« AnteriorContinuar »
TT is in vain to say any thing by way of address
to persons who will not read or think upon a fubject. To the profligate and unthinking among the unbelievers I shall, therefore, say nothing, because they will not give themselves the trouble to read what I might be disposed to say to them ; but to the more moral, fpeculative, and thoughtful unbelievers, into whose hands this treatise may poslibly fall, I would observe, and they must agree with me in it, that, in justice to themselves and to the subject, they should give it the most serious and deliberate examination. To men of reason and reflection the evidences of christianity must appear the most interesting of all subjects of inquiry. For what can be more so than fully to ascertain, that the present state is not the whole of our existence, but that Jesus Christ, by the appointment of God his father, will come again to raise all the dead to a future endless life, and to give to every man according to his works. This is the great object and end of christian faith; and those who believe this important doctrine receive it on the authority of Jesus Christ, whose divine mission was attested, as they believe, by such mi- ' racles as no man could have performed, without the presence and concurrence of God.
Now before any person seriously rejects christianity, containing such important doctrines, he Tould certainly endeavour to satisfy himself, at least on what foundation it is that he founds his dissent; and that such persons may more easily and effectually interrogate themselves upon the subject, I fall brięAy propose a few leading questions, which may perhaps affist them to ascertain the state of their own minds, and lead them to such reflections, or disquisitions, as may be of most use to them with respect to it; at the same time that they may serve as a kind of recapitulation of a few of the principal arguments in favour of christianity.
Is it not an indisputed fact, that there was such a person as Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate in Judea ?
Is it not also a well known fact, that he had some followers when living, but, notwithstanding his ignominious sufferings, which disconcerted and dispersed all his adherents, many more after his death ; and that he was even acknowledged by them to be the Messiah, foretold by their antient prophets, though he sustained a character the very reverse of what was expected by all the Jews, the good as well as the bad ?
Are not the gospels, and the book of Aits, which contain the history of the life of Christ, and of the
propagation of his religion in the world, authene tic writings? Were they not considered in all the early ages, both by the friends and enemies of christianity, as the genuine productions of the early disciples of Christ?
Can this be admitted, without admitting also, that what they relate concerning Christ and his apostles is, in the main, true, at least that they did something above the power of man; especially, that Christ did actually rise from the dead, as he had foretold, and as a proof that what he taught he had by commillion from God?
Is it probable that such men as the apostles were, thould have been able to shake off the strongest Jewish prejudices, which no other Jews, whether, with respect to morality, they were good or bad men, were ever able to do? Can they be supposed capable of inventing such a story, and especially of making it gain credit with the world, in such an age as that in which they lived, and circumstanced as they were for that purpose ?
Admitting this to be poffible, can any sufficient motive be assigned, to induce so many of them, not only to enter into a scheme of this nature, but, what is much more, to carry it on, with a perse• verance unknown to the professors of any scheme of religion before them, in the face of all difficulties that could be thrown in their way, and to die
with all the marks of joy and confidence, without ever confessing the imposture ?
If the leading facts above-mentioned cannot be disputed, except upon such principles as must invalidate all antient history, and set aside all human testimony, every argument a priori, such as those which arise from the confideration of the sufficiency of the light of nature, the natural incredibility of miracles, &c. will certainly not deserve a hearing. How specious soever they may be represented, their influence will not be felt.
It will be clearly perceived that, whether it might have been reasonable to expect it, or not, God who made the world has actually interposed at various times in the government of it; giving some of his creatures, at least, such information respecting their conduct here, and their expectations hereafter, as he judged to be useful and convenient for them; and whatever difficulties may attend the speculative consideration of a future life, it will not be doubted but that we shall in fa&t live again, give an account of ourselves to God, and receive according to our works.