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(4.) De. By the Account you have given, these is but one Religion in the World, nor ever was. For the Jewish was but Christianity in Type, though in time greatly corrupted: And the Heathen was a greater Corruption, and founded the Fables of their Gods upon the Facts of Scripture: And the Mahometan, you fay, is but-a Heresy of Christianity. So that all is Christianity still.
Chr. It is true, God gave but one Revelation to the World, which was that of Christ: And as that was corrupted, new Revelations were pretended. ButGo^has guarded his Revelations with such Evidences, as it was not in the Power of Men or Devils to counterfeit, or contrive any-thing like them. Some bear Resemblance in one or two Features, in the first tiuo or three Evidences that I have produced; but as none reach the fourth, so they are all quite destitute of the least Pretence to the remainingyW. So that when you look upon the Face of divine Revelation, and take it all together, it is impossible to mistake it for any of those Delusions which the Devil has set up in Imitation os it. And they are made to cotifirm it, because all the Resemblance they have to Truth, is that wherein they are any-ways like it; but, when compared with it, they shew as an ill drawn Picture, half Man, half Beast, in Presence of the beautiful Original.
(5.) De. It is strange, that, if the Case be thus plain as you have made it, the whole World is not immediately convinced.
Chr. If the Seed be never so good, yet if it be sown upon Stones, or among Thorns, it will bring forth nothing. There are Hearts of Stone; and others so filled with the Love of Riches, with the Cares and Pleasures of this Life, that they will not fee: They have not a Mind to know any-thing which they think would disturb them in their Enjoyments, or lessen their Opinion of them; for that would be taking away so much of their Pleasure. Therefore it is no easy Matter to persuade Men to place their Happiness in future Expectations, which is the Import of the Gospel. And in pressI 2 ing kg this, and bidding the Worldly-minded abandon their beloved Vices, and telling the satal Consequences of them, we must expect to meet not only with their Scorn and Contempt, but their utmost Rage and Impatience, to get rid of us, as so many Enemies of their Lusts and Pleasures. This is the Cross which our Saviour prepared all his Disciples to bear; who were to fight against Flesh and blood, and all the Allurements of the World. And it is a greater Miracle that they have had so many Followers in this, than that they have gained to themselves so many Enemies. The World is a strong Man; and till ^stronger than he comes (that is, the full Persuafion of the Future State), he will keep Possession. And this is the Victory that overcometh the World, even our Faith. But we Are told also, that this Faith is the Gift of God. For all the Evidence in the World will not reach the Heart,- unless it be prepared (like the good Ground) to receive the Doctrine that is taught. Till then, Prejudice will create Obstinacy, which will harden the Heart like a Rock; and cry, Nottpersuadebis, iticurfi persuaseris! I will not be persuaded, tho' I mould be persuaded!
You must confider under this Head too, the many that have not yet heard of the Gospel: And of those that have, the sar greater Number who have not the Capacity or Opportunity to examine all the Evidences of Christianity, but take Things upon Trust, just as they are taught. And how many others are careless, and will not be at the Pains, though they want not Capacity, to inquire into the Truth? All these Classes will include the greatest Part of Mankind. The ignorant, the careless, the vicious, and so the obstinate, the ambi~ tious, and the covetous, whose Minds the God of this World hath blinded.
But yet• in the midst of all this Darkness, God hath rot left himself without Witness; which will be apparent to every diligent and sober Enquirer, that is willing and preparedto receive the Truth.
(6.) Good Sir, let me ask you, though you are of no Religion, as you fay, but what you call Natural,
yet would you not think me very brutal, if I mould deny that ever there was such a Man as Alexander, or Cæsar, or that they did such Things? If I should deny all History \ or that Homer, or Virgil, Demosthenes, or Cicero, ever wrote such Books; would you not think me persectly obstinate, seized with a Spirit of Contradiction, and not fit for human Conversation?
And yet these Things are of no Consequence to me. It is not a Farthing as to my Interest, whether they arc true or false.
Will you then think yourself a reasonable Man, if, in Matters of the greatest Importance, even your eternal State, you will' not believe those Facts which have a thousand times more certain and indisputable Evidence P Were there any Prophecies of Cæsar or Pompey? Were there any Types of them, or public Institutions, appointed by a Law, to prefigure the great Things that they stiould do? Any Persons who went before them, to bear a Resemblance of these Things, and bid us expect that great Event? Was there a general ExpeBation in the World of their Coming, before or at the Time when they came? And of what Consequence was their Coming, to the World, or to After-Ages? No more than a Robbery committed a thousand Years ago!
