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is not in the power of any man to investigate, to impose upon others; this can never be said to be the case with respect to thousands who believe, or attest, things evidently contrary to their interest and previous inclinations. That great numbers of persons, and others in succession to them (all of whom had sufficient opportunity to investigate any particular fact, which required no other evidence than that of the senses, and who were interested in the investigation, their fortunes or their lives depending upon it) should persist in their attestation of it would be a greater miracle, more contrary to what we know of human nature, than any fact contained in the Scripture history. As to the evidence of a future state, what are all the arguments derived from the light of nature compared to that which is furnished by the gospel, which is therefore justly said to “bring life and immortality to light” There we see a person commissioned by God, teaching the doctrine with the greatest plainness and emphasis, enforcing it by miracles, among which was the raising of several persons from a state of death to life; and, what was infinitely more, submitting to die himself in the most public and indisputable manner, and rising to life again at a fixed time. Had mankind in general been asked what evidence would satisfy them, they could not have demanded more. Whether, therefore, we consider the precepts of religion, that is, the rules of a virtuous and happy life, the authority requisite to enforce the observance of them, the motives by which they are enforced, or the evidence of their truth, revealed religion has unspeakably the advantage of natural; and therefore so far is the scheme of revelation from being improbable d priori, that it must appear such as a wise and good Being, who was acquainted with human nature, and wished to engage the attention of men, and impress their minds with sentiments of reverence of himself, and respect for such laws as were calculated to promote their greatest happiness, would adopt in preference to any other; being the best adapted to gain his end. It was of the greatest importance to mankind to be made acquainted with those moral principles and rules of conduct on which their happiness depended, and which they would never have discovered of themselves; to have their attention drawn to them in the most forcible manner, and to have the most satisfactory evidence of their truth; and this is what we find in revelation, and in revelation only. It is therefore, as the apostle justly calls it, “the wisdom and the power of God,” though objected to and ridiculed by light and superficial men.
DIVINE MISSION OF MOSES.
Such a firm persuasion in the whole Jewish nation, circumstanced as they are well known to have been, on the supposition that the events above recited never took place, and that the written history of them is not authentic, would be a miracle of a much more extraordinary nature than any of those that are objected to, and a miracle without any reasonable object ; for what rational end could have been answered by such a supernatural infatuation (for it could not have been any thing less) as should induce a whole nation firmly to believe all the particulars that I have recited, viz. the account of all the plagues of Egypt, their passing through the Red Sea and the river Jordan, the Divine Being speaking to them from Mount Sinai, and this last instance of the miraculous fall of the walls of Jericho, without any human means, and that the books containing the history of these particulars were written and published while the memory of the things recorded in them was recent; when, if the account had been fabulous, it must have been exceedingly easy to have exposed it?
No nation in the world, not even the most credulous (and the Jews have always been the least so,) could have been imposed upon in so gross a manner. And this was not in one particular, but in many; and those on the largest scale, the farthest in the world from resembling tricks of legerdemain, such as may be exhibited before a few persons in a private room. But, for the satisfaction of all mankind in future ages, it was requisite that those miracles, which ushered in the first dispensation of revealed religion, should be so circumstanced
with respect both to number and magnitude, as to be out of the reach of all reasonable objection, though not of mere cavil; and such is actually the case. We may even venture to say, that had the most skeptical person in the world been asked what he himself would have wished to have been done in order to satisfy him that the Author of nature had really interposed in the government of the world, he could not have pitched upon more striking things, as an evidence of it, than the ten plagues of Egypt, the passage of the Red Sea and the river Jordan, the articulate and audible voice from Mount Sinai, pronouncing not a few words only (for in that the hearing might be deceived), but so many as composed the ten commandments, and lastly, the falling of the walls of Jericho; all of them exhibited in the presence of a whole nation, and some of them even more nations than one. In order to satisfy distant ages that such things as these really took place, what more could have been demanded than that the history of them should be committed to writing while the facts were recent; that solemn customs should be instituted at the very time for the purpose of commemorating them ; that a nation the least disposed to the religion which all this apparatus was provided to establish, should receive the history as genuine, and reluctantly adopt the religion thus enjoined them; and that, notwithstanding their many deviations from it, owing to the seductive nature of the rites of other nations they should, by faith in this history, be brought back to the strict observance of it and continue in it to this day, a period of about four thousand years. Nothing but a due attention to this remarkable state of things is necessary to ensure the firm belief of the whole, to the most skeptical of mankind. And in due time we cannot doubt but that this due attention will be given to this history, and to that of the propagation of Christianity in conjunction with it; and then all mankind will, of course, become worshippers of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, and of Jesus Christ; and this faith cannot but be attended with a great improvement in the moral conduct of men, such as will ensure to them the truest enjoyment of this life, and immortal happiness in the life to come. # # #
Though the history of the deliverance of the Israelites from their state of bondage in Egypt, and their settlement in the land of Canaan, be an extraordinary one, abounding with miraculous events, which require a proportionably clear evidence, we have seen that the evidence of the facts is as full and clear as the case, or as any case, can require; and the object of the whole scheme to which these events were an introduction, was of proportional importance. It was nothing less than to impress upon mankind the belief of the existence and providence of the one true God, the purity of his worship, the knowledge of our moral duty in this life, and of our expectations in another. For this great purpose it pleased God to make one nation the medium of all his communications with mankind, and to distinguish them by a particular providence that they might appear in the most conspicuous light to the whole world, and attract universal attention. This the nation of the Jews has done to a considerable degree in all ages. Originally they were situated in the very centre of all the civilized nations of the world, and as civilization extended, they by one means or another became most wonderfully dispersed through all countries; and at this day they are almost literally every where the most conspicuous, and in the eye of reason and religion, the most respectable nation on the face of the earth.
It has been by means of prophets of this nation, and especially Jesus Christ, that the world has been recovered, as far as this recovery has taken place, from the deplorable state of superstition and idolatry into which it was universally sunk. This nation had originally as much to learn concerning God, a providence, and a future state, as any other, and they had not naturally any better sources of information; but having been taught of God, they or their disciples are the instructors of