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DERIVED FROM ITS
NATURE AND RECEPTION.
BY J. B. SUMNER, M.A.
PREBENDARY OF DURHAM; VICAR OF MAPLEDURUAM, Oxox.; AND
LATE FELLOW OF ETON COLLEGE.
PUBLISHED BY A. FINLEY,
Clark · Raser, Printers.
The idea, which the following pages are designed to illustrate, is briefly this: that a religion like the Christian could never have existed, unless it had been introduced by divine authority. It could not have been invented: it would not have been received.
This line of argument has at least one advantage; at the same time that it proves, if well founded, that the religion is true, it shows also what the religion is.
I am by no means confident, however, that the field into which I have been led in pursuit of the idea above mentioned, is sufficiently unoccupied to justify this addition of another volume to the numberless treatises already existing on the evidences of Christianity. But I am disposed to imagine, that an attack upon unbelief, or a confirmation of
faith, can never be superfluous. Many books are in constant circulation, and almost universally read, in which the Scriptures are passed by as if they had no existence, or tacitly assumed to be an invention of priestcraft, supported by state policy. The most popular historian of our own country is not likely to produce a different impression; and a very important portion of ancient history is still chiefly known through the medium of a writer who prosessedly treats the origin and progress of Christianity as an event which need excite no more wonder than the rise of Mohammedanism. Not to mention, that the rude and direct assaults upon Revelation, which, for some years past, have been constantly issuing from the press, can hardly fail to have some effect in keeping the minds unsettled, even of a class above that for which they are avowedly written and designed.
In fact, though there is just cause for believing that real religion never flourished more in any age or country than at the present time in Britain, yet it is certain that a vast number of persons reject it, either avowedly or virtually; and that even more, convinced by the evidences, still hover on the confines or lic loosely on the surface, and enter very little into the vital principles of the gospel. Neither of these facts can excite surprise, when we consider how many young persons are thrown upon the world, and plunged in the busy concerns of life, with no other knowledge of the claims of Christianity on their belief, than that it is by law established as the national religion; and with no further acquaintance with its nature, than that it forbids the practices to which they are attached, and which most of those around them follow.
Now, I am far from asserting, that an intimate knowledge of the historical evidences of the Gospel is necessary to faith. Happily there is evidence of the truth of our religion, which does not arise from external testimony; and multitudes, before they havo ever felt the want of external testimony, are impressed with this evidence, which sets them above doubt and beyond the reach of scepticism. Nothing leads them to hesitate respecting the certainty of that which they find generally confessed, and publicly taught, and which from their infancy they have been accustomed to venerate. And this confidence is supported and confirmed by the impressions resulting from habitual acquaintance with the Scriptures, and