During some of the first years of the writer’s active life he was a sceptic; he had a friend who has since become well known as a lawyer and legislator, who was also sceptical in his opinions. We were both conversant with the common evidences of Christianity. None of them convinced our minds of the Divine origin of the Christian religion, although we both thought ourselves willing to be convinced by sufficient evidence. Circumstances, which need not be named, led the writer to examine the Bible, and to search for other evidence than that which had been commended to his attention by a much-esteemed clerical friend, who presided in one of our colleges. The result of the examination was a thorough conviction in the author’s mind of the truth and Divine authority of Christianity. He supposed at that time that, in his inquiries, he had adopted the only true method to settle the question, in the minds of all intelligent inquirers, in relation to the Divine origin of [iv]the Christian religion. Subsequent reflection has confirmed this opinion.
Convinced himself of the Divine origin of the religion of the Bible, the author commenced a series of letters to convey to his friend the evidence which had satisfied his own mind beyond the possibility of doubt. The correspondence was, by the pressure of business engagements, interrupted. The investigation was continued, however, when leisure would permit, for a number of years. The results of this investigation are contained in the following chapters. The epistolary form in which a portion of the book was first written will account for some repetitions, and some varieties in the style, which otherwise might not have been introduced.
II. REASONS FOR PRESENTING THE WORK TO THE PUBLIC.
Book-making is not the author’s profession. But after examining his own private library, and one of the best public libraries in the country, he could find no treatise in which the course of reasoning was pursued which will be found in the following pages. Dr. Chalmers, in closing his Bridgewater Treatise, seems to have had an apprehension of the plan and importance of such an argument; and had he devoted himself to the development of the argument suggested, the effort would have been worth more to the world than all the Bridgewater Treatises put together, including his own work.
Coleridge has somewhere said that the Levitical [v]economy is an enigma yet to be solved. To thousands of intelligent minds it is not only an enigma, but it is an absolute barrier to their belief in the Divine origin of the Bible. The solution of the enigma was the clue which aided the writer to escape from the labyrinth of doubt; and now, standing upon the rock of unshaken faith, he offers the clue that guided him to others.
A work of this kind is called for by the spirit of the age. Although the signs of the times are said to be propitious, yet there are constant developments of undisciplined and unsanctified mind both in Europe and America, which furnishes matter of regret to the philanthropist and the Christian. A struggle has commenced—is going on at present; and the heat of the contest is constantly increasing, in which the vital interests of man, temporal and spiritual, are involved. In relation to man’s spiritual interests, the central point of controversy is the ‘cross of Christ.’ In New England, some of those who have diverged from the doctrine of the fathers have wandered into a wilderness of speculation which, were it not for the evil experienced by themselves and others, ought, perhaps, to be pitied as the erratic aberrations of an unsettled reason, rather than blamed as the manifestations of minds determinately wicked. The most painful indication connected with this subject is, that these guilty dreamers are not waked from their reveries by the rebuke of men whose position and relations in society demand it at their hands.
The west, likewise, is overrun by sects whose teachers, [vi]under the name of Reformers, or some other inviting appellation, are using every effort to seduce men from the spiritual doctrines and duties of the gospel, or to organize them into absolute hostility against Christ. These men are not wanting in intellect, or in acquired knowledge, and their labours have prejudiced the minds of great numbers against the spiritual truths of the gospel, and rendered their hearts callous to religious influence. These facts, in the author’s opinion, render such a volume as he has endeavoured to write necessary, in order to meet the exigencies of the times.
*** The present edition has been carefully revised; and has been slightly modified on one or two minor points, to which exception had been taken, or which appeared obscure in expression.—1881.