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This work was first published in the year 1796; the second edition, (the preface to which is here prefixed,) in 1799. In the beginning of 1820 a new-modelled edition appeared, designed particularly ** to meet the objections which late events had caused to be so generally circulated in newspapers and periodical pamphlets, that many thousands were brought acquainted with them, who never saw, and never might see the Age of Reason.” Of this edition the Author says, “He has entirely written over again his former work, and, while he has greatly abridged it, has added much new matter, and several striking quotations, especially from Bishop Watson; so that the present may more properly be considered as a new publication on the subject, at the close of his life and labours; than merely as an abridgment.” Still however this was an abridged edition, and less interesting, as well as less full, than the original work; which therefore is here reprinted from the edition of 1807, but with the insertion, in its proper place, of every material correction or addition subsequently made by the Author—J. S. " " '
to THE SEcond Edition.
A considenaBLE change seems to have taken place in the minds of numbers respecting “The Age of Reason, and its celebrated author, since the first publication of this answer: yet it may be feared that infidelity and scepticism have not proportionably decreased. Perhaps the enemies of revelation have even established themselves on more tenable ground; and, by conceding that the books of the Old and New Testament are authentic records, they derive some advantage in denying that they are divinely inspired : but, if this point be maintained, the rest is of comparatively small moment; for we still want an authoritative standard of faith and practice. It was on this ground, therefore, that the author ventured to meet the Goliath of modern infidelity; and, as he had sufficient evidence that his answer had not been wholly unsuccessful, he was not willing it should be out of print in Britain, when it was printed and circulated on the other side of the Atlantic. It seemed, however, unnecessary to take up the reader's time in exposing the ignorance, errors, or misrepresentations peculiar to Mr. Paine, or in answering such sophisms as he alone would have advanced. Some passages therefore are retrenched, in order to render the answers to plausible objections more forcible, by bringing them nearer together, and in some instances enlarging on them.
The author has also bestowed considerable pains in making the whole more instructive and convincing to the serious inquirer. He hopes there fore that the work is rendered more suitable to the case of those, who, without having read "The Age of Reason,' are yet perplexed with difficulties concerning the divine inspiration of the scriptures, and wish to have their objections fairly considered, their arguments answered, and their doubts removed.
The work is divided into two books. In the former, Mr. P. is followed through the several divisions of the Old and New Testament. In the latter, his general objections to revelation, miracles, prophecy, the canon of scripture, mysteries, and some other particulars, are answered ; and a compendious view given, in connexion with these subjects, of the evidences and nature of our holy religion. The author has endeavoured to follow Mr. P.'s advice, by not confounding a dispute about the authenticity (or rather the divine inspiration) of the scriptures, with a dispute about
doctrines. He attempts therefore to prove nothing from the scriptures themselves, but the excellency of the religion contained in them, and the existence of prophecies which have been most circumstantially accomplished.
In respect of Mr. P.'s work, it may be proper to observe that it by no means accords to its title.
The Age of Reason' is far more replete with wit and rhetorical flourishes, than with sober discussion and solid argument. It is in fact an attempt to reduce to practice Lord Shaftsbury's famous maxim, that ridicule is the test of truth ;' except that scurrility and acrimony generally predomi- . nate. It is easy to answer Mr. P.'s reasonings, in which there is very little that is new; but his confident assertions, vehement declamations, and smart repartees, are very imposing. Every reader should therefore pause from time to time, and, when he has been carried away by the author's popular eloquence and wit, he should seriously ask himself, What argument does all this contain ?
Hitherto the human race has, in one way or other, been generally destitute of true religion ; and that author must be very sanguine who expects to produce a sudden revolution. There is however no fear lest the Bible should fall,' as Mr. P. seems to predict; for it has stood many far more formidable assaults, and will survive every opponent: but doubtless numbers will fall and perish by means of the publications of infidels: and on the other hand, a few individuals may be preserved or recovered by every attempt to counteract those efforts; and this may suffice to stimulate our exertions. .
When Mr. P. thought himself near death, he rejoiced that he had published the first part of "The Age of Reason. This indeed proved the sincerity of his enmity to the Bible ; but not that his opinion of the Bible was well grounded. Should a Christian adduce a circumstance of this kind as a proof that his principles were true, he would, not
without reason, be counted an enthusiast. Mr. P. elsewhere swears that he thinks the Christian religion is not true: and concludes his deistical creed by saying, ‘So help me God!’. This is an advance above all preceding infidels, and may evince that he was sincere in his opposition to the gospel: and so was Saul of Tarsus:" but was he oright in his opinion on the subject? Though priests be not allowed to pay the same regard to their credit, interest, or even subsist•ence, which all other men do without censure; yet, so long as they believe the Bible to be the word of God, they are bound in conscience to de*fend it: and why should they not be as much authorized, and as competent, to write on religion, and in defence of it, as other men are eoncerning their several professions Mr. P. professes to draw all his arguments against the scriptures from the scriptures themselves. This is specious and politic, but very deHusive: and his quotations from ancient and modern enemies to Christianity prove that he would gladly have employed other weapons, had he known where to find any that suited his purpose. But men of greater learning and application than he are here at a loss: for, the more the subject is calmly and solidly investigated, the fuller will be the proof that “All oscripture is given by INSPIRATIon “of God, and is profitable for doctrine,' for re* proof, for correction, for instruction in righ“teousness; that the man of God may be perfect, “thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”—
**Acts xxvi. 9.