תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

and with the hope of a hearing from the intelligent and the candid. They, we believe, will be fully convinced, that their adversaries have for so long a time triumphed over them without measure, only because they have been suffered to do so without contradiction.

The reader is assured, that, notwithstanding the subject, he will find nothing in this volume but what is consid. ered by the author to be fair, and liberal argument ; and such no honest man ought to decline looking in the face. He has endeavoured to discuss the important subject of the Book, in the most inoffensive manner; for he has no wish, and claims no right to wound the feelings of those who differ from him in opinion. There is not, nor ought there to be, a word of reproach in it against the moral character of Jesus Christ, or the twelve Apostles ; and the utmost the author attempts to prove is, that their system was founded, not upon fraud, and imposture, but upon a mistake. After the deaths of Christ and his Apostles, it was indeed aided and sup. ported by very bad means; but its first founders the author believes were guilty of no other crime than that of being mistaken ; a very common oneindeed.:

He hopes therefore, that such a discussion as the one now laid before the Publick, will be fairly met, and fairly answered, if answered at all ; and that recourse will not be had to dishonest, and ungentlemanly misrep. resentations, and calling names, in order to prevent people from examining things they have a right to know, and in order to blind and frighten the Publick, the Ju-. ry to which he appeals. It is infallibly true, that the knowledge of truth is, and must be beneficial to mankind ; and that, in the long run, it never was, and never can be harmful. It is equally certain, that God would never give a Revelation so slightly founded as to be endangered by any sophistry of man. If the Christian system be froin God, it will certainly, stand, no human power can overthrow it. And therefore no sincere Christian who believes the New Testament ought to be afraid to meet half way the objections of any one who offers them with fairness, and expresses them in decent language ; and no sensible Christian ought to

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

shut his ears against his neighbour, who respectfully asks “ a reason for the faith that is in him.”

The Author has been told indeed, that supposing the Christian System to be unfounded, yet that it is reason. able to believe, that the Supreme Being would view any attempts to disturb it with displeasure, on account of its moral effects.' But is not this something like absurdity ? Can God have made it necessary, that Morals slıould be founded on Delusion, in order that they might be supported? Can the God of Truth be dis. pleased to have men convinced, that they have been mistaken, or imposed upon by Revelations pretended to be from Him, which if in fact not from him must be the offspring either of error, or falsehood ? And if the Christiau System be in truth, not from God, can we suppose, that in his eyes its Doctrines with regard to Him are atoned for by a few good moral precepts ? Can we suppose, that that Supreme and awful Being can feel Himself honoured, in having his creatures made to believe, that He was once nine months in the womb of a woman; that God the Great, and Holy, went through all the peo p of Infancy; that he lived a mendicant in a corner of the Earth, and svas finally scourged, and hanged on a Gibbet by his own creatures ? If these things be in truth all mistakes, can we suppose, that God is pleased in having them believed of Him? On the

contrary, can they, together with the Doctrine of the · Trinity, I would respectfully ask, be possibly looked upon by Him (if they are not true,) otherwise, than as so many-- what I forbear to mention. But this is not all. The Reader is requested to consider, that the Christian System is built upon the prostrate necks of the whole Hebrew nation. It is a tree which flourish. ed in a soil watered by their tears ; it's leaves grew green in an atmosphere filled with thisir eries, and groans; and it's roots have been moistened and fattened with their blood. The rein, reproach, and sufferings of that People are considered, by its advocates, as the most striking proofs of the Divine authority of the New Testament. And for almost eighteen hundred years the System centained in that Book has been the cause de

mities

miseries, and afflictions, to that nation, the most horri ble, and unparalleled in the history of man.

Now if that system be indeed Divine, all this may be very well, and as it should be. But if perchance it should turn out to be a mistake, if it be in truth not froni God, will not then that system be justly chargeable with all those shocking cruelties which on account of it have been inflicted on that people ?

