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I Make no apology for this book. No book of my theological acquaintance, British, Continental, or American, quite realises the ends I have in view, or seeks them by the plan and in the spirit that will be found to pervade this work, in which, from the wide range of theological topic considered, an exhaustive mode of treatment must give place to one which can at most only be suggestive. References, generally fragmentary or fugitive in character, have not been altogether wanting in connection with the progress of modern Christian theology, but the subject has appeared to me to call for some more adequate treatment, and the attempt to supply this want cannot fail to meet with approval in all competent quarters, whatever may be thought of the present execution of this task.
The book is apologetic in its aim, and constructive in its tendency. Its prevailing method is critical rather than historical, but it retains so much at least of the historical spirit and method, it is hoped, as to seek, through self-effacement of the writer, the objectivity needful when we come, in Spencer's phrase, "to take stock of our progress" recently in Christian theology. This consideration should be sufficient to prevent readers from identifying, as of necessity, the author's own theological positions with every noticed phase or attitude of recent Christian theology. I feel free, however, to admit in the frankest manner my perfect sympathy—without which the present work would not have been undertaken—with all the main lines of recent advance in our most Christian thought, believing the poet's words applicable to such recent theological movement, as
"A mainly moving forward, never wholly retrograde."
I have sought to serve the interests only of Christian truth, not caring to write a line that should subserve the interests merely of theological school or party: there is no school or party to which I do not gladly own myself debtor; this holds true even if I should be found most in accord with a liberal and progressive Christian Theology, whose life is in the freedom of the spirit rather than in bondage of the letter.
If the book should wake a deeper interest in the subjects of which it treats in any of its readers, I shall be abundantly rewarded.
Kilmarnock, April 1892.