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pretations upon them, commended them for searching the fcriptures whether the things were so. With all the authority their commission gave them, confirmed by many signs and wonders, they yet appealed to the judgments of men by fair arguments, and aimed at persuading the conscience by the conviction of reafon, not to overbear it by the force of authority. · It was indeed highly fit and necessary, that when they had approved the religion they taught to men's consciences, and their own authority and commision by fuificient evidence, they, as the ministers and apo. ftles of Christ, should both command and exhort in his name, and publish the rules of his religion, as his commands of binding obligation and authority; for this reason, that he is the lawgiver of the church. Thus the Apostles acted. When they had first proved the truth of their doctrine by fair reason and argument, and their own commiffion by the demonstration of the spirit and of power ; that the faith of the church should not stand on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God, it was necessary that they who were to publish Christ's religion, should teach whatever he commanded them, and themselves command and exhort Obedience to them. . These were the methods the Apoitles of Christ used in teaching his religion, and it accordingly met with success beyond human expectation. And tho' the prevalence of an opinion is no sure argument of truth, yet when principles contrary to men's inclinations and interests make their way only by evidence, and the force of reason and argument, against all methods of long and violent opposition, it is a very
strong presumption of their truth, and that such success must be owing į to the power of God attending it. And to suppose that such a religion
as Christianity should prevail as it did, and by such means, without a · miracle, would itself in reality be one of the greatest of miracles. '
XI. From these arguments and evidences I cannot but be convinced that Jesus was a person sent from God, and that his Apostles acted by his commission and authority, and that therefore the whole Christian religion, as contain'd in the New Testament, is a revelation froin God.
As to the difficulties and objections that may be urged against its di- vine authority, I think they are far from carrying in them any evidence or proof. For as to thofe which are of greatest weight, they do not affect the truth of the facts recorded, nor deftroy at all the credi. bility of them. There have never been any objections offer'd that render it unlikely or improbable, that Jesus Christ lived an holy life, taught excellent doctrines, did many great miracles, died on the cross; rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and poured down his spirit on his apostles. And therefore whilít these facts, which support the credit of Christianity, stand upon this fure foundation of certainty; I must necessarily believe the divine authority of the Christian Revelation, tho' the difficulties pretended were much greater than they are.
Some of them may arise either from not knowing some particular circumstances and customs referred to, from the thortness of the accounts which are delivered, or from some lesser errors that may have
cast fome obscurity on those accounts. But from whenceloever they arise, they cannot invalidate the proof which arises from real and wellattested facts, nor make me doubt of things that stand upon the strongest foundation of evidence.
I find indeed that many things, which have appeared for a long while to wife and thoughtful men, as difficulties of great weight, have at, length been fully cleared up, and set in a very plain and rational view; and I therefore please myself with the hope, that in the course of providence, those things which still remain dark and perplexed, may be explained and set in a just light, and made appear as easy and confiftent, as they are now obscure and intricate.
Besides, these difficulties which are pretended, do not in the least affect the main and subftantial parts of Christianity; they do not caft any obscurity over the precepts, and promises, and principles of the Gospel, and of consequence do not affect my duty or my happiness. Notwithstanding all the objections that can be urged, I itill find that the directions to serve God, and obey Christ, and secure my eternal salvation, are very obvious and plain, and therefore I am not under any pain or fear upon account of things I do not understand, or cannot explain.'
But what is of more importance, is, that the principal objections that are urged against the divine authority of the Christian Religion, are fairly to be answered, so as to give satisfaction to any impartial and unprejudiced mind. It hath been objected against the prophecies re. lating to Christ, that they are to be interpreted of him only in an allgorical and mystical sense, and that they are in their nature obscure, and do not so plainly point out the Messiab as might be expected and defired. Whereas the truth is, that tho' there may be a difficulty in interpreting some of them, yet that there are others, which are exceeding plain and clear, have an evident reference to Christ, do agree to the circumstances of no other person, are accomplished in him, and in him only. And if there are any prophecies, originally relating to other persons and things, applied to Christ, and the circumstances of his appearance and kingdom, they are never cited as originally belonging to Christ, but only as applicable to him in their proper meaning, and the times and events to which they are referred. ,
When 'tis objceted against the miracles of Christ, that they were the offect of magick, this appears to be absolutely impossible ; for it was never yet heard of, that magicians could raise the dead, and do the other wonderful works that Jesus did. Besides, the end of his miracles was so great and good, as a wicked impostor and magician can never be fuppoled to have in view ; and till it can be shewn that the Christian Religion is a wicked Religion, I must believe that the miracles recorded in the New Testament were wrought by an holy and good person, under the immediate influence of God.
