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PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
It hath appeared to the Author of this book, from more than ten years' meditation upon the subject, that the chief obstacle to the progress of divine truth over the minds of men is the want of its being sufficiently presented to them. In this Christian country there are, perhaps, nine tenths of
class who know nothing at all about the applications and advantages of the single truths of revelation, or of revelation taken as a whole ; and what they do not know they cannot be expected to reverence or obey. This ignorance, in both the higher and the lower orders, of Religion, as a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart, is not so much due to the want of inquisitiveness on their part, as to the want of a sedulous and skilful ministry on the part of those to whom it is intrusted.
Reading is the food of thought, and thought the cause of action ; and, therefore, in what
proportion the reading of a people is impregnated with religious truth, in that proportion will the conduct of a people be guided into religious ways. Those to whom the ministry of religion is intrusted ought, therefore, to lay their hand upon the press as well as the pulpit, and to season its effusions with an admixture of devout feeling and pious thought. And as men read for entertainment and direction in their several studies and pursuits, it becomes needful that we make ourselves adept in these, and infuse into the body of science and literature the balm of salvation, that when the people consult for the present life, they may be admonished, -stealthily and skilfully invaded with admonition,of the life to come.
And, until the servants and ministers of the living God do pass the limits of pulpit theology and pulpit exhortation, to take weapons in their hand, gathered out of every region in which the life of man or his faculties are interested, they shall never have religion triumph and domineer in a country, as beseemeth her high original, her native majesty, and her éternity of freely-bestowed well-being
To which the ministers of religion should
bear their attention to be called, for until they thus acquire the pass-word which is to convey them into every man's encampment, they speak to that man from a distance, and at disadvantage. It is but a parley; it is no conference, nor treaty, nor business-like communication. To this end, they must discoyer new vehicles for conveying the truth as it is in Jesus into the minds of the people; poetical, historical, scientific, political, and sentimental vehicles. For in each of these regions some of the population dwell with all their affections; who are as dear in God's sight as are others; and why they should not be come at, why means should not be taken to come at them, can any good reason be assigned ? They prepare for teaching gipsies, for teaching bargemen, for teaching miners; by apprehending their ways of conceiving and estimating truth; why not prepare for teaching imaginative men and political men, and legal men, and scientific men, who bear the world in hand ? and, having got the key to their several chambers of delusion and resistance, why not enter in and debate the matter with their souls, that they may be
left without excuse? Meanwhile, I think, we ministers are without excuse.
Moved by these feelings, I have 'set the example of two new methods of handling religious truth-the Oration, and the Argument; the one intended to be after the manner of the ancient Oration, the best vehicle for addressing the minds of men which the world hath seen, far beyond the Sermon, of which the very name hath learned to inspire drowsiness and tedium; the other after the manner of the ancient Apologies, with this difference, that it is pleaded not before any judicial bar, but before the tribunal of the human mind. The former are but specimens; the latter, though most imperfect, is intended to be complete. The Orations are placed first in the volume, because the Oracles of God, which they exalt, are the foundation of the Argument, which brings to reason and common sense one of the revelations which they contain.
Now for the choice of these titles, Oration and Argument, I need to make no apology, and I am liable to no censure. The question is,
. Are they Orations or are they Sermons ? Now,