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thority, we must allow that Chrift, the Prophets and Apostles, made
a true one.
Thirdly, let it be obferved, that though cautious unbelievers do not venture to charge Chrift, the Prophets and Apoftles, either with. grofs enthusiasm, or abandoned impofture, in exprefs terms; yet they find themselves obliged to infinuate both, in all their attacks upon Revealed Religion: which is, in effect, to acknowledge the truth of the prefent propofition; for it is the fame thing as to acknowledge, that both the charge of grofs enthufiafm, and that of abandoned impofture, are neceffary to fupport the objections against Revealed Religion. Now, as neither charge, fingly taken, can be maintained; fo both together are inconfiftent. Grofs enthufiafm, does not admit that conftant caution, and cool difpaffionate cunning, which abandoned impofture fuppofes and requires in order to fucceed.
THE RECEPTION WHICH CHRIST, HIS FORERUNNERS AND FOLLOWERS, WITH THEIR DOCTRINES, HAVE MET WITH IN ALL' AGES, IS AN ARGUMENT OF THEIR DIVINE AUTHORITY.
THIS evidence does, as it were, embrace all the others, and give a particular force to them. For it will be a ftrong confirmation of all the evidences for the Jewish and Chriftian religions, if we can fhew, that the perfons to whom they have been offered have been influenced by them as much as there was reafon to expect, admitting them to be true; and far more than could be expected, on fuppofition that they were falfe. The moft illuftrious inftance of this, is the victory which the Chriftian miracles and doctrines, with the fufferings of our Saviour and his followers, gained over the whole powers, firft, of the Jewish state, and then of the Roman empire, in the primitive times. For here all ranks and kinds of men, princes, priefts, Jewift. and Heathen philofophers, populace, with all their aflociated prejudices from cuftom and education, with all their corrupt paffions and lufts, with all the external advantages of learning, power, riches, honour, and, in fhort, with every thing but truth, endeavoured to fupprefs the progrefs that Chrift's religion made every day in the world; but were unable to do it.. Yet ftill the evidence was but of a limited nature; it required to be set forth, attefted and explained by the preacher, and to be attended to, and reflected upon, with fome degree of impartiality, by the hearer: and therefore, though the progrefs of it was quick, and the effect general, yet they were not inftantaneous and univerfal. However, it is very evident, that any fraud, or falfe pretence, muft foon have yielded to fo great an oppofition fo circumstanced.
The efficacy which the Chriftian doctrine then had in reforming the lives of many thousands, is here to be confidered as a principal branch of this argument, it being evidently the most difficult of all things, to convert men from vicious habits to virtuous ones, as
every one may judge from what he feels in himself, as well as from what he fees in others; and whatever does this cannot, as it seems to me, but come from God. The falfe religions, and various corruptions of the true, which have from time to time appeared in the world, have been enabled to do this in the imperfect manner in which they have done it, merely, as it feems to me, from that mixture of important truths, and good motives, which they have borrowed from real revelations, Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian,
In like manner as the propagation of Chriftianity, upon its first appearance in the world, evinces its divine original, fo does the progress. it has fince made, and the reception which it meets with at prefent, amongst the several ranks and orders of men. The detail of this would run out to a great length, It may, however, be of some use just to obferve, that notwithstanding the great prevalence of Infidelity in the prefent times, it is feldom found to confift with an accurate knowledge of ancient hiftory, facred and profane, and never with an exalted piety and devotion to God.
And it is as peculiarly for the credit of Christianity, that it should now be fupported by the learned, as that it was first propagated by the unlearned; and an inconteftable evidence for it, as appears to me, that it has been univerfally embraced by all eminently pious perfons, to whom it has been made known in a proper manner.
The analogous obfervations may be made upon the reception which the Jewish religion met with, both from the Jews themselves, and from the neighbouring nations. It feems impoffible for Mofes to have delivered the Jews from their oppreffion in Egypt, and afterwards to have fubjected them to his laws, for Jofhua to have conquered Ca naan, for the religion to have fubfifted in the fucceeding times of the Judges and Kings, for the priesfts and prophets to have maintained their authority, for the people to have returned after their captivity, with their religion in an uncorrupted ftate, and to have fupported it and themselves against the kings of Syria and Egypt, and the power of the Romans, and to remain at this day a feparate people difperfed all over the world, according to the prophecies, unless the miraculous part of the hiftory of the Old Teftament be allowed to be true, as well as the other.
THE RECEPTIONS WHICH FALSE RELIGIONS HAVE MET WITH IN THE WORLD, ARE ARGUMENTS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN.
I WILL here make a few short remarks,
Firft, upon the polytheistical, idolatrous religion of the ancient
Secondly, upon the religious inftitutions of Zoroafter.
Thirdly, upon the impofture of Mahomet.
Fourthly upon the enthufiaftical fects which have appeared from time to time amongft Chriftians.
All these feem to have met with fuch fuccefs, as might be expected from the mixture of truth and falfhood in them, compared with the then circumstances of things. They are therefore indirect evidences for the truth of the Chriftian religion, fince this has met with fuch success as cannot be reconciled to the circumftances of things, unlefs we fuppofe it true.
