« ForrigeFortsæt »
resurrection of no more importance to us than the emancipation of a butterfly from its crysalis, were it not for the assurance that " even as he has risen" so shall all his faithful followers. I have therefore entered pretty much at large into the establishment and defence of the leading doctrines which distinguish Christianity from all other religious systems. In the choice of these I have kept almost entirely out of sight the higher points which separate the Arminians and Calvinists; while I have attempted to illustrate and confirm, as essential, those grand doctrines in which both Arminians and Calvinists, and indeed the great majority of Christians, differ from the Socinians. The truth is, that upon most of the questions which have long divided, and still continue to agitate, the Christian world, my mind is nearly in a state of perfect neutrality: so that I cannot bring myself to attach much importance to any question which is not obviously favourable or unfavourable in its moral tendency, or which does not appear to me fundamental, that is, which does not in some way affect the grand doctrine of man's redemption through the crucifixion of “ the Son of God.” With all Christians who in this respect “hold the head," and live conformably to the doctrines they profess, however they may be separated upon minor topics, I am anxious to maintain, and long to see universally prevail, the “unity of the spirit in the bond of “ peace.”
I am willing to hope, indeed, that this spirit is gaining ground among us; and that many men are beginning to act upon the persuasion that every controversy agitated in the Christian Church upon points of inferior moment, causes a deduction, and in numerous instances a very serious one, from the regard paid to the really impor'-ınt objects of faith.
In attaining the objects proposed I have not aimed at elaborate composition, or the elegancies of style: believing that if my professional employments did not tend greatly to render success in such an attempt improbabłe, my real inability to dazzle by splendid imagery and profuse embellishment would. I have endeavoured to reason clearly and fairly; have availed myself of every argument I have met with in other authors that has met my purpose; and have endeavoured to compress them into small space; and have, farther, had occasional recourse to some arguments which it is probable would not readily present themselves to any one who was not moderately conversant with scientific topics ; these, it may be added, were frequently suggested by the consideration, that the gentleman for whose use they were originally written had successfully engaged in scientific pursuits.
I know not whether it may be necessary to apologize for the frequency and extent of my quotations from Scripture, especially in the second volume. Let it be recollected that the main object of that volume is to teach the doctrines of Scripture ; that is, to show what they are, to exhibit them faithfully: and to effect this without being allowed to cite the language of Scripture, would be, as Mr. Boyle long ago remarked, “ to challenge a man to a duel, and oblige him “ not to make use of his best weapons ; or to compel him to
prove the torrid zone habitable, and not make use of “ the testimony of navigators." Besides, the maxim of Chillingworth, though old, has not yet been proved absurd; namely, " that we cannot speak of the things of God, better “ than in the words of God.”
I would fain hope that my numerous references to other authors, or quotations from them, will not be ascribed to a desire to make a parade of extensive reading. My acquaintance with the works of other writers, and especially on the subject of religion, is, in truth, far less than it ought to be ; and my object in such frequent references and extracts has been either to direct the attention of young men of reading to standard works on topics which my plan would not
allow me to treat so fully as I wished, or to confirm and fortify my own sentiments by the authority of many whom the world in general consider as learned, wise, and, therefore, highly worthy of regard.
Lastly, I beg to remark, that I hope and trust the freedom of my occasional animadversions upon theologians from whom I differ on several topics discussed in these letters, has in no instance arisen from contempt of them, or their opinions, from uncandid interpretations of their language, or from unworthy personal feeling. My business has been to attempt to refute sentiments which I deem erroneous and dangerous, as well as to establish those which appear to me true and beneficial. It is possible, I am persuaded, to feel the strongest conviction of the errors certain men may hold, without cherishing a particle of ill will against those who hold them. And surely it is perfectly fair and perfectly candid, when theologians of a certain class endeavour to divest Christianity of almost every thing which (as I conceive) is peculiar to it, pride themselves upon the skill and dexterity with which they effect this, and triumph over what they denominate the irrational and contracted tenets of others; to turn the tables upon them, and to show that their system is cloggeå with its full load of absurdities and contradictions; that their mode of translation, if adopted universally, would rob the New Testament of its whole spirit, energy, and perspicuity; and that by stripping the Christian system of its peculiarities, they deprive it nearly of all which renders it of consequence whether a man be a believer or an unbeliever. Under the influence of these sentiments, I shall conclude by adopting the language of Dr. Jortin on another occasion: the following disquisitions " are designed, slight and imperfect as “ they are, for the service of TRUTH, by one who would be
glad to attend, and grace her triumphs: as her soldier, if “ he has had the honour to serve successfully under her
“ banner: or, as her captive, tied to her chariot wheels, if “ he has, though undesignedly, committed any offence “ against her."
Oct. 11, 1811.
P. S. That successive editions of this Work should be required is a circumstance which calls for my most grateful acknowledgments, at the same time that it has stimulated me to give the whole a very careful revisal, that it may be rendered more worthy public favour. I cannot but be highly gratified that my labours on the most interesting of all subjects should continue to be so favourably received : and still more to learn, that in various instances they have been the means of convincing persons, especially young men devoted to two of the learned professions (medicine and law), that “ with the talents of an angel a man may be a “ fool,” in the worst sense of the word, unless he be “wise “ unto salvation." Several have been reclaimed from the regions of Infidelity, and still more from Socinianism, not merely in England, but on the continent of Europe, in India, and in America ; by the blessing of God upon an attentive perusal of these “ Letters.” I had no other object in their publication ; and can most sincerely declare that I
2 wish them no longer to meet with encouragement than while they shall be useful in instilling into the minds and hearts of others, the essential, immutable principles which have always been found to work most efficaciously towards the renovation and salvation of mankind.