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We are somewhat disposed to think, that “DickInson's Familiar LETTERS” are not so generally known to religious readers, in this country, as their character would lead us to expect. From some cause or other they seem to be confined to the libraries of those whose superior mental culture, and general acquaintance with religious books, have taught them to be select in their choice of domestic reading. If we be right in this conjecture, which, so far as our own observation extends, we rather think we are, the fact is somewhat surprising, and must be ascribed to the operation of those negative causes by which some of the best things in the world of literature occasionally drop out of view. It is a volume of which we can confidently say, that its language is free and familiar, its sentiments rigidly scriptural, and its reasonings clear and conclusive; while its subject is most important, and its calm enlightened spiritual earnestness, fitted to produce a deep impression on a mind which is inquisitively serious. To the reader who takes it up, however, we freely give warning, that it deals not at all in popular declamation, nor seeks to entice him into love with religion by the honied harmony of mere diction, but treats him, as a man should ever be treated, by reasoning its way to his heart through the medium of his understanding, and teaching him to judge of religion from what it is in itself, uninfluenced by the human accessories which often lower its dignity, or the adventitious embellishments in which it is sometimes disguised.
It is a Volume which requires thought, and yet the Author has contrived to make the process of thinking remarkably easy, by throwing the whole into the form of an epistolary correspondence with a very interesting inquirer, who was too intellectual in his turn of mind, and too exalted in the pride of reason, to be wrought down to the faith of the gospel by any thing but the mastery of its own specific argument. Its subject is most important, and this is the character of every subject in any way connected with man's eternal destiny; but it derives a peculiar importance from the consideration, that it directly meets, and effectually removes, the very difficulties which, in one form or other, the man of intellectual ungodliness is sure to encounter in his progress to genuine Christianity. This is the one point on which its Author has put forth the greatness of his strength; and as we know how necessary it is for the ingenuous reader, whose situation requires its to have the train of sentiment familiar to his mind, through which it proposes to conduct him, we shall endeavour to set the whole before him in one connected series.
The entire Volume is devoted to the establishment and illustration of the following interesting propositions :- That, even on the supposition that
the whole system of Christianity is a cunningly devised fable, the speculations of infidelity are a miserable tissue of bewilderment and folly,—that the evidence given for the truth of Christianity is more than sufficient to meet the most unbounded of our reasonable demands,-that to ask more evidence than has been given, in kind, or quantity, or perspicuity, would be to exemplify the grossest perversity, since no addition which man can devise could increase the claim of Christianity on our moral reception,that to resist a body of evidence so clear and abundant as that which Christianity presents, because a few motes of difficulty are floating amidst its light, is to betray the most deplorable moral infatuationthat the effects produced by Christianity on the hearts and characters of its gepuine disciples, cannot possibly be accounted for, except on the principle of its truth and divinity,--that the hypocrisy, or fanaticism, or moral inconsistencies, which characterize some who profess Christianity, are no argument whatever against its heavenly origin,—that there are certain assignable characteristics, by which a saving belief of Christianity is capable of being distinguished from every counterfeit,--that to substitute a mere im= pression that we are interested in the Christian salvation, in the room of that belief in the testimony of God which alone can warrant such an impression, is to commit a fatal mistake,--that our justification is founded in the righteousness of Christ alone, and is not procured, in less or more, by faith or works on our party—that although good works contribute nothing to the conversion of a sinner, nor directly to the support of his new nature, after he is converted,