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To the Sacred Scriptures, and the many valu. able chriftian books of all descriptions, to be found in every Library, it is sped, this Essay may práve an ace dtable addition; and a uierúi'ccampanion to those readersfthe New Testament especially, whole situation affords but few opporiuiries for attending on Divine Worship and public Instruction.
The price of this Edition, from various causes, es, pecially from the small number of copies that could be disposed of in a country where Europeans are comparatively few, is necessarily higher than could have been wished. That however, to those for whom it is chiefly intended, will be no great obą ject.
It only remains for the Editor to observe, that the present is a faithful Transcript of the Third Edition, printed in 1813, under the Author's own eye.
MALACCA, March 4, 1817
The following Treatise was drawn up at the request of the London Missionary Society. That zean lous and active body resolved at their annual meeting in May 1800, to print a very large edition of the New Testament for the use of the people oi 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 s ui bority of ine IV rings of the Evangelifs and Atollis. 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 thould 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 evidence of the christian religion, not one was suited to our views: and a treatise more appropriate to the particular object was needed to anfwer the present purpose. Such a treatise it has been my endeavour to furnish.
But that the reader may judge of the Effay according to the writer's design, I beg leave to lay before him the plan I persued, as best adapted to attain the proposed object.
I have endeavoured to keep always in view the persons for whose benefit it was intended. Deifts 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 creation, is perdere et oleum ei operam. The Deists are supposed to hold whất we call ike 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 the 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 Englislı reader to keep this in view.
It has been my ftudy 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 fuited to the occasion. As the Essay should suit the mars, as well as men of science, what may be called common jenfe arguments, addressed to the understanding 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 deiftical controversy, and who need but a bint 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 to see a subject accurately treated, and arguments fully exposed to view, will find fault, because the particulars are not sufficiently illustrated. My course lay be. tween these two. The former was altogether im
propet, because the persons I address are supposed to be in a great meafure unacquainted with the subject. The latter. would have been tedious to those for whom it is designed, and besides would have fwelled the Eflay into several volumes. Ic has been my a'im to bring forward the substance of the evidence, and to illustrate each particular so far, that a person who previously had little knowledge of the fubject might see and feel the force of the argument. Whether I have succeeded, it is the province of the reader to judge. If I could have spared more room, I should have enlarged (what some may think least to the purpose) the first chapter of the Eflay: because I believe that one grand reafon why many reject the New Testament, is becaufe they are ignorant of its principles, and have taken
false ideas of the gospel of Jesus Chrift.
If the arrangement be perfpicuous and easily rea membered, it will answer the author's wish.
The divisions may appear formal; but he thought they would render an Effay of this kind more ciftinct; and likewise that a person who would not venture on an undivided book, might be induced to read a fhort section, and from one be led on to another. As 'to language, his endeavour has been to render the ideas as plain andas obvious as he could, to minds unaccustomed to religious inquiries; and to comprise as much ufefựl matier' in as few words, as could be done without 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 compofition; and that on this account all cannot possibly have their own gratified in any one performance. How differently do men convey their ideas! We perceive a difference as to the matter, the form, the arrangement, the length and manner of illuftration, the style and degree of decoration. Very many persons who read, but never wrote books, are not sufficiently considerate as to this point. They expect a greater conformity to their taste, than it is in the power, were it the in, clination, of a writer to comply with; and if they do not find their own favourite mode of compofition, they condemn the work. But a man might as well infift, that others should have the same con. tour of face, and eyes and hair of the same colour with his own. It should be remembered, that every man has his manner; and if a person write a book, provided it be composed so as to answer the purpose in a suitable degree, impartial and candid readers should allow him to do it, and indeed Nhould expect him to do it in his own manner i
and they have no just reason to complain on this aça count.
It has been, as you will observe, my study to address Deifts, without bitterness and without contempt. I have made use of no harfl terms nor fu. rious invectives, being convinced that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God:” but I have treated them fairly, as I wish them to treat the gospel and its advocates. A person who is conscious of truth on his fide, is under no ne. cesfity of having recourse to scurrility and abuse. Some writers on the subject have taken very high ground, and always speak of Deists with sovereign contempt, and the most pointed virulence, as men déftitute of the shadow of a pretence for their in.