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design of this work is, to recommend the pierufal of those great authors whom I have chosen for that purpose; by briefly fhewing that the evidence of this religion is, at least, strong enough to merit attention and deliberate inquiry. If I can accomplish even this purpose, I shall do fervice to a cause, which, as a friend to mankind, I have always had much at heart. For, from several conversations which it has been my chance to have with unbelievers, I have learned, that ignorance of the nature of our religion, and a disinclination to study both it and its evidence, are to be reckoned among the chief causes of infidelity.
By presenting the reader with various authors on the same fubje&, he will have an opportunity of comparing the arguments' of each writer ; and experiencing a pleasure which has, hitherto, fallen to the lot of few; that is, to be in poffeffion of Jo many valuable authors on this most important of all subjects; and as the terms of subscription are so remarkably easy, every person has now an opportunity, without injuring his circumftances, of gratifying his curiofity.
And when he has perused this work with a spirit of can. dour, with an humble and docile mind, a sincere dehre to know the truth and his duty, I may venture to afure him, that will not regret the time he has employed in the study, and that from the writings and conversation of unbelievers his faith will no more be endangered.
Gosport, November 12, 1799.
HE evidence of the Christian religion is a subject of great extent: all I propose to do is, to give a summary view of it. I do not mean to produce proof for every one of the assertions I may make concerning matters of fact: for this would require a great deal of time. But knowing, that to the best cause every sort of misrepresentation is injurious, I shall be careful to advance nothing as certain, but what does admit of proof, and has actually been proved by the learned authors, who have distinguished themselves on the fade of truth in this controversy.
This evidence has been divided into external and internal: the former arising from prophecy, -miracles, and historical testimony ; the latter, from the peculiar character, and intrinsic excellency of the Christian religion. Some authors have enlarged chiefly on the one sort of evidence, and some on the other; and some have been equally attentive to both. I shall fpeak, first, of the external evidence, and, secondly, of the internal ; though occasionally perhaps, and in order to avoid prolixity and needless repetition, I may speak of both at the same time.
The first thing to be inquired into is, the importance and usefulness of Divine Revelation. For, if such a thing be useful and important, and even necessary to man, it must be suitable to the Divine wisdom and goodness to bestow it.
1. If man had persevered in his primitive innocence; if principles and practice had no influnce on human happiness, or on each other; and if ignorance, inattention, and prejudice, if fuperftition and sensuality, if savage life and sanguinary pas. fions, had no tendency to corrupt men's opinions, to pervert their reason, and to plunge them into guilt and wretchedness;-on these suppositions, I should readily admit, that there is no need of rerelation. But from daily experience, and from the history of men in all ages, it appears, that not