A VINDICATION OF THE TRUTH OF Christian Religion, Against the Objections of all Modern Opposers.

PART II.

Written in French by James Abbadie, D. D.

Render'd into English By HENRY LUSSAN, M. A. of New College in Oxford.

LONDON: Printed for J. Wyat at the Rose, and R. Wilkin at the Kings-Head in St. Paul's Church­yard, MDCXCVIII.

The CONTENTS.

SECTION I.
Containing some Arguments for the Christian Religion, drawn from the Testimony of those who were the first Publishers of it.

  • THE Design of this Work. Page 1
  • Chap. I. Where we shall enquire whence the Chri­stians had their Original, and what their Profession is, by looking back into the first Ages wherein they ap­peared. p. 3
  • Chap. II. Where we shall examin the Martyrdom of the Primitive Christians. p. 7
  • Chap. III. In which we further prove the Truth of Re­ligion by several undeniable matters of Fact. p. 10
  • Chap. IV. Where we yet further prove the Truth of the Christian Religion by several undeniable matters of Fact. p. 14
  • Chap. V. Which demonstrates that all the matters of Fact contained in the Books of the New Testament can ne­ver be forg'd. p. 17

SECTION II.
Wherein we shall prove the Divinity of the Christian Religion by examining the Books of the New Testament.

  • CHAP. I. Where we shall prove that those Books can never be Supposititious. p. 33
  • Chap. II. Proving that the Books of the New Testa­ment were never Corrupted. p. 39
  • [Page] Chap. III. That the Apostles did not write what was False. p. 44
  • Chap. IV. That the Disciples of Jesus Christ could not impose upon Men in the matter of their Writing or Preaching. p. 49
  • Chap. V. Where we shall more particularly examin whe­ther the Apostles had the Power or the Will to de­ceive Mankind. p. 53
  • Chap. VI. Where we shall examin the matters contained in the Gospels, and see whether they are capable of Il­lusion or Imposture, p. 58
  • Chap. VII. Of the Holyness of Life of Jesus Christ. p. 63
  • Chap. VIII. Of the Prophecies of Jesus Christ. p. 71
  • Chap. IX. Wherein we shall examin the matters contain­ed in the Book of Acts. p. 82
  • Chap. X. Wherein we shall take into Consideration what success the Preaching of the Apostles had. p. 86
  • Chap. XI. Wherein we shall examin the matters con­tained in the Epistles of the Apostles. p. 88
  • Chap. XII. Wherein we further examin the Epistles of St. Paul. p. 102
  • Chap. XIII. That we ought to look upon the New Testa­ment as a Divine Book. p. 107
  • Chap. XIV. Wherein we shall examin those Difficulties which may probably be raised against the foregoing Truths. p. 113
  • Chap. XV. Where we further examin the objections of the Incredulous. p. 119
  • Chap. XVI. Where we further examin those Difficulties which may be raised against our Principles. p. 126
  • Chap. XVII. Where we further answer the objections of the Incredulous. p. 133

SECTION III.
Wherein we shall endeavour to carry even to a Demonstration the Proofs drawn from the External Evidence of matters of Fact con­tained in the New Testament, and the inward sense we have of them.

  • CHAP. I. Of the natural Temper, Dispositions, and Inclinations of the Disciples, and what sort of prejudices they were possessed with, when Jesus Christ Manifested himself to them. p. 143
  • Chap. II. The first Center of Truth: a particular Con­sideration of the Miracles of Jesus Christ. p. 162
  • Chap. III. The second Center of Truth: a particular Consideration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. p. 184
  • Chap. IV. The third Center of Truth: a particular Con­sideration of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. p. 200
  • Chap. V. The fourth Center of Truth: A particular Consideration of the Effusion of the gifts of the holy Ghost upon the Disciples. p. 213
  • Chap. VI. Wherein we shall joyn all the Miraculous mat­ters of Fact together, and form thereby a full and per­fect Demonstration of them. p. 220
  • Some reflections on the Gospel according to St. Matthew. p. 242
  • Chap. VII. Wherein we shall further Produce out of the other Gospels, several places very proper to make us truly sensible of the Truth of the Christian Religion. p. 258
  • Chap. VIII. Wherein we shall further produce from the Acts of the Apostles, several places very proper to make us truly sensible of the Divinity of the Christian Religion. p. 274
  • [Page] Chap. IX. Wherein we shall yet farther produce from the Epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John; seve­ral Texts very proper to make us truly sensible of the Divinity of the Christian Religion. p. 282

SECTION IV.
Wherein we shall prove the Truth of the Chri­stian Religion by the consideration of its Na­ture and Properties.

  • SEveral Portraitures in which it may be considered. Page 300
  • I Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is con­sidered in the multitude of Testimonies given in fa­vour of it. p. 301
  • II Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is op­posed to all other Religions. p. 307
  • III Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in its effects. p. 320
  • IV Portraiture of the Christian Religion as consider­ed in the Purity of its end. p. 325
  • V Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is con­sidered in its suitableness to the necessities of mankind. p. 329
  • VI Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is con­sidered in the relation it bears to the Glory of God. p. 341
  • VII. Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in its Morality. p. 344
  • VIII Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is con­sidered in its Mysteries. p. 360
  • IX Portraiture of the Christian Religion, or the con­formity of its Mysteries to the Lights of Reason. p. 399
  • X Portraiture of the Christian Religion, or the pro­portion it bears to the Jewish Religion. p. 420
  • XI Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is con­sidered in the proportion it bears to Natural Religion. p. 432

A TREATISE OF THE TRUTH OF Christian Religion. PART II.
Wherein the Christian Religion is pro­ved by its own proper Characters.

SECTION I.
Containing some Arguments for the Christian Religion, drawn from the Testimony of those, who were the first Publishers of it.
The Design of this Work.

IN the first Part of this Work we took our rise from this Proposition, There is a God, and from thence we proved that, Jesus Christ the Son of Mary is the Messias who was to come. We shall now take [Page 2] a contrary course, and begin with this Proposition, There are at present Christians in the World, and from thence prove that, There is a God who has been pleased to manifest himself by the means of Religion. There we have had but a faint prospect of Jesus Christ by the Light of Nature and Revelation of Moses; Here we shall as it were draw the Curtain, and discover Jesus Christ with that brightness of Truth and ful­ness of Light, as will wonderfully illustrate both the Religion of Moses and the Revelation of Nature, and in an excellent manner confirm the truth of the Existence of God.

In order to which, we shall do these three things. I. We shall consider the shell and bark, If I may so say, of the Christian Religion, by examining all those Arguments that are drawn from the external Testi­mony which the Primitive Christians gave of it, and by considering their natural Capacities, the disco­veries that were made to them, their prejudices, the peculiar frame of their minds, their Martyrdom, and the reasons that induced them to suffer it, &c. And all this before we proceed to the consideration of the Writings of the New-Testament. II. We shall consider these Writings themselves, and enquire whether they are forged or not. We shall examin the subject-matter of them, and endeavour both to defend them against the suspicions of the Incredulous (by shewing that they contain nothing but what is certainly true) and to evince the Divinity of them by the Character of those things they contain. III. and lastly, We shall endeavour to shew the very substance and spirit of Christianity, by disco­vering the Excellence, uses, advantages, the end, genius, and in general all the beauties which are proper and natural to it. And this is what we de­sign to treat of in the following Sections whereof this second part is composed.

[Page 3] But since our Adversaries by their prejudices may be inclined to fear, lest we should impose upon them, by making them believe such Doctrines as can't be proved by Reason, and since it is much for our advantage to remove all such suspicions, we will for a while doubt of every thing with them, and raising our selves by degrees to the Knowledge of those matters of fact which establish Christianity it self, admit of nothing for truth but so far as appears evident.

CHAP. I.
Where we shall enquire whence the Christians had their Original, and what their Profession is, by looking back into the first Ages wherein they appeared.

IN order to which, we suppose that there are now Christians in the World, and there have not al­ways been such. From this I gather that I must look back into past Ages to find out the Original of my Religion. In this search I pass therefore from Age to Age, till I come to Constantine, without be­ing able to clear this doubt.

But here we must make a little stop. The pro­sperity of this Prince gives at first some occasion of suspicion, and we easily mistrust a man who being Master of the most considerable part of the World, seems probably to have established the Christian Re­ligion therein, either by Force, or Policy, looking perhaps upon it as more proper than that of the Heathens to carry on his designs.

Yet that suspicion soon vanishes, since we are as­sured there were Christians in the World before [Page 4] Constantine's time. All the Heathen Writers who lived before him speak of them; and the Ecclesi­astical Historians are wholly employed in describing their sufferings. But supposing that these Histori­ans lived in the days of Constantine, or after him, they must needs have either lost the use of their reason themselves, or have imagined that the men of their age had lost theirs, when they give them the History of the Christan Church, down from the Apostles to Constantine, if 'twere certain there had not been Christians in the World before that Prince. And therefore this must be too extrava­gant a suspicion to be entertained long.

But here is something still more observable, viz. that on the one hand the Christians who lived before Constantine were then possessed of the Books of the New-Testament, and on the other, that those very Chri­stians were so strongly perswaded of the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of his miracles, of the pouring out the holy spirit on the Apostles, and of all other matters of fact that establish the Chri­stian Religion, that they hardly speak of any thing else; their books are full of them; and their Doc­trine is altogether built upon this foundation. And therefore if Constantine invented the matters of fact which establish Christianity, he must not only have forged the Books of the New-Testament, but also the Writings of Clemens, Justin, Iraeneus, Athe­nagoras, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, and in general of all the Fathers who lived before him, because every one of their Writings have an essential relation to those matters of fact that prove the truth of Religion.

And should we go up a little higher than the reign of Constantine, we should hear of Christians that were afflicted during the three first Centuries of the Church, and persecuted throughout the [Page 5] whole World, and punished with most barbarous and new invented torments. They were put to Death upon wheels and scaffolds, tortured by fire: their flesh torn with pincers; their bodies were mangled by cutting off limbs one after another: they were thrown into Rivers, and cast into the Sea, and exposed to Wild Beasts; wrapp'd up in garments dipped in sulphur, to serve for torches, and set up to light Passengers in their Way. In fine, it was never known that men so universally agreed in any one thing as in their design of tor­menting the Christians; in so much that the ordi­nary people who have generally some compassion for the greatest malefactors upon the Scaffold, con­ducted the Christians to the place of Execution with acclamations of Joy.

Certainly, 'tis a very difficult matter to restrain one's Curiosity so much, as not to desire a more particular Knowledge of a people persecuted by the World with so much rage and malice. For to see the whole World so strangely incensed against one sect of men, one would easily think them the com­mon Enemies of all mankind, and the offspring of Hell it self born for a common plague to the Rest of the World.

Tertullian in his Apolog. What then were the great Crimes these Christians were guilty of? They were accused of impiety, murther and incest. 'Twas pretended that they violated the re­spect due to the Gods; that they murthered their own Children, which they scrupled not to eat up after having Killed them; and lastly, that they lay promiscuously together, the Brother with the Sister, and the Son with the Mother.

But first of all there is little likelyhood that the Christians should suffer Death, and torments worse than Death it self, in defence of a Religon which [Page 6] engaged them to the Commission of such infamous actions. That stedfast constancy they shew'd in the midst of their Torments, and which their Enemies themselves acknowledged, sutes very ill with the voluptuousness and enormities they were accused of.

Besides, were they question'd concerning these Crimes which they are obliged to clear themselves of, they would produce in their Behalf the Apologies of Justin, Athenagoras, and Tertullian, wherein they earnestly desired the Senate, and Roman Emperours that they would make a strict enquiry into their lives, and inflict upon them such torments as were a thousand times if possible more cruel than those they had already endured, if they were really gu [...]lty of what they were accused.

They would shew us likewise a letter from Pliny to Trajan, which ought to be looked upon as an authentick monument of their Innocence: Since Pliny there informs the Emperour, that having strictly inquired into the lives of the Christians, he found nothing else but that they assembled together in remote places early in the morning, and there said their prayers to heaven, and bound them­selves under a Solemn Oath, not to commit Mur­der, Adultery, Injustice, or any other crime. They would also produce an answer from Trajan to Pliny, wherein that Emperour gave positive orders, that for the future there should be no particular enqui­ries made after the Christians, but those only should be punished, who should discover themselves. And that we may not think that, these letters are forged, we may consider that 'tis Tertulian that mentions them in his Discourse to the Senate, and the Roman Emperour, whom he could not impose upon, without endangering his own life, and pre­judicing his Religion.

CHAP. II.
Wherein we shall examin the Martyrdom of the Primitive Christians.

BUt Perhaps we may sooner suspect the credulity of the Primitive Christians than their innocence. We are sure their Constancy proceeded from their hope, and their hope from their perswasion. But who knows the ground of that Perswasion? Are there not Mahumetans so strongly perswaded of the Divinity of the Alcoran, as to die in defence of that Errour? The multitude then of Martyrs shews an infinite number of persons to be strongly per­swaded of the truth of Christian Religion, but proves not that perswasion to be well grounded. We m [...]st therefore go a little further.

And here we may easily suppose without fear of being mistaken, that the Primitive Christians had some sort of Common sense. Those who made it their profession to ridicule the plurality of Gods, and the many superstitions of the Heathens, which were really contrary to Reason; those who put in practice such wise Rules of Morality, who were so regular in their behaviour, so averse to all the ex­cesses that disorder Reason; who formed to them­selves such rational Ideas of the Deity in compari­son to others, those men, I say, could not be whol­ly destitute of the light of Nature. Now supposing them to have but the least glimmering of that light, 'twill be hard to conceiv [...] that they should wholly renounce their Estates and Fortune, and couragious­ly suffer Death in defence of any cause whatsoever, unless they had very powerful Reasons to believe it were good.

[Page 8] This consideration will be further strengthn'd by two very important Reflexions. And first, we speak not here of such only who being born Christi­ans, blindly followed the prejudices of Birth and Education: but also of a great number of per­sons, who renounced Paganism to embrace Christi­anity, and laying aside the favourable prejudices of Education and Birth (which in them were quite contrary to the Christian Religion,) were yet willing to die for it as soon as 'twas known and embraced.

Secondly, The truth of Christian Religion is al­together founded upon mattters of fact. For if Jesus Christ wrought Miracles, and rose again from the Dead, than is the Christian Faith True. But if Jesus Christ wrought no miracles, nor rose from the Dead, then is the Christian Faith false. And surely 'twould have been folly or madness in those men to forsake so flourishing a Communion as Paganism, to take upon them the name of Christians, a name so vile and contemptible in those days, to suffer vo­luntarily the loss of their Estates, and undergo a most terrible Death, only to defend a Religion grounded upon such matters of fact as they had no reason to believe to be true. Those indeed that are born and live peacably in a Communion, may blindly believe the Doctrines of it: but he that is never so lit­tle acquainted with the constitution of man's heart, can scarce imagin men to be so sensless, as to renounce the prejudices of Birth and Education, to offer violence to their dearest and most tender Inclinations, and em­brace a Faith pursued with fire and sword, and persecu­ted by all the powers of the World, unless they had first duely examined the nature of it, and knew well upon what grounds they thus embraced it.

If it be objected that some of these men were of the meanest sort of people, whose example cannot be alledged as a precedent for Wise and learned [Page 9] men, We'll grant it. But then it must also be con­fess'd that the Vulgar usually embrace that Religion which is attended with Power, and Prosperity, Pomp and Authority, and hate even Truth it self, when once destitute of all these outward helps. How is it possible then that against all outward ap­pearance, they should have acted so contrarily to themselves in this Occasion?

But supposing the commmon sort of Christians to have lost their Reason, can we say the same of the Doctors of the Primitive Church, as Clement, Po­lycarp, Justin, Iraeneus, &c? 'Tis certain on one hānd these men were men of very good sense (as their Writings, those Monuments they have left us evi­dently demonstrate) And on the other, 'tis very well known they lived in a time so very near to that of the Apostles, that it is absolutely impos­sible they should have been deceived in this respect. For Polycarp conversed a long while with St. John, Iraeneus saw Polycarp, and Justin was a more ancient Father than Iraeneus.

Had those Doctors only told us that Jesus Christ and his Apostles wrought several Miracles, we might perhaps have suspended our belief upon their bare word. But since they suffered Death in defence of the truth of certain matters of fact, which they must necessarily have fully been informed of, since I see that Clemens, and Polycarp, Disciples and Con­temporaries with the Apostles, chearfully came to the stake to maintain a Religion essentially founded upon those matters of fact, (such as were the gift of divers Languages conferred upon the Apostles, the power of working Miracles, and imparting those very gifts themselves to others;) Since, I say, these Christian Doctors suffered Martyrdom for the confirmation of matters of fact which the Christian Religion is essentially united to; I confess I begin to [Page 10] be convinced. Nevertheless let us search more nar­rowly into this matter, and see whether we shall yet have any Reason to entertain any further scruples.

CHAP. III.
In which we further prove the Truth of Religion by several undeniable matters of fact.

WHo told us Clemens and Polycarp suffered Mar­tyrdom? And supposing they did, who will assure us they were not deluded by the Apostles▪ Nay who can tell whether there ever were any such men?

I suppose I shall not be obliged to prove with a great many arguments there were such men as Clemens and Polycarp, who suffered Martyrdom. Eusebius who wrote their history could not wholly have invented it, unless he had corrupted all the Writings of the Fathers that lived before him; for they all speak of it. Iraeneus, Justin, Clemens Alex­andrinus, &c. mention it, as a known matter of fact. The first of them glories in several places of his works that he had seen Polycarp in his youth; and it appears they all suffered Martyrdom in imi­tation of those Primitive Christians.

That the Apostles deceived Polycarp and Clemens and the rest of their Disciples, is a thing much less to be suspected; because they themselves stuck not to boast of their being able to work miracles, heal all kind of diseases, speak all sorts of languages, and impart to others those gifts they called the gifts of the Holy Ghost. And it is impossible that Clemens, Polycarp, &c. should have suffered them­selves to be deceived in this respect, especially to [Page 11] [...]uch a degree as to suffer Death for the testimony of a Religion founded on so many impostures.

But whence appears it that the Apostles boasted of a power to work miracles, and impart the gifts of the Holy Ghost? It appears not only from their own Epistles which can't be forged (as we shall prove by and by) but also from the writings of the Doctors of the Primitive Church; and in fine, 'tis manifest of it self. For as we can't deny that there was such a man as Alexander the Great, with­out overthrowing the common Opinion that he sub­verted the Empire of Darius, and the Macedonians subdued all Asia under his conduct; because one matter of fact depends upon the other: so we can­not acknowledge the Divinity of the Christian Religi­on without believing the Miracles of Jesus Christ, his Resurrection; his pouring out the Holy Ghost on the Apostles, and the miraculous Gifts imparted to those that believed. For take away these matters of fact, and what would become of the Christian Religion? Wherein would the Divinity of it consist? Wherein would lie the Strength, Promises, and Essentials of it? Since therefore Clemens and Polycarp suffered Martyrdom for the truth of Christian Religion, it follows also that they died in defence of the truth of those matters of fact we just now mentioned. So that those matters of fact being very palpable, and it being very easy for Clemens and Polycarp who lived and conversed with the Apostles, to know certainly whether they really had the pretended gifts of divers tongues, of healing all sorts of dis­eases, and of communicating these extraordinary gifts to others, so as to render them frequent in the Church, I do not see how its possible to call the truth of them in question.

The soul of man however fruitfull in imagina­tions, can hardly raise here a doubt of a moment's [Page 12] continuance. For should I fancy they may have given me a false Relation of the Martyrdom of Clemens, of Polycarp, and the successors of the Apo­stles: this thought soon vanishes, when I consider the number, quality, and unanimous consent of the Witnesses of this matter of fact. For can we think that the Sucessours of Clemens, and Polycarp would have suffered a real Martyrdom in imitation of one that was but imaginary? Would they so coura­giously have imitated a fictitious Martyrdom of their own invention? And should I imagin Clemens and Polycarp were imposed on by the Apostles, I am soon convinced of the contrary; since those matters of fact which we have now before us, are matters of Experience so evident in themselves, that we cannot be mistaken in them. Lastly, should I doubt whether the Apostles endeavoured to per­swade men of the truth of them, I am made to un­derstand that there can be no Christianity without these matters of fact, and that the Apostles could never have established the Christian Religion unless they had first perswaded men of the truth of them. This will be farther seen by what we shall offer in the following chapters.

In the mean while may we not know what the profess'd Enemies of Christianity said of them? For it seems unjust to hearken to that only which the Christians alledge in defence of their own cause. This is no hard matter; We find Porphirius, Celsus, and Julian surnamed the Apostate maintaining that Jesus Christ did no miracles at all but by a magick power, and that it was a fantom which appeared to the Disciples instead of Jesus Christ risen again from the dead. Whereupon I think it necessary to make some few Reflections. It is very remark­able that those who were far more exasperated a­gainst the Christians, than the Incredulous of these [Page 13] imes are, and who living in a time nearest to that [...]f the Apostles might have easily known the truth [...]r falshood of those matters of fact; I say, 'tis re­markable that those men durst not in the least call [...]ny of them in question, but were forced to have [...]ecourse to Ghosts, and a Magick power to avoid [...]eing perplexed with them. 'Tis also worth our while to observe that Celsus himself who ever before questioned Magicians, was at length forced to a­ [...]cribe the miracles of Jesus Christ to a Magick power, [...]s Origen himself upbraids him in some part of his works.

Thus it immediately appears that the Primitive Christians were men of very good sense, and very honest and sincere principles too: that part of them lived in a time so very near that of the Apostles (in whose days all those things came to pass) that they must necessarily have known the truth of them; that in the mean time they suffered Death to seal the truth of a Religion, founded upon all those matters of fact; and lastly, that their Enemies themselves durst not presume entirely to call any of them in question.

But I will not yield my self conquered for all that, but rather raise my self a little higher, and stop for a while at the latter end of the first Century, which is the time wherein St. John (the last of the A­postles) was yet living, and wherein Clemens and Polycarp whom we just now mentioned flourish'd: and this shall be our fixed point in the following Chapters.

CHAP. IV.
Where we yet further prove the Truth of the Chri­stian Religion by several undeniable matters of fact.

'TIs an hundred years since there were no Chri­stians at all in the World, and now there are some in all parts of it, at Rome, and at Antioch, at Alexandria, at Corinth, at Ephesus, in Spain, and among the Gauls, &c. I confess I am some what surprised to see this progress, yet not so much as to be convinced of the truth of Christian Religion, be­cause Mahomet's Religion was established in a lesser time. We must then go yet farther, and consider that the Christian Faith was not only destitute of the assistance of Policy and Authority, but received notwithstanding the continual oppositions of both.

'Tis observable that other Religions, as that of the Heathens and Turks, were established in the World by some singular and extraordinary prosperity, and by the policy of persons raised to dignities and grandeur; but Christianity in a small time became Master of mens hearts and understanding, tho it was attended with nothing but shame and Misery, tho▪ all the powers of the World strove to stifle it in its very birth, and for that purpose invented such tortures and punishments as no other interest could have made men devise.

We might indeed question the sufferings of the Christians, were we not assured of them from the Writings of the Heathens, and had we not a clearer proof in the complaints of the Fathers, who certain­ly were not so extravagant as publickly to complain [Page 15] of an imaginary persecution, when it was so danger­ous to complain of one that was real.

And therefore I would fain know what this Chri­stian Faith and Doctrine is which made men so pa­tiently suffer, and abandon all things. But to my great amazement I find that they believed that a certain crucified man was the Son of God; that a man hang'd and nailed on a Cross was the sovereign judg of the World, and the object of our Adoration. I confess I can't but acknowledg some supernatural power in all this. For tho' men of as mean appear­ance as those who first preached the Gospel, might without any Miracles have weigh'd down the Autho­rity of Emperours and Prelates, and all the Magni­ficence and glory of Paganism, objects very suitable to the worldly and ambitious heart of a man, yet how can we conceive that they could without the help of Miracles, perswade men to believe a Para­dox so offensive to Reason, and which appears at first view so horrible as this, that the Son of God was nailed on a Cross?

We can never perswade our selves without offer­ing violence to our Reason, that those who from their youth represented their Deities to themselves, as the greatest and most glorious Beings they could imagin, and gave the name of Divine to whatever they thought in the highest degree beautiful and magnificent, should yet substitute to all these great Ideas, the notion of a God who died an infamous Death upon the Cross; That not one alone, but an infinite number of persons embraced an Opinion that immediately overthrew all their first Ideas of a God; that this great change was not gradually and insensibly brought to pass, or in the compass of several ages, but in a very few years, and with an incredible swiftness, by the Mystery of vile and contemptible persons, of no power or authority in [Page 16] the World; and that the passion they had for a Doctrine which seemed at first so monstrous to Men, induced them to suffer Death in defence of the same, after having renounced their Fortune, Reputation and Pleasures.

But does not prejudice over-rule in all this, and make me Fancy I see that distinctly which I perceive but confusedly? in truth I ought yet further to dis­trust my self, and tho' I honour Errour too much, in suspecting it may be so coherent, so united to the Principles of Common sense, and involved in so many appearances of Truth; yet I will not pass by any scruple for all that has been hitherto said.

I find then that the Christian Religion was establish­ed in the World an hundred years ago; I know that the Christians believe in a certain Jesus Christ crucified. I know also that this Opinion of theirs was not innate. I am fully perswaded that neither the Heathenish Priests, nor their ordinary Guides taught them this Doctrin, because they were the profess'd Enemies of it. I am compelled therefore in despite of my self to credit, at least in some respect, the Relation the ancient Doctors of the Church unanimously gave of it, viz: that some persons called Apostles and Disciples of Jesus Christ, went about the World, preaching that this same Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and the Messias whom God had promised to the Jews.

But these fundamental Truths require a more par­ticular Examination; and therefore we must shew more distinctly whether there were ever such men as the Apostles in the World; what their Original was; what Doctrine they preached; and how they were qualified. This we shall presently see, by laying down for a certain Principle, that the Chri­stians had the books of the New-Testament in their possession at that very time we have chose for our [Page 17] fixed point. I shall not at present enquire whe­ther those Books are forged or not, my design being to argue some time without entring upon that En­quiry. For whether they are forged or not, at least we learn from them certain undeniable matters of fact, which will wonderfully illustrate all our fol­lowing Enquiries,

CHAP. V.
Which demonstrates that all the matters of fact contained in the Books of the New Testament can never be forg'd.

IF the New Testament be forged, It may well be presumed that the Contrivers of that forgery (who certainly could have no other design but to make it pass for truth) endeavour'd to ground it upon some foundation either good or bad: So that we have reason to believe, that tho' they should have invented all that they relate, at least they in­vented not the Names, Country and Persons of Je­sus Christ and his Apostles, under whose Names they speak, and to whom they ascribe the Establishment of the Christian Religion.

For is it probable they should endeavour to per­swade men to worship a certain Jew called Jesus, the Son of Mary, a Galilean too, who was crucified at Jerusalem, and had several Disciples whose names [...]re exactly related, if the Jews could have immedi­ [...]tely convinced them of the falsehood of all those matters, by producing the Testimony of their own Nation, who would have thronged in to tell them, [...]hat Jesus and his Disciples were only fictitious [...]ames; and that there was no more to do but con­ [...]ult all the Registers and Decrees wherein Augustus [Page 18] commanded all the Jews should be taxed in the days of Cyrenius, and where it must have appeared that Jesus Christ himself (if there was any such Person) was also taxed.

'Tis all one as if a man should publish in this age a book full of excellent precepts of Morality, intermixt with several fictitious actions, which book he would have the World receive as the Doctrine of some di­vine and extraordinary man, who in the beginning of this age raised up several men from the Dead, healed all sorts of Diseases, calm'd the Winds and Tempests of the Sea, gave Authority to several of his Disciples to work many strange Miracles, was at length seiz'd and put to Death in Germany; and whose Disciples who bore such and such names, and were born in such and such a Countrey, came afterwards into France, dis­persed themselves throughout the other parts of Europe, preach'd his Doctrine, and at length died all unanimously in defence of it. What think you of this Tale? And how would it be received in the World but as a System only of many evident and palpable falsities? What think you those per­sons would say of it, who should be thus accused of so dreadful a parricide? They would certainly reply that that fictitious book was purposely design'd to blast their Reputation. But it appears the Jews never attempted to clear themselves after that manner. They confess there was such a person as Jesus Christ, and that their Fathers put him to Death: neither do they deny the least Circumstance of his Life, Mini­stry, or Death, excepting those which might probably make him pass for the Son of God. But we have here something still more clear and convincing than all this to offer.

Either those Books which you may think forg'd or not forg'd, spread of themselves the Christian Doctrine throughout the World, after they had [Page 19] been carried into several Parts of it, before there were any Apostles to preach it there, or else those Books were composed after the Apostles had pub­lished their Doctrine in the different parts of the Universe. I see no medium.

If the Books of the New Testament instructed men in the Christian Doctrine before any of the Apostles had preached it, how could the Romans be perswad­ed that St. Paul, which is a meer Name, had wrote an Epistle to them; or those of Antioch, that St. Peter had been in their City; or the Galatians, that St. Paul had preached the Gospel to them; or in gene­ral all Judea and Galilee that Jesus Christ with his Disciples had preached there; or in particular the people of Jerusalem, that he was there condemned to Death by the Sanhedrin, &c.

But if the New Testament was not collected into several Books, nor composed till after the Disciples of Jesus Christ had preached the Gospel in the several parts of the World, it must follow from thence that there were some Apostles before that time, and a certain Jesus Christ crucified, who was reputed the Son of God, and the true Messias according to the Christian Doctrin.

So that whether those Books be forg'd or not, still I am certain they relate certain fundamental matters of fact which are necessarily true. For it is certain there was such a person as Jesus Christ who dwelt in Nazareth, and was at last crucified at Jerusalem. 'Tis also as certain that Peter, James, and John were Fishermen who followed him out of Galilee, and preached the Gospel after his Death in several Parts of the World. Wherefore then should I be the on­ly person that should question a thing never so much as doubted of among the Christians or the Jews, nay which the Incredulous themselves of these times do not pretend to call in question?

[Page 20] But to stop a little here, It seems that Jesus the Son of Mary living in a certain Corner of Judea, pretended himself to be the Son of God, or if you will the Messias. 'Tis very strange indeed that a Man of so mean an extraction, who all his life time followed the profession of a Carpenter, (as his Ene­mies so often reproached him to have done) should notwithstanding pretend himself to be the Messias, who was to have been (according to the profess'd opinion of that age) surrounded or attended with pomp, splendour, and temporal Prosperity. Let us therefore enquire a little into it.

This Jesus (whoever he might be, and whatever Idea we may frame to our selves of him) gathered together a company of Disciples, some of which he took from among Fishermen on the bank of the Lake of Gennesareth, some out of the Towns of Galilee, nay and some he called from among the Publicans themselves, whom the people ever had in Origen. contra Cels. lib. 16.abomination (as the First Enemies of Christian Religion laid to his charge.) Those men which thus followed him were of mean Education and Birth. They neither had Learning nor Politeness; they neither were ac­quainted with the heart nor the inclinations of men, neither with the Policy of Princes, nor the elevated Morals of the Stoicks; nor lastly, with the misteri­ous and secret Wisdom of the Sages. But they were mean and simple Persons, as the Enemies themselves of Christianity readily acknowledge.

I shall not at present examin what Reasons in­duced them so firmly to adhere to Jesus Christ, nor what convincing arguments he used to engage them to follow him. It is enough we know they were ignorant persons, who looked for the Messias, according to the common Opinion of those times, [Page 21] and so might probably be thought to have been im­posed upon in that respect.

But here I cannot but admire that those mean and ignorant people, who had undoubtedly framed to themselves a very sublime Idea of their Messias, and imagined no less than that he would have distribu­ted Crowns to them (to use that expression, since this was always a strong opinion amongst the Jews) I say, I cannot but admire that those ignorant sort of people should content themselves with the out­ward and apparent meanness of a man, who took quite another form upon him than that of a Conqueror.

It can't be denied that Jesus Christ was in a very poor and mean condition when he called his Disci­ples, since Porphirius, Celsus, and Julian the Apostate reproach him with it. Besides this is such a matter of fact as no man would invent tho' he could easily have done it, and which he could not easily invent, tho he would have done it. 'Tis certain the Jews at that time and always before expected a Trium­phant Messias. 'Tis also as certain the Disciples adher'd to Jesus Christ notwithstanding the pro­fess'd opinion they were prepossessed with at that time; this is what we are surpris'd at.

Since the Disciples found not in Jesus Christ all the Glory and temporal power they were strongly per­swaded their Messias should have been invested with, they undoubtedly imagin'd that what their Master did not then actually possess, he would certainly en­joy some time after. They did not at all question but that he was to re-establish the Monarchy of Israel, and overcome the Enemies of the Jews. This made them to dispute the Priority among themselves. They would know who was to be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, that is, in the flourishing King­dom of the Messias, which they termed the Kingdom of heaven in imitation of the Prophet Daniel. Nay [Page 22] two of them importuned our Saviour to grant them to sit the one on his Right Hand, and the other on his Left, as soon as he was exalted to that state of Glory.

I admit not of these matters of fact meerly be­cause they are in the New Testament, but because they are very conformable to the Jewish Tradition, and Reason it self. Common Sense assures us that the Disciples adhered not to Jesus Christ without some hope or other. Now what could they hope for from him whom they looked upon as the Messias, but that which they expected from the true Messias himself, viz. a temporal deliverance attended with the like Prosperity.

But not to advance any thing doubtful or in the least uncertain in it self, I affirm that the Disciples considered Jesus Christ as the true Messias, and that they could not regard him as such but either in the sense of the Jews, or in that of the Christians, that is, either as a temporal Deliverer, or a spiritual one, and consequently that whatever sense we take it in, still were they to hope for some advantage or other from him; but let us see how far this two­fold Consideration will lead us.

Whilst the Disciples were strongly preposessed with the thoughts that Jesus was their Messias, that is, the person that should have raised up their Na­tion to the utmost pitch of Prosperity and Glory, this Jesus himself was seized, and nailed on a Cross, where he suffered a most infamous Death, infamous in the esteem of all Nations, but more particular­ly accursed in the Jewish Law. What a mighty thunder bolt must this have been to such men who had fed their fancies with such charming hopes! They were long since perswaded that the Messias would make his appearance in a very Glorious State; that he would overthrow at his coming the Empire [Page 23] of Cesar, together with all the Roman Grandeur, and thereby make the Jews absolute Masters of the World. All these things they impatiently expect­ed from Jesus; and yet this Jesus was dishonoured by an infamous punishment he was compelled to en­dure. The Jews themselves not only sacrificed him, but they sacrificed him even to Cesar himself, and delivered him up to the Romans to put him to Death. There was no power able to deliver him out of the hands of his Tormentors; so that he died, and his Disciples heard of his Death, or rather were eye-witnesses of it. In truth I cannot conceive how they should after all this have still preserved the least of their pretentions. They might reasonably grieve at the loss of such pleasing hopes, but nothing could redeem the loss of them. They might abhor the furious passion of the chief Priests and Sanhedrin, who had utterly deprived them of their dearly be­loved Master: but they must at length lay aside the opinion they had entertained of him. And there­fore nothing can be so likely as that which St. Luke makes them utter in the midst of their sorrow and astonishment. But we trusted that it had been he, which should have redeemed Israel; and besides all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Luke 24. 21.

But supposing they had no such Hopes or Expecta­tion, it is enough that the Disciples look't upon Je­sus as the promised Messias. Nay 'tis all one, whe­ther it was in the sense of the Jews or in that of the Christians. For if it was in the sense of the Jews, they could not but imagin that Jesus would have raised up the glory of the Jews to its utmost height, so far were they from conceiving he was liable to be put to Death by them. But if it was in the sense of the Christians, they ought surely to have believed that in case he should die, he would certainly raise up [Page 24] himself and those that believed on him from the grave, because the whole System of Christian Re­ligion essentially depends upon this foundation.

Thus, were the Disciples preposessed with the general opinion of the Jews, they could not chuse but lose it at the sight of the Death of Jesus, and were they prepossessed with the profess'd Doctrine of the Christians, they could not likewise but be unde­ceived of their Errour, when they saw that Jesus Christ rose not again from the Dead.

What then shall we think of certain Fishermen, who were a most mean wretched sort of people (as the Enemies of Christianity called them) who had not the courage to accompany their Master even when they looked upon him as the true Messias, but gave him over to his Executioners? Sure they are by this time sensible of their mistake. What care then does it appear they took to hide themselves, to conceal their shame and confusion from men? let us see what was the Event, and we shall know the Truth.

We find that few weeks after the Death of Christ, his Disciples publickly shewed themselves in Jerusa­lem, and confidently affirmed that they had seen their Master who was risen again from the Dead; had spoken with him, handled him, eat with him, convers­ed with him for forty days; and lastly, that they had seen him ascend into Heaven. 'Tis certain this was the Testimony of the Disciples, since the Faith of the Primitive Christians was founded on this Testimony.

Who could have thought of this unexpected turn? The Disciples affirmed that Jesus was the Messias: but could they still believe it, when they saw him give up the Ghost? Or if they did not believe it, were they now grown bolder to maintain an im­posture, than before to follow their Master, when they thought him the true Messias? Could certain Fishermen, dejected fearful Fishermen, who ought [Page 25] with shame to have owned their Error, could they in­vent such a fable, preach it with so much confidence, maintain it with so much boldness, expose their per­sons to all sorts of Torments, and even to Death it self, in defence of such an incredible fiction? Could any of them imagin that they could seduce Mankind, or had any one of them imagined it, could the rest have been so extravagant as to approve of his ridiculous fancy? Did they think the World would believe them up­on their bare Word? And were they then no longer in any dreadful apprehension of the Sanhedrin that had inhumanely put their Master to death? Did they believe they might safely reproach the Jews for hav­ing put the Messias to death, without being them­selves severely punished? Were they not sensible into how many troubles and afflictions this fable would inevitably cast them? And if they were, could they still be so couragious as to maintain such an imposture? Is it possible that no one of them should recant his opinion, not one contradict him­self, but that all should unanimously depose, not­withstanding the most rigorous punishments inflict­ed on them, a matter of Fact which they knew to be altogether Chimerical and false? Certainly this is a thing so very strange, or rather which appears to me so very absurd and extravagant, that I question whether our incredulous Adversaries could perswade themselves of it, provided they would but reflect never so little upon it.

But let us continue still to distrust our selves; may we not probably have made some false Suppo­sition in what we just now affirmed? we will there­fore go over again the same principles we just now established.

And indeed the more I reflect upon them, the less I conceive how we can possibly call any of them in question? For can I deny that Jesus ever was in [Page 24] [...] [Page 25] [...] [Page 26] the World, that he ever had any Disciples, or that those Disciples thought him at first the promised Messias? But why should I alone question a matter of fact which the Thalmudists, nay Julian, Porphirius, and all other Enemies of Christianity have always ac­knowledged? This is what I have shewn to be absurd.

Can I question but that if Jesus died and rose not again from the dead, his Disciples were then unde­ceived of the opinion they probably entertained, that Jesus was the Messias, the Son of God? If so, either they understood nothing at all by these two words, the Messias, the Son of God, or else they un­derstood quite another thing than that he was a Meer Man, who was to remain for ever under the power of Death after his Crucifixion.

Can I deny that the Disciples declared the Resur­rection of Jesus Christ after his Crucifixion? It's self evident. All the Earth has heard of the preaching of the Apostles, who all unanimously declared that Jesus Christ was risen again from the Dead: and 'tis purely upon their testimony that the World believ'd it.

