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 "THE CHRISTIAN'S DEFENCE" The debate out of which this volume grew was held at Columbus, Mississippi, in the spring of 1841, between Rev. James Smith and Mr. C. G. Olmsted. Mr. Olmsted, the author of a work entitled, "The Bible Its Own Refutation," was a resident of Columbus. Dr. Smith visited this city during the winter of 1839-1840, and finding the young men of the place to be very largely under the influence of Mr. Olmsted, he delivered a series of lectures, especially addressed to the young men of the place, on "The Natures and Tendencies of Infidelity," and another upon, "The Evidences of Christianity." While these lectures were in progress, Dr. Smith was approached by a committee, who sympathized with Mr. Olmsted's views, and who, with the sanction of Mr. Olmsted, brought a written challenge to Dr. Smith to meet Mr. Olmsted in a public discussion of the whole ground at issue between them. Dr. Smith accepted on condition that he have time for adequate preparation. He communicated with friends in Great Britain, who procured and sent to him the latest and best material bearing on the subject. His book contains reproductions of the supposed Zodiac at Denderah, and a colored reproduction from the monuments of Egypt of brickmakers, believed to be Israelites. The researches of Rawlinson were made available to him, and a considerable body of additional literature.
Because Dr. Smith's book has been spoken of slightingly by men who never saw it and who had the vaguest possible notion of its content, and because the book itself is so excessively rare that in the nature of the case few readers of this volume can have access to it, I have copied the Title Page, a portion of the advertisement, and the whole of the very full Table of Contents.
We need not concern ourselves with the question whether Dr. Smith's line of argument is that which probably would be found most cogent if a similar debate were to be held at the present day. Sources of information are now available, of which[Pg 359] neither Dr. Smith nor his opponent could possibly have had any knowledge. But any reader of this chapter analysis will be compelled to testify that a book which covered the ground of this outline and did it with logical acumen and force of reasoning, is not to be spoken of now in terms other than those of admiration for the industry and earnestness of the author, and the cogency of the conclusions which he deduced from his premises. One is prepared to believe from the testimony included in a number of letters that are reprinted in the advertisement and in the preface that these lectures produced a profound impression upon those who heard this discussion.
The more carefully these lectures are examined, the more probable does it appear that in form and method they would have been likely to make, what they appear to have made, a very strong impression upon Abraham Lincoln. It must have been evident to him that Dr. Smith was familiar with both sides of the question, and Lincoln can but have admired the courage and ardor with which he went into a discussion so fully in keeping with methods which Abraham Lincoln himself enjoyed and which later he employed in his great debate with Douglas. We can well believe that he spoke with the utmost sincerity when he told Dr. Smith that he counted the argument unanswerable, and stated to his brother-in-law, Hon. Ninian W. Edwards, and his associate at the bar, Mr. Thomas Lewis, that these lectures had modified his own opinion.
From the Southwestern Christian Advocate, Columbus,
Miss., 1841
Mr. Editor—I have thought that a concise account of this debate might not be unacceptable to your readers. It is a mortifying fact, that this city has become FAMOUS—or rather INFAMOUS for the prevalence of deism and atheism among her c............
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