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been trump'd upon us, interpolated and corrupted, so that no Stress can be laid upon them, tho' it cannot be (hewn wherein they are so corrupted; which, in Reason, ought to lie upon them to prove, who allege it; otherwise it is not only a precarious, but a guilty Plea: And the more, that they refrain not to quote Books on their Side, for whose Authority there are no better, or not so good Grounds. However, you say it makes your Disputes endless, and they go away with Noise and Clamour, and a Boast, That there is nothing, at least nothing certain, to be said on the Christian Side: Therefore you are defirous to find some one Topic of Reason,.which mould demonstrate the Truth of the Christian Religion, and, at the same time, distinguish it from the Impostures of Mahomet, and the old Pagan World; that our Deists may be brought to this Test, and be either obliged to renounce their Reason, and the common Reason of Mankind, or submit to the clear Proof, from Reason, of the Christian Religion; which must be such a Proof as no Imposture can pretend to; otherwise it cannot prove the Christian Religion not to be an Imposture-. And whether such a Proof, one single Proof (to avoid Confufion) is not to be found out, you defire to know from me.
And you fay, that you cannot imagine but there must be such a Proof, because every Truth is in itself clear, and one; and therefore that one Reafson for it, if it be the true Reason, must be sufficient: And, if sufficient, it is better than many; For Multiplicity confounds, especially to weak Judgments.
Sir, you have impos'd an hard Task upon me; I wish I could perform it: For tho' every Truth is one, yet our "Sight is so seeble, that we cannot (always) come to it directly, but by many Inference;, and laying of things together.
But I think that in the Case before us, there is such a Proof as you require; and I will set it down as Jhort and plain as I can,
II. First then I suppose, that the Truth of the Doctrine of CHRIST will be sufficiently evinced, if the
Matters of Fact which are recorded of him in the Gospels be true; for his Miracles, if true, do vouch the Truth of what he delivered.
The same is to be said as to Moses; If he brought the Children of Israel through the Red-Sea, in that miraculous manner which is related in Exodus, and did such other wonderful things as are there told of him, it must necessarily follow, that he was sent from GOD; these being the strongest Proofs we can defire, and which every Deist will consess he would acquiesce in, if he saw them with his Eyes. Therefore the Stress of this Cause will depend upon the Proof of these Matters of Fali.
I. And the Method I will take, is, First, to lay down such Rules, as to the Truth of Matters of Fact in general, that where they all meet, such Matters of Fact carenot be- false. And then, Secondly, so shew that all these Rules do meet in the Matters of Fact of Moses, and of Christ; and that they do not meet in the Matters of Fact of Mahomet, of the Heathen Deities, or can possibly meet in any Imposture whatsoever.
2. The Rules are these; ist, That the Matter of Fact he such as that Mens outward Senses, their Eyes and Ears, may be Judges of it. 2. That it be done Publickly in the Face of the World. 3. That not only publick Monuments be kept up in Memory of it, but some outward Actions be performed.^.That such Monuments and such Actions or Observances be instituted, and do commence, from tit time that the Matter of Fast was done.
3. The two first Rules make it impossible for any such Matter of FaS to be imposed upon Men, at the Time when such Matter of Fact was said to be done; because every Man's Eyes and Senses would contradict it. For Example: Suppose any Man mould pretend that Yesterday he divided the Thames, in Presence of all the People of London, and carried the whole City, Men, Women, and Children, over to Southwark, on dry Land, the Waters standing like Walls on both Sides -. I say it is morally impossible that he could persuade the People of London that this was true, when every Man,
A 3 Woman,
Woman, and Child, could contradict him, and say, That this was a notorious Falsehood, for that they had not seen the Thames so divided, or had gone over on dry Land. Therefore I take it for granted, (and, I suppose with the Allowance of all the Deists in the World) that no such Imposition could be put upon Men at the Time when such publick Matter of Fail was said to be done.
4. Therefore it only remains that such Matter of Fail might be invented some time after, when the Men of that Generation wherein the thing was said to be done are all past and gone; and the Credulity of AfterAges might be impos'd upon to believe that things were done in former Ages, which were not.
