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"GOD, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." Such is the appeal which the gospel makes to the faith and reason of every one who hears its message. To remain careless about its truth or falsehood, is the part of a madman, not of a reasonable being. All nature around us, and the voice of conscience in our own bosom, bear witness that there is a God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, almighty in power, and infinitely wise. But we are weak and ignorant creatures, whose life is a vapour; born yesterday, and to-morrow in the grave. Death is hastening on, and we cannot ourselves explore its awful mystery. A dark cloud of ignorance and fear hangs over our mortal life, when such noble powers are brought so quickly to an end, and nothing is seen of all that men once gloried in, but the body mouldering in corruption. Who, that is not steeped in sin and folly, can avoid an intense desire to know what it is that awaits us beyond the grave?

Where, then, should we look, in our perplexity, for light and knowledge, but to the God who made us, and who must know all the hidden secrets of our being? To whom should we apply to learn our present duty and future hopes, but to our almighty Preserver, on whom our present and future lot must certainly depend? Has he revealed his will to mankind? Has any dayspring from

on high visited our world, any beam of light from the invisible glory, to guide erring and sinful mortals into the way of peace? Is the gospel of Christ such a message, the voice of God speaking to us by his own Son; or is it only a cunningly-devised fable, the mere invention of enthusiasts and deceivers? This is the grand inquiry which we are bound, each one of us, to answer with all possible seriousness, and a deep and earnest endeavour to ascertain the real truth. If Christianity were a human invention, to accept it as a Divine message would be to sin against our own reason, and against Him who bestowed that reason upon us. But if it be indeed a message of love and mercy from the God of heaven, to treat it with scorn, or even to neglect it with careless unconcern, is a grievous and hateful crime, a presumptuous insult offered to its Divine Author.

To search into the evidences of Christianity is, therefore, the plain duty of every unbeliever. Until he can be assured, on solid grounds, that his Maker has not really spoken, to spend his thoughts on lower inquiries must be mere folly, and an outrage on the voice of natural conscience. To approach the subject in a careless and trifling spirit, with no earnest desire to ascertain the truth, is equally inexcusable. No one can be free from the guilt of despising his Maker, and perilling the highest interests of his immortal soul, who does not lift up his heart in prayer, though it were to an unknown God, for light and wisdom, and seek for the knowledge of God as for hidden treasure. To pretend that we are searching for truth, while the smile of the scorner is on our lips, must be a hideous mockery in the sight of God and of all reasonable men.


Whoever pursues this inquiry after truth with seriousness and humility, 'will never search for it in vain. shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” It is true that the proofs of Christianity are most complete to the sincere believer, and multiply upon him as he looks more closely into the Scriptures, and submits his life and conscience more thoroughly to their Divine authority. To welcome and embrace the truth is the very means by which the moral faculties are purified and enlarged, so as to apprehend more truth, and more clearly discern old truths. But though it is only a small part of the Christian evidence which can be fully exhibited to those

who view it from without, and are still doubtful of its Divine origin, there is more than enough, that is plain and palpable, to convince every honest inquirer, who really desires to know the will of God. There are many difficulties that will disappear only with a deeper insight into the gospel; and many bright evidences of its truth, that remain sealed from our view, till our conscience and heart have bowed to the authority of revelation; but still, even from the first dawn of serious inquiry, there are such proofs of its Divine origin, in evident miracles, in fulfilled prophecies, and conspicuous signs of moral purity and sublimity, as will leave all those without any excuse, who can read the New Testament, and still prefer to walk on in unbelieving darkness.

