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23 JUNH8 Lour STANA State lilib Exch
The following Treatise was drawn up at the request of the London Missionary Society. That zealous and active body resolved to print a very large edition of the New Testament for the use of the people of France. On considering the wide spread of infidelity in that country, it was thought it would be for their edification, to accompany it with an Essay on the Divine Authority of the Writings of the Evangelists and Apostles. The office was assigned to.me, and it was accepted by me. The difficulty of it was felt, when it was too late to retract : and I blushed to think, that I should have dared to take up the pen on a theme, to which many of the first men in the republic of letters for talents, learning, and goodness, had bent the whole strength of their mind. However I had undertaken the task, and it was necessary to proceed. One thing gave-me encouragement, as it pointed out the necessity of the work, namely, that though there were many books of the highest excellence on the evidences of the christian religion, not one was suited to our views : and a treatise more appropriate to the particular object was needed to answer the present purpose. Such a treatise it has been my endeavor to furnish.
But that the reader may judge of the Essay according to the writer's design, I beg leave to lay before him the plan I pursued, as best adapted to attain the proposed object.
I have endeavored to keep always in view the persons for whose benefit it was intended. Deists are the men addressed. Atheists I leave entirely out of the question. To propose the evidences of christianity to men who cannot read the existence of God in the works of creatiol), is perdere et oleum et operam. The deists are supposed to hold what we call the principles of natural religion : and if in addition to this, they be considered as in a great measure ignorant of the real doctrines of the gospel, and prejudiced against it as containing all tbe superstition of the church of Rome, it will finish the outlines of their character. For such I write : and it will be proper for the English reader to keep this in view.
It has been my study to select those arguments of which a person may see the force by reading the New Testament: and to it has been my constant appeal. Such proofs as required a critical skill in languages or history, did not appear suited to the occasion. As the Essay should suit the mass, as well as men of science, what may be called common sense arguments, addressed to the understand. ing and conscience of men who had the New Testament in their hands, have been chiefly employed, as best adapted to general conviction.
Those who are intimately acquainted with the deistical controversy, and who need but à hint in order to recal a whole chain of reasoning to the mind, may complain that I have dwelt too long on each particular. Others who love too see a subject accurately treated, and arguments fully exposed to view, will find fault, because the particulars are not sufficiently illustrated. My course lay between these two. The former was altogether improper, because the persons I address are supposed to be in a great measure unacquainted with the subject. The latter would have been tedious to those for whom it is designed, and besides would have swelled the Essay into several volumes. It has been my aim to bring forward the substance of the evidence, and to illustrate each particular so far, that a person who previously nad little knowledge of the subject might see and feel the force of the argument. Whether
nave succeeded, it is the province of the reader to judge. If I could have spared more
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room, I should have enlarged (what some may think least to the purpose) the first chapter of the Essay: because I believe that one grand reason why many reject the New Testament, is because they are ignorant of its principles, and have taken up false ideas of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If the arrangement be perspicuous and easily remembered, it will answer the author's wish. The divisions may appear formal ; but he thought they would render an Essay of this kind more distinct; and likewise that a person who would not venture on an undivided book, might be induced to read a short section, and from one be led on to another. As to language, his endeavor has been to render the ideas as plain and as obvious as he could, to minds unaccustomed to religious enquiries ; and to-comprise as much useful matter in as few words, as could be done withcut obscurity. Whether he has been able to render it interesting must be left to the judgment of others.
A more adorned style might have been agreeable to many ; but one man has his gift and taste in one way, and another in another.
Readers need to be reminded of this diversity of taste in composition ; and that on account of it, all cannot possibly have their own gratified in any one performance. How differently do