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The following pages, like a great majority of books, were not written in the first instance with a view to publication.
They had their origin in a casual conversation, in the reading which this induced, and in the reflections which thence arose. These reflections were by no means foreign to the writer's temperament, and he has followed them out from time to time, and noted down the results of his reading and meditation, as opportunity or inclination tempted him. The true nature of Eternity and Time was the first subject of his thoughts: and he has found it difficult to limit the topics which meditation upon the abstruse truths of metaphysical and psychological science suggests.
It has occasionally been his lot to wander through romantic districts of foreign lands, with no companion but the star-lit canopy of heaven, and to find his mind wrapt in the contemplations which its infinite and mysterious being so naturally inspires. When nature is seen displayed upon her grandest scale, her influence is powerfully exerted in tempting both mind and body to try untrodden paths, to aspire to high positions, and to labour onward through difficulties and dangers to the highest elevations that the powers of man can possibly attain. He who gives himself up to this inspiriting impulse is sometimes pained to find himself enveloped in clouds, and sometimes rewarded with brilliant sunshine; but he uniformly finds both body and mind invigorated by the exercise.
In these scenes the writer has found how false lights, deceptive appearances, diversities of power of vision, and even liveliness or lack of imagination, lead men who stand side by side to see differently the same thing. Since this is so when viewing terrestrial scenery, how much more so must it be the case when contemplating the remote objects of mental vision; and how great a diversity of opinion must be anticipated on nearly all the topics discussed in the following pages.
The writer has therein endeavoured to explain the true nature of Eternity and Time,— to point out certain phenomena of both,—and to examine certain doubtful or deceptive opinions respecting them.
The concluding part of the work is devoted to
pointing out the bearing which an accurate comprehension of these truths has on certain important questions touching the soul of man, that have been more or less agitated at nearly every period of the Christian era.
The desultory manner, and the broken intervals, in which the book has been composed, have rendered it more fragmentary and less regularly arranged than the Author could have desired; but as he never proposed to give to the world any thing that could be mistaken for a
system ” of philosophy, this evil is of less moment.
In discussing the subjects that have suggested themselves, he has introduced many theological views and opinions which are different from those now generally received. In doing so, he is anxious to guard himself from the supposition of asserting that they are his, either by invention or adoption. He knows full well that many writers have put in print ideas which they erroneously, but sincerely, believed to be original, and that the great bulk of “new lights” in theology are but exploded heresies; yet the doctrines herein discussed, whether true or false, appear to him worthy of further consideration.
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