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ASSOC. ACAD. DIJON, HONORARY MEMBER OF THE LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL
SOCIETY OF NEW YORK, OF THE NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, OF THE
“ Prove all things, bøld fast that which is good.”
you a reason of the hope that is in you, +For we have not
WITH MANY ADDITIONS AND CORRECTIONS.
PRINTED FOR BALDWIN AND CRADOCK.
The history of the work now presented to the public may be given in very few words. It originated in a series of conversations which I had about five years ago with a friend much younger than myself, who had a considerable acquaintance with almost all except religious subjects. He expressed much surprise that a person of my habits and pursuits in other respects should adopt the religious notions I had long entertained, or indeed be solicitous about any religious opinions whatever; and I endeavoured to assign the reasons which led me to embrace them, and to consider such topics as of the first importance. After a short time we were so far separated as to have much fewer opportunities of personal intercourse : and I in consequence became induced to carry on the momentous inquiry we had previously commenced, by letter. Pursuant to this intention, all the letters in the first volume were actually written : they were read in manuscript by my friend; and, as I have reason to believe, were not unproductive of benefit. Having proceeded thus far, a growing particularity of inquiry was produced on the one side, and a gradual extension of plan on the other: and thus, after many interruptions, and in the midst of numerous avocations of a very different kind, the work has become what it
I had not however proceeded half way in the execution of my plan before it occurred to me, that what I first intended for private use might be beneficial to others in circumstances analogous to those of my friend; and I recollected that whatever I might publish on the subject
of religion would at least have the advantage of appearing disir terested, as it proceeded from the pen of a layman, It is, I am aware, extremely ridiculous for those who adopt the prescriptions of their physicians, and act upon the advice of their lawyers, although they are professional, to object to defences of Christianity from the pens of Clergymen because they are professional ; yet, absurd and uncandid as the objection is, it is often advanced : it is therefore proper to meet it; and at times to show that there are those who cannot on such occasions be actuated by any love of worldly applause, or any thirst after emolument, but who feel sufficiently interested about Religion, and are sufficiently convinced of its powerful tendency to improve the conduct of individuals and to augment the general stock of happiness, to step for a little while out of their more appropriate province, to plead its cause. Such defenders of revealed religion there have been in all ages; yet they have not been so numerous as to render it improper or indecorous to increase their number: especially as the old prejudice still continues to operate with unabated energy; and there are many persons from whom the claims of Christianity receive a more respectful attention, when they are urged by one who is neither “a clergyman” nor a methodist."
There have long existed several valuable essays on the Evidences of Christianity; and we now possess in the English language especially, the treatise of Dr. Paley, which all Christians consider as an honour to our age and nation. Had a luminous statement of the Historical Evidences been all that was aimed at or required, I should at once have referred my friend to Dr. Paley's as standard, and, I believe, unanswerable, work; and never have troubled either him or the public with any remarks of mine on the subject of religion. But it is very possible, and indeed very common, for men to be Christians in name and theory, and infidels in practice; to profess a belief in Christ, and in heart to deny him ; to acknowledge him as
Messiah, and to refuse to obey him as king ; to avow the warmest admiration of the New Testament, and to despise and ridicule every thing in it which is characteristic and peculiar, and which constitutes it a summary of that “ truth” which alone “ can make us free" from the dominion of sin and from the punishment due to it. This I consider as the most striking and lamentable error of the present times; and it is, therefore the more remarkable that such an error should not have been frequently and pointedly exposed. To adopt the language of an admirable living writer-" While the outworks of the sanctuary have been “ defended with the utmost ability, its interior has been “ too much neglected, and the fire upon the altar suffered " to languish and decay. The truths and mysteries which “ distinguish the Christian from all other religions, have “ been little attended to by some, totally denied by others; « and while infinite efforts have been made, by the utmost “ subtlety of argumentation, to establish the truth and
authenticity of revelation, few have been exerted in comparison to show what it really contains."
Now the deficiency here adverted to is that which I have endeavoured to supply. I have attempted to exhibit in small compass a view, not merely of the Evidences, but of the distinguishing doctrines, and principal binding duties of the Christian Religion. I have endeavoured to show that Christianity is not so contemptible and bungling a fraud as some infidels have represented it to be; and to point out at the same time many palpable and enormous absurdities into which Infidelity precipitates its votaries. But this I reckon the least important part of my
undertaking, though I humbly hope it may have its uses. The facts of Christianity are only so far momentous as the doctrines are momentous which are suspended upon them. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ would be no more to us (I mention it with reverence) than the death of Socrates, were it not that he suffered as a sacrifice for sin ; and his