Can we imagin that the Disciples of Jesus let slip a long period of time, as twenty or thirty years after the Crucifixion of their Master, and so having had time to embolden themselves, and to contrive an imposture, they suddenly appeared in the World, and preached that Jesus was risen again from the Dead? If so, how could the compilers or forgers of the New Testament, make the world believe that the Disciples of Jesus preached his Resurrection a few Weeks after his Crucifixion? How comes it to pass that the Jews never had the least thoughts of contradicting our Scripture in that respect? And what is the reason that the Christians yearly com­memorate two festivals successively one after ano­ther, one for the commemoration of the Death and [Page 27] Resurrection of the Lord, and the other for that of the coming down of the Holy Ghost on the Apo­stles, which was purposely given them to preach the Gospel in all places? If the Disciples had not preached the Resurrection of their Master till a long time after his Death, would it not have been ask'd them, what have you done since your Jesus was Cruci­fied? Rose he not sooner from the Dead? Or where­fore do you now preach his Resurrection so long after it? What could have obliged the Jews to assert that his Disciples had stolen away his Body by night, if his Resurrection had been preached so very late in the World? And how comes it to pass that there were Christian Churches established almost every where, by the sole testimony of the Apostles, few years af­ter the Death of Jesus Christ?

Can we suppose that it was out of ambition or revenge that the Disciples of Jesus published his Resurrection, as designing to make the Chief Priests and Scribes pass for Paricides, or immorta­lise their own names to Posterity? But could the Disciples think of revenging themselves on those Men that had so clearly shewn them their mistake in the Messias? Or could they fancy there was any revenge purely in inventing such a ridiculous fable? Would they buy their Revenge so dear as at the price of their own lives, and expose their persons to inevitable Torments, and certain death? then as for ambitious thoughts, did they entertain them immediately after the death of him who could only support and confirm them? Had they any reason to aspire after Glory and Grandeur, just when all their hopes were destroyed with their Messias? Is it likely a few poor Fishermen should have had such thoughts? Certainly had that been their design, they would soon have relinquish'd it, and the im­mediate scandal affixed to their profession, the Mi­sery [Page 28] and barbarous persecution it continually drew upon them, would have soon banished out of their Minds so ridiculous and extravagant a de­sign.

But to what purpose is it for any one to delude himself? 'Tis well known that when a Malefactor is put to the rack, he is forc'd to confess his Crime, the torments he endures extorting a confession of his most secret Actions. This is a way almost infalli­ble to discover truth; and human Justice often puts it in execution for that purpose; How were it pos­sible therefore that so many impostors together, that had been so often examined, and urged by Fire and Sword to recant what they had asserted, should yet so constantly persist in a false deposition? For 'twas not only one single witness, but a great Num­ber of Witnesses, who were not compell'd to suffer one single punishment only, but all sorts of punish­ments. 'Twas not only in one single place, but al­most in every place where they preached, they were urged to recant their opinion by the severest torments. Neither was it for one single Moment, but for every Moment of their lives that they were thus exposed to persecution. Not one single party was on their side? But Jews and Heathens, Kings and Magistrates, Prelates and People, openly declared themselves their Adversaries. They were not only assaulted with Persecutions, but reviled, contemned, and reproached, yet for all that not one of them recanted his Opinion. Being Separated or Confronted, they all unanimously deposed, not only that Jesus Christ was risen from the Dead, but that they had seen him after the Resurrection. If this be the Method commonly used to maintain an im­posture, I wonld gladly know how Truth it self is to be defended.

[Page 29] But perhaps the Disciples were themselves delud­ed, and Peter or some other Apostle, being so cun­ning as to remove the body of our Lord out of his Sepulcher, perswaded the other Disciples their Master was really risen from the Dead, and so they firmly believing his report, went about the World, preaching his Resurrection. But this Opinion ne­cessiarily falls of it self to the ground. For the Apostles not only testify'd that they had all seen Je­sus Christ after his Resurrection from the Dead, but that the holy Ghost fell on them in the likeness of fiery Tongues. They testify'd likewise the Truth of Christ's other Miracles, and 'tis impossible they should all have been deceived in respect of all those matters of fact at once.

Above all, 'tis necessary to observe this last kind of miracle, viz. the coming down of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles in the likeness of fiery tongues. For those Apostles boldly affirmed that with the help of that very miracle, they were endowed with the gift of divers Languages, so that Greeks, Romans, Parthians, Persians, &c. heard them speak every one in their own Language. This is a matter of fact which neither the Apostles could have deceived the World in, nor they themselves have been de­ceived in. It can't be imagined they could have deceived the World, or that some Fishermen could have been so bold as to pretend they were endowed with the gift of divers Languages, unless it had been really so; for they would in every place have been immediately convicted of the most notorious Cheat in the world. There were at Rome men who spoke Greek, as well as in Greece some that spoke Latin. And by reason of Trade, it generally hap­pens that there are men of all Languages in every Country. Now if St. Paul really understood no o­ther Language but that Greek spoken in Cilicia, can [Page 30] we suppose he would have been so bold as to boast in Asia of his speaking Latin, or any other forreign Language? Would he not have certainly met with people, who would have immediately convicted him of falshood? Neither is it more likely that the Apostles could have been themselves deceived in this respect, because 'tis a business of inward sense. I may easily be deluded outwardly, and think that I see a man indeed, when I see but the shadow, or fantom of a man. But I can never perswade my self that I speak several different Languages, when I speak but one. But when I see that men of diffe­rent Countries, who speak different Languages, do all understand my speech, there can certainly be no illusion in that.

The Validity of a Testimony is no longer incer­tain, when we are sure of two things; First, that the witness is not himself deceived; and Secondly, that he does not intend to deceive Others. Now this might easily be verified concerning the Disciples of Jesus. For first the matters of fact upon which their depositions were founded, are so evident and notorious, that none can ever be deceived in relation to them. Thus how is it possible that the eyes should think they saw, what they did not really see, that the ears should agree to witness nothing but what was agreeable to the Testimony of the eyes; that the hand should touch that which both the eyes and the ears perceived, not once only but several times, not the eyes, the ears and the hands of one single man, but of several men together, that they should unanimously profess themselves to be endow­ed with an extraordinary power, and that too of working miracles, unless they themselves knew the certainty of it? but tho we should suppose a man so Whimsical as to impose upon himself after that pro­digious rate, yet sure we could not without extra­vagance [Page 31] imagin, that the Apostles had utterly lost their senses by the same kind of madness; that this madness begun exactly after the Death of Jesus Christ; that the spreading of the Gospel over the face of the Universe was a wonderful contrivance of the same; that it was joyned to that Morality which is so excellent, so sublime, and yet so just and pious in it self, that the very Enemies of our Religion always reverenc'd it, And Lastly, that all manner of vertues deriv'd their original from such pretended madness, which works a change upon the World, sanctifies mankind, and exactly fulfills all those Oracles which foretold the calling of the Gen­tiles.

But if it appears that those men did not impose upon themselves, much less ought they to be suspec­ted of having had the will to deceive others; because their Simplicity and mean Education allowed them not to frame any such design; and besides the con­fusion they were in to see themselves frustrated of their hopes by the unexpected Death of their Master, would wholly have diverted them from it. Their temporal concerns too could not admit of it, and their shame to shew themselves to the World after what had happened, was of it self sufficient to hinder them from it. Moreover their Conscience would have check'd them for their superstitious fond­ness of the vain shadow of a Messias. And it is impossi­ble they could ever have agreed together so as to contrive that strange and notorious imposture. But supposing they undertook it, the Torments inflicted on them would have made them repent such a rash design; and the confession of one single person a­mongst them would have sufficiently discovered them all. Lastly, their Shame and Poverty, the Gaols and the Chains, the Stripes, the Fire and the Sword that were used against them to make them [Page 32] recant, sufficiently warrant us that they never in­tended to deceive the World. And if one single per­son so disposed is to be looked upon as an unheard of prodigy, how much more unlikely is it that a whole Society could have conceived such an extrava­gant design?

If the Testimony of the Disciples be false, we can­not chuse but look upon them as Mad men, or rather as Rascals, nay perhaps as both. And yet their preach­ing sufficiently shews the glory of their Innocence and Wisdom, to confound both these Calumnies. Let any man but read over the Books of those ad­mirable Writers, and there he will to his satis­faction find, that Honesty, Sincerity, and Self denial is inseparably interwoven with the most pure and most judicious Morality that ever was.

But this Reflexion puts me in mind that I must now hasten to the consideration of the Books of the New Testament, not to see whether they be human or divine (for that will be considered in its own proper place) but whether they be forged or not. For if once we shew that they are not forg'd, we need only read them over, to know the Testimony the Disciples bore of Jesus Christ himself. And be­cause that Truth will serve for a confirmation of what we have already said, we shall begin the follow­ing Section with the Consideration of it.

SECTION II.
Wherein we shall prove the Divinity of the Christian Religion by examining the Books of the New-Testament.

CHAP. I.
Wherein we shall prove that those Books can never be supposititious.

WHen I examin the Books of the New Testa­ment, all the doubts I strive to raise con­cerning them, amount only to these three, I. Whe­ther those Books were not composed by some Im­postor, who probably might have ascribed them to the Apostles? II. Whether those Books, supposing they were composed by the Apostles, were not after­wards corrupted by the Christians? III. Whether the Apostles the pretended Authors of those Books, did not themselves fill them up with many fictions for their Masters honour, and the advantage of their Religion? It is but just we should examine whether these three suspicions are well grounded or no.

And First, it is certain that in taking away the evidence of the Books of the New Testament, we overthrow that of all other Books, and call in ques­tion the account of all things past. For who will warrant me that Cicero's Orations are his own, if I can't reasonably assure my self that the Epistles of St. Paul were written by St. Paul himself? But [Page 34] hold! Perhaps it was easier or more advantageous to counterfeit the Books of the New Testament than those of Humane Learning. This is what we must a little enquire into.

And I. the facility there is in Counterfeiting the the works of an Author, wholly depends upon the several Circumstances of time, place, and persons, upon the subject matter of that Book, the temper of mens minds, their different notions, and their various interests which must be carried on in it. Now to counterfeit Books of Humane Learning seems in­finitely more easy in all these respects, than to coun­terfeit those of the New Testament.

I. Because they who counterfeit a Book of Hu­mane Learning, may take as much time as they please for it; but here we know not what time can be imagined the Books of the New Testament were forged in. If we look back from age to age, we find the Christians had those Books continually be­fore their eyes, and that they were quoted by the most ancient Fathers, who looked upon them as Sacred and Divine.

II. It is easy to counterfeit Books of Humane Learning, because there are generally but few peo­ple that interess themselves at all in them, at least but very indifferently: but it would have been a very difficult matter to counterfeit those Books which compelled men to suffer Martyrdom, as the Books of the New Testament did. If a man that lends out his money seeks the best security he can for it; what then must that person do, or rather what must an infinite number of persons do, who utterly renounce all things for the sake of the Go­spel?

III. There has been found some who have coun­terfeited Books of Humane Learning: but none e­ver known that were willing to die in defence of [Page 35] their forgery. Now none here can be suspected to have forged the Books of the New Testament, but only those who suffered Death in defence of the Christian Religion, and consequently to confirm the Truth of these matters of fact on which Chistianity it self is founded.

IV. A man may very well counterfeit a Book of Humane Learning, but not always, nor in all cir­cumstances, and 'twould be very ridiculous in a man to forge Letters that must have been written not long ago to whole Societies, or Epistles that must have been deposited in the hands of an infi­nite number of persons, and in very many different places. Now this must needs be affirmed of all the Epistles of the Apostles, which make up a very con­siderable part of the New Testament. And how could the Church of Rome have possibly been made to believe, that St. Paul wrote an Epistle to her; or the Church of Corinth, that she had received two Epistles from him, and so of the rest unless it had been so.

V. This argument is so much the more consider­able, since he that grants one point in this matter, unavoidably grants the whole: and if you should agree with me, that perhaps one single Epistle a­mong all those of the New Testament was not forg'd, you must grant the same thing of them all; or at least it will be to no purpose for the Incredulous to to cavil thereupon. For what if I should grant the four Gospels to be forg'd, does not the Book of the Acts of the Apostles contain, nay does it not neces­sarily suppose the same essential matters of fact, related to us in the Gospels? should I grant the same of the Book of Acts, are not the Epistles of St. Paul sufficient to inform us, that Jesus Christ wrought several miracles, rose again from the Dead, and ascended into heaven, and that the Holy Ghost de­scended [Page 36] upon the Disciples on the day of Pentecost? and that's as much as I desire. In a word, should I grant all the Epistles of St. Paul to be the works of another man, I need but receive those of St. Peter, or those of St. John, to prove the same thing. There being never an Epistle in all the New Testa­ment, but what mentions or implies those essential matters of fact, without which there can be no such thing as Christianity in the World.

Let us now see whether we can perswade our selves that all the Books of the New Testament, with­out excepting one fragment, or single Epistle a­mongst them, are forg'd; and whether we can en­tertain such a suspicion which no Heretick, no Im­pious, or Incredulous Person ever entertained.

But how is it possible all the Epistles of the A­postles should be forg'd, since they must have been committed to an infinite number of Persons, as they were really in the begining of Christianity, and since Tertullian tells us, that in his time they carefully preserved in several Churches the Originals of those Epistles which the Apostles had wrote to them?

Again, in what time, and on what occasion could this Forgery have been made? Was it during the lives of the Apostles? No: For could the World consider those Books as Sacred and Divine, which the Apostles themselves forg'd. Was it then im­mediately after the Death of the Apostles? Do we owe it to Clemens, Polycarp, and the other Doctors of that Age? By no means: for those Disciples of the Apostles separated themselves as soon as those great Lights of the World were extinguished. Po­lycarp went to Rome, to decide a controversy with a Bishop of Rome, occasioned in the Church about the time wherein they were to celebrate the Feast of the Christian Resurrection, or Passover. Those two great men differed much in that point, but yet they both [Page 37] greed unanimously to receive the Writings of the Apostles, and to look upon them as the true stand­ard of their Faith and Manners. Moreover, what Probability is there that so great a number of Churches could have been induced to receive so many false Epistles, so soon after the Death of the Apostles, and when there was so many Persons yet living who had conversed with them? In truth, this is so ex­travagant a Notion that we hold our selves not at all obliged to refute it.

But it may be objected that the Primitive Christians question'd the Authority of some Epistles, such as the Epistle to the Hebrews, whose Author was never certainly known, the second Epistle of St. Peter, that of St. Jude, &c. I grant it: but then I presume that this consideration makes for us, since it cannot be conceived that the Ancient Primitive Christians should dispute so long about some Epistles in par­ticular, had the rest altogether been as liable to suspicion.

But may we not reasonably imagin that during those strange disorders which followed the destruc­tion of Jerusalem, some Christians either perfect cheats, or but partly perswaded of that Faith, might have composed the Books of the New Testa­ment, and so after having inserted in them what­ever stories they pleased, ascribed them to the A­postles, to gain the greater veneration and respect for their fictions? No certainly, because the devas­tation of Jerusalem hinder'd not but that there might be very numerous Churches at Rome, at Antioch, at Thessalonica, Philippi, &c. whom it would have been impossible to have perswaded that the Apostles had wrote them some Epistles which must have been al­ready deposited in their hands. And besides that, it appears plainly that the Books of the New Testa­ment were composed before the destruction of Jeru­salem, [Page 38] because Jerusalem and the Church established at Jerusalem is often mention'd therein, without the least hint that Jerusalem was then utterly destroyed. Besides how could it come into any mans mind to forge such Books after the destruction of Jeru­salem, whose design was only to humble the pride of the Jews, to induce them no longer to hate the Hea­thens as being strangers, and to perswade them that tho God as yet suffered the carnal worship of their Law, they ought not to expect to be justified by that. This I say was the end of the New Testa­ment, and especially the Epistles of St. Paul, who seems earnestly to desire to unite the minds of the two Nations. And Heaven having sufficiently de­clared it self against the Jews by the destruction of their City, the confusion of their Tribes, and Fa­milies, and that general dispersion which made them Tributaries to all other Nations, there was no need of any further reasons to prove that the Jews were not the only Nation called to the Knowledge of the true God. 'Twas enough that this proof was evi­dently written by the hand of God in the just punish­ment of that people.

In the mean while, 'tis necessary to observe that by shewing that the New Testament was composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, I shew also that it is as ancient as the Apostles themselves: which affords us one determination very advantagious to our Cause. So that this objection being very fa­vourable to, instead of proving any thing against us, nothing hinders but that we pass on to the con­sideration of the second suspicion we were willing to entertain concerning the Books of the New Testa­ment.

CHAP. II.
Proving that the Books of the New Testament were never corrupted.

'TIs certain that from the Apostles time to ours, the New Testament was ever look'd upon as sacred, and not to be corrupted, without impiety and Irreligion. But whether it were Reason or Prejudice that made it so esteemed by the Christians, I shall now examin. It is enough that the esteem men have of it seems as ancient as the Book it self. Its being considered as the foundation of all our hopes, and the original of heavenly Revelation, its being read and order'd to be read in Publick and Private from the Age of Clemens, Polycarp, Justin and Iraeneus to ours: I say all this shews that it could not have been corrupted in its Essentials. But this Truth very well deserves a more strict consi­deration.

I say then how is it possible that all the World should have unanimously conspired to corrupt this Book? For tho' one single Doctor of the Church should have attempted it, yet the rest would certain­ly have opposed it. Tho' all the Christian Doctors dispersed up and down the World should have agree­ed to it, yet the people would never have consented to't. Tho' the Doctors and the People together should have been inclinable to it, yet sure their Ad­versaries would not have failed to reproach them with it. The Jews and Heathens whose only aim was to cry down their Religion, would never have concealed it. Julian, Porphirius, and all other par­ticular Enemies of the Christians would have drawn some advantage from it. In a word, tho' the si­lence [Page 40] of their Adversaries had favoured so strange an Enterprise, yet the different parties, and various Heresies which soon after sprung up among the Chri­stians, were an invincible obstacle to it.

'Tis well known that immediately after the Death of the Apostles, the Church was strangely disturb­ed by several various Controversies. For not to speak here of the Gnosticks, that abominable Sect, which deserves not the honourable name of Christi­ans, certainly the Opinion of the Millenarians (which Papias seems to have been the Author of) found­ed upon the Apostolical Tradition fifteen years after the death of St. John: the Controversy which soon after happened concerning the Christian Passover, to­gether with the Disputes of the Orthodox against the Origenists concerning the Resurrection, and several other Articles of the Christian Doctrin, I say these Disputes might easily have divided the Chri­stians in the first Century of the Church. Next to them succeeded the famous Disputes of the Ortho­dox with the Arrians, and with what heat and ani­mosities they were carried on, is sufficiently known to all the World. But however fatal all those Con­troversies were to the Church, yet they produced that good effect by the direction of Providence, which orders every thing to some good end, that they preserv'd the Revelation of the New Testament pure and entire, and at present strengthen our be­lief against all suspicions we might probably enter­tain in this respect.

For tho the Millenarians, the Origenists, and the Ari­ans should have attempted to corrupt the Scripture; yet how were it possible that the Orthodox which were so exasperated against them, should have suf­fered it to be done; or that if the Orthodoxes had had any such design, their Adversaries which were [Page 41] so incens'd, should have agreed with them in the same Intention?

Should I further grant this mutual agreement possible, doubtless the almost infinite number of Copies, of Editions, and Translations made at first of the New Testament, rendered the execution of that design impossible. For tho' a man had corrup­ted one single Copy among all those Copies, or translated those Books false, yet how could he cor­rupt all the other Copies of them which are dispers­ed in the World? or how could he alter so many other Translations which have been made of them in different times and in different places?

But supposing this were feasible, if the Writings of the Apostles were ever corrupted, it must have been either in their Essentials, or in things of little Im­portance; I mean by their Essentials, those mira­culous matters of fact related in the New Testament, as well as all those others which if true demonstrate the Truth of the Christian Religion. Now if those Writings were not corrupted in their Essentials, it necessarily follows that they contain several true matters of fact sufficient to prove the Truth of Chri­stianity. But if they were altered in their Essentials, there must have been added to them the Miracles of Jesus Christ, his Resurrection, Ascension into Heaven, the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the power the Apostles had of speaking strange Languages, and of imparting miraculous gifts to others. Now I affirm that all those matters of fact could not have been added to the New Testament, unless the whole Book was forg'd; because the subject matter of the New Testament consists of nothing else but of those matters of fact, or if you will of such things as evi­dently relate to them, and which would certainly be false, if those matters of fact were false. But let [Page 42] us joyn Experience to Reason, and consider that if the Christians had corrupted the writings of the A­postles, the Books of the New Testament would now be quite different from what they were in the former ages; and that having been continually altered from that time untill now, nothing could be more ap­parent than such an alteration. Yet 'tis easy to perceive the contrary, and it evidently appears by an almost infinite number of places of the New Testament quoted in the Books of the Fathers, that there never was a Book that suffered less alteration by the revolution of years than that did.

There are but two things, in my opinion that may be answered to this Argument; the first is, that in corrupting the Books of the New Testament, those places quoted in the Works of the Fathers might also have been altered. But this thought can never enter into any reasonable mans mind: for he must then suppose that there was a person in a man­ner Immortal, who might have had time enough to alter so many Books composed from Age to Age; and a man too so much Master of other Mens hearts and understandings, as to have been able to corrupt a Book the most universally read, and most careful­ly preserved that ever was, and to alter also with it all the Books of the ancient Fathers, without any body ever perceiving it, or making the least opposi­tion against it.

The second thing that may be answered, is that this corruption of the Scripture was done before a­ny of the Fathers begun to write, that is, fifteen or twenty years after the Death of the Apostles. But we need only recall to mind all the reasons that per­swaded us that the Books of the New Testament were not forged by the Successors of the Apostles: and it will appear they are no less conclusive in this place. In short, we need but joyn the Martyrdom of [Page 43] the Primitive Christians (who were not certainly so Whimsical as to die in defence of their fictions) with the passion the people had for the Writings of the Apostles, the Divisions which disunited the Church immediately after their Death, the variety of Translations, the number of Copies, the constant and perpetual Tradition of the Ancient Fathers, the connexion of the essential matters of fact of the Gospel, which is such, that he that admits of one, is obliged to admit of the other too, (as he that be­lieves the Ascension of Jesus Christ, is obliged to be­lieve his Resurrection also, and he that denies those matters of fact is no longer a Christian) the number of the Books which the New Testament consists of, the Repetition of the same matters of fact in them, the want of Time and Opportunity to invent, or es­sentially corrupt them, the impossibility of it, un­less the Book was wholly forg'd, the prodigious multitude of people who must have been imposed upon in that respect, the nature of the matters of fact they must have been made to believe, viz. that whole Societies had received some Epistles from the Apostles, which contained such and such things which they ought to have well remembred) the Ex­perience of time past, which evidently shews that from Clemens and Polycarp down to us, that is, for sixteen Ages together, the Books of the New Testa­ment were not essentially corrupted; the distance of places where those Books must have been forg'd or corrupted, together with the impossibility of making many fictions (which in all appearance those Books would have been full of) pass for Truth, and that so soon after the Death of the Apostles, when the World had their preaching yet fresh in their me­mory; the silence of the Enemies of the Christians on that account, who never mentioned any thing concerning that pretended forgery; the distinction [Page 44] the Primitive Christians made at first between the Writings of the Fathers and those of the New Testa­ment, which they looked upon as the absolute Rule and Standard of their Faith: All these considerati­ons, I say, put together plainly shew us, and that too in an evident manner, that it would argue mad­ness in the highest Degree longer to entertain either of the two former Suspicions.

I pass on therefore to a third, which is, that the Apostles themselves composed fables for the honour of their Master. But since this is the most consider­able of them all, and that which Julian, Mahomet, and almost every Incredulous person of these times chiefly urge against us, it is but reasonable I should more particularly and throughly examin it in the following Chapters; for truly upon that chiefly depends the solid proof of our Religion.

CHAP. III.
That the Apostles did not Write what was false.

TO comprehend distinctly that the Authors we speak of did not impose upon us in their Writings, it is fit to consider those Writings in particular one after another. They consist of three principal parts, which are the four Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistle of the Apostles.

St. Mathew writ the first, and his Gospel is quoted by Clemens Bishop of Rome, Disciple and Contem­porary with the Apostles. Barnabas quotes it also in his Epistle. And Ignatius and Polycarp who liv­ed in the time of St. John. Justin, Iraeneus, who lived a little after; Athenagoras, Tertullian, and all the [Page 45] other Doctors of the Church which succeeded them, unanimously received it.

There is not only the Gospel according to St. Matthew, concerning which 'twould be a very difficult matter to entertain any reasonable suspicions; but the Gospel according to St. Mark was also a while after written for a second support of our belief. The same Fathers who testify of the one, testify also of the other. Papias, Clemens Alexandrinus, Justin speak of it; and St. Iraeneus relates that Mark the Disciple of St. Peter composed his Gospel of those matters he had heard the latter speak of.

St. Luke who accompanied St. Paul in all his Tra­vells, wrote a third Gospel which the Ancient Fa­thers have also received.

Lastly, St. John, the last of the Apostles com­posed a fourth Gospel towards the latter end of his days, as the Doctors of the Primitive Church tell us; and this Apostle declares at the end of it that he himself is the Author of it: this is the Disciple, says he, which testifieth of these things which he has seen. chap. 21. 24.

It is to be observed first of all, that the four E­vangelists, who all agree in the plainness and inge­nuity which appears in their Relations, have never­theless a very different stile from one another. Thus St. John expresses himself after a very simple man­ner if compared with that of St. Luke, who being a Phisitian, ought to have written in a more lofty stile than St. John, who was originally a Fisherman. And this consideration removes the Suspicion we might entertain, that all those Gospels were com­posed by one and the same Author.

Secondly, We may observe that altho' these Writers agree essentially in the matters they relate, there is nevertheless some small difference betwixt them, which very sensibly shews us, that they com­posed [Page 46] their Gospels separately: Divine Providence having so ordered it the better to confirm ou [...] Faith.

Yet our incredulous Adversaries will not stand to this Assertion. They will perhaps imagin that the Disciples of Jesus having got together at Jeru­salem after the Death of their Master, took certain Measures to make men believe certain supposititions matters of fact, which they very exactly and precisely set down, least they should contradict themselves in the Testimony they should give of them; and that after having founded several Churches by then preaching, some of them took special care to digest those very matters of fact in Writing which they had preach'd throughout the World, after having invented them. I think this is the most plausible objection of theirs that is likely to be raised against this subject.

But in order to confute this imagination, it might perhaps suffice to call to mind what I have before mentioned, the absurdity there is in supposing that a few simple and ignorant Fishermen dejected by the Death of their Master, undeceived of the opinion they had entertained that he was their Messias; and so fearful that they fled when he was seized upon in order to his Crucifixion, should contrive amongst themselves how to deceive other men, when they themselves were so miserably deluded; that they should dare to invent a matter of fact which would certainly fix an eternal blot and scandal upon their Nation, by making the Jews be looked upon as so many abominable Murtherers; that all the Disciples should contrive this design together; that not one of them should confess the Truth; that the distance of Places, the severity of Punishments, the force of Truth, the Remorse of Conscience, the Pleasures of the World, which they utterly lost by their Pro­fession, [Page 47] should not be capable to break off this unani­mous contrivance of falshood; that they should glad­ly suffer for the confirmation of their Fables; that they should add to Constancy a virtuous life; that these Cheats should preach nothing but Vertue, Tem­perance, Charity, the Love of God and Humility; that they should command us to love our Enemies, and bless them for the sake of God which curse us; that Falshood should immediately undergo the trial of torments; that the simplicity of some gross sort of men should be capable of that nice Ambition, which consists in making men desire to immortalize their own names by suffering Torments and Death it self; and that the Malice of some impostors should be ca­pable to make Charity reign, to establish in the World all sorts of Vertues; to destroy the Heathen­ish Idolatry, by making the true God be every where adored, and to accomplish all those Oracles which concerned the calling of the Gentiles.

But this consideration will be much stronger and more considerable, if we consider the behaviour of the Apostles in opposition to that of those Here­ticks, who so much disturb'd the Church almost in its infancy. What Pride, self Interest and Ambi­tion was there not seen in them? Their thoughts were wholly bent upon making new Sects. Every one of them set up for a Ring-leader of factions. Simon called himself, the great Vertue of God, and his Helena the Holy Ghost. Menander who succeeded him pre­tended that he was Vertue it self, which was sent down from Heaven for the salvation of mankind. Basilides boasted that he declared things more sub­lime, and far more wonderful than the two former. And among this same rank must be also inserted Cerinthus, Carpocrates, Marcion, &c. who all en­deavoured to excel one another, in the particular design of raising themselves above all: not to men­tion [Page 48] at this time that which they pretended; that those who had attained to a certain degree of Know­ledge, which according to them, was a state of per­fection, might live as they pleased, and give them­selves over to all sorts of Passions. Such you see is the Character of Impostors.

If the Disciples of Jesus Christ invented those matters which they wrote after having preached them, they must themselves have looked upon Re­ligion as a meer Fiction. What is then the Reason they seem to us so different from those Hereticks which we just now mention'd? And wherefore in­stead of inventing, as the Gnosticks, such Doctrines as were favourable to their several passions, did they on the contrary preach a Morality which wholly tends to mortify all Evil and Irregular affections? Why did they not set up for Ring-leaders of factions? Why did not every one of them take a pride in himself? Why did they plot together to raise ano­ther man; being so unanimous that they never con­tradicted one another; so humble that there was not one amongst them that took upon him to be Head and Master; so disinteressed that not one of all the Passions incident to men seemed to have a share in their conduct?

Further it is observable, that those Ancient He­reticks we just now mention'd invented many points of Doctrine in opposition to one another. They talk'd of Invisible Eternal Spirits. They reasoned a­bout the principle of the World. They gave out many very fantastical Ideas of Jesus Christ and of the Holy Ghost. They established a subordination of Heavenly Vertues: and because all these Doc­trines did meerly depend upon Speculation, and not on Experience, 'twas an easy matter for them to use them to seduce the Simple and Ignorant.

[Page 49] The Disciples of Jesus Christ on the contrary con­firm'd whatever they said, not as those Impostors by some Eternal Invisible Spirits, and some abstracted and impenetrable Speculations, but by those matters of fact whose knowledg meerly depended upon the Senses themselves. Now 'tis well known that the Senses of the most simple are as much enlightened as those of the most Learned, which evidently denotes they had no manner of design of imposing upon men.

But it is not enough to shew that the Disciples of Jesus Christ were not of such a character as to invent those things which they preach'd: let us therefore proceed yet further, and endeavour to make it ap­pear that it is absolutely impossible that the Disci­ples of Jesus Christ should have invented those mat­ters.

CHAP. IV.
That the Disciples of Jesus Christ could not im­pose upon men in the matter of their Writings, or Preaching.

SInce the principal design of an Impostor is to con­ceal the cheat he intends to play, it is very easy to observe his Intention and Cunning in his choice of the Circumstances he relates.

For if he invents a matter of fact, he will certain­ly pretend either that it happen'd long since; or 'twas in a remote Country; or that there were but few Spectators of it, who are since dead; or that [...]t is a singular matter of fact which drew no Con­ [...]equence after it, and of which there can be no sen­ [...]ible Evidence given. In short, whatever a man in­vents, [Page 50] he still reserves to himself some means or other to bring himself off in case he were too far urged by some people who might interess themselves in the thing related.

But here we observe on the one hand, that men are more particularly concerned in the matters of fact which the Apostles relate, nay and all mankind. The Jews who are represented in them as most abo­minable Parricides, could not look upon them with­out some concern. The Christians whom the truth of these matters of fact engag'd to suffer Martyr­dom, could not but examine them with attention. And the Heathens whose Religion those matters of fact would certainly subvert, if once acknowledged to be true, were very much concerned not to con­sent to such a forgery. Lastly, the High-Priests were too jealous of their Authority, the Magistrates too much averse to all new Sects, and the People too much devoted to prejudice and superstition, ever to admit of these matters of fact without a strict examination.

We observe on the other hand, that those very men who published them, were so far from being sparing or cautious in their choice of the Circum­stances they related, that they set down expresly so many that must needs have been well known; that either they must have been immediately convinced of their falshood, or we acquiesce in what they told us.

For I. if you ask, in what place did they testifie and affirm the truth of these matters of fact? We answer at Jerusalem, and in Judea, the very places where all these things occur'd. And lest you should any ways question it, we will prove further by the Testimony of all Antiquity, that the Apostles esta­blish'd by their Preaching a Church at Jerusalem.

[Page 51] II. Would you know the time? 'Twas in the space of three years that the Miracles of Jesus Christ, his Death, Resurrection, and Ascension were brought to pass: and a few Weeks after the Ascension, the Apostles begun to Preach publickly in Jerusalem.

III. Would you know the witnesses of the truth of these matters of fact? We can produce a great number of persons who both lived and conversed with Jesus Christ himself.

IV. Would you fain know the nature of the matters of fact here attested? We shew you that they are very evident and singular ones; that the Sick are healed, the Winds and Seas hush'd, the Dead raised, a man put to death who convers'd with his Disciples, and ascended into Heaven, &c.

V. If you would know their number: we can shew that the whole Life of Jesus Christ was but one continual series of Miracles.

VI. Lastly, Would you know the proofs of all this? The Apostles themselves boast of having re­ceived miraculous gifts, and that too by a good Title, as we shall shew in the sequel of this Work.

In the interim do but unite all these Circumstances together, and see what an irresistible evidence arises from their Union? How could the Apostles perswade so many persons concerned in this thing, so many that had both known and seen Jesus Christ? Would they not soon have lost all Credit, if search had been made into the places, and the truth of what they affirmed strictly examin'd? Or rather, how is it possible that whilst they ventur'd to publish such things in the very places where they must necessari­ly have been brought to pass, the Jews should not have stopt the progress of the Gospel, by discover­ing to the World so visible and evident an Impo­sture? For the Apostles did not publish only one single matter of fact of this nature. They affirm'd [Page 52] also that their Master had raised Lazarus from the Dead, together with the Son of the Widdow of Naim, and the Daughter of Jairus; that he had heal'd almost an infinite number of people possessed with the Devil, Deaf, Blind, and sick of the Palsy; and that his fame had spread throughout all Syria.

Nor were the Apostles content barely to preach all these things, they put them also down in writing, and their Writings are dispers'd throughout all the World. Therefore they hid not themselves, but were willing every one should know the certainty of what they testify'd, and examine as much as they pleased the matters of fact they related. They gave them out to the World, and exposed them to be search'd all manner of ways. But supposing I should grant those Books to be written forty, fifty, or sixty years after the Death of Jesus Christ, still is it evident that before that time there was a Church at Jerusalem founded by the preaching of the Apostles; and it is certain that the Apostles had declared by word of mouth the Miracles and Resurrection of Je­sus Christ, which are the essential matters of fact contained in those Books.

For how could they otherwise perswade the World to worship a crucified man? or convince them that Jesus Christ was the true Messias? How was it possi­ble the Christians should look upon that Book as Di­vine, which went upon a supposition of what was never done? By what kind of agreement should four persons who wrote in different times and places, and copy'd not one anothers Writings (as is plain if we read them over with never so little attention, and consider their different manner of relating the same things) I say by what kind of agreement should they have conspired to inform us of the same mat­ters of fact, if the Apostles had not first of all una­nimously and universally publish'd them? How could [Page 53] the Apostles have perswaded men to turn Christians, had they not declared the Miracles, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ; since Christianity can't subsist without these matters of fact? Thus we see 'tis to no purpose for Impostors to disguise them­selves, for all their shifts and tricks serve only to discover them.

CHAP. V.
Where we shall more particularly examine, whe­ther the Apostles had the Power or the Will to deceive mankind.

THose men who have a design to deceive the World, must have more skill, wit and cunning than others; which skill, wit, and cunning will ap­pear in their works in spite of all their Art, and sub­tilty.

But when I strictly examine those Authors whom we call Sacred, I neither find Cunning, Wit, nor Affectation in their Books. Every thing they contain seems to me very simple, naked and open. They all exactly relate their own Weaknesses and imper­fections. They do not conceal their true Birth and extraction. They discover their ambition in their controversy, who amongst them should be the greatest in the flourishing Kingdom of the Messias; their gross ignorance in the Questions they asked their Master, and one another, viz. What meaneth this, to rise again from the Dead? their cowardise in betaking themselves to flight at the sight of the Soldiers that came to take away their Master, and their incredulity in those scruples they raised con­cerning his Resurection.

[Page 54] All these things plainly discover the greatest sin­cerity and impartiality. But yet there arises here a certain scruple which seems not altogether incon­siderable, and may deserve a little consideration. Who knows (perhaps some will object) but that this is an affected sincerity which prepossesses our minds in their behalf, only to deceive us the more securely? In order to overthrow this notion, I shall not assert that the Writers we speak of were originally Fisher­men and Publicans, and that it would seem very strange that men of that Birth and Education should affect simplicity, and be capable of so refined apiece of policy, of which there can hardly be given an ex­ample amongst the most able Politicians, that ever took upon them to deceive mankind.

Neither shall I say, that since the four Evangelists composed their Writings apart, 'twould be very surprising that they should all concur in the design of imposing upon the credulity of men, by Writing after so simple and ingenuous a manner; and that they should not only be entirely conformable to one another in this respect, but also should agree with the other Writers of the New Testament.

'Tis sufficient to observe, that they sometimes relate such things, as at first view suggest those no­tions in us which Piety utterly rejects, and Incredu­lity makes use of to oppose the Christian Religion, by attacking its divine head. This they would never have done, had they only affected an ingenuous sim­plicity. Thus it's ask'd, why Jesus Christ who was subject to his holy and ever blessed Mother, ac­cording to the observation of the Evangelists, should make her this answer, which is some what rough and severe: Woman what have I to do with thee? my hour is not yet come. Thus Julian the Apostate, Celsus, Porphirius, and other Enemies of the Christian Re­ligion, stick not to say that Jesus Christ gave some [Page 55] marks of his weakness in the Garden of Gethsemane, where the fear of Death made him sweat great drops of Blood, and where he cried out several times, O my Father, if it be possible let Mat. 26. 39. this Cup pass from me. They also pre­tend that this exclamation of Jesus Christ when nailed on the Cross, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? was an expression of his despair.

I know not here what to admire most, either the impudence of these proud Enemies of our Religion, or the force of Truth which still becomes stronger the more they endeavour to shake it. For as for the first, If the Enemies of the Christians wont believe the report of the Evangelists, how came they to know that Jesus Christ uttered these words, which give them occasion to think he wanted constancy? But if they will believe the report of the Evangelists, why should they refuse to believe so many miracu­lous matters of fact, which the Evangelists left to us in writing, after having been eye-witnesses of the same?

It is certain that we may find in our principles wherewith to explain those places they bring against us. The words which Jesus Christ spoke to his blessed Mother, give us only to understand, how very jealous he was of the duties of his Calling. He spoke to her as a Mediatour between God and Man, as the person in whom she ought necessarily to be­lieve in order to her Salvation; and who doubts but in that quality he had some Authority over her?

As for the sorrowfulness he expressed in his Ago­ny, it might proceed from a double cause, the one natural, and the other supernatural. He might very well fear Death as Man; and the pains in­flicted on his Humane Nature might force him to utter some innocent complaints. But that was not [Page 56] all that made his torments grievous. He was load­ed with the Sins of Mankind, and subject to the curse of the Law. He looked upon God as his Fa­ther, but God offered himself to him as an angry Judge. The more he loved his Father, the more sensible he was of the Grief he sustained in being re­mov'd from him. The measure of his sufferings consisted in the measure of his vertue; and what he says here to his Father, is rather the Language of his Love, than that of his Despair.

