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The hope of waking up some from their lethargy has induced me to recur to this topic so often in my writings.
I might name other topics, which occupy a large space in the following tracts, but enough has been said here. I will only add, that I submit these volumes to the public with a deep feeling of their imperfections. Indeed, on such subjects as God, and Christ, and Duty, and Immortality, and Perfection, how faint must all human utterance be! In another life, we shall look back on our present words as we do on the lispings of our childhood. Still these lispings conduct the child to higher speech. Still, amidst our weakness, we may learn something, and make progress, and quicken one another by free communication. We indeed know and teach comparatively little; but the known is not the less true or precious, because there is an infinite unknown. Nor ought our ignorance to discourage us, as if we were left to hopeless skepticism. There are great truths, which every honest heart may be assured of. There is such a thing, as a serene, immovable conviction. Faith is a deep want of the soul. We have faculties for the spiritual, as truly as for the outward world. God, the foundation of all existence, may become to the mind the most real of all beings. We can and do see in virtue an everlasting beauty. The distinctions of right and wrong, the obligations of goodness and justice, the divinity of conscience, the moral connexion of the present and future life, the greatness of the character of Christ, the ultimate triumphs of truth and love, are to multitudes, not probable deductions, but intuitions accompanied with the consciousness of certainty. They shine with the clear, constant brightness of the lights of heaven. The believer feels himself resting on an everlasting foundation. It is to this power of moral or spiritual perception, that the following writings are chiefly ad
dressed. I have had testimony, that they have not been wholly ineffectual, in leading some minds to a more living and unfaltering persuasion of great moral truths. Without this, I should be little desirous to send them out in this new form. I trust that they will meet some wants. Books which are to pass away, may yet render much service, by their fitness to the intellectual struggles and moral aspirations of the times in which they are written. If in this or in any way I can serve the cause of truth, humanity, and religion, I shall regard my labors, as having earned the best recompence which God bestows on his creatures.
BOSTON, April 18th, 1841.
W. E. C.
P. S. I intended to say, that some of the following tracts savour of the periods, in which they were written, and give opinions which time has disproved. In the article on Napoleon Bonaparte fears are expressed, which have in a good measure passed away. In the same Review, the conqueror of Waterloo is spoken of as having only the merit of a great soldier. No one then believed, that his opponents were soon to acknowledge his eminence in civil as in military affairs. The article is left as it was, from the difficulty of remodelling it, and because it may be useful as a record of past impressions.