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excellent lessons that may be learned by the works of creation, only confirms the truth of the scriptures where those same lessons are so plainly written, that he that runs may read. But O how far the sacred writings go beyond any thing that can be pretended to be learnt from the works of creation! This I have just barely hinted before, but being a matter of great importance, I will mention it again. Nothing can be more evident than that mankind in general have been, and are guilty of many sins against their Creator, themselves, and their neighbours. The heathen poets and philosophers, plainly beheld and declared, that man was a weak, sinful, and miserable creature, and that God could never have made him such as he now is; but by what means he came into this miserable state, they could not tell; and were very doubtful whether God could or would pardon the crimes of his creatures, and restore them to divine favour and happiness. Neither could they tell by the works of nature, nor by their own reason, whether man was to be a subject of immortality or not; all their conclusions on this head, seemed short of assurance; and as for the resurrection of the body, they neither believed nor hoped any such thing. But the scriptures give us the fullest information and assurance upon all these and a great variety of important subjects, that we never could obtain the least knowledge of by the book of creation. In the Bible we learn all that creation can teach us, and a hundred times more, both what God is, and what our duty towards him is; what we ourselves have been, now are, and shall be; what our personal, relative, and social duties are; what we ought to avoid as crimes, and what to practice as virtues. These and many other important questions, may be answered by the scriptures, and by no other book; in this respect, God has magnified his word above all his name.
It is plain, from the history of all ages, that those nations that have had only the book of creation to read, have been either stupid Atheists, or gross idolators, and have generally abandoned themselves to most abominable impieties, and the worst of crimes. And the description given by St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, of the idolatrous nations of his time, may serve for all periods. After mentioning their idolatry, and their unnatural crimes, he adds, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." Rom. i. 28-31.
Since it appears, that the light of nature and reason, has not been sufficiently strong to prevent or cure these moral disorders of the mind, and to banish darkness and ignorance from the understandings of the children
of men; what cause have we to bless God, who has given us the Bible, which has al ready done a thousand times more towards reforming mankind, enlightening their minds, and making them good members of society, than all other means that ever were used besides. And the influence is but small yet, in comparison to what it shall be hereafter, when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the seas. I am willing to let the merit of the book of divine revelation be determined by its effects and consequences upon the hearts, lives, tempers, conversation and conduct of those who truly believe it, and make it their constant rule in all things. I hope you may be an exception, but I never yet knew a professed Deist a moral man; being generally guilty of profa nity, drunkenness, passion, pride, uncleanness, or some other scandalous vice; and generally intolerable bigots, despisers of all other people, haters of serious men. And if there is ever another persecution against christianity, I think there is nothing more likely, than that the Deists will be the perse cutors. The sect of the Sadducees, who denied all the scriptures, except the five books of Moses, denied the existence of angels and spirits, the resurrection of the dead, and a future state, were the first, and almost the only persecutors of the Christians among the Jews; and as the Deists of our time are very nearly of their sentiments, and are much upon the increasing hand, the only danger of persecution is from them alone; for I am persuaded, that popery will never raise its head again.
If this little attempt of mine should have any success, I shall no doubt be exposed to the scorn, contempt, aud ridicule of that scoffing generation, whose mildest words, when speaking against Jesus and his religion, are more bitter than gall and wormwood, as I have frequently witnessed in my conversation with them; but I trust that I shall soon be far beyond their reach, in that land where the wicked shall cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest. And in the mean time, I hope to show that I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; not ashamed to believe it as a man, to confess and profess it as a Christian, to preach it as a minister, to contend for it as a soldier, and to suffer for it as a martyr.
I would not be ashamed, 1. Because it is the gospel, good news, glad tidings of great joy. 2. It is true, and admits of full proof that it is so. 3. The gospel is news respecting Christ, who was not ashamed to suffer for me, and I hope never to be ashamed of him before men. 4. The gospel is news of the highest importance. 5. It is of universal concern to all. 6. It is published by the highest authority, even that of God himself; and 7. Because it has evidently changed those men much for the better, who have received and obeyed it.
I cannot but hope, that as you was such a friend to the Bible, when you wrote Common Sense; that your Deism is but of late date, and that you will be candid enough to read that book once more, attentively, and see if
the evidence of its truth, goodness, and importance, will not be sufficient to make you ashamed of having declared, that it would be more consistent, that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God.
