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Of the Sermons contained in this volume, the first twenty-eight and the thirty-fourth were preached in the chapel of Rugby School. They were addressed, therefore, to a peculiar congregation ; but as the faults against which they are directed are more or less common to all schools, I thought that they might be useful to others besides those for whom they were originally designed.
The remaining five sermons were preached at different places, to congregations of the usual character. They were all written within the last fifteen months, – that is, since the beginning of that aggravated state of disorder in our social relations, which now
wears so threatening an aspect.
But the views which they contain I have entertained for many years, and have long anticipated the crisis which has come upon us.
Would it were as easy to discover the remedies for the evil, now that it is come, as it was to foresee that it must come.
In one sermon, the thirty-second, there may seem an inconsistency with the sentiments expressed in the seventeenth sermon of my former volume. If it were so, I should very little regard it: for as it is great presumption in any man to think himself so certainly right in all his opinions, as to refuse to reconsider them, so it is great weakness or great dishonesty to conceal such alterations in them, as further inquiry may have wrought. But, in the present instance, the difference between the two sermons in question is no more than this; that what I considered in the former volume as by far the best and happiest alternative of the two ways of making nominal and real Christianity more generally identical, I have now dwelt upon, not only as the best, but as the one which we must assiduously labour in our practice to carry into effect. The Church of Christ was originally distinct from the National Society, to which its members belonged, as citizens or subjects. It was promised, that these National Societies should become Christian Societies; and so they have become, but, unfortunately, not so entirely in spirit as in name. Hence, many good men wish the two Societies to be again distinct : believing that the Church is more likely to be secularized by the union, than the nation is to be christianized. And, doubtless, as things are and have been, this belief has too much to warrant it. But, on the other hand, as things ought to be, and as I believe they yet may be, the happier alternative is the one to be looked to ; namely, the carrying forward God's work to its completion,—the making the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of Christ ; not partially or almost, but
altogether, in spirit and in truth. It is certainly very bad to remain as we are; and to go back to the original state of the Church would be most desirable, if we could have no hope of going on to that glorious state of perfection for which Christ designed it. But this hope is too precious to be lightly abandoned ; and our present state is a step to something better, however little we have chosen to make it so : the means are yet in our hands, which it seems far better to use even at the eleventh hour, than desperately to throw them away.
Dec. 19th, 1831.