Among the works designed to assist doubting inquirers after Divine truth, the treatise of Paley occupies a high place, and has become the most popular manual of Christian evidence. Perhaps no one has unfolded the historical proof, from the miracles of Christ and his apostles, with equal clearness. Viewed, however, as a manual for young Christians, it has several defects, for which it seems desirable to provide a remedy. The necessity of meeting scepticism half way, and reasoning with it on its own grounds, has imprinted on the work a cold and icy tone of thought, repulsive and painful to a devout and earnest Christian. The line of argument, drawn chiefly from external evidence, appeals but faintly to the heart and conscience; though it is here, rather than in the understanding, that the chief hindrances to a reception of Christianity are always found. The work is better suited to convince an unbeliever that the gospel is true, than to awaken any sense of its vital importance, or to give any just impression of that moral beauty and Divine wisdom, which reigns in every part of these messages of God.

In the present edition, it is designed to supply some of the defects in the treatise, so as to render it more suitable for establishing young Christians in the faith of the gospel. The Introduction will consist of two parts, on the connexion of Natural and Revealed Religion, and on the various branches of Christian Evidence. Notes will be given on those passages which seem to require either correction or further explanation; and distinct supplements, so far as

the space will allow, on those branches of evidence which the work itself touches upon very briefly, or passes by altogether in silence. May God-the God of truth and the Giver of all wisdom-prosper and bless the whole work, to the advancement of the faith, and the glory of his blessed name for ever and ever!



THE evidences of Christianity are usually based, as in the following treatise, on the truth and certainty of Natural Religion. There is a God, the Creator and Governor of the world. His natural works, that we see on every side of us, prove his Divine power and wisdom, and yield also many intimations of his goodness and benevolence. Once let these truths be assumed, and it cannot be improbable that God should reveal his will more clearly to mankind. On the contrary, the existence of some direct revelation becomes highly probable, even before any distinct proof of its historical reality.

There has been, however, much dispute concerning the extent, and even the very existence, of Natural Religion. Most Christian writers have affirmed its reality and importance, but others have seemed to reject it altogether. Thus Horsley observes, that "Revealed Religion stands not upon the ground of any antecedent discoveries of natural reason, and it is highly impolitic to attempt to place it on any such false foundation." A learned work was published in the last century, to prove that "the knowledge of Divine things is from revelation, and not from nature.' There has been a similar variety of opinion among infidel writers. The earlier deists of our own country-as Herbert and Shaftesbury, Collins and Tindal-have magnified the extent and clearness of Natural Religion, that they might prove all revelation to be quite superfluous. Hume, however, and most of the French writers, have taken an opposite course, and have aimed their assaults against all religion alike, whether natural or revealed. How, then, can it be safe to rest the proof of Christianity on a foundation, of which the very existence is in debate among professed Christians themselves?

The true answer to this objection is to be found in the ambiguity of the phrase, Natural Religion. What nature might teach us concerning God, and what it does really teach us, or has commonly taught the heathen, are widely different; and hence writers may contradict each other in their verbal statements, whose meaning is almost entirely the same.

In the first place, Natural Religion may be used to denote that knowledge of religious truth and duty which the works of nature ought to teach us, and which they would actually impart to a pure and upright spirit, if appointed to dwell in our world for a season. A sinless angel, if he were to dwell among us, would see the earth to be full of the goodness of the Lord. Every flower in the field, and every star in the firmament, would seem a clear witness of the power, the wisdom, and the glory of the Creator. Even the presence of grief and sorrow would only remind him of a deeper truth-the holy anger of God against all evil; and the whole economy of human life would appear to be one continual lesson, wherein to read the Divine justice, forbearance, and love. It is hard to assign a limit to the possible attainments of such a pure and upright being, while he should continue to meditate on this visible universe. Perhaps many of the discoveries of positive revelation would be guessed out, if not clearly discerned and apprehended, by one who should gaze, through such a clear and unclouded moral atmosphere, on all the outward works of Providence here below.

The Scriptures speak in many places of such a natural religion, and delight to magnify its reality and importance. "The invisible things of God," they tell us, "from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." The field of Natural Religion, in this sense of the term, is wide and almost boundless; and the truth of its first principles is assumed, as a fundamental axiom, throughout the word of God. To deny them is to abdicate our reason, and to debase ourselves to the level of the brutes that perish.

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