But if the Incredulous should say they are not obliged to subscribe to my explanations, because it is incertain whether they have any other ground than my bare imagination; I am willing they should entertain this scruple, and cherish it till by establish­ing my principles, I have an opportunity of answer­ing yet more fully all those difficulties. But in the mean time I hold that nothing can more demonstrate the sincerity of the Evangelists than those places just now mentioned: and I affirm that the sincerity of the Evangelists being well demonstrated, does invincibly prove the Truth of the Christian Re­ligion.

For certainly either those who composed the Gospels had a design to deceive Mankind in behalf of Jesus Christ and his Religion, or they had no such design at all. If they had any such design, they would have taken special care not to set down those Circumstances of the death of their Master, which might give the World an occasion to suspect he wanted Courage, or thought himself forsaken of God. But if in writing the matters of fact con­tained in the Gospel, they had no manner of design to deceive Mankind; we must then of necessity look upon them as being very sincere Authors, who would not deceive us, unless they themselves had first of all been deceived. So that all the question [Page 57] is, whether the matters of fact they tell us of are such as are shewn only by Illusion. And we need here only consider whether all the Disciples could have fancied they saw an infinite number of very singular and sensible Miracles, such as sick men heal­ed, Dead raised to Life, &c. and have believed that they themselves work'd miracles, when all the while there was no such thing.

'Tis to no purpose here to alledge, that the E­vangelists affected an ingenuous simplicity to avoid the suspicion of dishonesty. For had that been their design, they would have taken special care not to furnish impious men with places and passages on which they might raise imaginary triumphs. Nor is there any reason to believe that the Evangelists re­lated those words, because their simplicity was so great that they had not judgment to discern whe­ther they were for or against their cause. For what probability is there that men who had wit enough to deceive other people, should have so little in this occasion? Must a man needs be wise and learn­ed, when he chuses to represent his Master constant and undaunted, rather than sorrowful unto Death? And yet 'tis not one single Evangelist that relates the history of his passion after this manner, they all agree in this respect. And how could this be so? but that they only proposed to themselves to speak the plain truth, and they spoke it without consider­ing the impression it would make on Mankind, without examining whether the Incredulous would take occasion from thence to slander the Christian Religion.

In the mean while, if what has been said here is not sufficient, I am willing more particularly to ex­amin the matters contained in the Gospels.

CHAP. VI.
Where we shall examine the matters contained in the Gospels, and see whether they are capable of Illusion or Imposture.

THose Books contain an infinite number of ex­traordinary, divine and admirable things; but the principal of them are reducible to these four heads, I. The Birth, Genealogy, and Education of Jesus Christ, with all the Circumstances of them, which we shall not speak of at present, least we should be too tedious, having already mention'd them in our first part of this work. II. The Exer­cise of his Office, confirmed by an infinite number of miracles from his Baptism to his Ascension. III. The holiness of his life and conversation seen clearly in several occasions, and shining throughout the various Actions of his life. IV. His Doctrin and his Prophecies. From these four different heads spring forth such beams of Truth as wonderfully il­lustrate this whole matter. Let us therefore ex­amine them in their order, and keep still to our usual method, which is to raise as we go along as many difficulties as we can, and urge them on with all their force, to stop if it be possible the complaints of the Incredulous against us.

We may very well consider in the miracles of Je­sus Christ, their number, variety, and greatness, the noise they made in the World, and the manner in which they were received. And first the Evange­lists make appear the number, variety and greatness of them, in telling us that he changed Water into Wine in Cana, that he restored sight to the Blind, hearing to the Deaf, and health to the Sick; that [Page 59] he cleansed the Leprous, healed the sick of the Palsy, cured one of a withered Hand, another of a Dropsy▪ a third diseased with an Issue of Blood, that he cast out many Devils, raised the Dead to Life, appeased the stormy Winds and Tempests, and at several times wonderfully fed many thousands in the Wilderness. These Miracles are very nu­merous indeed, seem very much different from one another, and cannot proceed but from a Divine Power.

To this we must further add, that they are of such a nature as could not be concealed from the knowledge of men, that they must necessarily have an infinite number of witnesses, so that had the A­postles purely invented them, they might soon have been contradicted by an infinite number of people.

And yet it seems the most inveterate enemies of Jesus Christ durst not altogether deny the evidence of them; because they accused him of healing the sick on the Sabbath Day, and pretended he cast out Devils by Belzeebub, the Prince of the Devils: this sort of calumny being as it were an extorted confes­sion of his infinite Power, and a Testimony which they bore in spite of themselves to the Truth of his Mission.

Besides, 'tis easy to believe that the Evangelists did not invent of themselves what they make the Scribes and Pharisees utter on this account, because they unanimously agree in the relation they give us of it; they represent Jesus Christ refuting this ca­lumny, and assuring us in this occasion, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost would never be forgiven, a thing which could not easily enter into any mans mind: In a word, the Jews that came after, being compelled to own that Jesus Christ had done several miracles, were obliged to say that he had found out the true pronunciation of the great word Jehovah, [Page 60] and that 'twas by the help of this pronunciation (a pattern whereof he had found in the Temple) that he wrought so many miracles. See into what ex­travagant opinions men necessarily fall into, when they endeavour to shun the force of Truth.

But not to insist on all these vain Chimeras, me­thinks neither of these two Truths can reasonably be contested. The first is that Jesus Christ pretend­ed to have work'd many miracles. This is what his enemies reviled him with, when standing round about his Cross they said, he saved others, himself he can­not save. Let him now come down from the Cross, and we will believe him. The second is, that the Disci­ples who followed him, knew for certain whether he wrought any miracles or not. For since we have here to do with evident and singular miracles above the reach of Human Power, they could not but cer­tainly know the truth of them.

Things being thus supposed, I further consider, that of the many Disciples Jesus Christ had, there were but two that proved unfaithful to him: but it was not long before they did right to the Truth, tho each of them in a very different manner. The one was moved with a sensible regret, and wept bitterly, the other was so tormented with the re­morse of Conscience, that he was forced to make himself away.

Had Jesus been an Impostor, how came Peter to repent, and Judas to despair. If he falsly boasted of many miracles, those two men, those two con­stant and perpetual witnesses of his Actions, must needs have known it; and and if they did certainly know it, whence could then proceed the Repentance of the one, and the Despair of the other?

'Twould be to no purpose to use any Evasions in the history of Judas, which the Writers of the New Testament have represented to us as a thing publickly [Page 61] known to the World. This man (says St. Peter, in the first Chapter of the Books of Acts verse 18.) purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, burst asunder in the midst, and all his Bowels gush'd out. And it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem, insomuch as that field is called in their pro­per tongue, Aceldama, that is to say the field of Blood. Is it possible to be more particular in any thing? And could the Author of the Acts be so foolish to imagin he could invent all these Circumstances, and make St. Peter utter them without making him ridi­culous and himself liable to be contradicted

In like manner the Evangelists tell us all the Cir­cumstances of the Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. They say that at his death there was a great Darkness, and a dreadful Earth-quake, that the Rocks burst, and the vail of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. If all this were meer In­vention, those Writers shew'd but little reason in chusing such strange Circumstances to impose upon mens belief. Was it such an easy matter to per­swade all the Inhabitants of Jerusalem that on the day Jesus Christ was crucified, the vail of the Temple rent in twain, and several other notable Prodigies were seen? Was it not a pretty way of getting credit amongst men? And those men too who related such strange things contrary to the certain know­ledge of every one, and so soon after they must have been brought to pass, could they gain over to their side so many thousand people?

As to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Evan­gelists relate that the Stone of his Sepulchre was sealed, and a watch set over it; that the Soldiers said the next day that the Disciples of Jesus came by night and stole away his body whilst they slept, &c. If you doubt whether the Souldiers were suborned by the chief Priests, and gave out that the body of Jesus [Page 62] Christ had been stole away by his Disciples, St. Matthew will inform you of it in such a manner as will infallibly clear all your doubts. Now, says he, some of the watch came into the City, and shewed unto the Chief Priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the Elders, and had taken Councel, they gave large money unto the Soldiers, saying, say ye, his Disciples came by night and stole him away while we Slept. And if this comes to the Governours ears, we will perswade him and secure you. So they took the mony, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews unto this day. Chap. 28. v. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Here the Evangelist is far from designing to de­ceive the Publick in those things he pretends were publickly known. It is therefore to be confess'd that a watch was set over the Sepulchre of Jesus Christ, and that some of the watch reported such things as are mentioned by the Evangelists, or at least that it was supposed, that that same was their report. The question therefore is, whether the Dis­ciples did really steal away the body of Jesus Christ from the midst of a company of Soldiers that were appointed to guard it. But do but only reflect a little on the person of the Disciples, who were no better than poor and fearful Fishermen, on their Dispersion, their trouble and heaviness, the triple denial of the stoutest of them all, together with all other Circumstances of that Event; and it will appear that they were so far from executing so dangerous an undertaking, that it was impossible such a design could have ever entred into their heads.

And therefore Pilate was so truly convinced of the Truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, that he wrote to Tiberius about it. And 'twas on the ac­count of Pilate's Letter, that this Emperour went [Page 63] [...]o the Senate, and proposed the insertion of Jesus Christ among the Gods. We have no Reason to suspect this history, especially if we consider that Tertullian himself relates it in the Apology which he addresses to the Senate and the Roman Emperour, who needed only to have consulted their Registers to find the actions of Pilate, as they were so often desired to do by all those who wrote Apologies in behalf of the Christians.

In the mean time we have no great occasion of this outward Testimony, because there can be nothing more inseparably interwoven than these truths are: And we need only read carefully the Gospels over to be satisfied therein. We have seen the miracles of Jesus Christ with all their Circumstances; we shall now shew that his holiness of life was no less extraordinary than his Miracles.

CHAP. VII.
Of the Holiness of Life of Jesus Christ.

IF Jesus Christ was neither the true Messias, nor the Son of God, and if he falsly boasted that he wrought many Miracles, his Disciples must necessa­rily have considered him as an Impostor, as soon as his Death frustrated the hopes and promises they received from him. And if they considered him as an Impostor, there is little appearance they should propose him as a model of Vertue and Perfection to mankind.

But supposing they had this design, we may rea­sonably imagin that having neither the Learning nor Eloquence of the Authors of that Age, they would have had no better success in drawing an [Page 64] imaginary Character of their Master, than others in representing the Excellencies of those great men it was their interest to flatter. Yet if we chuse the politest Writings of this kind, the lives of great men composed with all art imaginable, Panegyricks that cost thirty years labour; add to these all the collected notionsof Vertue, the Wit and Observation of the most passionate, judicious, and elegant Ora­tors can furnish us with; joyn, the Cato's and Aristides's together, nay separate their Vertues from their imperfections, and ascribe to them all the good qua­lities we find dispersed in other men; I will yet maintain that all these Ideas, Notions and Characters come far short of that perfection the Evangelists make us conceive of Jesus Christ, and that too without Hyperbole or Art, but by a bare and simple recital of his Actions.

The Heroes of whose vertue the Ancient Heathens so much boast, directed their Actions to no other end than the glory of their Country, or their own am­bition: Whereas Jesus Christ referr'd all his Actions to the Glory of God. It may properly be said of them, that they aimed at nothing else but to furnish an infinite number of persons joyned together in a Society wherewith to satisfy their most inordinate passions, as we have already observed elsewhere con­cerning Cato. Whereas Jesus Christ design'd only to subdue the vicious desires and inclinations of mens hearts. The Ancient Sages would sometimes renounce Riches and Honours, but 'twas only to be­come slaves to Glory. If they overcame some small passions, 'twas only to submit themselves to the the Tyranny of greater. They sacrificed their other affections to their Pride and Ambition of Fame. Nay they were so puff'd up with the conceit of their own Wisdom, that they imagin'd themselves happi­er than the Gods, fancying they ow'd the temper [Page 65] and inclination of their minds to none but them­selves; that they were free from any passion, and were sole Lords of all. Jesus Christ on the contrary teaches us first to renounce vain glory. This is the first principle of his Religion. God, says he, resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. And he is so far from having us imagin we can be happy without the concurrence of God, that he shews us the wretched weakness and corruption of man when separated from his Maker. This the continual use of that prayer he taught us, would fully instruct us in, tho' his Morals and most holy Life should [...]ot. The Ancient Sages of Antiquity either were, [...]r seemed true patterns of Justice: but Jesus Christ [...]s the teacher and the true pattern of Charity; and ▪tis by Charity rather than Justice that we resemble [...]he Deity which confers good upon men, without [...]eing any ways obliged thereto.

'Tis easy to practice Vertue when attended with Reputation and Prosperity, as the Ancient Philoso­ [...]hers did; but difficult to continue virtuous as our [...]aviour did in the midst of poverty and ignominy, [...]nd in spite of disgraces and persecutions. So [...]ecessary is Esteem and Reputation in this life, that [...] seems to be as it were the very nutriment of mans [...]eart; and should men but consult themselves, [...]hey would find they cannot live without it. How [...]ft do those who think themselves uncapable of [...]er obtaining it, abandon themselves to such a [...]espair as puts them upon the blackest villanies: [...]hich has occasioned some Princes already odious or Cruelty, to defile themselves with all manner of oluptuousness, as despairing of ever recovering [...]at good opinion, they have already lost in the [...]inds of men? To see Christ hated, despised and [...]posed by the most considerable and leading men [...]ongst the Jews, and not able to gain the least [Page 66] credit or esteem, unless with some poor Fishermen so gross and ignorant, that they could hardly un­derstand what he taught them: would not it make one think that he had all the Reason in the World to fall into a kind of despair, and that since he could never hope for Reputation, to give himself over to all sorts of pleasures, and make his condition the best he could? Yet we see that being continually in disgrace and poverty, he omitted nothing of the severe practice of vertue. When he was affronted, he endured it with a sweet and gentle Patience. When he was despised, he went on boldly in his in­nocence. Tho' his followers were simple and igno­rant people, he still blessed God for it. I thank thee Father, says he, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, but revealed them unto Babes. Mat. 11. 25.

But we should wrong the blessed Jesus by com­paring him with the most admired persons of all ages, since none can come in comparison with him who is only like himself.

We need only reflect upon his life and actions re­presented to us by the Evangelists, to see whether we can find in him the least shadow of Vice. Would we know whether he was addicted to Voluptuousnes [...] we need only consider that his very Enemies dur [...] not cast this reproach upon him. I confess th [...] Mat. 11. 19. Pharisees call'd him a Glutton and a Win [...] bibber, a friend of Publicans and Sinner [...] but not because he was luxurious either in meat [...] drink; and they meant only that he ought not [...] have eaten with sinners, such as the Publicans wer [...] a reproach which Jesus Christ presently confound [...] by this answer no less worthy of his Wisdom tha [...] Goodness: They that be whole need no Physitian, [...] they that are sick. Mat. 9. 12. Should we fancy hi [...] Ambitious, 'tis but considering what use he made [...] [Page 67] his credit amongst the people. He privately with­drew, when they would have made him King; and always told them his Kingdom was not of [...] World. Did he seek after vain glory? Who decl [...]ed the praise of John the Baptist? Did he ever flatter the Doctors of the Law? Did he take any of those measures our pride generally uses to purchase esteem? How did he exclaim against the vices of the Scribes and Pharisees? and with what Authority did he speak to the People? Could he be suspected of design or self interest, he would have aimed at some temporal advantage. And had he been a Whimsical or Melancholy person, he could never have preach'd that excellent Sermon on the Mount. Consider the solidity of his Answers to those that asked him Questions, the beauty of his Maxims, which seem wholly to proceed from Piety and Cha­rity, and yet so sublime and excellent Morality, which is all along contained in the Doctrine he taught the people on the Mount▪

He expressed himself in a simple but noble Style, worthy the eternal wisdom of God, and suitable [...]o the simplicity of every mans understanding. And as if he had liv'd only to do good, he was never weary of exhorting men to live well. He travelled [...]ver all the Villages of Galilee with an indefatigable [...]atience. He spent the days in instructing the Mul­ [...]itude, and the Nights in making his supplications [...]o God. He rejected none that offer'd themselves [...]o him, and consider'd not men by their outward [...]ppearance. When he desired to be followed, 'twas [...]ot for the pleasure he took in a great retinue, but [...]he better to teach the Multitude. When he eat [...]nd drunk, 'twas with those people only he had a [...]esign to convert. When he spoke of the things of [...]his World, he used them only as Representatives [...]f things above. When he sharply rebuked his [Page 68] Disciples, 'twas because they would put a stop to the work of his Ministry. When he was desired to eat, he replie [...] his meat was to do the will of his Father. When he thirsted and came nigh unto any fountain, it was rather to put men in mind that he was the spring of Life, than to quench any thirst of his own▪ Whatever offered it self to his Senses, elevated his thoughts to something Divine. He was far from that busy Curiosity, that Preference of himself before others, that false Modesty so frequent among men, and indeed from all those other affected Vertues, which no less discover the bottom of our Corruption, than our Vices themselves. His concern for his fa­mily never came in competition with his con­cern for the Kingdom of God. 'Twas not self-love, but a divine love which was the rule of his affections, since he called all those who did the will of his Fa­ther, his Father, Mother, and Brethren. If he was an­gry, 'twas his concern for the glory of the Deity; and he was eaten up with the zeal of his house, when he found they had made it a den of thieves. He not only patiently endured but pardon'd a thousand injuries, nay obliged himself to love his Enemies, commanding all his true Disciples to do their bes [...] Endeavours to bring themselves to it. In a word, search and examin the heart of man as long as yo [...] please, you'll never find there such vertues as thos [...] of Jesus Christ were. Consider well the conduct o [...] his whole life, and you will scarce sind the least ap­pearance of any of the inordinate passions or irreg [...] ­lar desires of other mens hearts. Consider all th [...] pleasures and profits of the World, and you wi [...] find they are things Christ ne'er sought after. E [...] ­amine one after another all his proceedings and a [...] his Actions; and you'll find they did not in th [...] least incline to the things of this World

[Page 69] After what manner can we think the Eternal Son of God must have lived in the World, supposing he came into it, unless as Jesus Christ? What other language ought he to have spoken but that of Jesus Christ? What kind of Vertues ought he to have practised but his Vertues? What kind of Charity ought there to have appeared in him, but that of Jesus Christ? And whom ought he to have been con­formable to, but to that man, in whom we find something more than man, even the Vertues of a God concealed under the fleshly vail of Humane In­firmity?

We can't suspect that 'twas Ambition as well as his other Qualities that exalted him so far above all other men, and that his design was only to raise himself to the highest Authority in Religion. He must then have foreseen that which afterwards came to pass, that his Cross would be acknowledged in all the World: And to foresee that he must have been a Prophet. But tho' he should have foreseen all these things, still 'twas necessary he should have had Strength enough to overcome himself, to overcome himself continually and in all respects, to renounce all the pleasures of life, and expose himself to the most cruel sufferings: but it was impossible his Soul should have been continually strengthened to that degree by the bare consideration of a Glory that seem'd to be ima­ginary, and at such a distance too. In short we know partly what kind of Vertues may proceed from the bottom of a worldly and ambitious heart, and we also very distinctly know that so solid a Vertue, so Univer­ [...]al, so far from any Hypocrisy and Affectation, so con­ [...]rary to the Vertues of the World, of a Character above Imitation, above those very Ideas men [...]ramed to themselves of it, could no more arise from [...]uch a source as a worldly and ambitious heart, than [...]ight can be said to proceed from darkness.

[Page 70] But who will assure us that the Evangelists did not flatter their Master in his Character, and repre­sented him as he ought to be, not as he was? This thought has yet less solidity than the former. For if this here be but a witty conceit of those Writers, I ask how could some poor, simple and ignorant Fish­ermen invent such a model of Vertue, as was never seen or thought of before, and whose Idea is so far a­bove what all Antiquity gives us of its Heroes? Besides, the Evangelists make no Eulogies upon their Master, nor aggrandise his Vertues, nor affect to give us a more particular view of his best Actions: but they on­ly give us a bare and simple Recital of them, without any Art or Design; Nay such is their sincerity, or if you will their want of judgment (for we freely permit the Incredulous to make what suppositions they please) that they related such things as at first shock our thoughts, and which Impious men chiefly insist upon, such as this complaint of Jesus Christ, My God, My God, &c. Besides this, the Circum­stances with which they relate all the actions of their Master, will sufficiently convince us of their sin­cerity▪ For is it probable the Evangelists should have invented or forg'd the murmurings of the Scribes and Pharisees, who reproach'd them saying, Why do ye eat and drink with Publicans and Sinners? &c. And that controversy betwixt the ambitious Disciples, on whose account it was that Jesus Christ having taken up a little Child, told them they must be like that Child, if they would qualifie themselves for the Kingdom of Heaven, &c. a wonderful discourse indeed both for its shortness and simplicity, which sufficiently shews us the very Soul of our blessed Lord! 'Tis not one single Writer of all these, that relate those Actions, there are three of them, who wrote after such a manner as manifestly evinces they copy'd not one anothers Writings. And if you would [Page 71] be further satisfy'd, the Apostles themselves prove the Holiness of life of their Divine Master, by imita­ting his Actions. The Primitive Christians shew us how well the Apostles lived by following their Ex­ample. If you should desire we should produce some authentical testimonies of Holiness, Vertue, sweet and peaceable temper of the Primitive Christi­ans: there are abundance to be had in the Writings of their very Enemies. We need only an indiffe­rent Knowledge of Antiquity, to banish all suspici­ons in that respect.

Thus the truth appears on all sides; and I sensi­bly perceive it as soon as I frame any Idea to my self of the life and actions of Jesus Christ. Yet I am willing however, that the Incredulous should not wholly conform their judgment to mine; and if this Argument does not move and convince them as much as it does me, they need only pass on to the consideration of others.

CHAP. VIII.
Of the Prophecies of Jesus Christ.

THey will perhaps be much more affected with the Prophecies that occur in the Gospel, seve­ral of which are very expresly delivered. But among the rest we shall make choice of one which we shall particularly examin: 'tis that concerning the final destruction of Jerusalem.

We may easily perceive how clearly 'tis set down by the Evangelists, who bring in Jesus Christ fore­ [...]elling it, and how exactly 'twas afterwards fulfilled.

The words of the Prophecy are these. And Jesus answering said unto him, seest thou these Mark 13. 2. [...]reat buildings? There shall not be left one [...]tone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. &c. [Page 72] And when ye shall hear of Wars, and Rumours of Wars, be ye not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For Nation shall rise against Nation and Kingdom against Kingdom: and there shall be Earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: for all these are but the beginnings of sor­rows, &c. When ye therefore shall see the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Daniel the Prophet, standing where it ought not (whoso readeth let him understand) then let them which be in Judea, flee into the mountains. Let him which is on the house top, not come down to take any thing out of his house, &c. But wo unto them that are with Child, and to them that give Suck in those days. For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not since the beginning of the Creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be again. And except that the Lord had shortned those days, no flesh should be saved, but for the Elects sake, &c. And then if any man shall say unto you, lo here is Christ, or lo he is there: believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false Prophets, and shew great signs and wonders to seduce (if it were possible) even the Elect. But take ye heed: be­hold, I have foretold you all things.

It is not requisite that a man should be very well acquainted with the Jewish History, to know that this Prophecy was exactly fulfilled. Those who doubt it, may consult the History Josephus wrote of it. There they will hear of Troubles, of Wars, Rumours of Wars, of Famines, Earthquakes from place to place, which preceeded for some years the final destruction of Judea. Therein they will find Jerusalem surrounded with Armies, and trodden down by the Gentiles. There they will read of a time, wherein 'twas much better for the Inhabitants of that miserable Country, to forsake their abodes in the Cities, and to flee to the Mountains. There they will see the Temple of Jerusalem burnt down and [Page 73] demolished, without having one stone left upon ano­ther; and surely be convinced that there was never Tribulation like unto the Tribulation of those days. They will be no longer ignorant of the Abomination of Desolation set up in the holy place which the Pro­phet Daniel speaks of, when they shall see the Jews rushing into the Temple, and there cutting one anothers throats on a solemn feast day. But if they would further consult our Ecclesiastical Histo­rians, or the Primitive Fathers, they would find them all agree in this Relation, that the faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ, who were at Jerusalem, fled to a little City called Pella, after having been fore­warned of it by the Spirit; and there will be no longer reason to think these Words of Jesus Christ obscure, But pray ye that your flight be not in the Win­ter, &c. There are few people but what perceive the exact Conformity of this prophecy with its E­vent; and we need not at all question the certainty of it: But 'tis not so very certain that it was not composed after the Event, and it will concern us to enquire into it.

It appears then first, that the Gospels wherein 'tis related, were composed before the destruction of Jerusalem, because St. Luke wrote not the Book of Acts, till some time after he had composed his Gospel, as he testifies himself in these Words: The former treatise have I made O Theophilus of all that Jesus begun both to do and to teach, &c. Acts 1. 1. Besides, it seems that St. Luke, had written the Book of Acts before the destruction of Jerusalem; because he is so far from speaking of that Event, that on the contra­ry he speaks of Jerusalem as of a City that was still in being, and wherein there was a flourishing Christian Church.

But perhaps this is not so much insisted upon; It may be further ask'd whether that prophecy might [Page 74] not have been inserted in the Gospel by some Zea­lous Christians, who having seen the destruction of Jerusalem, might have took occasion from thence to honour their Master, by pretending he had foretold it.

For the clearing of this doubt, we shall observe first, that tho' this Prophecy be the same in substance in the three Gospels wherein 'tis related, yet 'tis expressed after a very different manner, which is sufficient to perswade us that it was not inserted by one and the same Author in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, in the Gospel according to St. Mark, and in the Gospel according to St. Luke. For to examin the beginning of it only, it appears that St. Matthew relates it thus, Chap. 24. And Jesus said un­to them, see ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the Disciples came unto him privately saying, tell us when shall these things be, &c. Now St. Luke expresses himself thus, Chap. 21. And as some spake of the Tem­ple, how it was adorned with goodly stones, he said, as for these things which ye behold, the days will come in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another. Here he does not say as St. Matthew, that the Disciples as he sat upon the Mount of Olives asked him saying, Master, but when shall these things be? &c. Lastly, after this manner also St. Mark begins this Narra­tion, Chap. 13. And as he went out of the Temple, one of his Disciples saith unto him, Master, see what stones and buildings are here. And Jesus answering said unto him, seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives over against the Temple, Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew asked him privately, tell us when shall these things be, &c. This last Evangelist perfectly explains and reconciles the [Page 75] other two together, by delivering all the Circum­stances of the matter of fact, viz. that Jesus was two several times asked concerning the buildings of the Temple, and that the last time was as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, from whence one might very well see the Temple, and where that prospect gave occasion to his Disciples to desire that he would explain what he said of its Demolishing, when he was yet in the Temple it self. In the mean while it is to be confessed that the little difference we perceive in this respect between the Evangelists, utterly overthrows the suspicion we might entertain, that this Prophecy was forged by some body or o­ther, who had inserted it in all the three Gospels.

But II. it's worth our observation that the Disciples having confounded together two very remote E­vents in the question they asked their Master, viz. the destruction of Jerusalem, and the end of the World, saying, tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the End of the World? Mat. 24. 3. Jesus Christ answered with­out undeceiving his Disciples, and without distin­guishing what they had thus confounded together. Now what likely-hood is there that a man who had seen the destruction of Jerusalem, but could not imagin it should be attended with the End of the World, should make the Disciples utter such a Question, without making Jesus Christ answer the least thing for the clearing of it?

But rather III. how should he have been able to joyn in this Prophecy the destruction of Jerusalem to the coming of the Son of Man in the Clouds with great Power and Glory? How could that Man who had been an eye-witness to the destruction of Jerusalem, have reasonably said, that presently after the tri­bulation of those days, the Sun should be darken'd, and the Moon should not give her light; that the Stars [Page 76] should fall from Heaven, and the powers of Heaven be shaken; that mens hearts should fail them for fear, and for looking after those things, and that the World should mourn, &c. How were it possible he should have intermixed all those Circumstances with the history of that matter of fact, the falshood of which he must needs well know, if he composed the Prophecy after the Event?

But do we not fall here from one difficulty into a greater? For if all those signs which were to ac­company the destruction of Jerusalem, did not really come to pass, wherein then lies the truth of this same prophecy?

To answer this Objection some think it sufficient to say, that Jesus Christ expressed himself in this place after the usual manner of the Prophets, who say, that Nature trembles, and Heaven and Earth is moved, when God visiteth men after some extra­ordinary manner either in his Goodness, or Justice. They further add, that the Judgments of Christ ex­ecuted on the Jews, are represented to us as a com­ing, and as a Singular coming, by reason of the ter­rible plagues he inflicted on them. But what seems to me more reasonable and natural than this is, that Jesus Christ thought it not convenient to undeceive his Disciples who being prepossess'd with a favour­able Opinion of their Nation, thought that Jeru­salem should last as long as the World, and that the ruine of the one, should be the ruine of the other. He therefore seemed to side with their Opini­on, and represented those two Events to them by the same signs.

And indeed I conceive there might be several Reasons which obliged Jesus Christ so to act. For not to alledg here that Obscurity is the true Cha­racter of all Prophecies, and that it was necessary this here should be somewhat overshadowed, as well as the rest, lest any one should foreknow the [Page 77] time of its Accomplishment, God having reserved that knowledge to himself, as it is delivered to us in this same Prophecy, was it not also Necessary that Jesus Christ should follow the ordinary Custom of all the Prophets, which is to unite several very remote events together in one single Prophecy, to shew that the remotest things are nigh one another in the sight of God? Besides, the Destruction of Jerusalem being the greatest and most perfect Description of the End of the World, what could be more wisely thought of than to represent the one to us by the other, ac­cording to the Notion of the Disciples, who con­founded those two Events together.

There happened Pestilences, Wars and Famines immediately before the Destruction of Jerusalem: there will also happen the like immediately before the end of the World. As the Tribes which dwelt in the holy Land, mourn'd to see the effects of the Curse of Heaven falling upon their Nation; so shall all the Tribes of the Earth mourn, and be asto­nished, when God shall destroy this inferiour World, and proceed to the last Judgment. As the Destruction of Jerusalem happened not till the Go­spel was preached throughout the World, that is, in all the parts of the known World: so in all ap­pearance the end of the World will not happen till all the Nations which lay concealed and unknown have been converted to the Faith of Jesus Christ. As there were seen false Christs, and false Prophets, before the final destruction of the Jews; so there will be also false Teachers who shall endeavour to seduce men, before the End of the World; and it will be often said, lo here is Christ, or lo he is there, before the last day of Judgment. As before the destruction of Jerusalem Jesus Christ gathered toge­ther in some Christian Churches the Elect, from the four Winds of Heaven, and that by the preaching [Page 78] of the Apostles his Mystical Angels; so likewise at the end of the World, he will send his Angels to raise his Elect from the Dust and Obscurity of the Grave. For the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and the Dead in Christ shall rise. 1 Thess. 4. 16. As there were seen several Comets and terrible Signs that foretold the Destruction of Jerusalem; as the Smoak of the City and Flaming Temple hid the light of the day, and darkned the Sun and Stars; so without doubt the end of the World will be also attended with Signs and Prodigies much more terrible. St. Peter saith, the Earth shall be burnt up, and the Elements shall melt with fervent heat, &c. 2. Epistle 3. 10. As the Destruction of the Jews hap­pened after an unexpected manner; so also shall the last day come as a thief in the night. As Jerusa­lem and the Temple were utterly destroyed as soon as the Jews had compleated the measure of their sins: so this World which we inhabit must perish as soon as the end or Calling of all Nations shall be fulfilled, as Jesus Christ himself says in that Prophecy we now have under Consideration.

Besides, one may reasonably imagin the Disciples to be always prepossessed with this Opinion, that the End of the World would immediately follow the destruction of Jerusalem. For when it was reported among the Disciples that St. John should not die, because Christ had said to one of them speaking of John 21. 22.him, If I will that he tarries till I come, what is that to thee? They stretch'd that till I come, as far as the end of the World: but they might have confined it to the Destruction of Jerusa­lem, a time which the Apostles in reality saw, and in which Jesus Christ visited the Jews in his justice. Further, this Tradition being spread abroad, that the day of the Lord drew nigh, the Thessalonians [Page 79] were so terrifi'd at it that St. Paul to comfort them, again sent them the following assurances to the Contrary. Now we beseech you, Brethren, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Chrst is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except first, &c. 2 Thess. 2. 2, 3.

In a word, there is no reason to wonder that that Prophecy of Jesus Christ so faithfully related by his Disciples, should have left this Impression in their minds. For Jesus Christ on the one hand had given such marks and signs of his coming, that it seemed as if the last judgment was immediately to follow it; saying, that he should appear as the lightning that cometh out of the East; and shineth even unto the West: and on the other hand he had declared several times that all those things should happen to that generation, that many of those who were present with him, should not taste of Death until they had seen all those things.

Since then Jesus Christ united thus two several Events in one and the same Description, but two subordinate Events, as like unto one another as the Copy and the Original may be, it follows thence that his Prophecy must have had two accom­plishments, the one very nigh, and the other re­mote. This in my opinion is the true way of un­ravelling all those Difficulties. The Disciples con­founded together two very remote Events, and Jesus Christ suffered them to continue in that Opinion. 'Tis necessary that the Event should justifie the Prophecies, but not that the Prophecies should be contrary to their Event. It is necessary therefore they should be obscure before their Completion, but clear and easy when once accomplish'd.

But however probable what I've laid down may seem to be, I should be very sorry any one should [Page 80] think I lay the stress of my argument upon it. I make a distinction between bare Conjectures, and true and certain Principles; and I leave all the Ex­planations I have just now given to the Readers judgment, to use according to his Discretion. I am indifferent whether he uses my Notions, or those of any other Man, to solve certain difficulties which may occur therein: I shall only insist upon two cer­tain Truths, which in my opinion admit of no Diffi­culty. The first is, that this Prophecy is so cir­cumstantially related, that it is absurd to imagin it composed after the event: or that a man took oc­casion from the Destruction of Jerusalem (at which none but Titus and his Army were seen) to make Jesus Christ say, when he foretold that Devastation, that he would come in the Clouds of heaven; that he would send his Angels to gather his Elect from the four winds; that they would see him coming with power and great glory; as the lightning that cometh out of the East, and shineth even unto the West; that all the Tribes of the Earth should mourn at his coming; and that day should come as suddenly as the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The second Truth which seems to me altogether unquestionable, is, that notwithstanding that little darkness with which the Wisdom of God thought fit to overshadow this prophecy, it was nevertheless in all Respects so very exactly related in all its Cir­cumstances, and so clearly fulfilled, that supposing it composed before the Event, we cannot but ac­knowledge it to proceed from a Prophetical Spirit. For what can we Read in the History of the Jews, but what is included in this Prophecy? The beginning, the continuation and ending of the Misfortunes of the Jews are all to be found in it. It does not foretel a particular Captivity of that people, but a general dispersion of the whole Nation: and they shall be led Captives into all Nations, Luk. 21. 24. Jesus Christ [Page 81] wept over Jerusalem on another occasion at his en­tring into it, and uttered these Compassionate Words, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come, that thine Enemies shall cast a Trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep the in on every side, and shall [...]ay thee even with the ground, and thy Children within thee, and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another: because thou knewest not the time of thy Visitation. Luke [...]9. 42, 43, 44.

And can any one believe that this passage of our Saviours weeping over Jerusalem was also inserted in [...]he Gospel? Were all those Prophetical Parables in­ [...]erted too, in which Jesus Christ threatned the Jews [...]ith their approaching Destruction, telling them [...]ne while, that the Lord would let his Vineyard to other Husbandmen, after having destroyed them as so ma­ [...]y unfaithful servants; another while that the King [...]ho had invited them to the Marriage of his Son, would [...]nd his Soldiers to destroy them, and burn up their City?

But not to go so far off, one of the Marks where­ [...]y they ought to have known that the Event which esus Christ had foretold drew nigh, was that the [...]entiles were to be called to the knowledge of the [...]ue God. This is expresly delivered in the places [...]e have already quoted. He therefore that insert­ [...] this Prophecy in the Gospel, must have imagin­ [...] that in his time, the Gentiles had already been [...]lled to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But since [...]ere were then an infinite number of Christians, dis­ersed throughout World, since an infinite number [...] Persons had the Writings of the Apostles in their [...]ssession; How was it possible either to alter or [...]d thereto several Parables and Chapters, nay to [...]rrupt three Gospels in three Essential places? If ch a thing had been done in Asia, how could it [Page 82] afterwards have been received in Europe, where there must necessarily have been an infinite number of Copies of that Gospel? For of all the Books of the New Testament, the Gospels were first composed.

And now do not the Incredulous as yet perceive that Truth overthrows more scruples than they are able to raise against it. That they continually offer Violence to thelr Reason, by resisting the Truth which appears so strong and invincible on all hands; and that tho' their Reason is sometime perverted and blinded by their Passions, so that they cannot see things in their due light; yet the Objects, the Na­ture of things, and the Truth which is immutable, never shift or turn a side to follow the foolish fancies of their Understanding, or the perverse Inclinations of their Heart?

CHAP. IX.
Wherein we shall examine the matters contained i [...] the Book of Acts.

THe matter of this Book may be reduced t [...] these three heads, viz. the Ascension of Jesu [...] Christ, the coming down of the Holy Gost upon th [...] Apostles, and the Establishment of the Christia [...] Churches by the successful preaching of the Apostles All these things are of such a nature as could no [...] possibly be forg'd.

The Ascension of Jesus Christ is related with to [...] many Circumstances to leave us any reason to be­lieve that the Disciples themselves were deceive [...] therein. The Author expresly affirms that Jes [...] conversed the space of forty days with his Discipl [...] after his Resurrection; that he promised them the [...] [Page 83] should be baptised with the Holy Ghost, and com­manded them to wait at Jerusalem for the effect of that promise, that he carried them to the Mount of Olives; that he was taken up in a Cloud, which carried him out of their sight; and that as they stedfastly looked up towards Heaven, as he went up, two men stood by them in white apparel, and pro­mised them that Jesus Christ would come again in like manner as they had seen him go into Heaven. So that [...]t is no longer a question whether the Disciples were deceived in this respect; but rather whether they had a mind to deceive others by a false Relation of so Chimerical an Event.

For the perfect understanding of this Matter, it is sufficient to observe the time in which the Disciples begun to declare it. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, says St. Luke, they were all with one ac­cord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven, as of a rushing mighty Wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there ap­ [...]eared unto them Cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it [...]at upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and begun to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout Men, out of every Nation under Heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, be­cause that every man heard them speak in his own Lan­guage, &c. But Peter standing up with the eleven, lift [...]p his voice, and said, &c. Then they that gladly received his Word, were baptised: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand Souls, &c. And fear came upon every Soul, and many wonders and signs were done by the Apostles, Acts Chap. 2. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 14, 41, 43.

That this matter of fact was not invented, ap­pears by the bare Consideration of it: because this [Page 84] is a thing as must have been brought to pass at Je­rusalem upon a solemn feast day, before men of all sorts of Nations, and as I may so speak, in the sight of all the Universe; and which Consequently is such as could not possibly have been forg'd or invented.

What then can be objected to shake the Certain­ty of this History? Can it be said that this Matter of fact was inserted in the Writings of St Luke, long after the Death of that Author? But then it must at the same time be confessed, that the whole Book was forg'd, because that is an essential and fundamental matter of fact, on which the other things contained in the Book of Acts altogether de­pend. Thus for instance, the preaching of the A­postles and the success of it wholly depend upon it. Whatever is contained in their Epistles absolutely relates to it. And lastly, every thing in the New Testament is forg'd, if the coming down of the Holy Ghost on the Apostles be a meer Invention.

