Gentlemen,—Through the generous and voluntary liberality of a highly esteemed and estimable Freethought friend, and at his suggestion, I have been enabled to get out this Second Edition of my pamphlet, of upwards of 4,000 copies, chiefly for gratuitous distribution among yourselves. The gentleman referred to conceived the project of supplying every Minister in the Province with a copy, and it was further decided to also supply the College Students.
The compliment to pamphlet and author, which this action on the part of an intelligent and discriminating Liberal implies, I, of course, duly appreciate. When the work was written a few months ago, at the request of fellow-liberals, I had no expectation that it would ultimately go before so critical and learned a body of readers as the Clergy, Graduates, and College Students of Ontario. I supposed one modest edition of 2,000 copies would be all that would ever see the light. But it has been otherwise desired by my readers. I have, therefore, no further apology to make for presenting you with the work (my object being the advancement of truth), and I earnestly submit for your best consideration its subject matter rather than its literary merits or demerits. The time has come when these great questions must be examined, for they will come to the front in spite of the most tenacious conservatism. Everywhere, thoughtful men are earnestly looking into them. That the old landmarks in religious belief are being effaced and the Creeds and Confessions rapidly breaking up is becoming every day more and more apparent. Goldwin Smith, a man of great historical acumen, has recently said "A collapse of religious belief, of the most complete and tremendous kind, is, apparently, now at hand."* The Rev. Hugh Pedley, B.A., Cobourg, in a very able paper in the July (1880) number of the Canadian Monthly, on "Theological Students and the Times," says: "There can be no doubt that all forms of thought, all systems of belief, however venerable with age, are being: handled with the utmost freedom. Skepticism is becoming more general, and is protean in its adaptibility to circumstances. There is the philosophical skepticism for the cultured, and popular skepticism for the masses: the Reviews for the select, Col. Ingersoll for the people. No Index Expurgatorius, whether Catholic or Protestant, whether ecclesiastical or domestic, is barrier strong enough to stem the incoming tide." He also says: "I would advocate a manly, courageous dealing with the doubts of the age in all our theological schools." * * * "Let there be no timid reserve. Let our young ministers face the whole strength of the rationalistic position." * * * "It is not enough that ministers should be well read in church history, not enough that they should be able to expound in logical fashion the church doctrines of the Trinity, the Atonement, &c, not enough that they should understand the architecture of a model sermon. These matters are quite right in their place, but the minister should go further. He must go down to the root question, and enquire whether the history, the systematic theology, and the homilectics are based on a really Divine Revelation, or only on a series of beautiful legends which foolish, but reverent, hands have wreathed about the person of Jesus of Nazareth, a wonderful, religious genius that long ago illumined the land of Palestine." Further, Mr. Pedley says: "We find men talking as if thoroughness of investigation would inevitably lead to a loosened hold on Christianity. So much the worse then for Christianity. If young men of average intellect, and more than average morality, find that the more keenly they study Christianity, the less able they are to accept it, and preach it, then must Christianity be relegated to the dusty lumber-room of worn-out and superseded religious systems."