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Whitfield Mr. Sam. Birmingham
Wilmot Mr. Birmingham
Wood G. W. efq; Manchester
Worthington Mr. T. Leicester Worthington Mr. W. Stockport Wright Rev. R. Wifbeach Wright Mr. F. B. Liverpool Wright Mr. Dan. Birmingham Wright Mr. Chas. Bofton Wright Rev. Peter, Rochdale Wright Mr. Thos. Derby Wyne Mr. Plymouth
Yates Rev. John, Liverpool Yates Rev. Jas. M. A. Glasgow Yates Mr. John Ashton, Liver pool
Yates Mr. Rich. V. Liverpool Yates Mr. Pemberton H. Liverpool
Yates Mr. Rob. Ardwick Green,
Youle Mr. Gainsborough
HEN the Author of this work published his edition of Neal's "Hiftory of the Puritans," he expreffed his intention to prepare a fequel to it, exhibiting a continuation of the history of Proteftant Diffenters from the Revolution to our own day, in fuch detached parts as would correspond to the periods, into which, in his judgment, it would naturally divide itself. Not only was the design which he announced approved of, but carneft wishes for its execution were expreffed, as well by esteemed and partial friends, as by a general fentiment on its importance and utility, and of his qualifications for it. These teftimonies of public as well as private opinion in its favour were, undoubtedly, a ftimulus and encouragement to the profecution of his purpose, and justified an expectation that long ere now he would have endeavoured to fulfil wishes fo honourable to himself and to his design with gladness and alacrity. It gives the author concern to reflect that eighteen have elapfed without affording a proof, by
the execution of any part of his intended work, that he was fenfible either of the deference which he owed to public expectation, and to the defires of warm friends, or of the obligation brought on him by his own engagement. Some, who took a great intereft in his defign, are, in the mean time, removed from this world, which daily furnishes us with fo many inftances of difappointed hopes, and of purposes broken off by death. His heart feels the heaving figh at the recollection of the remonftrances on his delay of two much-refpected friends in particular one, the Rev. Josiah Thompson, of Clapham, who again and again teftified a folicitude for the appearance of this hiftory before his days were numbered; the other, the late worthy and active friend to the caufe of religious liberty, the Rev. Samuel Palmer, to whofe pen and labours in various ways diffenters owe permanent obligations. But vain are the fighs of affection and friendship over the grave of loft friends: vain are our regrets that we have failed to answer the wishes of the esteemed and the loved, now no more!
The author confoles himself with believing that they who know him will candidly acquit him of any difrespect to the deceased, or of defultory idleness. His attention, he may be permitted to plead, has been for years diverted from this work by a fucceffion of occurrences and engagements which, unforeseen
when it was announced, have either accompanied or followed the anguifh of mourning, or the depreffions of deep forrow on the death of children who had juft reached the promifing years of maturity; especially of a daughter, whofe removal was fo circumstanced as to create, by a lafting mournful fense of it, a long interval of inaptitude for any continued mental exertion. This afflicting event was fucceeded, at different distances, not only by other fimilar trials, but by avocations that arofe from the confidence and truft reposed in him by several deceased friends; by derangement of studies produced by removals from one dwelling to another; and above all by the reading and application to prepare an extenfive Courfe of Lectures for young perfons, in which his prefent paftoral connection engaged him more than ten years ago.
But an apology may be becoming him for this detail of the obstructions that have impeded the accomplishment and progrefs of his prefent work. Let that apology be the author's reasonable and humble wish to stand juftified in the opinion of his friends, and to exculpate himself from imputations that may be difcreditable to him.
The first part of his " History" at length offers itself to the perufal of those who may feel an interest in its defign; and fubmits itself to their candour with timidity and diffidence; in union, however, with the hope which past experience of indulgence and approbation infpires. Whatever imperfections or
faults may be discovered in it, he trufts that it will not be open to cenfure on the ground of mifreprefentation, or the illiberality of a party spirit, or of airs of infallibility.
The usefulness of fuch a work, as it collects into one narrative the documents of paft events ere they are loft, and recalls the tranfactions of past times before the remembrance of them is quite obliterated, encourages the author to hope, will give his hiftory an interest with many readers in general; and its particular reference he would promise himself will excite the attention of Diffenters from our national cftablishment, of every fect.
His modest expectations are juftified by the confideration that the Revolution under William III. introduced a new order of things in the ecclefiaftical state of this country, and a new era in the history of the diffenters from our establishment. The affairs of this large body of protestants have fince that time worn a new afpect; new questions in theology have been brought into difcuffion: new fects have fprung up: and under the different fucceeding reigns new attempts have been made to extend the bleffing of religious liberty, and establish it on a firmer basis. These events are not only fuch as diffenters must feel a concern in, but they are connected with the history of the human mind, of the fluctuations of opinions, and of the progress of religious truth and of national felicity.