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heretics, as they are called, must surely have a good deal to say for themselves."
These discourses were favoured, in the delivery of them, with a measure of public countenance, as gratifying as it was unexpected :-and the same reasons which suggested the idea of preaching them, afterwards induced me to consent to their publication. I hope they may, in however small a degree, contribute, by the Divine blessing, to promote the reception and the influence of that truth, with the establishment and progress of which are connected the glory of God and the salvation of men.
Local circumstances frequently procure a reading to new works, when old ones on the same subject, even although of superior merit, would continue to lie neglected. Should no new views or new arguments be advanced, still it is needful, as different times and different places have their peculiar prevailing tastes, to present what is old in new and various forms.
But besides this consideration (although of itself sufficient), -it has frequently struck me as a defect of considerable magnitude, in some of the treatises which have been published on the subjects handled in this volume, particularly the Divinity of Christ, that the writers have lessened the effect which their works are designed to produce by attempting more than enough. Instead of confining themselves to those passages of scripture, in which the argument is prominent and palpable, resting their cause on these, and leaving it to their readers to apply the general principle, when thus successfully established, to the interpretation of other passages ;—they have, with the laudable view of showing how full the Bible is
of the particular doctrine they defend, exerted their ingenuity, with various success, in bringing texts to bear upon it, of which the application is dubious, or, even when satisfactorily ascertained, by no means impressive. I need not point out the various ways in which this mode of conducting the argument is fitted to hurt the cause in which it is employed, and to afford an advantage to its adversaries. It is just as if a person, wishing to present a view of the evidence of the truth of Christianity from the fulfilment of prophecy, instead of selecting those grand and leading predictions, of which the accomplishment has been notorious and unquestionable,
should occupy his pages in explaining and supporting, however ingeniously, his own interpretation of particular passages in the prophets, respecting which the wisest commentators have hitherto differed in judgment. It has been my aim, in the following Discourses, to avoid this defect. Whether I have at all succeeded, it is not mine to determine.
I have only further to observe, that in defending what I conceive to be the essential articles of scriptural truth, I have confined myself entirely to the Scriptures themselves. Those who wish to trace the history of early opinions on these subjects, may satiate themselves with the copious works which have been written on both sides. For my own part, although satisfied of the propricty of not allowing the opposers of the truth to occupy even this ground, I yet cannot help considering it as a monstrous insult to the Divine Author of revelation, to admit the supposition for a moment, that, on such subjects as these, it should be necessary to wade through the multifarious opinions of antiquity, in order to understand his mean
ing. I say on such subjects as these: for if on these points there is such a want of explicitness,-points that regard the object of worship, the state and prospects of man, and the foundation of his hopes for eternity,-on what subjects shall we look for clearness and precision? If it were indeed the case, that, on such topics as these, the Bible is indeterminate, requiring, for the explanation of its language, the commentary of ancient opinion, the infidel would be furnished with an argument against its Divine origin, more powerful than any he has ever been able to produce.
In the following discourses, additions, omissions, and other alterations, have been occasionally, but sparingly, made. In general, they are printed very nearly as they were delivered. I once had thoughts of dividing them anew, into sections of as nearly equal lengths as possible; but, upon reconsideration, gave up the plan.-The chief difference in the arrangement is, that the recapitulations and the conclusion, on the subject of the Divinity of Christ, are here thrown into a distinct Discourse; which increases the number from eleven to twelve. I commend the work to the blessing of God, and to the candid judgment of men.
Glasgow, April 30th, 1814.
THE SECOND EDITION.
SINCE the publication of the first Edition of these Discourses, a Work has appeared in answer, entitled "A Vindication of Unitarianism, &c. by James Yates, M. A."-To those parts of that Work which seem to call for particular notice, it is the Author's intention, as soon as other engagements will permit him, to reply in a distinct publication. If God shall give him opportunity to fulfil this intention, his reasons for forming it, as well as his judgment of the work in question, will then fully appear; and the evidence for the great doctrines of the gospel, which it has been his endeavour to defend, will be rendered, he trusts, still more complete and satisfactory, by various additional proofs (some of them unconsciously afforded by his opponent), and by the removal of the most plausible objections. He is induced to intimate his intention at present, chiefly to account for the circumstance, that although some considerable part of this Edition of the Discourses has been printed since the appearance of Mr. Yates's Reply, no particular reference is made to any of its contents.