By all that ever I could learn, hear or observe, respecting Deists, their religion is not sufficiently powerful to enable them to pay that homage to their Creator, which some of them confess to be his due, nor to correct those vices in themselves, which they acknowledge, ought not to be practiced, nor to support an uniform character of benevolence towards men in general; and especially, Deism is not capable of giving that satisfaction, comfort, peace, joy, and assurance to its professors as christianity is. I am acquainted with a Christian minister in America, who was, for a number of years, a zealous Deist, and belonged to a club of the same stamp; but he never could find, that Deism could either give him power over his vices, or inward peace and satisfaction of mind: but he thought that perhaps it was from his not attending sufficiently to his religion. The president of the club was a great man, and a mighty adept in Deism, and this man determined to ask, and accordingly did ask him, as a friend, to tell him sincerely, whether his religion did give him full satisfaction or not, and whether he thought Deism capable of giving it to the mind of man? He answered, that it doubtless would, if any could live up to it, but (cursing himself,) said, he could not live up to it, so far as to find any comfort therein. This answer (which I believe might be given by the best of the Deists,) effectually turned the man, and made him resolve to try what satisfaction could be found in christianity, since he could not expect to find any in Deism, as the president of the society himself, could find none, though he had long been a possessor and propagator of those senti
I have often wondered, what could induce Deists, upon their own principles, to be so zealous to propagate their opinions. They would rob us of our hope, joy, comfort, and assurance and what can they give us in return? Nothing but darkness, doubt, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, faint hopes, and despair. According to some that I have discoursed with, we know nothing of a future state, any more than beasts. Others imagine that we shall be changed into some sort of animals, and so come again into the world. While others declare, that this is our only state of existence, and that we ought now to eat and drink, and enjoy all the delights of which our senses are capable, indulging ourselves in all kinds of lusts, for to-morrow we shall die, and be as though we had never been. While some o hers, like yourself, trouble not themselves about the manner of future existence.
You say, "I content myself with believing, even to positive conviction, that the power that gave me existence, is able to continue it in any form and manner that he pleases, either with or without this body; and it appears more probable to me, that I shall continue to exist hereafter, than that I should have
had existence as I now have before that existence began."
This is one of the most comfortable passages in your book; and yet, O how gloomy and melancholy are your highest hopes, compared to those of a true Christian! O my friend, could you but know the joy and happiness that even I myself feel, in the certain prospects of what divine revelation holds forth, as the portion of believers in a future state, you would not wonder at the earnest wish I have, that you might know and enjoy the same. "We know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." "We are confident, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord." 2 Cor. v. 1, 8.
Our Saviour's words afford us more amazing comfort, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." St. John xiv. 2, 3.
"Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body,according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself." Phillip. iii. 20, 21.
"For if we believe that Jesus died, and rose again, even so them also, who sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we (true believers) who are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with. the Lord." 1 Thess. iv. 14-17.
We have scores of such blessed promises: as these in the scriptures, which give us who believe and obey the gospel, full assurance of these three things: first, happiness, rest, and peace immediately after death; second, the resurrection of our bodies to glory and immortality, by Christ at his coming; third, permanent joy, and the highest felicity in his presence, to continue as long as he shall exist. "Because I live, ye shall live also." St. John xiv. 19.
These are the prospects which revelation gives; and which you reject for the uncertain hopes of modern Deism: wiser far would be the man who would exchange the richest pearls and diamonds for common pebbles, and mountains of gold for grains of sand.
Therefore I have three capital objections against Deism, which have been all mention ed in this letter.
I. It gives us but a very small part of the information which we obtain from divine revelation; the Bible alone containing all that
can be learned from the creation, respecting God, his perfections, our duty towards him, ourselves, and mankind, and much more, so as to be a complete rule of faith and practice; especially, Deism gives us no idea respecting the pardon of sin, nor directions how to ob tain salvation; but the scriptures give us all the satisfaction upon these important subjects that we could possibly desire.
II. Deism as far as I could ever observe, never changes men for the better, neither makes them pious towards God, nor benevolent towards men; gives them no power over their vices; and does not enable them to practice those personal, relative, and social duties, and exalted virtues, which are the highest ornaments of human nature; but true believers in Christ, who give up themselves to his service, gain the victory over all their lusts, passions and vices, and find, through Christ that strengtheneth them, that they can do all things which he commandeth them, with ease and pleasure. They can even obey from the heart, that most difficult command, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you: bless them that curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you. If this commandment can be kept, as I know it may, by divine assistance, there can be no difficulty in any of the rest. "For this is the love of God that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous." 1 John v. 3.
"And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Chap. ii. 3, 4.
I would not preach or write in favour of any religion, that did not tend to make men better, as well as wiser; but true christianity doth each of these things.
