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calculated to produce; it will not appear to a reflecting mind incredible or improbable, that Christianity, abstracted from the idea of a particular fuperintending providence, will infenfibly prevail over all oppofition, and ultimately become the univerfal religion of mankind. But is it poffible that a few illiterate impoftors, or, at beft, enthusiasts, fhould frame a religious fyftem which thus bids fair to defcend to the latest generations, bidding defiance to the united attacks of wit, learning, and malice? Is it poffible that the original author of this wonderful delusion, the man who bled on Calvary, fhould be acknowledged as the immediate delegate of heaven, commiffioned to execute the purposes of divine compaffion and mercy, by thofe who may be reasonably fuppofed both able and willing to detect and expose the fraud, however cunningly devised, by the wifest and best of mankind, by the most enlightened geniuses of the most enlightened ages and countries? This is monftrous and incredible; a thing paft all comprehenfion and belief: it is impoffible that an impofture framed, under fuch circumftances, could endure the test of a serious and impartial difcuffion; if a forgery, it must be a grofs and palpable one, fuch as no man of sense or reflection could hefitate for a moment whether to receive or reject. What a paradox for the enemies of Christianity to folve! that a religion, which they affirm to be totally deftitute of evidence, fhould have prevailed over fuch potent oppofition,

and

and fhould still go on, conquering and to conquer, by the mere force of evidence.

But thirdly, Independent of the proofs arifing from teftimony, and from prophecy, there is another argument which has often been urged by the advocates of Chriftianity with great fuccefs; and that is, the intrinfic excellence of our holy religion. This has been generally distinguished by the appellation of the internal evidence of Christianity; and of this a ftriking view has been given by an elegant and justly admired writer of our own times. I do not profess, indeed, to approve, much lefs to vindicate, all that Mr. Jenyns has thought proper to advance in that popular performance. I do not, for my own part, fee how the divinity of any contested doctrine can be inferred from its "contrariety to 66 every principle of human reafon, as well as to "all our ideas of the divine attributes." I content myself with inferring the divine origin of Chriftianity from its perfect confonancy, to the principles of natural religion, and to those ideas which reafon teaches us to entertain of the fupreme Being; not that I mean to countenance the opinion, that Christianity is as old as the creation, or that unaffisted reafon was capable of demonftrating thofe fublime truths which conftitute the fundamental articles of the Chriftian faith; but my meaning is, that Christianity is fuch a revelation as reafon would teach us to hope for,

and

and with gratitude and joy to receive; it confirms thofe exalted ideas which reafon taught fome of her most favoured votaries to entertain of the being and perfections of a God, of the reality of a future ftate of existence, of the neceffity of virtue in order to attain to happiness in that state; and it inculcates a fyftem of the purest morality, fuch as has a direct tendency to diffuse a univerfal spirit of benevolence, unity, and concord. This religion, while it afcribes glory to God in the highest, breathes peace on earth, and good-will to men. In a word, it is a religion worthy of its divine author; it is not only a fyftem too refined and exalted for a few ignorant and illiterate men to frame or invent; but it is far fuperior in dignity, in consistency, and utility, to all that the genius, the learning, and the philanthropy, of a Socrates, a Plato, a Tully, a Seneca, or an Antoninus, could effect in their united and immortal labours, for the purpose of inftructing and of reforming mankind.

ESSAY V.

On CHRISTIANITY.

PART II.

TH

..

HAT objection which feems entitled to our first notice and attention, as being, if not the most formidable, perhaps the most acute and ingenious, which has ever been urged by the enemies of Christianity, and also as being of fuch a nature, as, if valid, to fuperfede all other objections, is contained in Mr. Hume's celebrated Effay on Miracles. I shall state it as fairly and concisely as poffible. "A miracle," fays Mr Hume," is a violation of the established laws of nature. Now, the credit due to miracles refts entirely upon teftimony; but no testimony can be fufficient in this cafe to pro ́duce a rational conviction; for however cogent the proof derived from this fource may be represented, still it must be acknowledged, that the falsehood of the strongest teftimony does not amount to a violation of the established laws of nature, or, in other words, is not abfolutely miraculous:therefore, if we believe a miracle upon the credit of the strongest human teftimony conceivable, we.

t

admit,

admit, of two improbable things, that which is most improbable; whereas reafon requires us to reject the miracle, except the falfehood of the testimony fhould be more miraculous than the event it is intended to establish."

This is the objection in its full force; but however plaufible and ingenious it may be deemed, the fallacy of it immediately appears from this confideration, that the evidence of teftimony obviously admits of fuch an accumulation of force, as to produce neceffarily and mechanically a degree of conviction fully equal to the evidence of fenfe; whatever is capable then of being proved by the fenfes, is capable of being equally proved by teftimony. No rational perfon can any more enterain a doubt of the existence of fuch a city as Paris, or fuch a man as the King of France, than of his own existence :the evidence of teftimony is here plainly equal to ocular demonftration. But Mr. Hume will not deny, that a man may be rationally convinced of a miracle by ocular demonftration; then why not on fuch evidence as is equivalent to ocular demonstration? To fay, that the teftimony upon which Christianity is founded is of inferior force, is totally to defert his argument, which positively denies the fufficiency of that fpecies of evidence, abstractly confidered, to prove any event of a miraculous nature. But were the miracles of Christ fupported by the fame kind and degree of evidence with that which compels us to believe the existence of fuch a country as France, or fuch a city as

Paris,

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