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SERIE S OF LETTERS
ow on E Following subjecy's :
IV. ON som E or THE CAUSEs BY which Ev ANGELICAI.
By JOHN FOSTER.
Inspicere, tanquam in speculum, in vitas omnium
—ot Go to
First American from the third London Edition,
P ERHAPS it will be thought that pieces written so much in the manner of set compositions as the following,
should not have been denominated Letters; it may therefore
be proper to say, that they are so called because they were
which would be introduced.
It will not seem a very natural manner of commencing a course of letters to a friend, to enter formally on a subject, in the first sentence. In excuse for this abruptness it may be mentioned, that an introductory letter went before that which appears first in the series; but as it was written in the presumption that a considerable variety of subjects would be treated in the compass of a moderate number of letters, it is omitted, as being less adapted to precede what is executed in a manner so different from the design.
When writing which has occupied a considerable length, and has been interrupted by considerable intervals of time, which is also on very different subjects, and was perhaps meditated under the influence of different circumstances, is at last all read over in one short space, this immediate succession and close comparison make the writer sensible
of some things of which he was not aware in the slow, sepaof something like inconsistency. The second may seen to represent that a man may effect almost everything, the third that he can effect scarcely any thing. The write however persuades himself that the one does not assert . efficacy of human resolution and effort, under the sam conditions under which the other asserts their inefficacy and that therefore there is no real contrariety between th principles of the two essays. Allowing a human agent t possess power within certain limits, (though those limits b narrow,) but then asserting his utter imbecility beyond those limits; there will inevitably be a great contrast between the assemblage of sentiments and exemplifications adapted strongly to illustrate that power alone, and another assemblage adapted to illustrate that imbecility alone. If the contrast, in these essays, is thought too great, the writer is willing to appeal to the experience of reflective men, whether they have not often found the class of sentiments and facts which appeared the correct illustration of one principle, so strikingly uncongenial with those by which they had before correctly illustrated another principle, as to cause a doubt whether both those principles could be true; till, on examination, they have perceived the apparent opposition to arise, not from a real inconsistency of the principles, but from each of them being illustrated quite apart from its relations with the other, and perhaps illustrated consequently with a certain degree of exaggeration. In seeking the strongest means of impressing a practical principle, the mind naturally adopts those which represent it in the extreme.—If, after all, a serious reader shall think the essay on decision of character, is not exactly concordant throughout with the christian spirit of meekness, humility and submission, the writer will readily express his wish that those pages had been perfectly clear of every thing which could even affear to justify such a charge. In the fourth essay, it was not intended to take a comprehensive or systematic view of the causes which are injurious to evangelical religion, but simply to select a few which had particularly excited the author's attention. One or two more would have been specified, if the essay had Hot been already too long.
rate stages of his progress. On thus bringing the following essays under one review, the writer perceives some reason to apprehend that the spirit of the third will appear so different from that of the second, as to give an impression