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WHEN Mr. Wilson undertook to publish several pieces of Archbishop LEIGHTON, from the manuscripts in which they had so long lain concealed, having heard of the high esteem I have long professed for the writings of that excellent person, he intreated me that I would revise them, and if I approve the publication, would introduce them into the world by a recommendatory preface. The last of these requests I absolutely refused, knowing how
very unworthy I am to pretend, by my suffrage, to add any thing to the reputation and acceptance of what came from the pen of so eminently great and good a man: and the more I know of him, and of myself, the more deeply sensible I must be of this. But with the former request I chearfully complied, though my various and important business would have furnished a very plausible excuse for declining it. I apprehended that these pieces were not very large, and I knew that, like all the other remains of our incomparable author, they were not designed for the press; so that it was probable they were written in a very hasty manner, considering how well he knew the value of time, and how entirely he was superior to popular applause in all his compositions for the pulpit, as most of these were.
The numberless errors which I had observed in the first edition of all his
English works, by which the sense of many passages is absolutely destroyed, and that of scores and hundreds very much obscured, made me the more ready to attempt the paying this little tribute of respect to his memory, which no words or actions can fully express; and I was morally certain, that whatever came from such a pen, would be so entertaining and improving, that I could not fail of being immediately and abundantly rewarded for whatever pains it might cost me to prepare it for the public.
When these manuscripts came to my hands, I found new reasons to be satisfied with the task I had undertaken, which indeed was welcome to me in proportion to the degree in which I perceived it must be laborious. The papers which were sent me, were copies of others, which I suppose were transcribed from short hand notes, which some skilful writer had happily taken from the archbishop's mouth. They were beyond comparison more inaccurate than those of his printed works, which are most remarkably so, and yet they contained such inimitable traces of sweet natural eloquence, and of genuine and lively piety, as speak the author far more certainly, than the most exact resemblance of what was known to be his hand writ-. ing could possibly have done.
Besides a large collection of letters, of which I shall afterwards speak, the papers consisted of his meditations and expositions on Psalm xxxix. on part of Rom. xii. and the whole sixth of Isaiah. On this last sublime and instructive portion of scripture, there were three distinct expositions, delivered, as I suppose, at different places; the latter being, so far as I could
judge, supplemental to the former, yet so that additions were made to almost every verse, and sometimes the same things which had been said before, expressed in a different manner; I judged it consistent with the strictest fidelity owing to the works of so illustrious a person (which absolutely forbad my adding or diminishing any thing) to divide them, and incorporate them into one whole; which could not possibly be done, without transcribing the piece, omitting those passages in the former, that were afterwards more copiously or more correctly expressed in the latter; and inserting here and there a line or two, by way of connection, to prevent those disagreeable chasms which would otherwise have defaced much of its beauty. For the rest the reader
may himself, that if (which I cannot doubt) these papers came genuine into my hand, they are now entirely so, in every sentence, and in every clause; for in those very few places, where the sense was to me absolutely unintelligible, and the construction incurably ungrammatical, I chose rather to drop such imperfect fragments, than by uncertain additions of my own, to run the risk of imputing to the good archbishop, what I was not sure he ever wrote. Had these fragments contained hints of any things curious in criticism, history, or controversy of any kind; I would have published them apart, at the end of these volumes: but as they were very few, and like the rest of his writings, entirely of a devotional and practical nature, I thought it would have been a formality nearly bordering upon impertinence, to have collected and inserted them in such a manner.
The Ethico-critical meditations on the iv. xxxii. and cxxx. Psalms, abound with so many charming sentiments and expressions, that I could not but desire the English reader should share in part of the pleasure they had given me. I have therefore taken care they should be faithfully translated, and have reviewed the version with as much accuracy as my other engagements would allow. It is indeed impossible to transfuse the inimitable elegance and strength of the original into any translation; but he who is incapable of the pleasure of using that, will I hope be glad to enjoy the benefit of such eminently pious reflections, though under the disadvantage of a dress much less beautiful and ornamental.
When this part of the design was executed, I was insensibly, by an ambiguity of expression in the proposals printed at Edinburgh, led into another labour, much greater than I at first imagined it would have proved, I mean that of correcting the quarto edition of the incomparable commentary upon the first epistle of Peter, which I may venture to pronounce the most faulty piece of printing I ever remembered to have seen in any language. At first I intended only' to have noted those gross mistakes which quite pervert that any person of common penetration must see to have been the original sense, and yet are taken no notice of in the erroneous table of crrata. But afterwards considering what an embarrassment it is to common readers, to see commas, colons and periods, placed almost in a promiscuous disorder, without any regard to their proper signification, which is the case here, at least in every ten lines, I deter