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every one may judge from what he feels in himself, as well as from what he sees in others; and whatever does this cannot, as it seems to me, but come from God. The false religions, and various cortuptions of the true, which have from time to time appeared in the world, have been enabled to do this in the imperfect manner in which they have done it, merely, as it seems to me, from that mixture of important truths, and good motives, which they have borrowed from real revelations, Patriarchal, Judaical, and Christian.
In like manner as the propagation of Christianity, upon its first appearance in the world, evinces its divine original, so does the progress it has since made, and the reception which it meets with at present, amongst the several ranks and orders of men. The detail of this would run out to a great length. It may, however, be of some use just to observe, that notwithstanding the great prevalence of Infidelity in the present times, it is seldom found to consist with an accurate knowledge of ancient history, sacred and profane, and never with an exalted piety and devotion to God.
And it is as peculiarly for the credit of Christianity, that it should now be supported by the learned, as that it was first propagated by the unlearned, and an incontestable evidence for it, as appears to me, that it has been universally embraced by all eminently pious persons, to whom it has been made known in a proper manner.
The analogous observations may be made upon the reception which the Jewish religion met with, both from the Jews themselves, and from the neighbouring nations. It seems impoffible for Moses to have delivered the Jews from their oppression in Egypt, and afterwards to have subjected them to his laws, for Joshua to have conquered Canaan, for the religion to have subfifted in the succeeding times of the Judges and Kings, for the priests and prophets to have maintained their authority, for the people to have returned after their captivity, with their religion in an uncorrupted state, and to have supported it and themselves against the kings of Syria and Egypt, and the power of the Romans, and to remain at this day a separate people dispersed all over the world, according to the prophecies, unless the miraculous part of the history of the Old Testament be allowed to be true, as well as the other.
PROP. XXX. THE RECEPTIONS WHICH FALSE RELIGIONS HAVE MET WITH IN THE
WORLD, ARE ARGUMENTS OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN.
I WILL here make a few short remarks,
First, upon the polytheistical, idolatrous religion of the ancient world.
Secondly, upon the religious inftitutions of Zoroaster.
Fourthly upon the enthusiastical sects which have appeared from time to time amongst Christians.
All these seem to have met with such success, as might be expe&ted from the mixture of truth and fallhood in them, compared with the then circumstances of things. They are therefore indirect evidences for the truth of the Chriftian religion, fince this has met with such success as cannot be reconciled to the circumstances of things, unless we suppose it true.
And rst, the ancient Pagan religions seem evidently to be the degenerated offspring of the patriarchal revelations; and so far to have been true, as they taught a God, a providence, a future ftate, fupernatural communications made to particular persons, especially in the infancy of the world, the present corruption of man, and his deviation from a pure and perfect way, the hopes of a pardon, a mediatorial power, the duties of sacrifice, prayer, and praise, and the virtues of prudence, tempérance, justice, and fortitude. They were false, as they mixed and polluted these important truths with numberless fables, superstitions, and impieties. That degree of truth, and moral excellence, which remained in them, was a principal cause of their fuccess, and easy propagation among the people ; for their moral sense would direct them to approve and receive what was fit and useful. And, had the people of those times penetrated fufficiently into the powers of the human mind, they might have concluded, that religious truths could not be of human invention. However, as the impreffions which the historical and prophetical evidences for the patriarchal revelations had made upon mankind, were not yet obliterated, they believed, upon the authority of tradition, that all important knowledge, especially in sacred matters, was of divine original.
As to the miracles said to be wrought upon certain occasions in Pagan nations, we may make these two remarks : first, that the evidence for these is far inferior to that for the Jewish and Christian miracles ; so that these may be true, though those be false. Secondly, that we are not sufficiently informed of the ways of Providence, to infer that God did not permit, or cause some miracles to be wrought, even in times and places where great corruption prevailed. Divine communications and miracles were probably most common soon after the food, in the infancy of mankind. Afterwards, as they advanced towards adult age, these supernatural interpositions grew more rare (unless upon singular occasions, as upon the publication of the Law by Moses, and of the Gospel by Christ; at which times, many and great miracles fucceeded each other at short intervals, in order to command awe, attention, and belief): and it may be, that they ceased in the Pagan world for some ages before Chrift; or it may be otherwise; and that, in rare and extraordinary cases, the hand of God appeared in a miraculous manner. Analogy favours the last opinion, as it seems to me; which also appears to be more countenanced by history than the contrary one ; and yet the pretences to miracles amongst the Pagans were undoubtedly false in the general.
