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i, wil thority, we must allow that Christ, the Prophets and Apostles, made enlatius a true one. perkei Thirdly, let it be observed, that though cautious unbelievers do enlaic, not venture to charge Christ, the Prophets and Apostles, either with skind gross enthusiasm, or abandoned imposture, in express terms; yet they to be find themselves obliged to infinuate both, in all their attacks upon : fupi Revealed Religion: which is, in effect, to acknowledge the truth of 1 to me the present proposition ; for it is the same thing as to acknowledge, arly if that both the charge of gross enthusiasm, and that of abandoned imporeurile ture, are necessary to support the objections against Revealed Reliin gion. Now, as neither charge, fingly taken, can be maintained; so do with both together are inconsistent. Grofs enthusiasm, does not admit that on to constant caution, and cool dispassionate cunning, which abandoned xime imposture supposes and requires in order to succeed.
PROP. XXIX. mam THE RECEPTION WHICH CHRIST, HIS FORERUNNERS AND FOL
LOWERS, WITH THEIR DOCTRINES, HAVE MET WITH IN ALL?
THIS evidence does, as it were, embrace all the others, and give
a particular force to them. For it will be a stron confirmation of ASMEN
all the evidences for the Jewish and Christian religions, if we can thew, that the persons to whom they have been offered have been inAuenced by them as much as there was reason to expect, admitting them to be true; and far more than could be expected, on supposition that they were false. The most illustrious instance of this, is the vicfory which the Christian miracles and doctrines, with the sufferings of our Saviour and his followers, gained over the whole powers, firtt, of the Jewish state, and then of the Roman empire, in the primitive times. For here all ranks and kinds of men, princes, priests, Jewift. and Heathen philofophers, populace, with all their associated preju. dices from custom and education, with all theis corrupt paflions and lufts, with all the external advantages of learning, power, riches, honour, and, in short, with every thing but truth, endeavoured to luppress the progress that Christ's religion made every day in the world; but were unable to do it. Yet still the evidence was but of a limited nature; it required to be set forth, attested and explained by the preacher, and to be attended to, and reflected upon, with some degree of impartiality, by the hearer : and therefore, though the progrels of it was quick, and the effect general, yet they were not instantaneous and univerfal. However, it is very evident, that any fraud, or false pretence, muft foon have yielded to so great an opposition fa
The efficacy which the Christian doctrine then had in reforming the lives of many thousands, is here to be confidered as a principal branch of this argument, it being evidently the most difficult of all things, to convert men from vicious habits to virtuous ones, as
every one may judge from what he feels in himself, as well as from what he sees in others; and whatever does this cannot, as it seems to me, but come from God. The false religions, and various corrupa tions of the true, which have from time to time appeared in the world, have been enabled to do this in the imperfect manner in which they have done it, merely, as it seems to me, from that mixture of important truths, and good motives, which they have borrowed from real revelations, Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian. .
In like manner as the propagation of Christianity, upon its first appearance in the world, evinces its divine original, so does the progress. it has since made, and the reception which it meets with at present, amongst the several ranks and orders of men. The detail of this would run out to a great length. It may, however, be of some use just to observe, that notwithstanding the great prevalence of Infidelity in the present times, it is seldom found to consist with an accurate knowledge of ancient history, sacred and profane, and never with an exalted piety and devotion to God.
And it is as peculiarly for the credit of Christianity, that it fhould now be supported by the learned, as that it was first propagated by the unlearned ; and an incontestable evidence for it, as appears to me, that it has been universally embraced by all eminently pious persons, to whom it has been made known in a proper manner.
The analogous observations may be made upon the reception which the Jewish religion met with, both from the Jews themselves, and from the neighbouring nations. It seems impoffible for Moses to have delivered the Jews from their oppression in Egypt, and afterwards to have subjected them to his laws, for Jofhua to have conquered Cao naan, for the religion to have subsisted in the succeeding times of the Judges and Kings, for the priests and prophets to have maintained their authority, for the people to have returned after their captivity, with their religion in an uncorrupted state, and to have supported it and themselves against the kings of Syria and Egypt, and the power of the Romans, and to remain at this day a separate people dispersed all over the world, according to the prophecies, unless the miraculous part of the history of the Old Testament be allowed to be true, as well as the other,
PROP. XXX, THE RECEPTIONS WHICH FALSE RELIGIONS HAVE MET WITH IN THE WORLD, ARE ARGUMENTS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN.
I WILL here make a few short remarks,
First, upon the polytheistical, idolatrous religion of the ancient world.
Secondly, upon the religious inftitutions of Zoroaster.
