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THEOLOGICAL SUBJECTS, ,
ORIGINAL AND COLLECTED.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FACTS AND EVIDENCES OF CHRIS
TIANITY, AND THE OBJECTIONS OF INFIDELS.
91. I suppose it will be acknowledged by the Deists, that the Christian religion is the most rational and pure that ever was established in any society of men; and that they will except only themselves, as serving God in a manner more according to the will than the Christian manner. But can any believe that God has so wholly thrown away mankind, that there never yet has been a society of men, that have rightly paid respect to their Creator ?
It is easily proved that the highest end and happiness of man, is to view God's excellency, to love him, and receive expressions of his love. This love, including all those other affections which depend upon, and are necessarily connected with it, we express in worship. The highest end of society among men, therefore, must be, to assist and join with each other in this employment. But how comes it to pass, that this end of society was never yet obtained among Deists? Where was ever any social worship statedly performed by them? And were they disposed socially to express their love and honour, which way would they go about it? They have nothing from God to direct them. Doubtless there would be VOL. VII.
perpetual dissensions about it, unless they were disposed to fall in with the Christian model. We may be convinced, therefore, that revelation is necessary to right social worship.
§ 2. There never was any religion but that which we profess, and those formed from it, that pretended to inform us of the nature of God; that there is but one God, how the world came into being, and how God governs it. What other religion discovered God's great designs ; what is his will, and how he should be served ? declared the reward of obedience, and punishment of disobedience; the nature of man's happiness, and the end for which he was made ? that gave us good moral rules; told us what will become of the world hereafter; explained how we came to be sinful and miserable, and how we may escape sin and misery ? gave an account of the great revolutions of the world, and the successions of God's works in the universe ; and where his true worshippers have been, and what has befallen them; or informed us how the world came to apostatize from the true worship of God? Christianity is the only religion that ever pretended that there should a time come, when it should be the religion of the world in general.
93. The Jewish religion, as at present professed, most certainly differs from what reason evidently declares to be the essence of religion. It does not state aright the highest end and happiness of man, his chief business and greatest misery, and the true worship of God. Undoubtedly the Messiah was to come to advance the best interest and true happiness of mankind, which certainly consist in what the gospel declares our Jesus advanced, and not in what the Jews expect the Messiah will do.
$ 4. I think it certain that seeing the miracles of Christ were done, for three years and a half, so publicly all over Judea ; and seeing there was such violent opposition there, so soon after, against the Christians; if the matters of fact had been false, they would have been denied by the Jews generally ; and if this had been the case, we should have known it. The Jews afterward would much more have denied them ; which it is evident they did not. If they had, they would have been also denied by the Heathens who wrote against the Christians. But they were not denied. It is impossible that the whole world should have turned Christian, in three hundred years after the facts were so publicly done, if they had been generally false. If the Jews had denied the matters of fact at first, they would undoubtedly have denied them at this day, seeing they are so tenacious of the traditions of their fathers. Christ's resurrection was openly published within a few days after his death, on the day of Pentecost. It is undoubted, that the
number of the Christians increased every where exceedingly from that time; so that a considerable alteration was speedily made by it in the face of the world. Whether the matters of fact were written or no, they were universally talked of. The conversion of the Roman empire to the Christian religion, was the most remarkable thing that ever happened among the nations of the world ; and it would be unaccountable that it should have happened upon the story of a few obscure men, without inquiring into the matters related.
$ 5. I am convinced of the necessity of a revelation, considering how negligent, dull, and careless about a future happiness, I should be, if I was left to discover that happiness by unassisted reason : especially if there were no revelation at all, about what is pleasing to God; how he accepts our services; after what manner he loves his servants; how he will pardon sin, &c.
$ 6. It is certain that Jesus Christ had none of the advantages of education, to get learning and knowledge ; and it is also certain, that every where in his speeches, he showed an uncommon insight into things, a great knowledge of the true nature of virtue and morality, and what was most acceptable to God, vastly beyond the rest of the nation-take Scribes and Pharisees and all. And how did he come by it? how did he get it at Nazareth ? Those who have not an education in these days, may get much by books, which are so common : but books of learning were not to be had then. Yea, it is evident that he knew vastly more than any of the philosophers and wise men in the whole world, by those rational descriptions which he gave of God and his attributes; of his government and providence ; and of man's nature, business, end, and happiness ; of what is pleasing to God; of the immortality of the soul, and a future state. How knew he, so exactly, truths perhaps demonstrable by reason, but never found out before? &c.
