Page images



HAVING heard that the Prefaces of the present age but seldom rejoice in a reader, I have distinguished this initial chapter by a more novel, and, I hope, more seductive, title. I write an Apology for this book, as Plato did for his master Socrates, -as Tertullian did for the Primitive Christians,as Montaigne did for Raymond de Sebonde,—as Jewel did for the Church of England,—as the ingenious Mr. Colley Cibber did for his own Life, and as Mr. George Chalmers did for his compeers in credulity, who were sagacious enough to be made the dupes of Ireland's Shakspearian forgeries.

I write an Apology for this book, hoping that under such a time-honoured name, the few prefatory observations, which I am now about to hazard, will not be entirely thrown away upon my grave and potent friends-the Public. I have written a work, which, with all its errors, I now submit to be judged by that Public, and were it not that I am somewhat fearful lest the purport of my work might be misunderstood, I should have contented myself with tacitly awaiting my sentence from the chair of criticism. But doubting, nay, almost despairing, of having accomplished the object which I have proposed to myself, and feeling how little a thing it is to be accused of intellectual incapacity, how great a thing even to be suspected of evil intentions, I am induced, lest it should not be sufficiently apparent, to avow the purport of this work; for I would much rather be thought to have failed in an attempt to do good, than to have brilliantly succeeded in doing evil.

One of the most conspicuous actors in the ensuing history, is an enthusiastic reformer of the Shelley school, who is frequently represented as giving utterance to opinions widely at variance with those which are received by the community at large. He is represented pure, honest, benevolent, and self-denying, having no other object in view than the ultimate happiness of his fellow-men, yet withal an enemy to Institutions, and a seceder from the established faith. I have drawn this character, and it is with the utmost diffidence that I thus venture to speak of myself,-not because I in any way entertain the opinions which, wisely or unwisely, I have made to issue from the mouth of this ideal personation,-not because I am inimical to establishments, or likely ever to lend any assistance towards the vain attempt of re-organizing society; but because there is much of intolerance in the world,-little of that charity which "vaunteth not itself,"-little forbearance exercised towards the professors of opposite faiths,

little of that true Christian benevolence "which is not hasty to judge, and which requires full evidence before it will condemn,"--which, "however much soever it may blame the principles of any sect or party, never confounds under one general censure all who belong to that party or sect; and does not from one wrong opinion infer the subversion of all sound principle."* In short, I have drawn this character, because I am an enemy to intolerance from whatsoever quarter it may proceed, (and not unfrequently the latitudinarian, who complains of the intolerance of the churchmen, exercises a less measure of toleration towards the very churchmen he condemns,) and because I am of opinion, that every profession may number in its ranks men of unblemished morality,- men pure, upright, benevolent, and self-sacrificing,— that the true spirit of Christianity may, and oftentimes does, exist, where the forms of the Church


are unobserved; and that—but Lord Bacon has expressed an extreme opinion upon this subject,— an opinion which I would scarcely venture to promulgate upon my own responsibility.

With this impression, whether true or false, I have attempted to delineate, in the ensuing pages, the characters of two good men,-both equally benevolent, though one has the world with him, the other the world against him,—though one is the friend to establishments, a lawyer, and a member of parliament,-the other, an enemy to establishments, deeming that, for the most part, as at present instituted, they are prejudicial to the interests of society. But how different are the events which distinguish the lives of these two good men !

Will it be said, then, that I have attempted in these pages to promulgate noxious opinions? I trust not. I commenced this preface in a vein

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »