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TO A FRIEND,
EVIDENCES, DOCTRINES, AND DUTIES,
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION:
OLINTHUS groom. LL. D.
ASSoc. AcAD. Dijon, HonorArty MEMBER or THE LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” -
“Be ready always to ". an answer to every man that asketh
WIT h MANY ADDITIONS And CORRECTIONS.
THE history of the work now presented to the public may be given in very few words. It originated in a series of conversations which I had about five years ago with a friend much younger than myself, who had a considerable acquaintance with almost all except religious subjects. He expressed much surprise that a person of my habits and pursuits in other respects should adopt the religious notions I had long entertained, or indeed be solicitous about any religious opinions whatever; and I endeavoured to assign the reasons which led me to embrace them, and to consider such topics as of the first importance. After a short time we were so far separated as to have much fewer opportunities of personal intercourse: and I in consequence became induced to carry on the momentous inquiry we had previously commenced, by letter. Pursuant to this intention, all the letters in the first volume were actually written: they were read in manuscript by my friend; and, as I have reason to believe, were not unproductive of benefit. Having proceeded thus far, a growing particularity of inquiry was produced on the one side, and a gradual extension of plan on the other: and thus, after many interruptions, and in the midst of numerous avocations of a very different kind, the work has become what it now is.
I had not however proceeded half way in the execution of my plan before it occurred to me, that what I first intended for private use might be beneficial to others in circumstances analogous to those of my friend; and I recollected that whatever I might publish on the subject of religion would at least have the advantage of appearing disinterested, as it proceeded from the pen of a layman. It is, I am aware, extremely ridiculous for those who adopt the prescriptions of their physicians, and act upon the advice of their lawyers, although they are professional, to object to defences of Christianity from the pens of Clergymen because they are professional; yet, absurd and uncandid as the objection is, it is often advanced: it is therefore proper to meet it; and at times to show that there are those who cannot on such occasions be actuated by any love of worldly applause, or any thirst after emolument, but who feel sufficiently interested about Religion, and are sufficiently convinced of its powerful tendency to improve the conduct of individuals and to augment the general stock of happiness, to step for a little while out of their more appropriate province, to plead its cause. Such defenders of revealed religion there have been in all ages; yet they have not been so numerous as to render it improper or indecorous to increase their number: especially as the old prejudice still continues to operate with unabated energy; and there are many persons from whom the claims of Christianity receive a more respectful attention, when they are urged by one who is neither “ a clergyman” nor “a methodist.” There have long existed several valuable essays on the Evidences of Christianity; and we now possess in the English language especially, the treatise of Dr. Paley, which all Christians consider as an honour to our age and nation. Had a luminous statement of the Historical Evidences been all that was aimed at or required, I should at once have referred my friend to Dr. Paley's as a standard, and, I believe, unanswerable, work; and never have troubled either him or the public with any remarks of mine on the subject of religion. But it is very possible, and indeed very common, for men to be Christians in name and theory, and infidels in practice; to profess a belief in Christ, and in heart to deny him; to acknowledge him as
Messiah, and to refuse to obey him as king; to avow the
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