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But it is not necessary that the Board of Education should have large permanent funds, and if our views be followed, this will never be the case. Such an arrangement may be made, that individuals and congregations and presbyteries will engage to contribute a certain sum annually, or found temporary scholarships, while the board will be a centre of union and action, and the agent in distributing these contributions to those places where they are needed.
Having already been more tedious than we anticipated, we omit noticing several subordinate parts of the Postscript, believing that the reader, if satisfied with our answer to the principal arguments, will find no difficulty with any thing that we have passed over.
In conclusion, we cannot refrain from expressing a hope that a large portion of our readers, whatever they may think of the force of our objection to the principles and organization of the American Education Society, will not condemn the course which we have taken in bringing this subject before the christian public. It is one of vast and lasting importance. It concerns the best interests of the present age and of posterity. If there be any reason to apprehend the dangers we have pointed out, the sooner measures are taken to avert them the better. The interests of the great society of which we have spoken may soon become so involved with the concerns of every branch of the church, that it may be impossible to separate the one from the other. If these dangers did not, in our opinion, threaten that part of the christian community with which we are connected, we should have been silent. But this being the fact, we felt ourselves called on to let our voice, however feeble, be heard. It was indeed with no feigned reluctance that we published a syllable on this subject. To differ from brethren whom we respect and love, whom we believe to be honest in their great exertions and labours to do good, brethren with whom we agree in all essential views of evangelical truth, and with whom we are happy to co-operate, and do co-operate, in other efforts to evangelize the world, is no light matter.
We commenced not without feeling the painfulness of the task, and the same conviction of duty which induced us to begin, has led us to reply to the strictures on our principles.
We consider ourselves as acting in self-defence, and not carrying the warfare into a foreign territory. The system we oppose was making rapid progress in various parts of the
Presbyterian church; and we considered it not only our right, but also our duty, to point out the dangers which appeared to our mind, so that if evils did follow, we might not hereafter accuse ourselves of a criminal silence.
The friends of the American Education Society cannot be more fully persuaded than we are of the importance and necessity of the general object. Yet we cannot reconcile it to our views of duty to use any means and all means to attain even the most desirable end. We should rather proceed by safer, though apparently slower steps.
Notices of New Publications.
The Evidences of Christianity, stated in a popular and
practical manner, in a Course of Lectures on the Authenticity, Credibility, Divine Authority and Inspiration of the New Testament. Delivered in the Parish Church of St Mary, Islington. By Daniel Wilson, A.M. Vicar. Published by Crocker & Brewster, 47 Washington Street, Boston. J. Leavitt, 182 Broadway, New York. 1829. Pp. 348, 8vo.
The author of these lectures is one of the most popular and evangelical preachers, belonging to the establishment, in the vicinity of London. Some years ago Mr Wilson's field of labour was in the central parts of the city of London; but he now has charge of one of the largest parishes in the suburbs : perhaps no other in the kingdom contains a greater number of souls. We are informed, in the author's preface, that at a late visitation of the bishop of London, above seven hundred young persons were presented in this parish for confirmation; and that these lectures were prepared for the instruction of those young persons, with relation to that transaction. We had heard much of the want of room for the worshippers in some of the populous parishes in and about London, and in other parts of the kingdom; but nothing that we have seen has given us so impressive a conviction of the real state of the case, as the simple fact, related by the author, that the church in which he ordinarily officiates is not sufficient to accommodate more than one twelfth part of the people in the parish; and that the whole number of souls within its limits is not less than thirty thousand. We are pleased to learn, however, that several new churches are now building for the accommodation of the people.
In these lectures, thirteen in number, the author does not profess to bring forward any new arguments in defence of divine revelation: this, indeed, would be next to impossible, after the subject has been discussed in almost every variety of form by men of the acutest intellect and most profound learning. It is natural to inquire, then, why multiply books on a subject which is already exhausted ? To which it may be replied, that, in many cases, the arguments of a man known and esteemed will be read in a particular district, when other writings would not be so likely to be perused, or if perused, would not have the same weight as those coming from the pen of one in whom the people have confidence. This is a sufficient reason why any judicious man, capable of preparing discourses fit for publication, should consent to write for the benefit of those over whose minds he has acquired an influence; and this consideration will have double weight, if, as in the present case, the discourses have been heard with approbation and profit by a large number of people. Besides, every man who is possessed of an inquisitive and independent mind has a method of treating subjects, however familiar they may be, peculiar to himself; and almost every able writer on the evidences of christianity exhibits some part of the argument in a stronger light than any one who preceded him: and as writers have their peculiar style of thinking and reasoning, so there are classes of readers which will be suited by each writer. It often happens that an argument handled in one method produces no conviction, while the same, exhibited in another form and dress, gives full satisfaction. But the impartial reader of the lectures now under consideration will need no apology for their publication. If we mistake not, the mere perusal will convince all unprejudiced men, that the excellent author has performed a service to the cause of religion by the publication of this volume, which demands the gratitude of all the lovers of genuine christianity. It is our deliberate opinion, that the historical evidence of the authenticity of the books of the New Testament is here presented in a manper better adapted to convey instruction, and produce conviction in the minds of young persons, and other sensible people not liberally educated, than any thing which we have ever read. The great excellence of the style of Mr Wilson is, that it is every where transparent; and the points of light
are kept so distinct, that they can be easily contemplated by any attentive mind without confusion.
The first lecture is merely introductory, in which the duty of being able to give a reason for the hope which is in us, with meekness and fear, is stated; the importance of the subject is insisted on; and the propriety of commencing the investigation of the subject with prayer, is shown to be reasonable and proper even in a deist.
In the second lecture, the temper of mind in which the subject should be studied is clearly exhibited. The necessity of a meek and docile disposition is urged; also, the importance of seriousness and prayer, accompanied with a disposition to obey the will of God. The entire want of such a temper in unbelievers of every class, the literary, scientific, uninformed; the negligent, the low and profane, is evinced equally by all. How vain it is to expect to persuade those of the truth whose understandings are under the governing influence of earthly passions, is strongly set forth. This lecture closes with an address to unbelievers, to the young, and to believers.
The third lecture shows the necessity of a divine revelation, from the state of man in all ages. There is nothing remarkable here but the luminous perspicuity for which this writer is so much distinguished.
The fourth lecture treats of the authenticity of the New Testament; or rather paves the way for the consideration of the subject, by stating facts and establishing principles respecting the authenticity of books in general; and shows that the burden of proof in such cases lies upon them who call in question the authenticity of a book. But in regard to the christian scriptures, every circumstance which could lead to the least suspicion of forgery is absent. God has made ample provision for proving the authenticity of the books which contain his own word.
The fifth lecture contains an exhibition of the direct testimony in favour of the authenticity of the books of the New Testament'; and is, in our opinion, the most important part of the work. We have been so well satisfied with the author's method of treating this fundamental point in the evidence, that if we had room, we should be tempted to transfer a large portion of this lecture to our pages; but it occurs to us that there is an American edition of the work, which