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PREFACE.

It is the prevailing disposition of the times to consider every thing which has been long established as not merely capable of amendment, but as absolutely requiring reform ; and in that unlimited toleration which it is the boast of this country to extend to all religious opinions, it was not to be expected that the Established Church should altogether escape the influence of such a feeling. There are, indeed, many persons who openly avow their opinion that she, in every way, stands in need of a great and

extensive reformation; and others, who, looking to the increasing numbers of those that separate themselves from her communion, (though it may be doubted whether this increase be, at present, greater in proportion than the increase of the general population,) would consider her as no longer entitled to the distinction of a National Church, and would, therefore, withhold from her all that support which she has been accustomed to derive from the civil government of the country ; either with the view of substituting some other form of doctrine and worship, or of doing away with every religious establishment whatever.

Whether an established religion be, or be not, necessary to the existence of a well regulated state, is not the object of the author's enquiry in this little volume. That question he considers to have been long since settled by higher authorities than his own.

All that he now aims at, is to examine whether, among the religious opinions entertained by the principal classes of those who dissent from the Established Church, there be any other system of belief, or any other form of doctrine and worship, more consonant with a fair interpretation of Holy Writ, and more conducive to the moral and religious improvement of mankind.(the great object of every dispensation of the Divine will,) than that adopted by the Church of England. If he has succeeded in showing that, amidst these varying opinions, no such superior system or form of worship can be found, his main end is answered. For this purpose he has made a simple story, in many of its parts founded on truth, the medium through which high and momentous points of doctrine are brought under familiar discussion, with a view of gaining, more particularly, the attention of those who would fly from works of a professedly serious and theological nature; and he indulges a hope, that such an attempt to beguile his readers into a consideration of matters intimately connected both with their present temporal, and future eternal, welfare, may be the means of leading them on to the prosecution of a deeper and more enlarged enquiry into these most important subjects.

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