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P R E F A C E.
The manuscript of which the contents of the following work is a very faithful copy, has lain for a long series of years concealed from public view. It was written by a person, who at an early age was instructed to keep the mind in an unprejudiced state; and carefully to avoid the imbibing the belief of any religious doctrines to which the reason could not fully assent; to diligently search the Scriptures, and where the assertions therein contained appeared to the investigator rational, to receive them—where they did not appear so, reject them; a research which occupied the unceasing attention of the Author for the long space of fifty years. The result of this inquiry was generally committed to writing in a desultory manner, but without any intention whatever of submitting the inferences and conclusions thereby produced to the inspection of the world. A mass of other matter was also committed in like manner by the writer to paper, merely for the purpose of private satisfaction. The contents of these papers were for the most part suggested by the conversation and arguments employed by sceptical persons, which the writer frequently happened to hear; and at a more advanced period, by being much in the society of those who had formed their opinions on important subjects while resident on the continent, and whose freedom of sentiments went much greater lengths than that of those who had adopted them at home; and a very large portion of the manuscripts in question were written during the era which was styled the age of reason.
About this time, the writer having found the arguments and conclusions resulting from the inquiry which had so long engaged an anxious consideration, very efficacious in removing the objections broached by some very confirmed sceptics against revealed religion, felt somewhat inclined to offer them to the public; and with a reference to this purpose made additions to the original manuscript, to fit it for the same. In the perusal of it, it should be kept in mind that the Author had at an early age been taught to consider inquiry and research the indispensable duty of every intelligent creature; that it was in pursuance of these injunctions that the materials of which this work is composed were first committed to paper; that by following them the writer's mind was left wholly unfettered from the restraints that are perhaps very wisely laid upon adventurous research by the orthodox and pious Christian ; and that a mind naturally contemplative, under the influence of the above-stated considerations, was almost certain to be led into inquiries that would, by those who consider it their duty to submit their reason to the obedience of faith, be deemed (to name the mildest epithet that would probably be used by such persons) very presumptuous inquiries. The anticipation of exciting such censure has occasioned much demur as to the expediency of publishing the manuscript. But advancing years, together with the persuasion, that if this was not now very speedily effected, the whole would be consigned to oblivion, imposes the necessity of prompt determination-a determination which has been powerfully strengthened by a full conviction that sceptics never will become believers in revealed religion, without the tender of a far more extensive explanation of the wonders it unfolds--without soaring much higher, and diving much deeper, when endeavouring to attain a right understanding of its sacred communications, than has probably been as yet ever offered to the world. When unbelievers in the assertions contained in the gospel are anxious to gain proselytes to the opinions they have formed, and for the accomplishing of this purpose, tender books containing arguments for effecting the same to the orthodox and pious, the perusal is generally declined by them. To such refusal the reply is uniform and laconic, You are afraid of conviction. Should the orthodox and pious endeavour to convince the sceptic of the truths which they reject, the argument they employ is almost invariably the following:--- If we on rational grounds have sufficient evidence to assure us that the Scriptures are imparted by inspiration of God, we are bound to believe all the doctrines they contain, though we cannot understand them.
Now, this is the very point round which infidelity rallies. The Deist blesses God for entertaining far different ideas of his goodness and his mercy, than to believe that He requires any rational creature to believe what they cannot understand ; and much less, to have ordained their salvation to depend upon any such a test. This description of persons are generally most amiable