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The Sixth Edition.
To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this word,
it is because there is no light in them. Is. viii. 20.
Wol. W. B
Tur original design of this compendious work was, in some respects, different from the direction which it took during the course of its publication. The author intended, by a series of Essays, each comprised in a single number, to guard the minds of young people especially, against the infidelity and scepticism of modern times, as well as to give a distinct view of the grand peculiarities and excellent tendency of genuine christianity. He purposed, not to be strictly methodical, argumentative, or systematick; but to treat a variety of subjects in a familiar, easy, and engaging manner. The attempt, however, soon convinced him, that he had not the requisite talents for Essays of this description; and that he must leave it to persons of a more versatile and happy genius, to furnish that species of publication, which seems most suited to the present circumstances, and best adapted to the taste of modern readers. As, however, the Essays first published met with great encouragement, and had considerable circulation, he proceeded on the plan to which he found himself most competent: and, without the least previous design, he at length completed, according to his views, a compendious System of the Christian Religion. In the present edition, great pains have been bestowed, in correcting the inaccuracies of the style; in rendering perspicuous such passages, as had been left rather obscure from regard to brevity; in giving energy to some arguments which had not been stated in their full force; and in placing several illustrations to
greater advantage. Peculiar care has likewise been taken to render the scriptural references and quotations accurate; and further proof, from the sacred oracles, has frequently been adduced, in support of the conclusions which had been formed: a correct and copious Index, for the conveniency of the reader, has also been annexed. The work, thus revised, the author commends to the candour of the publick, from which it has already met with a favourable reception: and he earnestly begs the prayers of all pious Christians, for the divine blessing on this attempt; and on all his other feeble endeavours to spread the knowledge of the blessed gospel of God our Saviour, and to excite and direct believers to adorn that holy doctrine by their whole conduct and conversation.
IT is manifest to all who seriously reflect on the powers and propensities of human nature, that we are formed capable of religion, and have an inward consciousness that we ought to worship some superior Being, on whom our safety and happiness depend: but at the same time, the state of the world, in all places where the Bible has not been known, unanswerably proves, that we are incapable of discovering for ourselves, a religion which is worthy of God, suited to our wants, and conducive to our true interest. The shortness of life also, and the reasonable persuasion that men in general entertain of a future state, concur to show that our grand concern lies in another world. Yet uncertainty and perplexity, nay, palpable error and absurdity, have ever encumbered men's reasonings and conjectures on these important subjects. Even at Athens, JEHow Ali was “the unknown “God,” and all beyond the grave was an unknown world. * Acts xvii. 23.