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DR PRIESTLEY'S PREFACE.
AFTER examining the foundation of our Christian faith, and having seen how much valuable information we receive from it, in my Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religion, it is with a kind of reluctance, that, according to my proposal, I must now proceed to exhibit a view of the dreadful corruptions which have debased its spirit, and almost annihilated all the happy effects which it was eminently calculated to produce. It is some satisfaction to us, however, and is more than sufficient to answer any objection that may be made to Christianity itself from the consideration of these corruptions, that they appear to have been clearly foreseen by Christ, and by several of the apostles. And we have at this day the still greater satisfaction, to perceive that, according to the predictions contained in the books of scripture, Christianity has begun to recover itself from this corrupted state, and that the reformation advances apace. And though some of the most shocking abuses still continue in many places, their virulence is very generally abated; and the number is greatly increased of those who are most zealous in the profession of Christianity, whose lives are the greatest ornament to it, and who hold it in so much purity, that, if it was fairly exhibited, and universally understood, it could hardly fail to recommend itself to the acceptance of the whole world, of Jews and Gentiles.
The clear and full exhibition of truly reformed Christianity seems now to be almost the only thing that is wanting to the universal prevalence of it. But so long as all the Christianity that is known to heathens, Mahometans, and Jews, is of a corrupted and debased kind ; and particularly while the profession of it is so much connected with worldly interest, it is no wonder that mankind in general refuse to admit it, and that they can even hardly be prevailed upon to give any attention to the evidence that is alledged in its favor. Whereas, when the system itself shall
appear to be less liable to objection, it is to be hoped, that they may be brought to give proper attention to it, and to the evidence on which it rests.
Disagreeable as must be the view of these corruptions of Christianity, to those who love and value it, it may not be without its use, even with respect to themselves. For the more their abhorrence and indignation are excited by the consideration of what has so long passed for Christianity, the more highly will they esteem what is truly so; the contrast will be so striking, and so greatly in its favor. Both these valuable ends, I hope, will be, in some measure, answered by this attempt, to exhibit what appear to me to have been the great deviations from the genuine system and spirit of Christianity, and the causes that produced them.
In the Conclusion of this work, I have taken the liberty, which I hope will not be thought improper, to endeavor to call the attention of unbelievers to the subject of the corruptions of Christianity, being sensible that this is one of the principal causes of infidelity.
There is nothing, I hope, in the manner of the address that will give offence, as none was intended. I trust, that from a sense of its infinite importance, I am deeply. concerned for the honor of the religion I profess. I would, therefore, willingly do any thing that may be in my power (and I hope with a temper not unbecoming the gospel) to make it both properly understood, and also completely reformed, in order to its more general propagation, and to its producing its proper effects on the hearts and lives of men; and consequently, to its more speedily becoming, what it is destined to be, the greatest blessing to all the nations of the world.
NOTE.-It will be proper to mention here that Dr Priestley examined, and has quoted in the course of his work, the following authors, ancient and modern: Justin Martyr, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Irenæus, Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, Arnobius, Cyprian, Cyril, Athanasius, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Hilary, Gregory Nazianzenus, Optatus, Chrysostom, Basil, Augustine, Socrates, Sozomen, Gregory the Great, Lactantius, Hierononymus, John Damascenus, Bernard of Clairval, Peter the Lombard, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Dupin, Grotius, Beausobre, Basnage, Giannope, Fleury, Sueur, and some others. In the original work, from which this Abridgment is made, he mentions the editions which he used of the works of these writers, and in the course of his History specifies the volume, chapter, section, page, etc. from which his authorities, and quotations are drawn. But in this Abridgment these references are omitted, because they would occupy too much room, and would not be of much advantage to any readers except to professed scholars, who might have in their possession the authors referred to; and who besides would, if possible, read the entire book in preference to any abridgment whatsoever,
CORRUPTIONS OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE HISTORY OF OPINIONS RELATING TO JESUS CHRIST.
The Unity of God is a doctrine on which the greatest stress is laid in the whole system of revelation.* To guard
*"Those passages in the New Testament in which the Father is styled one, or only God, are in number 17.
“ Those passages where he is styled God absolutely, by way of eminence and supremacy, are in number 320.
"Those passages where he is styled God, with peculiarly high titles and epithets, or attributes, are in number 105.
Those passages wherein it is declared that all prayers and praises ought to be offered to him, and that every ihing ought to be ultimately directed to his honor and glory, are in nunber 90.
"Passages wherein the Son is declared, positively, and by the clearest implication, to be subordinate to the Father, deriva, ing his being from him, receiving from him his Divine power, and acting in all things wholly according to the will of the Fa-: ther, are in number above 300.
"Of 1300 passages in the New Testament wherein the word God is mentioned, not one of them necessarily implies a plurality of persons.
"To which may be added about 2000 in the Old Testament, in which the Uniiy of God is either positively expressed or evidently implied.” — Grundy's Lectures, quoted in a note in Bur. nap's Lectures on Unitarianism, p. 38.