« AnteriorContinuar »
it might be useful to those readers who have neither the opportunity of access to, nor leisure to peruse more voluminous and elaborate performances, I should not have confented to the publication. The christian religion is not like the speculations of the ancient philofophic schools. These were principally confined to the schools in which they originated. The philosophers did not view themfelves as the instructors of mankind at large, and the greatmass of society was considered by them, and considered themselves as having little interest in, or concern with their fpeculations ; and, in general, the mysteries of the pagan, worship were known only to the priests and the initiated. . But the gospel is addressed to man as such. It is one of the peculiar excellencies of christianity that it is an institution adapted to the great mass of mankind ; that it equally concerns all ranks and orders in society. Both the nature and evidences of the christian religion are equally the concern of every man. An attention to these evidences by all becomes more immediately necessary, as attacks upon religion, which were, half a century ago, principally adapted to the situation of the learned, have of late been conducted in a maener peculiarly calculated to corrupt the principles and deprave the morals of the great mass of fociety. Besides the conlideration that the pages of revélation alone bring life and immortality to light, and open a door of hope to the guilty, by pointing out a way in which a transgressor may be pardoned and restored to the favour and enjoyment of God, consistent with the glory of all the divine perfections, an attentite observation of what has passed in the world for the last twenty or thirty years, and an intercourse with mankind, are fufficient to impress the mind of every observer with clearer and clearer evidences of its importance to society. Should the enemies of chriftianity succeed in effecting its overthrow (an event of which, blessed be God, there is no ground for fear, bea cause Christ will always defend his church) it would not only do irreparable injury to the souls of men, by depriving the Chriftian of his best hope, and throwing an awful gloom over futurity, but would go far, very far, towards diffolying every tie which connects man to man in society,
The nature of the maxims of an infidel philosophy, as well as the views of the chanpions of irreligion, have become daily more and more manifest, and their tendency has been telted in other countries by their pernicious fruits, and the deleterious effects of these principles, or rather of this entire proftration of every principle of morality and religion, bave been both seen and felt ini our land. The subje&t of which an illustration is attempted in the following discourses has been fo often discussed, and is so far exhaufted, that they who are acquainted with the learned works al. ready extant, will probably be disappointed if they expect to find much originality in the following fheets. Indeed it is hardly to be expected that, at this day, much that is new or original can be either said or written on the subject. But as the attacks made of late
upon christianity are not by urging any new arguments against it, but by the repetition and new modelling of old objections, which although often answered, are daily by an unufual share of effrontery, palmed upon the world for new arguments, it becomes necessary to combat these objections anew, although it should be with old weapons. There is this advantage, also, attending new publications, i. e. fentiments and arguments which would lie neglected in an o!d book, written a century, or half a century ago, will oftentimes be attended to in a new publication merely because it is new. It is also an objection which many confider as of some weight against many excellent works written in defence of christianity, that, from their size or other confiderations, they firid their way only into the libraries of the learned, and are Tacher calculated for their use than for general circulation. Other small works are, perhaps justly, deemed too fuperficial to entitle them to the character of any thing like a general defence. Whether the following discourses will do any thing towards remedying this defect, or give something like a competent view of the evidences of christianity a more general circulation among those not favoured with the higher advantages of education, by putting them into an additional number of hands, must rest with the candor of the public. As it is not pretended that there is any great thare of originality in these discourses, so not only sentiments but sometimes entire paragraphs have been fee lected from authors, to some of whom it is now out of my power to make particular acknowledgments, as extracts were made many years ago, and the books from which they bave been made, are not now within my reach. I have therefore troubled the reader but little with refer. ences and quotations. It is neceffary however to observe in general, that for several remarks, particularly in the 2d, 3d, 4th, and 7th discourses, I feel indebted to Dr. Leland's excellent work entitled a view of Deittical writers, a book which, as I have not been able to find it in any bookstore, I bave fuppofed to be out of print, at least in this country. From this I made several extra&ts many years ago, which I have freely used in this work, some paragraphs perhaps nearly verbatim and others abridged. Some thoughts in the fourth discourse are also borrowed from Welt on the Resurrection; and the sixth is, in part, abridge ed from. Dr. Newton's dissertation on the Prophecies, and fome things. lefs material are borrowed from other authors. It was not contemplated in these discourfes to enter into any particular historical detail, by collecting tcftimony ia favour of christianity from the writings of either Jews or heathens. However important this fpecies of evidence may be in itself, it was not conceived to be of that kird which is, from the nature of it, placed within the reach of the great
mass of readers. Nor is it conceived to be that kind of proof which is calculated to bring home the most forcible conviction, either to the understandings or hearts of the majority of those who are interested in forming a correc decifion. It will be easy with persons who have a predisposition to harbour doubts of the evidences of chriftianity, to call in question either the faithfulness or the validity of such testimony. Besides, Paley's excellent treatise on the evidences of christianity, a work which is in many hands, is so full on that part of the subject that nothing needs to be added. The object which I had most immediately in view, in the following discourses, was to place the evidences of christianity and of the inspiration of the scriptures in such a point of light, as to bring them within the comprehension, and render them obvious to the view of common readers, so as to enable thera to judge of their force, without any laborious perusal of authors, or any recurrence to testimony either Jewish or heathen. To this end it has been my study to draw the evidence of the divine authority and inspiration of the scriptures principally from the scriptures themselves. After all that can be said, and all the Jewish or heathen testimonies which either have bees or can be collected, if sufficient evidence of the divine original of christianity, and of the inspiration of the books of Moses and the Prophets as well as of Christ and his Apostles, is not to be found in the scriptures them. felves, all proofs from testimony will be inconclusive. But when the scriptures themfelves are examined and shown to. contain such internal marks of a divine original as are fufficient plainly to distinguish them from all human writings; and to make it apparent, not barely that they are no human invention artificially contrived, but that it is impollie ble in the nature of things that such a book should exilt, on any other principle than by admitting iis divine. origin, this brings the evidence home both to the common sense and the hearts of mankind. Happily the scriptures carry their own evidences within themselves. As the sun is seen by his own light, so no other light is nec.effary to discover the divine original of the scriptures than that which is furnished by the scriptures themselves. How: far I have succeeded in placing these evidences in a convincing point of view, must now be submitted to the public to decide. The design I am perfuaded is a good one, and not upseasonable at this time. All I can say with, respect to the execution is that if I had poffefsed more talents, and had had more leisure, it would have been more worthy of the subject. The length of the following discourses, lo disproportionate to what is usual in modern printed sermons, may perhaps be considered as requiring an apology. I have no other to offer, only that I conceived it expedient to finish what I had to say on a particular branch of the subject in a single discourse, which occasione ed them to be protracted to a more than usual length. Some of the more critical readers may perhaps take exceptions that the same sentiment is sometimes repeated in difa
ferent discourses. This may be in some measure owing to their being written piecemeal, or not only at different times, but after long intervals. Some of what might be called repetitions have been expunged in the present copy, and if any should Nill remain, as they occur when taking. different views of the subject, I hope they will not be found either altogether useless or impertinent. As it res. pects the style of the work, the thing principally aimed at has been perfpicuity, and not to please the fastidiousnefs of criticism. Such as it is, it is recommended to the blessing of heaven and the candor of the public, by
Colraio, September 30, 1810.