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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
MADAM, If Christianity was inconsistent with true politeness, or prejudicial to real happiness, I should be extremely injudicious, and inexcusably ungrateful, in presenting these Essays to your Ladyship. But as the religion of Jesus is the grand ornament of our nature, and a source of the sublimest joy, the purport of the following pages cannot be unworthy the countenance and protection of the most accomplished person. Nei.. ther can there be a wish more suitable to the obligations or the dictates of a grateful heart, than that you may experience what you read, and be what you patronize.
Did religion consist in a formal round of external observances, or a forced submission to some rigorous austerities, I should not scruple to join with the infidel and the sensualist, to dread it in one view, and to de. spise it in another. You need not be informed, Madam, that it is as much superior to all such low and forbid. ding singularities, as the heavens are higher than the earth. It is described by an author, who learnt its theory in the regions of paradise, and who displayed its efficacy in his own most exemplary conversation.It is thus described by that incomparable author : 'The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteous. Dess, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.'
To be reconciled to the omnipotent God to be inte. rested in the unsearchable riches of Christ-to be renewed in our hearts, and influenced in our lives, by the sanctifying operations of the Divine Spirit—this is evangelical righteousness. This is genuine religion. This, Madam, is the kingdom of God established in the soul. How benign and inviting is such an institution ! How honourable and advantageous such a state! And from such privileges what other effects can flow, but that .'.peace, which passeth all understanding?' That joy, which is unspeakable and glorious?"
Is there any thing in the amusements of the gay, and pursuits of the ambitious, of greater, of equal, of com. parable value? Is not all that wealth can purchase, all that grandeur can bestow, somewhat like those glittering bubbles, which when viewed are emptiness, when grasped are nothing? Whereas, the comforts, the benefits, the hopes of Christianity, are at once supremely excellent, and infiuitely durable ; a portion, suited to the dignity of a rational soul; large as its faculties, and immortal as its being.
All these blessings are centered in Christ-were purchased by Christ-are communicated from Christ. It is for want of knowing those boundless and everlasting treasures of pardoning, justifying, saving merit, which the Lord Jesus Christ possesses, and which he freely dispenses even to sinners, that so many unthink. ing persons are attached to ignoble objects, and beguiled by delusory pleasures. Unhappy creatures! What can they do, but catch at shadows, and stoop to trifles, while they are ignorant of the grand, the substantial, the exalted good? It is for want of duly attending to that fulness of grace, and that plenteousness of redemption, which dwell in our most adorable Saviour, that so many serious persons are strangers to the tran. quillity and sweetness of religion: are subject to all its restraints, but enjoy few, if any, of its delights. Mis. taken zealots! How can they avoid the gloomy situ. ation, and the uncomfortable circunstance, so long as they withdraw themselves from the Sun of Righteous. ness, and his all.cheering beams?
May your Ladyship live continually under his hea. venly light and healing wings;: be more fully assured of his dying love, and have brighter, still brighter, manifestations of his immense perfections! By these delightful views, and by that precious faith, may your heart be transformed into his holy, his amiable, his divine image! Your happiness will then be just such as is wished, but far greater than can be expressed by,
Madam, your most obliged and
Most obedient humble Servant;
JAMES HERVEY. Weston-Favell, Jan. 6, 1755.
The reader will probably expect some account of the ensuing work ; and to gratify him in this particular, will be a real pleasure to the Author.
The beauty and excellency of the Scriptures-the ruin and depravity of human nature-its happy recovery, founded on the atonement, and effected by the Spirit of Christ-these are some of the chief points, vindicated, illustrated, and applied in the following sheets. But the grand article, that which makes the principal figure, is the imputed righteousness of our divine Lord; from whence arises our justification be fore God, and our title to every heavenly blessing. An article, which, though eminent for its importance, seems to be little understood, and less regarded ; if not wuch mistaken, and almost forgotten.
