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"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and be ready always to give an answer to every man, that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."-1 Peter, iii. 15.

"But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth."-2 Timothy, ii. 23–25.

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It was not originally the intention of the Author of the following pages to have troubled the Reader with a preface, which will account for the introduction of some remarks in the Conversations which would with more propriety have been inserted in this place. The great importance of the subject, and the number of excellent works upon it already before the public, seem to make a few introductory observations necessary. To those well read in the best authors, the publication of any thing new, by one acquainted with them, and able to appreciate their worth, may afford matter of surprise ; and the compiler of this very humble volume is not without some apprehension that the fact of its production may lead to the conclusion of incompetency to the task. It is, however, neither from a blind zeal, ignorant of the great number of writers, who have in fact exhausted the subject, and presented it under almost every variety of form of which it is capable, nor from the cɔnfidence generally connected with superficial

reading, that the present volume has originated. If old books could be got into general circulation among all classes as much as they deserve, there would be no occasion for new ones on sacred subjects; but so long as many are indifferent to religion, as well as some opposed to it, no effort on its behalf, when conducted by right means, can be regarded as unnecessary. The critic who will read the attempt here made to explain the nature of the Evidences of Christianity, before he passes judgment upon it, will find that its object is to recommend Christianity, as defended in the pages of its best advocates; to induce all into whose hands it may fall to investigate the claims of religion, before they venture to neglect its precepts, and to despise its warnings.

The form of Conversations, under which the subject is here presented, is not that which the author regards as the best which could be adopted, neither is the proof developed to that extent which it would bear; and in many other particulars connected with the subject, additions of greater or less importance might with propriety have been made, had the present work been intended as a complete and systematic view of all that could be adduced in behalf of Christianity. The object,

however, of the author was to be read by those who cannot or will not read the works of abler men. That form, therefore, was adopted which experience has shewn most likely to succeed, and the argument developed to that extent only which the limits of a small and elementary work permitted.

The references given to other writers in the course of the work, will shew it was by no means intended to limit the proof of the truth of the Christian Religion to the certainty of the facts and arguments here adduced ; and it is presumed that the advocates of the additional evidence, as derived from the doctrines of Christianity, which might have been brought forward, would not have 'wished it to appear in a mutilated or imperfect form. No argument, of course, could have been derived from the doctrines of Christianity, without first establishing the fact of their existence in the Holy Scriptures, which would necessarily have involved a variety of considerations not adapted to a work of this kind, would materially have increased its bulk and expense,' and consequently lessened the chance of its utility. It is apprehended that few, if any, will be disposed to cavil at the assumed fact of the existence of those doctrines which are in any measure alluded to; but if this be not the case, it must be observed, that the great weight of the argument is independent of them, and that the author leaves it for the Scriptures, fairly interpreted, to decide; being fully convinced, that the more closely they are studied, the more incontrovertible will be found the evidences in their favour.

As the sentiments of many of the authors made use of in the course of this work materially differ from those of others also quoted, upon points not connected with the arguments in which they respectively appear, the candid reader will certainly not impute to the compiler any intention of advocating their opinions, beyond what is expressly stated. The difference of language, and a resolution of not making use of any translation unsanctioned by public opinion, alone prevented considerable quotations being given from the principal continental writers, which would have marked this yet more strongly.

In the quotations given, and the authors cited, no hope is entertained of meeting the wishes of all parties : if they are allowed in general to be good, it is all that can reasonably be expected. Had the limits of the work permitted, most gladly would

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