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HE subject of Christianity—a subject of infinite interest and importance-appears to admit of a natural division into three parts: first, the evidences on which is established the divine authority both of our religion itself and of those sacred writings in which it is recorded secondly, the doctrines revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and constituting the great system of divine truth; thirdly, the practical principles, through the operation of which, in the soul, the Gospel of Jesus Christ produces for mankind its legitimate results-righteousness here, and eternal happiness here
Such is the order in which the subject is treated, in the volume now presented to the attention of the public.
The first four Essays of the work will be found to contain a brief, elementary, statement of the principal evidences, which prove the fundamental proposition,
that Christianity is the religion of God. My argument, under this head, relates, first, to the genuineness of the New Testament; secondly, to its truth or authenticity; thirdly to the miracles of Jesus Christ and his apostles, considered as a divine attestation of the revelation which they accompanied; fourthly, to the prophecies by which that revelation is also attested; and fifthly, to the internal evidences of Christianity, and to its actual moral effects.
The proposition, that Christianity is the religion of God, may be established on the ground of the genuineness and authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, independently of the fact, that they were given by inspiration. But, since we cannot avail ourselves, with a sufficient degree of confidence, of the truths revealed to us in Scripture, unless we are convinced that the Bible itself is also of divine origin, I have devoted a fifth Essay to an argument in proof of that point.
When we have satisfied ourselves of the divine origin both of Christianity itself and of the Christian Scriptures, we are in possession of a clear ground for the examination and reception of the declarations of Holy Writ respecting those various doctrines which may be described as forming the essential frame-work of our holy religion. These relate to the Supreme Being and his natural and moral attributes-to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, who constitute the
mysterious union of the godhead-to the spiritual adversary-to the constitution, character, condition, responsibilities, and prospects, of man-to the Lord Jesus, in his character and office of Messiah-and lastly, to our redemption, through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and through the influence and operation of the Holy Spirit.
These doctrines form the respective subjects of six distinct Essays. In discussing them, I have studiously endeavoured to avoid all assumption of a wisdom "above that which is written." My only object has been to adduce the declarations of Scripture on each particular doctrine, in such a manner, and in such an order, as might be best calculated to leave on the mind of the reader a clear and satisfactory impression.
Although the six Essays now alluded to are, in the main, purely doctrinal, it has been far indeed from my intention to insist on a religion of mere notions. Persuaded as I am of the vast importance of a right creed, I am, nevertheless, well aware that the whole scheme of Christianity is directed to practical ends; and that, as far as we are concerned, it is utterly unavailing, unless those ends are accomplished. In treating, therefore, of the several doctrines of our religion, it has often been my endeavour to show in what manner they are calculated to affect our hearts and to influence our practice; and, above all, I have desired to pro
mote, in the reader of these doctrinal disquisitions, a real love for our God and Saviour-in whom centre all the wisdom and knowledge, all the righteousness and strength, all the joy and hope, of the true Christian.*
The twelfth Essay, however, which consists of two parts, more particularly explains the practical operation of Christianity, through the medium of faith and obedience those principles of action in the human mind, without the exertion of which it is impossible for us to secure either our present regeneration or our future and eternal bliss.
Lastly, in the Conclusion, I have laid before the reader a rapid, general, summary of the whole argument of the volume, and I have ventured to add the word of exhortation-that none may rest satisfied with viewing the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of men, at a distance, and through the medium of cold, unprofitable, speculation; but that all may really come to him as to their all-sufficient Redeemer, and thus experience for themselves that the Gospel of Christ is THE POWER OF GOD UNTO SALVATION!
*The tenth Essay, which relates to the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, contains, in a concentrated form, the substance of a work, in which, as many of my friends are aware, I have been more or less engaged for several years. Believing that the Essay in question is quite as likely to be useful as its more elaborate and diffuse original, I have now no view of publishing any thing farther on this great subject, except a volume, already in part composed, of Critical Dissertations.