« ForrigeFortsæt »
no personal or political connexion, and who had always been regarded as the patron of academical merit, as well as a steady promoter of the welfare of the University
Before I was placed where I now am, it might have exposed me to the suspicion of interested views, if I had offered such a publication to your notice, or ventured to express those sentiments of respect which are common to every member, and to every true friend, of this University: but a dedication to one from whom I have already received all that I could ever hope to obtain, can only be interpreted, I trust, by yourself, and by the world, as a tribute, however humble, of gratitude for a past favour, and of applause for public virtues.
I have the honour to be,
St. Alban's Hall,
THE greater part of the substance of the following Essays was delivered in several discourses before the University of Oxford, about five years ago. They were not originally designed for publication; but the author was induced to entertain the idea at the suggestion of some friends, whose opinions are entitled to deference, and who thought that the views contained in them might have the effect on some minds, not of introducing new doctrines, but of awakening attention to some important points which are very frequently overlooked; and that the chain of argument would appear to more advantage, and would be likely to be more justly estimated, when comprised in a volume, than when delivered, as was necessarily the case, at long intervals from the University pulpit.
Various avocations, which have delayed the publication of these Essays till the present time, have also had the effect, in some degree, of preventing their receiving that minute examination in every part, and careful correction, which a proper respect both for the subject and for the reader might seem to demand: but as these avocations were not likely either to cease, or to be diminished, it was not thought desirable to keep back the work any longer, in the hope of bestowing on it that undivided attention, which unavoidable obstacles might prevent it from ever receiving.
It is hardly necessary to observe, that I have not entertained the design of noticing all the peculiarities of the Christian religion ; which would indeed amount to little less than a complete system of theology ; por even all the principal ones ; but those
only which appeared to be the most frequently overlooked, or depreciated. That the unbeliever should rank Christianity along with the various systems of superstition which human fraud and folly have produced and maintained, keeping out of sight'every circumstance that forms a distinction between the true coin and the counterfeit, is not to be wondered at; but to oppose decided infidelity (though it is hoped some of the arguments adduced may be employed with effect for that purpose) has not been made the primary object of these Essays. I have had in view the case of those who regard Christianity with indifference, rather than of those who reject it.
It is a more common, and not a less pernicious, error, to regard Christianity as little else than the religion of nature, proclaimed by a special mission, for the benefit, chiefly, of those whose feebleness of intellect, ignorance, or depraved disposi
tion, unfits them for discovering its truths by the light of Reason. The Gospel accordingly, while praised as a beautiful system, and highly extolled for its utility, is praised, in fact, for what does not belong to it, viz. its containing nothing of importance which a pbilosophical mind might not discover by its own unaided powers : and is regarded as useful only for the less intelligent, and less cultivated; in short, , for the vulgar.
There are others, again, whose veneration for the Gospel is more real, but who erroneously think to honour and support it by laying a foundation which, in fact, tends to weaken and degrade the superstruclure. Beginning with natural religion, they attribute to that much of what properly belongs to Christianity, and much that belongs to neither; and thus often lead to the perversion of some parts of the Gospel, and to the depreciation of jothers. In fact, the study of natural religion ought