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quotations from Scripture, especially in the second volume. Let it be recollected that the main object of that volume is to teach the doctrines of Scripture; that is, to show what they are, to exhibit them faithfully: and to effect this without being allowed to cite the language of Scripture, would be, as Mr. Boyle long ago remarked, “tò challenge a man to a duel, and oblige him not to make use of his best weapons; or to compel him to prove the torrid zone habitable, and not make use of the testimony of navigators.” Besides, the maxim of Chillingworth, though old, has not yet been proved absurd; namely, “that we cannot speak of the things of God better than in the words of God.”
I would fain hope that my numerous references to other authors, or quotations from them, will not be ascribed to a desire to make a parade of extensive reading. My acquaintance with the works of other writers, and especially on the subject of religion, is, in truth, far less than it ought to be; and my object in such frequent references and extracts has been either to direct the attention of young men of reading to standard works on topics which my plan would not allow me to treat so fully as I wished, or to confirm and fortify my own sentiments by the authority of many whom the world in general consider as learned, wise, and, therefore, highly worthy of regard.
Lastly, I beg to remark, that I hope and trust
the freedom of my occasional animadversions upon theologians from whom I differ on several topics discussed in these letters, has in no instance arisen from contempt of them, or their opinions, from uncandid interpretations of their language, or from unworthy personal feeling. My business has been to attempt to refute sentiments which I deem erroneous and dangerous, as well as to establish those which appear to me true and beneficial. It is
possible, I am persuaded, to feel the strongest conviction of the errors certain men may hold, without cherishing a particle of ill will against those who hold them. And surely it is perfectly fair and perfectly candid, when theologians of a certain class endeavour to divest Christianity of almost every thing which (as I conceive) is peculiar to it, pride themselves upon the skill and dexterity with which they effect this, and triumph over what they denominate the irrational and contracted tenets of others; to turn the tables upon them, and to show that their system is clogged with its full load of absurdities and contradictions; that their mode of translation, if adopted universally, would rob the New Testament of its whole spirit, energy, and perspicuity; and that by stripping the Christian system of its peculiarities, they deprive it nearly of all which renders it of consequence whether a man be a believer or an unbeliever. Under the influence of these sentiments, I shall conclude by adopting the language of Dr. Jortin on another occasion:
the following disquisitions “are designed, slight and imperfect as they are, for the service of Truth, by one who would be glad to attend, and grace her triumphs: as her soldier, if he has had the honour to serve successfully under her banner: or as her captive, tied to her chariot wheels, if he has though undesignedly, committed any offence against her.”
Oct. 11, 1811.
P. S. That successive editions of this Work should be required is a circumstance which calls for my most grateful acknowledgements, at the same time that it has stimulated me to give the whole a very careful revisal, that it may be rendered more worthy public favour. I cannot but be highly gratified that my labours on the most interesting of all subjects should continue to be so favourably received: and still more to learn, that in various instances they have been the means of convincing persons, especially young men devoted to two of the learned professions (medicine and law), that “ with the talent of an angel a man may be a fool,” in the worst sense of the word, unless he be “ wise unto salvation.” Several have been reclaimed from the regions of Infidelity, and still more from Socinianism, not merely in England, but on the continent of Europe, in India, and America, by the blessing of God upon an attentive perusal of these “ Letters.” I had no other object in their publication; and can most sincerely declare that I wish them no longer to meet with encouragement than while they shall be useful in instilling into the minds and hearts of others, the essential, immutable principles which have always been found to work most efficaciously towards the renovation and salvation of mankind.