Introduction by William Paley
|March 22, 2012||Filled under All text of Paley Natural Theology, Introduction||
To the Right Honorable and Right Reverend
Shute Barrington, LL. IV.
Lord Bishop of Durham.
The following work was undertaken at your Lordship’s recommendation; and amongst other motives, for the purpose of making the most acceptable return I could make for a great and important benefit conferred upon me.
It may be unnecessary, yet not perhaps, quite impertinent, to state to your Lordship and to the reader, the several inducements that have led me once more to the press. The favor of my first and ever honored patron had put me in possession of so liberal a provision in the church, as abundantly to satisfy my wants, and much to exceed my pretensions. Your Lordship’s munificence, in conjunction with that of some other excellent Prelates, who regarded my services with the partiality with which your Lordship was pleased to consider them, hath since placed me in ecclesiastical situations, more than adequate to every object of reasonable ambition. In the meantime, a weak, and, of late, a painful state of health, deprived me of the power of discharging the duties of my station, in a manner at all suitable, either to my sense of those duties, or to my most anxious wishes concerning them. My inability for the public functions of my profession, amongst other consequences, left me much at leisure. The leisure was not to be lost. It was only in my study that I could repair my deficiencies in the church. It was only through the press that I could speak. These circumstances, in particular, entitled your Lordship to call upon me for the only species of exertion of which I was capable, and disposed me, without hesitation, to obey the call in the best manner that I could. In the choice of a subject I had no place left for doubt: in saying which, I do not so much refer, either to the supreme importance of the subject, or to any skepticism concerning it with which the present times are charged, as I do, to its connexion with the subjects treated of in my former publications. The following discussion alone was wanted to make up my works into a system: in which works, such as they are, the public have now before them, the evidences of natural religion, the evidences of revealed religion, and an account of the duties that result from both. It is of small importance, that they have been written in an order, the very reverse of that in which they ought to be read. I commend therefore the present volume to your Lordship’s protection, not only as, in all probability, my last labor, but as the completion of a consistent and comprehensive design.
Hitherto, my Lord, I have been speaking of myself and not of my Patron. Your Lordship wants not the testimony of a dedication, nor any testimony from me: I consult therefore the impulse of my own mind alone when I declare, that in no respect has my intercourse with your Lordship been more gratifying to me, than in the opportunities, which it has afforded me, of observing your earnest, active, and unwearied solicitude, for the advancement of substantial Christianity: a solicitude, nevertheless, accompanied with that candor of mind, which suffers no subordinate differences of opinion, when there is a coincidence in the main intention and object, to produce an alienation of esteem, or diminution of favor. It is fortunate for a country, and honorable to its government, when qualities and dispositions like these are placed in high and influential stations. Such is the sincere judgment which I have formed of your Lordship’s character, and of its public value: my personal obligations I can never forget. Under a due sense of both these considerations, I beg leave to subscribe myself, with great respect and gratitude,
Your Lordship’s faithful
And most devoted servant,