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&e. and those which are commonly told of him pass among the Mahometans themselves but as legendary Fables; and as such are rejected by the wise and learned amongst them; as the Legends of their Saints are in. the Church of Rome. See Dr. Prideaux his Life of Mahomet, pag. 34.
But, in the next place, those which are told of him do all want the two first Rules before-mentioned. For his pretended Converse with the Moon, his Me/ra, or Night-Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and thence to Heaven, &c. were not performed before any-body: We have only his own Word for them: And they are as groundless as the Delufions of Fox or Muggleton anongst ourselves. The same is to be said (in the second place) of the Fables of the Hsathen Gods, of Mercar/s stealing Sheep, Jupiter s turning himself into a Bull, and the like; befides the Folly and Uniuorthinejs of such senseless pretended Miracles. And moreover, the Wise among the Heathen did reckon no otherwise of these but as Fables, which had a Mythology or mystical Meaning in them, of which several of them have given us the Rationale, or Explication. And it is plain enough that Ovid meant no other by all his Metamorphoses.
It is true the Heathen Deities had their Priests: They had likewise Feasts, Games, and other publick Institutions, in Memory of them: But all these want the fourth Mark, viz. That such Priesthood and Institutions should commence from the Time that such Things as they commemorate were said to be done; otherwise they cannot secure After-Ages from the Imposture, by detecting it at the Time when first invented, as hath been argued before. But the Bacchanalia, and other Heathen Feasts, were instituted many Ages after what was reported of these- Gods was said to be done, and therefore can be no Proof of them. And thePriest3 of Bacchus, dpollo, &c. were not ordained by these supposed Gods, but were appointed by others, in AfterAges, only in Honour to them; And therefore these B 2 Orders Orders of Priests are no Evidence to the Truth of the Matters of Fact which are reported of their Gods.
IV. Now to apply what has been said, you may challenge all the Deists in the World to shew any Action that is sabulous, which has all the four Rules or Marks before-mentioned. No; it is impossible. And (to resume a little what is spoke to before) the Histories of Exodus and the Gospel could never have been received, if they had not been true; because the Institution of the Priesthood of Levi, and of Christ, of the Sabbath, the Passover, of Circumciston, of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, &c. are there related as descending all the Way down from those Times, without Interruption. And it is full as impossible to persuade Men that they had been circumcised, baptized, had circumcised or baptized their Children, celebrated PassoversT Sabbaths, Sacraments, Sec. under the Government and Administration of a certain Order of Priests, if they had done none of these Things, as to make them believe they had gone thio\Seas upon dry Land, seen the Dead^ raised, &c. And without believing of these, it was impossible that either the Law or the Gospel could have been received.
And the Truth of the Matters of Fact of Exodus and the Gospel being no otherwise pressed upon Men, than as they have practised such publick Institutions, it is appealing to the Senses of Mankind for the Truth of them; and makes it impossible for any to have invented such Stories in After-Ages, without a palpable Detection of the Cheat when first invented} as imposfible as to have imposed upon the Senses of Mankind at the Time when such publick Matters of Fact were said to be done.
V. I do not say, that every thing which wants these four Marks is salse; but that nothing can be salse which has them all.
I have no manner of Doubt that there was such a Man as Julius Casar; that he fought at Pharsalia ; was killed in the Scr. ate-House; and many other Matters of
Fact os antient Times, tho' we keep no publick Ob' sertiances in Memory of them.
But this shews that the Matters of Fact of Moses and of Christ have come down to us better guarded than any other Matters of Fact, how true soever.
And yet our Deists, who would laugh any Man out of the World, as an irrational Brute, that mould offer to deny Cæsar or Alexander, Homer or Virgil, their publick Works or Actions, do, at the same time, value themselves as the only Men of Wit and Sense, of free, generous, and unbiassed Judgments, for ridiculing the Histories of Moses and Christ, that are infinitely better attested, and guarded with insallible Marks, which the others want.
VI. Befides that, the Importance of the Subject would oblige all Men to enquire more narrowly into the one than the other: For what Consequence is it to me, or to the World, whether there was such a Man as Cæsar; whether he beat, or was beaten, at Pharsalia; whether Homer or Virgil wrote such Books; and whether what is related in the Iliads or Æneids be true or false? It is not Two-pence up or down to any Man in the World; and therefore it is worth no Man's while to enquire into it, either to oppose or justify the Truth of these Relations.
