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the sober and benevolent system of the gospel has been stigmatized as the offspring of fanaticism, and the parent of bigotry and persecution, it seemed no unseasonable or useless attempt to resort to that gospel itself, and from its plain narration and unadulterated doctrines, vindicate it from those foul asperfions which have no semblance of truth, except when for the divine original men substitute the corruptions of human fraud or folly, and the misdeeds of pride and cruelty, which in ages of barbarism and violence usurped and abused the sacred name of our holy religion. From a wish to contribute something to prevent the spread of error, prejudice and impiety, the writer of the following work has endeavoured to vindicate the characters of the apostles and evange. lists from an accusation now. so popular. Writing principally for the young and uninformed, he has freely used, and gratefully acknowledged, the affistance of those writers who have treated of the evidence and doctrines of Christianity, by almost all of whom this subject has been incidentally touched on, and by some more fully. He has not however confined himself entirely to their ideas, but has endeavoured by studying the scriptures themselves, to confirm the conclufion he wished to establish, by a greater variety of arguments, and a more full induction of particulars than entered into the plan of any one preceding writer. He has chosen to throw his thoughts into the form of a direct proof, rather than that of a particular refutation of objections, as better calculated to shew the real strength of the evidence which
) scripture supplies on this topic, and more free from the intricacy and obscurity of controversy, fo apt to disgust that class of readers, for whom the following pages are chiefly designed.
It will not, he hopes, be deemed a deviation from due attention to his principal design, that where the same facts have served to prove that the apostles and evangelists were not fraudulent deceivers, as well as to evince their freedom from enthusiasm ; this has been noticed. In fact, these two topics neither can nor ought to be considered as entirely separate and unconnected. It is the observation of the fagacious . Warburton, “ that the most successful impostors, « as we say, have fet out in all the blaze of fanatia cism, and compleated their schemes amidst the for cool depth and ftillness of politics ;” and he has illustrated the nature of this strange union of fraud and fanaticism, as well by the nature of the human mind, as by the examples of Mahomet, Ignatius Loyola, (the founder of the Jesuits) and Oliver Cromwell ; it was therefore desirable to point out how totally free the first preachers of Christianity were from both these characters. In truth, integrity, as well as fobriety of mind, are so conspicuous in the conduct and writings of the apostles, that a patient and candid enquirer can scarcely suspect them of fraud or fanaticism in any step of their pro
0 Vid. Warburton's Divine Legation, book 3,' sect. 6, subsect 3.
Having mentioned Wațburton, it seems indispen, fibly necessary to vindicate the author from the charge of presumption, in attempting a subject which that celebrated writer has difcuffed in his Sermons on enthusiasm, and his Doctrine of Grace; it is therefore necessary to remark, that the design of the fol. lowing work is widely different from that of the learned prelate, who P laboured more to expose what
The fame observation which is here made on Warburton, applies to most of the principle works on Fanaticism. To Bishop Stillingfieet's Discourse of the Idolatry and Fanaticism of the Church of Rome, c. iv. To the Comparison between the enthusiasm of the papists, and some modern fectaries, in 2 vols. Lond. 1751. To Hicks's Spirit of Enthusiasm exorcised, Lond. 1709. To Lee's History of Montanism. To, The New Pretenders to Prophecy, examinedboth annexed to Dr. Hicks's work. To Stinftra's Effay on Fanaticism, translated from the Dutch, and published in Dublin, 1774, by the Rev. Isaac Subremont. The learned Merick Cafanbon has exhibited a View of the different Species of Enthusiasm, in a treatise on that subject, published Lond. 1656, which contains much curious information ;- but in none of these works has it been the object to exhibit a connected view of the direct proofs, which form the subject of the following essay. Lord Lyttleton on the Conversion of St. Paul, and Dr. Archibald Campbell in his Essay to prove the Apostles were not Enthusiasts, have briefly noticed many of these proofs, but the former confines himself to that single fact, which was the peculiar object of his work, and the latter extends his argument no farther than to fhew that the Apostles were not Enthusiasts in their Belief of the Refurrection of our Lord-on this account the author of the following pages, while he acknowledges the great assistance he has received from these learned writers, is yet led to believe that they do not anticipate the object, or superfede the necellicy of a more extensive view of this
important he conceived to be the errors and extravagancies of a particular fect of Christians, than to illustrate the general evidence of Christianity itfelf; this last is the fole object of these pages, in which the author anxiously wishes not a single thought may be found, that has not a tendency to promote, amongst all sects of fincere Christians, that mutual charity and brotherly love, which are perpetually recommended in the gospel of peace. Happy, indeed, would be the consequence if different sects were anxious, not only to remove from the tenets of their faith thofe errors, which each maintain have infected every other, and to unite the truths which each receive ; but if besides this, they perpetually laboured to purify their practice from every thing fimilar to the misconduct, which in others they condemn, and to unite in it every ex. cellence,, for which any other description of their brethren is peculiarly distinguished, and thus 'provoke one another to love, and to good works. Were this 'done, diversity of opinion would contribute to excite emulation in active virtue ; thus too, endeavour, ing to trace the praise-worthy conduct of those who dissent from us, we should be frequently led to observe, that even those who differ from us most did, notwithstanding, in many instances, exhibit models well worthy of our imitation ; hence, where we could not approve of their principles, we should give them due credit for their conduct as better than these principles, and none would dare to pronounce men excluded from the pale of salvation, who thus, in many instances, might appear better than themselves. An historical view of the conduct of different sects, thus designed to place their merits, as well as their demerits, in a clear light, unclouded by calumny and prejudice, by bigotry and misrepresentation, and to collect the peculiar virtues of each for the common imitation of all, would perhaps materially contribute to smooth the asperity of controversy, and extend the mildness of toleration; it would exhibit a view of ecclesiastical history, well calculated
important fubject, which should consider the conduct, the writings, and the doctrines of all the apostles, and should exclude those controverfies which, in so many other works, have diverted the attention of their authors from these grand obje&ts. I Hebrews, x. 24:
The following observation of the eminently pious and fagatious Hartley on this subject, is well worthy the most serious attention. Hartley on the Truth of the Christian Religion, prop. 45, vol. 2, of his works, p. 194 ; or Watson's Tracts, vol. 1. “ The fuccess of seets has, in general, been owing to their making greater pretences to purity and gospel per
. « fection than the established churches, and to their both teach
« ing and practising some neceffary duties which established “ churches have too much neglected in the corrupted state of “ Christianity. Every fect of Christians has magnified some “ great truth, not above its real value, but above the value 66 which other fects 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 ne“ glected by the rest; and the true catholic church, and com“ munion of faints, unites all these fects, by taking what is « right from each, and leaving the errors, falsehoods, and “ corruptions of each, to combat and destroy one another,