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PREFACE.

It was after some hesitation, that we resolved to place our argument with Hume at the outset of the following work, rather than at the end of it. Men can both understand and be rightly impressed by the objects of belief, long before the metaphysics of belief are either understood or attended to; and it might therefore have seemed better to enter immediately on the evidence from human testimony for the miracles of the Gospel, previous to our entertainment of the question whether it was competent for such testimony to establish the truth of a miracle.

But we decided for the arrangement as it now stands, on the consideration, that this alleged insusceptibility of a proof is every where, throughout the celebrated essay of Mr. Hume, regarded and reasoned upon as if it were a bar in the way of all further or detailed examination of it—just as the preliminary objection to a witness upon a trial, if not previously judged of and pronounced upon, is held fatal to the reception of his evidence. We have therefore introduced our discussion of this controversy into the first Book--though in violation of what in some respects we deem to be the natural order; and subjecting our readers to the disadvantage of a more obscure and difficult passage at the commencement, than they will meet with

any where else along the course of the two following volumes.

We hope that the reader will, even in this preliminary argument, find the observation to be verified which is so often realized in other departments of the evidence of Christianity. It has frequently happened in the course of the deistical controversy, that the enemies of the Gospel have in the first instance, by the peculiar character of their objections, challenged its friends to a walk of investigation which had not been previously entered on—in the prosecution of which walk they achieved a great deal more than simply neutralize the objection which first provoked them to the conflict; but, as if by its overthrow they had opened a new mine of evidence, have raised a positive and additional proof for the truth of Christianity. This we expect to show, particularly in our third book on the internal evidences of Christianity. The alleged inconsistencies of the New Testament with itself have not only been cleared up by the lucubrations of critics and defenders; but a constantly increasing number of recondite harmonies bas been discovered which, in the masterly handa of Dr. Paley, has been converted into an irresistihle argument on the side of the faith. The same has been the result of the contradictions that were affirmed by our adversaries, to obtain between the informations of the New Testament and of profane or Jewish authors—the objection, not only put to flight, but transmuted into a strong affirmative argument; and now left in full possession of the field through the labours of Lardner and Blunt and others, who have pointed out a number of minute and marvellous coincidences between the narratives of our sacred writers and those of contemporary authors. The same is the result we are persuaded of the objection made by adversaries, on the ground of the discrepancies that are said to obtain between the Gospel and human naturewhereas, in the felt adaptations of the one to the other, there is a vast amount, as we shall endeavour to make manifest in the next volume, of most effective evidence in favour of the christian religion.

We are not without hope that the intelligent reader will be able to reap the same fruit from the sceptical reasonings of Mr. Hume. If the argumentation which we have employed against him be at all valid, the just conclusion is not merely that there is an evidence on the side of Christianity, as much superior to the greater improbability of its extraordinary facts, as the best evidence which has descended to us from ancient times is superior to the small improbability of the facts in ordinary history—but that, in truth, after full deduction has been made for the incredibility of miracles, there remains an overpassing superiority of evidence in their favour above all that can possibly be claimed for the best attested histories which have been transmitted to the present day, in any other records of past ages. Christianity on this ground too, as on many others, has we think not only won for herself the safety of a defence; but has been enriched by the spoils of a victory.

If in the first Book of this work, we have chiefly to do with the miraculous argument in the abstract; we pass in the second to that argument in the concrete, or consider the actual evidence for the miracles of the gospel. Even in this department it will be found to be more a work of principles than of details; and there are few of its lessons which we should, in opposition to a prevalent bias, so like adequately to impress on the understanding of the reader—as the inherently greater strength of evidence given by the scriptural than by the exscriptural, or by the original than the subsequent witnesses for the truth of the evangelical history; and also the far superior value of the christian to the heathen testimonies.

Although we have assigned to the third Book, which commences the second volume of this work,

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