« AnteriorContinuar »
after he had been Four Days dead, to testify
If now, to come to our Argument ; if these Five Brethren of the Rich Man be supposed to be alive when all these Things came to pass: if they had the Opportunity of being present at many of these Passages, and of satisfying themselves of the rest, (as certainly, supposing the Matter of Fact to be true, none that lived at that Time, and in that Country, but had this Opportunity :) If they heard this Jefus that was sent from God at the First, and that was sent from God the Second Time, after he was dead, testifying against their Sins, forewarning them of the Judgment to come, and assuring them of Eternal Rewards if they would repent : I say, if they were Witnesses of these Things, I will appeal to all the World, whether they had not greater Means of Conviction offered to them, than if any Ghost had appeared to them from the Dead; or any particular Miracle had been vouchsafed them for the bringing them over to Virtue and Sobriety.
But I believe no Body will much doubt of this ; for indeed the Matter will not bear a Dispute. But here is the Question ; Whether we that live at this Distance from our Saviour; have the same Means of Conviction ? And, Whether one now appearing from the Dead to us, would not be of greater Force to persuade us, than the standing Revelation of the Gospel, as we have it now conveyed to us?
This therefore leads me to my. Second Pro. position upon this Head, which, if it can be made out, will wholly take away all Controverfy in this Matter. And it is this ;
That we at this Day have as great Arguments to convince us of the Truth of Christ's Revelation, end consequently as great Motives from thence to persuade us to reform our Evil Lives, as those
that lived in the Times of our Saviour. [ It is true indeed, we want the Evidence of
Sense in these Matters which they had ; and upon that Account it must be acknowledged, that they have the Advantage of us. But this we say, notwithstanding, that if we take all things together, and weigh them impartially, we shall find that that Want is abundantly fupplied to us in other Respects.
For First of all, Our Saviour's Gospel, and all the Evidences of it I have been now speaking of, were timely and faithfully recorded, and are as faithfully transmitted down to us.
So that though we did not fee or hear those • Things, yet we have a certain and exact AC
count of them; and such an Account as was never yet questioned by any Adversaries that lived in those Times, when such a Question was most reasonably to be made ; and such an Account as appears, by all the Evidences that
a Thing of that Nature is capable of, to have : been written by Eye-witnesses, and such Wit
nesses as were honest undesigning Men; and not only fo, but they sealed with their Blood the Truth of what they reported. And this. fame Account was religiously received by all Chriftians, in all Places, without Contradiction in those very Times, and was shortly after translated into a Multitude of Languages; so that it is scarce possible it should in
any considerable Matter be corrupted. And from that Time to this, in a continual Succession, there have been Men that have suffer'd Martyrdom for the Attestation of it ; and in the first Ages after Christ, when they had the best Opportunities of examining the Truth of these Things, many Thousands did so.
Now I say, though according to the ordinary Proverb, Şeeing be believing : Yet next to Seeing an universal, well-grounded Tradition, which hath visible Effects attending it, hath the most Force to gain Belief. Nay, I do not know whether there be so much Difference between the Evidence of the one and the other, as one would think at first. Sure I am, there are many Cases in which we do as firmly believe Matters of Fact upon the Credit of Tradition, and the permanent Effects that do accompany it, as if we ourselves had been present and seen them with our Eyes. Which of us, for Instance, doth make any more doubt of the Story of William the Conqueror, his subduing this Kingdom, or of Henry the Eighth his casting off the Pope's Supremacy, than he doth of the Revolutions that have happened in his own ! ime? And yet these Matters of Fact are no better attested than the History of our Saviour, and his Miracles and Doctrines.
But Secondly, Though those that lived in our Saviour's Time had Evidence of Sense for the Truth of what they believed concerning him and his Doctrine which we have not :
yet this is to be considered, that they laboured under far greater Prejudices againft his Religion, than we now do; and consequently, all that sensible Proof which they had of the Truth of it, would not be more effectual for the convincing of them, than that Proof we now have, though it be less, ought in reason to be for the convincing of us.
They that were the Hearers and Spectators of what our Saviour said and did, had mighty and inveterate Prepossessions to struggle with. They were educated in a quite different Religion, and so must be supposed to have entertained several Notions and Principles which would very difficulty be rooted out; and, indeed, for the effecting of it, there needed little less than an Almighty Power. But it is not lo with us; we, by oļir Education, are already disposed and prepared for the receiving Christianity. We have no previous Engagements to alienate our Minds from it; nay, it is our Interest to be of that Religion, rather than any other. So that certainly a less Evidence for the Truth of it, will be as convincing to us, as a much greater would have been to those, to whom our Saviour first preached. Nay, I am very confident, that this Thing being duly consider'd, it will appear, that our Arguments for Christianity drawn from Tradition, will be more convincing to thinking Men among us, than those Arguments they had from Sense and Experience could be to them. N 4 .