Imágenes de páginas
PDF

abominable falfhóôds. As I know, on the one hand, that you cannot fwallow fuch grofs abfurdities as thefe; fo I also know on the other hand, that you have no way to avoid them, upon the fuppofition before us. It may be further observed, that if the reporters of thefe miracles did themfelves know, that their narratives were fićtitious and falfe, it will alfo follow, that the most vile and wicked men that ever were in the world, and the most abandon'd to all fenfe of virtue and piety, did draw up the best fystem of prastical religion, the most worthy of God and man, that ever was known ; that they, contrary to their inward principles, fet the beft examples, and walk'd according to the rules of this religion themfelves; yea, without any known motive, fpent their whole lives in a continued courfe of the greatest toil, fatigue, and mifery, that ever men did, to promote this religion, to imprefs it upon the minds of others, and to teach them, according to it, to live in the love and fear of God. It will alfo follow, that thefe enemies of God and godlinefs (who were so profane, as againfttheir own light to propagate this imposture, in the name of God Almighty) did not only give up the hopes of future happinefs, but all the comforts of this life alfo, in vindication of this known falfhood ; that to this end they ventured upon every thing that is most terrible and affrightening to human nature, and even upon the most cruel and barbarous death, without the leaft possible hopes of advantage, either in this world, or that to come. For they did know, and could not but know, that they were going themfelves, and leading their followers, upon the pikes of their numerous and potent adverfaries, without any prospeċt beyond the grave (upon the fuppofition before ưs) but of eternal damnation. And what ftill increafes the abfurdity of this fupposition, is, that not one of thefe ever retraếted this known falfhood, even in the article of death; but boldly encountred the most shameful and painful deaths their adverfaries could infli&t, rather than confefs the truth- What, Sir, can you possibly imagine of fuch condućt as this ? That thefe men were not mad and distraćted, appears evidently by their works : which, - E

[ocr errors]

though plain and familiar, were the most confiftent, divine, and rational, that ever appeared in the world. Heré muft therefore be a continued fcene of miracles, one way or other. It muft at least be allowed miraculous, for fo many men knowingly and continually to aćt in direćt oppofition to all their interefts, comforts, and hopes; and run counter to all the principles of humanity, to all the springs ofaćtion, that were ever known among men. Let us now try the fecond fuppofal ; and enquire whether it is possible, that the reporters of thefe faćts, and all other spećtators of them, had their fenfes im posed upon, by any legerdemain trick, juggle, or deceit ? Whether, for inflance, the fenfes of the apofiles were imposed upon for fome years together, while there were daily miracles wrought by their master before their eyes ? Whether the fenfes of whole multitudes were imposed upon, that they really thought they faw the fick healed, the dead raifed, &c. and thefe things repeated again and again for a long traćt of time, when there was indeed nothing at all in it ? Whether the witnefles of our Lord’s refurrection were imposed upon, when they fupposed they faw him after his death, eat and drank and converfed familiarly with him for forty days together, and beheld him taken up to heaven before their eyes ? And whether all the first churches were imposed upon, when they imagin’d that they faw miraçles repeatedly wrought among them ; and had themfelves miraculous gifts and powers ? If thefe extravagant fuppositions are allowed, of what fervice can our fenfes be to us ; and how can we any way be certain of any thing whatsoever ? We may as reafonably imagine, that our whole life has been one continued dream ; and that in reality we never faw, heard, felt, thought, fpake, or aćted any thing at all. Here likewife you must necessarily allow a continued courfe of miracles, one way or other. At leaft it muft be allowed miraculous, that fo great a part of the world should all lofe their fenfes together; and yet all of them imagine that they had all this time their fenfes in their full exercife. Let us next confider, whether the last of the fuppofi

[graphic]

