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SOME explanation may be necessary by way of introducing the Reader to the Sermons contained in this Volume. It has been the writer's practice upon Festivals, in the course of the Morning Service appointed for each, to read a short Lecture. When he applied himself to prepare these Lectures for the press, he found that some of them required re-writing, and others enlarging; while those which belonged to the Sunday Festivals necessarily varied in length and style from such as had been read on Week-days. The consequence has been, that what was originally a series abrupt and incomplete in point of composition, is now wanting also in uniformity of character, without, in many cases, becoming exempt from its first defect. Moreover, the circumstances under which it was written, have occasioned, in some places, a particularity of remark, which could hardly have been ventured on in a large and mixed congregation, and elsewhere a line of thought more abstruse or argumentative than is commonly advisable in Parochial Sermons.
This is said, only as an apology for the particular form and cast of the Volume. As for the matter itself, did the writer ask any indulgence for it, he would incur the inconsistency of implying that it ought not to have been given to the world. Yet he may be allowed to entreat, in respect both of this and of his former Volume, that if there are persons who at first reading feel apprehensive that some of his statements are of hurtful tendency, they would deal more fairly with themselves than to begin with a critical, instead of a practical consideration of them; and, that, before they allow themselves to fear for others, they would consider whether the statements in question have had any bad effect on their own minds. This he says, not as forgetful that the true standard and test of religious teaching are, not its apparent effects one way or the other, but the rule of Scripture and Antiquity; but, anticipating that objections will be brought rather from the supposed consequences of his doctrine, than its want of authority, he is desirous that these consequences should be fairly proved before they are imputed. On the other hand, should any reader be led to suppose that any thing has been said by way of paradox or for novelty's sake, let him first of all inquire, whether the points objected to do not rather form part of a whole,—of one integral view of doctrine, which has ever been supposed to descend in an unbroken line from the first ages of the Gospel, and which, far from being the mere food of idle and ingenious intellects, has before now influenced Christians to suffer and to lose their all in main
tenance of it.
He ventures further to hope, that he may not unnecessarily be supposed in any part of his Volumes, to be hazarding remarks on opinions or practices existing within the Church. There are for the most part objects enough external to it, which answer to them, and far more legitimately; and if there is sufficient reason for noticing the mistakes in question, on account of the existing insensibility of Society to the real moral differences between the Sectarian and the High Apostolical temper, he conceives that they should not find a shelter in the mere accident, that they are not altogether without advocates among ourselves.
In conclusion, he must express his great obligations, in the matter of these Volumes, to the unconscious assistance of a Friend, with whom he is in habits of familiarity, and whose stray observations he has pleasure in detecting in them. He makes this acknowledgment in case any coincidences of remark should be hereafter traceable between them and any future publication of the Author of the Christian Year.