Shall I believe that St. Luke himself invented this matter of fact, and that no one ever spoke of it be­fore him? If so, what was it the Apostles said to those they preach'd the Gospel to? What did they ground their preaching upon, but only on the Missi­on of the Holy Ghost? What other right but that had they to preach?

Did the Apostles themselves to deceive Mankind, pretend that they had received the Holy Ghost? This is the only plausible suspicion the Incredulous can entertain; yet for all that it is absurd. For when was it they made this Pretension? It must ne­cessarily be either after they had founded a Church at Jerusalem, or some time before. If it was after they had founded a Church therein, how was it possi­ble this Church should have been afterwards per­swaded that the Apostles had received the Holy Ghost; that they had publickly spoken all sorts of [Page 85] Languages, and that their preaching attended with several strange prodigies, had been the occasion of the forming that Church?

But if the Apostles pretended they had received the Holy Ghost, before there was ever any Christian Church established in Jerusalem, nay if it were by a false attestation of this matter of fact, and many other such that they founded this Church: the Apo­stles must of necessity have learned all the Languages in the World since the death of their Master, and together with that the secret of making the lame walk, and healing the sick: because these are what they call the gifts of the Holy Ghost.

But perhaps 'tis a question whether there was ever any Christian Church founded at Jerusalem? If so, then must the Ancient Doctors of the Church who lived in different times and in different places, have conspired together to deceive us in this respect; and the Jews and Heathens, and all other profess'd Enemies of our Religion, as well Ancient as Modern, who never contested the truth of this matter of fact, must utterly have lost their Reason.

In a word, supposing the Book of Acts composed long after the destruction of Jerusalem, that is, when there could be no longer any flourishing Church in that City, yet there is no point gained. For it is true still that the Apostles set down the matter of fact we speak of, and that their Epistles are filled with such things as visibly relate to it.

I shall not here further add that the Book of Acts mentions nothing of the Death of the Apostles; which manifestly shews that it was composed during their lives, and consequently in a time wherein the Church of Jerusalem flourish'd: nor that it mentions nothing of the last destruction of Jerusalem, no not so much as any of the signs or presages of it; which induces us to believe that that Book was composed [Page 86] some time before that great Event; it being very probable that the Author who composed it meerly for the Glory of the Apostles and of the Christian Religion, (as the Incredulous undoubtedly imagin) would never have failed to have inserted in it the History of all those dreadful Misfortunes which fell upon the Jews, and which the Christians look upon as the effect of their rejecting the Messias.

But since my design is not to leave the Reader the least shadow of a doubt, I promise to prove by and by, that the Apostles both received and imparted many miraculous gifts. In the mean while till the Method I have prescribed to my self, gives me leave to enter upon that subject, I think it fit to make some few Reflexions concerning the success of the Apostles's preaching, which is that essential head to which all other matters contained in the Book of Acts relate.

CHAP. X.
Wherein we shall take into Consideration what success the Preaching of the Apostles had.

THis matter of fact is related with very remark­able Circumstannces. As I. That those men who first preached the Gospel were Fishermen, that is, gross and ignorant people, of no appearance, or authority in the world. II. That those men went about preaching that they had seen Jesus Christ risen from the Dead, and ascending into Hea­ven, and that they had long before been Eye-Witnesses to his Miracles. III. That they offended by their preaching all the Powers of the World, and exposed their persons to an infinite number of [Page 87] Dangers and Misfortunes. IV. That they suffered them with Patience, or rather with Joy. V. That the success of their preaching was so swift and sud­den, as is almost inconceivable.

In all this St. Luke has told us nothing but what our own Reason would tell us. We may conclude that they were men of no extraordinary birth, or credit in the World that first preached the Gospel, since no body has ever said any thing to the con­trary.

'Tis manifest that those men ought to have testi­fied that they had seen Jesus Christ work many mira­cles, seen him risen from the Dead, and ascending into Heaven: because they would never have con­verted so many Nations as they did, had they only said they knew all those things by hear say: and be­sides that the Epistles of the Apostles inform us that that was the subject of their preaching.

There is no doubt but all the Powers of the World persecuted these men: for as much as Policy is an Enemy to all new Sects, and the People themselves are always Jealous of their Religion.

It cannot be doubted neither, but that the Apo­stles very couragiously suffered the effects of that persecution: because had they recanted, or drawn back for fear of punishments, their design would have miscarried in its very beginning.

Lastly, who can deny but that the success of their preaching was very swift and sudden; in as much as in a short time there were several Churches esta­blished in all parts of the known World? This is a matter of fact which was never contested.

And therefore Reason, as well as St. Luke, tells us all these things. The Book of Acts informs us of the Truth of them; and the Nature of things will not suffer us to doubt but that they were so: which ut­terly [Page 88] destroys the suspicion we might entertain, that they were all forg'd or invented.

In the mean time I cannot consider all these mat­ters of fact, nor unite them together, and observe the proportion they have one with another, with­out presently believing the Truth of that Religion which they so plainly Prove and Establish.

CHAP. XI.
Wherein we shall examin the matters contained in the Epistles of the Apostles.

THo' the Ancients had not unanimously received the Epistles of St. Paul, tho' Clemens, Polycarp, and Barnabas, had made no mention of the second Epistle of St. Peter; yet it would be sufficient to ob­serve that they were written to some Churches, that is, to whole Societies, who for a long while preserved the Originals of them, to assure us that they were not forg'd.

'Tis then our concern to see whether we can find therein any Characters of the Divinity of our Religi­on. We cannot Read St. Paul's Epistles without observing therein I. The Piety and Charity of that Apostle. II. His Impartiality and Contempt of the advantages of the World. III. His Courage in en­during afflictions, which instead of disheartning, rather overjoy'd him. IV. A continual repetition of the Testimony which the Apostles bore of the Truth of the Resurrection of the Lord. V. Such things which manifestly denote that St. Paul had re­ceived the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost. and that those that then believed very frequently re­ceived them.

[Page 89] The Piety of that Apostle so variously discovers it self in his Writings, that we cannot think it dissembled without offering Violence to our Under­standing. For tho' a man should constrain himself upon some occasions, yet is it possible he should after the very same manner during a great part of his life, in all his Actions, in all his Words, in his manner of telling of things, which oftener discovers the bottom of the heart, than the things he speaks of. I know very well Hypocrisy covers it self with the external shew of Vertue: but really there is yet something which I can't express, a simple and natural air in true vertue, which is not to be met with in Hy­pocrisy: or rather Hypocrisy is neither so subtle, nor clear sighted, but that it discovers it self on one side or other, nay often it lets drop a wordwhich un­masques it to the eye of the World.

However I am willing the Epistles of St. Paul should be strictly examin'd, to see whether any thing but what is very natural and sincere can be found in them. Could there proceed from the Malice and Perfidiousness of a man, who had so lately accused his Nation of a Crime he knew to be utterly false, so many Exhortations to fear God, so strong, so moving in themselves and so often repeated, that they wholly take up the Writings of this Apostle? Could his humility proceed from thence, whereby he refers every thing to God as to the Center of all good things? so sincerely telling us, What hast thou that thou didst not receive? And if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Cor. 4. 7. We are yours, you are Christs, and Christ is God's, 1 Cor. 3. 23. Could his hatred too for vice arise from thence, which upon all occasions he testi­fys and expresses after so strong and lively a man­ner?

[Page 90] His Charity appears no less in his passionate con­cern for the sanctification of his Brethren. All his Epistles are a continued serious of tender or moving Exhortations, or rather ardent requests he makes them to love one another. He desires they should live soberly, justly, and religiously. He addresses himself both to Servants and Masters, to Poor and Rich, to Parents and Children, to Young men and Old men. Having no prejudice nor hatred for any one, he pours out himself in thanksgivings and blessings for all men, he speaks to them after a very tender and moving manner. He calls them his little Children, his Beloved, his Bowels, his Glory, and his Crown. And what was his design in all this? only to inspire them with the love of God, and their Neigh­bour.

How does he extol the excellence of Charity. Tho' I speak, says he, with the tongues of men, and of Angels, and have no Charity, I am become as sounding brass or tinkling Cymbal; and tho' I bestow all my Goods to feed the Poor, and tho' I give my body to be burned, and have not Charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; Charity envieth not; Cha­rity vaunteth not it self, is not puffed up, does not behave it self unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provok­ed, thinketh no Evil, rejoyceth not in Iniquity, but re­joyceth in the Truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things. 1 Cor. 13. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Such is the Idea St. Paul had of Charity, in which appears the force of Reason and of true Vertue, with­out the fantastical weakness of superstition: he pre­fers Charity to miraculous gifts, and therein ap­pears the spirit of true Religion.

This consideration of the Character and Vertue of this Apostle is so much the more considerable, that it forces us in despight of our selves, to assert [...] one of these two things; either that St. Paul was a wicked [Page 91] man, and a notorious Impostor; or else that he had heard the voice of Jesus Chrict in the way to Da­mascus, that he had received the Holy Ghost, and was truely the Apostle of Christ. So that whoso­ever proves that St. Paul was no wicked person, does even thereby prove the Divinity of Christian Religion.

I desire therefore the Reader throughly to consi­der the style of his Epistles, and examine them from the beginning to the end, to discover the true Ge­nius and Character of them.

What is it this Apostle desires of God? that those whom he speaks to might live good lives, and that God might be glorified by their works. What does he complain of? Vice. What is it he chiefly praises? Vertue. By what motive does he act, or speak as he does? By quite another motive than that of self interest.

St. Luke had already told us in the Book of Acts, that he work'd for his Living, and that his Employ­ment was to make Tents. Whereupon we shall make these two observations. I. That St. Paul ha­ving been a Pharisee, bred up at the feet of Gamaliel, would have thought it beneath him to follow so vile a profession, had he been worldly minded or ambi­tious. Secondly, that this Apostle resolved to work with his own hands for his Living, in a time which other people would have greedily embraced to ac­quire wealth. For what could have been refused to those men, who opened to mankind the direct way way to Heaven, and gave them certain hopes of Eternal Salvation? For it cannot be denied but that was the opinion of the Primitive Christians with re­gard to the Apostles.

But if St. Luke should be thought to have imposed upon us in the Relation of this Matter, 'tis but hearing what St. Paul himself says of it, who cer­tainly [Page 92] would not have undertook to perswade those people of it against their own proper knowledge. Behold, says he to the Corinthians, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: For the Children ought not to lay up for the Parents, but the Parents for the Chil­dren, 2 Cor. 12. 14. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, &c. and then, have I caught you with guile? And in another place, Have I committed an of­fence in abasing my self that you might be exalted, be­cause I have preached to you the Gospel of God freely? 2 Cor. 11. 7.

St. Paul would never have spoken to them after this manner, had he preach'd only out of self inte­rest, according to the Custom of those who carrying a worldly mind along with them into the Sanctuary, are meer huchsters of Religion, and make a Trade of the most sacred and sublime Mysteries of Christi­anity.

But supposing St. Paul acted not by a principle of self interest, which is generaly the center of other mens Actions, who will assure us that he owed not his Virtues to Pride, which is another nice kind of Interest, to which some men direct all their Acti­ons?

I am very well perswaded that men may out of a capricious fancy ascribe the best Actions to Pride, and give the name of Hypocrisy to the most sincere Vertue. For what can put a stop to the continual rovings of a Soul, that endeavours only to raise doubts and scruples? But then I also affirm that there are such visible marks in the conduct and actions of St. Paul, as manifestly evince in spight of Incredulity, that his Vertue was solid, and his self denial [...]incere. But this I hope will more plainly appear by the follow­ing reflexions.

[Page 93] We need but a very indifferent Knowledge of mens hearts and inclinations, to know that as there are two different states into which men may fall, so likewise there are two different sorts of Passions, which then arise in the soul. Prosperity is the cause of pride with all the other Vices that accompany it Poverty and Misery that of Covetousness, with all that is consequent upon it. Not but that Cove­tousness is found sometimes even in Prosperity, as well as Pride in the midst of Misery: but that is not my meaning. I only would say, that Prosperi­ty is as it were the Kingdom of Pride, and Poverty the Kingdom of Avarice: because a man that is rich, being content in that respect, generally seeks after Glory. Whereas a man that has scarce wherewithall to live, little thinks of acquiring glory, but aims only at a bare subsistance. Whence it follows that instead of vainly imagining that St. Paul design'd to reduce himself to extream Poverty, and at the same time was very earnest in the pursuit of Glory, it is rather more natural to believe, that he could not so much as propose to himself Glory, as the only end of all his Actions, untill the first found himself exempted from Want and Misery.

Nevertheless this reasoning seems to carry with it the force of Conviction; since there have been those who have despised riches only to gain the esteem of men. It must therefore be further added (to distinguish St. Paul from this last sort of men) that he was not only poor, and forced to labour for his living; but that he suffered also all the Misfor­tunes and Disgraces a man is capable of enduring. 'Tis well known how much Adversity dejects our minds, and humbles the proud thoughts of our hearts, and we may venture to say, that had those Philosophers we lately mention'd, been overwhelm'd with a continual series of Misfortunes, still leading [Page 94] on and following one another; had they been loaded with Chains, mark'd with stripes, exposed to storms and shipwracks, to the scorn of the learned, the bitter scoffs of Princes, the hatred of Magistrates, and the fury of the People, as St. Paul was, their Pride would soon have been abated, their hopes dis­appointed, and the Natural love of ease and quiet, together with the impatience to get out of so wretch­ed a Condition, would soon have superseded all o­ther thoughts.

Besides, those very Philosophers who so much de­spised riches and dignities, despised them only out of self love, but not for the sake of others: since being little concern'd at the welfare of their neighbour, they commonly retired into solitary places, or kept com­pany only with other wise men, where they took pride in applauding one another, for having re­nounced the World to give themselves wholly up to the study of Philosophy. But here the Apostles for­sook every thing to labour for the Conversion of mankind. St. Paul made Tents, as well as Abdolominus dug in a Garden: but the one ceased not to per­swade men by preaching the Gospel, whilst the o­ther minded nothing but his own repose and tran­quillity.

Lastly, the Philosophers had this consolation that however they renounced riches, they esteemed them­selves happy in the enjoyment of true Vertue. For blinded as they were by self-conceit, they were far from imagining their Vertue false, and the Idea they had of its excellency, was their only comfort for what they had lost of the things of this World. Whereas St. Paul and the other Apostles being but Impostors, as Irreligious men suppose, could not have that comfort which arises purely from the sense of ones own Vertue, but were wholly deprived of the support of a Good Conscence, which keeps the [Page 95] soul from sinking under the greatest dangers and afflictions. In a word, consider this matter on which side you will, still you will find somewhat singular in the conduct of St. Paul; and that no Character equals his Apostolical Character.

But perhaps some will object that St. Paul seems to boast a little too much in some of his Epistles of the Excellence of his Revelations. He writes to the Galatians, Chap. 2. 9. that he had received nothing from the most excellent of the Apostles, or rather, that he was not behind even the very best of the Apostles. That James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be Pillars of the Church, had given him the right hand of fellowship; Chap. 1. 16. that after he had been made an Apostle, he did not confer with flesh and blood, neither went he up to Jerusalem to be there approved of by the other Apostles; Chap. 2. 11. that he withstood Peter to the face, and blamed him because he deserved to be blamed.

But this difficulty cannot perplex those who shall be acquainted with the reasons that obliged St. Paul to speak and act thus. There were several false Teachers among the Galatians, who endeavoured to destroy the fruit of the preaching of that Apostle, by joyning the Jewish Ceremonies to the Christian Faith, and alledged for it the Authority of Peter, James, and John, whom they had seen at Jerusalem. He therefore fearing lest under pretence of follow­ing the Doctrine of the three principal Apostles of our Lord, they should subvert his Work, under­takes to shew that the Excellence of his Ministry was not in the least inferiour to that of any other Apostle. Under this consideration he compares himself to the other Apostles in his Epistle to the Galatians, beginning it after this manner. Paul an Apostle (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Crist and God the Father; &c. And tis upon the very same account; that comparing himself in his second E­pistle [Page 96] to the Corinthians to some Teachers, who en­deavoured to disturb him in his Ministry, he ex­presses himself after this manner. Chap. 11. v. 22, 23, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. Are they Hebrews? So am I: Are they Israelites? So am I: Are they Mi­nisters of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods. Once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwrack. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own coun­trey-men, in perils by the heathen, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings of­ten, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the Churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not?

Can any one suppose that St. Paul would have presumed to speak so particularly of all his afflicti­ons, and with so much confidence, for the good of the Church whom certain Seducers would have dis­swaded from the faith, if those afflictions had not been real and well known to the World? If what he asserts had been false, sure he must have perceived that far from silencing his Enemies this way, he ra­ther supplied them with new matter to reproach him with? But if what he asserts was true, who doubts but that he was strongly perswaded of the Truth of the Christian Religion, when we see how much, and in what manner he suffered in defence of the same? What piece of imposture, or mistaken principle can inspire a man with so much confidence as this Apostle shew'd? Produce a wicked man that can undergo a continual Martyrdom in defence of a cheat, and yet breath out nothing in all his Wri­tings but Zeal, Confidence, and Charity. Produce a [Page 97] wicked man, who being just come out of Prison, shall strive to re-enter into it, and continue preach­ing a Gospel, which has cost him so many stripes; who being an Enemy to his own Nation, a perfidi­ous seducer, who having renounced all his possessions only for the sake of preaching to others, shall yet not so much as receive his diet and cloathing from them; Nay who after this usage still preaching on, will not so much as exempt himself from any labour (however vile and contemptible) for a livelyhood; as St. Paul declared he would not in his Epistles to those people, who would undoubtedly have refused him nothing; who in fine, after all this, shall still re­fuse and without affectation reject the glory which his preaching and self denial seem to merit; and who to shew the reasonableness of his refusal shall teach us to ascribe all honour and glory to God as the first great Author of our Being, and princi­pal end of all our Actions. 1 Cor 9. 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. Even so, saith he, has the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel, should live of the Gospel. But I have used none of these things, that it should be so done unto me. For tho' I preach the Gospel, I have no­thing to glory of, for necessity is laid upon me. Yea, wo is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel. For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, a dispensation of the Gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that when I preach the Gospel, I may make the Gospel of Christ without charge, that I a­buse not my power in the Gospel. And in another place, Phil. 3. 8. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the Excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung that I may win Christ.

Thus St. Paul rooted up all Vanity out of his heart. He was not carried away with vain shews of glittering Vertue and Merit; But sought only the [Page 98] remission of his sins. All his strength was in Christ. He affirmed that God had sent his Son into the World to save sinners, of whom he was chief. He confessed that he had blasphemed that holy name by which we must be saved; that he had persecuted Jesus Christ in his members. He imputed his Conversion to Grace, and spoke of nothing but of Grace. Now what could so much humble the heart of man as the consideration of the Immense greatness of God, the wretched misery of mankind, their desperate cor­ruption, and the infinite Mercy of God manifested to them in the sending his Son: all which took up the Discourses, Epistles and Mind of St. Paul, who including all his designs in one, proposed nothing else to himself, but the knowledge of Jesus Christ and him crucified?

But some perhaps will object, is it not true that St. Paul in acting as he did, got himself immortal honour? This the Event has sufficiently shewed; and therefore why should we not believe that St. Paul acted by a principle of vain glory, having fore­seen what would certainly happen?

Certainly it would be a very pretty conceit to imagin that Saul who was prejudiced against the Christians, and a proud Pharisee, designing to im­mortalise his name, should affirm an imposture that as much shocks our Reason as that of the Disciples (if we may believe what the Incredulous say) that he should have imagined he could deceive both pre­sent and future ages by such gross fictions; that he could have drawn Strength, Courage, Constancy, Charity, Piety, from such a chimerical project and perfidious design; that he should have fought with beasts at Ephesus, out of the hopes of an imaginary immortality, which one day would not flatter his ashes in the Grave; that he should retain so much Pride in the midst of Shame and Torments; and [Page 99] that a vain notion which is the usual effect of Idleness, Luxury, and Prosperity, should immediately triumph over the most real, and most lively Sentiments of Nature.

But what of all this? St. Paul was perhaps a Poli­tician, a man that understood the World, who had some secret self interest in all his designs and practi­ces. But is it possible that his Character would never have been known? Would he not have con­tradicted and so betrayed himself? Was there no way of discovering his Ambition, when the people taking him for Mercury, would have sacrificed to him in Lycaonia? And if we would reflect upon his Epistles, might we not find marks of that prodigious Vanity which made him act thus? Let the Incredulous con­ [...]ult themselves thereupon, and judg what they would have done on the like occasion.

Perhaps they could find in their hearts to turn [...]mpostors, but never to suffer for their imposture, [...]r if they were disposed to suffer for an imposture, t must be one that would in the end certainly pro­ [...]ure them great Riches; not one that would oblige hem to renounce every thing, to suffer, and crown heir sufferings with Martyrdom. 'Tis true, a man [...]ay be disposed to renounce every thing, and suffer [...]eath it self for the good of his Country, the pre­ervation of his honour, or some other seeming [...]wful Reason, but never in defence of what he [...]nows to be a fiction. The thought of being re­ [...]embred by Posterity might flatter his Pride; but ot so far as to oblige him to make this present life [...]retched and dreadful, and to sacrifice to that [...]ought all his real temporary advantages. He [...]ight find himself inclinable to deceive other men, [...]d to accuse his Nation of an imaginary crime, [...]t not when he testifies an extraordinary kindness [...]r it, and does his utmost endeavours to sanctifie [Page 100] it. He might entertain the thoughts of seducing other men; but not at the same time discover a won­derful Resolution in his Words, and a thousand vertues in his Actions. Search as long as you please the hearts of men, you will never find all these qua­lities united therein. As we cannot give an Ex­ample of it in the life and actions of any man, so perhaps the Idea of it never enter'd into any mans mind. What folly is it then to imagin, that all these things were really to be met with in the Person of St. Paul, and of some other Fishermen? How can a man ground such an imagination, unless upon a mind desperately resolved to deceive it self?

But lest we should be thought without any ground to advance any thing concerning the Courage of that Apostle, let us hear him speak himself. 2 Cor. 4. 17. For our light affliction, says he, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory. And in another place, 2 Cor. 7. 4, 5, 6. I am exceeding joyful in all our Tribulation. For wh [...] we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest: b [...] we were troubled on every side; without were fighting [...], within were fears. Nevertheless God that comforte [...] those that are cast down, comforted us. And in the 12. Chap. of the same Epist. v. 10 Therefore I take plea­sure in Infirmities, in Reproaches, in Necessities, in Per­secutions, in Distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak then am I strong. Nay he pretends that all those who are animated with the same spirit that he was, cannot forbear piously rejoycing in their suf­ferings. But the fruit, says he, of the spirit is Lo [...], Joy, Peace, long Suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Fait [...], M [...]ekness, Temperance, Gal. 5. 22. That is the tr [...] Character of a Christian. And the Apostles desig [...] in preaching was to plant these Virtues in the mind [...] of men. But let us see further some other marks of the joyfulness and confidence of St. Paul. He ex­presses [Page 101] himself after this manner in some of his E­pistles. 2 Cor. 4. 8, 9, 10. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed: we are perplexed, but not in despair; per­secuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be mde manifest in our body. And in another place, yea, and if I be [...]ffered upon the sacrifice of your faith, I rejoyce with you [...]ll, for the same cause also do ye rejoyce with me, Phil. 2. [...]7. From whence could proceed those motions of Joy which St. Paul so naturally expresses, which no Art can imitate, which run through all his Epistles from the beginning to the end, and which seem to spring from an heart, which not being able to con­ [...]ain its inward pleasure and satisfaction, opens and [...]nlarges it self, and breaks forth into these lively [...]xpressions of Joy?

Certainly such sentiments as these could never [...]pring from Nature. For Nature sends forth sighs [...]nd groans under her sufferings. The Stoicks who [...]ndeavoured to stifle her innocent complaints, pre­ [...]ended that a man might overcome himself to that degree, as to preserve his mind serene and calm in [...]he midst of Torments: but the Stoicks never went [...]o far as to believe that joy could spring out of the midst of the bitterness of afflictions. None but the Christians could ever find unspeakable joy and com­ [...]ort in the midst of their sorrows. Who was that [...]aul then that had thoughts so elevated? Only an [...]mpostor if we will believe the Incredulous. By [...]hat strength or power does he so much surpass the [...]ertue of the Stoicks? By the power of the greatest [...]mposture that ever was. And can any one really be [...]erswaded of such a thing? For my part the only [...]ifficulty I find in all this, is to imagin that the proud [...]retended Patrons of Humane Reason should be so [...]nreasonable and Extravagant.

CHAP. XII.
Wherein we further examine the Epistles of St▪ Paul.

THe third thing to be observ'd in the Epistles of St. Paul, is, that they are as it were a continu­al repetition of the Death, Resurrection, and Ascen­sion of Jesus Christ, or at least of such things as es­sentially belong to them: so that altho the four Go­spels should be lost, still the Substance and Essentials of the Gospel are to be found in the Writings of St. Paul. Now this appears in the beginning of almost every one of his Epistles. Concerning his Son, says he in his Epistle to the Romans Chap. 1. v. 4. which was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holyness, by the Resurrection from the dead of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this appears yet more expresly in several other places, as in the 15. Chap. of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, v. 3, 5, 6, 7, 8. For I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and th [...] he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After th [...] he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once: of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but so [...] are fallen a sleep. After that he was seen of James, th [...] of all the Apostles. And last of all he was seen of [...] also, as of one born out of due time.

So boldly does this Apostle speak of the Resurrecti­on of Jesus Christ. He does not only say in general terms that Jesus Christ was seen after his Resurrecti­on; but in particular that he was seen of Cephas, of James, of the other Apostles, and of himself; that [Page 103] he was seen by five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greatest part was then living, whom he appealed to as witnesses of the Truth of what he said, and who might easily have contradicted him if it had been false. But if so great a number of peo­ple really saw Jesus Christ after his Resurrection, that matter of fact can never be false. For how is it possible that five hundred, three hundred, nay fifty persons, should maugre all punishments, conspire to­gether to maintain a fiction? But if such a number of persons neither saw, nor certified they had seen Christ after his Resurrection: how should St. Paul have presumed to write this to an infinite number of persons, who seeing and conversing with the A­postles, must have known the certainty of it? How durst he name those whom he pretends that Jesus Christ appeared to after his Resurrection? How great was his boldness to assign so great a number of Witnesses of that Truth, and to affirm that the great­est part of them were still living? How comes he to speak of it slightly, by the way, or only as a thing universally known? He tells it, but not with any turn of Wit or fineness of Expression, which Im­postors use to varnish over a specious lye, who use the more art and insinuation, the more incredi­ble the things are they would induce men to believe. But why should not he boldly assert the Truth of the Resurrection, since as he pretends, the Holy Ghost evidently bare record of it?

In a word, St. Paul speaks in his Epistle of miracu­ [...]ous gifts as of a thing universally known. He calls them the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, and sometimes only the Holy Ghost. He that should attempt to cut off from his Epistles every place wherein he men­ [...]ions them, would certainly take away the most considerable part of them. To one, says he, is given [...]he spirit, the gift of Wisdom, to another the gift of [Page 104] Knowledge by the same spirit; to another Faith by the same spirit, to another the gift of healing by the same spirit; to another the working of Miracles; to another Pro­phecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kind of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the self same spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will, 1 Cor. 12. 8, 9, 10, 11.

You see how St. Paul cursorily mentions this mat­ter of fact, as a matter of uncontested Experience. Mean while 'tis observable that we have not to do with one single gift, but several miraculous gifts, in which there was no Artifice or Illusion. For tho' it might be pretended that some certain people had received the gift of tongues, and altho' those very people should not immediately be found out by those, who perfectly understood those Languages; yet how could there be others who expounded di­vers Languages, and understood men of all Nations, others who healed the Sick, others who by Faith wrought miracles, &c.

But perhaps the Incredulous will not be satisfied with that one Text of Scripture, and therefore here is another of the same stamp, 1 Cor▪ 13. 1, 2. Tho' I speak with the tongues of Men and of Angels, &c. and tho' I have the gift of Prophecy, and understand all Mysteries, &c. And tho' I have all Faith, so that I could remove Mountains, &c. 1. Cor. 12. 29, 30, 31. Are all prophets? says he in the foregoing chapter. Are all workers of Miracles? Have all the gift of heal­ing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all Interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you, a more excellent way. 'Tis then he begins his Encomium of Charity, and prefers it before all o­ther miraculous gifts. In like manner he speaks in this place indirectly, and as it were by the by of those gifts; and the manner of his Expression mani­festly [Page 105] shews, that this matter of fact was publickly known.

But if they should still require a greater demon­stration of this Truth, such a demonstration as seems to me above all subtilty of Cavils and Excep­tions, it's sufficient to observe that among all those Gifts, that of Tongues was so common (by reason it was very often imparted by the Apostles's impo­sition of hands) that there arose a great Disturbance and Confusion in the Church of Corinth upon the ac­count of it; because all those who had received that gift, being desirous to speak strange Languages in the Church, the Congregation was not in the least edified by it. And it obliged St. Paul to write to them very sharply thereupon, to which end he par­ticularly designed the 14. Chap. of his first Epist. to the Corinthians, I would, says he to them, v. 5. that ye all speak with tongues; but rather that ye prophecied that the Church may receive edifying. Now to prophecy in the sense of this Apostle, is to declare the word of God, and expound it to the people, I thank my God, adds he further v. 18, 19. I speak with tongues more than you all. Yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my Ʋnderstanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Wherefore, adds he a little further v. 22. Tongues are for a sign not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophecying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. That is, as any one may easily conceive, that the gift of tongues which God had granted to the Church after a most extraordinary and wonderful manner, was designed either to confound, or convert the Infidels by that evident testimony of the Divinity of Christi­anity: whereas the gift of prophecying, that is, of declaring God's Will, and expounding it to the people, had been wholly given men for the good and [Page 106] Edification of the faithful. Now to these miracu­lous Gifts St. Paul certainly alluded, when he said in his first Epist. to the Thessalonians, Chap. 5. v. 19. Quench not the spirit. And tis concerning those same gifts and signal miracles that he says to the Galati­ans, O foolish Galatians, &c. Chap. 3. 5. He there­fore that ministreth to you the spirit, and worketh mira­cles among you, doth he it by the works of the Law, or by the preaching of the Faith? Lastly, 'tis concerning these miraculous gifts that the Apostle speaks, when he says, that the sign of his Apostleship was manifested among the Corinthians, in all Patience, in Signs, and Wonders, and mighty Deeds.

We may see to what perplexity and confusion the Incredulous are reduced; and how angry soever they may be, there are but two sides they can take. They must either assert that St. Paul had lost his senses, when he wrote those things we just now mention'd; which they'll never do, because their opinion is that St. Paul wanted no cunning to de­ceive a great many persons: or they must confess that the faithful very frequently received many mi­raculous gifts in the Ancient Church; that those gifts were various; that there had actually been such persons in the Church of Corinth, who had caused some kind of disturbance in it, by speaking divers Languages as they were inspired by the Holy Ghost; and consequently they must own the Divini­ty of our Religion.

CHAP. XIII.
That we ought to look upon the New Testament as a divine Book.

I Doubt not but that we may certainly find several unquestionable Characters of Divinity in that Book. For not to repeat here what we have already said in our first part of this work, concerning the Books of the Old Testament, and which is no less true of the New one, we cannot but admire the mutual agreement of those Authors with Moses and the other Prophets. We cannot but be surprised to see such an unanimous consent among those Wri­ters, whether it be in the things they relate, or in in the design of their Exhortations, or lastly, in the record they bear. Never was Author seen so con­formable to himself, as those Divine Authors are to one another in the Essentials of their Doctrine. Where can we find such a Character of Sweetness, Gentleness, and Simplicity, so much Charity for Man­kind, and Aversion to Vice, so many motives to Humiliation, and so great a desire to glorify God? Where can we find such a Loftiness of thought, and yet such a Simplicity of expression, such a mixture of joy and sorrow, such heroical confidence in a forlorn state of Misery, such profound Humility, and such presence and greatness of mind, which is the cause that their Morality is the finest that ever was, and their thoughts more elevated than those of other men, their design the noblest that ever entred into the heart of man, that is, to gain all men unto God, ha­ving no self interest, or refined Niceties of Policy, but only a fervent desire to succeed in their Mini­stry?

[Page 108] I know that this here is matter of Inward sense, rather than Demonstration, and that I shall never perswade the Incredulous that they may discover in the New Testament that loftiness of thought and that divine Majesty, which I my self perceive amidst that seeming rough and unpleasant Language, which is as it were the bark and outward shell of it: but yet for all their obstinacy they cannot deny these four following Truths, I. That never any known Impostor left us such excellent Books as the Apostles, no not even Mahomet himself, who might have easily borrowed their Notions, the better to disguise his own. II. That it appears that their Writings are a thousand times more free from all Passions and Hu­mane Imperfections, than all the Books of the Wisest men among the Heathens, where we see Pride as it were upon her Throne. III. That the Character of the New Testament is infinitely more excellent than that of the Writings of all the Fathers, who lived successively from the Apostles down to us, wherein any one may easily observe a strange af­fectation, a particular vanity of shewing their parts and learning, and sometimes much heat and passion; because they were far from the perfection in Chri­stianity which the Apostles had. IV. That the best sorts of godly Books written amongst the Chri­stians, from the Apostles's time down to us, I mean those Books that most establish the peace and tran­quility of publick Society, and chiefly tend to the Glory of God, were written in imitation of the holy Scriptures, from which they had their materials to compose them with. This is what in my opinion is very sure and certain.

And as certain it is, that if the Apostles were not divinely inspired, they must necessarily be Im­postors, nay such abominable men, as desired only to dishonour their Nation and to sacrifice to a vain [Page 109] flattering Idea of Glory, the lives and fortunes of an infinite number of persons whom they encourag­ed to suffer Martyrdom.

Let us now see whether we can perswade our selves that the most excellent Books that were ever known, I mean those Books that are most proper to inspire us with piety, with the love of God, and our Neighbour, that are the source of the best matters that ever were written, and the original of the Piety and Vertue of all those persons who were converted by them, were only the invention of the most wicked men that ever were.

Certainly, since all Christians in all Ages consider­ed this Book as Divine, and as the rule of their Faith, whereby they distinguish'd it from all other Books; it follows thence that all the Christians were either deceived in the Essentials of it, and that their Faith was false, or else that Book must in reality be of a Divine Authority: For such an Universal Tra­dition, so constant, and so necessarily affixed to the end and design of Religion, can never impose upon us.

It has been the Wisdom of Providence as we have already observed, to take care that this Book should be left to us as entire as when it came out of the Apostles hands: and the Primitive Christians who all assure us that it is of a Divine Authority, tell us only but what right Reason obliged them to acknow­ledge, and us as well as them. For the Word preached and the Word written by the Apostles, differ not essentially from one another; so that if the former be Divine, the latter must necessarily be so too. And who doubts but that Word must be looked up­on as Divine, which God himself authorised by so many Miracles?

Perhaps some will reply, that it would be of a very dangerous Consequence to reason often after this [Page 110] manner; and that altho' a false Prophet should work prodigious Miracles, yet we ought not to fol­low him upon a bare supposition that God never as­sists an Impostor with his infinite Power. But this I own and affirm also, that we ought strictly to ex­amin both his Doctrine and Miracles, to find out by that comparison the true Original of both. And therefore we have this advantage, that we not only find here such miracles as excel all the power of Hell; such as for example, the raising a man from the Dead; but that this Doctrine also visibly bears all the Characters of one that proceeded from Heaven. Those miracles on the one hand so great and nume­rous that the people cried out, surely this is the finger of God, take away all suspicion of the falsity and pernicious consequences of the Doctrine they con­firm; because the arm of the Lord is not usually employed in favour of an Imposture. And on the other hand, that Doctrine which is so holy, and so perfectly tends to the union and wellfare of Man­kind, which is so worthy of the love of God to man, sufficiently warrants us that the Miracles whereby it is confirmed, proceed not in the least from the power of Darkness, as the Enemies of Christianity seem to believe. Hell never concerns it self either to unite or sanctify mankind.

All the Apostles expresly declare, that the word which they preached, proceeded not from themselves, but God. But I certifie you Brethren, says St. Paul in his Epist. to the Galatians Chap. 1. v. 11. that the Gospel which was preached of me, was not after man: for I neither received of man, neither was I taught it, but by the Revelation of Jesus Christ. Thus when the A­postles were assembled together at Jerusalem in the first Council that ever was held, and wrote to some Chnrches concerning several questions that were then in Agitation, they made use of this manner of [Page 111] speaking, For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us, Act. 15. 28.

It appears then that the Apostles spoke by the Order and Revelation of God, which was given se­veral ways; viz. sometimes by Vision, as when St. Peter saw a certain vessel descending from Heaven, as it had been a great sheet knit by the four Corners, wherein were all kinds of unclean Beasts; and he was commanded saying, Peter kill and eat, Act. 10. 13. on purpose to signify that he ought to preach [...]he Gospel to the Gentiles, who were no longer an unclean Nation in the sight of God; sometimes by Dreams, as when a certain Macedonian appeared unto St. Paul, commanding him to go into Macedo­nia, and preach the Gospel there: sometimes by Ex­ [...]asy, as it is probable that St. Paul was caught up into the third Heaven; but yet much oftener by the inward dictates of the Holy Ghost formed as it were [...]n their Souls, as when the Spirit said unto Peter concerning the men which Cornelius sent to enquire for him, Go thou with them doubting nothing: for I [...]ave sent them, Act. 10. 20.

'Tis true one might very well suspect these Reve­ [...]ations, if one single man boasted of having had [...]hem imparted to him: but here we have several. God did not reveal himself to them after one single manner, but after divers. They asserted not only [...]hat God had revealed some things to them in order [...]o induce Mankind to believe it, but they wrought many Miracles, spoke divers Languages, im [...]arted [...]hose Gifts to others, thereby converted the World, [...]nd exactly fulfilled the Oracles of God. That [...]pirit which filled them, and was necessarily to fill [...]hem, because the time of the Calling of the Gentiles [...]as come, was outwardly produced by such effects [...]s undoubtedly will confound the Incredulous if they [...]eflect upon them.

[Page 112] Certainly, if it be true, as it is, that God poured down his Spirit upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, 'twas only that they might preach unto men by their Ministry, unless it be pretended that the Tongues of the Apostles which were exalted after a supernatural manner, so far as to speak all sorts of Languages, were to confine themselves to that particular employ, and not to reveal unto men the will of God. But if we ought to look upon that word as Divine which those Tongues have preached, we cannot but look upon those Writings as Divine in which that Word it self is contained.

I hope that whosoever shall seriously reflect on the Connexion of all these principles, will fully be per­swaded that their Union is not to be dissolved. If there was such a Book as the New Testament in the days of Clemens, Polycarp, and of the Primitive Fa­thers, as without dispute there was, that Book could never have been forg'd. If the Book of the New Testament could not have been forg'd, it is im­possible but that certain publick matters of fact, which are inserted in that Book as being publickly known by all the Christians, are true. And if those matters of fact are true, it can never be denied but that the Apostles received the Holy Ghost. If the Apostles did receive the Holy Ghost, certainly their Writings must be looked upon as Divine. I have made choice of these principles only among several others which I have established; but lest any one should imagin that they subsist meerly by their Con­nexion, I desire the Reader to remember that I have proved each of them apart by themselves, after several different ways.

