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Whoever thou art, that looketh into the following pages, containing my first faint effort to banish ignorance, and to extirpate those prejudices, from the minds of men, which they, from their infancy, have so ardently cherished, and blindly followed, without ever disputing their utility, or examining the motives for such attachment, be not rash to condemn unheard ; nor pass the sentence of ignorance against that truth, which fears not thy most scrutinizing inspection, but rather courts and earnestly calls for it. Do not expect to find that perfection in INFIDELS, who have only reason and common sense for their guide, which you cannot find in BELIEVERS, though assisted with their Holy Ghost. Receive us as we are ; men, like yourselves, with human failings; men, who make no pretensions to rule and govern your opinions, but only request of you to exercise those intellectual faculties with which you are endowed, and judge for yourselves; which you must acknowledge to be your reasonable service ; and no longer subject your reason, to the wild, extravagant, and fantastical suggestions of those, who, as Paul says, while desiring to be TEACHERS of the law, understand neither what they say, whereof they affirm ;1 'whose interest alone depends upon your credulity ; and whose gain is your godliness! Subuit your opinion to the education and decision of your own reason, which, of itself, is as capable to determine matters of Religion, as well as of your ordinary affairs: for he that taketh a Religion upon trust, evinces that he has none of his own. Is not this the case with the Mahometans, Hindoos, &c. ? So he that believeth in Christ, by education only, would, had he been educated an Ido. lator, have believed in Idols.
The Scriptures invite us to come and reason together ;2 and to try every spirit whether it be of God 3
Let us, then, cheerfully accept the invitation, and obey the command. And the God the answers by fire; by the fiery trial of examination ; by the light of penetrating and discriminating reason; by clear and comun from the let him be God. Let that be TRUTH. Iat
regions of ignorance and imposition, in when den ion, reason is conderaned; knaves only reign, and only his care where all is discord, perplexity, and mystery.
The man bempte many di
nose a popular errus, kas. Ir
many obstacles is
The fat bulls of Basham compass him about; his friends stand aloof; yea, even his own kinsmen stand afar off. But although he is troubled on every side, he is not distressed; he may be perplexed, but does not despair; persecuted, yet not forsaken; imprisoned, but not destroyed. For who shall separate him from the love of TRUTH ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword ? Nay, in all these things, he is more than conqueror. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor knaves, nor fools, nor tyrants, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate him from the love of that TRUTH, which is laid in NATURE. Because these light afflictions, which last but for a time, worketh for him, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of CREDIT.
Should you, courteous reader, be one of those who have been accustomed, through habit, to walk always in the same road of thinking, in which your fathers trod, without ever attempting to deviate to the right or left, in order to ascertain whether there might not be much shorter, and less difficult path, leading to happiness, let me intreat you to bear in mind, that many opinions, which have been esteemed sacred by our credulous forefathers, are now derided: and many systems, that were universally received amidst the gloom of past ages, are now utterly exploded. If, then, we find them erring in those matters, through their ignorance and credulity, which, with our information, might have been so easily demonstrated, erroneous, why should 'we think it impossible for them to have been deceived and duped, in those matters, which were more abstruse, and, as Peter said, so hard to be understood ?4
Let us, then, step awhile out of this high road of ignorance, and enter the court of inquiry ; for we are told, that be that seeketh shall find; and where there is no search made, no examination, there can be no proof of truth ; whatever may be found, is only by accident. Trust no longer to blind chance. Precious jewels lay not exposed to every eye. Error is oft-times blended with truth, like tares among the wheat, and left to grow together until the time of harvest. Be it our business, now, in this harvest of knowledge, to gather the wheat of truth into the garners of our understanding, and to cast out the tares of error into outer darkness, there to be remembered no more.
From you who have too much good sense to follow blindly the footsteps of your ancestors, and too much honesty to sanction the perpetuity of established error, I crave indulgence. Consider the circumstances in which I am placed; and my deficiency of ways and means to obtain necessary information; likewise, the humble sphere of life, in which my educution has been cultivated : and your liberality must excuse the phraseology and grammatical errors, in the following pages. But they are not written for you : før they that be whole, need not a physician. It is to the broken and faint-hearted penitent, that is wandering in the darkness of ror, on the brink of despair; and to the entangled eaptive of
rstition, that is groaning beneath the weight of his a soul
eating shackles," that I write. Let not then my good, be evil spoken of.5 Should I succeed, in drawing one from the error of his ways, to the light of reason; or release him, from his galling chains, to the glorious liberty of free inquiry, I shall consider my
rewarded : there being more joy in heaven, it is said, over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons. If I fail, in this, my feeble effort, I shall, at least, enjoy, that consoling reflection, which naturally proceeds from a good intention, that will, no doubt, yield me a conscious pleasure, at the expiration of my labours, that I have not been all the day idle ; and so, probably, may escape the judgment of the barren figtree !6
To that acute reasoner, Peter ANNET ; likewise to Thomas WOOLSTON ; I am greatly indebted for the assistance which their writings have afforded me, in the following work; whose names will ever be remembered with veneration, by every man of sense and sound judgment; if he be a friend to free inquiry, and an enemy to persecution.
1. 1 Tim. i. 7. 2. Isaiah, i. 18.
3. 1 John, iv. 1.
A D A M C L A R K E,
F.A.s. and A.s.s.
FORASMUCH as many have taken in hand, to set forth in order, a declaration of those things, which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, who, from the beginning, were strangers, and ignorant of the word:
It seemeth good to me, also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first, to write unto thee, in order, most excellent ADAM CLARKE, that thou mightest know the uncertainty of those things, wherein thou has been instructed. (Luke i. 1. and 4.)
Being about to commence a Review of the Nativity, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, called the Christ, recorded in those books which are now attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I have selected you from the body of Theological Professors, as being most competent, by your superior and extensive knowledge, to appreciate my conclusions, and correct my errors : because, from your deep researches, and elaborate commentaries, on those books, you have attained to a degree of notoriety, far beyond that acquired by any of your brethren.
The Crisis has now arrived, in which it becomes an imperative duty for every man to come forward boldly and assist in extirpating that system of fraud and delusion, which, for ages past, has shackled and enslaved the minds of so many human beings.