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The following pages are written, to point out the consistency of the Scriptures, in giving us the knowledge they professedly have in view; namely—that knowledge which is essential for our comfort in this our transitory state. To do this, we first show the limited knowledge of the natural mind, and the certain misery attending it, without a revelation: and thence reduce the subject to this simple conclusion that those people, who do not admit revealed knowledge, must admit the total ignorance of themselves: so that the reasonable part of mankind may have evidence, that such scepticism does not arise from an impartial examination of the subject, but from the unreasonableness of a depraved nature; and that their stumbling block is the error of pride — which disdains instruction beyond the little circle of the wandering fancies of ignorance! If, however, they should inquire, whether the Scriptures do, or do not, reveal a knowledge, far beyond the depth that either ancient or modern philosophy can attain — they would perceive its worth, by the extended views it would afford them; and, in laying low the selfish pride that blinds their judgment, would induce the same rigid and dispassionate examination of them, they now bestow on subjects of far less importance:—they would then find, that the mine of truth lies deep, and its treasure imparted but progressively to human intellects that, in the providence of the Almighty, " she is 'as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day—that “ her ways are ways of pleasantness,” in liberality and justice and that “all her paths are peace,” in reciprocal good will.
It is necessary here to observe, that, in the following pages, the words added to passages from the Scriptures, to make them understood, or any thing asserted, will be afterwards found supported by other passages from them: for the plan pursued throughout the work is, that revealed knowledge shall speak for itself—and so arranged as to make manifest, that the whole is consistent with our natural reason, as far as experience can inform us; and that the order of all things, within our limits, tends to that harmonious whole, independent of the jarring passions of human weakness, which the Scriptures assure us, we are approaching.
It is also necessary to observe, that, in tracing the meaning of the words, Devil-Satanworks of the devil—works of the flesh—lusts of the flesh--the serpent-prince of this worldof the power of the air-of darkness—Beelzebub—the beast, &c. the dispassionate understanding is required, and appealed to; as in our ordinary reading of the Scriptures, those words have seldom had a definite meaning to satisfy the mind — few people having supposed they meant, the influence of the malignant pas. sions in the actions of mankind, including every other word which signifies evil, that is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ; yet, such will be found to be their true meaning. But, in the following work, the words spirit of evilspirit of malignity-malignant passions—seed of the serpent-are occasionally used to express the same meaning. We, therefore, humbly hope, that no one will suffer an inconsiderate levity to mislead him, in ascertaining this important truth, as we believe it will be found the key to that knowledge, in which human happiness is most essentially concerned. And after all — if we can impress the minds of others with the same truths, which have afforded the inestimable comfort we have derived, from an attentive examination of the šubject, during the greater part of the last fourteen years, our object will be attained, and our time not mispent in the publication.