« PreviousContinue »
PRE FAC E.
HE following Tract, in the original plan of it, was intended to contain no more than that, which was at first announced, " a “ Synopsis of the Prophecies relating to the times of the Gentiles; but meeting in the first volume (which was the only one I had till very lately read) of Mr. Gibbon's well-known hiftory, several passages remarkably elucidating · some of the predi&tions of the Revelation, I resolved to look farther into his work. When the more I read, the more I was astonished at the very strong testimony borne to the accom. plishment of the Prophecies hy a writer, wlio had made an attack upon Christianity, which was at once subtle and bitter, and fupported by a 2 :
arguments not the most fair, and statements not the moft candid. As the evidence of a witness fo-free from partiality in its favour seemed cal. culated to attract the attention of those, who affect to consider every thing offered by an avowed christian in support of revelation as dictated by bigotry; I determined to enlarge my work, and to the statement of the predictions add a brief account of their accomplishment. And I have load the fatisfaction of finding, that the whole portion of the line of prophecy, on which I have thus commented, is attended, in almost every step, by the attestation of the hiftorian to its completion.
Having it thus chiefly in contemplation to bring forward the facts according with the predictions, and vouched by this writer, I have not hesitated to use the interpretations which former commentators have given of the symbols, where I have thought them just; without entering deeply into the realons on which they
are founded'; but referring the reader who wishes for more information on these points to the authours themselves. Neither where I have been induced to disent from others, have I done more than state the grounds of my interpretation. For is it'not enough to say what, I think will justify mine own, without striving to expose what to me appears weak in other men's conclusions ? I might perhaps in some instances have pleaded more amply for my agreement or my dissent, had I had access to some books, which I am not worth ; but a small library, and the want of means to enlarge it, reduce greatly the power of quotation.
There is however I am sorry to say, a defelt in the tract, which stands in greater need of apology, than the not producing more authori. ties. I mean the many uncorrected errours of the press. In excuse of which it may not be deemed sufficient to urge, that they often proceed from an habit (contracted at first from . a 3
veceslig necessity, and since become inveterate ) of reading rapidly ; by which I overlook many literal omissions or insertions, which one 'who reads more slowly would detect. The consequence of this, it may be replied, repeated perusals miglit correct. And it is true ; but for such I wanted time. For being once persuaded that the testiniony of Mr. Gibbon might be highly usefull to the cause of religion, I was sensible that the sooner it could be brought forward, the better; and sincerely lamented every uuavoidable delay. And how many such must be there encountered, those alone can tell who have had tracts printed in the country; where a master has no opportunity of selecting his workmen from a tribe of the most idle the world knows.
· Such as with these intentions and under these circumstances I have been able to make it, I now send it forth. Continued is the attack of the enemies of Revelation; day by day there
are protruded on the attention of the young and the unsteady, under various forms and from different quarters the delusive and pernicious doctrines of those, through its application to whom the name of Philosopher has been utterly disgraced, Rousseau, Voltaire, and Gibbon. By these the earliest duty of man, the reduction of the first and great Commandment, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all " thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with " all thy mind;" to practice, in the virtue of piety, is set at nought : and the rules of morality in lieu being placed on the firm ground. of individual relations, are holden forth as founded in the vague idea of the publick intereft : * the perfection of which it is far beyond
* The agreableness of this doctrine to the human mind ( for agreable at first sight is its aspect ) seems to arise from its making every man the genreal friend, But while the excuse it yields for every crime committed under the pretence of, or which even may not