The importance of this great evangelical doctrine how worthy it is of the most attentive consideration, and of universal acceptance--is hinted in the second dialogue. . So that I need, in this place, do nothing more, than give the sense of a passage from Witsius, which is there introduced in the notes :- The doctrine of justification, says that excellent author, spreads itself through the whole system of divinity. As this is either solidly established, or superficially touched ; fully stated, or slightly dismissed ; accordingly, the whole structure of religion, either rises graceful and magnificent, superior to assault, and beyond the power of decay; or else rit appears disproportionate and defective, totters on its foundation, and threatens an opprobrious fall.'' - The design is executed in the form of Dialogue ; those parts only excepted, in which it was not easy to carry on a conversation, and assign to each person a
* See p. 50.
proper degree of significancy. Here, to avoid the com. mon imputation, of bringing upon the stage a mute or a shadow-one who fights without weapons, and sub
mits without a contest-the scene shifts. Our gentle· men separate; and, instead of conversing, enter upon an epistolary correspondence.
The dialogue form seems, on many considerations, a very eligible way of writing. Hereby, the Author gives an air both of dignity and of modesty to his sen. timents. Of dignity ; by delivering them from the mouths of persons, in every respect superior to him. self. Of modesty ; because we no longer consider him in the raised, but invidious capacity of a teacher. In. stead of calling us to his feet, and dictating his pre. cepts, he gratifies our curiosity. He turns back a curtain, and admits us to some remarkable interviews, or interesting conferences. We overhear, by a kind of innocent or imaginary stealth, the debates which pass in the recesses of privacy; which are carried on with the most unreserved freedom of speech, and openness of heart.--A circumstance, which will apologize for some peculiarities, that might otherwise be inconsistent with humility, or offensive to delicacy. Particularly, it may obviate the disgust, which generally, and indeed deservedly, attends the frequent intrusion of that ambitious and usurping little monosyllable, I.
The names of the persons are prefixed, each to his respective share of the discourse; in imitation of Cicero, and for the reasons which he assigns. 'Quasi enim ipsos induxi loquentes: ne Inquam et Inquit sæpius interponerentur. Atque id eo feci, ut tanquam præsentibus coram haberi Sermo videretur.' This inethod, he very justly intimates, is removed farthest from the narrative, and makes the nearest approaches to life and reality. It quite secretes the author; and, by introducing the persons themselves, renders all that passes entirely their own.-It prevents likewise the re. petition of those interlocutory words, He said, He replied. Which, unless the speeches are very long, must frequently recur, and have no pleasing effect upon the
# De Amicitia.
ear. And if the speeches are long, the spirit of conversation is lost. The associates are no longer talking but one of them, or the Author, is lecturing.
Though I have so much to say in behalf of the mo. del, I have very little to say with regard to the execu. tion-unless it be to confess the deficiency. There is not, I am sensible, that peculiar air and distinguishing turn, which should mark and characterize each speaker. This is what the nature of finished dialogue requires, and what the Author applauds in some very superior writers. But not having the ability to copy it, he has not the vanity to affect it. Nevertheless, the attentive reader will, all along, perceive a difference in the sentiment, if not in the language. The materials vary, even when they run into the same mould, and take the same form. In the diction also there must be some diversity; because several of the objections are pro. posed in the very words of one or two eminent writers, who have appeared on the other side of the question. These are not particularized by the mark of quotation; because the man of reading will have no occa. sion for the assistance of such an index, and the man of taste will probably discern them by the singularity of the style.
Some of the following pieces, it must be acknowledged, are of the controversial kind: a species of writing, least susceptible of the graces which embellish composition; or rather most destitute of the attractives, which engage attention, and create delight. Yet I have sometimes throught, that it is not absolutely impossible to make even the stern face of controversy wear a smile; and to reap some valuable fruit froin the rugged furrows of disputation. Whether this is effected in the present work, the public must judge; that it has been attempted, the Author may be permitted to declare.
To soften the asperities of argument, views of nature are interspersed ; that, if the former should carry the appearance of a rude entangled forest, or of a frowning gloomy recess, there may be some agreeable openings, and lightsome
to admit a
of the coun