It is very true therefore that the New Testament, as well as our Religion, is divine: for these two Truths are properly one and the same: The Chri­stian Religion can't be Divine, if the Word or the [Page 113] Scripture which is the ruleof the Faith of its Pro­fessors, be Humane; and the Scripture can never be Divine, unless the Christian Religion be of an heaven­ly Original, and proceeded from God. But it is fit that we should examin the Difficulties that are opposed against this grand principle.

CHAP. XIV.
Wherein we shall examin those Difficulties which may probably be raised against the foregoing Truths.

TRuth is an Enemy to all shifts and tricks: let us therefore briefly consider what doubts we may possibly entertain in the foregoing Truths. Let us give full scope to our imagination to frame what sus­picions we can as to the persons of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, their Miracles, the Resurrection of our Lord, and the extraordinary and miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which were imparted to mankind by the hands of the Apostles themselves.

And I. to begin with the Person of Jesus Christ, there are some who believe that Jesus Christ was an Essene, and that he borrowed from that Sect the purity of his Morals and the soundness of his Doc­trine. And indeed it appears from the Description which Philo, and Josephus gave us of that Sect, that the Essenes lived among themselves in a perfect union, that they possessed all things in Common; that they looked upon one another as so many brethren, and that they had very rational and sound Ideas of God and Religion. All this pretty well agrees with the Nature of Chistianity. Besides it does not appear that Jesus Christ ever opposed their Doctrine, when he [Page 114] pronounced so many woes against the Scribes and Pharisees. And if it be true that Jesus Christ bor­rowed his Doctrine from that Sect, we should have less Reason to be surprised at his extraordinary Mo­rality and Holiness of life. But 'tis easy to refute this notion if we consider that there was no such Sect as that of the Essenes in Galilee, which was the na­tive Country of Jesus Christ; that the Essenes avoid­ed all correspondence with other men, as looking upon them as impure and prophane, and for that reason dwelt not in any great Cities: Whereas Jesus Christ travers'd Towns and Villages, taught multi­tudes, Preached in the Synagogues, &c. Besides the Essenes abhorr'd Matrimony: whereas Jesus Christ made choice of such Disciples as were Marri­ed; and lastly, that he had several Fishermen to at­tend him, but none of them were Essenes.

But II. May we not think that Jesus Christ ow'd his knowledge to his Education? But how could that be? For as much as he was bred up in the shop of a Carpenter, as his Enemies themselves confess in their reproaches of him.

III. Some will object, that 'twas out of spite to the Scribes and Pharisees and other Rulers of the Jews, that he first exclaimed so much against them, and after invented on purpose to thwart them a Religi­on quite opposite to theirs. But what had the Son of Mary to do with all those Teachers, since he nei­ther was Priest, nor Levite, nor pretended to any such dignities? What should make him come in competition with them? Besides it is not sufficient to assert that Jesus Christ seemed very much ex­asperated against their Doctrine and Behaviour, it must also be considered, whether he had not a great deal of reason to be so.

IV. 'Tis objected that perhaps he was ambitious of being thought a Prophet; or it may be not right­ly [Page 115] understanding certain Oracles, which seemed to determine at that time the coming of the Messias, he really thought himself to be that Messias.

But nothing of this is true. For Jesus Christ could not have thought himself to be the Messias out of meer simplicity and ignorance, nor have endeavour­ed to make the World believe it out of malice or de­ceit. We have no reason to believe the former, if we consider his Morality and Doctrine; and his ho­liness of life gives us no occasion to imagin the lat­ter. The incredulous will soon be reduced to an evident absurdity, if they assert that Jesus Christ was the most ignorant, or most wicked of men; the most ignorant, if he thought himself to be the Messias, without being really so; or the most wick­ed, if he endeavoured to make other men be­lieve it, when he believed it not himself: because one must be wilfully blind not to perceive that the Christian Religion proceeds both from a very clear principle, and a good foundation too.

V. But may we not say the same of Mahomet? The incredulous compare them often together. They pretend that Jesus Christ and Mahomet might have been animated both with the same Spirit. But of all the shifts of the Incredulous this is certainly their weakest: and 'tis a plain demonstration that they have no manner of Idea of the things they speak of, when they insist upon this comparison.

For we can here produce several essential differ­ences betwixt Jesus Christ and Mahomet. Mahomet never pretended to Establish his Religion by work­ing miracles, although several have been imputed to him: Whereas Jesus Christ desired no belief but up­on the testimony of his extraordinary Miracles; being willing thereby to convince the eyes and senses of his Disciples by sensible matters of fact, and such miracles as he gave them also power to work [Page 116] themselves; when he sent them forth to preach a­broad his Resurrection and Miracles, at the same time he threatned them with Death and eternal Dam­nation, in case they should endeavour to deceive any body with fictions, or even disguise the Truth it self. Mahomet left no such prophecies behind him, as have been accomplished: whereas we have several of Jesus Christ which have been clearly explained by their event. Neither the Books of the Old or New Testament bear the least record of Mahomet; whereas the Prophets had foretold the coming of Jesus Christ as of a Messias, that was to unite the Jews and Gentiles, and to carry the Covenant of God unto the ends of the World. Mahomet established himself in the World by force and violence; but Jesus Christ only by patience and sufferings. The former was environ'd with Soldiers, the latter was attend­ed with Martyrs. The one put men to Death, but the other received Death for our sakes. Maho­met's ambition, who established such a flourishing Empire, was presently seen in the success he had in his undertaking. But Jesus Christ was far from self Interest or Ambition, since he withdrew him­self when they would have made him King, and de­clared his Kingdom was not of this World. Instead of encouraging the carnal prejudices of his Disci­ples, he took care to undeceive them, and to fore­tell all the Evils they were to expect. And tho' any should presume openly to dispute all these matters of fact, still they appear by the end and success of the Gospel, the design of which was to sanctify the heart, and calm the disorderly passions of the Soul. Mahomet invented such a Religion which agreed on­ly with corrupted Reason, and the loose inordinate desires of the heart. He made the scandal of the Cross to give place to the magnificence and grandeur of the World; he took away the most spiritual and [Page 117] difficult matters of Morality, to fill the minds of his Disciples with carnal and sensual Ideas. But not so did our Saviour act, who proposed his Cross to the minds of men as an astonishing Paradox, and a con­tinual cause of Mortification and Repentance. Ma­homet Established his Religion by the help of Igno­rance and Darkness, by suppressing such Books as might have enlightened mens Understandings, and by requiring a blind submission from them. Jesus Christ on the contrary would not have them believe his Doctrine, but as they found it conformable to that of the Prophets, Search the Scriptures, says he, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, John 5. 39. Mahomet established himself in the World by dis­sembling and disguising his thoughts: He promised in the beginning a toleration of all Religions; car­ried it fair to the Christians, but afterwasds did his utmost endeavours to extirpate them utterly. But Jesus Christ declared at first his intention and design which was to save mankind, and overthrow Super­stition it self. Nor he, nor his Disciples used any Policy or Circumvention in this respect. Mahomet died, but never rose, nor pretended to rise again from the dead, thereby to shew he was approved of God. Jesus Christ died, but it was believed he rose again from the dead, upon the testimony of those who had seen him after his Resurrection, and testified of the Truth of this matter of fact to all the World, at the expence of their lives, and effu­sion of their blood. Mahomet's Religion was inven­ted, maintained and supported by Policy, but that of Jesus Christ was at first offensive to all the Princes upon earth, and was established in the World not­withstanding all their endeavours to the contrary. Mahomets's Religion appear'd at first view to be as it were the Triumph of Humane Industry and Co­vetousness; but the Religion of Jesus Christ shew'd [Page 118] that of integrity and justice in their full perfection, and Natural Religion in that proper purity and sim­plicity that was restored to it by Charity. Maho­met laid the foundation of a particular Monarchy, and established such Laws as, humanly speaking, are serviceable only in those places wherein he has settled his Dominion: but Jesus Christ has given us new Principles of union and intelligence, very use­full to the good of publick society in general, and very fit to cement the union of all men together by making the spirit of Charity reign in the World. The coming of Mahomet did not sanctify mankind: but that of Jesus Christ was attended with an innu­merable Company of persons, who all renounced the World, meerly by the Faith they had in him. 'Twas not Mahomet, but Jesus Christ who exactly fulfilled the Oracles concerning the calling of the Gentiles, because Mahomet derived all his knowledge of the true God, from Jesus Christ, as we have al­ready shewed. Lastly, Temporal Prosperity was the true Character of the Religion of Mahomet, and it might be very well affirmed that Mahomet was a Man of God, if it were true that all those who en­joy the greatest Prosperity in the World, that is, all Tyrants, wicked, and unjust men are the favo­rites of God. But the Character of the Religion of Jesus Christ is patience, self-denial, innocence and a simplicity of manners; and certainly he was approved of God, if God approves of vertuous, patient, hum­ble, and charitable men. It concerns now the In­credulous to answer all these differences, if they would have us allow of this Comparison; for other­wise we shall ever reject it, as being very ridiculous and extravagant.

CHAP. XV.
Where we further examin the objections of the In­credulous.

THe Incredulous are apt to raise as many suspici­ons against the miracles of Jesus Christ, as a­gainst his person: because of all those proofs which establish his Religion, there are none that can move the senses so much as that taken from true Miracles.

I. Then they object, that Jesus the Son of Mary might have healed two or three people either by chance, or by vertue of Second causes, and that that good success might have got him afterwards the name of a Prophet through the ignorance of the peo­ple, who are wont to ascribe to supernatural Causes every thing that is unknown to them. We answer that we have here a very great number of miracles, all of different kinds, evident and sensible miracles, in their Nature, unimitable and above all Imposture. Such are the Resurrection of the dead, healing the Blind, the Lame, and the sick of the Palsy, &c.

II. They pretend that he might perhaps have suborned Witnesses to testify some fabulous miracles. But how could this be? Since Jesus Christ had nei­ther money to give, nor dignities to promise; and as for cunning, Politick niceties, Riches and Cre­dit, they were only amongst the Scribes and Pharisees, and Doctors of the Law, his implacable Enemies, who took all opportunities to prejudice him, because he publickly censured their hypocrisy upon all occasions.

III. They object that Jesus Christ was so prudent as to work his miracles only before three of his cho­sen Disciples, viz. Peter, James, and John. Now (say they) who knows but that those three Dis­ciples [Page 120] to flatter the ambition of their Master, might have attested certain Miracles as true, which were not really so?

To remove this suspicion, we need only reflect upon the many miracles Jesus Christ wrought in the presence of his other Disciples. He raised from the dead the Son of the Widdow of Naim, as he was a carrying to be interr'd. He raised Lazarus from the grave in the sight of several Jews, who were purposely come thither to comfort the Sisters of the Deceased Person. He tarried four days, that it might not be said, he was not really dead. He per­mitted Lazarus to converse with his acquaintance after his Resurrection, which gave occasion to the Jews blinded with madness to conspire together to send him to the grave again, whom the grave had just sent them for their Conversion.

IV. But is it possible that such great and such un­paralelled miracles as these, should make so little impression upon peoples minds? This Age is indeed a wicked and prejudiced age: But yet what a noise would the Resurrection of a dead man make now? How many would make it their business to be fully satisfied of the truth of such a matter of fact? How few would doubt it, after having known the certain truth of it? To this I answer, that the greatest part of those who heard this Miracle, did not in the least believe it. Some ascribed it to the power of Beelze­bub; others to some other cause; some knew not what to think of it, and therefore refused to en­quire into it; others verily believ'd that Jesus Christ and Lazarus had agreed together thus to se­duce the people, and this very likely was the opini­on of those who sought after Lazarus to put him to death; Others, tho' very few, took occasion from thence to glorify God. But lest any man should wonder at the little impression this miracle made [Page 121] upon the prejudiced and superstitious minds of men, 'twill be sufficient to make these two following Re­flections. First, That there have been several Jews who freely acknowledged the Miracles of Jesus Christ, tho' they persisted in their incredulity; chusing rather superstitiously to ascribe them to a certain I know not what pronunciation of the word Jehovah, than to refer them totheir true cause; which shews that the evidence of Miracles is not always of it self sufficient to overcome the hardness of some mens minds when prepossess'd with prejudice. Secondly, That superstition it self has been sometimes carried on to that degree as to extinguish utterly all the lights of Reason, and even to call in question those very objects that are present to the senses, rather than be obliged to renounce its prejudices. But it is not necessary to insist much upon this last reflecti­on.

It sufficiently appears from thence that there are such people in the World, whose minds being pre­possessed, will either call in question any palpable truths, or else ascribe matters of fact truly miracu­lous to some fantastical and extravagant causes. But there are none that are willing to die in order to maintain that they were spectators of those things which they had really never seen, especially when they profess to believe that imposture is a crime worthy of Death; and when they might be so easily found out by so great a number of witnesses, it would argue meer folly for any to pretend to im­pose upon men in this respect. The Jewish Doctors had credit and authority enough over the people, partly to stifle the knowledge they might have of those matters of fact, or if that fail'd, at least to give such reasons of them, as would certainly flat­ter the immoderate desire the Jews had to see not a sorrowful and contemptible, but a glorious and [Page 122] triumphing Messias. But the Disciples were too weak to endure the severity of those Torments in­flicted on them, had they been meer Impostors; and were not surely so sensless as ever to think they might easily perswade men to believe such matters of fact as the Resurrection of Lazarus. For to endeavour to conceal a matter of fact of that Nature, one had need only of prejudice and a wicked inclination; but to have a design to make other men believe it when it was really false, one must be possess'd with an unaccountable and unheard of madness.

V. But you will say, let the opinion the Jews had of the Miracles of Jesus Christ be what it will, still is it possible they could have no better preserved the memory of them; and that Josephus for example, who carefully relates the least sort of Events, and forgets not to mention certain Seducers that had appeared in the World from time to time before him, should not in the least speak of the Miracles of of Jesus Christ? It is supposed by some that that notable testimony which he bears of him, was a pious fraud of his, or a meer Invention of the suc­ceeding ages. We shall not enquire into the truth of that at present. We are willing to take things in the worst sense, and we have three several re­plies to make this objection, concerning the silence of Josephus in this respect. The first is, that those who probably inserted in the Writings of that Author that notable place which has given occasion to the Criticism of the Learned, might for a continuation of their design, have blotted out every thing that Josephus really tells us on this account; and which perhaps tho' less advantagious to our cause, is yet suf­ficient to shew that Jesus Christ was held as one that wrought many Miracles. The second, that Josephus being a Pharisee might probably have concealed the wonders of the life of our Saviour, out of the hatred [Page 123] he bore to our Religion. And the last is, that as this man had endeavoured to insinuate himself into Vespasian's favour, by foretelling him that he should be Emperour; and had ascribed to him several prophecies of the Old Joseph. de bello Judaico. lib. 3. cap. 14. 7, 12. Testament, which promised that a King should come from the East; it is highly probabable that this Author being a Courtier, would not out of complaisance to Ves­pasian and his Children, mention the least thing of a man, who had pretended he was the Messias, and to whom other people ascribed those famous pro­phecies, whereby he had endeavoured to ingratiate himself in that Emperours Esteem. And certainly it is very unlikely to suppose that a man who had carefully related the least Circumstance of the life of Herod the Great, should have forgot the Mur­ther of the Children of Bethlehem, if at the time he discovered the cause of that Murther, he had not been affraid to discover also the dread Herod had upon him at the birth of the Messias, and the Opi­nion then currant among the Jews, that the Messias was to be born in Bethlehem.

'Tis however certain, that this Author could not have concealed any such events as these, but only out of Ignorance or Policy. He could not have done it out of ignorance; and the Incredulous themselves will not presume to think that Josephus was altoge­ther ignorant that Jesus Christ had been put to death at Jerusalem; that he was accused there of seducing the people; that he had several Disciples to attend him, whose number in his time increased yet daily; nay that there had been a very numerous Church at Jerusalem, composed of persons of that perswasion. And certainly there must have been Christians in all Judea, since there dwelt a very considerable number of them at Rome, under the Emperour [Page 124] Sueton. in vit [...] Claud. Claudius Cesar, as it appears more at large by the History of Suetonius. It must therefore be out of Policy that Josephus made no men­tion of them: and we can never suspect him of ha­ving had a design to conceal by his silence, those Impostors which arose amongst the Jews, because he speaks of all the rest; nor to spare the shame and confusion of his own Nation, because he so par­ticularly made it his business to discover the fury and leudness of that people. Let any one throughly consider all these things, and he will then necessarily confess that the silence of Josephus which was occasi­oned meerly by Policy, cannot but be very advan­tagious to our cause.

VI. But lastly, 'Tis objected there is nothing more frequent than to see some men endeavouring to make others believe those miracles as were never in being. It is very well known how strangely people have always been infatuated in this respect, and what an easy matter it is to impose Tacit. lib. 5. Histor. cap. 13.upon them. Tacitus relates that Vespa­sian being one day at Alexandria, he healed two blind men; and that this mat­ter of fact would have been altogether incredible, hadnot the whole Court been an eye-witness to it.

We answer, that it is very likely Vespasian was willing to be thought to have done some miracles, in respect of those prophecies which seemed to pro­mise him the Empire of the World, according to the false application Josephus had made of them to his person. He was at first well enough pleased to see that Jew flattering him by such an agreeable predic­tion: but being sometimes after come to Alexandria, and perceiving that his concerns successfully went on, he thought it behoved him to perswade the peo­ple that he was called to the Empire by Divine In­spiration; and doubtless with that design he com­manded [Page 125] two men that counterfeited blindness to be brought unto him, on purpose to work upon them a false Miracle. But giving this objection a greater latitude, I answer that there are no miracles whatever but what I verily believe to be true, and which appear to me past all contradiction, if they have those ten Characters which any one may ob­serve in the Miracles of the Apostles. I. If they were as the former, foretold in the Ancient Oracles. II. If they are very frequent, very numerous, va­rious, and evident. III. If the Authors of them were a simple and disinteressed sort of people, who in all appearance had neither malice enough to have a design to deceive, nor understanding enough to have the power to do it, nor boldness to under­take it, nor credit to maintain it. IV. If those Miracles are so try'd by the prudence and industry of the most skilful men in the World, that they not being able altogether to deny the truth of them, are obliged to refer them to several odd and extra­vagant causes. V. If there is an innumerable com­pany of Witnesses who die, and rejoyce to die in the testimony not that they only heard of them, but that they both saw and work'd them themselves. VI. If the end of those Miracles is not to satisfy mens passions or loose desires, but to sanctify their hearts and regulate their manners. VII. If those persons which both testify and admit of them, seem on the one hand to aim at nothing else but their own Salvation, and that of their brethren; and on the other if they are perswaded that their Salvation is inconsistent with imposture and deceit. VIII. If those who testify them, proffer to do the like, if they pretend themselves able to impart any miraculous gifts to others; and if by the help of that sensible means, and of that proof, which they call the con­viction of the mind, they make greater progress [Page 126] than ever the most fortunate Conquerours did by the force of their arms. IX. If those who refuse to allow of all these miraculous matters of fact, must unavoidably fall into an infinite number of self evi­dent contradictions, as for instance, to believe that the wisest amongst men are the most foolish, and the most constant the most deceitful. X. If all those matters of fact are so strictly united to one another, that it is impossible to own the one, with­out presently granting the other too; and so inse­parably interwoven with some other undeniable matters of fact, that cannot be called in question without utterly renouncing our Sense and Reason. And Lastly, If they end in the Resurrection of a man, who was vainly sought for in his grave after his death, notwithstanding his Sepulchre had been sealed and surrounded with a watch; of such a man whom above five hundred witnesses affirm'd they had seen, and who conversed with his Disciples forty days after his Resurrection, as they unanimously testi­fy'd, notwithstanding all the punishments inflicted on them for the same. The incredulous must either shew us to be deceived, in ascribing all these Cha­racters to the Miracles of Jesus Christ, or else for­bear making such comparisons.

CHAP. XVI.
Where we further examine those Difficulties which may be raised against our principles.

THose who regard not the Master of the House, doubtless will not respect the person of his Servants. The Incredulous no doubt have many things to object against the Disciples of Jesus Christ. [Page 127] They will ask why the number of them was so small, wherefore he chose them so poor and ignorant; since your famous Teachers, such as the Pharisees amongst the Jews; the Stoicks amongst the Heathens, wo [...]ld have probably gained his Sect more credit and respect: Wherefore was he attended with Pub­licans and Sinners, nay even with Harlots? And Lastly, Why should we rather believe the testimony of the Disciples concerning their Master, than that of those men whom the Jews employ'd to signify that Jesus a Galilean was an Impostor, and that his Dis­ciples had taken away his Body by night from the Sepulchre wherein he had been laid. Justin is the man who speaks of those chosen by the Synagogue to spread abroad this report, in his Dialogue a­gainst Tryphon.

It will be easie for us not only to answer all their objections, but even to draw from them several very considerable advantages to our Cause.

For as to the First, We answer that besides the twelve Disciples, commonly called Apostles, which Jesus Christ had chose to himself in the beginning, he also sent seventy others, who were not only eye­witnesses to all his Actions, but also the very instru­ments he made use of to advance his Kingdom: that the truth of his Resurrection was testify'd and seen by above five hundred brethren at once, and that the miraculous gifts which fell on the Disciples after the Ascension of their Master, and the Miracles which God wrought by their hands, had as many witnes­ses, as their were people that believed there preach­ing.

As to the second, we answer, that the choice of such vile contemptible instruments as God was pleased to make use of for the Execution of the greatest and most noble design, is one of the most considerable proofs that every thing here was solely transacted [Page 128] by the finger of God. Had he chose for his Mini­sters the Princes and Potentates of the World, some would perhaps have ascribed the wonders of Christian Morality to Policy, and the design of keeping people in obedience, by obliging them to a charitable Union among themselves. Had he chose Philoso­phers, some would have ascribed their heroical self­denial to the singularity and pride of their Sect, or to those elevated thoughts which Philosophy had inspired them with. Had he chose Orators, some would have thought that they might have seduced men by the charms of their Eloquence. Had he chose very Powerful and Rich men, some would have at­tributed the success of their preaching to their libe­ralities. He chose therefore mean and contemptible persons, who had ever lived in great simplicity, and labour'd under an obscure condition, to shew more clearly that the success of the Gospel was the work of God and not of Men.

In answer to the third Objection we assert, that tho' Jesus Christ was usually attended with Publicans and Sinners; yet they were Sinners converted by the efficacy of his Doctrine, they were Publicans rege­nerated, whose testimony of the Christian Religion was the more authentick, as it more plainly evinced that this Religion was the only one truly capable of sanctifying Mankind. Certainly I cannot per­ceive a more evident sign of the Divinity of our Saviours Mission than to see that he acted with so much efficacy, that sinful women came, and wash'd his feet with repentant tears, and wiped them with their Hairs; that one word of his could draw Levi from the receit of Custom, oblige Peter, and Andrew, to follow him, to forsake their Nets, their Boat, and even their Father Zebedee.

But some will say, if Jesus Christ made his Dis­ciples utterly renounce all worldly advantages, [Page 129] 'twas meerly by the hopes he gave them of a blessed and eternal life, and consequently it was to their ad­vantage thus to renounce them. I grant it: but then I say this consideration makes for us, and is more than sufficient to give an invincible Demonstra­tion of the Truth of the Christian Religion. For if the Disciples did verily expect an everlasting Life from Jesus Christ; and if it was purely on the ac­count of that interest, the greatest indeed of all our Interests, and of that hope, far stronger than all their passions, that they suffered such torments for the name of Jesus (as we must either believe it, or look upon the Disciples as so many Fools or mad Men) I say if the Disciples hoped for eternal life from him, it necessarily follows thence, that they sincerely believed him to be what he professd himself to be; since they could not expect eternal life from an Impostor. And if they believed his calling to be true, they likewise believed his Miracles and Resur­rection to be so too. And if they thought his Mira­cles and Resurrection true, it follows thence that they were necessarily so; it being impossible that the Dis­ciples should have deceived themselves in certain matters of fact which required only seeing, hearing and feeling.

Let the Incredulous use what Shifts and Evasi­ons they please, I dare say they can bring nothing but absurd impertinencies in answer to this argu­ment, which we look upon to have the force of De­monstration. If the Apostles expected everlasting life from Jesus Christ, it follows thence that they could not look upon him as an Impostor, nor abet his Imposture, nor be Impostors themselves, as they necessarily must have been, were not the Christian Religion infallibly true. Now 'tis most certain that the Disciples did hope for everlasting life from Jesus Christ, because he never proposed any other object [Page 130] to their Faith, he foretold them nothing but Crosses and tribulations in this life, publickly declaring that his Kingdom was not of this World; besides Ex­perience and Reason taught them the very same thing; they themselves declared in all their Epistles that they expected nothing but crosses and tribu­lations in this life, comparing it to a Warfare, a Wrestling, the World to a Field of Battel; calling themselves the Champions of Jesus Christ; and con­tinually rejoycing that they were to suffer in hopes of the Crown that was reserv'd for them.

As to the Fourth Objection, we answer that we are willing to compare the Witnesses of the Syna­gogue with those Writings of Jesus Christ. The Wit­nesses of the Synagogue testify'd that which was un­known to them, that which they had not seen, and which they therefore could have no certain Know­ledge of. For who can believe the report of the Watch? If they really saw any one taking away the body of Jesus why did they not prevent it? But if they did not see it, how can their Testimony be va­lid? But as for the Disciples of the Lord, they tes­tifi'd those matters of fact which their Eyes were Witnesses to. That which we have seen, say they, with our Eyes, which we have heard with our Ears, and our Hands have handled of the Word of Life, declare we unto you, 1 John 1. 1. The former Witnesses were Soldiers, the latter Martyrs. The former en­deavoured to perswade men by force, the latter per­swaded them maugre all the violence offered to them. To be such a witness as the Apostles were, there is need of Constancy and perswasion. To be such a one as those suborned by the Synagogue, there is need only of fury and violence. But was there ne­ver a one of either party that recanted his Opinion? Yes without doubt, and this consideration alone is sufficient to decide the Controversy.

[Page 131] Saul a servant of the Synagogue going one day to Damascus, not only to testify that Jesus Christ had been a Seducer, but also to persecute all those that believed on him, was on a sudden changed, and be­came a Disciple of him whom before he went about so furiously to persecute. Judas on the contrary a Disciple and Apostle of Jesus Christ, renounced his Master, and deliver'd him to the Jews who put him to Death. Here are two several witnesses who seem to recant their opinion, but consider the different end of their Recantation.

Saul was a Pharisee, the Son of a Pharisee, and consequently a Member of a Sect particularly exaspe­rated against Jesus Christ. He had obtained letters from the Sanhedrin or grand Councel at Jerusalem, to the Synagogues of Damascus to demand assistance from them against the Christians that dwelt therein, whom he had purposed to himself to drag along to Prison, and to put to Death, as he had done several others before. He was therefore on his journey, and drew nigh unto Damascus: he was upon the point of satisfying his rage and fury; but on a sud­den he is altogether changed. What was there that could have obliged this Witness thus to recant? What proffers were then made to him, or who was then in a condition to make him any? What unex­pected force so suddenly overthrew all the designs and prejudices of a man that was just going to shed the blood of Christians? He went about afterwards preaching that he had seen Jesus Christ, that a great light shone round about him, that the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven were revealed unto him. He affirmed that God had set him forth unto the World, and that he became a Spectacle unto Men and Angels, 1 Cor. 4. 9.

If men will not credit his report, let them try him by torments, and see what effect they will have [Page 132] upon him. Let them load him with Chains, and cast him into Prison, let them expose him to Wild beasts at Ephesus; let the Elements, Men, and De­vils be all at once set against him; let them scourge him, drag him along, stone him, let them bring him from Jerusalem to Cesarea, from Cesarea to Rome, in­crease and prolong his Afflictions, Saul the Witness of the Synagogue 'tis true recanted his opinion; but Paul the Witness of Jesus will never recant his.

Having seen the strange alteration which happen­ed to the Person of the Minister of the Synagogue, let us reflect a little on that which happened to the Person of the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Judas betray­ed his Master, and received for his reward thirty pieces of Silver. But how comes it to pass he was so much disturbed after he had done it? The Jews, the Romans, the People, the Doctors, the Magistrates and Judges, all favoured his crime, and let him go unpunished; yet the remorse of his own Conscience tormented him to that degree that he could not rest any where; and at length not being able to over­come his Despair, he made away with himself: and the Wisdom of God so ordered it, that the Jews themselves preserv'd the memory of that astonishing event, by buying with that mony a field which is since called Aceldama, because it was the price of blood. What a strange difference we find in these two Per­sons of Judas and Saul? Judas killed himself in the midst of his Prosperity; but Saul rejoyced in the midst of his afflictions. Judas prevailed upon by the Synagogue could not be comforted by the same, but died in despair. Paul became the Disciple and Wit­ness of Jesus, and to him the Cross of Jesus was matter of the greatest joy. God forbid, says he Gal. 6. 14 that I should glory, save in the Cross of my Savi­our Christ, by whom the World is crucified unto me, and I unto the World. Will any one believe that Judas [Page 133] was his own Executioner meerly out of remorse for having betray'd an Impostor to the Jews? Or that St. Paul derived from the sense of his infidelity, the courage he shewed in all his sufferings. Certainly it may be very properly said, that they were both the Martyrs of God, but only with this difference that Judas was so against his will, but Paul voluntari­ly. If the constancy of the one testify'd in behalf of Jesus Christ, the despair of the other was no small honour to him. And the only difference is this, that Paul was properly a Martyr, but Judas in spite of himself a witness of the Truth of Religion.

CHAP. XVII.
Where we further answer the Objections of the In­credulous.

OF all the Objects which the Christian Religion offers to our understanding, there is no one seems more to shock the Reason of a prejudiced and incredulous person, than the Death of the Messias. The Cross of Jesus Christ was, according to the Expres­sion of an Apostle, a scandal to the Jew and a folly to the Greek. But in our opinion there is nothing bears more visible characters of Greatness and Divinity than that does. The Incredulous tell us, that could we but rid our selves of all our prejudices, we should be heartily ashamed to entertain such strange Ideas of God. And we also tell them, that could they once but free themselves of those passions which darken their understanding, they would certainly admire with us the wonders of so Divine an object. Who then is in the wrong in this thing? That will [Page 134] best appear by the answers we shall make to their objections.

We find in the Person of Jesus Christ one who suf­fered himself to be seized upon, and was afterwards nailed on a Cross, not having any one to deliver him from the power of his Enemies. This they object was a mark of his Weakness. For, say they, had he been the King of the Jews, why did he not come down from the Cross, and all the World would have belie­ved on him? He died as one condemned by the grand Council of the Jews, which God himself had esta­blished. This was he as was found guilty. He was seized with sorrowfulness even unto Death the day before his Passion, and cried out bitterly when he gave up the Ghost. This shews his wretched condition. He was made to suffer a punishment proper only for Slaves. It cannot therefore be doubted but that he died a most infamous Death. And who can imagin that Weakness, Guilt, or at least Condemnation, Wretchedness and Infamy should be the true Characters of the Son of God? Thus the Incredulous argue. We answer that Jesus Christ suffer'd by the determi­nate Council of God; since the Scriptures fore­told that he was to be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities, that he was to make his Soul an offering for sin▪ that he was to be cut off, but not for himself. And St. John the Baptist seeing him coming to him, at a time wherein it was very unlikely he should ever suffer, called him the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the World, John 1. 29. Jesus Christ suffered voluntarily; he foretold all his own Sufferings to his Disciples, inviting them to take up their Cross and follow him. He told them that he had made choice of a Company of miserable and afflic­ted Wretches in the World who were notwithstand­ing to overcome the World, and by their sufferings establish the Kingdom of Heaven upon Earth. He [Page 135] freely owned to them that he was not come to settle peace in the World, but the sword, that God would smite the Shepherd, and that the Sheep should be scattered, that they were to drink of the same cup with him, and be Baptised with his Baptism, that is, to taste the bitter cup of his Afflictions, and be Baptised with him with a Baptism of Blood. He intermixed his suffer­ing with theirs, that they might the better bear them in remembrance. If we should in the least doubt whether Christ foretold his sufferings, we need only consider the design of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the time wherein this Ceremony was instituted. For unless we should call in question the real institution of that Sacrament, and so affirm that the Disciples out of an unaccountable and fantastical Extravagance, pretended only that Jesus Christ had instituted that Ceremony, when there was no such thing: it will appear that Jesus Christ foresaw his Death, that he prepared himself for it, and affirm­ed he suffer'd it voluntarily for the Salvation of Man­kind. The Sacrament of the Eucharist which he insti­tuted in cold Blood certifies us of all these things. But because an involuntary Death would argue a certain kind of weakness, 'tis also most certain that nothing can better evince the strength and courage of Jesus Christ, than that tho' he foresaw the hor­rours of an infamous and painful Death, yet he ex­posed himself to it with such a constant will and firm Resolution, that by his example he shewed his Dis­ciples, how he would have them imitate and com­memorate his sufferings.

Jesus Christ was condemned to Death by a Nation seditiously stirred up against him, and by a Sanhe­drin envious of his Glory: but he was justified by the Conscience of Judas, whose remorse for having be­tray'd him, forced him to kill himself, and by the solemn declaration of Pilate, who washed his hands [Page 136] in the presence of the Jews, to shew that he was in­nocent of the Blood of that just Person. He was justi­fied too by the voice of the Centurion, who saw the prodigies his Death was attended withall, and soon after by the mouths even of those who sought his ru­in, and who being prick'd to the heart, cry'd out to the Apostles, Men and Brethren what shall we do, Act. 2. 37. And certainly 'tis a very great glory to our Messias, that the most guilty Conscience, the most unjust judges, the most insensible and hardened sort of Soldiers, and the most barbarous Murtherers should even bare record of his Innocence.

Jesus Christ suffered, but it was for our sakes: he gave himself up to the sorrow and anguish of Death, and made his life an offering for Sin. And if those wounds are counted honourable which a Subject re­ceives sighting in the presence of his King, and if those which a King receives for the safety of his Subjects are esteemed yet far more glorious: what Glory then did Christ deserve, who suffered in the presence and by the will of his Father for the Salva­tion of his People and Children, and who by his sufferings established such an Empire which no power can dissolve?

Lastly, Jesus Christ suffered a punishment proper only to Slaves; but we are also very certain, that during the time of his sufferings, he shewed himself to have a power over Nature her self, since the Graves were opened at his Death, the Rocks rent, the Sun was darkened, and the Vail of the Temple was rent in twain: And it is impossible that the Dis­ciples of the Lord should have invented so sensible and signal matters of fact, against the fresh and pub­lick knowledge which those men that lived in their days had of it, without being guilty of such an Ex­travagance which is more than humane.

[Page 137] But here we will ask the Incredulous in our turn, whether a voluntary Death, an innocence publickly own'd, the sorrows and anguish which a man suffer­ed out of Charity to the World, the homages which even insensible Creatures paid to him whom men scorned and condemned, were not certain Characters worthy of the Messias that had been promised us?

Indeed if you take away the proofs which evident­ly shew Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, you may then call his Cross a scandal to him and the World, but whilst those proofs shall be left entire, his Cross will serve the more to illustrate his Majesty and Grandeur, and we shall not only then assert that it was a voluntary Death which he underwent, and a Death that was foretold us; but we shall also shew that it is as it were a looking-glass-like, wherein we may see at once all the vertues of man, and all the Attributes of God. There we may find the pa­tience of a man, who suffered every thing from his equals, and from those who ought to have been his Servants and Disciples, the Charity of a man who pray'd for them that put him to Death; the Con­stancy of a just man, who bore the burden of the ini­quities of mankind; and the constancy of an inno­cent man, who at once as it were wrestled with the fury of men, and the Justice of God. There we may see the Masterpiece of Divine Wisdom, the de­signs of our Enemies frustrated, and the designs of God triumphing over the vain opinions and projects of men; the propitiation of sins made for us by the most dreadful parricide that was ever committed or conceived; the Synagogue buried in his grave whom they barbarously put to Death in defence of their priviledges; the Romans crowning a King with thorns who was to rule over all Nations, and putting a Reed instead of a Scepter into his hands, flesh and blood shewing us in the Death of Christ the true pat­tern [Page 138] of mortification; Jesus Christ dying attended with almost infinite numbers of Martyrs, who were willing to die in imitation of him, who was Conque­rour of the World only by his shame, who crucify­ed the flesh by the preaching of his Cross, and pro­cured Rest and Peace to the Souls of them that dyed by the Anguish of his Agony.

We may also see the Justice and Mercy of God clearly manifested in his Death. For what other Victim could have better evinced Gods hatred for Sin? What present could have been made unto men, that could have better discovered Gods love to them? The Incredulous therefore reproach us with the meanness of an object, wherein the vertues of men, and the attributes of God himself are shewn in their greatest height and perfection.

But let him that any ways doubts, it, consider the Resurrection of Jesus Christ which is as it were a key that opens all these Events to us. To dye and re­main under the power of Death, is indeed an evi­dent mark of weakness and misery: but to dye and yet overcome Death by rising from the Grave, is the mark of a supernatural power and a divine glo­ry. Thus Jesus Christ descended into the lower parts of the Earth for no other end but to ascend in­to Heaven, as the Eye-witnesses of that great and notable Event did plainly testify.

But the Incredulous will not believe their report, and they further pretend, that they can find in hi­story the example of a testimony very like that, which was nevertheless without contradiction repu­ted Plutarch in the life of Romulus.to be a meer Imposture. We read say they, that after the Death of Romulus, there was a certain se­nator, who having always lived in the repute of a very honest man, certified that Romulus was ascend­ed into Heaven, where he was inserted among the [Page 139] Gods, and that this Monarch had appeared unto him, &c. Is not this a matter of fact not unlike that which the Disciples testify'd of Jesus Christ through­out the Universe?

'Tis very like it indeed, only it has these follow­ing differences; there you read of a single person testifying that he had seen Romulus ascended into Heaven; but here you have a very great number of people who certifiy'd that they had seen Jesus Christ after his Resurrection. There it is pretended that a great and triumphant Monarch during the course of his life, was inserted amongst the Gods after his Death; (which agrees well enough with the com­mon notions of the Vulgar) but here that a man died a Death proper only to Slaves; that he rose a­gain and ascended into Heaven, which is a thing that could not easily enter of it self into any mans mind. There a Senator made use of a lie to free the Senate from the accusation of having murthered their King; but here we find men who exposed themselves to Death, and to torments, if it were possible more insufferable than Death it self, to bear witness of that they look'd upon as a Truth. There it appears that 'twas a cuning man who softned a multitude enraged for the murther of their King, by imposing upon their beleif: but here we have only simple and ignorant persons, who by their tes­timony convinced even the most obstinate amongst the Learned, and engaged them also to suffer Martyrdom. There a single person barely affirmed without any proof, that Romulus had appeared to him: here we have such Witnesses as convince us of the Truth of their Testimony by the most real and sensible proofs in the World, viz. the extraordina­ry and miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost confer­red upon them, and which they themselves frequent­ly imparted to others.

