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THE Author begs leave to mention, that those who are wedded to the opinions and systems of men, how pure soever their creed be, had pro. bably better not read the following pages, as they will find no food to their minds, in the perusal. He is well aware that no truth, however important, which will not-comport with their systems, and have the sanction of the leading characters of their party, can reach conviction to their minds. Such persons may feel displeased to have their established opinions called in question, but the Author solemnly assures his readers that he bears not the slightest ill-will either against indivi. duals, or sects—it is their hateful prejudices only that he finds fault with. Notwithstanding the acknowledged dignity of our nature, the Author's views of mankind, in general, are not very dignified. His opinions, which he has formed from Scripture, from history, and from observation, are, that the greater part of mankind are more governed by their passions and their prejudices than by truth and by rea: son... But, in no period of time has the simple truth triumphed over prejudice more than in the present day: It is only to such as hail this triumph, and long to see it more complete, that the following pages will be any way acceptable. : Humble as his productions are, the Author is not without hope that such persons (impartial inquirers after truth) will find some little gleanings of food. With respect to the learned critic, who will doubtless spy numberless faults, the Author has only to remark, that he makes no pretensions, to learning: this acknowledgment, he hopes, will satisfy him. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Having said this much, he now leaves his publication to its fate. Be that fate what it may, he is conscious of having no other motive in view than the glory and honour of the Creator, and the good of his fellow men. For popularity, he cannot expect; and, as for worldly advantage, he can have no chance whatever.
March 20, 1828.
INTRODUCTION TO THE WORK-
The Author of the following pages published a small work, a few years ago, entitled “A Compendious View of Creation,” to which were appended “Reflections, original and selected, on Nature, Christianity and Providence.” In these “Reflections" the Author was led, by an impartial study of the Scriptures, to stray from the beaten path of orthodoxy, into the more liberal and bene
volent field of universal reconciliation. In his researches after
truth, he professed his opinions thus, that “all superstitions and
prejudices, and blind attachment to customs and usages, civil or
religious, are libels upon truth and reason.” To speak, and to act, in conformity to this profession, was sure to arouse the indignation of those who tenaciously adhere to what are called the orthodor opinions. Being aware of this, he consulted, as he imagined, the first Theological Reviewer of the day, before that he published, and received the following answer:“As to the “Reflections,' I can see nothing in them that ought to operate against their appearance. The sentiments there adtanced may not be quite to the taste of some of your friends, or that of the great body of the orthodor—but what of that 2 They are open to discussion, and no one who reads the Pamphlet can charge the Author with manifesting any other than a christian spirit; while the marks of modesty and self-diffidence with which it abounds, must secure him the esteem of all whose opinion is
worth caring for. There are a few things in it with which I do
not agree, but I never set up my judgement as the standard of perfection, so as to anathematize all who differ from me. Should you think proper to send me a copy, when finished, I will draw up an article in the form of a review.” The work was published, of course, and underwent the ordeal of this review. After bestowing great praise on the scientific part of the work, he went on to say, “We wish it were in our power to devote a few columns to these Reflections, since there is much in them that we approve,” &c. “He is a writer who thinks for himself; and although connected with a body of christians whose creed differs on some points from his own, has published his opinions without fear. This shows that he is in earnest; and, at the same time, it entitles him to particular attention.” Notwithstanding this acknowledgment on the part of the Reviewer, he lost sight of the work altogether—reviewed a Mr. Vaughan, of whom the author knew nothing; and a Dr. Estlen, from whom he had made a quotation, in reference to the eternity of punishment. This Dr. Estlen (on whom he bestows about three columns), he belabours and stigmatizes as an Unitarian. Of his Unitarian principles the Author knew nothing, and with which, neither he, nor his publication under review, had any connexion at all. So much, then, for the merits of the review, and the candour of the reviewer. The great aim of the author, in the work refered to, and still is, to strike at the root of religious prejudices; and, with the Bible in the hand, and the mind unfettered, to look every subject fair in the face. Nothing, (as he stated in that publication), is of more baneful influence—takes a deeper hold of the human heart— or is more difficult to root out of it, than those prejudices and opinions under which we have grown up from children to manhood. So far, them, from speaking to peoples' prejudices, in a way calculated to foster them, it becomes the duty of every one to detect, to combat, and to break those chains of prejudice in which are held so many millions of the human race. With mankind, in general, it is quite enough if they embrace the opinions of their forefathers, or what are called the “commonly received opinions." They enquire no farther, or if they do, their opinions, if at all deviating from the common, are denounced heterodow, and they are held up to obloquy, so that they are afraid to acknowledge their real sentiments. Thus, the mind which was formed for “eternal improvement,” is sealed against the entrance of knowledge, and of truth. If men are born Pagans, they continue Pagans; if born Mahometans, they continue so—and so with regard to other opimions and usages, civil or religious. This is strikingly exemplified in the case of the Hindoos. “The members of each cast,” says Dr. Robertson, “invariably adhere to the profession of their forefathers. Their institutions of religion form a complete system of . superstition—their manners are permanent and immutable; hence
it is, that the Hindoos admit of no converts, nor are they them-
grace of the christian name. The author, therefore, stated it as
his opinion, which he still fearlessly asserts, that “until all national
be looked upon as absolute laws, or models, whereby to regulate our conduct and solve our difficulties." These were the opinions and sentiments avowed by the author, and under the influence of which he wrote the “Reflections,” already alluded to, which led to the following correspondence—and hence, the subsequent Essays, &c. naturally succeeded:—
“Nature, Christianity, and Providence, with the Reflections, &c.” I am inclined, from a sense of duty, to request that a correspondence may be established between us.
I, at present, occupy the situation formerly filled by the late Mr N— D , having been appointed thereto by the church and congregation which he was instrumental in forming, and am the Editor of a small work published fortnightly, entitled, “The Gospel Communicator,” circulated for the purpose of propagating those amiable views of the character and oeconomy of the Diety, to which you profess attachment, one volume of which will be complete in about a fortnight, a copy of which I shall feel happy in transmitting to you, upon the reception of your answer.
I have no doubt but that I could have disposed of a number of your “Reflections," had I- been possessed of them; and if you have any on hand, you can send a few with the price marked.
For the purpose of utility in publishing, I have recently commenced the Printing business upon a small scale, we have also published a Hymn Book, &c.; but I forbear to enlarge until I receive a reply to this letter, in which I request to know whether or not the Theological Reviewers reviewed your work; and if so, how I may procure their remarks. Wishing you the comfort and consolation which the genuine gospel so richly affords,--I am,