But our very Souls and Bodies, both this Lise and Eternity, are concerned in the Truth of what is related in the Holy Scriptures; and therefore Men would be more inquifitive to search into the Truth of these, than of any other Matters of Fact; examine and fift them narrowly, and find out the Deceit, if any such could be found: For it concerned them nearly, and was of the last Importance to them.
How unreasonable then is it to reject these Matters of Fact, so fifted, so examined, and so attested, as no other Matters of Fact in the World ever were; and yet to think it the most highly unreasonable, even to Madness, to deny other Matters of Fact, which have not the thousandth Part of their Evidence, and are of no Consequence at all to us, whether true or false!
VII. There are several other Topicks, from whence the Truth of the Christian Religion is evinced to all who will judge by Reason, and give themselves Leave to confider. As, the Improbability that ten or twelve poor illiterate Fishermen should form a Design of converting the whole World to believe their Delufions; and the Impossibility of their esfecting it, without Force of Arms, Learning, Oratory, or any one visible thing that could recommend them! And to impose a Dottrine quite opposite to the Lusts and Pleasures of Men, and all worldly Advantages, or Enjoyments! And this in an Age of so great Learning and Sagacity as that wherein the Gospel was sirst preached! That these Apostles should not only undergo all the Scorn and Contempt, but the severest Persecutions and most cruel Deaths that could be inflicted, in Attestation to what themselves knew to be a mere Deceit and Forgery of their own contriving.' Some have susfered for Errors, which they thought lo be Truth; but never any for what themselves knew to be Lies. And the Apostles must know what they taught to be Lies, if it was so; because they spoke of those Things, which, they said, they had both Ail. iv. 20. seen and heard, had lt«ked upon, and handl.Johni. l. led<with their Hands, Sec.
Neither can it be said, that they, perhaps, might have proposed some temporal Advantages to themselves, but missed of them, and met with Sufferings instead of them: For if it had been so, it is more than probable, that, when they saw their Disappointment, they would have discovered their Conspiracy, especially when they might not only have saved their Lives, but got great Rewards for doing of it. That not one of them should ever have been brought to do this!
But this is not all: For they tell us, that their Master bid them expect nothing but Sufferings in this World. This is the Tenuor of all that Gospel which they taught; and they told the same to all whom they converted: So that here was no Disappointment.
For all that were converted by them, were converted upon the certain Expectation of Sufferings, and bidden to prepare for it. Christ commanded his Disciples to take up their Cross daily, and follow him: And told them, that in the World they should have Tribulation: That whoever did not forsake Father, Mother, Wife, Children, Lands, and their very Lives, could not be his Disciples: That he who sought to save his Life in this World should lose it in the next.
Now, that this despised Doctrine of the Cross should prevail so universally against the Allurements of Flesh and Blood, and all the Blandishments of this World, against the Rage and Persecution of all the Kings and Pointers of the Earth, must shew its Original to be Divine, and its ProteBor, Almighty. What is it else could conquer without Arms, persuade without Rheterick, overcome Enemies, disarm Tyrants, and subdue Empires, without Oppofition.
VIII. We may add to all this, the Testimonies of the most bitter Enemies and Persecutors of Christianity, both Jews and Gentiles, to the Truth of the Matter of Fact of Christ; such as Josephus and Tacitus; of which the first flourished aboutsorty Years after the Death of Christ, and the other aboutseventy Years after: So that they were capable of examining into the Truth, and wanted not Prejudice and Malice sufficient to have inclined them to deny the Matter of Fact itself of Christ: But their consessing to it, as likewise Lucian, Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian the Apostate, the Mahometans fince, and all other Enemies of Christianity that have arisen in the World, is an undeniable Attestation to the Truth of the Matter of Fact.
IX. But there is another Argument, more strong and convincing than even this Matter of Fact; more than the Certainty of what Isee with my Eyes; and which the Apostle Peter cAledinmoresure Word, that is, Proof, than what he saw and heard upon the holy Mount, when our bleffed Saviour was transfigurd before him, and two other of the Apostles: For having repeated that Passage, as a Proof of that whereof they were Eye-witnesses, and