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ther could be deceived themselves, nor would have imposed upon others; their testimony must be received, as unquestionably true. Now the most inveterate enemies of the Chriftian religion cannot deny, but that the Evangelists and Apostles, whose writings we now liave, were all such, as we are going to shew.. . "
1. There appear in their writings an uncommon strain of wisdom, and a most extraordinary degree of holiness. And if integrity is necessary to render a testimony valid, theirs cannot be more authentick in this respect, than it is. This fame argument is a proof of their sincerity, since that quality is essential to an honest man. 2. But moreover, their giving an account of their own weaknesses, is a very strong argument of their sincerity in all other respects. They might juftly enough have concealed their own failings, since it was not essential to the Christian faith, nor consequently to their ministry, that they should be transmitted down to posterity. If therefore they have made mention of them, though prejudicial to their reputation, it is one of the strongest. proofs in the world of their veracity in whatever else they have advanced. 3. They speak only of such things as they saw and heard, which they were themselves concerned withal, or had learned from those that were the eye-witnesses of them. It is manifest from their discourses and reasonings, that they were not persons liable to be imposed upon. Though they do not reason according to the method observed by the philosophers and orators of their own, and our age ; yet there certainly reigns an excellent folidity, and a continued strain of good sense through all their writings. Besides, the things they speak of, are of such a nature, as not to admit of any delusion; they are not done in the dark, but generally in the day-time, and before all the world. To instance in one particular ;. Was St. Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist, of his father Zechariah's becoming dumb in the temple, and Elizabeth his wife's bringing forth, after she had been barren for a long time;, was all this, I say, a mere forgery, nothing could be easier than to display the falshood of it, and every one would have laughed at the cheat. 4. For this very reason it was impoflible they could deceive others, supposing they had had any such design, because the imposture would have been too easily found out. They must have invented less absurd and palpable stories, if they had had a mind to impose upon the world. Most of the Apostles wrote but a few years after the death of Jesus CHRIST. An innumerable multitude of people, who had been witnesses of the things the Apostles related, were still alive ; now would the Apostles have ventured to teach and write, that at such a time a man called JESUS of Nazareth was come from God; that he had revealed .eternal life; that he had confirmed his doctrine by several remarkable miracles, which were performed in the face of the world; that after having preached throughout all Judea, in the synagogues and other' publick places, he had been condemned to death by the rulers of the Jews, and crucified under Pontius Pilate ; that after three days he rose again; that, according to his promise, the Holy Ghost was come down upon the Apostles, on the day of pentecoft, and that they had spoken all kinds of tongues before all the people; that from thence they had dispersed themselves almost all over the world, and converted the best
part of it, colifirining thtir doctrine with signs and miracles? Would the Apoftles, I fay, have dared to advance in their writings things of this nature, and not have thereby exposed them felves to the scorn and contempt of the world ? It is certainly very improbable, that the Apostles could be the authors of fo extravagant an impofture, and that they should Be suffered by the Jews to propagate it without restraint, fince it was fo much their interest to put a stop thereto. 5. Let us again fuppofe that the Apostles had contrived such an impofture; with what view could they do it? Men are feldot known do to mifchief för milchief's fake, especially when the crime they would commit is attended with a visible danger. They are always drawn in by fome intereft or passion (*). But no fuch thing is to be found here. The integrity of the Apostles gives us not the least room to fufpect them of ambition, and had they had any advantage in view, they muft have found themselves fadly mistaken, sincë, as they themfelves declare, they were as the filth of the world, and the off-scouring of all things. Their aim befides could not be to get riches, like mercenary teachers. They were poor, 'and would take nothing of any one. Their utter averfion for all kinds of pleafures was moreover to likely method to gain them the protection and applauses of fensual men, who love to have their paffions indulged. In thort, they must have been the moft imprudent of men, daily to expose themselves to certain death, only to maintain à heinous impofture. 6. The agreement between several witnelles dispersed here and there, who did not write in concert, and were by perfecutions hindered from carrying on a cheat ; this agreement is a proof of no fmall weight. . It often happens that several hiftorians write the fame history, but you can never discover in them a perfect uniformity, unless the same memoirs have by them been perused.
