A period will, sooner or later, arrive, at which the disciplining and flagellating practices even now in use and which have been so for so many centuries, will have been laid aside, and succeeded by others equally whimsical. And while the men of those days will overlook the defects of their own extravagant customs, or perhaps even admire the rationality of them, they will refuse to believe that the practices of which accounts are given in this work, ever were in use among mankind, and even matter of great moment among them.
The design, therefore, is effectually to remove all doubts in that respect, by handing down to them the flower and choice parts of the facts and arguments on the subject. This book will likewise be extremely useful to the present age; and it will in the first place be so, the subject being considered in a moral light. The numerous cases that are produced in this book, of disciplines which offenders of all classes, kings as well as others, have zealously inflicted upon themselves, will supply a striking proof of that deep sense of justice which exists in the breasts of all men; and the reader will from such facts conclude, no doubt with pleasure, that even the offenders of the high rank we have just mentioned, notwithstanding the state by which they were surrounded, and the majestic countenance which they put on, sometimes in proportion as they more clearly know that they are wrong, are inwardly convinced that they owe compensation for their acts of injustice.
If considered in a philosophical light, this work will be useful to the present age, in the same manner as we have said it would be to posterity. The present generation will find in it proofs, both of the reality of the singular practices which once prevailed in various countries, and are still in full force in many others, and of the important light in which they have been considered by mankind. They will meet with accounts of bishops, cardinals, popes and princes, who have warmly commended such practices; and will not be displeased to be moreover acquainted with the debates of the learned on the same subject, and with the honest, though opposite, endeavours of a Cerebrosus and a Damian, a Gretzer and a Gerson.