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AD the obligations which I owe
to your Lordship's kindness been much less, or much fewer, than they are; had personal gratitude left any place in my mind for deliberation or for inquiry; in selecting a name which every reader might confess to be prefixed, with propriety, to a work, that, in Inany of its parts, bears no obscure relation to the general principles of natural and revealed religion, I should have found myself directed by many considerations to that of the Bishop of Carlisle. A long life, spent in the most interest
ing of all human pursuits, the investigation of moral and religious truth, in conftant and unwearied endeavours to advance the discovery, communication, and success of both; a life so occupied, and arrived at that period which renders every life venerable, commands respect by a title, which no virtuous mind will dispute, which no mind sensible of the importance of these studies to the supreme concernments of mankind will not rejoice to see acknowledged. Whatever difference, or whatever opposition, some, who peruse your Lordship's writings, may perceive between
your conclufions and their own, the good and wise of all persuafions will revere that industry,
which has for its object the illustration or defence of our common christianity. Your Lordship’s researches have
loft sight of one purpose, namely, to recover the simplicity of the
gofpel from beneath that load of unauthorized additions, which the ignorance of fome ages, and the learning of others, the fuperftition of weak, and the craft of defigning men, have (unhappily for its intereft) heaped upon it. And this purpose, I am convinced, was dictated by the pureft motive; by a firm, and I think, a juft opinion, that whatever renders religion more rational, renders it more credible ; that he, who, by a diligent and faithful examination of the original records, dismisses from the system one article, which contradicts the apprehenfion, the experience, or the reasoning of inankind, does more towards recommending the belief, and, with the belief, the influence of Christianity, to the understandings and consciences of serious inquirers, and through thein to universal reception and authority, chan can be effected by a thousand con
tenders for creeds and ordinances of human establishment.
When the doctrine of transubstantiation had taken possession of the Christian world, it was not without the industry of learned men that it came at length to be discovered, that no such doctrine was contained in the New Testament. But had those excellent persons done nothing more by their discovery, than a bolished an innocent fuperftition, or changed fome directions in the ceremonial of public worship, they had merited little of that veneration, with which the gratitude of proteftant churches remembers their services. What they did for mankind was this, they exonerated Christianity of a weight which funk it. If indolence or timidity had checked these exertions, or suppressed the fruit and publication of these inquiries, is it too much to affirm, that infidelity would at this day have been universal?
[v] I do not mean, my Lord, by the mention of this example, to insinuate, that any popular opinion which your Lordship may have encountered, ought to be compared with transubstantiation, or that the assurance with which we reject that extravagant absurdity, is attainable in the controversies in which your Lordship has been engaged: but I mean, by calling to mind those great reformers of the public faith, to observe or rather to express my own persuasion, that to reftore the purity, is most effectually to promote the progress of Christianity; and that the same virtuous motive, which hath fanctified their labours, suggested yours. At a time when some men appear not to perceive any good, and others to suspect an evil tendency, in that fpirit of examination and research which is gone forth in Christian countries, this testimony is become due not only to the . probity of your Lordship’s views, but :