We have only given an abstract of this proof drawn from the chatacter of the Apostles. It may be carried on a good deal farther by the same way of reasoning. And it must certainly have a very great influénce upon any man that will but make use of his reafon. For if a hea. then, or a libertine will not admit of it, we may just ask them, whether they have any other 'rule to fatisfy themselves of the truth of any matter of fact, besides the character of the persons by whom it is attested. k is really strange that so much credit should be given to prophane hiftory, and men thould be so very nice and over-cautious in embracing the christian religion, and the historical matters relating thereto, when there is not any heathen author that has, at least in the fame degree, any one of those qualifications that are to be found in the Apostles, much less all of thein together. Some write of things that happened at a great distance of time from them. Such as were cotemporary, could not be witnesfes of every thing; and then, how often are men biassed by interest, passion, or fattery? Besides, as the greatest part of them treat only of such matters as are apt to excite people's curiosity, they might invent as many fallhoods as they pleasedy in order to strike their readers
**) 1 Cor. iv. 13a
with wonder and admiration. As for the Jews, if they refuse to admit, in behalf of the truth of the New Testament, this kind of proof drawn from the character of the Apostles, they must needs betray their own causę by such a refufah, there being no other proof of the truth of what is attested by Moses and the Prophets, than the integrity of these holy men.
This gives us an occasion of proceeding to another proof of the truth of the books of the New Testament, that is, their agreement with the
Old, at least in respect of those that acknowledge the authority of the 1 laiter. It is true that the Old Testament seems to be contradi&ted in the
New, especially in St. Paul's epistles, who strenuoudy allerts the abrogation of the ceremonial law. But since he shews at the same time how this law was fulfilled in the gospel, there is only a seeming contradiction between them, and the relation or analogy between the Old and New
Testament gives such an insight into them, as mult needs be discovered 20 by every intelligent person. "Had not St. Paul learned from revelation si as well as tradition, that the Meliah was the truth and Jubstance of those I things whereof the law was only a shadow, it cannot be conceived how - he could have invented such a system. Besides, the fulfilling of the ** ancient prophecies in the Meffiah shines fo conspicuoudy in the writings E of the New Teltament, and all these to exactly center in Jesus CHRIST, per les that it is abfolately impossible a mind free from prejudice, Tould not 3 be affected with these marks of truth and sincerity. The modern Jews es are not indeed willing to own that these prophecies were fulfilled in i Jesus CHRIST, or can be applied to him, But in answer to them, it
will be sufficient to observe that all the prophecies which have by the writers of the New Testament been applied to JESUS CHRIST, were by their ancient doctors thought to belong to the Melliah. This might easily be proved by several authentic teftimonies," did the bounds of this introduction allow it. We Thall therefore only observe, that in the Chaldee parapbrases, which were written by Jewilh authors, most of the prophecies of the Old Testament, which are applied to JESUS CHRIST in
the New, are there also applied to the Mesiah. Now let the Jews proini duce, if they can, any other fubje& to which these prophecies can better her agree than to our blessed Saviour. If to this rehection we add what
hath before been said concerning the character of the Apolles, it can this Qever come into any man's mind that doch in the least reflect on things,
and is free from prejudice and paflion, that so natural and so exact an application of the ancient prephecies concerning the Messiah, to JESUS CHRIST, can be of human invention. To sam up this argunent: a book wherein every thing that seemed obscure and unaccountable in the
ceremonial law.is so excellently well cleared up and unfolded, and wherein . the prophecies of the Old Testament have so exact a completion, must en come from God. Now the New Testament is such; and therefore the
New Testament must come from God. e . But among all the argumerts of the truth of the New Testament, there
is no one that ought to be more universally received, or is more agrecable to the design of this Introduction, than that which is taken from the confideration of the nature of the things contained in thefe facred writings. There are indeed in the New Testament mysterics that are
for rejecting all very often no moted to diffuse or
above, and some that seem even contrary to reason. But this could be no real difficulty, would men, instead of cavilling at them, as libertines are used to do, and instead of darkening mysteries by too subtile interpretations, or diving too far into them, as most of the school-divines are known to have done, put a rational meaning upon the sacred writings, such a meaning as is worthy of God, and adore at the same time such things as we cannot comprehend. A very pernicious method hath in this regard prevailed in the world, which is to explain an obscure point by an 'obscurer. After all, the design of the Christian reli. gion is not so much to reveal to us what God is in himself, as what he is to us; and our duty is rather to attain to a right understanding of the will of God revealed to us in the New Testament, that we may duly perform it, than to attempt to penetrate into the secrets of the divine wisdom. But, to speak the truth of the matter, that obscurity which God hath been pleased to diffuse over some parts of the holy fcripture, is very often no more than a pretence used by some men * for rejecting all the rest, because they can no more be reconciled with their corrupt inclinations, than their reason can account for the mysteries therein contained. Were the sacred writings of the New Testament read with the same spirit, as hath been just now taken notice of, we may vèn'ture to affirm that there is no Jew, heathen, or any other infidel, nor even a libertine, but what would find them excellently well fitted to discover the perfections of the Supreme Being, and to supply all the wants of mankind, and that those who haye written that book could not have done it out of their own invention.
