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fiah is certainly come, and that he is no other than that Jefus whom we worship.
That the Greatness of the Mysteries of the Chriftian Religion, and the Divi fion which is among ft Chriftians, cannot be any prejudice to the Proofs of the Truth of the Chriftian Religion.
COME now to examine the double ftumbling block which the Jews pretend against the Chriftian religion. This religion, fay they, propounds doctrines that are inconceivable, and contrary to reafon for infance, that of the Trinity, that of the Incarnation and the Divinity of the Meffiah. Thefe are the doctrines which the Jews reject, as abfolutely incompatible with the books of the Old Teftament, which we have received from their hands.
But it is an eafy matter to answer this objection. 1. It is founded upon a total forgetfulness of the folidity of thole proofs of fact, which I have alleged. Jefus Chrift is rifen from the dead; this is a fact confirmed by feveral witneffes. It appears from Tacitus, that Jefus Chrift fuffered death under Tiberius, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea. It is known that Claudius banifhed the Chriftians from Rome, in the year of our Lord 54. It is evident from Tacitus, in his life of Nero, that he accufed the Chriftians of burning the city of Rome, which himfelf was the author of; the Chriftians therefore made a confiderable body in the capital city of the empire, and this happened in the year of our Lord 64. Suetonius fays the fame thing. 2. It appears that Pliny, in Trajan's time, takes notice of the manner of their meetings. 3. Dion Caffius fets down the accufation brought in against Flavius and Domitilla, as against Atheists; which is the title Julian the apoftate gives to Confantine, because the Chriftians rejected the worship of the Heathen gods. 4. It appears by the latter end of the Acts of the Apostles that this book was writ in the year of our Lord 63; and yet this book fuppofes the Gofpel of S. Luke to have been written before it; and S. Luke's Gospel takes it for granted, that fome of the other Gospels were already published. 5. It appears from the writings of Clemens Romanus, that the Epiftle to the Hebrews was then written; and the fame may be gathered from the books of S. Ignatius, Polycarp, and S. Juftin. Thefe facts, which are certain, are fufficient to prove that immediately after the death of Jefus Chrift, his Apoftles, and their Difciples, as eye-witneffes, maintained the truth of his refurrection. After this it may indeed be difputed, by what power he was raifed, whether by a Divine power, or by his own; but it is ridiculous to difpute the fact by reafonings drawn from pretended abfurdities which one may think to find in the doctrines of the Gospel. Secondly, Thefe myfteries, as for inftance that of the Trinity, re
lates to the Divine nature, which is incomprehenfible, fo that it is no ftrange thing if an idea of it be proposed to us, which not being diftinctly known by us, may raife difficulties and perplexities in our minds. If I would difcourfe with one born blind, of the fun, of its light and heat, and fhould attribute to the fun the production of light, and afterwards of heat, he would find an infinite trouble not to imagine three funs. It is known how the philofophers, who agreed about the unity of the foul, have notwithstanding been obliged to attribute feveral faculties to it, which the common people look upon as very different things, and which feem to oppofe the ideas of its unity and fimplicity.
In the third place, The Chriftians prove very tolidly, that these myfteries have been clearly propofed by the Apoftles, who received their light from heaven as to thefe truths, and fo might neceffarily be believed upon their word, for the fame reafon that the Prophets of the Old Teftament were formerly believed.
Moreover, they affert that thefe doctrines were firft expreffed, tho' not fo clearly, in the Old Teftament, which is in the hands of the Jews, the mortal enemies of Chriftians.
I add to these remarks, that most of thofe facts whofe truth is fo invincibly established, fuppofe thefe doctrines; and that the whole frame of the religion doth fo neceffarily require them, that we rob it of a confiderable part of its glory in queftioning or contefting any of them.
Thefe reflections may fuffice in general to refolve this difficulty of the Jews; and, for a more particular fatisfaction, we refer the reader to thofe books which purposely treat of these myfteries, defiring him to observe carefully, that commonly the moft difficult objections of Heretics against thefe matters, do rather oppofe the terms which are made ufe of, or the notions which men follow in fpeaking of thefe truths, than the propofitions contained in the writings of the New Tefiament.
At least one may be affured, that the Jews are conftrained to refolve feveral parallel objections, to which one can scarcely give a fatisfactory answer, without borrowing fome distinctions and notions from the Chrif tians.
Neither can the fecond objection of the Jews give us any more difturbance. It is true that there have been divifions amongst Chriftians, and are still to this day. What can we conclude thence? Can we reafonably conclude that therefore the firft founders of Christianity were doubtful concerning the truth of those facts which are the support and foundation of it?
On the contrary, upon an attentive obfervation one may find,
1. That herefies have only ferved to render the truth of these facts more incontestable, by obliging thofe that had confidered of them, to examine their certainty with more care and application. This is the judgment one ought to make upon all thofe herefies in the fecond age, about the truth of the flesh of Jefus Chrift, or about the truth of his death from thence men took occafion to take notice of, and collect with great care, all the circumstances that prove the truth of both these facts.
2. We find that the greatest part of these contests do not concern the truth of the facts, but the feveral confequences drawn from them, the truth of thofe matters continuing ftill beyond difpute. This we find in
the difpute raised about the millennium, the truth of the promises of Jefus Chrift being equally believed by both the difputing parties; but differently understood, according to the temper of thofe that confidered of them; fome forming grofs and fenfual conceptions concerning them; others having a more fpiritual relifh, which they had acquired by ftudying the prophecies, and their true sense.
3. We find that this divifion which had fprung up amongft Chriftians, is one of the moft folid proofs of the truth of the books of the New Teftament. If fome fools have endeavoured to decry fome of them, or to falfify fome particular places, we fee that both parties unite to repel that violence, by producing their copies, and beating back the impoftors with their united ftrength. One fees that Tertullian, tho' a Montanif, writ prescriptions against Heretics; and Epiphanius takes notice (without any refpect to fome that were orthodox) of their crime in blotting out of their copies, that Chrift had wept.
It is known that the divifion of the Jews into Karaites and Thalmudifts, the jealoufy between the Jews and Samaritans, and the divifion between the Jews and Chriftians, is a means of preferving the Scripture, and hindering its corruption, each party being very vigilant to hinder their adverfaries from attempting any thing to its prejudice, in corrupting a book which they confider as common to them all.
I might observe many other advantages which accrue to the truth from thefe human failings; but I will only inftance in one, which has always feemed to me very confiderable; and that is, That thefe Heretics diftinctly prove the truth of the predictions of our Saviour. An impious perfon would have reason to accuse our oracles as false, if there had never been any herefies. But truth triumphs in feeing fo great a multitude of them, who the more they increase, the more fhe fees herself confirmed and establifhed. This is the reafon induced God to permit fo great an increase in the firft ages, when the truth, meeting with the greatest oppofition by profecutions, ftood in the greatest need of fenfible characters by which it might be known.
I conclude this work with defiring my reader to confider thefe reflections upon the holy Scripture here propounded, with a ferious attention, and to examine the coherence and indiffoluble connexion of them ; and with prayer to God that it may please him to make them ferviceable to advance the glory of his name, which is the only end I have proposed to myself in the writing of them.