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To soften the asperities of argument, views of nature are interspersed; that if the former should carry the appearance of a rude entangled forest, or of a frowning gloomy recess, there may be some agreeable openings, and lightsome avenues, to admit a prospect of the country; which is always arrayed in charms, and never fails to please.
The author confesses a very peculiar fondness for the amiable scenes of creation. It is therefore not at all improbable but his excursions on this topic may be of the diffusive kind, and his descriptions somewhat luxuriant. It is hoped, however, that the benevolent reader will indulge him in this favourite foible. If any should feel the same prevailing passion for the beauties of nature, it is possible these persons may be inclined not only to excuse, but to approve the fault; and may take part with the lover, even in opposition to the critic.
Further to diversify the piece, sketches of philosophy are introduced; easy to be understood, and calculated to entertain the imagination, as well as to improve the heart; more particularly, to display the wise and beneficent design of Providence, in the various appearances and numberless productions of the material world. Neither are these remarks-altogether foreign to the main point; but, as far as the wonders of creation may comport with the riches of free grace, subserve the general end. :
As to the choice of my subjects ; some people have desired to see an invective against the fashionable and predominant vices of the age. This, I apprehend, would be like picking off the leaves, or clipping away the twigs, from some overgrown and noxious tree. Waving this tedious and ineffectual toil, I would rather lay the axe to the root. Let the knowledge and love of Christ take place in the heart, and not only a few of the branches, but the whole body of sin will fall at once. Some would have the author insist
the conscientious observation of the Sabbath, inculcate the
daily worship of God in the family, and urge a devout attendance on the public ordinances of religion. But when a person is convinced of sin, and made sensible of misery; when he has “ tasted the good word of God,” Heb. vi. 5. 6 and seen by faith the Lord's Christ,” Luke ii. 26. he will want no solicitation or incitement to these means of grace and exercises of godliness. He will have just the same disposition to them all, as, the hungry appetite has to wholesome food, or the new-born babe * to the milk of the breast.
Others may imagine, that I have neglected the interests of morality; because here is no professed attempt to delineate its duties, or enforce its practice. Let these persons remember, that morality never makes such vigorous shoots, never produces such generous fruit, as when ingrafted on evangelical principles. And if I do not crop the pink, the rose, and the carnation-if I do not gather the peach, the nectarine, and the pine-apple-and put them into my reader's hand, for his immediate enjoyment; 1 am endeavouring to sow the seeds, and plant the roots in his garden, which, if cherished by the favourable influence of heaven, will yield him not an occasional, but a constant supply of all.
As several texts of Scripture come under consideration, criticisms upon the original are frequently subjoined, in order to clear up some difficulties, to rectify some mistranslations, or point out the many delicate and masterly strokes which occur in the Bible. And glad should I be, extremely glad, if I might
* 1 Pet. ii. 2. This comparison is, perhaps, the most exact and expressive that words can form, or fancy conceive. Babes covet nothing but the milk of the breast. They are indifferent about all other things. Give them riches, give them honours, give them whatever you please, without this rich, delicious, balmy nutriment, they will not, they cannot be satisfied. How finely does this illustrate, and how forcibly in. culcate, what our Lord styles, “ the single eye,” and “ the one thing needful !” or the salutary doctrines and delightful privileges of the gospel; together with that supreme value for them, and undivided complacency in them, which are the distinguishing character of the Christian ?
recommend and endear that invaluable book; if, ás the divine Redeemer 6 rideth on in the word of truth, of meekness, and righteousness," Psal. xlv. 4. this hand might scatter a palm-branch, or this performance might lie as a floweret, to strew his
way solemnize his triumph.
In the course of the disputation, I dare not suppose that I have discussed all the arguments which sagacity may devise, or sophistry urge. Perhaps I have not removed all the scruples which may awaken prejudice, or embarrass integrity. This, however, I may venture to affirm, that I myself have met with no considerable objection, which is not either expressly answered, or virtually refuted, in these conferences. And though I should neither satisfy nor silence the gainsayer, I shall think my endeavours happily employed, if they may throw light upon the dim apprehension, establish the wavering faith, or comfort the afflicted conscience.
If any should burlesque or ridicule these venerable truths and exalted privileges, I shall only say with my divine Master, “ O that thou hadst known, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace ! but now they are hid,” it is evident from such a procedure, they are hid from thine eyes,” Luke xix. 42. Should any, in the spirit of decency and candour, either start new, or revive old objections, I doubt not but they will receive both a due examination and a proper reply. As these doctrines enter into the very essence of the gospel, and constitute the glory of our religion, they can never want a succession of advocates, so long as the sun and moon endure. For my own part, I must beg leave to retire from the lists, and lay down the weapons of controversy. Virgil's language is my resolution:
“ Discedam, explebo numerum, reddarque tenebris." This declaration is made, not from any the least suspicion that my tenets are indefensible, but be
* Alluding to Matth. xxi. 8.