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HUMAN NA T U R E.
NATURE OF RELIGION.
ORVILLE DEWEY, D.D.
PASTOR OF TRE HUROE OT TEX MESBIAH, IN NEW YORK.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1846.
BY C. 8. FRANCIS & CO.
I HAVE collected into these Volumes, most of the Sermons and Essays that have been published with my name; and have added some Sermons not before printed, together with Articles from Reviews, and Occasional Discourses. A new arrangement is made, in order to bring the Discourses under certain heads. The title of the Volume first published, “ Discourses on Various Subjects," is dropped. The first Series in this Edition, “On Human Nature," embraces several of those Discourses; others are omitted; and others, placed under another Head. Discourses
Human Life,” follow ; and then, a number of Discourses, for which I could find no more definite title than “ TheNature of Religion.” In the first Sermon of the succeeding series, on-Commerce and Business,” I have attempted by a revision of the Argument, to reply to an objection sometimes urged against its main doctrine, with regard to the use of superior knowledge, power or opportunity. I have met with those who argued thus : “We have a right to take every advantage of each other; it is perfectly honest to do so, because we have agreed to do so. It is a matter of compact, whose chances and risks we mutually agree to take.” Now I maintain that the general moral policy of
trade foroias such compact. The remainder of the Second Volume is occupied by a Miscellaneous Collection of Discourses on Politics and Society, and by reprints of Reviews and Occasional Sermons and Addresses. The Third Volume, or the one which is to occupy that place in the Edition, is already published—as it has been some time out of print, and was called for--under the title of “ Discourses and Reviews upon Questions in Controversial Theology and Practical Religion.” My apology for these details is, that they seemed to be necessary to explain to those who have purchased my publications, the character of the present Edition.
Let me add, that no attempt is made at a full discussion of any of the subjects embraced in these Volumes. I suppose that a Treatise is not usually expected in a Volume of Sermons. Pulpit Discourses are, from the nature of the case, more like separate Essays, than successive portions of a regular Treatise.
I have now said all that is necessary, perhaps, in a Preface; and yet, in sending forth a revised Edition of my Publications, I am disposed to add one or two remarks.
I have sometimes regretted that it has been my fortune to communicate with the Public through Sermons. I doubt whether there is any one vehicle of communication-Art, Literature, Poetry, Fiction, the Journal, or the Newspaper -in the way of which public opinion has thrown so many obstructions and difficulties. In the first place, it has laid a jealous restriction upon the topics of the Sermon, the style, the modes of illustration—the whole manly freedom of utterance. In the next place, having thus helped to make it tame and common-place, it has branded what is partly its own work, with that fatal epithet, dull. In fact, the Sermon, the printed Sermon, has scarcely any recognised place among the great and noble arts of expression or communication. It is not appreciated as such. It has not the stimulus either of praise or blame from any high court of Literary Criticism.
I do not say, I am far from saying, that all this is the fault of the public, or of public opinion. It is the fault of the preacher rather; it is the error essentially of our religious ideas and feelings. In this view I know of no more significant fact connected with the history of Christianity than this, that the Sermon should in all ages have been proverbially dull. I confess that I am stung to indignation and shame at the bitter taunt implied in it, and would willingly take upon my hands all the disabilities and difficulties of this kind of communication, if I could give the feeblest demonstration, that it is not altogether deserved. The Essayist, Foster, says: “Might not all the Sermon-books in the English language, after the exception of three or four dozen volumes, be committed to the fire without
of gret ?" I am not bold enough to expect that these volumes of mine could escape the doom ; it would be a solace to me if I could believe, that they might stimulate others to do better, and that, from their ashes, something should arise, that would be worthy to live.