Fourthly upon the enthusiastical sects which have appeared from time to time amongst Christians.
as the All these seem to have met with such success, as might be expected least from the mixture of truth and fallhood in them, compared with the
then circumstances of things. They are therefore indirect evidence's ding for the truth of the Chriftian religion, since this has met with such A HOT success as cannot be 'reconciled to the circumstances of things, una ixturf less we suppose it true. Dit i
n. And, first, the ancient Pagan religions seem evidently to be the de. generated offspring of the patriarchal revelations; and so far to have been true, as they taught a God, a providence, a future state, supernatural communications made to particular persons, especially in the infancy of the world, the present corruption of man, and his deviation from a pure and perfect way, the hopes of a pardon, a mediato-, rial power, the duties of sacrifice, prayer, and praise, and the virtues of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude. They were false,
as they mixed and polluted these important truths with numberless ed ps fables, superstitions, and impieties. That degree of truth, and moral
excellence, which remained in them, was a principal cause of their
success, and easy propagation among the people; for their moral d bysense would direct them to approve and receive what was fit and useme, C ful. And, had the people of thole times penetrated fufficiently int for the powers of the human mind, they might have concluded, that
religious truths could not be of human invention. However, as the impressions which the historical and prophetical evidences for the patriarchal revelations had made upon mankind, were not yet ob. literated, they believed, upon the authority of tradition, that all important knowledge, especially in sacred matters, was of divine ori
As to the miracles faid to be wrought upon certain occasions in Pagan nations, we may make these two remarks : first, that the evidence for these is far inferior to that for the Jewish and Chriftian miracles ; so that these may be true, though those be false. Secondly, that we are not sufficiently informed of the ways of Providence, to infer that God did not permit, or cause some miracles to be wrought, even in times and places where great corruption prevailed, Divine communications and miracles were probably most common foon after the food, in the infancy of mankind. Afterwards, as they advanced towards adult age, these fupernatural interpositions grew more rare (unless upon singular occasions, as upon the publication of the Law by Moses, and of the Gospel by Chrift; at which times, many and great miracles succeeded each other at short intervals, in order to command awe, attention, and belief): and it may be, that they ceased in the Pagan world for some ages before Chrift; or it may be otherwise ; and that, in rare and extraordinary cases, the hand of God appeared in a miraculous manner. Analogy favours The Jalt opinion, as it seems to me; which also appears to be more countenanced by history than the contrary one ; and yet the pretences to miracles amongst the Pagans were undoubtedly false in the general,
I come, in the second place, to consider the religious inftitutions of Zoroaster. We have not fo full and authentic an history of these, as to compare them properly with the Jewish or Chriftian revelations. If we suppose, that Zoroafter and Hyftaspes set up the worship of one God, in a simple manner, teaching and inculcating the practice of virtue at the same time, this religion may be said to have considerable moral evidence in its favour' If, farther, we suppose it to be in part derived, either from the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, called Brachmans from him, or from that knowledge of the true God which the ten tribes and the Jews had then communicated to that part of the world, it will become an evidence for the Jewith religion.' . · Thirdly, the religion of Mahomet allows and presupposes the truth of the Jewish and Christian. Its rapid propagation was owing chiefy to the mixture of political interests. That part of its doctrines which is good, is manifestly taken from the Scriptures; and this contributed to its success. However, a comparison of Mahometism with Chris. tianity, in the several particulars of each, seems to fhew, that wheneyer a strict examination is made into the history of Mahometism by its professors, the falfhood of it will quickly be made evident to them. It could not stand such a trial as Christianity has, since the revival of learning in these Western parts....
It seems easy to apply what has been delivered in the three last paragraphs to the analogous particulars of the religion of Confucius, and of other religions found in the East and West Indies, as far as their histories are sufficiently full and authentic for that purpose.
Lastly, one inay make the following remarks with respe&t to the several enthusiastic sects that arise from time to time amongst Christians. i
First, that their pretences to miracles and prophecies have, in general, been detected and exposed, after some examination and inquiry; unless the sect has begun to decline from other causes, before a strict examination became necessary, is....
Secondly, that their pretended miracles were not of that evident kind, nor done in the same open manner, &c. as the Jewish and Christian miracles.. .
Thirdly, that these pretended miracles have not produced lasting effects upon the minds of men, like the Jewish and Christian. Now, though a religion may, succeed for a time without true miracles, yet it seems hard to believe, that any should fail with them.
Fourthly, the success of fécts has in general been owing to their making greater pretences to purity and Gospel perfection than established churches, and to their both teaching and practising some necessary duties which established churches have too much neglect. ed in the corrupted state of Christianity. And in this light they have been true in part, and have done the most important service to the world. Every feet of Christians has magnified some great truth, not above its real value, but above the value which other reas have set upon it, and by this means each important religious truth has had
the advantage of being set in a full light by some party or other, though too much neglected by the rest. And the true Catholic church and communion of saints unites all these sects, by taking what is right from each, and leaving the errors, falfhoods, and corruptions of each, to combat and destroy one another.
And it may be, that mankind will be able in future generations to see, how every other sect, and pretence to revelation, besides those of enthusiastic Christians, in whatever age or country it has appeared, has been, all other things remaining the same, suited in the best possible manner, both to particular and general purposes ; and that each has prepared the way, in its proper place, for that more complete state predicted in the Scriptures under the titles of “the kingdom of Heaven," and “ of righteousness, of the New Jerusalem,” &c. Even infidelity, atheism, and sceptiscism, have their use. The vessels of wrath are ftill vessels belonging to the Maker and Lord of all things, and an fwering his infinitely beneficent purposes. “ Offences must come,” though " wo be to those by whom they come !" Each sect, and pretence, and objection, has given, or will give, way in its time. The true and pure religion of Christ alone grows more evident and powerful from every attack that is made upon it, and converts the bitterness and poison of its adversaries into nourishment for itself, and an unim versal remedy for the pains and sorrows of a miserable, degenerate world,