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PREFACE TO THE READER.
It is neither to satisfy the importunity of friends, nor to prevent false copies, (which and such like excuses I know are expected in usual prefaces,) that I have adventured abroad this following treatise ; but it is out of a just resentment of the affronts and indignities which have been cast on religion, by such who account it a matter of judgment to disbelieve the Scriptures, and a piece of wit to dispute themselves out of the possibility of being happy in another world. When yet the more acute and subtle their arguments are, the greater their strength is against themselves; it being impossible there should be so much wit and subtlety in the souls of men, were they not of a more excellent nature than they imagine them to be. And how contradictious is it for such persons to be ambitious of being cried up for wit and reason, whose design is to degrade the rational soul so far below herself, as to make her become like the beasts that perish! If now the weight and consequence of the subject, and the too great seasonableness of it, (if the common fame of the large spread of atheism among us be true,) be not sufficient apology for the publishing this book, I am resolved rather to undergo thy censure, than be beholden to any other. The intendment therefore of this Preface, is only to give a brief account of the scope, design, and method of the following books, although the view of the contents of the chapters might sufficiently acquaint thee with it. How far I have been either from transcribing, or a design to excuss out of the hands of their admirers, the several writings on the behalf of religion in general, or Christianity in particular, (especially Mornay, Grotius, Amyraldus, &c.) may easily appear by comparing what is contained in their books and this together. Had I not thought something might be said, if not more fully and rationally, yet more suitably to the present temper of this age, than what is already written by them, thou hadst not been troubled with this Preface, much less with the whole book. But as the tempers and geniuses of ages and times alter, so do the arms and weapons which Atheists employ against religion. The most popular pretences of the Atheists of our age, have been the irreconcileableness of the account of times in Scripture with that of the learned and ancient Heathen nations; the inconsistency of the belief of the Scriptures with the principles of reason; and the account which may be given of the origin of things, from principles of philosophy, without the Scriptures. These three therefore I have particularly set myself against, and directed against each of them a several book. In the first, I have manifested that there is no ground of credibility in the account of ancient times, given by any Heathen nations, different from the Scriptures, which I have with so much care and diligence enquired into, that from thence we may hope to hear no more of men before Adam to salve the authority of the Scriptures by, which yet was intended only as a design to undermine them; but I have not thought the frivolous pretences of the author of that hypothesis worth particular mentioning, supposing it sufficient to give a clear account of things, without particular citation of authors, where it was not of great concernment for understanding the thing itself. In the second book I have undertaken to give a rational account of the grounds, why we are to believe those several persons, who in several ages were employed to reveal the mind of God to the
THE PREFACE TO THE READER.
world; and with greater particularity than hath yet been used, I have insisted on the persons of Moses, and the prophets, our Saviour and his Apostles, and in every of them manifested the rational evidences on which they were to be believed, not only by the men of their own age, but by those of succeeding generations. In the third book I have insisted on the matters themselves, which are either supposed by, or revealed in the Scriptures ; and have therein not only manifested the certainty of the foundations of all religion, which lie in the being of God and immortality of the soul, but the undoubted truth of those particular accounts concerning the origin of the universe, of evil, and of nations, which were most liable to the Atheist's exceptions, and have therein considered all the pretences of philosophy ancient or modern, which have seemed to contradict any of them ; to which (mantissæ loco) I have added the evidence of Scripturehistory in the remainders of it in Heathen mythology, and concluded all with a discourse of the excellency of the Scriptures. Thus having given a brief view of the design and method of the whole, I submit it to every free and unprejudiced judgment. All the favour then I shall request of thee is, to read seriously, and judge impartially; and then I doubt not but thou wilt see as much reason for religion as I do.