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tainly know, that they faw no miracles wrought by them in confirmation of their miffion; that they never had, nor knew any thing about thofe miraculous gifts, which were faid to be fo common among them. And yet that all these confpired in the deceit, (Jews as well as Gentiles), to the utter fubverfion of the religion in which they had been educated; and multitudes of them, at the expence of their honours, eftates, and lives, not one perfon among them all appearing to detect the villainy; the Jews tamely fubmitting to the lofs of their religion, and to the imputation of the blackeft crime that ever was committed; and the Chriftian churches as tamely fubmitting to all that is fhocking and terrible to nature, rather than contradict and difprove what they knew to be falfe.-Nay, what is more furprising ftill, all of these, even the greatest enemies of Chriftianity among them, have not only allowed, but actually afferted the truth of thefe facts; which, upon this fuppofal, they might have fo easily disproved, to the utter ruin of the Chriftian caufe. And, to crown all, there can be no motive in the world imagined, to put any of them upon acknowledging fuch notorious and abominable falfehoods.. As I know, on the one hand, that you cannot fwallow fuch grofs abfurdities as thefe; fo I alfo know on the other hand, that you have no way to avoid them, upon the fuppofition before us.
It may be further obferved, that if the reporters of these miracles did themselves know, that their narratives were fictitious and falfe, it will also follow, that the most vile and wicked men that ever were in the world, and the most abandoned to all fenfe of virtue and piety, did draw up the best System of practical religion, the moft worthy of God and man that ever was known; that they, contrary
contrary to their inward principles, fet the beft examples, and walked according to the rules of this religion themselves; yea, without any known motive, spent 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 these enemies of God and godlinefs (who were so profane, as against their own light to propagate this impofture, in the name of God Almighty) did not only give up the hopes of future happiness, but all the comforts of this life alfo, in vindication of this known falsehood; that to this end they ventured upon every thing that is moft terrible and affrightening to human nature, and even upon the moft cruel and barbarous death, without the least poffible 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 adversaries, without any profpect beyond the grave, (upon the fuppofition before us), but of eternal damnation.-And what fill increases the abfurdity of this fuppofition is, that not one of these ever retracted this known falfehood, even in the article of death; but boldly encountered the most shameful and painful death their adverfaries could inflict, rather than confefs the truth. What, Sir, can you poffibly imagine of fuch conduct as this?-That these men were not mad and distracted, appears evidently by their works; which, though plain and familiar, were the most consistent, divine, and rational, that ever appeared in the world.-Here must therefore be a continued fcene of miracles, one way or other.
It must at least be allowed miraculous, for fo many men knowingly and continually, to act in direct oppofition to all their interefts, comforts and hopes, and run counter to all the principles of humanity, to all the fprings of action that were ever known among men.
Let us now try the second supposal, and inquire, whether it is poffible, that the reporters of these facts, and all other fpectators of them, had their fenfes impofed upon, by any legerdemain trick, juggle or deceit?-Whether, for inftance, the fenfes of the Apostles were impofed upon for fome years together, while there were daily miracles wrought by their Master before their eyes? Whether the fenfes of whole multitudes were impofed upon, that they really thought they faw the fick healed, the dead raised, &c. and these things repeated again and again for a long tract of time, when there was indeed nothing at all in it? Whether the witnesses of our Lord's refurrection were impofed upon, when they fuppofed they faw him after his death, eat and drink, 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 impofed upon, when they imagined that they faw miracles repeatedly wrought among them, and had themselves miraculous gifts and powers?-If thefe extravagant fuppofitions 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, spake, or acted any thing at all. Here likewife you must neceffarily allow a continued courfe of miracles, one way or Other. At least, it must be allowed miraculous, that fo
fo great a part of the world fhould all lofe their fenfes together, and yet all of them imagined, that they had all this time their fenfes in their full exercise.
Let us next confider, whether the last of the fuppofitions, that the whole hiftory of the miracles wrought by our Lord Jefus Chrift, and his Apostles, was an after-game, a mere piece of forgery, obtruded upon the world in fome diftant time, after the facts were pretended to be done, will appear more reasonable than the others already confidered.
I have spoken fomething to this in my second letter, to which I refer you; and fhall now only add fome hints further to illuftrate the cafe be fore us. If this laft cafe be fuppofed, the forgery must be palmed upon the world, either before or after Christianity had generally obtained. If this falfe history was thruft upon the world in fome diftant age, after the facts were pretended to be done, before Christianity had generally obtained, it will then follow, that all the hiftorians of those times (Chriftian, Jewish, and Pagan) have united in confederacy, to give us a falfe account of Chriftianity's immediately fucceeding 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 must acknowledge; but how they came to unite in relating fuch matters of fact, which they all (upon this fuppofition) must know to be falfe, is what no man can poffibly imagine.If this was done after Chriftianity had obtained, it will follow, that a great part of the world renounced the religion in which they had been edu. cated; for they despised the doctrine of the Crofs, and for a life of continued contempt, mifery and peril, without knowing the reafon why, and al
together ignorant of the foundation upon which their new religion was built. For, if they profeffed Christianity, before they knew the hiftory of Chrift's life, miracles, death, refurrection, afcenfion, and before they had heard of the Apostles progrefs and miraculous works, with the miracu lous gifts of the Holy Ghoft which accompanied their ministry, they then all agreed to facrifice their most valuable temporal interefts, and multitudes of them endured the most terrible deaths, in a caufe which they knew nothing about, and none of them knew any manner of reafon why they fhould do fo. That is, in plain English, a great part of the world run mad at once moft unaccountably; and from these madmen, Christianity is defcended down to the present time.
It may be further observed, that upon the suppofition before us, it will alfo follow, that in whatever diftant age, from thefe pretended facts, this history was palmed upon the world, all men at once must be perfuaded to believe for truth, what they knew to be falfe.-Thefe hiftories declare, that they were written by the Apoftles and imme diate difciples of our Lord; that the authors of these hiftories 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 conduct; and that, in fact, multitudes of the feveral nations were profelyted unto, and baptized into, the faith of Chriftianity. Now, was it poffible, at any time. whatsoever, after those pretended facts, that these nations could be ignorant, whether these books, and this religion, were handed down to them by their progenitors? Could not every one of the nations who are, in these books, faid to be converted to Christianity, at once conclude that they had ne