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by the distinguished honour I have enjoyed in the friendship of an illustrious Relative; I presented, in an . early stage of this work, an outline of it to your Lordship, and received from you a note, authorizing me to assume the sanction of your name in the eyes of the public, and expressing, in your own energetic language, your persuasion of the infinite value of “Revelation, without whose hopes and consolations, all human distinctions are nothing.” Under these auspices the work was carried on, and is now brought to a conclusion: and I have the honor to present to your candor, with my most grateful acknowledgments, the offspring of your own indulgent patronage. It is my sincere and earnest desire, that the power of that Religion, the evidences of which your judgment approves, may be the consolation of your heart; that its influence may shed a divine light upon the elevated orbit in which you move; and that its unfading honors may be your future recompense, when the distinctions of rank shall indeed be lost, and when the only nobility allowed will consist in an alliance with HIM, who in the days of his pilgrimage upon the earth, had not where to lay his head. I have the honor to remain, with high consideration, My LoRD, Your Lordship's much obliged and most obedient servant,
IT would be an unprecedented act, to send into the world, without a preface, a work of the magnitude of this volume; and I am glad to avail myself of the permission and of the opportunity which custom not merely allows, but prescribes, to say something respecting the succeeding Lectures, before they are dismissed to the candor of the public, which could not be said in the course of their delivery.
The history of the publication is simply as follows. It was suggested to me about five years since, in a cursory conversation, that it would be a desirable thing to produce a confirmation of the facts recorded in the sacred writings, from contemporary historians, so far as these could be obtained; and where the remoteness of scriptural narrations stretched beyond the chronology of heathen compositions, to adduce such fragments of antiquity as time has spared to us, so far as they bear any relation to events transpiring at the earliest periods. It was justly observed, that while many and successful efforts have been made, and are daily making, to elucidate and defend the doctrines and the precepts of Christianity, the facts recorded in the Bible have not been placed in the same advantageous point of view. Some have perhaps been deterred by the toil necessary to collect such testimonies, to Select from the mass evidences which are more prominent than others, and to discriminate such portions of heathen records as mingle truth with fable, to detect and expose the one, and to produce and enforce the other. It is also probable that not a few have declined to adventure upon this plan, because it is so unlike the usual and popular modes of pulpit discussion. Thus while the citadel of revealed religion has been ably and zealously defended, the out-works have been abandoned, or at least overlooked; and the posts where some veterans of old times fought, have, since their removal by death, remained unfilled. Upon revolving this conversation in my mind, I felt that the remark was important, and I began seriously to think of undertaking the proposed discussion, just so far as it might be useful to my own congregation, and would not interfere with the other arrangements of my ministerial labors. My first object was to discover by whom the ground had been trodden before me. I well recollected that Grotius had expressly set apart a portion of his treatise on the Truth of the Christian Religion, to the consideration of Foreign Testimonies: and in that useful little volume will be found many of the authorities produced in the following pages. But Grotius has written in Latin, and is not, therefore, accessible to an English reader. He has been translated; but the plan proposed forms a very small part of his production; and the whole work can only be considered as an epitome of the Evidences of Christianity, where the principal arguments in its favor are enumerated and stated, but never dilated, and seldom more than barely named. Various have been the productions which tend to this point, under the sanction of such illustrious names as Prideaux, Lardner, Briant, Stillingfleet, Pearson, Doddridge, and others. But these all enter only into a part of my scheme; they elucidate a particular portion of the sacred writings, or advert in general terms to the stability of the whole. Above all it appeared to me that there was yet wanting a work, which might interweave foreign testimonies to the truth of Scripture history, with the discussion of the history itself, which might admit general and important remarks with a selected subject; and which might relieve the barrenness and languor of mere discussion, and of a series of extracts from heathen writers; by assuming the shape and the ardor of pulpit and popular addresses. Such was the design of the Lectures now submitted to the public, and it would ill become me to conjecture how far I have succeeded in filling up the outline. The plan was sketched for the use of my own congregation; and delivered in my own pulpit. It was afterwards desired by some, who perhaps thought too favorably of the execution, that it should be brought into a larger circle; and the Lectures were accordingly delivered during two winters in London. By the importunity of the same persons, the work is now committed to the press; and time must decide (while I anxiously wait its decision) whether I have done well or ill in yielding my private opinion of the demerits of the execution, to their flattering prepossessions in favor of its utility.
Respecting the work itself, I have little to add to the remarks which will be found to introduce the first Lecture. Using freely different writers, I have also candidly acknowledged my obligations to them. I have carefully read over, and have endeavored faithfully to translate the passages produced from antiquity; and separating them from the body of the work, I have preserved their original form for the use of the scholar who may choose to hear them speak their own language, and yet might be unwilling to take the trouble to hunt them down through various works, in notes at the end of each Lecture. I have subjoined a list of the names of the principal writers quoted in this work, and have placed over against their names the periods in which they flourished. The list of errata in the work appears large, but will be found in few instances to affect the sense: the principal errors in it are the substitution of one Greek letter for another in various instances. I will venture to affirm that its magnitude has not arisen from my indolence; and the candid Reader will know how to make allowance for imperfections in sending out such a volume as the succeeding one, especially when the correction of the press rested with myself alone; and was performed amid weekly and daily, public and private, pressing engagements." I expect to derive much advantage from our public organs of criticism; and to candid criticism, criticism such as it ought always to be, willing to allow a merit as well as a defect, to point out a beauty as well as a fault, I shall always bow with respect, and shall always, be happy to avail myself of its corrections and of its advice. If I could write a faultless volume, I must possess more than human powers: if I have produced one which shall be useful to the cause of truth and religion (and such was my design,) I shall rejoice in my general success; and, I hope, be willing to listen with gratitude to the candor which discovers to me where I have failed. W. B. C.
BLAck HEATH-HILL, JMarch 20, 1807.
* It was judged unnecessary in this edition to print the notes in their original form; but a translation of all of them and references to the originals will be found, either in the Lectures where the quotations are made, or in their order at the end of the volume. The Errata mentioned above have been carefully corrected in this edition. AM. En.