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THE EVIDENCE AND EXCELLENCE
Cupimus enim investigare quid verum fit; neque id solum, quod cum veritate, PIETATEM quoque præterea erga Deum habeat conjunctam. SADOLET.
ENTER on the subject of this volume with unaffected diffidence. I tread on holy ground with awe. Though much of my life, devoted to letters from the earliest age, has been spent in reading the best writers on the Christian doctrine, and more in contemplation of it, yet a sense of its high importance, and of my own fallibility, has long restrained the impulse which prompted me to engage in its public discussion. Nothing but conscious rectitude of intention, co-operating with the hope of obtaining the aid of God's holy Spirit, and the reader's indulgence, could animate the tremulous mind in an enterprise to which it feels and avows itself unequal. A conviction that the subject is peculiarly seasonable, has contributed to overcome reluctance. The TIMES indeed appear to me to call upon every professor of Christianity to vindicate, in the manner best adapted to his abilities and opportunities, its controverted truth, its insulted honour; and if I shall be fortunate enough to
communicate one suggestion to the wavering mind, which may conduce to this great purpose, my labour will not be in vain, nor my undertaking deemed rashly adventurous. I shall have accomplished my wish. To diffuse the sunshine of religious hope and confidence over the shadowy path of life; to dissipate the gloom of doubt and despair; to save a soul from death; objects so desirable, inspire an ardour which enables zeal to triumph over timidity.
That unbelief in Christ is increasing in the present age, and that the spirit of the times is rather favourable to its increase, has been asserted by high authority, and is too notorious to admit denial. The apostacy of a great nation, in the most enlightened and polished part of Europe; the public, unblushing avowal of atheism among some of its leaders; the multiplication of books on the Continent, in which Christianity is treated as at mere mode of fanaticism; all these circumstances have combined, with others, to cause not only an indifference to the religion of Christ, but contempt and aversion to his very name. It were easy to cite contumelious reproaches of his person, as well as audacious denials of his claim to divine anthority. But I will not pollute my page, which however it may be deformed by error, shall not be stained with the transfusion of blasphemy. It is to be wished that all such works could be consigned to immediate and everlasting oblivion; but, I am sorry to say that they are diffused with an industry, which, if it appeared in making proselytes to virtue, would be in the highest degree meritorious. Almost every individual in our own country can now read; and manuals of infidelity, of infidelity, replete with plausible arguments, in language level to the lowest classes, are circulated among the people, at a price which places them within reach of the poorest reader. They are despised by the rich and neglected by the learned, but they fall into the