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TO THE READER.
WHEN the author commenced this course of Lectures, he had no expectation that they would ever be requested for the press; nor had he any object to secure, except that of guarding the minds of those who attended on his ministry against the insidious influence of modern infidelity, which, like the pestilence, walketh in darkness, and wasleth at noon-day. And while he is aware that these Lectures are far from being the best which could have been produced upon the general merits of the subjects which they embrace, he is nevertheless conscious that they have been prepared from the purest motives, and with an ardent and sincere desire to promote the knowledge and practice of revealed religion.
The eye of the critic will doubtless discover many imperfections, both in the style and method of arrangement; but the arrangement is that which first suggested itself, when the plan of these Lectures was hastily drawn up: And as it respects the style, the author has aimed at nothing but plainness and simplicity, which he thinks is better adapted to a subject which requires the united force of argument and evidence, than any rhetorical embellishments which lay within his reach.
As several of the following Lectures were written and delivered before they were demanded for the press, it is possible that some parts of sentences may have been taken from those authors which were consulted, without giving due credit for the same should any instances of this kind occur in the following pages, the reader is hereby assured that they are unintentional.
The author is aware that he has passed by many important subjects, contained in the Scriptures, and which are supported by the authority of profane historians; and he
has neglected to call in the aid of numerous evidences which might have been appealed to in confirmation of the positions which he has labored to maintain, and the facts which he has advanced: But the addition of these would have extended the Lectures beyond the limits originally designed; besides, in all probability, it might have rendered them too voluminous for the perusal of that part of the community, who find but little leisure for reading polemical and theological discussions. The object has been, to introduce many of the leading and most important subjects of revelation, and accompany them with such remarks and evidences, as he thought would tend to impress a clear and salutary conviction upon the candid and reflecting mind, without an unreasonable draught upon the patience of the hearer or the reader. How far he has succeeded, must be left for the public to judge.
Should any remarks which these Lectures may contain, be thought uncharitable, or too severe, the author disclaims any intention of injuring the feelings of his opponents, or of treating their objections to revelation with the least unfairness. All who have read the writings, or listened to the arguments of skeptics, are aware that they are unsparing in ridicule and satire: These have been their principal weapons; and on these they appear principally to depend for their success. They, therefore, have no reason to complain, if their own weapons are occasionally turned upon themselves.
That the arguments and evidences contained in these Lectures may be rendered instrumental of promoting the honor of God, by removing some of the obstacles to the faith and practice of the gospel of Christ, and of guarding the youthful and inexperienced mind against the shares of temptation which beset their path; settle the confidence of the wavering, and contribute to the joy and peace of the believing heart; is the sincere and devout prayer of the author, in complying with the wishes of the friends of Divine Revelation.
JOB xxi. 15.
"What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?"
Such was the language of unbelief in the days of the patriarch Job ;-and such has been the language of those who knew not God, in every succeeding age. A portion of mankind, have, in all ages of the world, been found to indulge a propensity to cast off the restraints of fear and reverence, and finally to call in question the existence of the Supreme Being, and his government of the natural and moral world. And, my hearers, it requires neither the wisdom of Solomon, nor the inspiration of Paul, to describe the certain consequences of such infidelity. It prostrates at a single blow, the fairest temple that ever graced and beautified the creation of God, THE TEMPLE OF VIRTUE !
But you may, perhaps, inquire; is there in creation, a wretch, so devoid of reason and principle, as to deny the being of a God? Yes, my friends, there are multitudes, who in theory deny this truth; and still more, who, in practice, evince that they are destitute of any proper sense of their accountability to the laws and institutions of his moral government; and are, therefore, in every practical sense of the word, involved in all the darkness of atheistical infidelity!
It has been a question of doubtful solution, with some, whether there ever was a being, possessing moral intelligence, who could be so far blinded and depraved, as to call in question the truth, that a Being of infinite power and wisdom, created and governs the universe. But the modern boldness and daring attitude of skepticism has dissipated this illusion, and taught us that we have yet to contend, upon logical and philosophical principles, that the universe was created, and is governed by the agency of an infinitely wise and Almighty Being. Indeed, the
words of our text afford sufficient evidence that there were men of this description in former ages, notwithstanding all the plain and impressive indications of a divine and intelligent First Cause, scattered throughout the boundless immensity and endless variety of the works of creation and providence. Hence the necessity of meeting characters of this description upon the ground of their own choice, and of employing the weapons upon which they profess to depend, becomes obvious to every candid and reflecting mind.
Those who call in question the existence of a Supreme Being, alternately affect to be very wise and very ignorant. At one time you may hear them expatiating upon the astonishing laws and properties of nature; admiring the order, regularity and harmony of the physical universe, and really enthusiastic in their encomiums upon the wisdom, beauty and exuberance of nature: They appear to take delight in wandering back through the history of antique ages, and drawing from the records of olden time, the evidence of nature's constant and unchanging profusion. They will often profess a profound veneration and respect for the wisdom of nature's laws, and gravely philosophize upon the moral and social duties of mankind. But simply ask them whence these laws originated; from whom sprang this admirable order, regularity and harmony, so visible in the physical universe; and who is the author of nature, with all the profusion of blessings which it brings to man? and they will then change their position, and begin to plead the inability of mankind to form any correct conclusion of the source whence they had their origin; and of course, endeavour to persuade you, that for aught we know, they existed without beginning. With such pleas, and by confident appeals to man's ignorance of what he does not absolutely see, hear, feel, taste or smell, they have succeeded in many cases, in silencing those whose opportunities have not permitted them to read and investigate the subject with judgment and success: It may therefore be useful to push our inquiries still further, and if possible, sift this skeptical theory to the bottom.
What do these men, these pretended philosophers, mean by nature? Do they mean any thing more than the ma