[Page 140] But lastly, it may be objected that we see now a days certain Enthusiasts and Quakers pretending themselves inspired by the Holy Ghost, who re­veals to them as they say, both what they should do and believe, whereas all men of sense know very well they do but dream all this while; and per­haps too the Disciples might have falsly pretended they had received the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. It will soon be seen how wretchedly foolish and trivial this same objection is, if it be only considered that tho these Enthusiasts vainly boast of their being di­vinely inspired, yet they pretend not to confirm their Doctrine by working any Miracles, or speak­ing strange Languages, &c. They think themselves inspired in respect of their Doctrine only; and since they commonly speak in the stile of the Holy Scrip­ture, which they have continually before their eyes, we have no reason to wonder at their taking for an inspiration a continual repetition of that they have so often read over. But the Apostles not only pre­tended themselves inspired by the Holy Ghost, (that they might not advance any thing but what was Or­thodox and conformable to the Holy Scriptures) but they affirmed also they had received some su­pernatural and miraculous gifts, the truth of which they could at any time justify by their Works. And if you should doubt it, you need only observe they did not prove the same by meer speculations, but by calling to bear witness of what they said, the senses of those they spoke to, nay the eyes of the Jews themselves both their Masters and their Enemies too. He therefore being, say they, by the right hand of God exalted, has shed forth this which ye now see and hear, Acts 2. 33. If you should doubt whether St. Peter really spoke just after this manner to the Jews; the multitude of those Proselytes converted by the evi­dence of this Demonstration, and a whole Church [Page 141] purely founded by the efficacy of the same, will suf­ficiently warrant the certainty of it. Should you suppose that the Disciples deceived the multitude, we will only remind you that they had to deal with several learned and skillful Adversaries, tho' they themselves were but simple and ignorant People. If you should imagin that the Vulgar delighted in suffering themselves to be thus miserably deluded, we will only put you in mind, that there could be no Faith more Grievous or terrible, according to the judgment of men, than that which they embraced when they turned Christians; that it highly concern­ed them throughly to examin such matters of fact, the belief of which obliged them to suffer Martyr­dom; that those of Berea who daily took care to compare the holy Scriptures, to know whether all things were really so as St. Paul had told them, cer­tainly would not have failed to consult their eyes and ears, to be assured whether the Apostles had any reason to pretend they could do signs and wonders; this latter examination being more sure and easy than the former; that 'twas not once or twice only St. Paul boasted of having made himself known by many signs, miracles and wonders wrought by him in the presence of those he wrote his exhortations to; that every one of his Epistles is full of Declara­tions of this kind, or of those things visibly relating thereunto; that he derived both his Arguments and the motives of his exhortations from that undeniably known effusion of the supernatural graces of the Ho­ly Ghost. Certainly no man can imagin St. Paul so senseless as to write to the Corinthians in these Words, Wherefore, Brethren, covet to prophecy, and forbid not to speak with tongues, 1 Cor. 14. 19. supposing those gifts had not been actually visible in the Church; nor would he have taken so much care to remedy those disorders which arose from the abuse of those mira­culous [Page 142] gifts, as we have already observ'd he did. Neither would he have warned them that the end of Prophecying was to edifie the faithful, but that the gift of Tongues as being miraculous was to convince the Incredulous. Lastly, he would never have un­dertook to correct the disorders of men, who valued those extraordinary Gifts more than Charity it self, as we see he did when he observed, that whether there were prophecies, they should fail, whether there were Languages, they should cease: but that Charity did ne­ver fail.

But we may easily see by his words how fully he was perswaded of these things. He had so great an admiration for so many miracles, signs, and won­derful works, which the Spirit of God wrought in the sight of men; that he knew not well what suit­able name to give to that Divine principle. Some­times he called it The excellency of the power of God, 2 Cor. 4. 7. sometimes, the exceeding greatness of his power, Eph. 1. 19. sometimes, the Excellency of the power of his might, Eph. 6. 10. All which ex­pressions are to the full as Natural as they are strong, and discover to us beyond all the arguments in the World the Idea St. Paul had of those miraculous gifts, and consequently that too which we our selves ought to have of them.

SECTION III.
Wherein we shall endeavour to carry ev'n to a Demonstration, the proofs drawn from the external evidence of the matters of fact contained in the New Testament, and the inward sense we have of them.

CHAP. I.
Of the Natural Temper, Dispositions, and In­clinations of the Disciples, and what sort of prejudices they were possessed with, when Jesus Christ manifested himself to them.

WE cannot better discover what Impression the matters of fact related in the Gospel may have, or ought to have wrought upon the minds of the Disciples, than by considering what sort of pre­judices they were till then possessed with. We shall therefore begin this third Section with the examina­tion of them.

Since the Disciples of Jesus Christ were originally Jews, they must needs have been possest with these five following prejudices. I. They were fully per­swaded that the Kingdom of the Messias was to be attended with temporal Prosperity. II. They imagined that the Messias would restore the King­dom of Israel to its former Glory, and once more raise up the house of David out of that disgrace, [Page 144] and almost oblivion it had lain under, to its anci­ent Power and Majesty. III. They believed their Law to be of an eternal duration. (Now by their Law I do not here understand the Moral Law only, but the Ceremonial one too, or rather the whole body of it in general, containing both the Moral and Ce­remonial Law.) IV. They esteemed their Sacrifices to be the most sacred and most inviolable Duty of their Religion, and they were far from imagining that those Sacrifices enjoyned by their Law should on a sudden cease, as soon as one Man was put to Death. V. And lastly, they could not consider the Gentiles but as an unclean and abominable sort of peo­ple in comparison to themselves. For besides the sin of Idolatry (which the Jews accounted so capital a crime as to deserve that God should for ever cast them off who were guilty of it) the Heathens were variously polluted and defiled according to the no­tions the Jews had of their Law, since they used none of those Ceremonies that were absolutely ne­cessary to their external Sanctification, by avoiding all uncleanness and legal Impurities.

As to the first prejudice, it can never be doubted but that the Jews expected a temporal Prosperity from their Messias. For besides that the Prophets seem'd to have disposed them thereto by so many excellent and noble Prophecies utter'd concerning him, who knows but that they might look upon Herod the great (tho born an Idumean) as the true Messias who was to come, being surprised at the noise of his Victories, the pomp of his Triumphs, and that constant Prosperity that continually follow­ed his Reign?

Nay it seems very probable, that Herod himself had a design to be taken for the true Messias, and therefore caused the Temple of Jerusalem to be de­molished, on purpose to re▪build it after a more [Page 145] glorious and magnificent manner; since it was the received opinion of the Jews of those days that the Messias was to have been the glory of that House, ac­cording to all the Predictions of the Prophets.

But whether there be or no any grounds for that conjecture, 'tis true at least that his surprising victo­ries and prosperity had made so great an impression upon the minds of the Jews, that a very consider­able number of them imagined, that Herod was the Messias whom the Prophets had promised, and who was to raise their Nation to the height of Happiness and Prosperity. For this opinion gave rise to the Sect of the Herodians that is mentioned in the Gospel.

And we ought not to wonder at it, since the cor­rupt heart of man delights in nothing so much as worldly grandeur and temporal prosperity. Therein consist the pleasures of great as well as mean Persons; and he that shall but consult the History of Mankind▪ will find that from the beginning of the World, those Societies which were distinguished from others by the splendor of honours, or enjoyment of tempo­ral prosperity, still prevailed over all the rest.

The Second received opinion of the Jews was, that their Messias was to restore the Kingdom of Israel to its former glory. For on one hand their Prophets had taught them that the House of David should reign, and endure as long as the Sun and Moon; And on the other they were sensible that the House of David was partly extinguished, and partly fallen in­to disgrace and humiliation. They expected there­fore from the Messias, that he would restore it again. And altho' the people had for a long time been go­verned by several Kings not descended from the Tribe of Judah; yet they still fed themselves up with that imaginary hope.

[Page 146] But above, all the Jews were firmly perswaded of the perpetual Duration of their Law, that is, that people should continually come up from all parts of the World to worship in Mount Sion, and offer up variety of sacrifices in the Holy Land. 'Twas this Law they had heard so often mention'd in their in­fancy, which their Parents, their Elders and their Teachers had so often entertained them with in their common discourse.

They heard every body speak of Jerusalem with a great deal of respect, and 'twas reputed a great oath among them to swear by the City of the great King. They considered the Levites as so many Sacred Per­sons; and the Priests as the Visible Ministers of an invisible God that was pleased to dwell among them. They sent yearly to Jerusalem the tenth of their goods; and brought an infinite variety of victims to be there offered up to God. They thought they could neither be acceptable in the sight of God nor man, unless they practised all the Customs their law prescribed them, touching their purity and external sanctification.

They had seen the greatest severities inflicted up­on the infringers of that Law: and the four sorts of punishments ordained by the Law against the Viola­ters of it (viz. that they should be strangled, or cut off by the Sword, or Burnt, or stoned to Death, according to the enormity of their crime) were continually before their eyes, and almost daily exe­cuted upon those that were guilty in breach of the Law; so that they could not but look upon the pre­scriptions of the Law as sacred and inviolable duties, they were obliged to perform. Now 'tis obvious to every one how great an impression these punish­ments must necessarily make upon the minds of the meaner sort of people▪

[Page 147] They were filled with the thoughts of their Fes­tivals and Solemnities, which were so very proper to fix and stay their minds by that great number both of Ceremonies and Circumstances they were attended with. Thrice every year they were enjoyned to go up to Jerusalem, during such certain sacred times, which they were obliged to observe with a particular devotion; and it was forbidden them to discourse any thing else during the Passover, but of the sor­rowful Captivity which the antient Israelites endur'd in Egypt, Exod. 13. 8. Neither were they permitted to eat any thing for seven days together but un­leavened Bread, in token of that Bread of affliction which their Forefathers had eaten. They were com­manded to kill as many Lambs as there were Fami­lies dwelling in Jerusalem, in token of the antient passage of the destroying Angel over the Houses of Israel. The Feast of Pentecost was to be commemo­rated with no less solemnity, at which time they were obliged to offer up to God the first fruits of the earth▪ It was a part of their Duty to observe yearly a solemn and general Fast the tenth day of September, as also to rest from all manner of Labour the first and last day of the Feast of the Passover, as well as the day called Kipur, in which they were not suffered so much as to eat, or drink, or anoint, or wash themselves. They were obliged to dwell seven days together in Tents during the Feast of Tabernacles, which Ceremony was particularly de­signed to commemorate the abode of the antient Israelites in the Wilderness.

Now every one knows that the greater number of Festivals and Solemnities there is in any Religion, the more impression they make upon the minds of the people, who are apt to think that Religion chiefly consists in external Rites and Ceremonies.

[Page 148] 'Tis certain that the great number and variety of sacrifices prescribed in the Law of Moses, and duly performed by the Jews, was capable enough to pro­duce this effect in the minds of the people. For they thoght every thing was to be offered to God. They offered him men, which was called Consecrati­on. They offered him the fruits of the Earth, which was called Oblation. They offered him their Li­quors, which was termed Libation. They offered him Spices which were burnt in his presence, and that was called Burning of Incense. Lastly, they of­fered him four-footed Beasts, which was more pro­perly called Sacrifice. They offered him also Burnt­offerings, and other ordinary Sacrifices. They of­fered Sin-offerings, and Peace-offerings. They of­fered some set sacrifices, and others accidental and occasional. They offered two daily, one in the morn­ing, and the other in the evening; as also an extra­ordinary one every week, and another extraordinary one every month, and new ones on every solemn feast day. They offered them either for the sins of the peo­ple in general, or for those of private persons in par­ticular. But on the day of the solemn expiation, they offered then two sacrifices, the one which the High-Priest offered for himself and his whole Family at his own proper charge, and the other he offered at the charge of the people, for the sins of the people. Then they chose two he-Goats, one whereof was offered as a sacrifice for sin, and was burnt out of the Camp, or City, and the other was sent into a desart near a mountain called Hazazel, where it was cast down head long. Which being done, the High-Priest cloathed in white Raiments, enter'd into the most holy place, holding a Censer in his hands full of hot burning Coals, on which he would sprinkle all sorts of spices, the smoak whereof made a kind of cloud, which covered the Mercy-seat all over, on which he [Page 149] would then power the Blood of the he-Goat that had been slain in the Porch. This being done, the High-Priest pull'd off his sacred Robes, and having put on again his usual Garments, return'd back to his own House, accompanied by all the people, who ended the day with festivals and rejoycings, because the High-Priest was come out from the presence of God safe and sound. So great a number therefore and variety both of Ceremonies and Sacrifices, could not but naturally have a great power over the minds of those, who from their infancy had had all those objects continually before their eyes.

We ought to make the same judgment on their different kinds of purification. For as Custom and Education only make us think Nudity a shameful and unbecoming state for any man to be seen in; so Custom, Education and Religion, which is often of more force than either, made them esteem all those unclean, who had contracted any legal impurities. The camp of the Israelites in the desart, and after­wards the City of Jerusalem was divided in three parts: the first was the place or habitation of God himself, who dwelt either in the Tabernacle, or the Temple. The second was that of the Levites, who dwelt round about the Sanctuary: and the third was that of the people, which was separated from the Tem­ple by that of the Levites. In like manner they dis­tinguished three sorts of unclean persons: The first sort were only excluded from the Temple or Dwel­ling place of God; such were all those who had touched any dead Carcass, or were uncircumcised: The second being look'd upon as more unclean than the first, were shut out both of the first and the second habitation, viz. out of the Temple and the Habitation of the Levites, that is, they were entire­ly excluded out of Mount Sion, such were all Wo­men after Child bearing, or all men and women that [Page 150] had any natural or accidental impurities: Lastly, the third, the most unclean of all were excluded out of those three Habitations, and utterly sequestred from the Society and Communion of the people. Such were all Lepers who were not only looked upon as defiled, but also as persons who might easily defile other people, and who to distinguish and make themselves known in those very places where they lived a part by themselves, were obliged according to the He­brew Tradition to wear torn garments, to let their hairs grow, and walk about with their faces cover­ed with a vail, as if they were capable of defiling other men by their very looks, or as if other men were afraid to contaminate their eyes by looking up­on them, as it appears by the allusion of the Prophet Isaiah to that custom, in the prophecy contained in his 53. Chap. v. 3. We hid as it were our face from him, that is, as the Comment imports, as one hideth his face from a Leper.

It is certain that so many cautions being required of them to avoid the contracting of any legal impu­rities, to cast out from among them the unclean persons, to purify themselves either by Washing, or Sacrifices, or the Ashes of a red Cow; as also the prejudices which this Custom supported by Educati­on, and strictly enjoyn'd by the Law of God, so naturally suggested in their minds; I say it is certain that all these motives were the original cause of that invincible aversion the Jews had both for the Gentiles, who were in divers respects very unclean in com­parison to them, and for every new Religion that might either permit, or not at all insist upon those corporeal and external Impurities.

Add to this the profound reverence they had for the Temple, which the Antient Israelites us'd to call with such transports of Admiration, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord; The respect they [Page 151] had for the Levites, to whom God had commited the care of the Temple, Numb. 18. and the Priests in whomwas required so much purity, that they were ne­ver to perform their Sacerdotal office without having first washed their Hands and Feet, who were to bless the People, to burn Incense and offer the common and ordinary offerings, and who also were anointed as well as Kings and Prophets, to shew how accept­able they were in the sight of God.

Add also to this, the great care their Lawgiver had taken to engrave their Religion on their Walls, and even upon their Garments, which latter were to have the Law, or at least the greatest part of it, written upon them, as also the pious care that same Lawgiver had taken to sanctify the Estates of the Rich, in teaching them how to consecrate them to God, and to comfort the poor in their necessities, by enacting such admirable Laws designed only for their Subsistence, Levit. 19. Deut. 15. 7, 8, 24.

Lastly, To all this you may yet further add those wonderful Laws of Equity and Justice, whereby their Lawgiver had so prudently determined what Judg­ments shouldbe executed in the midst of that people: those Laws which seemed to be only the first and most just determinations of the Law of Nature, and which may and ought to serve for an example to all Civil and Political Laws established in the World.

Now from all this it necessarily follows; First, That the Disciples could not look upon Jesus Christ as the Messias who was to come, and whom their Nation expected with so great impatience, without expect­ing from him a Temporal Happiness and Prosperity. This plainly appears by the request which the Mo­ther of Zebedee's Children made to Jesus Christ when she came to him, saying, Lord grant that these my two Sons may sit, the one on the Right Hand, and the other on the Left in thy Kingdom, Mat. 20. 21. The Dis­ciples [Page 152] therefore must necessarily be strangely offen­ded to hear that their Master was not come to com­mand, but to serve, and give his Life as a Ransom for many; that he should be the greatest in his King­dom who was most humble; and that the greatest was to be as the least, and as one that serveth.

Besides, how strangely must their hopes be cross'd to see that nothing but Misery, Poverty and Afflicti­ons, continually attended the profession they had em­braced, of following Jesus Christ.

They must have certainly found something or other in their Master, which recompens'd the loss of that Temporal Prosperity they so eagerly thirsted after, and made them patiently endure all sorts of Afflictions; and that recompence could be nothing else but the Doctrine or Miracles of Jesus Christ. Yet 'twas not his Doctrine, because they understood it not for along time, as is evident by so many vain, frivolous, absurd and ridiculous questions that were offensive, and savoured of little respect to their Master. Besides, what was most holy and most pro­per to perswade men to embrace his Doctrine, was that part of it which was most spiritual, and that part was hid from them, and they could not under­stand it, because their minds were filled only with gross and carnal Ideas of the World, as it appears by their Discourses to their Master, which they themselves relate after so simple and ingenuous a manner. They must then necessarily have found in Je­sus Christ such miracles as served them instead of all their o [...]her desires. And 'tis by them chiefly that Jesus Christ proved the truth and Divinity of his Calling to them. He told them that the Father had not left him without a witness, but that the works which he did, testify'd that the Father had sent him. And on another occasion he solemnly declared that there was a greater witness than John the Baptist, adding [Page 153] that the works which the Father had given him to do, were those that should testify of him.

But perhaps it may here be objected, that John the Baptist could draw a great multitude after him, and be esteemed a Prophet among the Jews, without ha­ving wrought any Miracles, at least none that we know of, or meet with in the Gospel, and conse­quently that it's no wonder if Jesus Christ as well as John the Baptist drew a great number of Disciples after him, not so much upon the account of his Mi­racles, as his extraordinary Piety, and the pro­mises he made them of an Eternal Life. To this I answer First, that tho' we read of no kind of Mi­racles that John the Baptist wrought himself in the whole Course of his Life, or of his Ministry, yet it is sufficient that his Birth was signalized by a very surprising Miracle, which was sufficiently known by all his Nation, to make them expect great and wonderful matters from him. Secondly, I say that as John the Baptist wrought no Miracles, so neither was he looked upon as a Prophet that was to have done any. He was not that Messias of whom it had beeen foretold that he should be the desire of all Nations, that he should be called the God and Savi­our of the World, at whose coming God would shake Heaven and Earth, the Sea, and the dry Land. He was no more than his forerunner: He was the voice of one crying in the Wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his Paths straight, Matt. 3. 3. Thirdly, John the Baptist declared only to them the coming of the Messias, which could not but very much please the Jews, and which perfectly well agreed with their Hopes and Opinions. His Ministry had nothing but what was very grateful and pleasant. And it was not requisite he should work any Miracles to exhort the Jews to receive the most wellcome tidings they could ever hear of. But it was not [Page 154] so with Jesus Christ, who was obliged to shew the Messias in his own Person, and him too so contra­ry to that Idea they had framed to themselves of him, even from their infancy. So that he could not chuse but exasperate them against him. And to this (if I may mention it by the way) we ought to refer the different success of the Ministry of John the Baptist, and that of Jesus Christ, which was signi­fied in the predictions of the prophets, who fore­told that John the Baptist should reconcile the Hearts of the Parents to the Children, but on the contrary, that Jesus Christ would be a stumbling block, and an offence to Israel.

Since the Jews so eagerly expected the coming of the Kingdom of the Messias, they framed a very agreeable Idea of him to themselves, as they do still to this day. They invested him with all the Splendor and Glory they could possibly wish to themselves. They painted him (if I may so speak) in Colours suitable to their own Pride and Ambiti­on. They expected they should speedily have Kings of the Earth for their nursing Fathers, and Queens for their nursing Mothers, nay they imagined no less than to have them immediately for Man Servants and Maid Servants. These things they had been told of from their Infancy; and that Carnal and Temporal Messias they fancied, was as it were the Idol of their Hearts. Soon after John Baptist ap­peared in the World, who setting forth the King­dom of the Messias in such terms as the Prophet Daniel had made use of before him, publickly af­firmed that the Kingdom of Heaven was at Hand, Mat. 3 2 At the report of this agreeable voice, all the people ran in crouds to hear it from Jerusalem, from Decapolis, from Judea, from Galilee, and from the Cities beyond Jordain. John preached Repentance to them as a necessary preparation to become partakers [Page 155] of all the Benefits they were to expect under the Messias: and they willingly hearkened to his preach­ing. He exhorted them to be reconciled to one an­other, and so to become Subjects of the same Heavenly King: they renounced then all their differences and quarrels, the dear expectation they had of their Messias stifling in their hearts all Passions and Re­sentments. But when John the Baptist had as it were led them by the Hand to Jesus Christ himself, they were strangely surprised to find in him nothing of what they expected. They found in him Poverty, where they thought to have found Riches, Shame and Afflictions, where they thought to have met no­thing but great Splendor and Temporal Glory. For this Reason therefore they rejected him with Horrour and Abomination; all their thoughts being on a sudden changed into indignation and anger a­gainst him, in whom before they had fixed all their imaginary hopes.

But tho' the generality of his Nation cast him off, there were yet a certain number of persons who were willing to follow him; and that number daily increased in proportion as Jesus Christ's sufferings and afflictions increased. There were at first but twelve whom he called to his Service. Then sent he seventy others abroad, who were succeeded by a great may others after his Death. And their number further increasing with the fury of the San­hedrin, there were at length many seen who testify'd in behalf of that crucified man.

But how come those Disciples to follow a Messias so contrary to their first Ideas and receiv'd opinions? How is it possible they should not have been discou­raged at his Cross, unless Jesus Christ had promised them to do signs and wonders? How could they have been with him night and day for three Years and an half, without inquiring into that important matter of [Page 156] fact, or knowing whether he were really able to do Miracles or not? Or how is it possible when they found their mistake, that Jesus Christ was but an ordinary sort of a man, uncapable of working any signs or wonders, they should not have forsaken him as a Whymsical Impostor? How could their minds be so suddenly changed, as to look on Humili­ation and Meanness, Misery and Afflictions, as upon the true and real Character of the Messias, they I say, whose minds Education had filled only with carnal Ideas of the flourishing Kingdom of the Messi­as? But above all, how could they be present at the Crucifixion of their Master, without being redu­ced to the last greatest Consternation and Confu­sion?

So that the second Consequence which may very well be drawn from these principles already esta­blished, is that the Disciples having always imagi­ned with their Fathers and Mothers, their Brothers and Sisters, their Teachers and Elders, and in ge­neral with their whole Nation, that their Messias should have restored the Kingdom of Israel, and ha­ving understood those words in a literal sense, it is impossible but that they should be extreamly offen­ded to see him wearing a Crown of Thorns upon his Head, when he was nailed on the Cross, and a Reed instead of a Scepter in his Hand: Nay more than this, 'tis morally impossible but that this object must have rooted out of their Hearts all thoughts of Pride and Ambition, and all pretensions to Great­ness and Temporal Prosperity, which their Blindness had caused them to conceive upon this mans ac­count; unless there had happened since his Death such supernatural and extraordinary things, as were able to revive in their Heart such great hopes as these.

[Page 157] Thirdly, We shall conclude from the Principles we have already established, that the Disciples as well as all other Jews, being as it were ty'd to their Religion by what they had Seen and Heard, by their Inclination and Ʋnderstanding, by their Interest and Piety, by their Customs and Education, and by the Advantage wherewith they might well flatter them­selves of being distinguished from all other Nations of the World, and being further as it were wedded to it by that great number of Ceremonies and Cus­toms, the Justice and Holiness of which they could no way doubt of, since they had been so exactly prescribed them by the Law of God himself; it cannot be supposed but that they imagined their Law to be of an eternal Duration, and that being ex­treamly averse to every new sort of Worship which was contrary to that of Moses; they could not have so suddenly altered their opinion, nor could there have happened so strange a revolution in the Hearts and Minds of so many persons united, and as it were link'd by so many respects to the Law of Moses; that in so small a period of time the Souls of all those Jews should have been so entirely changed, as that they should begin to look upon the Jewish Reli­gion as upon a Dispensation granted with a provi­so, and which was to come to an end, and for the future be considered only as a thing altogether useless and out of Date.

I confess that this principle was not first of all approved of in the World without great contest and difficulty, and that there were for a while cer­tain Judaising Christians who taught others that the Law of Moses was still in force, and that it was ne­cessary to Salvation, to joyn the Doctrine of Jesus Christ with the Ceremonies of the Law: But then it is well known they were only either some of Christ's [Page 158] Enemies who started these questions out of a parti­cular design to make a division in the Christian Church, or some Jews turned Christians, as yet very weak and not fully strengthened in their belief, whose scrupulous Zeal and blind Superstition caused all those Controvesies. But however, 'tis evident that the true Disciples of Jesus Christ, and especially the A­postles, were not long in an errour as to this point. They affirmed that men were justify'd only by the Faith of Jesus Christ without the works of the Law. And 'tis manifest that in the first Council held at Jerusalem, the Disciples of our Lord abolished the Customs and Rites of the Ceremonial Law.

But at last it is of no great moment, whether the Ceremonial Law or Religion of Moses was abolished, ten years sooner or later. Still it is certain that it was sometimes abolished, or rather to speak more exactly and truly, it was fulfilled by the Gospel, and so the observation of it ceased.

Now I demand how it is possible that those men who were so devoted and bigotted to that Law, who made it the object of their thoughts and most com­mon discourse, should so great a number of them, and in so short a time, with one common consent re­nounce that Law which Piety made so venerable, and Honour and Interest so valuable in their Esteem? Whereas so many ages elapsed before the coming of Jesus Christ into the World could not wear out of their minds that profound esteem and respect they had for that Law. For tho' they had often broke it in several respects, yet it may be said in their be­half they almost always look'd upon it as inviolable. And can we suppose that so many ages as have pass­ed since the Death of Jesus Christ, could not remove that perswasion so deeply rooted in their Mind, that their Law was to be eternal: and yet that a [Page 159] few years should perswade that great multitude of Disciples, converted by the preaching of the Apo­stles, that all those Rites and Ceremonies were be­come invalid by the Death of a Man, whom the Sanhedrin had condemned to be executed as a Male­factor, without any extraordinary or supernatural accident intervening, which should occasion the framing to themselves such Ideas so particular, and so contrary to their first Prejudices?

Certainly we may very well affirm, that our Incre­dulous Adversaries have too great a value for im­posture and ignorance, when they imagin that an universal delusion, and unanimous consent to a Lye, could convert Nations, Sanctify Mankind, and spread the Knowledge of God throughout the World, accor­ding as it was foretold by the Scriptures; or that a few simple and ignorant Fishermen, whose know­ledge extended no further than their Employment, should discover the defects and imperfections of the Ceremonial Law, and introduce instead of it a Spiritu­al worship, as really more conformable to the Nature of God who is a Spirit, and more worthy of man who is a Spirit, and more worthy of man who is a Reasonable Creature; that those simple and ignorant men should discover the Sacrifices un­der the Law to be only Types of the Death of a man, who was condemned to be executed as a Male­factor; that they should attribute this thought to John the Baptist, and make him express it only in these words, Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the World, John 1. 29. Words so full and comprehensive, that they contain the whole sum of Christan Religion: And Lastly, That they should in­vent Mysteries so very different from mens ordinary Thoughts and Conjectures, and so far above the Capacity of the most judicious and learned, that it may deservedly be said of them, that they are such things which Eye has not seen, nor Ear heard, neither [Page 160] has it enter'd into the Heart of Man to conceive them, 1 Cor. 2. 9.

Lastly, Experience tells us how difficult it is for persons already advanced in years, to renounce the Common practices generally approved of in the World, especially when authorised by Religion and Education. How hard would it be for us Christians to live as the Jews? And yet it would be more diffi­cult for them to live as we do. Because we look up­on all their Customs as things very indifferent in themselves, whereas they always look'd upon our Practices as scandalous and unlawful. How then was it that not only one or two Jews, but thousands who had embraced Christianity, no longer in the least scrupled to converse with the Gentiles, nay to to live with Heathens, who before were an Abomina­tion in their eyes?

You will say this was not without many consider­able difficulties, and was the cause of several great Animosities and Disputes. I grant it; but yet it appears the Ceremonial Law was utterly abolished presently after the Death of Christ; the Apostles having determined that it had been accomplished in his Death, and that it was not Lawful to joyn the Carnal Ceremonies of the Law with the Spiri­tual worship of the Gospel. And I say, that had not the Apostles both testify'd the Miracles and Re­surrection of Jesus Christ, and wrought very great wonders themselves, it was naturally impossible they should have executed so great a design, especial­ly in so small a time.

For certainly if we consider the Disciples as born Jews, they must necessarily have been very much de­voted to their own Law.

If we consider them as poor and mean people, they could not but have been passionately fond of that Law which gave such wonderful precepts for [Page 161] the Administration of Justice, and the relief and com­fort of the Poor.

If we consider them as simple and ignorant men, they could not but have a blind love and obedience for their Law, as all ignorant People have for the external objects of Religion.

Lastly, Should we consider them as prepossessed with the usual prejudices of their Nation, they must necessarily have expected a Glorious and Trium­phant Messias, who instead of abolishing the Law of Moses, should have established it throughout the World.

Yet we need only consider the event to clear the truth of this matter. We shall not insist upon all the Reflections we might easily make hereupon; It's sufficient to have taken notice of those things by the by, because they may serve in some measure to illustrate the particular examination we shall make of the Miracles of the Gospel.

We have already considered them in general, sufficiently to convince all reasonable Persons. But it may not be amiss to insist more particularly on them, that we may confound the Obstinate and In­credulous, and make them at least truly sensible of their Errour, tho' perhaps we cannot reclaim them from it.

To do this better, we shall lay down four miracu­lous matters of fact, which shall be as so many cen­ters of the Truth we enquire into, because there are several lines and degrees of Evidence and Light which necessarily lead us to the Truth of each of these matters of fact, and then we shall joyn them all together, the better to form a full and perfect Demonstration of them.

CHAP. II.
The first Center of Truth: a particular considera­tion of the Miracles of Jesus Christ.

WE dare say that such is the nature of these Miracles, that the composers of the Gospel durst not, could not, would not have forged them, had they been really false.

I say they durst not, because they could not but have been publickly known. To prove this I shall lay down four Examples of them, which are I. The History of Zachariah the Father of John the Baptist. II. The History of the Massacre of the young Chil­dren of Bethlehem. III. The miraculous feeding of several thousands at several times in the Wilderness, with a few Loaves and some small Fishes. IV. And Lastly, the supernatural prodigies which happened at the death of Jesus Christ himself.

As to the First, we may observe that the Subject upon whom this great Miracle was wrought is a Priest; a Priest who daily performed the functions of his Ministerial office, and was then actually burning Incense in the Temple of Jerusalem, at a very remarkable time, during which the people who expected him, were very intent at their Prayers to God in the outward Part or Porch of the Temple, whilst he himself was in the Holy Place.

Now tho' the Historian had observed only con­cerning the Birth of John the Baptist, that Zachari­ah and Elizabeth his Wife were far advanced in years, and that the latter till then was thought Barren, yet that event would have employed something so extra­ordinary and surprising, that one might have been almost positive that the Evangelist durst not have [Page 163] been so bold as to forge it, against the publick knowledge which all the Jews must then have had of it. How then durst any one have affirmed that Za­chariah wholly lost the use of his Tongue whilst he was in the Temple; that all the people were Eye-Witnesses of it; and that he remained Speechless, till the time was come wherein he was obliged to give a name to that wonderful Child which God had given him in his old age, notwithstanding the Barrenness of his Wife? Supposing the Gospel wherein this matter of fact is related, was composed long after that Event: still it is true that St. Luke composed his Gospel before his Book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles, and that he composed the Book of Acts somtime before the destruction of Jerusalem, as we have in another place already observed, and as it is without doubt true. Then supposing also forty, fifty, or sixty years, if you will, had past since all these things had happened, and before St. Luke composed his Gospel; can forty, fifty, or sixty years be sufficient to perswade several thousands of people, nay all the Inhabitants of that great and flourishing City of Jerusalem, that they had seen either with their own eyes, or that their Forefathers had seen one of their Priests wholly deprived of the use of his tongue, because he had seen a Vision in the Holy Place, and yet that he recovered it precisely and exactly at the time he was obliged to give a name to his Child?

Certainly, had none but Zachariah's Relations been acquainted with the Event of those things, yet it would have argued rashness in any man to invent any thing false concerning them. For what an ex­travagance would it have been in any one to pre­tend to invent it, against the publick Knowledge of a whole and very numerous Nation, so solemnly assembled together, and so intent upon that Event, [Page 164] nay so surprised at that prodigy, or if you will (according to the Incredulous) so fully satisfied that there was nothing in it but a vain Chimaera and delusion. And the people, says the Historian, waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the Temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a Vision in the Temple: for he beckened unto them, and remain­ed Speechless, Luke 1. 21, 22.

But the manner in which Zacharias was healed is no less surprising. And it came to pass, says the E­vangelist, that on the eighth day they came to Circum­cise the Child, and they called him Zachariah after the name of his Father. And his Mother answered and said, not so, but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, there is none of thy Kindred that is called by that name. And they made signs to his Father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a Writing Table, and wrote saying, his name is John. And they marvelled all. And his Mouth was opened immediately, and his Tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all that dwel't round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad through­out all the Country of Judea, Luke 1. 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65.

Thus it appears this History consists of two Parts, the first whereof was known to all the City of Jeru­salem, and the other was spread abroad throughout all the Country of Judea, and certainly it is absolute­ly impossible any one should have in the least design­ed to impose upon the World in that Respect, a­gainst that double knowledge they must have had of that matter of fact.

For then the Evangelist would have taken away all possibility of belief from his Narration by the choice of those Circumstances he inserted into his History. Now it does not seem natural for an [Page 165] Author who wrote the History of Jesus Christ and his Miracles, in a time wherein it was so strictly ex­amined, and the followers of that Sect were ad­judged and condemned to Death with so much Seve­rity, in a time wherein as he himself makes the Jews of Rome tell it to St. Paul, speaking to him at the latter end of the Book of Acts Chap. 28. v. 22. For as concerning this Sect, we know that every where it is spoken against. I say it does not seem Natural that that same Author who knew it, [...]ay observed it himself, should have published such matters of fact, the falsity of which he would soon have been con­vinced of by twenty thousands of people, who must have been present in the Temple with Zachariah, or at least heard it related by those who were there present.

One of the most dangerous errors which the In­credulous plunge themselves in, is that they imagin that the same distance of time which is between us and those matters of fact related to us, is also to be found between those very matters of fact them­selves, and those who so related them. And they perceive not that whereas with respect to us 'tis many ages ago since all those things came to pass, yet 'twas but a little while since these things must necessarily have happened with respect to the Dis­ciples who published them to the World, either by their preaching or writings.

Now for St. Luke to have invented such matters of fact, must either have argued in him a certain drolling Mirth and pleasant Gayety of Spirit, in telling such stories so gravely, or else he must have had but a very mean opinion of Mens sense and un­derstanding in his time, to think they could so easi­ly be deluded and imposed upon.

The History the Evangelists give us of the com­ing of the Wise-Men of the East into the City of [Page 166] Jerusalem, of Herod's suspicious Concern, and the cruel cautions he used to secure his own Crown, by commanding all the Young Children that were in the City of Bethlehem, and in all the Coasts there­of to be slain, from two years old and under, ac­cording to the time he had diligently enquired of the Wise-men, I say this History is much of the same stamp with that we just now consider'd.

Had the Evangelists only told us in general, that the Wise-men saw a Star in the East, which they took to be the Star that signified the Birth of the King of the Jews, that would have been somewhat more suspicious. Had they told us only that those Wise-men came to Jerusalem, that would not posi­tively have concluded much. But when they tell us that they came publickly to Jerusalem, not any way concealing themselves, or the cause of their coming, and that the whole City was alarmed and concerned at it; Does it seem natural that a man should fancy he could perswade so great a City as Jerusalem was, that it had been disturbed and surprised at the ar­rival of Certain Wise-men, who were come to wor­ship the King of the Jews? That a man▪ who had proposed to himself to relate certain Fables whom it concerned that they should pass for true and certain matters of fact, should yet pick out such circumstances as those were, to vent abroad to a Nation that knew so very well the falshood of them? For if we consi­der who it was that related these things. 'Twas Matthew who was born a Jew. And who did he re­late them to? Why to several thousand Jews that had embraced Christianity, and who dwelling at Je­rusalem, knew full as well what had happened therein both in their days and in those of their Fathers, as they know at Paris what was done in that City in the days of Cardinal Richelieu, or as they know at London every thing that happened in those of Oliver [Page 167] Cromwell; and at Stockolm in those of Gustavus A­dolphus: And now I pray consider whether it be pro­bable any man could have made the like matters of fact believ'd in any of those great Cities by such a successful forgery; or whether he could have gained over to his side several thousands of people by the meer strength of his Fictions.

But if I grant that the Evangelist had boldness enough expresly to denote the coming of the Wise-men, and the impression it made on all the Inhabi­tants of Jerusalem against their publick knowledge, nay against the memory of those things they had then fresh in their minds; at least it can't be denied but that the consequences of that coming, and the Dependencies of that first event are of such a Nature and Character, as not possibly to have been forged or invented by the most bold faced and impudent Writer that ever was.

There are here two or three Circumstances so natu­rally and inseparably united one with the other, that it is impossible to grant one without granting the other too. No man can doubt of the coming of the Wise-men to Jerusalem, if he allows that this coming forced Herod to assemble the Grand Council of the Jews to know of them where the Messias should be born: neither can he doubt of the answer that was made him by the Sanhedrin, if he owns that Herod sent his men into Bethlehem, to slay the young Chil­dren that were there from two years old and under. So that if it can be made out that this last matter of fact was true, the other two will not need much proof.

Now I affirm that the Evangelist durst not assert this last matter of fact, had it been utterly false. For what! Since the reign of Herod surnamed the Great was so well known, that the least of his Acti­ons was publickly talk'd of; how could any one [Page 168] have presumed to impute falsly to him a Massacre so notable and extraordinary as that must have been? The City of Bethlehem had not as yet been destroyed, when the Evangelist wrote those things; and there­fore supposing the things false, there were so many Witnesses of the Falsity, as there were Inhabitants yet living in that City. That City was not so far distant from Jerusalem, but that those Christians who dwelt in the latter might have very well known the certain Truth of them. Besides, there was a very great Commerce between those two Places; and the time from the Birth of Jesus Christ to that in which this Gospel was composed, was not so long as to have given occasion to so impro­bable a Fiction. Suppose a Man in these latter Days should take upon him to make us believe that one of the present Kings in Europe, or if you will, of those who reigned forty or fifty Years ago, caused two or three thousand Children to be slain in their Cradle, that so he might involve in that Massacre the Ruin of a Child, whose Destiny he suspected would prove fatal to him: Certainly it is not very probable we should credit such a Fable, or that any one durst pretend to publish it; nay, had so much as the least Thoughts of it. But then 'tis much more improbable, that any one should endeavour to perswade those Men to the Belief of it who lived in that Kingdom, or in those very Places where such a thing was supposed to have happened.

But to come a little nearer to the Death of Je­sus Christ. The Evangelists represent him to us as having lived thirty Years obscurely in the World. Now had it been their Design to put us off with Stories, they might have perswaded us, that Jesus Christ, during his abode here, had been often wrap'd up into Heaven, or transported into far [Page 169] Countries, where he had done many Signs and Wonders; nay they might have told us too, that for the space of thirty Years he had continually wrought very sensible and wonderful Miracles in the midst of the Jews: For it was as easy for them to suppose such a thing as all the rest. Yet it ap­pears that the Evangelists include all his Miracles in the three last Years of his Life: And what is the Reason of it? Because they wrote nothing but Truth. But we shall not here insist much upon this Consideration.

