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men, and have so much of human imperfection about us, as to wish to defend it.
In this manner I endeavour to account for the work, the principles of which I have, in thefe Letters, undertaken to refute. In his excellent Letter on the fubject of prophecy, Mr. Evanfon first threw out an infinuation against the credit of the Gospel of Matthew, which offended many of his friends, and the friends of Chriftianity. But he has given us all particular fatisfaction in producing the reasons on which that infinuation was founded, as we can now examine them, and judge for ourselves; whereas many perfons, having a high opinion of the judgment and integrity of Mr. Evanson, were inclined to fuppofe his reasons to be more weighty than they will find them to be.
The only circumstance that offends me in this work of Mr. Evanfon's is the levity and contempt with which he treats those books of the New Teftament which he thinks he has feen reafon to reject. He had no occafion in this manner to hurt the feelings of many of his readers. What they have been long accustomed to read with reverence, they must be fhocked to see made the subject of ridicule and
and unfparing farcafm, and especially by a profeffed Chriftian. From unbelievers we expect nothing better, and therefore we are prepared for every thing contemptuous that they can throw out. Having nothing in their habitual feelings and state of mind congenial to the fentiments of Chriftians (who believe that they derive every pleafing prospect for time and eternity from the Scriptures) it cannot be fuppofed that they should respect those feelings of which they have no idea, and which they cannot conceive even to exist. They, therefore, have an excufe which Mr. Evanfon has not.
Mr. Evanfon muft, in his early years, have been taught to peruse the whole of the New Teftament with nearly equal refpect; and in reading the Gofpels of Matthew, Mark, and John, must have felt juft as he did in reading that of Luke. And as he grew up, and reflected upon what he read, and attended to the impreffions which thofe writings made upon him, he must have perceived the fame unequivocal marks of genuine piety, and a difinterested regard to truth, in all the evangelifts. How he should ever come to lofe those impreffions, and feel differently in readA 4 ing
Mr. Evanfon may impute it to weakness and prejudice, but I own I have not been able to read his work, and copy fo much of it as I have thought proper to do, without very unpleafing feelings. Notwithstanding this, I hope it will not be perceived that it has at all influenced me in my replies to him, or that I have given way to afperity, where nothing but calm difcuffion was wanted. I could not treat Mr. Evanfon as he has done the authors of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
thed John; and I am perfuaded they will ap jos fit prove of my conduct, and not think the worfe
of their advocate for defending them without anger. On this, as on every other occafion, I could wish to imbibe their excellent fpirit,
ing any of them, I cannot tell. But whenever he came to fufpect, or to think, that they were not genuine (which he must have done with great reluctance) he should have contented himself with fimply giving his reafons for the opinion he had adopted, and have difmiffed thofe books as old friends, to whom he had formerly conceived himself to be under fome obligation, and not have turned them out of doors with fo much rudeness and infult.
and in every controverfy, in which human prejudices and paffions are too apt to mix themselves, not to forget that I am a Chris tian.
I do not fay this with a view to befpeak any peculiar mildness in Mr. Evanfon's reply to me. Let every man write as he is naturally difpofed; and if he fhould treat me with the fame afperity with which he has treated the authors of the Gofpels of Matthew, Mark, and John, I fhall not complain; having no reason to expect better ufage than they have met with. I shall rather rejoice to fare as they do; and having been long used to pretty harsh treatment, I can very well bear it.
I write in the form of Letters to a Young Man, as young perfons are in the greatest danger of being caught with any superficial reafoning that tends, in the smallest degree, to remove restraints on the indulgence of their paffions; and such persons will be too apt to conclude that, if the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and John, and so many of the epiftles of Paul, be fpurious, that of Luke, and all the other books of the New Teftament, may be fo too. And if, with Mr. Evanfon,
Evanfon, they fhould confound the authenticity of those books with the credibility of the facts recorded in them, they will foon find themselves at liberty from any restraint that the belief of Christianity has hitherto impofed upon them.
With a view to fuch perfons, I have, in thefe Letters, as on other occafions, endeavoured to point out the real foundation of our faith in the Gospel history, and to fhew that it is independent of the authenticity of any books. It has not been by the fair examination of historical evidence, but in most cases by some short metaphyfical reasoning, that the cases men have become unbelievers, and in general it has been their having conceived what they had been taught to confider as Chriftianity to be unworthy of their ideas of God, or their discovering fome feeming impropriety in the books which they had been taught to regard as infpired, that has, without any farther reasoning, induced them to reject Chriftianity. It cannot, therefore, be too strongly held out to them, that the truth of Chriftianity is independent of every thing of this kind; that, let them think what they will of the doctrines of the Gospel, or of the books that