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Among the arguments employed in the course of the following observations, there are some which are urged upon the attention of such persons, exclusively, as already possess an intimate knowledge of the character and circumstances of the Society of Friends.
The present volume is, in fact, intended not so much for the information of the public in general, as for the use of the junior members of that Society. To these the essays contained in it may be considered to be addressed. I am persuaded that there are not a few of them who, although brought up in the Society, are not sufficiently informed respecting the religious principles by which it is distinguished ; and who, perhaps, have seldom reflected, with accuracy, on the Christian and scriptural grounds of our several distinguishing views.
It has fallen to my lot to be brought into familiar acquaintance with serious Christians of several denominations; and, although I enjoyed a birthright in the Society, my situation, after I had arrived at years of discretion, was of that nature which rendered it, in rather an unusual degree, incumbent upon me to make my own choice of a particular religious course. Under these circumstances, I was led, partly by research, but chiefly, I trust, by a better guidance, to a settled preference, on my own account, of the religious profession of Friends. Nor ought I to hesitate in expressing a heartfelt gratitude to the “Shepherd of Israel," who has bestowed upon me a resting-place in this department of his fold: for although in some degree, aware how much there is of vital Christianity in other societies, I may acknowledge that I have found the situation thus provided for myself to be one accompanied with true safety, and with a variety of substantial advantages.
Since such has been my experience, and since, in reference to this selection of a particular course, I have been, at various times, engaged in much reflection and in some scriptural investigation, I am inclined to submit to the candid attention of my young friends the grounds on which I was originally led more closely to attach myself to Friends, and on which I have since been confirmed in the persuasion that I was right in so doing.
Although, however, these essays are addressed prin cipally to the junior members of our own body, I confess that I have also had in view a number of individuals who do not actually belong to us, but who have an intimate connexion with us, and appear to be brought, in various degrees, under the same religious peculiar administration.
Should the younger members of our Society receive, from this humble endeavour to serve them, any instruction, or any encouragement to persevere in that restricted path which Providence has cast up for them and should the individuals before alluded to be confirmed, by any of the arguments here adduced, in the choice
which they appear to be making of the same restricted path-my object in publishing the following statement of thought and sentiment will be answered, and I shall rest satisfied in the comforting persuasion, that my labour (which I trust has been a labour of love) has not been in vain in the Lord.
Here it may be proper for me to remark, that, while the various subjects considered in the present work are discussed in distinct dissertations, and while it may
be hoped that these, when separately read, will be found intelligible, it has been my endeavour to maintain, throughout the work, one continued train of reflection and argument; and to do this in such a manner as that the several parts of the series might be closely connected with each other, and that all might tend in harmony to the same general conclusion. Such having been my plan, I may now venture to request the reader to abstain from forming a final judgement of any particular section or chapter, until the whole volume shall have passed under his review.
Since, lastly, the views which I have attempted to unfold are of a nature entirely religious, it has, of course, been necessary for me largely to refer to that sacred Book, to the test of which all religious opinions are rightly brought, since it was given by inspiration of God, and contains a divinely-authorized record, both of the doctrines which we ought to believe and of the duties which we are required to practise. In thus referring to the Holy Scriptures, I have often found occasion, on critical points, to appeal to the decisions of various commentators, both ancient and modern. While, however, I have not hesitated thus to avail myself of the well applied learning and useful researches of these writers, I wish to take the present opportunity
of expressing my conviction, that, for the most important practical purposes, the common English version of the Bible may be understood with sufficient precision without the aid of the critic or the annotator. Above all, may it ever be remembered, that if the Scriptures of Truth are to make us "wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” that spiritual eye must be open in us, which alone is capable of a just and efficacious perception of their divine contents : for it remains to be an incontrovertible truth, that as no man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him, “even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God."