What is most certain is, That the Evangelists having delivered in their Writings, that Jesus Christ had done a great many Signs and Wonders before a great number of Witnesses, and having set down the Time and Place when and where they were done, they must necessarily have been void of all Shame, as well as Reason, to relate such things as these, if they were false. They tell us, That Jesus Christ, with a few Loaves and some small Fishes, mi­raculously fed in the Wilderness, at one time, five thousand; and at another, three thousand men; be­sides Women and Children. Now I am at a stand to imagine how it can be thought natural for one Man to undertake to perswade several thousands, that they had been wonderfully fed, and not only to relate the bare matter of fact it self, but also bring in Christ reproaching the Multitude, that they followed him not purely for the sake of his Miracles, but the Loaves he fed them with; and then the Multitude excusing themselves, and saying, that Moses had fed their Forefathers, and that he must also feed them, if he would have them be­lieve in him; as also Jesus Christ bidding them on this Occasion to labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, Joh. 6. 27. and to that end promising to give them [Page 170] his Flesh to eat, and his Blood to drink: All which Expressions are indeed very extraordinary in them­selves, and such as no Man ever made use of before him.

But there are matters of fact related in the Gos­pel more extraordinary and surprising than these▪ There is nothing so remarkable, and which strikes us so much with Astonishment, as the Description the Evangelists give us of the Prodigies that atten­ded the Death of Christ: And behold, say they, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurre­ction, and went into the holy City, and appeared unto many, Matth. 27. 51, 52, 53.

We shall not here insist on each particular Cir­cumstance that attended this miraculous matter of fact; neither shall we nicely examine the Resurrecti­on of those Saints whose Bodies came out of their Graves, and appeared unto many in the City of Jerusalem. It will be sufficient for us to consider only those Prodigies which drew the eyes of the whole World, and could not but universally cause a publick Consternation, and make a fearful Impres­sion on the Minds of Men. Now I affirm, it cannot naturally enter, I shall not say into the Mind of a sincere honest Man, but even into that of an Im­postor, to imagine he could ever be capable of ma­king others believe things so notoriously known, as those we now have under Consideration must have been, had they been false.

'Tis not many Years ago since a certain Man was Executed at Paris for calling himself the Holy Ghost, who had a few Disciples, and some Followers: but his Sect was soon buried, together with him, in his Grave. Now let us suppose, if you will, that his [Page 171] Disciples had preach'd after his Death, and com­posed a new Gospel, filled only with the Doctrine and Precepts of that Man, who was thought by them to be no less than a divine Person: I ask then (whatsoever Extravagance you may suppose them to have been guilty of) whether you can conceive it could have entred into their Minds to perswade the People of Paris, that the very Day on which that Man who called himself the Holy Ghost died, the Church of Nostre Dame was either thrown down or demolished, that its Altars and Statues were bro­ken down; that there happened an Eclipse of the Sun, the greatest that ever was known, accompani­ed with such a mighty Earthquake, that even the Rocks were rent; and that all these Wonders wrought so great an Impression upon the Mind of a certain Captain that guarded the Body of the exe­cuted Person, that he believed in him? Doubtless these whimsical Men could not have taken a more effectual way, not only to hinder others from be­lieving their Report, but even to undeceive all those who might till then have been led away by that pernicious Sect, than to insert in the Gospel they were to compose of the Doctrine of their Master, such Circumstances as would have contradicted the publick Knowledge and fresh Remembrance every body had of things so lately done, and to advance such matters of fact as would immediately have been proved to be false by the publick Testimony every body could give of them. Now all this may be very well applied to the Disciples of Jesus Christ. For supposing those Disciples were very great Im­postors, we cannot reasonably ascribe to them any other Design than that of deceiving Men, by making them receive Falshood for Truth: And it is sufficient if they had that Design, and were not wholly void of Reason, to make us think they could not have [Page 172] had [...]e Boldness to invent such Circumstances as these, and afterwards publish them to the World.

But after all, was there not a very numerous Church [...] in Jerusalem when that Gospel was composed? And did not that Church consist of ma­ny thousands of People who dwelt at Jerusalem, and knew perfectly well whatever had happened at the Death of Jesus Christ? Certainly no Man can doub [...] [...] it, unless he has a mind voluntarily to [...] himself. Those very Christians then of Je­rusalem saw all those things which happened at the Death of Christ: for they were the Men that had been converted by the preaching of St. Peter, and the other Apostles; and who, being prick'd to the Heart, cried out, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts 2. 37. They had seen then that the Sun was not eclipsed, that the Rocks rent not, that there happened no Earthquake, no surprising and supernatural Prodigy at the Death of Christ: And if they saw none of these things, they could not but look upon the Report of the Evangelists as a scandalous Lye and notorious Falshood, design'd to seduce them from their rational Belief, and per­swade them out of their Senses. But it is farther observable, that not one only, but three Evange­lists, have written these things; who, as appears evidently, did not compose their Gospels together, but separately, and at different times, and yet all agree in their Relation of that notable Circum­stance of the Death of Christ. And no doubt but they all agreed also in the Relation of it, when they preached the Gospel by word of Mouth.

Who then can reasonably believe, that when the Disciples preach'd the Gospel in Jerusalem, in or­der to establish a Christian Church there, their De­sign was to perswade the Jews that they must not believe their own Eyes? and that what they had [Page 173] seen, was not that thing which they had seen? Who can imagine that those very Jews themselves who were present and assisted at the Death of Je­sus Christ, should suffer themselves insensibly to be perswaded that that fabulous Recital was a very true Narration, and believe that really to have happened which they certainly knew never came to pass? Who can even suppose that the Apostles could fancy themselves able to make the Jews look upon a crucified Man as the Object of their Adora­tion and Worship, by proposing to their Belief the most impudent and apparent Lyes that ever were invented since the Beginning of the World?

But it will concern us carefully to consider the rending of the Vail of the Temple; for that Cir­cumstance is so very singular, that it is sufficient of it self to stop the Mouths of our incredulous Adversaries, who tho' they should so inconsiderate­ly and wilfully delude themselves, as to suppose, that the Day whereon Jesus Christ died there hap­pened by chance, or rather, according to the or­dinary Course of second Causes, a real Eclipse, which had indeed seemed supernatural to the igno­rant Vulgar, but had nothing supernatural in it self; yet what can they say to the Vail of the Temple's being rent in twain from the Top to the Bottom? Could there be any natural Cause why it should be rent precisely and exactly at the time when Jesus Christ suffered Death? or could any ex­terior Darkness produce such an Effect?

Perhaps some will object, that the Primitive Chri­stians were simple and ignorant People, and that nothing could be easier than to delude and impose upon them. I grant it. But then what great Lear­ning was required to know precisely whether all those so sensible and so notable Prodigies had real­ly fell out upon the Day of Christ's Death?

[Page 174] We have already shewn, that among the several Circumstances of the Life and Death of Jesus Christ, there were several which the Disciples durst not have invented or forged, had they not been really true.

We must add in the second place, that there were a great number of other Circumstances which the Disciples could not have forged had they de­sign'd it. To say nothing of the great number of Lame People whom our Saviour caused to walk, of the Sick of the Palsy to whom he restored the Use of their Limbs, of the Deaf whom he caused to hear, and of many others diversly affected with various Diseases, whom he wonderfully healed to the great Amazement of whole Multitudes that fol­lowed him, and cried out, saying, It was never so seen in Israel, Matth. 9. 33. I say, to pass by all these Miracles, I shall insist only upon the Dead he restored to Life.

To raise a Dead Man to Life again, is certainly the most surprising, and which in all Countries and all Ages has been always look'd upon as the most impossible thing the Mind of Man is capable of imagining. We read only an Example or two of it in the Old Testament; and Men then had hardly any Notion of it. Besides, to raise a Dead Man to Life is no doubtful Miracle, which may any way be reduced to natural Causes, but it must necessarily be granted, that nothing but a supernatural Power can effect it.

Yet it was by raising the Dead to Life again that Jesus Christ was willing to testify of himself. And the Evangelists could not have imposed upon Men in that respect: 'Tis true, they might per­haps have deluded those Men that lived in a Climate and a Time very distant from theirs; but they could not have deceived the Jews in those things [Page 175] that had happened in their Days, and of which they were Eye-Witnesses. This will appear more evidently, if we consider that the Evangelists (as was said before) did not write their Gospels toge­ther, nor assisted one another in the Composure of them, and yet they agree in the Relation of almost the very same matters of fact, and the very same Miracles, not at all differing in the setting down the Times, Places, Persons, Witnesses, and all the Circumstances of those matters of fact which they testify and affirm. At Naim they tell us Jesus Christ raised a Man to Life again that was carrying away to be buried. He commanded the Bier to stop, and the Dead rose up at that very instant. The Man that was raised was the Son of a Widow. The Daughter of one Jairus being dead, he went up into her Chamber, and with a Word restored her to Life again, notwithstanding the Players up­on Musical Instruments, the Mourners, Attendants, and other sorts of People, whose Business it was, according to the Custom of those Days, to look after the Obsequies of the Dead, had at first laugh­ed him to scorn. Lastly, He raised Lazarus from the Dead in Bethany, before several Jews, and in the Presence of Martha and Mary, Lazarus's Sisters. He raised him to Life again four Days after he had been dead, and when he began already to stink. Such are the Things which the Jews learn in a Book that was composed in their Days, and which gives them the History of a Man whom they saw giving up the Ghost after he had been nailed on a Cross, and of his Miracles also that he wrought in the midst of them.

Now these matters of fact are, in my Opinion, so circumstantially told, that one must presently discover the Cheat, if there be any: for the Names both of the Places and the Persons themselves, are [Page 176] very exactly related. Every body knew too well, whereabouts lay the City of Naim: And the raising of a dead Man to Life, was too considerable an Event for any one to need any long Enquiry to be satisfied about it. Jairus was a Man very well known, and lived in a very good Repute: he had many Friends and Relations, so that nothing could be easier than to enquire whether his Daughter had really been raised from the Dead. Bethany was not above fifteen Furlongs distant from Jerusalem; and Lazarus himself was an Inhabitant of Bethany. He was then living, or at least his Sisters were; or if neither of them all were alive, yet there were still a sufficient number of Jews surviving, who had both seen and conversed with him after his Resur­rection.

Had all these miraculous Resurrections we have set down been false, 'tis certain the Jewish Doctors and Elders who took all the Care imaginable either to suborn false Witnesses against Jesus Christ, or corrupt one of his Disciples, either to make him pass for a Glutton and a Wine Bibber, a Friend of Publicans and Sinners, or for a Sorcerer, who cast out Devils only by Beelzebub the Prince of the De­vils; I say, it is certain that these Jewish Doctors could never have failed of presently convincing those Gospels of Imposture and Deceit, as soon as they should have been published. For to do this, 'twas only requisite they should go out of the City of Jerusalem, and visit those Places where those pretended Miracles were supposed to have been effected; not but that there were too, in Jerusalem, Men of Bethlehem, of Gadara, of Naim, of Bethany, of Capernaum, and of other Places where Miracles were wrought, of whom they might have enquir'd the Certainty of them. But tho' the Hatred of the Enemies of Christianity should not have been of it [Page 177] self sufficient to discover the Cheat, yet at least those Christian Proselytes who dwelt at Jerusalem, and were Members of that flourishing Church esta­blished there, must have had the Curiosity either to see those very Men whom Jesus Christ had raised to Life again, or at least to see those who had been Eye-Witnesses to the Resurrection, or to speak to their Relations and Friends, or to visit those Places where those Matters were said to have been brought to pass. Accordingly the Gospel tells us of a very great number of Jews who went to Bethany, on pur­pose to see Lazarus, who had been raised from the Dead: Of which We have the less Reason to doubt, who since those days have seen almost an infinite number of People undertake a Voyage into the Holy Land, not with a Curiosity to see Men that had been raised to Life again, or to hear whole Cities testify of that Event; but purely to visit those Places where all those matters came to pass, and to behold those Mountains and Rocks which are thought to have been honoured with the Presence of the Son of God. But Men went daily from Jerusalem to Bethany; so that every thing that was done in Be­thany, was very well known at Jerusalem. Although therefore neither the Jews, the profest Enemies of the Christians, nor the Christians, zealous for the Honour of their Master, should have taken no man­ner of care to instruct themselves in these things; yet since they were Inhabitants of Jerusalem, they must necessarily have very distinctly known the Miracles that Christ wrought in Bethany; and con­sequently, they must have presently rejected, as a manifest Forgery, the History of the Resurrection of Lazarus, had it been utterly false.

And this Argument is so much the stronger and more convincing, since the Evangelists relate not only one or two Miracles of our Saviour's, but [Page 178] their Gospel is a continued Series of miraculous Circumstances, or rather a Catalogue of the Sick that were healed, of the Blind restored to Sight, and of the Dead raised up to Life again. So that the very first Impression which this Gospel commonly makes upon Mens minds, is, that Jesus Christ, for the space of three Years, or three Years and an half, as long as his Office lasted, wrought more surpri­zing Miracles than have been either seen or known since the Beginning of the World. And so to be­lieve the Gospel, is firmly to believe, that Christ work'd those Miracles which are so often and so circumstantially repeated in it, and so inseparable from the other Parts and Accidents of his Life. It must not then be affirmed, that the Primitive Chri­stians embraced Christianity without enquiring in the least into the Miracles of Christ: for that im­plies a Contradiction. Neither must we say, that they believed those Miracles without a due Exami­nation of them. Such Things as these indeed re­quire no very great Examination; but they could not avoid examining them had they endeavour'd it: for 'tis not wholly left to my Choice either to know or not to know the Things which are done in the Place which I inhabit: neither does it whol­ly depend upon me to believe or not to believe certain matters of fact that are contradictory to publick Knowledge. And tho' a Man, under Pre­tence of Religion or otherwise, should endeavour to make me believe he had raised a dead Man to Life again in a Village a few Miles distant from the Place I dwell in, whom I might have both seen and known after his Resurrection; or if I had not seen him my self, many others had both seen and known, and many went to see: I say, all this is no more left to my Choice to know or not to know, than it is left to my Choice to be Mad or in my Senses.

[Page 179] For the better apprehending the Strength of this Argument, I shall make this Supposition. What if we, being fully perswaded that Christ did all those Miracles the Gospel relates, had gone up to the City of Jerusalem in the time of the Apostles them­selves, and reach'd thither just at the Evening of that Day of Pentecost on which St. Peter Converted so many People, by convincing them that he had received the Holy Ghost: I dare maintain first, that we could not have forborn examining such Things which made so great a Noise; then secondly I af­firm, that however willing we might have been to delude and impose upon our selves, we could not have been so much as twenty four Hours at Jerusa­lem, without knowing very distinctly the certain Truth of all those matters of fact. It would have been no very great Trouble for us to have enqui­red how Lazarus did, and his two Sisters Mary and Martha; and tho' by chance they might have been all three dead, to have desired to speak with their Friends and Relations, or with those that had seen Lazarus, and eaten with him both before and after his Resurrection. In like manner we might have easily spoken with the Friends and Relations of Jairus, and with those too of other People whom Christ had healed, or raised from the Dead in the different Parts of Judea and Galilee: and that was so much the more easy because Commerce was much more stirring between the Metropolis of Judea and the other Cities of the Holy Land, than between the Metropolis and the other Cities of the other Pro­vinces; the Jews being wont to go up to Jerusalem at least on every solemn Feast-day. Nay farther, we might have enquired about the Truth or Falshood of those wonderful Prodigies which, as the Gospel tells us, attended the Death of Christ: And since it was impossible that several thousand Witnesses [Page 180] should have been imposed upon concerning so great a number of evident and sensible matters of fact, so in like manner it would have been absolutely im­possible we should have become Christians only for twenty four hours, after we had left Jerusalem, sup­posing those matters of fact had been utterly false.

I have already shewn that the Life and Death of Jesus Christ were attended with such wonderful Cir­cumstances, as the Evangelists durst not have pre­sumed to invent had they been utterly false, nei­ther had the Power to forge, or make one single Person believe them, had they design'd to impose upon Mens Belief. There remains only for our full Conviction in this matter, to shew that they would not have forged them, had it been wholly left to their Choice.

I shall not here alledge that the Miracles of Jesus Christ, according to the Recital of the Evangelists, were attended with such Circumstances, and so ma­ny strange Events, that it is inconceivable the Dis­ciples should take any Pleasure in inventing them: such is, for Example, the tempting of our Saviour; a strange and most scandalous Passage indeed to all those who are not fully acquainted with the true Mystery of it, since it represents Christ to us as be­ing in the hands of the Devil, who sported him­self with his Weakness tho' he was not able to overcome his Virtue; one while placing him upon the Pinacle of the Temple, whence he advised him to cast himself down, another while upon an ex­ceeding high Mountain, from whence he shewed him all the Kingdoms of the World, and the Glo­ry of them. Now to see a Man in the hands of Sa­tan, would be a Sight that would shock us, to see a just Man, would be an Object more terrible; but to see a Prophet himself, would be a Wonder that would create Horror in us. What must it be [Page 181] then to see a Divine Person in his Clutches, or ra­ther one that is both God and Man, one that was called by way of Eminence, the Just, the Holy, the Man without Sin or Blemish, the greatest of all the Pro­phets, in [...]ine, the Son of God himself? He must ne­cessarily be much mistaken, that can imagine that such Thoughts as these could have naturally offered themselves to any Man's Mind, much less to the Mind of Ignorant People, who judge of Things by the Prejudices they are generally possest with. 'Tis true indeed, Christ is represented to us in the Gos­pel as surrounded with Angels who ministred unto him after his Temptation; but yet that Circumstance is so far from removing that which may seem offen­sive and surprising in that Event, that it rather makes it the more strange and incomprehensible; no­thing so ill befitting a Man who was but just now in the Power of the Devil, and carried about by him wherever he pleased, as to be immediately after waited upon by Angels. Add to this, the uniting of so many mean Circumstances with so many glorious ones that occur in his Nativity, in his Life, and in his Death, to instance in Christ's lying in a Manger, whilst he was praised by the Hosts of Heaven; his ha­ving not a Hole wherein to lay his Head, whilst at the same time he commanded the Fishes of the Sea to bring him Mony to pay Tribute to those who asked it of him; his shewing a great deal of Fear, nay even apparent Weakness, whilst he shook the whole Frame of the World, and made the Earth tremble, and the Sky to become dark; his begging of his Father that the Cup of his Sufferings might pass away from him, when at the same time he so well had prepared him­self for Death, as to have instituted a Sacrament for a Commemoration of it, unto the End of the World, his complaining that his heavenly Father had forsook him, whilst he promised Heaven to a Thief that glo­rified [Page 182] him upon the Cross. An hundred other myste­rious Contrarieties there are, which Divine Provi­dence inspired the Evangelists to write against their profest Opinions, against the Biass of their Passions, and their natural Ideas, that their Gospel might have a more extraordinary and more divine Cha­racter.

But these are not the Circumstances I mean, when I speak of such extraordinary ones in the Life of Christ, as the Disciples would not have forg'd if they could. By them I mean all the sensible and extraor­dinary Miracles which Christ himself wrought, and his Disciples have related to us; and these, I say, the Disciples would not invent, had they been false; which I prove by these two invincible Argu­ments.

First, that by their relating them, and above all, their mentioning both Places and Persons as it appears they have done, they manifestly ingaged themselves both to maintain and evince the Truth of them. Cer­tainly they doubted not but that they should be cal­led to give an account of them, They who so very well kn [...]w how difficult it had been for them to escape free when their Master himself was put to Death. They knew they should be compelled to maintain what they had thus affirmed, and they knew also they could never be able to defend their Imposture, if they should by chance be confronted with the Witnesses they mention'd. And all this is no very hard thing for any one to foresee; a Man, tho' not over-wise, may easily presage these Things, and it is sufficient that he be in his Senses to make him cautious of advan­cing such Matters as he thinks himself incapable to maintain, the Falshood of which would be presently discovered by the very Witnesses he mentions, by the Places he sets down, and the other Circumstances of the matter of fact he thus exposes to publick View.

[Page 183] 2. The Second Argument which proves that the Evangelists would never have forg'd the like matters of fact, supposing they had been altogether false, is, that by counterfeiting them, they necessarily render­ed themselves liable to be put to a great Confusion, when they should find themselves obliged to perform the very same Miracles. For, besides that it was very natural for any one to say to them thus; If it be true that your Master has wrought so many strange Miracles, surely he has also given you Power to do the like your selves; it being well known that the first thing they taught was, that Jesus Christ had sent them abroad with Power to perform the very same Works he had done. 'Twas no time therefore to use Shifts, or stand doubt­ing and shuffling, they were obliged either to sup­press what they knew concerning the Miracles of Je­sus Christ, or to perform the same themselves. Christ himself, when he sent them to preach in the different Parts of Judea, commanded them saying, Heal the Sick, cleanse the Lepers, raise the Dead, cast out Devils, freely you have received, freely give, Matth. 10. 8. And these are the Characters he gave of the calling of his Disciples. And these Signs shall follow them that believe; in my Name shall they cast out Devils, they shall speak with new Tongues, they shall take up Serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the Sick, and they shall recover, &c. And they went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and comfirming the word with Signs, &c. Mark 16. 17, 18, 20.

Thus it appears they could not well relate what Je­sus Christ had done, without at the same time publish­ing what they themselves were obliged to perform for the further Confirmation of the Gospel: so that they did not relate the least Miracle, without at the same time affirming they were able to do the like. It must therefore certainly be one of these two things, either [Page 184] that those Men had utterly lost their Reason, or that they sincerely believed the Miracles of Jesus Christ.

Had they thought them to be false, they would neither have engaged themselves to maintain an un­warrantable Fiction, by setting down so many Circum­stances more than sufficient to discover the real Truth of it; nor have rendred themselves liable to Shame and Confusion, by relating such Miracles they were not able so much as to imitate, at that very time when they professed themselves absolutely capable of doing every thing their Master himself had done.

Thus it appears to us, that the Miracles of Jesus Christ are such matters of fact which the Disciples had neither the Boldness, the Power, nor the Will to counterfeit, supposing they never had been done. And I think this enough to convince us in this respect, and to make us look upon those Miracles which have illustrated the Life and Death of Jesus Christ, as a Center of Truth that will infallibly perswade us of the Truth and the Divinity of the Christanity we profess.

CHAP. III.
The second Center of Truth. A particular Consideration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

HAving spoke of the Miracles of Jesus Christ, we come now to his Resurrection; an Event which ought chiefly to be considered in the Connexion it has with those Miracles: For if this Resurrection be true, without dispute those Miracles are so too; And if [Page 185] those Miracles are true, one cannot easily doubt of the Truth of our Saviour's Resurrection.

Now to take away all Scruples that may arise in our Minds concerning the Truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 'tis but reflecting a while upon Christ himself, upon the Jewish Doctors, who used all pos­sible Care and Precaution to prevent so much as a Re­port after his Death, that he was risen from the Dead upon the Testimony of the Watch appointed to guard his Sepulchre, upon the Procedure of the Apostles, and the discourse of all the Disciples in general; and lastly, upon that ready Disposition of Mind found in a great number of Jews to em­brace Christianity a [...] Jerusalem a few Weeks after the Death of Jesus Christ, and at a time when no­thing could be easier than to enquire into the Truth of his Resurrection.

As for Jesus Christ, the Evangelists unanimously tell us that he had several times foretold his Death and Resurrection to his Disciples: Nay 'tis observable, that those very Predictions are oftentimes intermixed either with such Circumstances as do not easily of themselves enter into any Man's Mind, or with those which seem to have no manner of Relation one with another; which proves that they cannot be the imaginary Conceits of a pleasant Fancy, that de­lights in the Invention of Fables. It is very impro­bable that the Evangelists should have invented the Discourse of Jesus Christ with St. Peter concern­ing the Sufferings that should certainly besall him at his going up to Jerusalem: And it is worth taking notice of, that St. Peter had but just made a very ex­cellent Confession of what Jesus Christ was, in Pre­sence of all the other Disciples, telling him, Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God; and that Jesus Christ had crowned this admirable Confession with that extraordinary Promise of his, Blessed art thou, [Page 186] Simon Barjona. For flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not pre­vail against it, &c. Matth. 16. 17, 18. Immediate­ly after Christ foretold what Death he was to suffer from the Chief Priests and Scribes; but added withal, he should rise again the third Day. Whereupon St. Peter rebuked him, and said, Be it far from thee, O Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But Jesus Christ instead of approving of that seeming Concern and Affection his Disciple had for him, severely reproved his Indiscretion in these words, Get thee behind me Satan, thou art an offence unto me for thou savourest not, &c. This History seems to be very natural and sincere, and that mixture of Circumstances which in all probability have no manner of relation with one another, could not of it self easily enter in any Man's Mind. St. Peters Confession was excellent, and the Promise Jesus Christ made him was extraor­dinary: Nay the very Expression of it implied some­what strange and difficult. But above all, it seems at first view that Jesus Christ too rigorously censures the great Zeal which Peter shewed for his Person, and it does not seem very natural that he who told him, Blessed art thou Simon Barjona, and promised to make him a Pillar of his Church, should tell him presently after, Get thee behind me Satan. 'Tis plain, a Man must, in spite of himself, perceive that 'tis [...]he force of Truth, and not the natural Agree­ment of those Circumstances that obliged the Evan­gelist to joyn them both together in one and the same Recital. And that which necessarily oc­casions this Reflexion of ours is, that Jesus Christ had really foretold his Death and his Resurrection, before ever he had suffered the one, or the other was brought to pass.

[Page 187] But what proves this better than any thing else, is, that Jesus Christ, upon cooler Thoughts, and the very Day before his Passion, did such a thing as had never been done before, and which doubtless never will be done again; and that is, he instituted a Memorial of that Death he was just upon the point of suffering: He foretold that he should suffer Death from the Chief Priests, the Scribes, and the Doctors of the Law: Nevertheless he might have easily a­voided it if he would by retiring into another place. But he chid, or rather storm'd at the Indiscretion of Peter, who would have diverted him from that Death; therefore he considered it as an Event that was to be attended with very happy and saving Con­sequences with respect to Mankind. And what hap­py Consequences could his Death have been attend­ed withal, unless it was to have been immediately followed by his Resurrection?

He first instituted a Memorial of his Death, and then voluntarily suffered it: He commanded that it should be commemorated, therefore he regarded it as an Event which was to be the Means of our Salvation. He foresaw that it would be commemo­rated; he foresaw then what would most infallibly come to pass, and that too in a time when there was but little Appearance of its ever happening. He did not say, that they should commemorate his Death only till he rose again, but till his Second Coming. He foresaw then, that he should speedily rise again, and that after his Resurrection he should depart in order to return again at the End of the World.

Besides, no reasonable Man can imagine that the Evangelists had wholly invented the Account of the Institution of the Eucharist: For there is a great deal of Difference between a Doctrine and a Practice. A Doctrine can hardly be forged, especially because [Page 188] it must be concerted by the Consent of several Per­sons: But a sensible Practice, a thing in Use, and as it were a speaking Doctrine, can much less be palm'd upon Mankind. And certainly 'twould be the great­est piece of Folly imaginable in any one, to think that a dozen poor Fishermen, astonished and cast down at the Death of their Master, and undeceived in the Opinion they had entertained that he was to have restored the Kingdom of Israel, Persons who knew not what things might come to pass by their publishing the Doctrine of that crucified Man, that that they should go and invent the Institution of the Eucharist with all the Circumstances of it, and make Jesus Christ utter these Words, This is my body which is broken for you: this is the New Testament in my blood: Words that implied something new and very sur­prising, which have given occasion to so many Con­tests, and are liable to such different Interpretati­ons; Words which S. Paul and the Evangelists una­nimously set down, but without any mutual Com­pact, as appears by the little Variety there occurs in their Recital of them. I say, it would be very extravagant to imagine that the Disciples had in the least thought of inventing these Words, or that History of the Institution of the Eucharist; so that we need not insist longer on any farther Proofs of it. We have already touched upon it in another Place, and upon another Subject. The only Consequence we shall draw from it here is, that Jesus Christ fore­saw his Death, prepared himself for it, and suffer­ed it voluntarily. Whereupon I argue thus:

If he foresaw that he should die, and if he volun­tarily offered himself up to Death, he then either foresaw that he should rise again, or he did not fore­see it. If he did not foresee it, with what kind of hopes then did he comfort his Disciples? What was it he promised them? Or what proposed he to [Page 189] himself by his Death? Why did he not shun it, as he might yet have done when he was at Supper with his Disciples? What meant he by instituting a Me­morial of his Dead Body, if that Dead Body were always to abide under the power of Death, and rot away as it were in the Presence of his Disciples?

And if he thought he should rise again, as we may very reasonably imagin he did, I say he himself could not have believed it, but only upon the Experience he had already made of that Power which had restored Sight to the Blind, Health to the Sick, and Life to the Dead. For he could not think his own Miracles false, and yet at the same time believe he should rise again from the Dead. If he thought he should rise again, he also thought his Miracles to be true. And if he believed his Miracles to be true, his Miracles must of necessity have been really so; because they were of a Nature incapable of Illusion and Deceit, at least with respect to those who wrought them. Jesus Christ could never imagine that he had filled five thousand Men at one time, three thousand at another; that he had raised to Life the Widows Son of Naim; the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus of Bethany; that he had made St. Peter walk upon the Sea, &c. if all these things had not really been true.

No one surely can doubt but that Jesus Christ fore­told his Resurrection, if he considers that it was upon this Account only that the Jewish Doctors appointed a Watch to guard his Sepulcher, and commanded the Stone of it to be sealed. Sir, we remember, said they to Pilate, that that Deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days, I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his Disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say un­to the people, he is risen from the Dead. so the last er­rour shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, ye [Page 190] have a watch, go your way, make it as sure as you can▪ So they went and made the Sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch, Mat. 27. 63, 64, 65, 66. This is such a matter of fact which the Disciples could not, durst not invent against the publick knowledge every body had of it, and which besides agrees very well with the other Circumstances of that Event. For how came that Report to be spread in Jerusalem, that the Watch slept when the Disciples took away the Body of Jesus, had they not really set a Watch to guard his Sepulchre? And what necessity was there to appoint a Watch to guard it, had it not been to hinder the Disciples from reporting abroad, that he was risen from the Dead?

And if Christ really believed that he should rise again, he could not have believed it, but upon the Truth of his Miracles, neither could he have belie­ved his Miracles to be true, had they been false. Thus it appears that the Connexion of all those Cir­cumstances, if narrowly considered, forms as it were a kind of a moral Demonstration, which can­not but throughly convince any just and reasonable Man.

But let us not slightly pass over that matter of fact, but having seen what Christ thought concern­ing his Resurrection, let us next consider the Opinion of the Scribes and Pharisees concerning it, and the Report the Soldiers made that were appointed to guard this Sepulcher. For the Consideration of those Circumstances may give us some light in the Discovery of that matter of fact, the most impor­tant and the most essential that ever was, or ever shall be hereafter.

In the first place, the Scribes and Pharisees, and generally every Member of the Sanhedrin, being in­stigated by the very same Spirit that had induced them to put Jesus Christ to Death, were in a great [Page 191] Apprehension lest his Disciples should take away his Body, and afterwards report abroad that he was risen from the Dead. We may judge how much they thought it for their Interest to prevent it, by the Attempts they had already made to put him to Death. And it is very probable, that since the Se­pulcher of Jesus Christ was to have been guarded but three days, they took all care imaginable before hand, for fear the Watch, thro negligence or otherwise, should have suffered that Body to be taken away, which it so mightily behoved them to keep in their Custody.

But let us consider the Event of all this. The Soldiers that watch'd the Body could not hinder it from rising out of it's Sepulcher. How so? Was it because they were afraid? or were they bribed not to discover the Business? Had they been bribed, one might very well imagine it was not in behalf of the Disciples, that they would run the hazard of losing their Lives for their Negligence or Treachery. What then were they afraid? But how could the Watch prove so fearful, and the Disciples on a sud­den so couragious, as to attempt the taking away the dead Body of one from whom they had so lately fled while he was yet alive? Besides, How could those Soldiers have reported such things as they did without manifestly contradicting themselves? For if they were asleep, how did they know that the Dis­ciples of Christ had taken away his Body? But why did not the Sanhedrin, for their own Honour, and the Respect they bare to the Truth, put all those Soldiers to the Rack? And if that Thought came not presently into their Heads, is it not natural to think they would have done it, when they found awhile after, all Jerusalem inclinable to believe in that crucified man, and that about six thousand Souls had already believed in him in one day, and that too [Page 192] but fifty days after his Death? Certainly the Sol­diers that watch'd his Body were still at Jerusalem; And the Sanhedrin had still the same Power and Au­thority as before. It highly concerned them to pu­nish the Negligence of those Soldiers, or make them confess the Secret of their Perfidy, and who it was that suborned them. I say, it highly concerned them to make that strict Examination, both to justify their own Procedure, and prevent the utter Loss of almost an infinite number of Persons that had already sided with the Disciples of that pretended Impostor. But this is not all. When on the Day of Pentecost, that is, fifty days after the Death of Jesus Christ, the Apostles shewed themselves in the City of Jerusalem, to testify there that they had seen him risen from the Dead, and that after he had several times appeared to them, and was gone up into Heaven, he had pour­ed down upon them the miraculous and extraor­dinary Gifts of the Holy Ghost, why did not the Sanhedrin then, who was so highly concerned in dis­covering the Authors of the taking away the Body of Jesus Christ; I say, why did they not seize upon the Apostles, and so make them confess how all things had happened? Why did they not confront them with the Watch? Why did they not cast Jo­seph of Arimathea and those Men in Prison, till they had made them confess what was become of that Bo­dy, as also every other Circumstance of their Im­posture?

'Tis already very unlikely, that if the Disciples of Christ had come by night, and had stolen his Bo­dy away, they durst have shewed themselves and ap­peared in publick, nay immediately confessed that they were his Disciples. It is much more credible they would have hid themselves after such an Action; and that if they preach'd at all, it would have been to People more remote, and not in Jerusalem, the [Page 193] very Place where those things had happened, nor in the Presence of that very Sanhedrin they were so much afraid of, and had so much offended.

Why then did not the Sanhedrin take the ordina­ry Methods made use of to discover Criminals? They were very ready by Threats, Torments, and Persecutions, to oblige the Apostles not to preach up the Name of Jesus Christ, but they never accu­sed them of having stolen away the Body of their Master whilst the Watch slept. They durst not enter upon that Examination; for they knew well enough what the Soldiers had told them, and 'twas that very thing which made them so apprehensive.

We all know well enough how Men generally act upon the like Occasions. Had the matter so hap­pened as the Soldiers afterwards reported, those very Soldiers would not have failed pursuing some one of the Disciples of Christ throughout the whole City of Jerusalem, on purpose to make him confess the plain truth by the many Torments they would have made him suffer; and the Scribes and Pharisees together with the other Doctors of the Law, would on their side have made such an exact Enquiry into the matter, that they would have at last found either some Witnesses, or some other Evidence, to prove the stealing away of that Body upon them. And that would have been no very hard task for them to perform; because it had been done during the Cele­bration of one of their Solemn Feast-days, when the People of Jerusalem were never so intent upon any Spectacle, as they had been upon the Sufferings of Christ; when what had so lately happened to such an extraordinary Man, had filled every body with Amazement: witness that which the Evangelist makes a Disciple utter on the way to Emmaus, as he was discoursing with Jesus Christ himself not Know­ing it was him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, [Page 194] and hast not known the things which are eome to pass there in these days? And since those men who had ap­pointed a Watch to guard the Sepulcher of Jesus Christ, had in all probability very expresly charged them to take care lest any of his Disciples should come by night and steal his Body out of the Sepul­chre, it is repugnant to Reason, and contrary to all outward Appearance, to suppose that the second night after the Soldiers were placed there, they should fall into so deep a sleep, as that the Disciples should be bold enough to hazard the taking away of this Body, or be able to roll the Stone away from the Sepulchre, and break the Seal; that they should have Time enough, Leisure, Freedom, and so little Fear as to untye and take away the linnen Cloaths wherein he was wrapped up, and the Napkin that was about his Face: For the Evangelists unanimously relate that they found the Sepulchre in that state.

Yet these are not the strongest Arguments that may be brought to evince the Truth of that matter of fact. We must also pass on from the Consideration of the Soldiers that watched the Body, to that of the Apo­stles themselves. Had they testify'd falsly that they had seen Jesus Christ risen from the Dead, it was ei­ther with a mutual Agreement, or without one. Now it cannot be without a mutual Agreement; for an Er­ror that is not supported by an unanimous Consent, must necessarily fall of it self to the ground, and it would have unavoidably so happen'd, while one would have affirm'd that Jesus Christ was risen from the Dead, another that he was not at all risen; one would have said that he appeared unto many, and another that he appeared to one only; another, that he appeared to no Body; one would have related the matter one way, another another way, and in fine, the most honest and sincere would have frankly confess'd that there was nothing at all in it.

[Page 195] But if they unanimously agreed to contrive this Imposture, there must have been then several Per­sons who agreed together constantly and unanimous­ly to relate a matter of fact, which they knew to be utterly false. Now that's a thing altogether im­possible.

1. First, Because it is inconceivable, that a man should willingly expose himself to all sorts of Punish­ments, and even to Death itself, on purpose to testify a matter of fact which he knew very well to be utterly false. 2. That tho' there should have been, by an unheard of Prodigy, one single Person of that mind, yet it is the height of Extravagance, to imagine that there were a very great number of Persons that took on a sudden that dangerous and fatal Resolution, especially such as had behaved themselves before after a manner quite opposite to that, and shewed not only a great deal of Caution, but Fearfulness in several other Occasions. 3. That tho a very great number of People should have agreed together to bear Witness to a Falsity, yet it could never be thought so of those who looked upon Lying and Perfidy as Sins that were altogether incon­sistent with their Salvation; neither could it be thought of those, who if they allow'd the Resur­rection of Jesus Christ to be a meer Fiction, must al­low also that they had followed a Phantom, a Chime­rical imaginary Messias; and if they own'd that they had follow'd a Phantom, they must likewise confess their own mutual Extravagance. 4. That this mutual Agreement could never have been so carried on, but that some of them, to avoid Punish­ment, would have discovered the Intrigue to the Jews with all its Circumstances, it being most certain, that since Jesus Christ had been so very basely betray­ed in his Life-time, it is more probable he would be so served after his Death: For they might indeed [Page 196] have expected some Reward from him when living, but they could hope for nothing from him after his Death, but Misery and Torments, Shame and conti­nual Remorses, for having followed a deceitful Im­postor. 5. And lastly, 'Tis not to be question'd, but that the very same Principles which had dissolv'd their mutual Fidelity, would more probably break off their mutual Treachery. And since the Love and Affection they had had for their Master, supported by a strong Perswasion on their side that he was the true Messias, had not been capable to maintain and keep up that mutual Fidelity, which made them say not very long before, Let us go there also, that we may die with him, John 11. 16. so that they fled, and wholly left him to the Power of his Enemies, can we reasonably suppose that having been unde­ceived of the Opinion they had entertained of their Messias, they should yet notwithstanding their Shame, Fear, and dejected Condition, presently after unani­mously agree to maintain and affirm a most horrid Lye, on purpose to blemish their Nation, by laying an imaginary Crime to their charge, and maintain it too to that degree that not one of them should recant, or contradict himself, but all of them unani­mously suffer the severest Torments, only to affirm that they had seen what they had really never seen?

