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XVII. The Joy of Angels over a Repenting Sinner .
On the death of an individual so admired and revered as Mr. Hall, nothing was more natural than that a desire to possess a complete collection of his Works should be extensively felt, and almost as extensively expressed; the admirable genius and excellent spirit which pervade his compositions, as well as the singularly beautiful language in which his sentiments are generally conveyed, giving to them a very unusual fitness to instruct and impress the minds of men.
After a few conversations of a select number of Mr. Hall's intimate friends, it was resolved that a complete edition should be prepared as soon as possible; partly as a proper mark of respect for so distinguished a writer; partly, as conducive to the comfort of his family; and, partly, with a view to meet the desire so strongly felt and declared, as well as to give the utmost possible universality and permanency to the benefits which were likely to accrue from a correct and uniform edition.
The intimate friendship which had very long subsisted between Mr. Hall and myself, and the unreserved frankness with which it was well known he often spoke to me of some of his productions, and the plans which he had formed as to the orderly republication of the chief of them, led his family and many of his friends to express a most earnest wish, that I would undertake the superintendence of the proposed Work. And, although an almost entire want of leisure from heavy official and other engagements, strongly induced me to decline the undertaking; yet the matter was so urgently pressed upon me, and every argument employed received so powerful an accession from my sincere veneration and affection for Mr. Hall, and my cordial esteem and regard for his excellent widow, that I could not withhold my assent.
My reluctance was greatly diminished on finding, that, in the preparation and arrangement of the volumes, I could, in every case where such aid seemed expedient, avail myself of the valuable judgement of Mr. Foster, and of another friend, the Rev. W. Anderson. This I have done throughout, with only two important exceptions : the one, that of a Letter on the Serampore Mission, in Vol. IV.; the other, that of the very imperfect biographical memoir which appears in the present volume, and which, from want of time, could not be subjected to their judgement.
With regard to such of Mr. Hall's writings as had been previously published, either under his own name, or anonymously, it was at once found that no principle of selection could be satisfactorily adopted, and that, indeed, nothing could be omitted without making ourselves responsible for all that should be retained. Besides, “ if the works of departed genius are to be submitted to the censorship of a timid discretion, or the mistaken delicacy of friendship,” and some suppressed, some mutilated, some softened down, who can say how far their influence may be impaired? If, for example, Mr. Hall's political writings had been suppressed, out of deference to those whose opinions were different from his; must we not, upon the same principle of omission, have suppressed his fine Defence of Catholic Communion out of deference to the Strict-Communion Baptists; his Defence of the Puritans, or of the Evangelical Clergy, out of deference to those who dislike both those classes of excellent men? And if so, why should we not have also suppressed his admirable arguments in support of orthodox Christianity, out of deference to those who maintain heterodox sentiments; and all his noble declamation, his bold invective, his spirited irony, his strong reprehension of wickedness and folly, out of deference to those who think “strong language always unbecoming,” and would wish the public instructor to take off the edge of his well-meant reproof by some carefully studied, unmeaning attenuation ? as though the ardent phraseology of one who thought intensely, and therefore expressed himself strongly, upon every subject which he deemed worthy of occupying his time and attention, would, by cooling it down, to meet the taste of men of lower temperament, make a deeper impression, or be productive of more lasting good. The Editors of the Works of Mr. Burke, or Bishop Horsley, have not ventured to trifle with the reputation of those extraordinary men, by the interspersion of such lacune, to meet the variable tastes of their readers; nor have we: for thus might the Works of our inimitable friend have been reduced to a mere pamphlet, and a future age have derived no more benefit from an intellect so richly endowed, so admirably directed as his, to the best and highest purposes, than if it had never existed. Finding, therefore, no ground for any
reasonable, practicable, rule of selection, none has been adopted. The only article omitted is a letter published by Mr. Hall in a newspaper nearly forty years since; and that, because, on his subsequent reconciliation to the individual addressed, both parties agreed, in the presence of their mutual friends, that all should be cast into oblivion that had been previously said or written by either in reference to the points of controversy.
In selecting from Mr. Hall's manuscripts we have not referred to his morbid sensitiveness with regard to appearing before the world, as the rule of action. But, while we have kept his high reputation in mind, we have also had in view the religious instruction of the general reader. It is truly gratifying to know that the fifth volume, which consists entirely of Notes of Sermons and