If it be objected that some of the miracles recorded, are attended with some very absurd and improbable circumstances, I think this charge hath not, and cannot be proved. And from the late unfuccello ful attempts that have been made this way, I have reason to believe,
that the more the miracles of Christ and his Apostles are consider'd, they will appear more and more wonderful in themselves, and more worthy the interpofition and aslistance of God.
If it be objected that there is no sufficient evidence or proof that these miracles were ever wrought, I apprehend this objection to be of little weight ; because as there is the same ground of certainty for these, as there is for any other antient facts, which obtain universal belief, they deserve to be equally credited ; and I think nothing can be more unreasonable and unfair, than to allow the same evidence to be suffi cient as to fome facts, and to deny the suificiency of it as to others, which are equally possible in themselves, consistent with all the perfections of God, and deligned to answer the moit valuable ends and purposes amongst men...
If it be said that miracles are in their nature imposible, I think this can never be allowed but upon the supposition that all things are governed by, or rather subjected to an absolute and unalterable fatality , Because if the supreme and eternal cause of all things be poslefs'd of liberty and power, the miracles recorded in the facred writings are as possible to him as any other actions whatsoever, and according to my conception, much more easily perform'd than the work of creation, which is a much higher exertion of power, and is by all fober deilts ascribed to the will and agency of God; and of consequence I can never allow the impossibility of miracles, because such a notion appears to me destructive of the being and perfections of God.
As to the doctrines of Christ, if it be urged that some of them are unintelligible and mysterious, I have tbis to satisfy myself, that 'tis not much wonder if they should be so, because many of them relate to God, whom none by searching can find out to perfection, and that this is no more than may be objected against many of the moft certain truths of natural religion. For whoever will enter into the confideration of the immensity and eternity of God, attributes which certainly belong to him, will find himself lost in the infinite and boundless subject. As far as they are mysterious and incapable of being understood, I am sure that my acceptance with God doth not depend on my understanding them ; and as far as they are intelligible, they encrease my adoration, reverence and love of God, awaken and excite me to the care and practice of godliness and virtue, and thus help me on in my preparation for heaven and happiness.
If it be objected, that any of the doctrines of Christianity are irrational and abfurd, I apprehend this hath never been proved by any of the enemies of the Christian Revelation. Many principles which they have endeavoured to expose to ridicule, have not been the doc. trines of the Gospel, but either their own mistakes, or the corrupt additions of weak and designing men to the fimplicity of the truth of Chrift. Other doctrines that have been excepted against, have not been revealed in their full extent and compass, and therefore can never be proved absurd by any particular inferences drawn from them; because those very inferences may themselves appear false and absurd, when the doctrines are placed in their full light, and men are rendered capable of clearly discerning and fully understanding them. As to.
trines of ek weak and des that have band compass, drawn from theird,
others; others which have been excepted against, they have stood their ground. both against ridicule and malice, and the objections that have been urged have had no other effect, than to expose their own weakness, and to render the principles of the Gospel of Christ more evident and convincing.
If it should be objected, that the very possibility of revelation itself may be questioned, I answer that this must be upon one or other of these suppositions ; either that God himself, who hath established the order and course of nature, cannot vary from it, or else that 'tis not to be conceived how he should discover himself to any person, so as that he shall be sure it is God and no other. . ,
If the former be asserted, that God himself cannot alter and vary from the course of nature, which he himself hath fixed, it will follow, that he was obliged by some external necessity to form all things as they are, or else by a fitness of things absolutely independent upon his own pleafure and will.
If the first be asserted, that God was obliged by some external ne. cesity, or the agency of some Being prior and superior to himself; this is to assert eternity to be prior to itself, and infinite wisdom and power capable of being controuled by wisdom and power more than infinite; which is absurd.
