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in the writings of either, contrary to, or beyond, the writer's own knowledge and persuasion :-that objections and difficulties be proposed, from no other motive than an honest and serious desire to obtain satisfaction, or to communicate information which may promote the discovery and progress of truth-that in conformity with this design, every thing be stated with integrity, with method, precision, and simplicity; and above all, that whatever is published in opposition to received and confessedly beneficial persuasions, be set forth under a form which is likely to invite inquiry and to meet examination. If with these moderate and equitable conditions be compared the manner in which hostilities have been waged against the Christian religion, not only the votaries of the prevailing faith, but every man who looks forward with anxiety to the destination of his being, will see much to blame and to complain of. By one unbeliever, all the follies which have adhered, in a long course of dark and superstitious ages, to the popular creed, are assumed as so many doctrines of Christ and his apostles, for the purpose of subverting the whole system by the absurdities which it is thus represented to contain. By another, the ignorance and vices of the sacerdotal order, their mutual dissensions and persecutions, their usurpations and encroachments upon the intellectual liberty and civil rights of mankind, have been displayed with no small triumph and invective; not so much to guard the Christian laity against a repetition of the same injuries (which is the only proper use to be made of the most flagrant examples of the past,) as to prepare the way for an insinuation, that the religion itself is nothing but a profitable fable, imposed upon the fears and credulity of the multitude, and upheld by the frauds and influence of an interested and crafty priesthood. And yet, how remotely is the character of the clergy connected with the truth of Christianity! What, after all, do the most disgraceful pages of ecclesiastical history prove, but that the passions of our common nature are not altered or excluded by dis. tinctions of name, and that the characters of men are formed much more by the temptations than the

recollects but with seriousness and anxiety. Nothing but stupidity, or the most frivolous dissipation of thought, can make even the inconsiderate forget the supreme importance of every thing which relates to the expectation of a future existence. Whilst the infidel mocks at the superstitions of the vulgar, insults over their credulous fears, their childish errors, or fantastic rites, it does not occur to him to observe, that the most preposterous device by which the weakest devotee ever believed he was securing the happiness of a future life, is more rational than unconcern about it. Upon this subject, nothing is so absurd as indifference;-no folly so contemptible, as thoughtlessness and levity.

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Finally; The knowledge of what is due to the solemnity of those interests, concerning which revelation professes to inform and direct us, may teach even those who are least inclined to respect the prejudices of mankind, to observe a decorum in the style and conduct of religious disquisitions, with the neglect of which many adversaries of Christianity are justly chargeable. Serious argu ments are fair on all sides. Christianity is but ill defended by refusing audience or toleration to the objections of unbelievers. But whilst we would have freedom of inquiry restrained by no laws but those of decency, we are entitled to demand, on behalf of a religion which holds forth to mankind assurances of immortality, that its credit be assailed by no other weapons than those of sober discussion and legitimate reasoning:-that the truth or falsehood of Christianity be never made a topic of raillery, a theme for the exercise of wit or eloquence, or a subject of contention for literary fame and victory that the cause be tried upon its merits-that all applications to the fancy, passions, or prejudices, of the reader; all attempts to preoccupy, insnare, or perplex, his judgment, by any art, influence, or impression whatsoever, extrinsic to the proper grounds and evidence upon which his assent ought to proceed, be rejected from a question which involves in its determination the hopes, the virtue, and the repose, of millions:

that the controversy be managed on both sides with sincerity; that is, that nothing be produced,

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in the writings of either, contrary to, or beyond, the writer's own knowledge and persuasion :-that objections and difficulties be proposed, from no other motive than an honest and serious desire to obtain satisfaction, or to communicate information which may promote the discovery and progress of truth-that in conformity with this design, every thing be stated with integrity, with method, precision, and simplicity; and above all, that whatever is published in opposition to received and confessedly beneficial persuasions, be set forth under a form which is likely to invite inquiry and to meet examination. If with these moderate and equitable conditions be compared the manner in which hostilities have been waged against the Christian religion, not only the votaries of the prevailing faith, but every man who looks forward with anxiety to the destination of his being, will see much to blame and to complain of. By one unbeliever, all the follies which have adhered, in a long course of dark and superstitious ages, to the popular creed, are assumed as so many doctrines of Christ and his apostles, for the purpose of subverting the whole system by the absurdities which it is thus represented to contain. By another, the ignorance and vices of the sacerdotal order, their mutual dissensions and persecutions, their usurpations and encroachments upon the intellectual liberty and civil rights of mankind, have been displayed with no small triumph and invective; not so much to guard the Christian laity against a repetition of the same injuries (which is the only proper use to be made of the most flagrant examples of the past,) as to prepare the way for an insinuation, that the religion itself is nothing but a profitable fable, imposed upon the fears and credulity of the multitude, and upheld by the frauds and influence of an interested and crafty priesthood. And yet, how remotely is the character of the clergy connected with the truth of Christianity! What, after all, do the most disgraceful pages of ecclesiastical history prove, but that the passions of our common nature are not altered or excluded by dis. tinctions of name, and that the characters of men are formed much more by the temptations than the

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THE DENTY

20

VERENCI

E

The Jews probali pred dry to, or beyond,
ys both in as restrained to the
mark, the which the Dairylant
the same ated to himself; The
apology fist extend the pre
ctice which, to every thing
eceives the wear not, neither by

ee,ne; nor by the freed
ther by Jerusalem, fri
ag."
"Matt. 1.35

The offence of prime ming
the consideration, the in
e sacrificed to the
uppose the habit, eher from em
Degligence and inadvertency

persuasion:-that
roposed, from no
serious desire to
icate information
and progress of
his design, every
ith method, pre-
e all, that what-
received and con-
e set forth under
quiry and to meet
lerate and equita-
manner in which
inst the Christian
of the prevailing
rward with anxi-
, will see much
one unbeliever, all
a long course of
e popular creed,
es of Christ and

s

must always ren with t ost ordinary resolutie ot, one would think, contag fe pleasure and hour whi cern for duty is in het eers rtion requisite to a

presentecedent propensity at 1

serve inainful.

A contempt of positive ess
uties for which the i
ay command, indicates a deption t
authority of revelation has d

This remark i pete de p
ford fane swearing, and describes, pege
salt actly, the general character of t
Nort addicted to it.

subverting the which it is thus other, the ignotal order, their tions, their usurn the intellectual kind, have been mph and invec

and

Mockery and ridicule, whe nded to Scriptures, or even upon the p from the forms, set apart for the t fall within the meine

OCCAS religion

th

Christian laity njuries (which is of the most flaprepare the way n itself is nothing on the fears and held by the frauds rafty priesthood, acter of the cleristianity! What, ages of ecclesi assions of our

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luded by dissus ar ers of abusit ns food, boods

e cler--19 916

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