If that system be verily, and indeed founded on a mis take, no language, no indignation can do justice to its guilt in this respect. All its good moral effects are a mere drop of pure water in that Ocean of Jewish and Gentile blood it has caused to be shed by embittering men's minds with groundless prejudices. And if it be not divine, if it be plainly, and demonstrably proved to have originated in error, who is the man, that after considering what has been suggested, will have the heart to come forward, and cooly say " that it is better, that a whole nation of men should continue, as heretofore, to be unjustly hated, reproached, cursed, and plundered, and massacred on account of it, rather than that the received religious System should be demonstrated to be founded on mistake ?" No! if it be in fact founded on mistake, every man of honour, honesty, and humanity will say without hesitation Let the Delusion (if it is one) be done away! which must be supported at the expense of Truth, of Justice, and the happiness, and respectibility of a whole nation, who are men like ourselves, and more unfortunate than any others, in having already suffered but too much affliction and misery on account of it.” No! though the moral effects ascribed to this System of Religion were as good, as great, and ten times greater than they ever have been, or can be, yet, if it is a Delusion, it would be absolutely wicked to support it, since it is erected upon the sufferings, wretchedness, and oppression of a people who compose millions of the great Family of Mankind.

It is remarkable that the ablest modern advocates for the Truth, and divine authority of the Gospel, as if they knew of no certain, demonstrative proof which could be adduced in a case of so much importance, seem to cortint themselves, and expect their readers should

be satisfied, with an accumulation of probable arguments in its favour. And it has even been said, that the case admits of no other kind of proof. If it be so, the Author requests all so persuaded to consider for a moment, whether it could be reconciled to any ideas of wisdom in an earthly Potentate, if he should send an Ambassador to a foreign state to mediate a negociation of the greatest importance, without furnishing him with certain, indubitable credentials of the truth, and authenticity of his mission? And to consider further, whether it be just, or seemly, to attribute to the Omniscient, Om. nipotent Deity, a degree of weakness and folly, which was never yet imputed to any of his human Creatures ? for unless men are hardy enough to pass so gross an af. front upon the tremendous Majesty of Heaven, the im. probability that God should delegate the Mediator of à most important Covenant to be proposed to all mankind, without enabling him to give the clear, and, in reason, indisputable proof of the divine authority of his mission, must ever infinitely outweigh the aggregate sum of all the probabilities which can be accuniulated in the opposite scale of the balance. And to conclude, I presume it will not be denied, that the authenticity and celestial origin of any thing pretending to be a Di. vine Revelation, before it has any claims upon our faith, ought to be made clear beyond all reasonable doubt ; otherwise it can have no just claims to a right to influence our conduct.

As for the opinions and the arguments contained in this volume, I have but trembling hopes that they will meet with favour, merely because the author is sincere, and wishes to do right. Conscious that I make a perilous attempt, in daring to defend myself by attacking ancient error supported by multitudes, with no other seconds besides Truth and Reason, it would be bootless for me to ask indulgence for them on account of my good intentions. And as they can derive no credit from the authority of the writer, I am sensible they must fall by their own weakness, or stand by their own strength. I must leave them therefore to their fate ; and I can cheerfully do it, without fear for the issue, if the Reader will only be candid, and will comply with

my earnest request,_"first to understand, and then judge !"

Before I conclude these prefaratory remarks, I would observe, that as the contents of this volume will be perfectly novel to nine hundred and ninety nine out of a thousand, it is but justice to the publick, and to myself, to avow, that I do not claim to have originated all the arguments advanced in this Book. A very considerable proportion of them were selected, and derived from ancient, and curious Jewish Tracts, translated from Chaldee into Latin, very little known even in Europe, and not at all known there to any but the curious and inquisitive. And I reasonably hope that discerning men will be much more disposed to weigh with candour the arguments herein offered, when they consider, that they are in many instances the reasonings of learned, ancient, and venerable men, who in times when the inquisition was vir vigour, suffered under the most bloody oppression, and whose writings were cautiously preserved, and secretly handed down to the seventeenth century in Manuscript, as the printing of them would assuredly have brought all concerned to the stake. Some few other arguments were derived from other authors, and were taken from works not so much known, as I hope they will be. .

Finally, I commit my work to the discretion of the good sense of the reader, believing that if he is not convinced, he will at least be interested ; and hoping that he will discover from the complexion of the Book (what my own heart bears witness to) that the Author is a sincere inquirer after truth, and perfectly willing to be convinced that he is in an error by any one who can remove the difficulties, and refute the arguments now laid by him before the Public with deference, and respect.

Boston, September 28, 1813.

« הקודםהמשך »