If the latter be asserted, that God was obliged by a fitness of things independent upon his own pleasure and will, this will appear equally absurd; because if he was under no external neceffity to conftitute the present frame, and consequently the present fitness of things, the actual constitution of the one and the other, can be owing to no other cause or reason, but what is in God himself, and which therefore cannot be inde pendent upon God; which cause or reason can be no other than the will of God, directed by the dictates of his own wisdom and Goodness. And of consequence the present frame of things, and the fitness that results from it, is owing to the good pleasure and free choice of God, directed by the perfections of his own mind; which perfections do not destroy any natural power of acting or not acting, but only direct to the wiseft and best use of it. The very essence of liberty doth indeed confift in wisdom to direct, and power to execute.
Hence it follows, that if the present frame of things be the result of the most perfect freedom and choice in God, the same free choice will and must take place, in every other circumstance to which perfect wisdom and goodness do direct. And therefore, if it be agreeable ty the dictates of such perfections in God, to vouchsafe an external revelation to mankind, in the case of an universal ignorance and degeneracy, such a revelation is as possible as the original constitution of things, and may be accounted for upon the very fame foundation of reason.
But if it be said, that it can't be conceived how God can so discover himself to any person, as that he thall be sure it is God and no other I answer, that luppoling we are not able to describe the method by which God makes hinself known to men, it will by no means follow, that 'tis impossible for God to do so, unless our conceptions are the measure of all possibilities. If God be the universal Creator, he is Surely the Creator of the Souls of men, and hath implanted in them
all their perceptive and reasonable powers and faculties; and of consequence being the Former of spirits, he must be capable of acting on them, which sufficiently proves the pollibility of revelation. . .
Besides, if, as the whole visible creation around us thews the pollibility and great probability of, there are reasonable spirits of natures, orders, and powers superior to us ; I suppose they will not be thought to be incapable of converse, and of communicating their ideas to each other : for this would be to suppose spirits less happy than men: and if created Spirits can thus convey their minds to each other, so as that they fhall be absolutely sure whe it is they converse with, can it be imagined that God the infinite fpirit should not be able to convey his will to fpirits, and reasonable beings, so as that they shall be sure that it is God who converses with them?
Nothing is more certain than that God, who is an absolute spirit, acts on the material world, and yet we cannot tell the manner how God acts upon it and it is very wonderful to consider how one nature abror lutely distinct, and of quite different attributes and properties from another, Thould thus continually act upon and influence it. But that spiritual beings, between whose natures, as spiritual, there is a necessary likeness and conformity, should act upon each other, and be capable of conversing with and communicating their ideas to each other, is a much more easy and rational supposition; and as probable, as that body should act upon body, of which the whole frame of the material world is an ab. solute, constant proof...,,,
The account which revelation itself gives of the manner in which God' convey'd his mind to men, is, either by an audible voice, attended with an appearance of visible glory, or else by making certain very clear and strong impresions on their minds. As to the former way, it is as reasonable to think that the voice and presence of God may be of so very peculiar a nature, as to be as well known, and as certainly diftinguilh'd as the voice and countenance of a friend : And as to the latter, it appears to me extremely probable, that impressions made on the mind may be attended with such peculiar circumstances, which may as truly and certainly discover God, as a friend'may be known by his resemblance and image, or as tho' we were meer spirits, and God was converfing with us as such
If it be allow'd that revelation is possible, it may be denied that it is necessary, because the natural reason of men's minds is abundantly sufficient to demonstrate to them whatever God requires of them. I very readily grant, that the reasonable powers and faculties of men's minds are very capable of leading them into the knowledge of some of the most important truths that we are concerned to know, and duties we are obliged to perform; and that men are criminal in the fight of God, if they run into ignorance and vice, thro' a neglect to improve those excellent faculties of reason which God hath given them,
But then it ought to be considered, that the powers of all men are not alike capable, and that tho' truths of importance when offered to them may be discerned and approved by them, yet that the generality would scarce ever have been able, by a long course of argument and inference, to bave reasoned themselves into a clear knowledge of all those