Were the Greek and Roman Histories written by the Persons who did the Facts, or by Eye-Witnesses? And, for the greater Certainty, were those Histories made the standing Law of the Country? Or were they any more than our Holinshead and Stow, &c.?
Must we believe these, on Pain of not being thought reasonable Men? And are we then unreasonable and credulous, if we believe the Facts of the Holy Bible? which was the standing Laiu of the People to whom it was given, and nurote, or dictated, by those who did the Facts, with publick Institutions appointed by them, as a perpetual Laiu to all their Generations; and which, if the Facts had been false, could never have passed at the Time when the Facts were said to be done; nor for the same Reason, if that BooA had been wrote afterwards; because these Institutions (as Circumcifion, the Passover,
Baptism, Baptism, ice.) were as notorious Fails as any; and that Book, saying they commenced from the Time that the Faels were done, must be found to be false, whenever it was trumpt up in After-Ages, by such Institutions being then known. Not like the Feasts Games, &c. in Memory of the Heathen Gods, which were appointed long after those Fails which were said to be done: And the like Institutions may be appointed To-morrow, in Memory of any Faljbood said to be done a thousand Years ago; and so is no Proof M. all. And though a Legendor Book of Stories of Things said to be done many Years past may be palmed upon People, yet a Book of Statutes cannot, by which their Causes are tried itvery Day.
Are there such Prophecies extant in any prosane History so long before the Fails there recorded, as there are in the Holy Scriptures of the Coming of the Messiah?
Were there any Types or Forerunners of the Heathen Gods, or of Mahomet?
Is there the like Evidence of the Truth and Sincerity of the Greek and Roman Historians, as of the Penmen of the Holy Scriptures?
Would these Historians have given their Lives for the Truth of all they wrote?
Did they tell such Fails only, wherein it was impossible for themselves to be imposed upon, or that they should impose upon others? Nothing but what themselves had seen and heard, and they also to whom they spoke?
Did they expect nothing but Persecution and Death for what they related? And were they bidden to bear it patiently without Resistance? Was this the Case of the Disciples of Mahomet, who were required to fight and conquer with the Sword?
Did any Religion ever overcome by Suffering, but the Christian only?
And did any exhibit the future State, and preach the Contempt of this V/orld, like the Christian?
De. That's the Reason it has prevailed so little. And yet, considering this, it is strange it has prevailed so much.
(7-) But there is one thing yet behind, wherein I would be glad to have your Opinion, because I sind your Divines differ about it: And that is, How we shall know to distinguish betwixt true and false Miracles.
And this is necessary to the Subject we are upon. For the Force of the Fails you allege ends all in this, That such miraculous Facts are a sufficient Attestation of such Persons being sent of God; and, consequently, that we are to believe the Doctrine which they taught.
You know we Deists deny any such Thing as Miracles, but reduce all to Nature: Yet, I consess, if I had seen such Miracles as are recorded of Moses and of Christ, it would have convinced me. And for the Truth of them, we must reser to the Evidences you have given. But, in the mean time, if there is no Rule whereby to distinguish betwixt true and salse Miracles, there is an End of all the Pains you have taken. For if the Devil can work such Things as appear Miracles to me, I am as much persuaded as if they were true Miracles, and wrought by God. And so Men may be deceived in trusting to Miracles.
The common Notion of a Miracle is what exceeds the Power of Nature. To which we say, That we know not the utmost of the Power of Nature, and consequently cannot tell what exceeds it. Nor do you pretend to know the utmost of the Power of Spirits, whether good or evil; and how then can you tell what exceeds their Power?
I doubt not but you would have thought those to be true Miracles which the Magicians are said to have wrought in Ægypt; but that Moses is said to have wrought Miracles that were superior to them.
Chr. Therefore if two Powers contend for the Superiority, as here God and the Devil did, the best Issue can be is to fee them wrestle together, and then we shall soon know which is strongest. This was the Cafe of Moses and the Magicians, of Christ and the Devil. There was a Struggle, and Satan was plainly overcome.