$7. That Christ was really dead, appears from many con. siderations. It is very unreasonable to imagine, that he feigned himself dead; for, what reason had he to think that he should have success, if he did? or to expect they would take him down before he was quite dead? Or, if he had had such a design, it was impossible that he should act his part so accurately, as not to be discovered or suspected. Besides, if he was not dead when they took him down from the cross, he was very near it; and, no doubt but his grievous wounds, the loss of blood, and fasting so long, would have extinguished his life before the third day. And if then he only rose out of a swoon, how came he perfectly sound at once? Doubtless, his hands and fect were much torn by bearing his weight so long on iron spikes driven through them. And if he rose from the dead in no supernatural sense, whither did he go when he rose ? What became of him ? We have no account of his dying again : nor was he yet to be found after a few weeks.
§ 8. If Christianity was not true, it would never afford so much matter for rational and penetrating minds to be exercised upon. If it were false, such minds would find it empty, and it would be a force upon the intellect to set upon meditating upon that which has no other order, foundation, and mutual dependence to be discovered in its parts, than what is accidental. A strong and piercing mind would feel itself exceedingly bound and hindered. But in fact, there is the like liberty in the study of Christianity, and as much improvement of the mind, as in the study of natural philosophy, or any study whatsoever ; yea, a great deal more. And whatever may be said about Mahometan divinity, I cannot be convinced but that a mind that has the faculty and habit of clear and distinct reasoning, would find nothing but chains, fetters, and confusion, if it should pretend to fix its reason upon it.
§ 9. Seeing the beauty of the corporeal world consists chiefly in representing spiritual beauties, and the beauties of minds are infinitely the greatest ; we therefore may conclude, that God, when he created the world, showed his own perfection and beauties far the most charmingly and clearly, in the spiritual part of the world. But seeing spiritual beauty consists principally in virtue and holiness ; and seeing there is so little of this beauty to be seen now on earth; hence we may fairly conclude, that there has been a great fall and defection in this part of the spiritual world, from its primitive beauty and charms.
Corollary. Seeing this is so agreeable to the account that the Christian religion gives of the matter; and seeing it is evident from many arguments, that God intends not to give over man as lost, but has a merciful intention of restoring him to his primitive beauty; and seeing we are told this, and the manner of it, in the Christian religion alone; and seeing the account is so rational : it is a great confirmation of the truth of Christianity.
§ 10. It is a convincing argument for the truth of the Christian religion, and that it stands upon a most sure basis, that none have ever yet been able to prove it false, though there have been many men of all sorts, many fine wits and men of great learning, that have spent themselves and ransacked the world for arguments against it, and this for many ages.
§ 11. It is exceedingly improbable, that it should ever enter into the head of any mortal, to invent such a strange system of visions, as that of the Revelation of Saint John, of which he himself could give no account of the meaning or design, and did not pretend to it. What design could he have in it? But if he had a design, the frame of the visions is not a whit like a random invention, without any view or design as to interpretation.
§ 12. It does not seem to me at all likely, that any person among the Jews, so long ago, should have so perfect a knowledge of nature, and the secret springs of human affections, as to be able to feign any thing so perfectly and exquisitely agreeable to nature, as the incidents in Joseph's history, and the other histories of the Bible ; particularly the history of Genesis.
§ 13. Such kind of miracles, as healing the sick, the blind, the deaf, dumb, lame, &c.; and creating bread and flesh, and turning water into wine, are greater than those that are so much more pompous, as causing universal darkness, dividing the sea, the shaking and burning of Mount Sinai, &c. The healing of the sick and distracted, do more especially manifest divine power, for this cause, that we have reason to conclude mankind especially are subject to God's providence, and that their health and the exercise of their reason, are alone in his hands, and that it is not in the power of any evil spirit to give them and take them at his pleasure, however great power he may be supposed to have over the inanimate creatures.
When a person appears, that has evidently the whole course of nature at all times subject to his command, so that he can alter it how and when he pleases, we have the greatest reason to think that person has divine authority, and that the author and upholder of nature favours him, and gives approbation to what he pretends thereby. For we know, that the course of nature is God's established course of acting upon creatures ; and we cannot think that he would give power to any evil spirit to alter it when he pleases, for evil purposes. But Christ manifestly had the course of nature so subject to his will and command.
$ 14. It would not have been proper for Christ constantly to dwell among men after his resurrection. Men would be exceedingly apt to fall into idolatry; and, because they saw the man Christ Jesus, would be apt to direct their worship to the human nature. Therefore, we are not to see the man Christ Jesus till we are perfected, and are not liable to temptation on such occasions. For this reason, probably, it was not convenient for Christ to appear in great majesty and glory when on earth, but the contrary ; for this reason, Christ endeavoured to hide his transfiguration, and many other miracles, till after he was risen ; and, for this reason, he did not converse constantly with his disciples after his resurrection, as