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REV. ROBERT GORDON,
MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL, EDINBURGH,
MY WORTHY FRIEND,
The design of the following Argument, which with all affection and esteem I dedicate to you, is to recover the great subject of Judgment to Come, from poetical visionaries on the one hand, and from religious rhapsodists on the other; and to place it upon the foundation of divine revelation, of human understanding, and the common good. The revelation of God upon the subject is brought forward, and I endeavour to show that it commends itself to every noble sentiment of the human breast, and to every worthy interest of human life. For it seems to me that
religion we are growing wiser than our fathers, who were content with a train of human authorities, and that this age requireth religious truth to be justified, like other truth, by showing its benefits to the mind itself, and to society at
large. The poets and the economists are quite alive to this advancement of the public mind, and alteration of the public taste, of whom the former address our imagination and our heart, the latter our interests ;-bases upon which they have reared up by far the most rival influences to religion—the school of Sentiment, which holds of the former; and the school of Politics, which holds of the latter. Now being convinced that besides a Creed,'there is in our religion the most elevated sentiment, and the greatest advantage both public and private, I see not but we should fight and overthrow these rivals with their own weapons, by addressing their disciples upon that side on which their ear is open. For their ear is shut, and I hope the ear of all men is for ever shut, to the authority of names; and it is vain now to quote the opinions of saints or reformers, or councils or assemblies, in support of any truth. They even hold cheap our venerable theological language, though it can boast of great antiquity, and they insist upon its being translated into common phrases, that they may understand its meaning. And the misery is, they will not listen unless we gratify them in this reasonable request, but allow
us to have our disputations to ourselves while we cover them with that venerable disguise. In order, therefore, to have a chance of a hearing, I have refrained from systematic forms of speech, and endeavoured to speak of each subject in terms proper to it, and to address each feeling in the language most likely to move it—in short, to argue like a man, not a theologian ; like a Christian, not a churchman.
It seems to me, my dear friend, that, like the Botanists, we should give up the artificial and adopt the natural method, in treating religion; and, instead of steering wide among disputed questions, bear down at once upon the occupations of the heart and life of man. They care not for our controversial warfare, they laugh at our antiquated method of handling questions-and so they perish from the way
of truth, because of the unintelligible signals which we hang out. For this noble office, of delivering the truth from a contemptible imprisonment, and enshrining it in the good feelings, good sense, and common weal of men, which, being unchangeable in their nature, are the only proper receptacles for the unchangeable truth of revelation, I know not among my clerical friends any one better qualified than yourself. Your general knowledge, your familiarity with the accurate methods of science, your estimation of divine truth, and, above all, your catholic spirit and emancipation from churchman or sectarian intolerance, present you to niy mind as eminently fitted for bringing the public affection back again to the doctrines of revealed truth. I crave your forgiveness for saying this so publicly; but my heart's desire is to see that thing in which the world is most interested, established before the world in the highest and most honourable style, in order that it may have the chance of being held by the world in the dearest and the nearest place.