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The substance of two of these Lectures, the second and the twelfth of the Second Course, has already appeared in print in the North American Review. In a few other instances, also, a paragraph has been borrowed from essays that have been for some time before the world. Whenever I have had occasion to adopt the language of others, the quotation has been distinguished in the ordinary way, and referred to its author.
Some apology may seem to be due from one who is not a clergyman, and who has never been, in the technical meaning of the phrase, a student of theology, for undertaking to lecture upon such a subject as the Evidences of Religion. For the many imperfections of my work, indeed, I am quite willing to plead the want of professional training as an excuse.
But I am not sure that the public discussion of this subject ought to be given up altogether to the professed teach
ers of Christianity. Religion is a matter of personal interest and vital importance to every human being ; the question respecting its truth or falsity is one that he must investigate for himself, and determine upon his own responsibility. The subject presents itself under various aspects to different minds; and though the unprofessional student of it certainly labors under a serious disadvantage, from the want of that comprehensive and exact information which systematic instruction alone can give, he may deem that this defect is in some measure compensated by the greater freshness of the theme to him, and by the fact that he approaches it from a different point of view, and that his testimony is not exposed to the imputation of professional bias. Most of the clergy, I am confident, will not harshly reject the proffered services of a volunteer, who, though he may be unskilful in the use of his arms, is perhaps better acquainted than they, from their habits of professional seclusion, can be expected to be, with the nature of the perils from without with which their cause is threatened. One who is not a theologian can best declare the nature of the difficulties with which the subject is surrounded in the minds of those — the great majority of the world — who have had as little experience and instruction as himself.
Though so many volumes have been written upon
the Evidences of Religion, it does not appear that the subject is exhausted, or that the productions of a former age are in every respect suited to the exigencies of our own times. There are peculiar forms of infidelity, or peculiar causes of latitudinarian opinions in religion, which are more prevalent in one age than another. I have endeavoured in these Lectures to meet those objections and difficulties which are most current in our own day; to meet them with that course of argument and illustration which has seemed most satisfactory to my own mind, and without fear of incurring the charge of a want of originality on the one hand, or of a fondness for novel and abstruse speculations on the other. I have not been afraid, either to follow in the footsteps of others, if their arguments happened to be best adapted to my purpose, or to strike off into a new path, if I might thereby more surely and safely attain the great object in view. Those who find little that is new in this book may be assured that it was not written for them, but for a class of readers who are less adequately informed upon the subject. Those who dislike abstract speculations may pass it over for a similar reason; if they have never been entangled in a web of metaphysical subtilties, a clew to the labyrinth will be of no service to them.
Some repetitions will be found in these Lectures,
of which they might have been cleared by a more thorough revision than I have had time to make. In general, I have been more willing to incur the charge of prolixity and a frequent recurrence to the same line of remark and argument, than of obscurity or an affected abstruseness. The nature of the objections considered has unavoidably led me into some of the dark corners of speculation; but I have honestly tried to dissipate rather than increase the obscurity, and for this purpose have often held up the same subject in many different lights, and looked at it from
, various points of view. A few additions have been made while the work was passing through the press ; but the Lectures are printed mainly as they were delivered. To have elaborated them less carefully for the lecture-room than for the press would have been unpardonable disrespect to the audience who listened with so much kindness and patience to the discussion of themes which promised very little variety or entertainment. Though the recapitulation, at the beginning of one Lecture, of the argument in the preceding one is not so useful for the reader as the hearer, I have allowed it to remain as it was written, because when an argument has been once explained at length and with some minuteness, a brief summary of it often makes the connection of its parts more obvious, and the reasoning itself more clear and convincing.