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against Christianity have allowed; and the numerous Passages cited from them, and in their Names, even to this Day, do evince. And, lastly, that the Contents of these Books, in their descent to us, have not suffered any considerable Alteration; but, (excepting some few Variations, occasioned by the Negligence of transcribers^) from the Days of the Apojlle, and apojlolick Men, to the present Age, have always been the lame; the long Continuance of the Autographa in the Church, the many Copies and Transcripts taken from them, and their early translations into various Languages, have, under the Providence of God, been our Security.
Since then we have in our Hand au~
thentick Records of our Saviour's Life
and Actions, let us look a little into
them, and see, whether their Authors
have been defective in any of the Marks
and Characters ©f true Historians.
The E- That the Evangelifls were Persons of
vangeiip too much truth and Honejly, to relate
true jii- any wilful Lyes, is evident from the
Trcm"' whole Tenor of their Writings; where
theirown in the strictest Precepts about speaking
characler-Truth, and the severest Prohibitions of
Guile and Dissimulation either in our
Words or Actions, do every where
pieet us. Men of Cunning and Artifice
have all their fawning and insinuating "Ways, to captivate the Weak, and such as delight in Flattery j but, with what (plainness and Simplicity do they go about to persuade Men to become ChriJiiansr when they barely relate the Mat-* ~ters of Fact concerning the Resurrection of Jejus, faying, that they themselves were Eye-witneses of it, and, upon the Credit of this their Testimony, expect that we should assent? Had they been minded to aggrandize their Master, they would have displayed indeed the Wonderfulneis of his Birth, the many Miracles he wrought, the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon him, the Voice from Heaven declaring him to be the Son of God, the Glories of his Resurrection, and the Triumph of his Ascension ;, but by all means wou'd they have labour'd to conceal the Obscurity of his Birth and Parentage, the low Condition of his Life, and the shameful and ignominious Circumstances of his Death. Had they been minded to extol him above measure, as a great and mighty Worker of Miracles, they would have expatiated upon every one that came in their way, and not compriz'd some in the fliort compass of a Verse or two, and conceal'd others under a general Enumeration, as we find them frequently do. Had they designs
sign'd to set off themselves; their Labours, and Perils, and bold Adventures for the fake of" the Gospel they might have described in all their pleajing Horror, but .(what is a singular Instance of their 'truth and Ingenuity) their own mean Extraction and Employments, their Ignorance and Mistakes, their ambitious Contentions, cowardly Desertions, and base Denial of their Lord, in the Time of the greatest Exigence and Distress, they themselves have left up• on Record, for all succeeding Ages to peruse and censure. Or had they design'd any private Profit or Advantage to themselves, they took the most improper Method in the World, in publishing what, to the yews, they knew, would be' a Stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles,foolishness-, and what,they could not but foresee, would expose both them and their Companions to Scorn and Contempt, to Dangers and Hazards, to Poverty and Want, to Bonds and Imprisonment, and Death itself. '. Now when Persons are both above the
Sufficient Views of Secular Interest, and forward cy of h- to lay open their own Faults and Failnuigence. jngS> merely for the Sake of Truth, 'tis a strong Presumption that they have no Inclination to write Falfhoods; if so be they are but competent Judges of what
they they are about, and have sufficient means of Information in their Power. And herein the Evangelists could not be defective, because (even upon the Supposition of no Divine Assistance or Inspiration) they had Persons enough living, to give them full Instructions as to the great Periods and Actions of our Saviour's Life. d Of his Conception and Birth, and other Particulars preceding his Baptism, they might have an Account from Simeon and Anna, and the Parents of John, as well . as from Joseph and Mary. Of his Baptism, and what thereupon ensu'd, they might have Intelligence from John and his Diseiples. Of his Fajiing and 'Temptation, from the lame John, who not unlikely retir'd with him into the Wilderness, (where himself had been before) and continu'd with him until his return -y and of the several Transactions in his fublkk Ministry, they themselves (as' well as the other Apostles) were Eye and Ear-witnejpsy and as competent Judges of what they heard and saw, as the greatest Philosophers living. By these and several other Helps, they might be supply'd with proper Materials for their respective Histories; and when they had thus compil'd them, (we speak still upon the Supposition of no Inspiration) their
Fidelity appear'd, in their speedy committing them to Writing. For, according to the best Account of Antiquity, St. Matthew wrote his' Gospel about eight, St. Mark about ten, St. Luke within fifteen, and St. "John, not much above two and thirty Years, after our SaviouYs Ascension ; lest any things deserving the Notice, or necessary to the .Salvation of Posterity, might escape their Memories, by reason of too long a delay. The Cor* And indeed, if we look into the Con
th'"* r's tents °^ t^ie Histories, as well as the Chapels. ° rafters of'the Historians, we ihall soon perceive luch a Simplicity, as well as Majesty in their Narrations, luch Purity in their Precepts, and such Sublimity in their Doctrines, as plainly denote them to be a Divine Revelation.
Men of quick Parts and Ingenuity, *tis true, may tell us cunningly-devised Tables, and amuse their Readers with Tales and Romances, that had never any Foundation in Nature: But, to frame such an excellent System, of Morality, as is contain'd in the Gospels ', to give such an extraordinary Account of the Satisfaction for Sin, and of the Nature and Office of a Mediator; to feign the Life and Actions of a Messiah, which should agree so exactly with the Predifiions of the Prophets, and the Types and Prefix