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I

HAD not intended to have written any Preface to the following Letters, but on perusing the celebrated Mr. Locke's treatise on the Christian Religion, I was particularly struck with his address on that publication.

It

appears to me so expressive of my sentiments and practice that I shall make no Apology for adopting it, with some slight variations.

• The little satisfaction and success that is to be found in most of the systems of Divinity

I have met with, made me betake myself to the sole reading of the Scriptures to which they all appeal, for the understanding of the Christian Religion.

“What information, by an attentive and, I trust, unbiassed perusal I have obtained, I here deliver to the Reader. If, by my Labours, he has received any light, or information in the truth, let him join with me in grateful thanks to the Father of lights for his condescension to our understandings.

“If, upon a fair and unprejudiced examination, he finds I have mistaken the tenor and spirit of any one of the four Gospels, I beseech him, as a true Christian and as one who possesses the spirit of the Gospel, in the words of sobriety to set me right, in the doctrine of Salvation.”

Feb. 9th, 1810.

ON

THE GOSPEL HISTORY.

LETTER I.

ON OUR LORD'S ORIGINÁL LANGUAGE.

REV. SIR,

IN

a conversation we had together, in which you often indulged me, you mentioned the language which, in different forms of expression, runs through the New Testament, as affording one of the most formidable objections to the truth of christianity which is perhaps to be met with in the whole of theological controversy.

« In the primitive church,' says Mr. Gibbon, the celebrated historian of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, “ the influence of truth was very powerfully strengthened by an opinion, which, however it may deserve · respect for its usefulness and antiquity, has not been found agreeable to experience. It was universally believed, that the end of the orld and the kingdom of heaven, were at hand. The near approach of this won

B

derful event had been predicted by the apostles; the tradition of it was preserved by their earliest disciples, and those who understood, in their literal sense, the discourses of Christ himself, were obliged to expect the second and glorious coming of the son of man in the clouds, before that generation was totally extinguished, which had beheld his humble condition upon earth, and which might still be witness to the calamities of the Jews under Vespasian or Hadrian. The revolution of seventeen centuries has instructed us not to press,too closely, the mysterious language of prophecy and revelation; but as long as, for wise purposes, this error was permitxed to subsist in the church ; it was productive of the most salutary effects on the faith and practice of christians, who lived in the awful expectation of that moment when the globe itself and all the various race of mankind should tremble at the appearance of their divine Judge." +

If this objection, so acutely and pointedly urged, had originated with Mr. Gibbon ; you might, very naturally, have placed it to the account of his extreme enmity against christianity which he is said to have hated so cordially that he might seem to revenge some personal injury. But it is but justice to him to observe to you that he really appears to have done no more, in this instance, than to collect the opinions of the most able divines who have distinguished themselves in theological controversy. Grotius, you know, ventured to insinuate, almost in the very words of Mr. Gibbon, that, for wise purposes, the

+ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roinan Empire ---Vol. 2. P. 470.

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