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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 probably 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 trath triumphed over prejudice more than in the present day: It is only to such as bail this triumph, and long to see it more complete, that the following pages will be any way acceptable. Humble as his productions are, the Abs thor 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.
Haying said this much, he now leaves his publication to its fate. Be hat 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 benevolent 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 orthodox 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 advanced may not be quite to the taste of some of your friends, or that of the great body of the orthodox-but what of that? 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 stigmatizés 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 heartor 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, then, 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 heterodox, 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 opi-nions 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 themselves hardly ever converted. From generation to generation, the same families have followed, and will continue to follow, one uniform line of life." Thus, we see, that their prejudices admit of no improvement, neither in habit nor intellect. Let us learn to avoid this evil, and attend to the Apostolic injunction, "Be not children in understanding, but in understanding be men."
But not only is prejudice the great barrier to improvement, as exemplified in the case of the Hindoos; but if we will look around us, among the nations called Christian, we will see, that thousands, and tens of thousands, have been the bloody victims of prejudice. Look at the awful persecutions and devastations that have over-run the world, and, by which, some countries have been almost desolated; and, all these, we will see, may be traced, in some measure, to prejudice. In particular, since the time that Constantine incorporat¬ ed the Church with the State (when religious prejudices and secular interest became gradually blended together), christianity has been corrupted and perverted; and persecution has been the disgrace of the christian name. The author, therefore, stated it as his opinion, which he still fearlessly asserts, that "until all national establishments of christianity-all human creeds, and standards, and confessions of faith, are done away with, and the Bible alone, without note or comment, is regarded as the only standard of faith and practice-until men, with this standard in their hands, and the light of truth and reason in their hearts, shall think and act for themselves; and, by these divine tests, shall try every action and sentiment, unbiased by the opinions of any man, or set of men, however respectable-until this is the case, people must remain under the sway of blind prejudice, of which persecution, and almost every evil, are the natural consequences."
When we thus take a view of, and must acknowledge, the horrid evils of which prejudice is the parent; and when we consider it, as it retards the march of human intellect, how ought reason to blush and be ashamed to own its accursed sway? The author is fully of opinion, as he stated in that work, "that the millennial period, so anxiously wished for, will only take place when prejudice is banished from the earth, and men's minds are under the influence, and solely guided by SCRIPTURE, TRUTH, and REASON. Then shall all human standards, and institutions, and precedents, be regarded only as stepping-stones to farther improvement; but never
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 :
From W- W to the Author.
Having read your work lately published upon "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 ND, 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 economy 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,
Your's in the bond of christian love,