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THE author of these Sermons, by a codicil to his Will, declared as follows :— If my life had been spared, it was my intention to have printed at Sunderland a Volume of Sermons—about 500 copies; and I had proceeded so far in the design as to have transcribed several Sermons for that purpose, which are in a parcel by themselves. There is also a parcel from which I intended to transcribe others; but the whole is in an unfinished state, the arrangement is not settled, and there are many things which might be omitted, and others which may be altered or consolidated.' The codicil then goes on to direct, that, after such disposition should have been made respecting the Manuscripts as might be deemed necessary, they should be printed by the Rev. Mr Stephenson, at the expense of the testator's executors, and distributed in the neighbourhood, first to those who frequented church, then to farmers' families in the country, then to such as had a person in the family wlio could read, and were likely to read them; and finally, it is added, I would not have the said Sermons published for sale.'
In compliance with this direction, the following Sermons were selected, printed, and distributed by the Rev. Mr Stephenson, in and about the parish of Bishop-Wearmouth, in the year 1806.
These discourses were not originally composed for publication, but were written for, and, as appears by the Manuscripts, had been preached at the Parish Churches of which, in different parts of the author's life, he had the care. It was undoubtedly the author's intention that they should not have been published; but the circulation of such a number as he had directed by his will to be distributed, rendered it impossible to adhere to the other part of his direction; and it was found necessary to publish them, as the only means of preventing a surreptitious sale.
HONOURABLE AND RIGHT REVEREND:
SHUTE BARRINGTON, LL. D.
LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM.
The celebrated author of this posthumous volume has limited, by will, the press to five hundred copies, and confined the distribution of them to the Parish of Bishop-Wearmouth. All within the circuit of distribution will justly appreciate the bequest, and receive it as a most expressive mark of their late Pastor's solicitude for their conduct and their happiness : all without will hear with regret, that the publication is restricted, since they cannot participate in its benefits. I do not apprehend, however, that I shall improperly exceed the prescribed limit, or go against the intention of the Testator, if I do not scrupulously adhere to the strict letter of his instructions, but step out of the parish, and present the first copy to your Lordship; nay, if I may be allowed to act, on this occasion, in conformity to those sentiments of respect and gratitude to your Lordship, which the deceased invariably expressed, I am warranted in gratifying, by so doing, my own inclination.
Before I commenced my office of printing and distributing, it could not but occur to me, as manifestly proper, to dedicate the volume to your Lordship. For to whom can the work be so well inscribed, as to the Patron, who, without restriction to place or number, with a liberality and munificence becoming a Christian prelate, reaches out protection and encouragement to every art, every discovery, every plan, every production of the human mind, which tends to meliorate the condition, and advance the happiness of man; as every production undoubtedly does, which defends or explains moral or religious truths, which disseminates the principles, inculcates the duties, or diffuses the spirit and influence of Christianity ?
To be useful in our generation, to be serviceable to our fellowcreatures by a proper application of the faculties and means with which we are intrusted, is one object and purpose of life. The disposition to direct to this end the opportunities flowing from your elevated station, no man possesses in a greater degree than
your Lordship. In offering this tribute, I do not fear the imputation of degrading servility, or the charge of interested, unmanly adulation. I have as little reason to fear censure on this account, as I have inclination to offend your Lordship's feelings, or insult your good sense.' Truth shrinks not from trial by the public judgment.
The honour reflected upon your public conduct, by taking under your patronage our late distinguished advocate for Christianity, continues undiminished, from the abilities and the learning of his Successor ; * who, fully persuaded of the truth and importance of Revelation, has evinced extensive research, unwearied industry and zeal, in defence of its authority, its claims, and its doctrines, in his Key to the sacred volume, and in his other theological publications. Possessing, as he does, a mind active and ready for every good work, may he live long, faithful to his charge, and happy in the situation to which he was preferred by your Lordship upon the death of the author of these Sermons ! the author-whose only avenue to your patronage was the result of his literary pursuits : for he used to remark, that, at the moment, when presented to this Rectory, he was a stranger, unconnected with and unknown to you; unknown, but by his writings. His writings will be long read with admiration and improvement. I appeal, in support of what I say, to his Evidences of Christianity, his Horæ Paulinæ, and his Natural Theology. I might adduce the clear arrangment, the acute and solid argument, the happy illustration, the impressive and appropriate diction, which mark the character of those works—but the vigour of Paley's intellect, the extraordinary powers of his mind, have no need of any testimony from me, or from any one, displayed as they are in the cause of morality and of religion, both natural and revealed. They speak for themselves.
I am, with unfeigned regard,
Your Lordship's dutiful,
Feb. 8, 1807.
* Dr Gray.