SIR: In this letter, which I intend shall be the last, I shall just take up a few things in your performance, that as yet I have made no remarks upon, and say a few words upon each, and so draw to a conclusion.
I purposely omitted speaking any thing of the miraculous conception of Christ, until I had proved his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, as also the truth of divine revelation. But having done this, I have a right upon your own principles, to vindicate the honour of my Saviour, and the virginity of his mother. For I think you seem to allow, that the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, if they had been visible facts, would have given sanction to that which from the nature of things could not have been evident in the same manner; for you say, speaking of the ascension, “And as the public visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because the evidence never was given." But I am happy to be able to turn the tables upon you, by reversing your words. The resurrection and ascension of Jesus, being fully proved by many infallible proofs, his miraculous conception and birth cannot be denied, because the evidence was given by those visible facts.
And besides, allowing the scriptures to be true, which I think I have proved, both in the historical and prophetical parts, there may be considerable evidence given of the miraculous conception of Jesus the Messiah.
I shall say what I have upon my mind on this subject, under the four following heads: 1. The possibility of it. 2. Prophecies respecting it. 3. The historical account. 4. Collateral evidence, tending to corroborate it.
I. I hope none will be so foolish and presumptuous, as to deny the possibility of such a conception: for certainly he that made all worlds and all things,and made man of the dust, and breathed into him the breath of lives, and caused him to become a living soul, and made woman of one of the ribs of man, could cer tainly create this new thing in the earth. For as you yourself allow, that "To an almighty power it is no more difficult to make a million of worlds than to make one:" so by the same parity of reasoning, it was no more difficult for him to produce the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, than any other thing in nature.
III. Modern Deism gives us little or no hope of futurity; all is dark, uncertain, gloomy, and mere conjecture; enough to fill men with anxiety, doubt and despair; but revelation gives us the promise of future happiness, the resurrection of our bodies, and endless felicity. And among a vast number of important reasons, for which our Saviour died publicly upon a cross, and rose again, this was one; that he might fully confirm the promises he had given to his followers, of the resurrection to eternal life. This was highly worthy of him, and if he had no other view in dying publicly, (which he had) this would have been sufficient; for he had preached the resurrection from the dead, and a future state When Mary asked the angel, that announc of felicity, and therefore, it well became him ed to her, that she should be the mother of to suffer, and to enter into his glory; that the Saviour of the world, "How shall this be, thereby he might infallibly prove, even to de- seeing I know not a man?" his answer was monstration, the truth of his doctrine, and enough to satisfy the most doubtful mind, give the highest assurance to all his follow-"The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and ers. Viewed in this light, the death of Christ the power of the Highest shall over-shadow on the cross, does not seem such a gloomy subject, as you would represent it: but connected with his resurrection, one of the most glorious sights that ever was exhibited: the triumph of our Saviour over sin and death, and the certain earnest and proof of our immortal felicity.
I am, with respect, Yours, &c.
thee; therefore also, that the holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called, the Son of God. And behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she shall also conceive a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible." St. Luke i. 34-37.
This same answer was given, when a
child was promised to Sarah in her old age, and she laughed at the idea, through her unbelief, thinking it impossible, according to the course of nature: "The Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, who am old? Is any thing too hard for the Lord?" Gen. xvi. 13, 14. And the same to the prophet Jeremiah, when he thought it strange, that the Lord should order him to buy an inheritance in a land whose inhabitants were just upon the point of being led captive into a far distant country, without the least probability of ever returning to their possessions again; but God said, "Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there any thing too hard for me?" Jer. xxxii. 27.
And our Saviour said to his disciples, in the case of the amazing difficulty of the rich man's entering into the kingdom of heaven, "With men this is impossible, but with God Or as another all things are possible." evangelist expresses it, "The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God." See St. Matt. xix. 26; St. Mark x. 27; St. Luke xviii. 27. And this may be given as a sufficient answer in all cases of difficulty; and as you allow that God possesses almighty power, I need not add any thing more to you, to prove the possibility of the miraculous conception of Jesus.
