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PREFACE TO PART I.
In the following pages the reader is presented with the outlines of the lives of those eminent laymen, who have distinguished themselves by their zealous exertions in defence of the christian religion. The account commences soon after the important era of the reformation, when there was a general freedom of religious inquiry ; and many of the great men, who are the subjects of these biographical sketches, lived at a time when the deists exerted all the force of sophiftry and delusive reasoning, to overturn the sacred" edifice of revealed religion. The narrow limits of this work will not ad. mit of giving a particular narration of the various incidents of their lives, or a discriminating characteristic of their peculiar virtues and defects. The principal object is to exhibit one prominent trait, by which they were distinguished, namely, their full coviction of the truth of christianity ; notwithstanding they might differ widely from each other in their view of particular doctrines,
they were all fully agreed in this important point.
Though these sketches are principally designed to bring into view those eminent laymen, who have written in defence of the christian religion, a number of others are in. serted, who have been celebrated for their attachment to the caufe of christianity, their fuperiour abilities, or uncommon benevolence. A larger number of others might doubtless be found equally deserving a place in this selection; but the brevity of the work, and the difficulty of procuring suitable materials, must form an apology for this omission.
In order to prevent any misrepresentation of the design of this compilation, it may
be proper to inform the reader, that these great names, and the testimonies they have given of their firm belief of the truth of christiani. ty, are not adduced to justify a reliance upon human authority, to establish the divinity of the christian system, but the evidences of revealed religion are still submitted to, and boldly challenge, the itrictest scrutiny, by the known and established rules of right reason.
“ Unbelievers," says a celebrated writer, attempt to make profelytes to infidelity, by
pressing upon the minds of the unlearned in fcripture knowledge, the authorities of Vola taire, Bolingbroke, Hume, and other deistical writers. It is proper that young persons should be furnished with a ready answer to the arguments in favour of infidelity, from the high literary character of those who profess it.” For, besides the strong evidence for the christian religion, there is probably a balance in its favour, from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth, after a serious examination of the sub. ject.
Whilst genius and learning have often been perverted, to serve the cause of vice and infidelity, it must afford exalted pleasure to every serious believer in the christian religion, to see men of the greatest natural and acquired abilities, devoting their fuperiour talents to the defence of the sacred truths revealed in the scriptures. They may well adopt the following beautiful lines of Cowper on this occasion.
" Philosophy baptiz'd
Gives him the praise and forfeits not her own.