- ****-- *********

tions, that the whole history of the miracles wrought by - our Lord Jefus Chrift and his apostles, was an aftergame, a mere piece of forgery obtruded upon the world in fome distant time after the faćts were pretended to be done, will appear more reafonable, than the others already confidered. I have fpoken fomething to this in my fecond letter, to which I refer you: and shall now only add fome hints' further to illustrate the cafe before us. If this laft cafe be fuppcfed, the forgery must be palm’d upon the world, either before or after Christianity had generally obtain’d. If this false history was thruft upon the world in fome, diftant age after the faćts were pretended to be done, before Christiarity had generally obtain’d, it will then follow, that all the historians of those times (Christian, Jewish, and Pagan) have united in confederacy, to give us a falfe account of Christianity’s immediately fucceed: ing the crucifixion of Chrift, not only in Judea, but in all parts of the Roman empire. That they do all agree in this report, is what you muft acknowledge: but how they came to unite in relating fuch matters of fast, which they all (upon this fuppofition) muft know to be falfe, is what no man can poffibły imagine. If this was done after Christianity had obtain’d, it will follow, that a great part of the world renounced the religion in which they had been educated, for the despifed dostrine of the crofs, and for a life of continued contempt, mifery, and peril, without knowing the reafon why; and altogether ignorant of the foundation upon which their new religion was built. For, if they profeffed Christianity, before they knew the history of Christ’s life, miracles, death, refurrećtion, afcenfion, and before they had heard of the apoftles progress and miraculous works, with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which accompanied their ministry ; they then allagreed to facrifice their most valuable temporal interefts, and multitudes of them endured the molt terrible deaths, in a caufe which they knew nothing about, and none of them knew any manner of reafon why they should do fo. That is, iń plain English, a great Part of the world run mad at ổnce,

[merged small][ocr errors]

most unaccountably; and from thefe madmen, Christianity is defcended down to the prefent time.

It may be further obferved, that upon the fuppofition before us, it will follow, that in whatever distant age. from thefe pretended faĉts, this history was palm’d upon the world, all men at once muft be perfuaded to believe for truth, what they knew to be falfe. Thefe histories declare, that they were written by the apostles and immediate disciples of our Lord, that the authors of thefe histories did propagate the gospel through the world, did fend thefe writings to the churches, to be kept in their

hands, as the rule of their lives, and the directory of their:

condust; and that in fast, multitudes of the feveral nations were profelyted unto, and baptized into the faith of Christianity. Now, was it possible, at any time whatfoever, after thofe pretended faćts, that thefe, nations could be ignorant, whether thefe books and this religion were handed down to them by their progenitors? Couli. not every one of the nations, who are in thefe books

faid to be converted to Christianity, at once conclude:

that they had never heard any thing of this nature be-
fore; and therefore, that these histories were all falle,
and spurious; and confequently not worthy of the leaft
notice? Is it possible, that the world should agree to
venture both time and eternity upon fuch a known.
falfhood ? Could all the world at once be gulled by fuch
glaring and open forgery and deceit? In a word, thefe
books were many of them direċted to large focieties of
men, in different parts of the world, were early translated
into divers languages, in which they are still extant,
have been publickly kept and publickly read in the
churches, have been appealed to by all parties and fećts;
and never called in question as a forgery, either by the
friends or enemies of the Christian caufe. All thefe
things put together, we have as much certainty, that
thefe histories are not, cannot be forgery or imposture,
as we can have of any thing whatfoever, not immediate-
ly open to our fenfes. |-
Now, Sir, let us fum up this evidence ; and fee what
the conclufion muft be. - 2
Ail mankind muft own, that if the history of thefe.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

fasts be true ; if the Lord Jefus Christ did perform for many aftonishing miracles for fo long a time together. in justification of his divine million ; if he did himself rife from the dead, commission his apostles to their work, endow them with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, and empower them, by the imposition of their hands, to communicate the fame, miraculous gifts to others, here was certainly the greatest interpofition of heaven in favour of the Christian institution, that can possibly be imagined or conceived. The power and veracity of God himself were at ftake in this cafe : for they were both appealed to, in confirmation of the truth ; and both in the most amazing manner 'difplayed, in anfwer to that appeal. All doubtmg in this cafe is therefore a calling in question the truth and faithfulnefs of God himself, as well as his power. . ' If this history be not true, then all the known laws of nature were changed: All the motives and incentives to human aćtions, that ever had obtained in the world, have been entirely inverted: the wickedest men in the world! have taken the greatest pains, and endured the greateft hardships and mifery, to invent, praćtice, and propagate the most holy religion that ever was: and not only the apofiles and first preachers of the Gospel, but whole nations of men, and all forts of men, Christian, Jew, and Pagan, where (no body can imagine how or why) confederated to propagate a known cheat, against their own honour, intereft and fafety : and multitudes of men, without any profpeệt of advantage here or hereafter, were brought most constantly and tenaciously to profefs what they knew to be falfe, to exchange all the comforts. and pleafures of life for fhame and contempt, forbanishments, fcourgings, imprisonments, and death; in a word, voluntary to expose themfelves to be hated both of God and man, and that without ony known motive whatfoever. This must be allowed, or elle you muft allow, that no man ever was, or ever can be certain of any thing ; as is more particularly confidered above. There now remains one of thefe three things a neceffary conclusion from what has been faid; either, (1.) That these confequences may be justified; or, (2.) That: - - E 3.

« AnteriorContinuar »