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will you do with reason and conscience, those trou. blesome inmates of the human bosom? Can you bring yourselves calmly to believe, that this beautiful frame of nature, which displays so much intelligence, wisdom, power, goodness, justice, art, design, is the work of chance? That admirable piece of mechan. ism your own body, the meanest insect that crawls upon the ground, nay, the very watch in your pocket, will confute the supposition. You must, therefore, you see, come back to embrace the religion of Jesus with us believers. You cannot find rest, upon the principles of sound reason, in any other system. For though the gospel be attended with various and great difficulties, as every view of both the natural and moral world unquestionably is; yet it is attended with the fewest difficulties, and none but such as are honestly superable ; and is the most comfortable and happy institution that ever was proposed to the consideration and acceptance of reasonable creatures. Nothing was ever so pure, so benevolent, so divine, so perfective of human nature, so adapted to the wants and circumstances of mankind. To live under the full power of it, is to have the proper enjoyment of life.(9) To believe and obey it, is to be entitled to a crown that fadeth not away.
truth of christianity, so consolatory, as the experimental and heartfelt knowledge of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ. Indeed, all other proofs, without this, are to little purpose, and this is independent of every other argument; for though it cannot with propriety be adduced for the conviction of unbelievers, it is calculated to yield more satisfaction to our bosoms than the most laboured arguments that reach the understanding only. Poor people whose minds have taken a religious turn, usually rest their salvation upon this experimental conviction alone.
(9) There is not a single precept in the gospel, without es. cepting that which ordains the forgiveness of injuries, or that which commands every one to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour, which is not calculated to promote our happiness.
Newton has given a demonstration of the existence and intel. Jigence of the Divine being, in the close of his Principia, which
Upon the supposition, that the person, whom we call the Saviour of the world, had no commission from heaven to make the will of God known to mankind, would it not be one of the greatest of miracles, that he and his twelve followers, poor, unlettered, and obscure men, should have brought to light a system of doctrines the most sublime, and of morals the most perfect? that Jesus and the fishermen of Galilee should have far surpassed Socrates, Plato, Cicero, and all the greatest men of the most enlightened period of the world? that every thing they advanced should perfectly agree both with the natural, civil, and religious history of mankind ? that their discourses should still be capable of improving and delighting the most learned and profound geniuses of these latter ages?(10) that all modern discoveries should bear witness to the truth of the facts recorded in the most venerable of all volumes ? and that every book in the world, sacred or profane, Christian, Jewish, Pagan, or Mohammedan, instead of lessening should establish the credit and authority of the Bible as a revelation from heaven?(1)
the atheistical reader should consider at his leisure. And to it should be added, Tillotson on the Wisdom of being Religious.
(10) Newton accounted the Scriptures the most sublime phi. losophy, and never mentioned the word--God-but with a pause. The same is recorded of Boyle. How different the conduct of our minute philosophers ?
(1) Whiston, in his Astronomical Principles of Religion, gives us a short view of the reasons which induced him to believe the Jewish and Christian revelations to be true.
“The revealed religion of the Jews and Christians lays the law of nature for its foundation ; and all along supports and assists natural religion; as every true revelation ought to do.- -Astro. nomy, and the rest of our certain mathematic sciences, do con. firm the accounts of Scripture, so far as they are concerned.--The ancientest apd best historical accounts now known, do confirm the accounts of Scripture, so far as they are concerned. The more learning has increased, the more certain, in general, do the Scripture accounts appear, and its difficult places are more cleared
This is more extraordinary still, when it is considered, that the object of our Saviour's religion is new, the doctrines new, his personal character new,(2)
thereby. There are, or have been standing memorials preserved of the certain truths of the principal historical facts, which were constant evidences of the certainty of them.-Neither the Mosaical law, nor the Christian religion, could possibly have been received and established without such miracles as the Sacred History contains.--Although the Jews all along hated and persecuted the prophets of God; yet were they forced to believe they were true prophets, and their writings of divine inspiration. The ancient and present state of the Jewish nation are arguments for the truth of their law, and of the Scripture prophecies relating to them. The ancient and present states of the Christian church are also strong arguments for the truth of the gospel, and of the Scripture prophecies relating thereto. -The miracles, whereon the Jewish and Christian religions are founded, were of old owned to be true by their very enemies.- -The Sacred writers, who lived in times and places so remote from one another, do yet all carry on one and the same grand design; namely, that of the salvation of mankind, by the worship of, and obedience to, the one true God, in and through the king Messiah; which, without a divine conduct, could never have been done. The principal doctrines of the Jewish and Christian religions are agreeable to the most ancient traditions of all other nations. -The
difficulties relating to this religion are not such as affect the truths of the facts, but the conduct of Providence: the reasons of which the sacred writers never pretend fully to know, or to reveal to mankind. Natural reli. gion, which is yet so certain in itself, is not without such difficulties as to the conduct of Providence, as are objected to revelation. The Sacred History has i he greatest marks of truth, honesty, and impartiality, of all other histories whatsoever; and withal has none of the known marks of knavery and imposture.dictions of Scripture have been still fulfilled in the several ages of the world whereto they belong:--No opposite system of the universe, or schemes of divine revelation, have any tolerable pretences to be true, but those of the Jews and Christians.-_These are the plain and obvious arguments, which persuade me of the truth of the Jewish and Christian revelations.”
