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Some general things wherein the Christians and
Concerning the Writings of the Evangelists, er first
The Evidences for the Fail of Christ's Resurrec-
N the Management of this Part of the Design, which now lies before us, there will be these three things in the general to be done.
First, To (hew upon what Foundations, the Christians ground their Belief of the Resurrection of Christ Jesus; or what Mediums those are, by which they argue themselves into this Persuasion, That it was real Matter of Fact, that he rose again from the Dead.
Secondly, To enquire, whether these Reasonings of theirs upon this Subject, are strictly fair and just; that is, Whether the Evidence upon which they receive this Doctrine as true, has all those Qualifications, which render it directly and positively Obligatory to our Understandings, by all the \nowti Laws of reasonable Nature, and the Constitution of the World we live in.
Thirdly, Having diligently examind and compared the Grounds upon which the Christians believe, and the Deists reject this Dotlrine; J stall impartially stew the Result of all, and then male such Inferences as are proper to be made from thence.
IN arguing this great Point, after a Method so natural and fair, as that which is here propos'd, and upon such Principles as are laid down, and, 1 hope, sufficiently demonstrated, in the
foregoing part of this Treatise: It mast needs be, That either the Christians who maintain and defend it, or the Gentlemen on the other fide, who deny it; must, in so doing, be forced upon something very absurd, and irrational; the Standard to judg by, being the plain Reason and common Practice of Mankind.
If, whilst we attempt to infer the Truth of the Resurrection of Christ, we run counter to any truly rational and allow'd Principles j if the Arguments we make use of, when thorowly fisted and trac'd, are found to terminate in that which the sober Sense of Mankind must condemn, as sophistical, false, or impertinent; and this, not as the Effect of bare Inadvertency or Mismanagement (because a very good Argument may possibly be badly handled, and yet ought not for that Reason, to lose any thing of its Credit) but of the very Constitution and Nature or the Argument it self. And if this be the Result of all, and every one of those Arguments, which can be produc'd in Defence of this Doctrine, or in order to prove the certain Truth of it: Then the Controversy is at an end, and the Christians must give up the Cause. Because Truth can never possibly run Men into any real Absurdities in the Defence of it; nor can God oblige us to receive any Point of Doctrine, to the utter overthrowing of that Reason he has given us, to guide our selves by; tho he may oblige us to receive that, which our Reason , can't solve all the Difficulties of.
If on the other side, those who oppose this Doctrine, can neither do that, nor defend themselves, without being obiig'd to stand by such Conclusions, as the common Sense of Mankind, would upon a fair hearing, condemn as irrational; tional if they are necessitated to have recourse to Principles that are either manifestly false and contradictory, or doubtful and precarious, in order to solve the Difficulties that are propos'd to them; or can no way guard themselves against such Difficulties, but by artful Evasions and Excursions from the matter in hand: In a word, if in the natural Course of the Argument, they are forc'd upon things that tend to darken or blunder the Cause, and do not terminate in a direct and positive Answer to what is urg'd upon them: In this Cafe, it will be very evident, That Truth cannot be on their fide, and that therefore (to a£l as they ought to do) they should, without any more ado, yield the great Point in Dispute.
What therefore remains to be done, is to make this Comparison between their Argumentations and ours. 'Tis certain, they must be as opposite one to another, as the Opinions they are produc'd in favour of: and therefore, cannot be sound and true on both sides. The Paralogism, the Absurdity, or whatever it be, must be found either with them, or with us; and consequently, where it lies, will infallibly point out who is in the right, and who in the wrong.
And tho a Christian may possibly have other Arguments, tending (in conjunction with those which are purely rational) to assure him of the Verity of the Christian Faith and Dottrine; yet (these being no more than mere Fancy and Enthusiasm, in the Opinions of these Gentlemen) they are not to be so much as mention'd in this place. 'Tis to Reason they appeal; and therefore, to plain downright Reason we must go.
P z SECT. SECT. III.
THAT we may proceed the more methodically, and not dispute about things, wherein we are on both sides agreed; it will be requisite to take notice of some Points, relating to the Person and History of Jestu Christ, which the Deists (together with the greatest part of Mankind besides) do as freely subscribe to the Truth of, as the Christians themselves.
And, First, I believe it will be allow'd without much difficulty, That there was such a Person as Jesus Christ, who was born at Bethlehem in Judæa, in the Reign of Augustus Cæsar, and crueiff d at Jerusalem in the Reign of Tiberius; Pontius Pilate being then the Roman Governour.
This is what most Sects and Parties of Men, who have ever heard of Christianity, do unanimously agree in. The Mahometans indeed differ from all the rest, as to the latter part of the Proposition: for out of an excess of Respect to Jesus Christ, they will by no means allow of his infamous Crucifixion and Death; but affirm, That he was taken up into * Heaven, and some Image os him only lest upon the Cross in his room, by which the Jews, as well as his own Followers, who pretended to be Witnesses of the Fash, were imposed upon, and made to believe that he suffered, when in reality he did not. But we shall not need to be much sollicitous about their Testimony in this matter, since they deny it,
* Adrian. Reland. de Relig. Mohamed. Lib. i. Pag. 35. Edit. Ulcrajec.