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exhibited, be convinced of the truth and certainty of the Christian religion, and be persuaded to make it the rule and guide of all their actions, would not be convinced (so far as to influence their practice and reform their lives) by any other evidence whatever, not even though one should rise from the dead, on purpose to endeavour to convince them. From what has been stated in the preceding pages, it is manifest that God has given us all the proofs of the truth of our religion that the nature of the thing would bear, or which it were reasonable either for God to give, or men to expect.

It is true, the resurrection of Christ, and his other mighty works, must be confessed not to be such ocular demonstrations of the truth of his divine mission to after generations, as they were to those men who then lived, and saw, and conversed with him. But since the matters of fact are as clearly proved to us, as it is possible for matters of fact to be, he that will run the hazard of losing eternal happiness, and falling into eternal misery, rather than believe the most credible thing in the world, merely because he does not see it with his eyes, it is plain he does not believe the thing for want of evidence, but because it is contrary to some particular vice of his, which makes it his interest that it should not be true. And for that reason also he might have disbelieved it, though he had seen it himself.

And that this is the real cause is most evident from the lives and actions of most of those persons, who pretend want of evidence to be the ground of their infidelity. Their lust, their appetites, their affections, are interested: they are lovers of vice and debauchery, and slaves to evil habits and customs; and therefore they are not willing to discern the evidence, which would compel them to believe that, which they cannot believe with any comfort, so long as they resolve not to part with their beloved vices. Their hearts and affections are habitually fixed upon things here below; and therefore they will not attend to the force of any argument, that would raise their affections to things above. They are enslaved to the sensual pleasures and sinful enjoyments of earth; and therefore they will not hearken to any reasonable conviction, which would persuade them to relinquish these present gratifications, for the future and more spiritual joys of heaven. The love of this present world has blinded their eyes; and therefore they receive not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto them; neither can they know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. ii. 14.) In a word, the true and only reason why men love darkness rather than light, is, because their deeds are evil. (John iii. 19.)

So long therefore as men continue under the dominion of their evil lusts and propensities, they will not be convinced, though the evidence of religion were even much stronger than it actually is. It is true that many men, who are now conscious and willing to acknowledge that they act contrary to all the reasonable evidence of religion, are nevertheless apt to imagine that if its great truths were proved to them by some stronger evidence, they should by that means be induced to act otherwise. If, however, the true reason why these men 63


act thus foolishly is, not because the doctrines of religion are not sufficiently proved, but because they themselves are hurried away by some unruly passion, it is plain they might continue to act as they do, though the evidence of these things were greater than it is. They are willing to imagine, that if they had seen our Saviour's miracles they would have embraced his doctrine; and if their affections were not set upon this world, they would do the same now. But if they love the pleasures of sin now, the case would have been the same if they had lived in our Saviour's time.

Others there are, who imagine that if a person was sent to them from the other world, they would immediately become new creatures. But if God should satisfy their unreasonable desires, there is little room to doubt, but as they hearkened not unto Moses, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. They might be terrified at first, but as soon as the fright was over, it is by no means impossible that their vicious habits should by degrees prevail over them. Some there are in our present age, who pretend to be convinced of the being of spirits by the demonstration of their own senses, and yet we do not observe that they are more remarkably eminent for exemplary piety than any other good men.

It is not therefore for want of evidence that men disbelieve the great truths of religion, but for want of integrity, and of dealing impartially with themselves. Wherefore, if they will judge truly of the reasonableness of the Christian revelation, it is necessary they become impartially willing to embrace whatever shall appear to be agreeable to reason, without interesting their lusts in the judgment: and when they have put themselves into this frame of mind, let them try if they can any longer reject the evidence of the Gospel: indeed, men who are of this good disposition, could not but give their assent to the doctrines of Christianity, on account of the intrinsic excellency of the things themselves, though the evidence was less than it is: nay, were there no other evidence but the bare excellency of the truths of religion, yet even in this case it would be most agreeable to reason to live according to the rules of the Gospel.

But this is not our case. God has afforded us, as the preceding pages have largely and particularly shown, many and certain proofs of the truth and divine authority of the Scriptures; even as certain as any matter of fact is capable of. And we now exhort men to believe, not that which is barely possible, and excellent, and probable, and of the utmost importance in itself; but that, which they have all the positive evidence, and all the reason in the world to oblige them to believe.

To conclude:- No man of reason can pretend to say, but that God may require us to take notice of some things at our peril: to inquire into them, and to consider them thoroughly. And the pretence of want of greater evidence will not excuse carelessness or unreasonable prejudices, when God has vouchsafed to us all that evidence, which was either fit for him to grant, or reasonable for men to desire; or of which the nature of the thing itself, that was to be proved, was capable.



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1. Necessity of a Divine Revelation proved.-II. The Genuineness and Authenticity of the Scriptures, considered simply as composi tions, established. III. As also their Uncorrupted Preservation. -IV. And their Credibility.-V. Proofs that the Scriptures were written by men divinely inspired.-VI. The Scriptures a perfect Rule of Faith and Morals.-VII. Moral Qualifications for the study of the Scriptures, and in what order they may be read to the greatest advantage.

SUCH are the principal proofs, external and internal, for the genuineness, authenticity, and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures; and when the whole are taken together, every rational and candid inquirer must be convinced that we have every possible evidence for their truth and divine authority, which can be reasonably expected or desired.

I. No one, who believes that there is a God, and that He is a being of infinite power, wisdom, and knowledge, can reasonably deny that He can, if He thinks fit, make a revelation of himself and of his will to men, in an extraordinary way, different from the discoveries made by men themselves, in the mere natural and ordinary use of their own powers. And as the works of creation prove that He is a being of infinite power and goodness, so we may be assured that He who has given us the power of communicating our ideas to each other, cannot be at a loss for some proper method, by which to make it apparent to his rational creatures, that it is He who speaks to them. To admit the existence of a God, and to deny Him such a power, is a glaring contradiction.