II. The prophecies relating to this event, plainly show that his conception was miracuJous, and different from that of other men. The first prophecy of a Redeemer, speaks of him as the seed of the woman, that should bruise the serpent's head, Gen. iii. 15, and why this expression so singular should be used, unless his conception was intended to be different from that of other men, I cannot conceive. It is plain that Eve understood that he who was promised as the seed of the woman, was to be divine, as well as human; God, as well as man: for when she brought forth her first-born son, she said, according to the Hebrew original (AISH ATH JEHOVAH) A man, The JEHOVAH.
prophecies being proved genuine, by many of
III. The history of this affair is told as re-
There is, first, an account of the conception of John the Baptist, when his parents were aged; accompanied with prophecies that he should be the forerunner of the Messiah. Then in the sixth month of his conception, the angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin of the name of Mary, belonging to the house of David, descended from him by the line of his son Nathan: Mary was espoused to a man of the name of Joseph, descended from the same house by the line of Solomon. The angel announced to her that she should be the mother of the Saviour of mankind, and satisfied her doubts of the possibility of it, by informing her of a cause sufficient to produce so great an effect; and to confirm her the more, informs her that Elisabeth had conceived a son in her old age, though she had been barren all her days before, which was almost as great a wonder, as that which was promised to Mary; laying it down as a maxim, that nothing was impossible with God. At the hearing of which, the blessed virgin resigned herself to the disposal of her Creator, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." The angel then departed from her: and she arose, and went into the hill country, to visit Elisabeth; their meeting was joyful: their very words are recorded, and are so beautiful in their kind, that they have never been excelled. Mary abode there in the utmost quietness and peac for about three months, seeming under no fear nor trouble respecting her situation; then she returned to her own house; all this time discovering no anxiety about the consummation of her marriage, nor taking any methods to clear her character; nor to fly from disgrace and death. At length Joseph discovers that she was with child, and knowing that it was not by him, intended to put her away; but being a just and merciful man, and not choosing to disgrace her publicly, still less to have her put to death, he purposThis speaks plainly of the miracu-ed to dismiss and devorce her as privately as "But while he thought on these lous conception of our Lord, which was in- possible. deed a new thing in the earth, and was the things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared wonderful work of creating power; and it unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son shall in due time so fix the attention of the of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy most giddy of the human race, that they shall wife; for that which is conceived in her is Thus the of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth go astray and wander no more.
"BeIn the prophecy of Isaiah, we read, hold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Isa. vii. 14.
And if this passage should be excepted against on account of any circumstances, there is one in the prophecy of Jeremiah that cannot be excepted against, nor its force evaded: "How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for JEHOVAH hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man." Jer. xxxi. 22. This was spoken of in the prophetical language and style, as a thing already done, to shew its certainty, and great importance. It is declared to be a new thing in the earth, that never was known before, and that should be entirely singular in its kind, that a woman should compass
a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for
IV. There are also several circumstances tending to confirm the idea of the miraculous conception.
1. The testimony of Elisabeth, thus expressed, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed, for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord."
2. The song of Mary herself, which does not sound like the language of a woman who had been guilty of incontinence, and stood exposed to shame and death; but as of one who was fully assured that the conception was miraculous: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden: for behold, from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty, hath done to me great things; and holy is his name, and his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath showed strength with his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath helpen his servant Israel," &c.
3. The appearance of the angels to the shepherds, is another strong corroborating proof of the truth of the miraculous conception; for it can hardly be supposed, that the shepherds should have come to seek the babe in the stable and in the manger, unless they had seen a heavenly vision, directing them. Nor can it be imagined, that simple shepherds should have invented such an uncommon story, even if they had known that a poor infant was that night born in a stable in Bethlehem; for what possible end could they have in view? Could they expect riches, honours, or preferments? These they neither desired, nor had reason to hope for. But least of all, can it be thought, that all heaven would be moved to proclaim and celebrate the birth of, I will not name what. But the birth of Jesus was celebrated in the most glorious manner; therefore was he, as was necessary for him, conceived without sin. The account given by St. Luke is far 100 grand and animated ever to have been invented by any man, far less by simple shepherds; and therefore they were chosen to be eye and ear witnesses of the joyful scene, that there should not be the smallest room for suspicion. And indeed the whole appears so heavenly, and consequently so natura. and consistent, that it carries its own evidence with it. How sublime and ravishing the words of the angel! "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling-clothes, lying in a manger." While he spake, suddenly he was joined by a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men!" The shepherds having seen and found every cir cumstance exactly corresponding to what they had been informed of, published these things abroad; or St. Luke would never have dared to put them into his account.
4. Another circumstance of this kind, is the united testimony of Simeon and Anna, who come into the temple, just at the time when Jesus was brought in to be dedicated to God. Simeon was a just and devout man, who was waiting for the consolation of Israel, the coming of the Messiah; and the Spirit of God was upon him; and it had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And when the child Jesus was brought in, the good old man took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Isracl." Anna, a pious widow, who had attended upon the temple service, and had served God in the most devout manner, night and day, for