This book is printed by way of testimony. It is a confession of iaith— along one indeed, yet none the less sincere. The author can say: "I believed,— therefore have I spoken." In this day when skepticism is so rife, and when even Christian teachers so frequently pride themselves that they believe, not so much, but so little, it seems to him that nothing is more needed than uncompromising assertion of faith in the existence of God, the world, and the soul. "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" For himself, and for more than seven thousand others who have not bowed the knee to the Baal of brute force and impersonal law, the author desires to answer in the affirmative.
The volume»takes its title from the first Essay,—and the title is fairly descriptive of the book. It aims to present truth in popular form; most of the Essays contained in it have been written for public address; some of them date back to a time when the author's rhetoric was more exuberant than now,— for all this he makes no apology. He would fain hope that what Fox said of Burke's exuberance of fancy may be counted true of himself: "Reduce his language, withdraw his images,— and yon will find that he is more wise than eloquent; you will have your full weight of metal, though you melt down the chasing." Yet, if any reader still demand abstract .statement instead of the oratorical method, the author takes the liberty of referring him to the "Systematic Theology" of which this is the companion-volume, where he will find much of the same truth put in more philosophical form.
It needs to be stated, however, that much of the present book is new, or at least has never before appeared in print. The Essays on "Modern Idealism" and on "The New Theology," on "Dante and the Divine Comedy," and on "Poetry and Robert Browning," havebeen written for this volume. The author has included in it certain tributes to the memory of the dead, not only because the departed were his friends, but because in speaking of them he could alsoexpress his views of the work they sought to do. The personal element is not wholly lacking,—in many cases its elimination would have required the entire reconstruction of the discourse,— in general, the author would have the several addresses judged in the light of the special occasions for which they were prepared.
The author would disclaim any expectation that his book will be widely read. It is not published at the request of friends,—indeed, the author is not aware that any friends desire to read what he has written. His chief aim has been to put himself on record. If any choose to read, well,— here is opportunity for the curious investigator to say: "Sic cogitavit." But if none choose to read, it is also well,— the author, at least, has delivered his soul. He commits his work to God and to his providence—sowing his seed and withholding not his hand, though he knows not which shall prosper, whether this or that. He prays that his errors, if he has erred, may be uprooted and exposed; and that any truth he has discovered or uttered may somewhere, and at some time, be made fruitful for good. But, whatever may befall him or his work, Christo Deo Gloria, Salvatori Omnipotenti!
It remains only to say that the author's grateful acknowledgements are due to the Reverend Robert Kerr Eccles, M. D., of Salem, Ohio, for the care and faithfulness wliich he has shown in correcting errors of the press and in preparing the Index. It is certain that in this case, as in the case of the author's Systematic Theology, every thoughtful reader will regard himself as Dr. Eccles's debtor.
Rochester Theological Seminary,
Rochester, April 1, 1888.