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It is, I am persuaded, but seldom that a work is presented to the public under a more oppressive load of conscious solemn responsibility than which presses upon my own spirit in delivering over to the verdict of the Christian community the present volume. By no possibility can I disguise from myself the fact, that the results which it announces are of-very momentous import to the interests of revealed truth. .j?n>m the inevitable relations of the doctrine of the Resurrection to the cognate announcements of the great scheme of Scriptural Eschatology, or the doctrine of the last things, a course of reasoning, or a theory of interpretation which goes essentially to change the established view of that tenet, must necessarily work a correspondent change in our estimate of a whole class of subjects bearing upon the theme of human destiny in another life. Now it is certain that the conclusions to which I have arrived, and which will be found embodied in the ensuing pages, must, if built upon sound premises, present the grand future under an entirely new aspect. The resurrection of the body, if my reasonings and expositions are well-founded, is not a doctrine of revelation.
I cannot be unaware of the shock which such a declaration is calculated to give to the settled preconceptions of a great portion of Christendom. Nor can I be insensible to the imputation, which it can scarcely fail to draw after it, of an uncommon degree of temerity in thus virtually assuming to arraign and to convict of error the current creed of the Church for the space of eighteen centuries. The severity of judgment reasonably to be expected on this score I know can be propitiated only by an overwhelming cogency of proof of the truth of the main position. This it would doubtless be rash to promise; but it may go somewhat perhaps in arrest of a condemning verdict to assure the reader, that I have profoundly weighed all the considerations which naturally urge themselves upon one who ventures to such a length of rational and exegetical hardihood as he will probably find evinced in the work before him. I beg him also to believe, that nothing short of the most intense conviction of the truth of the principles on which my conclusions rest, could have prevailed upon me to stand forth so much in the attitude of an impugner of the fixed belief of good and great men both of the past and the present. For to say nothing of the rashness of hazarding a dubious theory upon a cardinal doctrine, I have, in a worldly point of view, every thing at stake: as no former services in the cause of biblical truth can be expected to redeem any man from the consequences of a subsequent radical error. It is doubtless reasonable that this avowal should carry with it some weight in evidence of the strength of my own convictions of the truth of the positions I have assumed to maintain, although I am well aware that this is not the kind of evidence necessary to secure the convictions of the reader.
If any thing can be cited in the way of apology for thus going against the prevalent views of the Christian world on an important point of doctrine, it is the establishment of the principle maintained in my Introduction, of the progressive development of Scriptural truth. This principle I believe to be a sound one, and under its tutelage my conclusions must take shelter.
On a candid review of the whole subject, I cannot divest myself of the impression that both my premises and my conclusions are sound. If so, let it not be thought strange that my solicitude for the result embraces my readers as well as myself. Truth has the same claims upon them that it has upon me. As it must necessarily be a matter of serious moment with me to propagate that which is false, so it cannot be a thing of light import with them to reject that which is true. It is at any rate certain, that no one can justly feel himself at liberty, in the forum of his own conscience, to repudiate or decry the positions assumed in this book without a thorough examination of the grounds on which they rest, and a competent exegetical expose of the fallacy of my reasonings. I feel, with great force, the justice of my demand, that the argument shall be fairly met, and this it cannot be but by a process of investigation similar to that which I have myself instituted in the ensuing pages. No candid mind, therefore, can fail to appreciate the earnestness with which I enter my protest against the hasty verdict of mere prejudice and preconception. Putting, as I do, every thing at stake on the score of reputation, influence, uselulness, and temporal well-heing, I feel that I have a right to be heard in defence of conclusions eo fraught with weal or woe to their author. When such a hearing can be secured on the part of enlightened minds, I cannot say that I cherish much concern as to the issue. I have the utmost confidence that the evidence, when fairly presented, will strike them as it does me. Yet but a slight acquaintance with the history of opinion, and particularly of religious opinion, is requisite to beget the anticipation, that the work will be condemned, if at all, by those who will be so much offended at the conclusion, that they will not deign to put themselves in possession of the premises. It is, however, a consolation to which I should blush to be insensible, that Truth has Omnipotence for its Patron, and that, like Wisdom, it will eventually be "justified of its children."
After all, I know not that a mainly deprecatory tone is that which the true character of my work most properly warrants. If I could deem myself to have come forth as an opponent to the great truth involved in the doctrine of the Resurrection—if I had invaded in a ruthless way the faith of a future life, of immortality, of retribution—I might have stronger motives for Beeking to soften the sentence which I could not hope to avoid. But it is not in this character that I claim to appear before the tribunal of the Christian public. There is nothing destructive in the'bearings of the theory here presented. I have advanced nothing that is intrinsically calculated to weaken the force of the great moral sanctions of the Gospel. I leave the sublime announcements of the Resurrection—the Judgment—Heaven— Hell—clothed with all their essential practical potency, as doctrines of revelation, though placed, as I trust, upon their true foundation, and eliminated from the mixtures of long adhering error. I may venture then to say, that whatever sentiments of repugnance the views here broached may encounter in limine, it will arise rather from the hearsay results which I have announced, than from a calm and candid scanning of the entire argument. The issue of this I am confident will be a far more