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MY DEAR AND HONOURED FRIENDS, BASIL MONTAGU, ESQ•
AND HIS WIFE, MRS. BASIL MONTAGU,
WITH ALL THOSE HONOURABLE MEN AND WOMEN OF
THE ENGLISH NATION WHO HAVE SHEWED ME
SO MUCH KINDNESS IN THESE PARTS.
IN choosing out those to whom I may dedicate the writings which I publish to the world, I am not guided by the principle of desiring Patronage for myself-which I desire to seek wholly from the Father of lights, from whom cometh the knowledge and discernment of all truth -nor of ascribing unto men the honour and praise of what I have written (should it possess any), which is all due to the Son of the Father, for whose exaltation to his proper dignity every good gift and every perfect gift of the Father cometh unto the hands of unworthy men. I have simply sought to discover those whom God in his providence hath made most serviceable in guiding my mind into the ways of truth, or in comforting my heart under the temptations and sufferings to which a preacher of the truth must be exposed. For to these two ends, the knowledge of God's truth and the declaration of it, all affections, all friendships, and all familiarities, should be made subservient; in order that they may glorify God while they gratify ourselves. And seeing it hath pleased God to make your acquaintance first, and then your unwearied and disinterested kindness, and now, I trust, your true friendship, most helpful to my weakness, as well in leading me to observe more diligently the forms and aspects of human life and to comprehend more widely the ways of God's providence with men, as in sustaining me, with your good counsel
and sweet fellowship, against the cold dislike and uncharitable suspicion of the religious, and preserving me from the snares of the irreligious world; I do feel it incumbent upon me as a duty to God, and pleasant to me as a testimony of gratitude and love to you, to prefix your honoured names to this Discourse, which chiefly concerneth the intermediate question of the soil on which the seed of truth is sown, wherein I feel that your intercourse has been especially profitable to my mind. For while I must ever acknowledge myself to be more beholden to our sage friend Mr. Coleridge (whose acquaintance and friendship I owe likewise to you), than to all men besides, for the knowledge of the truth itself as it is in Jesus'; I freely confess myself to be much your debtor for the knowledge of those forms of the natural mind and the actual existing world, with which the minister of truth hath in the first instance to do, and into the soil of which the seed of truth is to be cast. Your much acquaintance, worthy Sir, and your much conversation of the sages of other days, and especially the fathers of the English Church and Literature, and your endeavours to hold them up unto all whom you honour with your confidence; your exquisite feeling, dear and honoured Madam, of whatever is just and beautiful, whether in the idea or in the truth of things, and your faithfulness in holding it up to the view of your friends, together with the delicate skill and consummate grace with which you express it in words and embody it in acts--these things, my dear and honoured Friends, working insensibly during several years' continuance of a very intimate friendship and very confidential interchange of thought and feeling, have, I perceive, produced in me many of those views of men and things which are expressed in the following discourse concerning that question of the several soils into which the seed of truth is cast,—a question which I confess that I had very much in time past overlooked.
But this is only half the obligation and duty which I am