And for this, the two last Rules secure us as much as the two sirst Rules in the former Case: For whenever such a Muter of Fail came to be invented, if not only Monuments were said to remain of it, but likewise that publick Ailions and Observances were constantly used ever since the Matter of Fail was said to be done, the Deceit must be detected, by no such Monuments appearing, and by the Experience of every Man, Woman, and Child, who must know that no such Ailions or Observances were ever us'd by them. For Example: Suppose I should now invent a Story of such a thing done a thousand Years ago, I might, perhaps, get some to believe it: But if I say, that not only such a thing was done, but that, from that Day to this, every Man, at the Age of twelve Years, had a Joint of his little Finger cut off, and that every Man in the Nation did want a Joint of such a Finger, and that this Institution was said to be Part of the Matter of the Fail done so many Years ago, and vouch'd as a Proof and Confirmation of it, and as having descended, without Interruption, and been constantly practis'd, in Memory of such Matter of Fait, all along from the time that such Matter of Fail was done; I fay, it is impossible I mould be believ'd in such a Case; because every one could contradict me, as to the Mark of cutting oft' a Joint of the Finger; and
that being Patt of my original Matter of Fail, must demonstrate the whole to be salse.
III. Let us now come to the Second Point, to shew, that the Matters of Fact of Mt/es and of Christ have all these Rules or Marks before-mentioned; and that neither the Matters of Fact of Mahomet, or what is reported of the Heathen Deities, have the like; and that no Imposture can have them all.
i. As to Moses, I suppose it will be allowed me, that he could not have persuaded 600,000 Men that he had brought them out of Egypt, through the Red-Sea, fed them 40 Years without Bread, by miraculous Manna, and the other Matters of Fact recorded in his Books, if they had not been true; because every Man's Senses, that were then alive, must have contradicted it. And therefore he must have impos'd upon all their Senses, if he could have made them believe it when it was false, and no such things done. So that here are the first andsecond of the above-mentioned four Marks.
For the same Reason, it was equally impossible for kim to have made them receive his five Books as Truth, and not to have rejected them, as a manisest Imposture, which told of all these things as done before their Eyes, if they had not been so done. See how positively he speaks to them. Deut. xi. 2. to ves 8. And know you this Day: For I speak not with your Children, which have not known, and which have lotse.'n the Chastisement of the Lord your God, his Greatn'fi, his mighty Hand, and his stretched out Arm, and bis Miracles, and his Acts which he did in the midst of B<gypt, unto Pharaoh the King of Egypt, and unto all his Land, ahlswbat he did unto the Army of Egypt, unto their Horses and to their Chariots, bow he made the Water of the Red-Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and bow the Lord hatb destroyed them unto this Day: And what he did unto you in the Wilderness, until ye came into this Place: And what be did unto Dathan and A\nr&m the Sons o/"Eliab, the Son of Reuben, bow the Earth opened her Mouth and swallowed them up, and their Housholds, and their Tents, and all the Substance that was in their Pojsejfian, in the midst of all A 4 Israel, Israel. But your Eyes have seen all the great ASis of the Lord, which he did, &C.
From hence we may suppose it impossible that these Books of Moses (if an Imposture) could have been invented and put upon the People, who were then alive when all these Things were said to be done.
The utmost therefore that even a Suppose can stretch to• is, that these Books were wrote in some Age after Moses, and put out in his Name.
And to this I say, that if it was so, it was impossible that those Books should have been receiv'd as the Booh of Moses, in that Age wherein they may be suppos'd to have been first invented. Why? Because they speak of themselves as deliver'd by Moses, and kept inthe Ark from his time. And it came to pass when Moses had made an end of writing the Words of this Law in a Book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites •who bare the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, faying, Take this Book of the Law, and put it in the Side cf the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be therefor a Witness against thee. Deut. xxxi. 24, 25, 26. And there was a Copy of this Book to be left likewise with the King. And it snail be, when he fitteth upon the Throne of his Kingdom, that he shall write him a Copy of this Law in a Book, out of that which is before the Priists the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the Days of his Life: That he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the Words of this Law and these Statutes to do them. Deut. xvii. 18,19.
Here yon seethe this Book of the Law speaks of itself Cot only as an History or Relation of what Things were then done, but as the standing and municipal Law and Statutes of the Nation of the Ji.ws, binding the King as well as the People.
Now, in whatever Age after Moses you will suppose this Book to have been forged, it was impossible it could have been received as Truth; because it was not then to be sound, either in the Ark, or with the King, or anywhere else; for, when first invented, every body must know that they had never heard of it before.