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TO THE READER.
The following Discourse is designed in defence of our common Christianity, by vindicating the wisdom and goodness of the Mosaical Revelation.
I have seen, with pleasure, many things written in the same cause of Christianity, by men of distinguished abilities, sufficient, one would think, to convince all fair inquirers after truth.
Yet still the opposition is carried on, in particular against the ceremonial laws of the Hebrew church, which God appoint-, ed by Moses. They are reflected upon with unwarrantable confidence, as unworthy of God, hurtful to true religion, tending even to establish superstition on the ruins of moral virtue and goodness. They know well, such reflections on Moses and the Prophets, must fall at last on Christ and his Apostles.
These reflections on the Hebrew ritual are likely to do the more mischief, by staggering the minds of many, who having little or no understanding in the wise reasons and proper uses of these laws, are unprovided with a ready answer to them.
This is a subject that has not been so fully considered, and set in so clear a light, as, I think, it deserves, and the cause of Christianity seems to require.
For a right understanding of the Mosaical ritual requires some knowledge of the rites themselves, together with some understanding of the ends, designs, real advantages, and uses of them. For these are the proper proofs of their wisdom and goodness, the proper reasons and motives for approbation and esteem.
It was necessary, then, to such a vindication, to set before you a full plan of
the ritual itself, that the true reasons and uses of the whole might appear in the harmony of all the several parts, centring in one view to promote virtue and true religion in the fear of Jehovah, and the worship of him as the one true God, the Holy One of Israel.
It was also necessary to leave nothing out of the plan of the ritual which might leave any room for complaint, that some of the weaker and more exceptionable parts of the ritual were concealed and rather sheltered under cover, than vindicated. I have therefore endeavoured to draw up a plan of the ritual in such a me. thod, as I conceive may help to an easier and clearer understanding of the Hebrew worship itself, and give a fuller account of the wisdom and usefulness of it.
This is a knowledge of a very considerable part of Divine revelation, and of more necessary use than is generally apprehended.
It is of good service to explain the lan. guage of the Apostles, to show the nature of their reasonings, and point out the true force of their arguments, and even to explain the doctrines of the Christian faith in many articles, by showing how they were taught by Moses and the Prophets many ages before,
For these reasons, though the Plan of the Ritual may be thought long, I hope it will not be accounted tedious.
I have carefully endeavoured not to indulge fancy and imagination, and not to force allegory and metaphor to speak what it was never intended they should mean; being very sensible, fancy and imagination, how pretty, how ingenious soever, are neither reasons nor arguments, therefore are not to be given or taken as such.
This is an argument in which men are not commonly well versed : arguments concerning rituals are not usually so plain, as arguments op moral subjects. It will