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It began to be admitted, too, by Christian theologians, such as Stewart of Andover and Neander of Germany, that there was such an element in the New Testament as the opinions of the Apostles, for which Christianity ought not to be made responsible. Since that period, various hypotheses have been started, varying from the concessions made by Stewart and Neander, to the total denial and unbelief of Strauss and the Tübingen critics.
No theological scholar, if he is candid, the author believes, will hesitate to admit that the last twenty years have been a period of anxious inquiry. He cannot have failed to perceive, that most of the issues which have been raised in the Christian Church have been false and irrelevant. The controversies between Orthodoxy and Liberal Christianity have cleared these false issues away, and, freeing the question between belief and unbelief from the mists which hung over it, have brought it to be discussed on its true merits.
Increasing difficulties arose in the way of the defender of the authority of the New Testament, from the doctrines it was supposed to teach. Many of them, as maintained by most churches, came in direct conflict with that
sense of justice which makes an indestructible part of our nature, and those moral feelings which are the glory and crown of humanity. Advancing Science, too, began to enter her protest against certain opinions embodied in the New Testament, which the Church had received as of divine authority, and incorporated with Christian dogmas.
In this state of things, it occurred to the author that the time had come for a new analysis of the contents of the New Testament. On the old hypothesis of making it a homogeneous book, all doctrine, all equally essential, it must encounter such serious objections as to overtask the faith of an enlightened age. On this hypothesis the main objection of Gibbon never has been, and never can be, answered.
After years of study and examination, the following analysis suggested itself as satisfactory. It seemed to the author to meet and reconcile all the difficulties of the case.
Having thoroughly digested his plan, the author began to carry it out in a course of Lectures delivered in the winter of 1841-42, which were afterwards published under the title of "Lectures on the History of Christianity," and which have been before the public for thirteen
years. Those Lectures were intended merely as an introduction to the present volume; but before the author was aware, they had become a volume themselves. It was only in the last lecture that the present analysis was proposed.
Incessant professional occupation, and various other literary enterprises, have suspended the completion of the plan to the present time. It is now offered to the Christian public as the fruit of the toil and thought of thirty years.
The writer does not expect that his analysis will be satisfactory to all, and perhaps it may not commend itself fully to any mind; but he trusts that the necessity of some such classification of the contents of the New Testament will be seen and acknowledged, and that many who are embarrassed by the commonly received hypotheses may see their way clear to retain a firm faith in Christianity as a religion of supernatural origin and superhuman authority.
BALTIMORE, May, 1855.