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general distribution of my materials; which I fatter myself will be thought to be easier, and more natural, than that of others who have written upon the same subject, and to be calculated to exhibit the evidences of revelation with peculiar strength and clearness.
Fully satisfied as I myself am of the truth of christianity, and of the sufficiency of the proofs which I have, in this treatise, advanced in favour of it, I am by no means fanguine in my expectations from what I have done, any farther than that it may be of use in the instruction of the young, the ignorant, or the unsettled, which was my primary object. No person who knows much of the world can expect that confirmed unbelievers will so much as look into it, much less that they will give it a deliberate and impartial perufal. They will presume that they have already thought enough upon the subject, and will not chuse to disturb their minds with any farther discusfion of a question which they have long ago
decided, or change that course of life into which they were led, and to which they have been accustomed in consequence of it.
I mention this circumstance with no other view than to admonish young persons of the very great care they ought to take in forming their judgments upon a subject of so much importance as this; fince in the course of a few years, the effect of the impressions to which their minds must neceffarily be subject, will be either a firm and joyful persuasion of the truth of christianity, a great indifference to it, and neglect of it, or an obstinate and gloomy unbelief. The first of these states of mind I cannot help considering as, in the highest degree, favourable to virtue and happiness, and the last to be, in as great a degree, unfriendly to both. I use the word gloomy in speaking of the state of an unbeliever's mind, because I consider my own most chearful prospects as derived from that faith which he difclaims; and unless I be wholly mistaken with respect to the object of true christian M 2
faith, every defender of it must neceffarily have the prejudices of the vicious and profrigate against him, and the good will of all the friends of virtue.
If the bible contain a true history, we ein no longer entertain the least doubt, or te under any uncertainty, concerning the existence, or the moral government of God. We are cure that a being of infinite power and wildom is the author of every thing that we behold, that he constantly inspects, and attends to the intereit of all his creatures, nothing that he has made being at any time neglected or overlooked by him ; and, more especially, that he is influenced by a most intense affection for all his rational offspring; that he is good and ready to forgive, and to receive into favour all who sincerely repent of the fins they have committed, and endeavour to conform to his will for the future. If christianity be true, we can entertain no doubt with respect to a future life, but are absolutely certain that, though we must all die, we shall all be made
alive agiin, that Christ will come, by the appointment of God his father, to judge the quick and the dead, and to give to every man according to his works.
Now the firm belief of these important truths (concerning which there are great doubts and difficulties on the light of nature, but none at all upon the supposition of the truth of christianity) cannot fail to elevate the sentiments, and ennoble the nature of man. It will effectually support us under all the trials of life, and give us hope and joy in the hour of death. On the other hand, a itate of doubt and uncertainty with respet to these articles of faith must make every well disposed mind (which cannot but most earnestly wish them to be true) anxious and unhappy; and a total disbelief of them must tend to debase the soul, and prepare a man for giving into every kind of vice and excess to which he is strongly tempted. When his views and prospects are narrow and confined, his pursuits will be fo too. To adopt a coarse, but just observation, which has been made with respect to this subject, if a man expects to die like a dog, it cannot but be supposed that he will also live like one.
If, contrary to my expectations, any unbeliever should have the curiosity to look into the following treatise, I would premise to him, that he is to consider it as containing nothing more than my own particular view of the evidences of christianity; that if he perceives any thing weak or unguarded in what I have advanced, it behoves himself, as well as me, to consider whether the cause in general will not adınit of a better defence, that he must look into other defences of christianity for the supply of any deficiencies which he may find in this; and not think himself justified in his unbelief, till, after an examination of bis own, an examination truly impartial, and earneít, becoming the importance of the subject, he is satisfied, that not what has passid for christianity, but, what is really f, is altogether indefensible, having had its source in enthusiasm, or impcsture, or both.