I come, in the second place, to consider the religious institutions of Zoroaster. We have not so full and authentic an history of these, as to compare them properly with the Jewish or Christian revelations. If we suppose, that Zoroafter and Hyftaspes set up the worship of one God, in a simple manner, teaching and inculcating the practice of virtue at the same time, this religion may be said to have considerable moral evidence in its favour. If, farther, we suppose it to be in part derived, either from the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, called Brachmans from him, or from that knowledge of the true God which the ten tribes and the Jews had then communicated to that part of the world, it will become an evidence for the Jewish reli
Thirdly, the religion of Mahomet allows and presupposes the truth of the Jewish and Christian. Its rapid propagation was owing chiefly to the mixture of political interests. That part of its doctrines which is good, is manifestly taken from the Scriptures, and this contributed to its success. However, a comparison of Mahometism with Christianity, in the several particulars of each, seems to thew, that whenever a strict examination is made into the history of Mahometism by its professors, the falfhood of it will quickly be made evident to them. It could not stand such a trial as Christianity has, since the revival of learning in these Western parts.
It seems easy to apply what has been delivered in the three last para, graphs to the analogous particulars of the religion of Confucius, and of other religions found in the East and West Indies, as far as their his tories are sufficiently full and authentic for that purpose.
Lastly, one may make the following remarks with respect to the several enthusiastic sects that arise from time to time amongst Christians.
First, that their pretences to miracles and prophecies have, in general, been detected and exposed, after some examination and inquiry ; unless the feet has begun to decline from other causes, before a ftrict examination became necessary,
Secondly, that their pretended miracles were not of that evident kind, nor done in the same open manner, &c. as the Jewish and Chris tian miracles.
Thirdly, that these pretended miracles have not produced lasting effects upon the minds of men, like the Jewish and Christian. Now, though a religion may succeed for a time without true miracles, yet it. seems hard to believe, that any should fail with them,
Fourthly, the success of fects has in general been owing to their making greater pretences to purity and Gospel perfection than established churches, and to their both teaching and practising some necessary duties which established churches have too much neglected in the corrupted state of Christianity. And in this light they have been true in part, and have done the most important service to the world. Every feet of Christians has magnified some great truth, not above its real value, but above the value which other sects have set upon it; and by this means each important religious truth has had
the advantage of being set in a full light by some party or other, though too much neglected by the rest. And the true Catholic church and communion of faints unites all these sects, by taking what is right from each, and leaving the errors, falfhoods, and corruptions of each, to combat and destroy one another.
And it may be, that mankind will be able in future generations tu see, how every other feet, and pretence to revelation, besides those of enthusiastic Christians, in whatever age or country it has appeared, has been, all other things remaining the same, suited in the best possible manner, both to particular and general purposes ; and that each has prepared the way, in its proper place, for that more complete state predicted in the Scriptures under the titles of " the kingdom of Heaven," and of righteousness, of the New Jerusalem,” &c. Even infidelity, atheism, and sceptiscism, have their use. The veffels of wrath are fill vessels belonging to the Maker and Lord of all things, and anfwering his infinitely beneficent purposes. “ Offences must come, ” though “ wo be to those by whom they come !" Each sect, and pretence, and objection, has given, or will give, way in its time. The true and pure religion of Christ alone grows more evident and powerful from every attack that is made upon it, and converts the bitterness and poison of its adversaries into nourishment for itself, and an universal remedy for the pains and sorrows of a miserable, degenerate world,
E V I D E N C E S
SECTION I. 1. General division of the following discourse, with regard to Pagan and
Jewish authors, who mention particulars relating to our Saviour. 11. Not probable that any such should be mentioned by Pagan writers who
lived at the same time, from the nature of such transactions, III. Especially when related by the Jews: IV. And heard at a distance by those who pretend to as great miracles of V. Besides that no Pagan writers of that age lived in Judea, or its con
fines; VI. And because many books of that age are loft. VII. An instance of one record proved to be authentic. VIII. A second record of probable, though not undoubted authority. 1. HAT I may lay before you a full state of the subject under
our confideration, and methodize the several particulars that I touched upon in discourse with you ; I shall first take notice of such Pagan authors as have given their testimony to the history of our Saviour; reduce these authors under their respective classes, and shew what authority their testimonies carry with them. Secondly, I lhall take notice of Jewish authors in the same light. *
II. There are many reasons why you should not expect that matters of such a wonderful nature should be taken notice of by those eminent Pagan writers who were contemporaries with Jesus Christ, or by thofe who lived before his disciples had personally appeared among them, and ascertained the report which had gone abroad concerning a' life so full of miracles.
Supposing such things had happened at this day in Switzerland, or among the Grisons, who make a greater figure in Europe than Judea did in the Roman empire, would they be immediately believed by those who live at a great distance from them? or would any certain account of them be transmitted into foreign countries, within fo short a space of time as that of our Saviour's public ministry ? Such
kinds # The author did not live to write this second part.