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THE Difcourfes contained in this volume may be confidered as fupplemental to those which I delivered in England relating to the fame fubject, juft before I left that country, and which have been re-printed in this. Being requested to preach in this city, I thought I could not make choice of any fubjects more unexceptionable, or more useful, than of fuch as relate to the evidences of revealed religion, in an age abounding with unbelievers, many of whom have become fo merely for want of better information. Being unwilling to go over the fame ground that I had been upon before, I have made these discourses interfere as little as poffible with the former. Some of the fame obfervations will, no doubt, be found in both; but they are not many, and of such particular importance, that they cannot be too much impreffed on the minds of Chriftians.
As I had no intention of publishing thefe discourses, at least at this time, I did not note the authorities I have made use of in them, as there could not have been any propriety, or use, in reciting them from the pulpit; and being at a distance from my library, I cannot add them now. But they are fuch as, I am confident, no perfon at all acquainted with the fubjects will call in question. They were by no means originally collected by myfelf. The far greater part of them have been frequently quoted, and their accuracy never difputed. I had little to do befides collecting, arranging, and applying them, in a manner fomewhat more adapted to my prefent purpose. The greater part of them will be found in Leland's Neceffity of Revelation, Young's Difcourfes on Revelation the Cure of Superftition, and the Letters of fome Jews to Voltaire, all which works I would recommend to the attentive perusal of my readers. The doctrines of the heathen philofophers were almost all copied verbatim from Brucker's Hiftory of Philofophy abridged by Dr. Enfield, a truly valuable, accurate, and well digested work. The account of the Grecian oracles, and various of their fuperftitions, will be found in
in Potter's Antiquities of Greece, a common,
but most excellent work.
The Second Part of Mr. Paine's Age of Reafon being published in this city during the delivery of thefe Difcourfes, I thought proper to animadvert upon fuch parts of it as ap peared to me most deserving of notice. I had once thought of replying to this part of the work more at large, as I did to the first part; but I afterwards thought that affertions fo extravagant and ill-founded as Mr. Paine's generally are, may be fafely left to have their full effect, as it can only be upon the minds of perfons fo extremely ignorant and prejudiced, that no refutation would be attended to by them, so that it would only be throwing pearls before fwine.
So great is Mr. Paine's ignorance with respect to subjects of this nature, that he maintains, page 35, that the book of Job has "all the circumstantial evidences of being an "original book of the Gentiles," principally because he finds in it the mention of Orion, Ar&turus, and the Pleiades, which are Greek words; when these terms occur only in translations, those in the original being quite difA 2 ferent.
ferent. Surely he had accefs to fome unbelievers, who could have informed him better. Without deigning to reply to any thing that had been advanced against the first part of his work, Mr. Paine in this proceeds with an air of infolent triumph, as if all the advocates of revelation lay proftrate at his feet, whereas they are looking down upon him, and feel no emotions but thofe of pity for himself, and his deluded followers, the blind led by the blind.
There are, however, unbelievers more ignorant than Mr. Paine. M. Volney, Laquinio, and others in France, fay that there never was fuch a perfon as Jefus Chrift, and therefore, though they may have heard that there are fuch books as thofe of the New Testament, I conclude that they cannot have read them. Surely fuch ignorance as this does not mark the Age of Reafon.
I have more than once obferved that the difbelief of revelation makes the belief of the being of God of no practical ufe, and that it has, in Francé, led to fpeculative atheism. In a tract publifhed at Paris in 1793, entitled A Letter to a Senfible Woman, is the following parapraph, p. 25.
"Theifm is an opinion refpectable for the "genius, and the virtues, of men who have "embraced it" (referring in a note to Socrates and Rouffeau), "no less than for the advantage which this first step towards "reafon, on abandoning the prejudices of in"fancy, has been of to mankind. But, af"ter all, it is but a first step, and no perfons "would stop there, if they would frankly give way to the impulfe they have received, "No perfon remains in this intermediate "fyftem but through want of reflection, ti"midity, paffion, or obftinacy. Time, expe"rience, and an impartial examination of our "ideas, will undeceive us. Voltaire, who " was long the apostle of theism, profeffed to "doubt towards the clofe of his life, and re"pented that he had been too confident. "Many others have experienced the fame.”
If, then, any perfon be in a state of mind in which he is fhocked at the idea of abfolute atheism, let him paufe before he abandon revelation, and give way to what this writer calls the first impulfe. But on no account let any obftruction be laid in the way of free enquiry. With the apoftle (1 Theff. A 3