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THE FOUR GOSPELS.
W. H. FURNESS.
“ A great deal is said about the beauty of the Scriptures, without
reference to any just principles of taste.”
CHARLES FOX, 67, PATERNOSTER ROW.
I HAVE endeavoured in this examination of the Christian Scriptures to realize in a degree the state of mind with which they would be read by one who should open them for the first time. It is perhaps impossible completely to project the mind beyond the atmosphere which it has breathed from the cradle ; or it can only be done at the imminent hazard of transcending the true point of view. To weigh with equal independence and candour the claims of the religion of one's age and country requires an almost incredible effort, especially from those whose office it is to uphold, in one form or another, the established faith. I can only say that I am not ignorant of the biases to which an inquirer, born and
brought up in a Christian community, is exposed. I have tried to guard against them; to look into the Christian Records, as if they had just been placed before me, at least with no disposition in their favour but that produced by the undisputed excellence of their morality; and to ascertain the precise truth as nearly as possible, unswayed by that veneration for authority which leads us to take too much for granted on the one hand, or by that love of novelty, so fruitful of doubt and denial on the other.
There are numbers who give no credit to the accounts of the Life of Jesus Christ. They barely admit his existence. There are many more whose faith rests only on tradition. I do not doubt, therefore, that works, like the present, whose aim it is to disclose grounds for personal conviction, are needed and may be useful. Still, a direct knowledge of the wants of others has not been the primary cause of this publication. The views contained in this volume have interested my own mind deeply. For this reason I have wished to publish them. I believe and therefore do I speak. Were I utterly unacquainted with the wants of others, I should deem it a safe
presumption that the experience of one individual, no matter how humble, in regard to a subject of universal interest, is the experience, if not of all, yet of many. Every man is the best representative to ! himself of other men. And he may justly be charged with arrogance, who fancies himself so peculiarly constituted, so different from all others, that what has satisfied his mind will not have a like influence in
numerous other cases.
It is extremely difficult to suggest any new mode of regarding admitted truths, without incurring the suspicion of unfriendliness to the truths themselves ; so generally is opinion identified with truth. I may be charged with a design to explain away the Christian Miracles, when, in reality, I am at a loss to express my sense of the value of the extraordinary facts of the life of Jesus. In every point of view, moral, religious, and philosophical—whether as lessons to every man's soul, or as attestations to the Divine authority of him by whom they were wrought, they possess a value of which we do not yet dream. They have been compared to the foundations of a grand edifice, into which the multitude enter and