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ever, for instance, was ordained to commemorate God's passing over the children of the Israelites, in the night in which he slew all the first-born of the Egyptians. Let it be supposed, though entirely contrary to the truth, that the jews were not informed of any reason why they regarded these observances; in such case, would it have been possible to have persuaded them to have believed, that they had kept these observances in memory of facts they had never had any knowledge of?
Should a person now invent some romantic story, which declared that strange things were transacted a thousand years ago, and, in confirmation of this tale, endeavor to persuade the christian world, that they had, during this period, observed the first day of the week in memory of Appollonius, Barcosbas or Mahomet; that they had been baptized in his name, sworn by his name, and upon a book which the said person had forged, and which to thein was before unknown, in their public courts of judicature; that this book had been their gospel and their law, which they had for a thousand years past, universally received and owned, and no other; I would ask a deist, whether he thinks it possible that such a deception could be imposed on the christian world? But as impossible would it have been to have caused the books of Moses to have been imposed on the Jewish nation, had they been forged!
As the union of these four marks affords a certainty of a matter of fact, it prevents also, the imposition of any fabulous book upon men, at what period soever invented; whether at the time in which the matters of fact it relates were said to have happened, or in any succeeding age.
It is well known, for example, there is a stonhenge in Salisbury-Plain; but no man knows the reason why those great stones were placed there; by whom, or in memory of what event. Should, however, a book be written, and it be asserted therein that these stones were set up by Hercules or Polyphemus, in memory of some of their actions. And to confirm
this assertion, should it be mentioned in this book, that it was written when such actions were performed, and by the very actors themselves, or those who were eye-witnesses of the facts; and that the book had been received as true and quoted by authors, of the first reputation, in all ages since it was wrote; that this book was also well known in England, and enjoined, by act of parliament, to be taught to our children; that we did teach it to our children, and had been taught it ourselves, when in a state of childhood. Suffer it to be asked, whether a book so devoid of truth, could be imposed on the people of England? And, should the author of it, insist upon its being genuine, whether, instead of believing it to be so, they would not have reason to believe it was expedient he should be sent to bedlam?
3. Let us now compare this ideal transaction, with the stonhenge, if I may be allowed so to call it, or twelve great stones set up at Gilgal. It is mentioned, that one reason why these stones were set up was, that "they might be a sign among the people of Israel,that when their children should ask their fathers, in time to come, saying; what mean ye by these stones? That then they should answer them; that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the coveuant of the Lord, when it passed over Jordan, and that these stones should be a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever," Josh. iv. 6, 7. The thing in memory of which these stones were erected, was such as could not possibly been imposed on the Jewish nation, at the time when it was said to have been done; it was, indeed, as wonderful and miraculous, as their passage through the red sea. This event took place at noonday, in the presence of the whole nation; and when the waters of Jordan were divided, it was not at any low ebb, but at a time when the river overflowed all its banks, Josh. iv. 15. As soon as the "feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the water, the waters which came down from above, stood and 'rose up upon an heap, very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan; and those that came down toward ^ ла 2
the sea of the plain, even the salt-sea, failed and were cut off; and the people passed over against Jericho: The priests stood in the midst of Jordan, till all the armies of Israel had passed over. And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, were come up, out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests feet were lifted up upon the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all its banks as they did before. And the people came up out of Jordan, on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east side of Jericho; and these twelve stones which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. And he spake unto the children of Israel, say. ing; when your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying; what mean these stones? Then shall ye let your children know, saying; Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the Lord your God dryed up the waters of Jordon from before you, until we were gone over; as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dryed up, from before us, until we were gone over; that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord that it is mighty; that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever, Josh. iv. 18. &c.
But let it be supposed, that the passage over Jordan, as here related, was fictitious; that these stones, at Gilgal, were erected upon some other occasion, in some subsequent age; that then some person invented the book of Joshua, and said it was written by Joshua himself, when this event happened, and that the author of this book, offered this stonhenge, at Gilgal, as a testimony of its truth; wouldnot the Jews have said to him, "we know the stonhenge at Gilgal, but we were, until now, wholly unacquainted with the reason of it: nor have we had any previous knowledge of the book of Joshua! Where hath it been deposited for so many ages; and how came you in possession of it after so long a period? But this book of Joshua informs us, that it was commanded, that this passage over Jordan should be taught to our children, from age to age; and,
therefore, that they were always to be instructed in the meaning of the stonhenge at Gilgal, as a memorial of this miraculous passage over Jordan! It is, however, manifest, that we were never instructed in this fact when we were children; nor did we ever teach it to our children! It is not probable that so remarkable an event could have been forgotten, while so uncommon a stonhenge continued, which was erected for that end only, and, therefore, it is evident that the book cannot be genuine, but must have been written by some person, in some age after the death of Joshua !"
If no such imposition, as that above mentioned, respecting the stonhenge at Salisbury Plain, could be palmed upon the people of England, how much less could the Jews have been imposed on with regard to the stonhenge at Gilgal? If where we know not the reason of a bare monument, such a false reason cannot be imposed on men, how much more impossible would it be to impose upon us, in actions and observances, which we celebrate in memory of particular events? How impossible to cause us to forget those events which we daily commemorate, and to persuade us that we had always kept such institutions in memory of things we never had any knowledge of?
If we perceive it thus impossible for us to become dupes to an imposition, even in things which have not all the four marks, how much more impossible is it that any deceit should attend the thing in which all these marks concur?
But all these marks meet in the matters of fact which are recorded in the gospels, respecting Christ, as well as the matters of fact of the old testament, which relate to Moses.
The gospels declare, that the works and miracles of Christ were done publickly, in the face of the world, John xviii. 20. and the acts of the apostles mention, that three thousand persons, at one time, Acts ii. 41. and above five thousand at another period, Acts iv. 4. were converted to christianity, upon conviction of what they had seen, and what had been publickly transacted before them, wherein it was impossible to have imposed
upon them. Here, therefore, is an agreement of the two first of the four rules.
The other two concur in baptism and the Lord's supper, which were instituted by Christ himself, and designed to be perpetuated to the christian church to the latest period of time; and they have been, since their institution, uniformily observed by the christian world. Christ ordained ministers to preach and administer these sacraments, and to govern his shurch, "even to the end of the world, Mat. xxviii. 20. Accord ingly, they have continued, in regular suceession, to this day, and, no doubt, will thus continue, 'till the final consummation of all things; the existence, therefore, of the christian clergy, is as notorious a matter of fact, as was the tribe of Levi, among the jews. The gospel is also as much a law to christians, with respect to their religious conduct, as was the book of Moses to the jews; and as it is a part of the matters of fact related in the gospel, that such an order of men was appointed by Christ, and to continue to the end of the world, if the gospel was a fiction, and invented some ages after Christ, at the time it was invented, there could not have been any such order of clergy, derived from the institution of Christ, which must have contradicted the gospel, and demonstrated it to have been false.
The pretended matters of fact of Mahomet, and what is fabled of the heathen deities, all want some of these four rules, whereby the certainty of matters of fact is demonstrated. Mahomet did not pretend to have wrought miracles, as he himself declares, Koran, chap. vi, &c. and those which, by some are said to have been performed by him, are regarded by mahometans as legendary fables, and, as such, they are rejected by the wise and learned among them.* But those miracles related of Mahomet, possess not the two first rules beforementioned; for his pretended converse with the moon; his mersa or night journey from Mecea to Jerusalem, and from thence to heaven,
*Prideaux's life of Mahomet, p. 34.