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It seems to be supposed by some, that the progress made in science since the writing of this work must have furnished ample materials for valuable additions to it. It will readily appear, however, upon reflection, that this is not likely to be the case, and that no particular advantage to the argument is to be expected from bringing it down, as it is often expressed, to the present state of science. The object of the work is, not to teach science in its connexion with Natural Theology, a plan entirely different, and one upon which distinct works may, and have been written, but to gather materials from the knowledge communicated by science, wherewith to construct an argument for the existence and attributes of God. The excellence of such a work, then, will not consist in the number of illustrations, or in the copiousness and completeness of the materials, but in the judgment with which they are selected, and the aptness with which they are made to bear upon the question at issue.
So far, therefore, as the argument is concerned, no additional strength will be given to it by new discoveries in science. As Dr. Paley has himself admitted, a single case thoroughly made out, proves all that can be proved, and, generally speaking, the most familiar instances which can be selected and made intelligible are the best for this purpose, and will have the greatest influence upon men's minds. All the knowledge, therefore, which is necessary for the completeness and strength of the argument was possessed long ago.
Still there is an advantage in selecting and arguing from a variety of examples, arising out of the different constitutions of men's minds, or their different habits of thinking and reasoning. Some are more affected by examples of one kind, and some by those of another. In this way much more might be done in the way of illustrating and enforcing the argument, and holding it up in every possible light, than has been attempted in the present edition. The principal object here had in view, has been to make such additions, as with the help of the engraved views, would bring the argument, as stated by the author, clearly within reach of all readers.
To give a correct edition, various English and American copies have been consulted, in which variations have been found; but those readings have been adopted, which appeared best to comport with that familiarity, and originality of expression, which gives its principal charm, and its great force and clearness to Dr. Paley's style.
MY LORD, THE following work was undertaken at your Lordship's recommendation; and amongst other motives, for the purpose of making the most acceptable return I could make for a great and important benefit conferred upon me. It may be unnecessary, yet not perhaps, quite impertinent, to state to your Lordship and to the reader, the several inducements that have led me once more to the press. The favor of my first and ever honored patron had put me in possession of so liberal a provision in the church, as abundantly to satisfy my wants, and much to exceed my pretensions. Your Lordship's munificence, in conjunction with that of some other excellent Prelates, who regarded my services with the partiality with which your Lordship was pleased to consider them, hath since placed me in ecclesiastical situations, more than adequate to every object of reasonable ambition. In the meantime, a weak, and, of late, a painful state of health, deprived me of the power of discharging the duties of my sta.ion, in a manner at all suitable, either to my sense of those duties, or to my most anxious wishes concerning them. My inability for the public functions of my profession, amongst other consequences, left me much at leisure. That leisure was not to be lost. It was only in my study that I could repair my deficiencies in the church. It was only through the press that I could speak. These circumstances, in particular, entitled your Lordship to call upon me for the only species of exertion of which I was capable, and disposed me, without hesitation, to obey the call in the best manner that I could. In the choice of a subject I had no place left for doubt : in saying which, I do not so much reter, either to the supreme importance of the subject, or to any skepticism concerning it with which the present times are charged, as I do, to its connexion with the subjects treated of in my former publications. The following discussion alone was wanted to make up my works into a system : in which works, such as they are, the public have now before them, the evidences of natural reliA
gion, the evidences of revealed religion, and an account of the duties that
result from both. It is of small importance, that they have been writter. |
in an order, the very reverse of that in which they ought to be read. I commend therefore the present volume to your Lordship's protection, not only as, in all probability, my last labor, but as the completion of a con sistent and comprehensive design. Hitherto, my Lord, I have been speaking of myself and not of my Patron. Your Lordship wants not the testimony of a dedication, nor any testimony from me : I consult therefore the impulse of my own mind alone when I declare, that in no respect has my intercourse with your Lordship been more gratifying to me, than in the opportunities, which it has afforded me, of observing your earnest, active, and unwearied solicitude, for the advancement of substantial Christianity: a solicitade, nevertheless, accompanied with that candor of mind, which suffers no subordinate differences of opinion, when there is a coincidence in the inain intention and object, to produce an alienation of esteem, or diminution of favor. It is fortunate for a country, and honorable to its government, when qualities and dispositions like these are placed in high and influential stations. Such is the sincere judgment which I have formed of your Lordship's character, and of its public value: my personal obligations I can never forget. Under a due sense of both these considerations, I beg leave to subscribe myself, with great respect and gratitude,
To your suggestion the world is indebted for the existence of Dr. Paley's valuable work on Natural Theology. The universal and permament esteem in which it has been held in this country, and its favorable reception in France, even after the desolating influence of the Revolution, have abundantly approved your Lordship's selection both of the subject and of the person to whom you intrusted it. In looking round, then, for a patron for these ILLUstr ATIons, it was natural to have recourse to him who was the original suggestor of the work which it is their object to explain. Nor was I disappointed in my wish; your Lordship not only condescending to approve of the design, but to encourage me in its prosecution, by your very liberal support. For this distinguished honor you will believe me deeply sensible; and if I may indulge the hope that my humble efforts will increase the utility of so eminent a writer, I shall consider it the highest gratification. I am, my Lorp, With great veneration, Your Lordship's most obliged, And obedient servant,