(2) The four evangelists have done, without appearing to have intended it, what was never performed by any authors before or since. They liave drawn a perfect human character without a single flaw! they have given the history of one, whose spirit, words, and actions, were in every particular wliat they ought to have been; who always did the very thing which was proper, and
and the religion itself superior to all that was known among men. These are considerations that ought to have much weight with every man who calls himself
in the best manner imaginable; who never once deviated from the most consummate wisdom, purity, benevolence, compassion, meekness, humility, fortitude, patience, piety, zeal, and every other excellency; and who in no instance let one virtue or holy disposition entrench on another; but exercised them all in entire harmony and exact proportion! The more the histories of the Evangelists are examined, the clearer will this appear; and the more evidently will it be perceived, that they all coincide in the view they give of their Lord's character. This subject challenges investigation, and sets infidelity at defiance! Either these four men exceeded in genius and capacity all the writers that ever lived, or they wrote under the special guidance of divine inspiration ; for without labour or affectation they have effected, what hath baffled all others, who have set themselves purposely to accomplish it. Industry, ingenuity, and malice have, for ages, been employed in endeavouring to prove the Evangelists inconsistent with each other; but not a single contradiction has been proved
With this may be compared the account that Rousseau has given us of the gospel, which is the more remarkable, as it is from the pen of an enemy.
"I will confess to you,” says he, “ that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel hath its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philoso. phers with all their pomp of diction: how mean, how contemptible are they, compared with the Scripture! Is it possible that a book, at once so simple and sublime, should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the Sacred personage, whose history it contains, should be himself a mere man? Do we find that he assumed the tone of an enthusiast'or ambitious sectary! Whai sweetness, what purity in his manner! What an affecting grace, fulness in his delivery! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! What presence of mind, what subtlety, what truth in his replies ! How great the command over his passions ! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live, and so die, without weakness and without ostentation? When Plato described his imaginary good man, loaded with all the shame of guilt, yet meriting the highest rewards of virtue, he describes exactly the character of Jesus Christ; the resemblance was, so striking that all the hers perceived it. What prepossession, what blindness must it be, to compare the son of Sophroniscus to the Son of Mary? What an infinite disproportion there is between them? Socrates dying without pain
a philosopher, and wishes to be determined in his judgment only by the reason and nature of things.(3)
or ignominy, easily supported his character to the last; if his death, however easy, had not crowned his life, it might have been doubted whether Socrates, with all his wisdom, was any thing more than a vain sophist. He invented, it is said, the theory of morals. Others, however, had before put them in practice; he had only to say, therefore, what they had done, and to reduce their examples to precepts. Aristides had been just before Socrates defined justice ; Leonidas had given up his life for his country before Socrates declared patriotism to be a duty; the Spartans were a sober people before Socrates recommended sobriety ; before he had ever defined virtue Greece abounded in vir. tuous men. But where could Jesus learn, among his competitors, that pure and sublime morality, of which he only hath given us both precept and example. The greatest wisdom was made known among the most bigotted fanaticism, and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues did honour to the vilest people upon earth. The death of Socrates, peaceably philosophizing with his friends, appears the most agreeable that could be wished for; that of Jesus expiring in the midst of agonizing pains, abused, insulted, and accused by a whole nation, is the most horrible that could be feared. Socrates, in receiving the poison, blessed indeed the weeping executioner who administered it; but Jesus, in the midst of excruciating tortures, prayed for his merciless tormentors. Yes, if the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of jesus are those of a God. Shall we suppose the evan. gelic history a mere fiction? Indeed, my friend, it bears not the marks of fiction; on the contrary, the history of Socrates, which nobody presumes to doubt, is not so well attested as that of Jesus Christ. Such a supposition, in fact, only shifts the difficulty, without obviating it: it is more inconceivable that a number of persons should agree to write such a history, than that only one should furnish the history of it. The Jewish authors were incapable of the diction, and strangers to the morality contained in the gospel, the marks of whose truth are so strising and inimitable, that the inventor would be a more astonishing character than a hero."
(3) It is truly remarkable, and highly satisfactory to the serious Christian, that all modern discoveries are so far from proving unfavourable to the truth of the Sacred Writings, that they strongly tend to the illustration and confirmation of them.
All voyages and travels, into the East especially, are particularly useful in this point of view. Bruce's Travels throw a light upon many biblical circumstances. Maurice's Indian Antiquities, and History