« PreviousContinue »
degree; nor can Unitarian Dissenters supply the absence of nobler motives in the advocates of their cause by conferring rewards which enrich the garland of the victors in theological contests, and even gild over the tarnished and battered armour of the vanquished. The members of my Congregation did me the honour to think that the publication of the Lectures would be gratifying and instructive to them; to gratify them affords me pleasure ; to aid their improvement, so far as I am able, is my duty; and therefore they are published.
The leading design of the Course is laid open in the commencement of the first Lecture. It embraces subjects which it is neither customary nor proper frequently to discuss in the pulpit, but which are sufficiently important to justify their occasional introduction. The present state of the Christian world makes it sometimes a duty to buckle on the harness of controversy; though it is far more pleasant, and more directly useful, to beat the swords and spears of theological warfare into the ploughshares and pruning-hooks of moral cultivation.
The Lectures were composed for the pulpit, not for the press, and are, as to manner, so much more adapted for the former than for the latter, that every reader of taste will be frequently displeased, perhaps disgusted, unless he will, in imagination, become a hearer. To transmute
their substance from the one form into the other, would have demanded more labour than the occasion required, or than the materials were worth ; and, after all, might have proved a vain attempt to assimilate them to a different species of composition, for the excellence of a Sermon is (in the Author's opinion at least) widely different from that of an Essay. The former is to be heard, the latter to be read; the one is heard once, the other may be repeatedly perused; the one passes rapidly, with attention sometimes fixed, and sometimes flagging ; while the eye and mind may dwell at pleasure on the different parts of the other, and contemplate their mutual adaptation and dependence, and their combination into an harmonious whole. To attempt to bestow on one the qualities which constitute excellence in the other, is like substituting the minute correctness and high finish of the cabinet painting for the daubing of the dramatic scene, where their existence would only be perceived by a diminution of the intended effect. Controversial sermons are, I apprehend, merely Speeches to set people thinking ; and this notion will account for the appearance of what many will deem faults in the following Lectures, which I was not solicitous to avoid or expunge. This object has been kept constantly in view, and every thing sacrificed to it, save truth and charity. All minds have key-notes, to touch which, I have thrown my hand rapidly along the instrument, careless about sometimes striking a discordant note so that I might awake in others strains of intellectual melody, more rich and powerful than my own execution could produce, or my own compass reach.
In preparing the Lectures for the press, some additions have been made (chiefly to Lectures JII. and V.) of arguments or illustrations which were unnecessary in the delivery, as the same subjects had been introduced to the hearers on other occasions. The Appendix to Lecture VI., and the Notes, are added in hope that they may promote the general design of the whole, and direct the minds of the young especially, and of those who have but limited means of acquiring information, to useful works, and interesting subjects for reflection. To prevent misapprehension or perversion, the Author has only to add, that for the opinions expressed or hinted, in either the Lectures or Notes, he alone is responsible. So far as they are true or useful, may the blessing of Almighty God give them success and influence.