And, firft, the ancient Pagan religions feem evidently to be the degenerated offspring of the patriarchal revelations; and so far to have been true, as they taught a God, a providence, a future ftate, fupernatural communications made to particular perfons, especially in the infancy of the world, the prefent corruption of man, and his deviation from a pure and perfect way, the hopes of a pardon, a mediatorial power, the duties of facrifice, prayer, and praise, and the virtues of prudence, temperance, juftice, and fortitude. They were falfe, as they mixed and polluted these important truths with numberless fables, fuperftitions, and impieties. That degree of truth, and moral excellence, which remained in them, was a principal cause of their fuccefs, and eafy propagation among the people; for their moralfense would direct them to approve and receive what was fit and useful. And, had the people of those times penetrated fufficiently into the powers of the human mind, they might have concluded, that religious truths could not be of human invention. However, as the impreffions which the hiftorical and prophetical evidences for the patriarchal revelations had made upon mankind, were not yet obliterated, they believed, upon the authority of tradition, that all important knowledge, especially in facred matters, was of divine original,
As to the miracles faid to be wrought upon certain occafions in Pagan nations, we may make these two remarks: first, that the evidence for these is far inferior to that for the Jewish and Chriftian miracles; so that thefe may be true, though those be falfe. Secondly, that we are not fufficiently informed of the ways of Providence, to infer that God did not permit, or cause some miracles to be wrought, even in times and places where great corruption prevailed. Divine communications and miracles were probably most common foon after the flood, in the infancy of mankind. Afterwards, as they advanced towards adult age, thefe fupernatural interpofitions grew more rare (unlefs upon fingular occafions, as upon the publication of the Law by Mofes, and of the Gofpel by Chrift; at which times, many and great miracles fucceeded each other at fhort intervals, in order to command awe, attention, and belief): and it may be, that they ceased in the Pagan world for fome ages before Chrift; or it may be otherwife; and that, in rare and extraordinary cafes, the hand of God appeared in a miraculous manner. Analogy favours the last opinion, as it feems to me; which alfo appears to be more countenanced by history than the contrary one; and yet the pretences to miracles amongst the Pagans were undoubtedly falfe in the general,
I come, in the fecond place, to confider the religious inftitutions of Zoroafter. We have not fo full and authentic an hiftory of these, as to compare them properly with the Jewish or Chriftian revelations. If we suppose, that Zoroafter and Hyftafpes fet up the worship of one God, in a fimple manner, teaching and inculcating the practice of virtue at the fame time, this religion may be.faid to have confiderable moral evidence in its favour. If, farther, we fuppofe it to be in part derived, either from the defcendants of Abraham by Keturah, called Brachmans from him, or from that knowledge of the true God which the ten tribes and the Jews had then communicated to that part of the world, it will become an evidence for the Jewish religion.'
Thirdly, the religion of Mahomet allows and prefuppofes, the truth of the Jewish and Chriftian. Its rapid propagation was owing chiefly to the mixture of political interests. That part of its doctrines which is good, is manifeftly taken from the Scriptures; and this contributed to its fuccefs. However, a comparison of Mahometism with Chriftianity, in the feveral particulars of each, feems to fhew, that whenever a ftrict examination is made into the hiftory of Mahometifm by its profeffors, the falfhood of it will quickly be made evident to them. It could not stand fuch a trial as Chriftianity has, fince the revival of learning in thefe Weftern parts.:
It seems easy to apply what has been delivered in the three laft paragraphs to the analogous particulars of the religion of Confucius, and of other religions found in the Eaft and West Indies, as far as their hiftories are fufficiently full and authentic for that purpose.
Laftly, one may make the following remarks with respect to the feveral enthusiastic sects that arise from time to time amongst Chris
First, that their pretences to miracles and prophecies have, in general, been detected and exposed, after fome examination and inquiry; unless the fect has begun to decline from other caufes, before a strict examination became neceffary.
Secondly, that their pretended miracles were not of that evident kind, nor done in the fame open manner, &c. as the Jewish and Chriftian miracles.
Thirdly, that these pretended miracles have not produced lafting effects upon the minds of men, like the Jewish and Christian. Now, though a religion may fucceed for a time without true miracles, yet it feems hard to believe, that any fhould fail with them.
Fourthly, the fuccefs of fects has in general been owing to their making greater pretences to purity and Gofpel perfection than eftablifhed churches, and to their both teaching and practifing some neceffary duties which eftablished churches have too much neglect. ed in the corrupted ftate of Chriftianity. And in this light they have been true in part, and have done the most important fervice to the world. Every fect of Chriftians has magnified fome great truth, not above its real value, but above the value which other fects have fet upon it; and by this means each important religious truth has had
the advantage of being fet in a full light by fome party or other, though too much neglected by the reft. And the true Catholic church and communion of faints unites all these fects, by taking what is right from each, and leaving the errors, falfhoods, and corruptions of each, to combat and deftroy one another.
And it may be, that mankind will be able in future generations to fee, how every other fect, and pretence to revelation, befides thofe of enthufiaftic Chriftians, in whatever age or country it has appeared, has been, all other things remaining the fame, fuited in the beft poffible manner, both to particular and general purposes; and that each has prepared the way, in its proper place, for that more complete state predicted in the Scriptures under the titles of" the kingdom of Heaven,' and "of righteousness, of the New Jerufalem," &c. Even infidelity, atheism, and fceptifcifm, have their ufe. The veffels of wrath are ftill veffels belonging to the Maker and Lord of all things, and anfwering his infinitely beneficent purposes. "Offences must come,' though "wo be to thofe by whom they come !" Each fect, and pretence, and objection, has given, or will give, way in its time. The true and pure religion of Chrift alone grows more evident and powerful from every attack that is made upon it, and converts the bitterness and poifon of its adverfaries into nourishment for itself, and an uni verfal remedy for the pains and forrows of a miferable, degenerate