presumption to look upon such a resource in any other light than as in itself extremely precarious and uncertain : his dependence was upon the kindness of friends and the benevolence of the humane. He rests his claim, not on the merits of his work, but on the distress of his condition; he does not defy the censures of criticism, but asks the smiles of compassion ; he appeals, not to the justice of a discerning, but to the favor of a liberal, public.
At the same time he would humbly hope, that the
volume now presented to the reader contains nothing contrary to sound doctrine, or pure religion ; that it is such as to repay, in some measure, the pains of those who
may honor it with a perusal. With more time for preparatory deliberation, it might have been made more systematic; as it is, however, it gives a view, more or less extended, of a considerable proportion of those subjects which belong to Christian faith and practice.
It endeavors to bring substantial arguments to the support of those great doctrines, which have been subjected to frequent attacks, and from which large bodies of professing Christians have essentially swerved. The hope and prayer of the author are, that it may, in its humble measure, subserve the cause of truth, counteract the progress of error, and promote the welfare of the souls of men.
It has been the aim of the author to set forth the Supreme Being as eternal in his existence, and infinite in his greatness. There is a constant tendency in the human mind, on account of the imperfection attaching to all its faculties, and the dimness with which sin has affected its vision, to lower the standard of the divine perfections, and to think of God as if he were not more exalted than his own creatures. An instance of this tendency may be noticed in the fact, that not only little men in their discourse, but distinguished authors in the works of their fame, often speak of God as he was before he created the heavens and the earth, as he was when he dwelt alone in the universe. It is true that the narrowness of our comprehension and the weakness of
our language often oblige us to mention the Most High in the past tense, and in treating of what God has wrought, we may do so without danger of error; but if we do so when the divine existence itself is the object of remark, we take from the Eternal his eternity, from the Immutable his immutability. If we do not exclude from the divine existence all idea of time and progression, if we do not regard the supreme God, as being from everlasting to everlasting in the highest exercise of all his attributes, we lay the foundation of endless dispute respecting the purposes of God, and fatal delusion respecting the condition and duty of man: if we embrace notions which imply that God is a changeable Being, the doctrine of predestination, though plainly taught in the Scriptures, will always be a stumbling-block, and we shall feel encouraged by our belief to disregard our obligations and persist in our sins.
To account for the origin of moral evil has always been deemed a difficult task, and the manner in which this task has sometimes been executed, may be deemed a sufficient reason why it should never be attempted. If, however, it can be shown, that the perfection of the divine nature and the best good of created beings requires the existence of sin, and that the glorious results of which sin has been made the occasion could be brought about by no other means, no mind need be perplexed, either by the manner in which the subject is presented in the Scriptures, or by the relations which it sustains to the character of God; it will no longer be necessary, either to remove the Most High from his