Then would the Jew most readily embrace a doctrine, which, like the Old Testament, teaches the unity of God, and expressly forbids all kind of idolatry, Then would he joyfully receive a mediator which frees him from a yoke, that had by the foriner mediator been laid upon him. If he will but cast his eye on the ends of the ceremonial law, which are displayed in the New Testament, he could not be surprised to find it abrogated. And as much as their former miserable state had made them earnestly defire the coming of the Mefliah, so much ought their calamities, after the taking of Jerusalem, and the temple, which was the only place appointed for the performance of divine worsbip, have convinced them that the Messiah is already come. The heathens, on the other hand, would no longer find any thing strange in the doc. trine of one God, since the wisest among them have discovered the absurdity of a plurality of deities, and that there is reason to believe Socrates died a martyr to the unity of God. It seems also that it would be no more difficult for pagans to acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the me. diator between God and men, than to admit dæmons to that office (*). The offence of the cross would soon be removed by reflecting on the divine justice and mercy, which are so very conspicuous therein. The Jews, by embracing the doctrine of Jesus CHRIST, would reap fome advantage from the crime committed by their ancestors. And the bea.
“in .: .then,
(*) By the damons they understood their demi-gods, or the souls of their deceased heroes.
then, who thinks himself bound to offer numberless facrifices in order to atone for his fins, would adore the wisdom of God in suffering the commission of this crime for the expiation of the sins of mankind.
All men in general, of what rank soever they be, or whatever religion they profess, cannot but look with profound respect, and a pious admiration, on a book which has these two characters. . First, That lays before them that supreme happiness, of which the author of our na, ture hath implanted an invincible desire within us; and which, fecondly, in order to lead them thereto, brings them only back to a fpiritual worship, to the dietates of their own consciences, and requires nothing of them, but what they would have been in duty bound to perform, even though no other law had been given them, if they would but have made a due use of their reason. Where shall we find a book, that teaches a worship more worthy both of God, and of a reafonable creature? It is plain and unaffected, free from all rites and ceremonies which are not either holy in themselves, or directly tend to make men holy in their lives and conversation, and is withal great and noble. It teaches us to love above all things the most amiable of beings, and to express this love by a perfect and sincere,obedience to his commands. When had there been before, a more compleat collection of the whole duty of men, both towards God, themselves and ochers ? Must not every honest mind be overjoyed to fee natural right and equity rescued from the oppression, which, through the prevalence of men's passions, they had so long groaned under ? The duties of justice, mercy, and brotherly love, those of temperance, contentment, firmness in times. of adversity, patience under tribulations, all these are ftrenuously re- | commended there, and grounded upon the strongest motives. This blessed religion, not content with regulating our outward actions, reaches as far as the inmost recesses of our minds, teaching us to be pure in heart. Even the hardest prescriptions it contains, and such as are most repugnant to the corruption of human nature, as felf-denial, &c. have some foundation in the law of nature. For what is denying one's self, but to put off a blind and inordinate self-love, which hurries us into an ignoble flavery to our passions, and proves our ruin, to let our. felves be guided by another principle of self-love, which will promote our salvation both here and hereafter? Martyrdoms and sufferings do not indeed essentially belong to a religion which was calculated for the hapa piness of mankind, but reason itself teaches us, that we ought much rather to lose our lives, and even suffer a thousand deaths, than disown our God, and forfeit our own salvation by criminal actions. If the Christian religion injoins its professors to bless their enemies, ought we not in this particular to comply with the appointment of Providence, which has thought fit we Mould be exposed to them? Besides, this command of forgiving injuries, and being in charity with our enemies, prevents private acts of revenge, which would destroy society, and leaves the supreme Director of all things a right which he is extremely jealous of. In a word, if a lawgiver had a mind to frame a well regu. lated society, and make a nation happy, he could not have pitched upon ötter maxims, than those of the gospel, to promote the public good, as well as that of private persons, and to procure to himself, at the same