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fools and narrow minded by the celebrated free thinkers of the age, in a firm belief of, and patient waiting for that day, which shall confound the wifdom of the now reputed wise, is a christian of a higher rank, and greater value, and is more to be depended upon for acting a truly christian part (which requires superiority of mind to this world, and to the vain pursuits and transitory emoluments of it) than the man who has only been taught to take the system for granted, and who is unacquainted with the proper evidence on which his faith refts.
Moreover, as those who believe in the perfect moral government of God entertain no doubt, but that all calamity and vice will be made to cease, when they have anfwered the purposes for which they were permitted to exist ; so the christian looks forward with joy to that time, when the religion of Christ shall triumph over all opposition, when the firm belief of it will be universal, and when, in consequence of this, being more deeply rooted in men's hearts, it will bring forth the proper fruits of it in their lives and conversation.
When these things are duly considered, I hope that the present state of the belief of christianity will afford no just foundation for any objedion to it, but that it will rather supply an argument in . favour of it.
HE want. of univerfality can be no objection:
to the truth of christianity ; but upon the fuppofition of the knowledge of it being absolutely necessary to the final happiness of men, which is denied by all rational christians, who believe that all men will be judged according to the advantages which they have severally enjoyed, for attaining to : the knowledge of truth and the practice of virtue ; and consequently that the most ignorant and ido.. latrous heathen may meet with mure favour from · his judge than many profefling. christians, whose conduct, though, to outward appearance, it has been much better, yet not in proportion to their greater advantages..
It is greatly favourable to christianity, and in-deed almost peculiar to it, that it fhews no favour to christians as such. The bigotted Jews and the Mohammedans denounce anathemas against unbelievers as such, and suppose that the wicked among them will be more respected by God hereafter than the rest of mankind, whereas the gospel speaks quite another language. To thofe who say Lord, Lord, without submitting to the laws of Christ, he
will reply at the laft, Verily, verily, I know you nots, depart from me ye workers of iniquity. It is also one of his maxims, that he who knows his Lord's will and does it not, hall be beaten with many stripes. To the same purpose,, likewise, do the apostles write:
Some persons have objected to the evidences of christianity, but certainly without sufficient reason, the differences of opinion among christians, since the very fame objection may be made to natural religion, and indeed to every thing that has ever been imagined of so much importance, as to engage much of the attention of mankind, the consequence of which has always been different conceptions concerning it. Were not the disciples of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato, divided among themselves ? Are there not as many
the Mohama medans, as among the christians? And are there not almost as many different opinions among the Papists, as among the Protestants, notwithstanding they profess to be poffefied of an infallible judge in all controversies of faith? Do not even our ablest lawyers give different opinions concerning the sense of acts of parliament, which were intended to convey the most determinate meaning, so as to obviate all cavils? Nay, have we not equal reason to expect that unbelievers should agree in the same fyftem of unbelief ? If they say to usg. Agree first among yourselves, and tell us what christianity is, and we will tell you what we have
to object to it; we have a right to reply, Do you agree first with respect to what you suppose to be wrong in it, tell us what you object to, and we will then consider of the proper answer,
In fact, every unbeliever must read the New Teftament for himself. If, when he is uninfuenced by any criminal prejudice, he really cannot give his afsent to what he believes to be the religion of those books, he will be justified in his unbelief; but if he have taken up his notions of christianity from others, or from an examination of his own, inadequate to the importance of the subject, he certainly cannot be justified. . I, for my own part, can only exhibit what appears to me the true idea of christianity, and the most rational defence of it. If
any other person, believer or unbeliever, think it to be exceptionable, he must look out for another, that to himself shall appear less so, and I also thall think myself at liberty to relinquith my notions, and adopt his..
It is highly unreasonable to object to christianity the various mischiefs which it has indirectly occafioned in the world, since there is nothing useful or excellent that has not had fimilar consequences, By this method of reasoning, it might be concluded with certainty, that our passions and affections were not the gift of God, for they are daily the cause of great and serious evils. In fact, the more important any thing is, and the more extensive and happy
are its consequences, the greater, in general, are the evils which it occasionally produces.
This is remarkably the case with civil government: It is certainly far preferable to a state of anarchy,. and yet it gives occasion to a multitude of crimes,. and such horrid excelles of all the paffiuns as cannot be known in uncivilized countries..
The perfecution of christians by christians, hasnot been worse than the persecution of chriftians. by such heathen emperors as Trajan, and Marcus Aurelius, not to mention Nero or Diocletian; and has, besides, most. evidently arisen from a gross:: perversion of the genuine fpirit of christianity, which breathes nothing but forbearance and love. There is also a view in which all these evils may be considered as highly favourable to the evidences of christianity, fince they were distinctly foreseen and foretold by Christ and the apostles. Besides, when we consider the havock that has been made by christian perfecutors, we should also confider the laudable zeal of the many who favoured and fheltered those who were perfecuted.
To make a juster estimate of the moral influence of christianity, let us consider with impartiality the character of the present times. Was Europe less corrupt a century ago, when there were fewer unbelievers, than it is now, that they are more nuinerous ? It is plain from experience and observation, that the most vicious and abandoned of the