Since it cannot reasonably be denied, that it is possible for God to reveal His Will to mankind, let us in the next place consider, which is most probable and agreeable to the notions we have of Him, whether He should or should not make such a revelation. Now, if any credit be due to the general sense of mankind in every age, we shall scarcely find one, that believed the existence of a God, who did not likewise believe, that some kind of communication subsisted between God and man. This was the foundation of all the religious rites and ceremonies, which every nation pretended to receive from their deities. Hence also the most celebrated legislators of antiquity, as Zoroaster, Minos, Pythagoras, Solon, Lycurgus, and others, all thought it necessary to profess some intercourse with heaven, in order to give the greater sanction to their laws and institutions, notwithstanding many of them were armed with secular power. And, what gave birth and so much importance to the pretended oracles, divinations,

and auguries of antient times, was the conscious sense entertained by mankind, of their own ignorance, and of their need of a supernatural illumination, as well as the persuasion that the gods had a perpetual intercourse with men, and by various means gave them intelligence of future things.

The probability and desirableness of a divine revelation further appear from this circumstance, that some of the antient philosophers, particularly Socrates and Plato (though they did not believe the pretences to revelation made by their priests,) yet confessed that they stood in need of a divine revelation, to instruct them in matters, which were of the utmost consequence; and expressed their strong expectation, that such a revelation would, at some future time, be vouchsafed, as should dispel the cloud of darkness in which they were involved.

From the preceding remarks and considerations, we are authorised to infer, that a divine revelation is not only probable and desirable, but also absolutely necessary. In fact, without such revelation, the history of past ages has shown, that mere human reason cannot attain to any certain knowledge of God or of his will, of happiness, or of a future state. Contemplate the most polished nations of antiquity; and you will find them plunged in the grossest darkness and barbarism on these subjects. Though the works of nature sufficiently evidence a deity, yet the world made so little use of their reason, that they saw not God, where even by the impressions of himself, he was easy to be found. Ignorance and superstition overspread the world; the antients conceived the parts of nature to be animated by distinct principles, and, in worshipping them, lost sight of the Supreme Being. The number of deities continually increased; the grossest and most sanguinary idolatry prevailed; human sacrifices were universal; the vilest obscenities were practised under the name of religion; and the heathen temples were commonly places of prostitution, from which many of them derived a considerable revenue. All men, indeed, under pain of displeasing the gods, frequented the temples, and offered sacrifices: but the priests made it not their business to teach them virtue. So long as the people were punctual in their attendance on the religious ceremonies of their country, the priests assured them that the gods were propitious, and they looked no further. It cannot therefore excite surprise, that religion was every where distinguished from, and preferred to, virtue; and that a contrary course of thinking and acting proved fatal to the individual who professed it.

If we advert to the doctrines and practices inculcated by the antient philosophers, who professed to teach the knowledge of virtue, we shall find the light of reason enveloped in equal obscurity. There was, indeed, a very small number of these, who were comparatively wise and good men; who entertained more correct notions of morality and religion, than the rest of mankind: and preserved themselves, to a certain degree, unpolluted from the world. Yet these were never able to effect any considerable change in the prevailing principles and manners of their respective countrymen; their precepts being

delivered to their own immediate pupils, and not to the lower orders of people, who constitute the great mass of society. Further, the moral systems of the philosophers were too refined for the common people about them, indeed, the Stoics gave themselves no trouble, but seem to have considered them as little better than beasts; and even those moral truths, which the philosophers were able to prove and explain to others with sufficient clearness and plainness, they had not sufficient authority to enforce in practice. At the same time, they entertained the most imperfect and erroneous notions relative to the nature of the divine being, his attributes and worship, and the duties and obligations of morality.

Thus, they were ignorant of the true account of the creation of the world, of the origin of evil, and of the cause of the depravity and misery which actually exist among mankind, and which they acknowledged and deplored. Equally ignorant were they of any method, ordained and established by the Almighty, by which a reconciliation could be effected between God and man, and divine mercy could be exercised without the violation of his attribute of justice. They were, moreover, ignorant at least they taught nothing of divine grace and assistance towards our attainment of virtue and perseverance in it. Their notions of the true nature of happiness were dark and confused and they had dark and imperfect notions of the immortality of the soul, and of the certainty of a future state of rewards and punishments: for, although their poets fancied an elysium and a hell, and mention the appearance of the ghosts of departed men, in a visible form, and as retaining their former shapes in the shades below, yet these were regarded rather as well-contrived restraints for the vulgar, than as articles of their own belief. Consequently, they had no perfect scheme of moral rules for piety and good manners: indeed, they were grossly ignorant of moral duties. Thus we find several sects esteeming revenge not only lawful but praiseworthy; selfmurder, as a proof of a noble mind; and the love of applause, as the greatest incentive to the practice of virtue: at the same time they countenanced, both by arguments and example, the most flagitious practices. Destitute of proper authority to enforce the virtues and duties which they did recommend, they had no motives powerful enough to over-rule strong temptations and corrupt inclinations: their own example, instead of recommending their precepts, tended to counteract them, for it was generally, even in the very best of them, in direct opposition to their doctrines: and the detestable vices to which many of them were addicted, entirely destroyed the efficacy of what they taught.

Lastly, if we advert to the pagan nations of the present age, we learn from the unanimous testimony of navigators and travellers, that they are enveloped in the grossest ignorance and idolatry; and that their religious worship, doctrines, and practices are equally corrupt: yet they also possess the same light of reason which the antient heathens enjoyed. The consideration of all which facts shows, that a divine revelation is not only possible and probable, but also absolutely

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