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To those who admire sound argument and genuine piety, illustrated and enlivened by genius, we trust that we shall perform an acceptable service in presenting a new Edition of - Skelton's Discourses, which, as their merit is rare, have lately become proportionably scarce.
To make this more complete than former editions, a Life of the Author has been prefixed; and, doubtless, if any man is entitled to the tribute of Biography, Skelton possesses an undeniable claim. If our Author had not been distinguished for lectual superiority, if he had not appeared as the zealous and acute defender of religious truth, but had been satisfied with the glory of good actions, without aspiring to the reputation of an able writer ; his life was a specimen of such extraordinary virtue, as should never be forgotten in a Christian community. To devote, as he did, his whole energy of body and mind to the laborious and unostentatious duties to be discharged in obscure parishes of a desolate coun. try—to divest himselfof self-interest so entirely, as to consider his poor and ignorant parishioners as his
family, and to determine that their wants were to be consulted before his own—to exhaust not only bis pecuniary treasures, but (what was a much more painful sacrifice) to sell his library, the only alleviation of his solitary hours, for their support—these are instances of wonderful benevolence and zeal, that ought to be carefully recorded, even if the person who exhibited them had vo other clain to celebrity. But when to these we add Skelton's literary labours in the cause of Cbristian truth and holiness,
acknowledge that he is entitled to all the renown, which the union of virtue and talent can bestow. Egit scribenda, legenda scripsit.
The Life of Skelton was written by Samuel Burdy, of Trinity College, Dublin, who, having enjoyed the frievdship of our Author, was able to execute the task of Biographer, with the advantage of a considerable fund of accurate and interesting information. Of his materials he has made excellent use; but we cannot speak with much praise of his style. Awkward and mean phraseology might have been overlooked ; but when we found indecent, and almost profane expressions, we considered it our duty to expunge them; although, in getting rid of these, we took care not in the least to injure the substance of the Life.
The Discourses of Skeltou we have given as we found them, baving scrupulously abstained from making any alteration whatever. It will be a great satisfaction to us (and we think a service to the public), if, by this Edition, or from any other circumstance, the Works of Skelton should become more generally known. All who have perused them,
are delighted with, and value them, most highly; but from the obscurity of his condition, and because the sphere of his labours was confined to the sister kingdom, he has not obtained, in England, that extensive perusal which he deserves. Of the number of our Theological writers we cannot justly complain : but many of them teach so drily and tediously, that they never persuade, and others write so vaguely that they never instruct. Skelton seems to have had in view all the excellences of a divine orator, whose scope should be to teach clearly, to convince strongly, and to persuade powerfully.* Closely conversant with the Scriptures, and deeply imbued with their spirit, he explains the truths of religion perspicuously, and without any compromise or reservation. He is too full of sense and argument to be shallow ; and, at the same time, his manner is too lively to admit the intrusion of dulness. With a vehemence arising from a deep conviction of the truth of Christianity, and from the sincerity of his own practice, he exerts a power of persuasion which none can resist, unless they have closed and seared their hearts against all the tender and solemn motives of religion.
* Bishop Wilkins's Ecclesiastes.