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- To the poor
above all to the study of the scriptures, to reflecting habits, and to devotion. the gospel is preached :” and to the judgment of the poor and Christians of every class, the controversy concerning the person of Christ is daily submitted, in pamphlets, periodical magazines, and more elaborate treatises, in sermons from the pulpit, and in the conversation of private life. The public teachers of Christianity, of every form and denomination, are under peculiar obligations, to understand well this topic and those most closely connected with it; and to have, from solid conviction, a decided sentiment upon it, satisfactory to their own minds, and honestly avowed to others. The conscientious minister of religion feels this obligation, and acts upon it: those who are rash and comparatively ignorant adopt ready conclusions, which have cost them little, and which, if in fact right, are to these persons prejudices rather than principles : and even the perfunctory and indolent can with difficulty evade the demand upon their reluctant attention.
Many works, of various character and merit, have been published upon this truly important subject. Of these not a few are entitled to all the commendations which are due to ability and
learning, to sound judgment, fair reasoning, and Christian temper.* It must, however, be acknowledged that the generality of the earlier works, valuable and useful as on many accounts they are, were constructed upon a state of the controversy in a considerable degree different from that which it has more lately assumed. Others take up a limited view of the subject, and decline the investigation of some points which are necessary to a correct understanding of the case. Some have sacrificed their utility to their jealousies; and, by the accumulation of weak or dubious arguments, have obscured and enfeebled their better matter; others have sought a miserable assistance from harsh and irritating language, crying down rather than answering their opponents; some have assumed principles hostile to the right of free inquiry, personal judgment, and unrestrained profession of what is apprehended to be truth; some have rested their arguments on the authority and prescriptions of men; and, to the injury of a good cause and the deep grief of many conscientious friends of that cause, the authors of some other works have betrayed their chagrin that the justice of the British legislature has denied to their reason
• Among such works a high place is due to the Rev. Ralph Wardlau's Lectures on the Socinian Controversy, and his Reply to the Rev. James Yates's Vindication of Unitarianism.
ings the support of penal terrors.* In the mean time, the dispute is continued with unquenched ardour; and the claim of victory is made on each side, with apparently equal confidence.
It will not, I trust, be deemed an act of presumption in me, to attempt this service to the cause of scriptural truth. Not merely the common interest which Christians generally feel in a subject of vital concern, but other circumstances in my situation have led me, during several years, to be an observer of the progress of the controversy, and I hope not a superficial or bigotted student of the topics and questions which it includes, or which have a near relation to it. The design of the following work is to present an impartial view of the whole evidence, full but not diffuse, compressed but not obscure or ambiguous : and the manner proposed is that which seems most agree
· Is it humanity to stand on the shore and, seeing men in a storm at sea wherein they are ready every moment to be cast away and perish, to storm at them ourselves, or to shoot them to death, or to cast fire into their vessel, because they are in danger of being drowned? Yet no otherwise do we deal with those whom we persecute, because they miss the knowledge of the truth; and, it may be, we raise a worse storm in ourselves, as to our own morals, than they suffer under as to their intellectuals.” Owen on Spiritual Underst. chap. v.
able to the natural proceeding of the mind in the search after knowledge, a careful induction, rising from the most acknowledged principles, and rendered, as much as possible, unobjectionable at every step. “To the spirit of dictation: to the attempt to uphold the ark of God with unhallowed hands,” the writer hopes that "he will strenuously oppose himself;” desiring to be “armed only with the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit of God."*
After some Preliminary Observations, which the nature of the subject and the actual circumstances of the controversy seem to require, it is intended to trace the expectation of a great Deliverer and Author of happiness to mankind, from the earliest intimations upon record, through the successive developements of the divine purpose. In this induction, our object will be to ascertain, by a careful scrutinizing of the evidence as it arises, what those characters were of which the union in one person, who should in due time be revealed to the world, would constitute him the Saviour expected, the Messiah. This will be one leading part of our inquiry. The other will be founded on the position, the admittance of which denominates a man a Christian as distinguished from a Jew, a heathen, or
Monthly Repository of Theology, &c. (the principal periodical work on Unitarian principles), Oct. 1817, p. 639.
a deist, that Jesus is the MESSIAH. Our object, in this part, will be to ascertain, by the same inductive process what characters are attributed to Jesus, the acknowledged Messiah or Christ, in those writings which all Christians regard as the repository and rule of their faith. If the conclusions at which we may arrive, by pursuing these separate lines of investigation, should turn out to be at variance with each other, we shall be assured that we have erred at some point of our progress, and it will be necessary to retrace our steps. But if a comparison of the results thus attained by different, and in a great measure independent, processes, should find them to be coincident; we shall have the most satisfactory proof that each line of inquiry has been fairly conducted, and that the general conclusion resting on the whole body of separate yet harmonious evidence, is the verdict of truth.
I implore my candid reader to bring his serious and conscientious exertion to the study of this subject, to seek impartially, to pray fervently, and to avow the result honestly. No mortal has a right to call him to a judicial account for that result; but such account he must assuredly give to “ Him that liveth for ever and ever.”