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object of all their aspersions to impeach: and after having asserted, and in his manner attempted to prove, that by far the greater part of the New Testament is a mere unauthorised addition to, and corruption of the genuine doctrines of Jesus; subscribes himself with great deliberation, and folemnity, at the end of his deistical work, -A Rational Christian.
How far his principles, and his arguments in their support, will intitle him to this very honourable appellation ; or even to the more general one, of a Rational Inquirer ; it shall be my business, for the sake of true religion, and of those who sincerely believe in Christ, to examine.
To the body of the work in general, which is set apart for the illustration of the moral
precepts of the gospel only, nothing needs be said; unless occasionally in considering the other parts of the book. Whether this Author has explained the morality of the New Testament in a manner that is mafterly, or even always just, is a point not worth writing about. His general design has been to exalt, not to depreciate it; and how inaccurate soever his manner of explaining fome, if not most of our Saviour's precepts may be, were the explaining of them the sole intent of his work, it would naturally be productive of more good than harm. And I am glad to have it in my power to acknowledge to his
praise, that he has expressed a fuller belief of natural religion, and a greater concern for moral virtue in fome of its branches, than perhaps any other deistical writer.
The principles advanced in the Preface and Introduction, and formally contended for in the Conclusion, and which do indeed require an examination, are these: That Jesus was not a publisher of any revelation properly speaking, nor taught any thing more than reason itself teaches ;
of his quota
and that whatever we find in the books of the New Testament more than this, was either added to his genuine doctrines, by the original writers, without authority from him; or has proceeded from the interpolations and forgeries of later times. These therefore are the principles which it shall be my object to refuté : first, by proving their flagrant absurdity, and the utter in poflibility of their being true; and afterwards, by examining distinctly all those arguments which he has most confusedly tacked together in their fupport; taking little notice, if
any, tions from several divines, or his remarks on Mr. Locke, and Bp. WARBURTON ; as the entering into them would rather perplex than clear up the great fundamental points in debate *.
That the Author's professed principles are exactly what we have just attributed to him, will immediately appear. He allows Jesus to have been “ á wise and good man: one concerned to
promote the happiness of his brethren :-whose “ justice was inflexible, whose charity was diffu“ five, and whose benevolence was univerfal. “ Add to these, says he, that meekness and hu“ mility, which he so much recommended, and you will have a sketch of his genuine charac
. * The writers against 'revelation are so apt to wear a malk, and to disguise their real sentiments, that for any ching we can tell to the contrary, the author and his friend in the preface, may not in reality believe, that the New Teftament is either lo unauthorised, or interpolated, as they have endeavoured to persuade their readers it is ; and may perhaps be disposed to laugh at the thoughts of any one's set.. ting down to give them a serious reply. But as the milchievous tendency of what they have written, does not depend upon their own persuasion of its truth, or consciousness of its falsehood; what they have written, not their secret opinions, are the objects of our regard. f Introduction, P. 7.
Our author very soon adds,—“ I do not find " that CHRIST himself ever assumed a higher " character, than that of a messenger from God; " and such he well might be faid to be, as he
was employed in the republication of the reli
gion of nature, which is the law of God *.” Here we see, that tho' the Author allows Jesus, might be said to be a messenger from God, he means nothing more by this, than that the task JESUS chose to undertake was certainly in itself agreeable to God; not that he was really sent by God to perform it; any otherwise than as every man is sent into the world to do good. For which reason he iminediately subjoins-“ Nor,
was it necessary for him to produce a commis“ fion immediately from God, to claim the regard “ and attention of mankind; seeing that what “ he taught them was plain and clear, and had a “natural tendency to promote their happiness t."
One concession indeed he does make, beyond what might have been expected.--" Whether,
(says he) Christ was in a fupernatural way in
spired by God with resolution, steadiness, for-, “ titude, wisdom, patience, and perseverance, in “ this great work, the republication and revival, es of the law of nature; huinan reason cannot " determine: but this, I think, may be allowed, " that if ever God does supernaturally interpose
to direct the actions of men, he never could “ have a motive for fo doing more worthy of him
self, than to assist in the republication and more “ effectual propagation of that religion, which he “ had originally planted in the minds of his in
telligent creatures; but which, by the abuse u of their freedom, they had shamefully neglect
* Introduction, p. 8.
+ Ibid. p. 8.
# Ibid. p. 10.
But plainly the utmost concession here made is, not that Jesus undertook the great work in which he was engaged, by any special appointment from God; but only, that after he had of his own mere motion undertaken so excellent a work; the na. ture of the work itself makes it possible, or perhaps likely; provided God does ever fupernaturally influence the minds of men; that he might be supernaturally inspired by God, with courage and discretion, but nothing more, to enable him more.... effectually to accomplish his own voluntary undertaking.
This undertaking, as we have seen, in our Author's account of it was merely the republication of natural religion. Accordingly he contends elsewhere, thạt « all the mysterious and superna66 tural doctrines of the New Testament were, very
probably, of human invention *.” And in the end he concludes quite explicitly, “By the “ religion of Christ I would always be underu stood to mean his moral doctrines and precepts: " and therefore I earnestly recommend, that we “ make use of our reason to distinguish those
parts of christianity, which are agreeable to
nature, and to what God has written in our “ hearts'; from those parts, which, for many rea«s fons given in these sheets, must be the inventions
of men ; whatever we may be required to be" lieve concerning them t."
The Author indeed fets out with informing his reader in the beginning of his book, “ That he « Ihall take little notice of the mysterious parts " of the New Testament, further than to remark, " that they have not so apparently the seal of “God, nor can they be so clearly proved to have “ the fame divine origin as its moral precepts I." And notwithstanding those explicit declarations + P. 373:
1 Introduction, p. 4, 5.
we have just quoted from him, has not scrupled to affert at the same time;" That all he con- . “ tends for is, that believing, disbelieving, and sc suspending our opinions, all depend on fair en
quiry, proper application, honest endeavours " after information, and hence, in the final re, Sc fult, upon the nature and quantity of evidence “ from hence arising *.”—But the utter incon: sistency between this assertion, and those principles we have just seen him explicitly laying down, is so manifest as not to admit of any subterfuge or denial.
SE C T. II.
The absurdity of the Author's fundamental prin
ciples relating to the true character of Jesus, and the writings of the New Testament, directly pewn.
THE Author's fundamental principles, as we
That Jesus was not a publisher of any revelation, in the proper sense of the word ; nor taught any thing more than mere reason itself teaches; and that
whatever we find in the books of the New Testament more than this, was either added to his genuine doctrinęs by the original writers, without authority from him ; or has proceeded from the interpolations and forgeries of later times. The last lupposition is That indeed on which he chiefly infifts; but since he has not scrupled occafionally to have recourfe to the fițft ti though in
+ Instances of this will be found in his attack upon St. PAULA and thro' him upon all the writers of the New Testament, founded on 1 Cor, vii. ; fect, iz: And his position that no pure revelation was ever committed to writing, fect. 8.