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but as they were very few, and like the rest of his writings, entirely of a devotional and practical nature, I thought it would have been a formality nearly bordering upon impertinence, to have collected and inserted them in such a manner.
The Ethico-critical meditations on the iv., xxxii., and cxxx. Psalms, abound with so many charming sentiments and expressions, that I could not but desire the English reader should share in part of the pleasure they had given me. I have therefore taken care they should be faithfully translated, and have reviewed the version with as much accuracy as my other engagements would allow. It is indeed impossible to transfuse the inimitable elegance and strength of the original into any translation: but he who is incapable of the pleasure of using that, will, I hope, be glad to enjoy the benefit of such eminently pious reflections, though under the disadvantage of a dress much less beautiful and ornamental.
When this part of the design was executed, I was insensibly, by an ambiguity of expression in the proposals printed at Edinburgh, led into another labour, much greater than I at first imagined it would have proved, I mean that of correcting the quarto edition of the incomparable Commentary upon the first epistle of Peter, which I may venture to pronounce the most faulty piece of printing I ever remember to have seen in any language. At first, I intended only to have noted those gross mistakes which quite pervert what any person of common penetration must see to have been the original sense, and yet are taken no notice of in the erroneous table of errata. But afterwards considering what an embarrassment it is to common readers to see commas, colons, and periods placed almost in a promiscuous disorder, without any regard to their proper signification, which is the case here, at least in every ten lines, I determined to go over the whole, pen in hand, and correct every page as I would have done a proof from the press.
While I was thus employed, I observed that the confusion which many-have complained of in the Archbishop's method, and which I myself really thought matter of some just complaint too, was frequently the consequence of omitting the numeral marks, which should denote the subordination of heads, and this where some of them are inserted, as if on purpose to increase the perplexity. And it also very frequently results from the neglect of giving a proper view at first of the method proposed, and which was worst of all, in not a few places, from placing the number of the head, instead of the head itself. This perhaps was done with design in the first copy, to save the trouble of writing it over again ; but it is extremely inconvenient to the reader, as it most naturally leads him to mistake the first sentence of the enlargement, for the head it is intended to illustrate.
This is a remark which is applicable to many of our Author's sermons; and I wish it had been more constantly attended to in that valuable edition of them published by Mr. Wilson at Edinburgh two years ago, in comparison of which, nevertheless, it is certain that neither of the former are to be named. I thought it no
unwarrantable liberty at all, but a high point of justice, to supply with my pen what is so evidently deficient, and I hope I shall not be condemned for venturing, as I was expressly desired to do, here and there to exchange a Scots word or phrase for an English one, certainly of the same signification, and more generally understood. I thought that to have distinguished all these corrections by different characters, crotchets, or inverted commas, would have injured the beauty of the impressions, and might have looked like a little affectation of making a vain parade of what I have done. If any are curious enough to desire exactly to know it, they may get surer information, by comparing this edition with the former, by which they may judge of the little, but, as I thought, very necessary freedoms taken with the manuscript pieces. And if any perceive, as I suppose most observant readers that make the comparison will, that the Commentary upon Peter now reads in a much rounder, clearer, and pleasanter manner than it before did ; they will only reflect how much a multitude of little negligencies and errors, each of them seeming in itself minutely and inconsiderably small, may affect the beauty, character, and use of a work in which they are found.
On the whole, the preparing these volumes for the press hath generally taken up a little of my time in the intervals of other business, daily for several months ; but I am far from repenting the labour I have bestowed upon it. The delight and edification which I have found in the writings of this wonderful man, for such I must deliberately call him, would have been a full equivalent for my pains, separate from all prospect of that effect which they might have upon others. For truly I know not that I have ever spent a quarter of an hour in reviewing any of them, but even amidst that interruption which a critical examination of the copy would naturally give, I have felt some impressions which I could wish always to retain. I can hardly forbear saying, as a considerable philosopher and eminent divine, with whom I have the honour of an intimate correspondence and friendship, said to me in a letter long ago*, and when my acquaintance with our Author's works was but beginning, “ There is a spirit in Archbishop Leighton I never met with in any human writings; nor can I read many lines in them without being moved.”
Indeed it would be difficult for me to say where, but in the sacred oracles, I have ever found such heartaffecting lessons of simplicity and humility, candour and benevolence, exalted piety, without the least tincture of enthusiasm, and an entire mortification to every earthly interest, without any mixture of splenetic resentment. Nor can I ever sufficiently admire that artless manner in which he lays open, as it were, his whole breast to the reader, and shows, without seeming to be at all conscious of it himself, all the various graces that can adorn and ennoble the Christian, running like so many veins of precious ore in the rich mine where they grew. And hence, if I mistake not, is that wonderful energy of his discourses, obvious as they seem, un
* April 10, 1740. The Reverend Dr. Henry Miles, F.R.S.
adorned as they really are, which I have observed to be owned by persons of eminent piety in the most different ranks, and amidst all the variety of education and capacity that can be imagined. As every eye is struck by consummate beauty, though in the plainest dress, and the sight of such an object impresses much more than any laboured description of complexion, features, or air, or any harangue on the nicest rules of proportion which could come into consideration ; so, in the works of this great adept in true Christianity, we do not so much hear of goodness, as see it in its most genuine traces; see him a living image of his Divine Master, for such indeed his writings show, I had almost said, demonstrate him to have been, by such internal characters as surely a bad man could not counterfeit, and no good man can so much as suspect...
Where the matter is so remarkably excellent, a wise and pious reader will not be over solicitous about the style; yet I think he will find it, in these compositions, far above any reasonable contempt or censure. When I consider what the prevailing taste was a century ago in this respect, I have often wondered at the many true beauties of expression that occur in these pieces, and the general freedom from those false and fanciful ornaments, if they are to be called ornaments, which occur in contemporary authors. On the whole, the style wonderfully suits the sentiments; and however destitute of the flights of oratory, has such a dignity and force mingled with that simplicity, which is to be sure its chief characteristic; so that on the whole, it has often reminded me of that soft and sweet eloquence of Ulysses,