« PreviousContinue »
and to present to his readers, not only what he has himself deemed to be right and proper, but likewise what he has endeavoured to make such, by as much self-guarding caution as he could command and exercise. Feeling that truth alone is valuable on these great subjects, as on every other, he has been anxious to avert from himself, and to avoid, in what he lays before others, whatever was likely to be of an opposite character.
But still the result can but be a series of individual opinions, which can have no authority in themselves, and which ought to have no influence but in proportion as they may be just and rational. They are now submitted to the public eye simply as the personal thoughts and feelings of the writer who has penned them.
His readers must determine for themselves how far what is expressed in these Letters deserves their acceptance or assent. They must be his judges and their own instructers. They will coincide with him where they think him right-they will differ from him when they believe that he is wrong.
This is what ought to take place. It is his earnest wish that nothing
which may be found erroneous in his ideas should be adopted by any one.
He therefore invites every one to exercise his own free and cautious deliberation; and with this care, what he has written may assist, instead of misleading them, on those more serious and sacred subjects of their private studies, which the mind, as it becomes enlightened by its intellectual investigations, will always find to be among its most pleasurable and most profitable occupations.
He will only add on this point, that in whatever form of style, and however strongly or positively the opinions of the author may be found to be expressed, it has been in no part his desire or meaning to dictate to any one. But to have used qualifying expressions to every sentiment he wrote, would have loaded the pages with such perpetual repetitions, that he thought it better to state his ideas in the language which implied his full conviction of their truth, and with the freedom and sincerity which will give them their chief value ; and therefore in the phrases which thus naturally occurred to him; and to make this general disclaimer of any presumptuous assumption that he only can be right, or that he invariably is so. He therefore begs leave again to say, that he submits his Letters to the reading world as nothing more than his personal convictions, arising from the greatest degree of inquiry and consideration that his means and ability allowed him to exercise, and as the conclusions which have appeared to him to be the truth he has been in quest of. What weight or influence they may obtain beyond himself, will depend upon the spontaneous judgment of those who may favour them with a candid or not hostile perusal.
There were some other topics he should have liked to review. He had purposed to consider the divine system in our laws of life and death; in the empires which have been raised since the Jewish, which he considered to have a providential character; in the state and continuance of the uncivilized nations of the world; in the plans that concern the subsistence of its sentient beings, and our individual participation of it; in the employments of the human race; in the establishment of government and laws; in the state of property and of poverty among mankind; in the rise and prevalence of the varied ranks and conditions of life; in the natural and moral evils which we occasionally feel; in the provisions which have been made for human happiness and individual comfort; in the rise and partial progress of the arts and manufactures; and also in the gradual appearance, diversities, and improvements of the literature and knowledge of mankind; with some consideration of the future destinations to
which, on this present earth, human nature seems to be advancing. All these are continual subjects of the divine government, and form a part of the sacred history of the human world. But the limiting space of the volume checked the desire. This publication could not be conveniently enlarged beyond its present extent. It is therefore respectfully offered, as it is, to the indulgence, and, when necessary, to the forbearance or forgiveness, of all who may permit it to receive their temporary notice.
November 26, 1834.