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PREFACE TO THE SIXTH EDITION.
So many and so remarkable have been the in. stances which have come to the author's knowledge of a divine blessing attending the reading of this book, to the turning of men from infidelity, not only to the belief of the truth, but to the earnest following of Christ, that he cannot but regard it as a call from God to endeavor to promote more widely its circulation. It would make a very interesting little book were it in the power of the author to recollect and relate the particulars of the many cases of persons who have ascribed their conversion from infidelity, and their affectionate embracing of the gospel, under the blessing of God, to the use of this little, unpretending work. In many instances, the accounts were given to the author by the persons themselves earnestly seeking an interview for the purpose ; in others, by their friends made happy by their conversion, or by those who had advised the reading of the book, and wished its writer to be partaker with them in the joy of knowing that it had been made a signal blessing. Some are now in the ministry of the gospel, who, when they began the perusal, were in the darkness of infidelity. A copy of the first edition was sent by the author, as a present, to the library of a literary institution. Some time after, he received a request for another copy, with the reascn that the first had got worn out before it ever reached its destination. The explanation was, that an officer of the institution had lent it to a person living in a neighboring village, who was well known among the inhabitants as an infidel, and who had succeeded in poisoning the minds of many in the vicinity against the gospel. God blessed the book to the breaking up of that man's whole boasted system of opinion. He became a Christian, and then sent the volume as a missionary among those whom he had poisoned. When its rounds were done, which were greatly blessed, it was worn out, and a new one was re. quested for the library.
The author is sensitively aware of the delicacy of his speaking of these things, lest he should seem to regard them with feelings of self-complacency, and to mention them with a view to his own praise. God forbid. How can he take praise to himself for that which is, and must be so exclusively, the work of the mighty power and unsearchable grace of God, as the conversion of a sinner from a hardened infidel to being an humble, obedient follower of Christ? He has three motives in speaking of these things. One is, that he may thankfully acknowledge the goodness and con. descension of God in having made use of an instru. ment so humble and unworthy, for the accomplishment of such a wonderful and infinitely precious end as the turning of immortal souls “from darkness to
light, and from the power of Satan unto God” Certainly, when these lectures were composed, and when the author concluded to print them, he little expected ever to be greeted with such accounts of their use. fulness as have come to his ears.
Another motive is, that persons may be encouraged to put this, or similar books, into the hands of those who unhappily have taken up with sentiments opposed to the gospel of Christ. There is a mass and a solemnity of strength in the evidences of Christianity, when properly presented—there is visible upon them so distinctly the handwriting of God, that they cannot fail to be exceedingly impressive to any mind that is once induced to consider them. The author is persuaded that professing Christians are too little informed on this subject for their own benefit and usefulness, and that the importance of the general circulation of well-digested, serious, earnest, spiritually-minded works thereon, is not rightly appreciated by the Christian community.
A third motive is, to point out one reason which may account for the fact, that in the circulation of this book and others of the same class in a certain respect which will presently be mentioned, there have occurred so many more instances, not merely of the removal of sceptical doubts, but also of the actual work of God's grace in turning sinners to himself, than have usually been known in connection with books on the evidences of Christianity. No explana. tion can be found in any greater skill, or weight of argument-in any new evidences, or any new logical method of arraying what had often been exhibited before
It seems to be in this, that the argument is not presented merely as an argument, abstractedly from the great and infinitely momentous interests which depend upon the conclusion to which the reade shall come, but is kept in close connection with the question, What must I do to be saved ? and thus its whole force becomes a matter of serious and solemn impression, as well as of intellectual conviction. This is seen in the admirable lectures on the Evidences, by Bishop Wilson, and also in the forcible volume on the same subject, by one whom the present writer cannot speak of without an expression of veneration and love for one of the most eminent Christians and philosophers. of his age-his deceased friend, the late Olinthus Gregory, LL. D. Those books exhibit gospel truth, as well as prove tnat the gospel is true. The earnestness of the Christian preacher accompanies the argument of the scholastic reasoner. The question stands before the reader as one of conscience as well as of judgment. It seems invested with all that is serious in the worth of his soul and in the consideration of eternity. God blesses such books of evidences more than others, as he blesses those sermons more than others which, though they may be inferior in argument, in talent, in eloquence, have more of the seriousness and earnestness of the gospel. Perhaps the writer may be allowed to insert here, in confirmation of these views, the opinion