'Tis yet further observable, that this was not a mutual Agreement carried on between twelve Apo­stles only, but also between all the Disciples of Jesus Christ in general, who made up a very considerable number. For Jesus, after his Resurrection, appear­ed one while to some Women, whom he command­ed to tell his Brethren that he was a going before them into Galilee, another while to Peter alone, and then after to the Twelve. One while he went out to find them as they were a fishing upon the Sea, and bless their Toil with a considerable Draught of [Page 197] Fishes; Another while he was in the midst of them, when they had met together to pray to God. Some time he sat at Table, and eat and drank with them; At another time he gave them several Instructions, and reminded them of those things he had taught them before his Death. At one time he manifested himself to above 500 Disciples, at another he con­victed an unbelieving Disciple by making him feel his Hands and his Feet, saying, Reach hither thy fin­ger, behold my hands, &c. and be not faithless but be­lieving, John 20. 27. One while he appeared to two Disciples as they were a going to Emmaus, discours­ed with them, and expounded the Scriptures to them by the way; At another time he assembled his Dis­ciples together, and commanded them to teach all Nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

It may not be amiss to reflect a little upon that vast Multidude of Disciples who testify'd they had seen Jesus Christ after his Resurrection. St. Paul, some where in his Epistles, affirms, that Jesus Christ appeared to above five hundred Brethren at once; and adds, that the greatest part of them were yet alive, but some were fallen asleep. Now 'tis most certain, that St. Paul would not, durst not, could not speak after that manner, had there not been a great number of Disciples still living, who testify'd that they had seen Jesus Christ after his Resurrecti­on. I would fain know, whether it be possible for so great a number of persons unanimously to con­trive such an intolerable Imposture as that must needs have been, were there nothing of Truth in what they advanc'd. Truly it seems to me to be a thing not possible for a man to imagine, much less to put in Execution.

A Man must do Violence to himself barely in sup­posing that so many Disciples should falsly affirm [Page 198] that they had seen Jesus Christ after his Resurrection: For one must thence suppose, that that great num­ber of Persons were not really Men; and that what­ever they had been during the rest of their Lives, they had put off their Humanity immediately after the Death of Jesus Christ.

They were indeed Men till that time; and their Behaviour pretty well evinces that their Sentiments were such as self-love and self-preservation general­ly inspire us withal: for they expected and were in hopes of something. They followed none other but Christ, because they expected from him what gene­rally all the Jews expected from their Messias, ac­cording to the Ideas they had form'd themselves of him. They were afraid of Death: They dreaded the Fury of the Sanhedrin: They flattered themselves with the Hopes of seeing themselves restored to their former Glory: They begg'd of Jesus Christ to deliver them out of approaching Dangers, if at any time they were in hazard of their Lives, or ex­posed to any Tempest.

But since the Death of Jesus Christ, they seem'd to have put off their Humanity; Their Minds and Hearts were not disposed like those of other Men. They neither hoped for, or expected any thing. For indeed what should they hope or expect from the Profession they made of being Disciples of Jesus Christ, if they knew that he was not risen at all ac­cording to his promise? What could they hope for, if he who had promised them Eternal Life, and af­firmed himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, was to be for ever subject to the Power of Death? Before while they trusted in Jesus Christ they were afraid: Now when they trusted no more in him, their Fear vanished. Since they could not expect any thing from another Life, they were resolved not to be any way concern'd for this, but to mind [Page 199] only a Future State. What is the meaning of this preposterous Change? Formerly they thought they should do God great service, in suffering for Christs sake, whom they supposed to have been their Mes­sias; and yet they were then faint-hearted and fear­full: but now that they were assured they did God no manner of service by adhering to the Gospel; but rather blemish their own Reputation by maintain­ing a Cheat, they became on a sudden constant and couragious, undaunted in the greatest Dangers, and invincible in the midst of the most violent Trials. Who can comprehend all this?

Certainly, if we have but the least Common Sense we cannot but perceive that a Cheat in so evident and sensible a matter of fact as that must have been, could not be unanimously carried on by so many thousands of People. For supposing one Man was diposed to Lye, who knows but another would be as inclinable to tell the Truth; especially since there was nothing to be got by Lying, but Prisons, Tor­ments, and Death itself, whereas telling the Truth would have gained them Credit, Friends, and Estates, by pleasing those in whose Power it was to dispose of Riches and Offices of State. And had any one of them imagined that some of the rest would certain­ly contradict him or themselves, he would have been for that very Reason incapable of agreeing with them to carry on that Cheat; Now it is naturally impossible but that this Thought must have offered it self to the Mind of every one of them, and conse­quently such a mutual Compact or Agreement was absolutely impossible, unless it so happen'd that that whole Multitude had suddenly been bewitch'd and infatuated by the same kind of Folly, and that too at one and the same time, as soon as Jesus Christ had given up the Ghost.

However they must have been void of all Self-Love, [Page 200] and that natural Affection Men usually bear to them­selves, nay they must have been altogether insensible of the cruel Stripes they underwent, and the Persecu­tions wherewith they were almost overwhelmed; and that Insensibility and Extravagance must not only have been an ordinary one, or of a short conti­nuance, but of the longest Duration, and strongest Force that ever was known.

CHAP. IV.
The third Center of Truth. A particular Conside­ration of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

THE Ascension of Jesus Christ, is a third Center of Truth, which we ought to have continually before our eyes, in order to consider the Arguments it contains for the Truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Saviour.

This Ascension was preceded by several Apparitions of Jesus Christ, and followed by an extraordinary Ef­fusion of the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, suffi­ciently manifested to all the Inhabitants of the City of Jerusalem; so that it seems to want no Illustration.

It rather proves it self, and that too by its own pro­per Characters: For it is a thing unheard of, that seve­ral Persons should agree to testify after that manner so signal an Imposture as that must have been, had not the Ascension of Jesus Christ been a real Event. But let us throughly consider all the Circumstances of it.

As the Resurrection of Jesus Christ justified the wonderful Passages of his Death, so likewise does his Ascension justify those of his Resurrection: For tho' one should suspect that the Eyes of the Disciples might by chance have been suddenly dazzled, and so they thought they had seen what they in reality [Page 201] never saw, yet they had time enough to recover them­selves out of this dazzling Amazement; for it was forty days after Jesus Christ was risen from the Dead before his Ascension. Had it been a Spirit that appeared to them, and frightned them, yet had they time enough to come to themselves again, and know certainly that the Spirit they saw was not real­ly their Master. For they saw him and heard him: They handled him, they eat and drank with him. Had it been thro' the obscurity of a darksome Night that they had imagined they had seen some Repre­sentation of their Master, instead of a true and full sight of him, they could not long continue in their Error: But it was in full day that they saw the Stone rolled away from the Sepulcher: 'Twas in full bright day that Christ so often manifested himself to them, and discoursed with them, and afterwards ascended into heaven before their eyes.

Had the force of their Desires, their Fears, or Affections, disturbed their Senses, we should have less Reason to wonder at it, tho even in that case the thing would seem altogether unaccountable, it being morally impossible that the Senses of so many People should all at once be so confined to one wonderful Object, and so disturbed at the same time. But they had time enough to get out of their Confusion and Astonishment; and their Minds were very sedate and at ease when Christ made them Eye-Witnesses of his glorious Ascension. In a word, had it been a pri­vate and silent Interview, we might have much more Reason to doubt; but Christ appeared to his Disci­ples with a particular Design to discourse with them. He gave them several Instructions; he forbad them to depart from Jerusalem, until they had received the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. He made them se­veral Promises, and such surprising ones, that they are fit only for a God to make, and a God [Page 202] to perform: for he promised that he would be with them even unto the End of the World. He instituted two Sacraments; he commanded them to baptise all Nations in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as well as to com­memorate his Death in the Passover. Nor was that all. He had many long and coherent Discourses with them. He spoke to them, and they answered him. They were at first incredulous; but he con­vinced them of the Truth of his Resurrection, not­withstanding their Scruples and their Infidelity. He rebuked them several times for their little Faith; at least they tell us so. The Evangelists relate what Christ said to Thomas, and what Answer Tho­mas made: And both their speeches were too sur­prising to be so soon forgotten. Thomas being struck at the Wonders of his Resurrection, was the first that gave Christ a Name which he was not wont to bear in the Stage of his Humiliation, calling him, My Lord, and my God, John 20. 28.

The Disciples asked him, Whether he would at that time restore the Kingdom unto Israel: but he answer'd them, that it was not for them to know the Times and Seasons which the Father only had in his power. Lastly, The Evangelists give us no less the History of Jesus Christ risen from the Dead, than that of Jesus Christ living and conversing before his Death among the Jews: and we affirm, we have as much reason to believe one as the other. For indeed, Why do we believe there was ever any such Person as Jesus Christ? We believe it certainly, because it is, in humane speaking, morally impossible that so many Persons should unanimously tell us they had seen him, that they discours'd, eat and drank with him, nay saw him suffer Death at Jerusalem; I say, they would never have told us all this, supposing, there were nothing at all in it. But then ought not [Page 203] that same Reason to perswade us likewise that Je­sus Christ both lived and convers'd forty days with his Disciples, since so many Persons saw him, dis­coursed, eat, and drank with him, saw him present in the midst of their Assemblies, nay touched and handled him?

But (perhaps some will object) were that certain­ly true, Why then was there in those days so many Persons that refused to believe the Ascension of Jesus Christ? Why it is no hard matter to find the reason of this; 'twas because if they had once acknowledged the Truth of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, they were obliged to die Martyrs for that Truth; and no doubt Men were as worldly-minded in those days as they are now.

So that methinks it appears hitherto very clear­ly, that the Disciples of Jesus Christ were neither capable of deceiving themselves, nor of being decei­ved by others, as to the Truth of the matters of fact they testifyed. It is a very difficult matter (I had almost said impossible) that they should have decei­ved themselves in the Miracles of Christ which they relate, because they so exactly set down the Circum­stances, the Names, Places, and the Persons them­selves; nay, they pretend they themselves were sent by their Master into all the Parts of Judea, to work there the very same Miracles they attested. But tho' they should have deceived themselves in the Mi­racles of Christ, yet they could not possibly deceive themselves in his Resurrection. For they knew well enough what a dead Body and a living Man was, they could easily distinguish between them; and those things are of such a nature as not to be capable of Illusion or deceit. Yet tho' we should supose that the disciples had been deceived in the Resurrection of Christ, yet they could not have been imposed upon in the last miraculous Event of his Ascension. It [Page 204] could never come to pass, that after having seen a Spirit, they should yet converse with him forty days; that that Spirit should suffer himself to be handled, that he should give them Instructions, make them several Promises, and afterwards be caught up into Heaven in their Sight, they all the while look­ing upon him, and adoring him as he was ascending into Heaven, and understanding distinctly the Dis­course of the Angels which promised them, that he should so come again in like manner, as they had seen him go up into Heaven.

It would be to no purpose here to alledge with Spinosa, That the Evangelists have not exactly descri­bed all the Circumstances of the Event they relate, and that had they taken special care to do it, it would perhaps so happen that the Circumstances which they thought sit to conceal, would make us comprehend, that those which they have related proceeded from Natural Ca [...]ses: For, I desire to know what can be more expresly declared, or more often repeated in the Gospel, than the Resurrection and Ascension of Je­sus Christ into Heaven? And how can any Man rea­sonably imagin, that it was natural, and according to the regular Course of second Causes, to see a Man that had been crucified, and laid in a Sepulcher where a Watch was appointed to guard him, rise out of that Sepulcher again, appear alive to several Men that touched and handled him, and afterwards ascend into Heaven in their sight?

Certainly that very Ascension of Jesus Christ, can­not but convince the most suspicious and scrupulous Person, that it was an Event purely divine and su­pernatural: For otherwise, our Incredulous Adver­saries might imagin (since they are everlastingly raising Doubts) that the Body of Jesus Christ might have been taken down from the Cross before the Breath was gone out of it; that Joseph of Arimathea, [Page 205] who was his Disciple, tho he durst not own it pub­lickly, might have dress'd his Body, and recover'd him out of his Swoon by the strength of the Reme­dies he gave him; that he might have laid another counterfeit Dead-body in his place, and buried it; and that afterwards Jes. Christ might have privately shewed himself to his Disciples, not daring to appear in publick for fear of falling a second time into the hands of the Jews, and suffering a true and real Death, instead of that imaginary one he had suffered before.

But this Fiction is absurd and incredible, and that for several Reasons. First, Because the Evan­gelists relate, that Christ had his Side pierced with the Lance of a Soldier, which thing alone was enough to give him his Death. Secondly, It is very impro­bable to think that the Jewish Sanhedrin, who had con­demned him to die, nay who had taken such care to set a Watch over his Sepulcher, should yet suffer his Bo­dy to be taken down from the Cross before the Breath was gone out of it. Lastly, because it can never be supposed that a Man who hung several Hours toge­ther on a Cross, should yet escape Death, and shew himself not long after safe and sound to his Disciples.

But that which will immediately remove all these Doubts, is, that Jesus Christ not only rose from the Dead, but also ascended into Heaven in the sight of his Disciples. And this is so sensible and evident a matter of fact, that they could never have been im­posed upon in that respect.

So that it may very well be affirmed, that the Argu­ment for the Truth of the Christian Religion chiefly de­pends upon that Important Inquiry, whether the Dis­ciples designed to impose upon us, by relating to us a false Event, which they did not believe themselves. Now if we can clearly prove the contrary, we shall invincibly demonstrate the certain Truth of our Faith.

[Page 206] Let us therefore in order to it, closely stick to the Examination of that matter of fact, the most essen­tial and the most important that ever was, and en­deavour to discover whether it be possible we should have been imposed upon by those Men, which could not deceive themselves.

If we would suppose that the Disciples of Jesus Christ deceived us in their relation of a fictitious Event, we must also necessarily suppose these three things. 1. That their Illusion or Imposture must be a thing that was possible to be put in Execution. 2. That it must be of some Use or other to them. 3. That it must be such as Men, and only Men make use of. Now it is certain, that their pretended Illusion here in question, could not have any of these three Qualities. 1. It could not have been possible, because it must have been agreed upon by many Per­sons who all knew the bare Truth of the matter of fact it self. 2. It would have been of no use, for what could those Men propose to themselves in inventing such a Fiction? 3. It could not be such as Men usual­ly contrive, because from the Beginning of the World till now, we never heard of any Man that invented Lyes, on purpose to have the pleasure of being han­ged, scourged, burnt, or executed upon a Scaffold.

1. As to the first, I'll grant you if you will, that Peter with some other Disciples might have taken away the Body of Jesus Christ out of the Sepulcher, either by tricking the Watch, or taking the Advan­tage of their sleeping; or lastly, by bribing them with Mony: I'll grant you too, if you will, they might have easily perswaded the whole Company of Disciples, who were too credulous and too ea­ger in swallowing of Novelties, that Jesus Christ had appeared to them indeed, and that he was risen from the Dead; I'll grant you likewise, that the other Disciples might have imagined thereupon [Page 207] they had seen some Visions, or thought they had seen him in several Places and on several Occasions: but then I ask, How they could have all agreed to­gether concerning the truth of his Ascension? By what Charm or Cunning could Peter and the other Apostles have made them see that which they never saw or heard a Man speak, whom they really never heard? By what Machine could they have caused the Clouds to descend? Or by what sort of Inchant­ment could they have produced two Men in white Raiments, telling them, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus which is ta­ken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like man­ner as ye have seen him go up into Heaven, Acts 1. 11. By what secret Power could they have so deeply imprinted in the Minds of the Disciples, the Words which Jesus Christ spoke to them after his Resur­rection, the Reproaches he made them of their Infide­lity, his Promise of sending the Holy Ghost to them, his forbidding them to depart from the City of Je­rusalem, and the Command he gave them to Baptise all Nations in the Name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost; I say how could they have done all this, if all these things were but the witty Con­ceits of their Imagination and Fancy?

Certainly tho St. Peter or some other Disciple of Jesus Christ, should have formed to himself the De­sign and Plan of so Signal a Cheat, and tho he should have set down in writing all the Articles one by one, which he was obliged to make other Men believe against the plain Truth, yet he could never have been so bold as to propose any such thing to those Men, who were prepossessed with the Opinion that Lying was a great Sin, but Truth and Sincerity, on the contrary, a great Vertue. Nay, it is even impos­sible it should ever come into his Head, to frame so Signal an Imposture upon so sad and sorrowful an [Page 208] Event as the Death of Jesus Christ. Neither does it appear that his Mind or his Thoughts were any ways bent upon any such Design. And tho he should have been induced out of a Spirit of Revenge, to invent such a Lye to discredit the Scribes and Pharisees, yet it can't be supposed he should have been so very silly, as to imagin that the rest of the Disciples would con­sent to that Imposture, or be willing to maintain it at any rate whatever, out of meer Complaisance to him.

Such is the Nature of Mankind, such the Frame and Temper of their Hearts, that they will admit of no Falsity, unless covered with a specious shew of Truth. So that when any thing is so evidently false that every Body must necessarily be sensible of it, we have no Thoughts of attempting to make others be­lieve it; as for instance, it will never come into my Head to make other Men believe that I have Wings, and that I fly, &c.

We might here repeat what has been said concern­ing the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: either the Dis­ciples looked upon Jesus Christ before his Death as the promised Messias, or else they did not look up­on him as such. If they considered him as the pro­mised Messias, they then believed his Words, and thought that he would truly rise again; and if they did expect that he would truly rise again, they consequently believed he would come himself out of his Grave, and so it was not at all necessary they should steal his Body away. And if they did not consider him as the promised Messias whilst he was alive, it must follow from thence, that they were Seducers and Impostors even before the Death of Christ. Now how can any one conceive that those Seducers should not have been terrified at the Punishment inflicted on their Master, or that such a terrible Example of the most rigo­rous Justice design'd too for them, should not [Page 209] put an end to their frontless Impudence? Above all, How can it be supposed that those wicked and perfidi­ous Disciples durst have proposed to the other Disci­ples, who were really Sincere and True, to joyn with them, and so testify that they had seen Jesus Christ ascending into Heaven?

Truly I don't see what any Man can alledge ex­cept one of these two things, either that they were all sincere and honest Men, or that some of them were honest, and the rest Cheats. If they were all sincere and honest Men, as their Manners, their Discourse, their Conduct, and a thousand other Characters of them evidently shew, then is it abso­lutely impossible that any such Cheat could have been carried on amongst them. But if they were all a pack of cheating treacherous Impostors, then it was the first time that ever a Society of cheat­ing perfidious Rogues was erected, who seemed to have had no other Design than to sanctify Man­kind.

But what Man, be his Thoughts never so confus'd and irregular, be his Reason never so corrupt, can yet imagin that so many mean-spirited, simple and humble Men as the Disciples were, should immedia­tely become the most Lying notorious Cheats, out of no other Design then to involve themselves in ru­in? If some of them were false and others sincere, and if the latter were at all imposed upon by the former, which is the most our Incredulous Adversa­ries can imagin; yet even then I assert, that such a Cheat could not have been carried on by them. For supposing Peter never so smooth and Eloquent, never so adroit at Dissembling and Insinuation, yet how could he possibly perswade so great a number of Persons to believe against their Senses, that they had seen that which they really never saw, or hand­led that which they had never handled; that Jesus [Page 208] [...] [Page 209] [...] [Page 210] Christ after having given them many Precepts and large Instructions, which he left very deeply imprint­ed in their Minds, ascended into Heaven in their sight? But should I grant he might have perswaded them of the Truth of his Resurrection, yet how is it possible he could perswade them of the Truth of his As­cension?

Had St. Peter but so much as proposed it to them whom he designed to delude, it would have been for that very Reason impossible but that they should have found out his Design to cheat them. But he would not sure presume to propose to them the joint Contrivance of such a fabulous Story, nor would he have found (tho he had been bold enough to have proposed it) any that would have assisted him in so sensless a Design, much less maintain'd his Extravagance, and least of all exposed themselves to a thousand Torments on purpose to maintain it.

2. But secondly, I observed that such an Impo­sture would have been of no manner of use to them. It is enough to have proved that it was impossible to be put in Execution to satisfie any reasonable Man how needless and useless it would be to advance it. 'Tis true, there have been in all Ages and Countries such Men as would have been very willing, for their own Advantage, to make others believe improbable Stories and Fictions, had the thing been but practi­cable: but because they could not effect it without such a mutual Concert among several Persons to maintain it, as is altogether impossible, for that ve­ry Reason it never came into their Minds upon seri­ous and cooler Thoughts.

It would, no doubt, be of very singular Advan­tage to those Princes, who so earnestly desire to pro­cure themselves an extraordinary Respect and Vene­ration from their Subjects, and for that Reason very seldom appear in publick, and hardly ever shew [Page 211] themselves to their Poople; I say, it would be of great Advantage to them, if they could but once perswade their People that they were of a Divine Race, and came down from Heaven: but because they judge such a Design impracticable, they reckon it a thing altogether useless and needless ever to un­dertake it.

Certainly we may as well affirm that the Design of making other Men believe the Ascension of Jesus Christ against the real truth of the thing, and inward sense of their own Consciences, would have been al­together as useless and needless; because it does not in the least appear that the Disciples could propose to themselves any reasonable Design in maintaining such an incredible Story.

3. Nay it was a thing not only wholly useless, but as we observ'd in the third place, such a one as Men dont usually Design, or contrive. It could not enter into any one Man's mind, much less into that of so many different men at once, to fancy that they could perswade other Men to credit such an impudent Lye as that must have been, or to dare undertake to make others believe it, to think in the least that they could succeed in so strange a Design, or that others would have acted in it jointly with them, to imagin that they could be able to endure the most rigorous Torments, and the severest and most cruel Afflicti­ons, or that the Cheat which they unanimously had agreed on, would have been both believed and appro­ved of throughout the World; nay what is more, that Men should repent and become Holy and Righte­ous out of a Respect and Reverence they bo [...]e to an Impostor, and that Vertue and Piety should have been established in all the Parts of the World by the means of an extraordinary Cheat.

To this we may add, that considering this Design of theirs another way, it is not, cannot be such a [Page 212] one as any Man would conceive or endeavour to put in Practice. It is absolutely impossible to find any Man so much an Enemy to himself, as willingly to lose his Quiet, his Liberty, Friends, Relations and all his Acquaintance, only to assert and defend a Lye, that must unavoidably be attended by such fatal and sorrowful Consequences. For Nature is not insen­sible of Grief and Pain. As she is exposed to Griefs and Sufferings, so when she suffers 'tis with Reluct­ance, Complaints, Sighs, and Tears. She cannot accustom her self to bear slightly Contempt or Infamy. Nothing disturbs and exasperates her more, nothing makes her more impatient than Mortifications and Disgraces. How then is it possible so great a Com­pany of People should on a sudden renounce all those inviolable Sentiments of Nature which no Violence can root out, on purpose to maintain that they had seen a thing, which they really never saw? This is a Consideration that cannot be too often repeated.

Lastly, it is such a Design as is not in the nature of Man to conceive. For, to maintain an Impo­sture with such Constancy as the Disciples did, is such a piece of extraordinary Courage as is above the Na­ture or Power of Man. An Impostor that thinks and knows himself to be one, whose Mind tells him that he acts contrary to his Natural Sentiments, cannot go long undiscover'd. He is seiz'd with Remorse, and his Conscience is awakened. He trembles and un­warily discovers himself to the World upon the least danger he meets with. He is ready to confess the whole Cheat, as soon as he is brought before his Judges, and is frighted with the Punishments of a secular Power; and he never fails of betraying him­self, either by confessing the whole Business, or main­taining what he has advanced after so weak and fear­ful a manner, that he will not be long, (if but close­ly urg'd to it) before he discovers the whole Truth. [Page 213] For such is the usual Temper of Men upon such an Occasion. And if a single Person that should not act thus in this respect, would be looked upon as an un­heard of Prodigy, how much more shall an infinite number of People be looked upon as such? Who can imagin that so many Persons should either on a sud­den renounce their humane Nature, or be of a dif­ferent make from all other Men since the Beginning of the World; For my part, I cannot conceive how it should be, and therefore look upon this as a most sensible and evident Truth. But we must yet carry on this Conviction further, by following those Noti­ons which it has pleased God in his Wisdom to put into our Mind upon this Subject.

CHAP. V.
The fourth Center of Truth. A particular Conside­ration of the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost upon the Disciples.

THE last Degree of Evidence that occurs in the Demonstration which sensibly proves to us the Truth of the Christian Religion, is, the Truth of a fourth matter of fact, naturally proved by its own proper Characters; and that is, the Effusion of the Holy Ghost on the Disciples of Jesus Christ.

This Demonstration of the truth of Christian Re­ligion has three different Degrees of Evidence, which also consist in the three Parts of the Testimony of the Apostles. The first whereof is this; Jesus Christ the Son of Mary did such Actions as cannot but be superna­tural and miraculous; such are, for instance, the Resur­rection of the Dead which we have been Eye-witnesses of. The second is, We, even we our selves, have received [Page 214] the Power to work Signs and Wonders, and such as are equal to those of Jesus Christ himself, as he foretold and declared it several times unto us. The third is, We have not only the power to do those Miracles, but can al­so impart it to others: and those we shall hereafter con­vert will know themselves to be the true Disciples of Jesus Christ, in that they shall work Signs like unto ours, and to those which Jesus Christ himself wrought.

The first Degree of this Evidence must necessari­ly convince us. For it is a very convincing Demon­stration indeed, to have present to one's Eyes, nay in ones own Disposal and Power, the Witnesses of the Miracles of Jesus Christ, and such Eye-witnesses too, that both heard what he said, saw every thing he did, familiarly conversed with him, and often question'd him concerning the Difficulties that offer­ed themselves to their Mind; and lastly, such Wit­nesses who all unanimously deposed the very same matter of fact, and boldly maintain'd it even in the midst of the most cruel Torments; And yet such Witnesses as these had those who were first convert­ed to the Christian Faith.

But it is a thing yet somewhat more perswasive to hear those Men affirm, that they had not only seen the Miracles of Jesus Christ, but that they themselves were able to work the same Miracles. Certainly, of all the Witnesses in the World, those are soonest to be received and believ'd, who proffer to shew you the very Things they testify.

But what seems to me to be the last Degree of Evidence, and the clearest Demonstration, is, that those very Witnesses undertook to convince Men of those matters which they affirmed to be true, not only by relating those Miracles which they saw Je­sus Christ do, not only by profering to do the like themselves, but also by promising to enable those People (who should believe their Words) to ope­rate [Page 215] the very same things: For they imparted the extraordinary and miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost to their Proselytes, as it appears by the Ex­ample of the Centurion Cornelius. And those Gifts became afterwards so frequent and visible, that Si­mon Magus would have bought them for Mony: They were so very remarkable, that they made great and publick Impressions on the Minds of se­veral Jews, who were already converted to the Gos­pel of our Lord, and praised God for his having also visited the Gentiles. Lastly, the Gospel which those Disciples preached, tells us that such should be the Signs that followed the true Disciples of Je­sus Christ, namely, that they should heal the Sick, &c.

Certainly how strong soever the obstinacy and prejudices of the Incredulous may be, yet they can­not any longer hold out against the powerful Con­victions of that threefold Truth. It is impossible that the Disciples should bear witness to the Mira­cles of Jesus Christ, if they had not been true; nei­ther can we suppose they would have had the Bold­ness, Power, or Will to do it. It is impossible they should have contrived together such an unparallel'd Imposture, by agreeing among themselves to preach the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, of which they were never Witnesses.

But it is extravagant to imagin that the Apostles boasted they were able to do Miracles, meerly to have other Men believe those of Jesus Christ, and it argues yet a greater Extravagance, to suppose they promised all those they should convert to him, to make them able to work the very same Miracles they attested.

Besides, we are to consider two things in the Re­velation made to the Apostles on the day of Pentecost: viz. the Symbol or Token of the Presence of the Holy Ghost, and the Effects or Gifts of the said Holy [Page 216] Ghost. And it is not easie to imagin how the Dis­ciples could be deceived in either respect: I am wil­ling, however, for once to suppose that they might have been deceived in those external and corporeal Symbols; that they might fancy they heard a mighty rushing Wind, of which there was really no noise; that their Eyes being dazzled they might have taken that for Fire which was not Fire; yet this Supposi­tion would certainly be a little too extravagant. For tho the Apostles, by reason of some Imperfecti­on in their Organs, or some outward Illusion, may have fancy'd that they saw Fire where no Fire was, yet it is a very difficult matter for a wandring Ima­gination (as they must be supposed to have had then according to this Notion) to have joyn'd Fire and a Sound together; and much more difficult also to have perceiv'd that Fire in a form which was most agreeable to their Ministry: and that must have been a very fortuitous Chance indeed, that could thus modify that Fire, and make it appear as Cloven Tongues like as of Fire, which sat on each of the Disci­ples when they were assembled together. Besides, it would be very strange they should be all of them liable to the same Delusion. But what then? still this Supposition is too extravagant. Is it so? If you will, we'll suppose it true. But then tell us, how we shall express the wonderful Effects of that Effu­sion, those durable and lasting Effects which were still extant, tho' the Wind had ceased blowing, tho' that Sound which had filled the whole House was no longer to be heard, and tho' that Fire and those Tongues had vanished away.

For certainly 'twas never intended those surpri­sing Effects should be concealed. The Apostles im­mediately spoke all sorts of Languages, and that too before all Nations of the World. They convert­ed one while six thousand People, at another three [Page 217] thousand by one single Sermon, and only speaking this to their Auditors, Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Fa­ther the Promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear, Acts. 2. 33.

We'll grant, if you will, that Jesus Christ did no manner of Miracles; It will produce no great Consequence, so long as it appears that the Apostles did several: Nay, they chose for that very end, the Sick that were most known. They took a lame Person, for instance, that was publickly known to all the City of Jerusalem for such a one, to make him walk and leap before all the People of that great and flourishing City.

'Twould have been a strange thing indeed, if the Apostles had attempted to shew false Miracles to those People that were ten thousand times more sub­tle and refined than themselves: But it would be yet far more strange, that after having preached a false Resurrection of their Master, they should have undertook to prove it by working a false Miracle, which must necessarily have been immediately disco­ver'd.

But I'll grant, if you will, that they might have been so extravagant, as to undertake it, and that the Jews whose chief Interest it was to discover their Cheats and Artifices, might have been so far void of Common sense as not to make the least Inquiry into it, or Examination about it. But what then will you say to this, which in my Opinion may serve for an invincible Demonstration; namely, that the Apostles not only pretended themselves able to work Miracles, but also to give their Disciples Power to do the same?

Did any one ever hear of a Society form'd by the preaching of certain Impostors, who gave this Cha­racter of the Truth of their preaching, that they [Page 218] would impart to others the Power of working the same Miracles with themselves, who confer'd mira­culous Gifts upon those they baptised, but miracu­lous Gifts so evident and so sensible, that they them­selves could not doubt but that they had truly recei­ved them; nor they on whom they were confer'd form any lawful or reasonable Objection against them?

This Consideration is so much the more convin­cing, because those Gifts we here speak of were dura­ble and permanent, at least, during the Infancy or first Age of the Church. I confess indeed, that the Holy Ghost foretold that Prophecy should vanish away, and the Gifts of Tongues should cease; which is a ve­ry good Reason to prevent our wondering at the Cessation of those Gifts in our days. There were none but Faith, Hope, and Charity that were to en­dure to all Ages. But I am also certain, that the miraculous Gifts lasted as long as the Apostles them­selves, nay they were yet extant long after their days, till God himself had settled Christian Churches in all Parts of the World, the Scaffolds having been only taken down, when the Building was finished. And this no Man of sense can reasonably doubt of, especially when he sees that the Apostles so frequent­ly allude to this Matter of fact, after so simple and so natural a Manner. The Gift of Tongues there­fore, and all other miraculous Gifts, were durable and permanent in respect of those they had been con­fer'd upon. The Father was seen to discourse about them with his Son, and the Son with his Father. And it gave Occasion to the Jews who wondered that the Holy Ghost was also imparted to the Gentiles, to giorify God for it.

But I am willing some Men should make the most violent Supositions they can; at least, they will not refuse to allow that the Apostles, who pretended to [Page 219] impart the Holy Ghost to other men by the Imposi­tion of their hands, and who proffered to make it descend upon their Proselytes by baptising them; who went about preaching every where that the Time was come, wherein according to the Prophecy of Joel, the Holy Ghost was to be poured upon all Flesh; and who in their Gospels and Histories they composed of the Life of their Master, affirm'd upon serious Reflection, that, these signs should follow them that believed, &c. I say, it is to be presumed they will not refuse to allow, that those Men sincerely be­lieved they had received, and were able to impart the Holy Ghost to others. Perhaps it was their Mistake, if you will have it so; but that is not the thing I now contend about. Whether they were mistaken indeed, or not, still it is evident, that un­less they had sincerely believed that Mistake, or that profess'd Opinion, they durst never have made such Promises: 'Tis plain enough, that a Man who did not think within himself that he had received the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, would never pro­mise to impart them to others.

Now I would desire the Reader carefully to con­sider this last Principle, it being necessary to give an invincible Demonstration of the Truth of Christia­nity. In a word, if the Apostles sincerely believed they could speak all sorts of Languages, and had re­ceived the extraordinary and miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, I affirm, that it was absolutely impossible they should have been Deceivers as to the other matters of fact: For it is impossible they should believe they had received those miraculous Gifts, un­less they also believ'd the Miracles, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ to be true; and it is impossi­ble they should have believed the Miracles, Resur­rection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ to be true, if all those Events had not been true indeed; because, [Page 220] as we have already plainly made it appear, it is not possible that those matters of fact should have been capable of Illusion and Deceit.

CHAP. VI.
Wherein we shall joyn all the miraculous Matters of fact together, and form thereby a full and perfect Demonstration of them.

SHould we consider all those Events in general, we might form an invincible Demonstration of them, by supposing the three following Principles, which in my Opinion will hereafter appear to be ve­ry evidently proved.

The first is, that the Apostles, and the rest of the Disciples of Christ did really testify his Miracles, Resurrection, Ascension, and the pouring out the Ho­ly Ghost on the Apostles. The second, that they sincerely believed what they so testified. And the third, that they having firmly believed that Jesus Christ wrought many wonderful Miracles, that he was risen from the Dead, ascended into Heaven, and had poured out his Spirit upon all his Disci­ples, of all which Events, they were Eye-Witnesses, it must necessarily follow from thence that all those things were certainly true.

The first of these Principles is undeniable in it self. For it appears that these four Events were the whole subject Matter of the preaching of the Holy Apostles; which too is plain, because they themselves tell it [...] th [...]ir Writings, or rather because their Writing [...] [...] continual History of them; because they [...] o [...] any thing else in all their Epi­stles, [Page 221] but of those four wonderful Events, in those Epistles they wrote to whole Societies, who so care­fully preserved them as Writings of the greatest va­lue; because there is no fragment, page, or scarce a line in all those Writings, but what either relates those matters of fact, or evidently supposes them; because there can be no Christianity established in the World without this Foundation; because they have been confirmed to us by Persons who lived since the Blessed Apostles, and discoursed familiarly with them; because the publication of those things was the cause of the establishing very numerous Churches almost every where in the days of the Apostles them­selves; because Reason and Common sense sufficiently assure us, that the Jews and Gentiles could never have believed in a crucified Man as such, without be­ing at the same time also taught that he was risen from the Dead; because the Faithful only believe the last Resurrection, upon their certain hope and strong perswasion that they are to be made like unto the glorious Body of their Divine Redeemer; be­cause it is manifest that the Authors of the New Testa­ment copy'd not one anothers Writings, and yet unanimously agree in the relation of those four sur­prising Events, as being the very essentials of their Doctrine; because the Primitive Christians would not have sanctified themselves, nor utterly renounced the enticing charms of the World, but that they trusted wholly in a Man that was risen from the Dead, and ascended into Heaven; because the most obsti­nate, and most insolent Enemies of Christianity never entertained the least scruple in that respect, nor presumed to deny but that Christs Disciples boldly testify'd of him that he was risen from the Dead, and ascended into Heaven; because the Jews always acknowledged this to be the testimony of the Apo­stles; and lastly, because the union of all those and [Page 222] many other Circumstances we have already handled, render the thing itself wholly undeniable and evi­dent in the highest degree: so that it is almost to no purpose to insist any longer on the proof of the first Principle.

The second is no less certain than the first. For 'tis evident that the Apostles sincerely believed that whatever they related was most certainly true; be­cause those things they deliver'd to us in their Wri­tings, were the Motives and Incitements they had to their Vertue, self denial, and patience so often tried in the dangers they underwent; because they made such simple and natural allusions to them, that it is absolutely impossible, one should not perceive their being truly perswaded of the truth of them, in so much that they were convinced of the future Hap­piness of their condition, mauger all the reasons they might have to think it should be Miserable and Sorrowful; because 'twas this very perswasion which gave them the Courage they had to expose them­selves to the greatest Dangers, and undergo the most severe trials; because they rejoyced with one another in that they were thought worthy of spend­ing their lives and whatever else was dearest to them, for the defence of so good a Cause, tho they must needs have very well known the cheat they had forg'd among themselves, if what they said was not certainly true; and above all, because they pretend­ed to shew very sensible and miraculous proofs of the matters of fact which they had delivered.

In fine, the last of these Principles is still (if I may so speak) more evident than either of the former. For it is impossible that the Disciples of our Lord should have been deceived, 1. in such evident mat­ters of fact, the Truth of which they might so easily have been assured of by sensible Experience; 2. in so great a number of matters of fact, so different from [Page 223] one another by their Circumstances; and 3. in such matters of fact that were so link'd and united one with another, that whosoever grants but one, must necessarily grant the truth of the rest.

And now let the Reader but throughly consider all these things within himself, and I am fully per­swaded he can never doubt of any of these three Principles. For he cannot so much as deny one of them without an extraordinary reluctance in his mind, which will force back the truth upon him. Should he say that the Apostles never preached the Miracles, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, nor the pouring out the Holy Ghost on the Apostles themselves, 'twould be as great a falsehood as if he should say, that there were never any such Men as the Apostles, or that they were not the Disciples of Christ, nor preached that Men must necessarily believe on him; and it is most certain that he will presently reject all these propositions, as being absurdly false and extravagant in themselves.

Again, should he say that the Apostles did not sincerely believe the Miracles, Resurrection, Ascen­sion of Jesus Christ, nor the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, 'tis as much as if he should affirm they did not pretend to work any Miracles, speak strange Languages, or think themselves capable of Imparting those gifts to other Men: and consequent­ly as much as if he should advance, that the Apostles wrote none of all those Epistles that were ascribed to them; that they preach'd not publickly at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, nor settled any Church therein, or taught Men that they should stedfastly believe in the Gospel.

Lastly, should he say that the Apostles sincerely believed all these things, but yet that none of them were true, 'tis as much as if he asserted that they had neither Eyes, Ears, nor Memory; and that several [Page 224] thousands of People were all deprived of their Sen­ses by the same kind of bewitching folly, so that those who embraced the Doctrine which they taught, must at the same time precisely and necessarily have lost their Reason; and yet 'tis evident that folly is the only Principle that makes us lead good lives, and sanctifies the corrupt Affections of Men.

It is certain, that by considering the union of all these Circumstances together, there arises from them such a Moral Demonstration, as is worth all other Mathematical Demonstrations in the World. But to be as brief as possible, I say that this Demon­stration after all, consists in the two following pro­positions. As thus the Disciples of Christ sincerely believed his Miracles, Resurrection, Ascension, and the Effusion of the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It fol­lows therefore, that these four Events are most cer­tainly true. The Consequence of this argument is evident, because these are matters of fact that were altogether incapable of Illusion or Deceit, and in which it was absolutely impossible they should have been deceived. For tho the Disciples might have been decieved in one single Miracles, yet how could they be deceived in several Miracles at once? Tho it were possible they might have been deceived in the Miracles of Christ, yet they could not be deceived in his Resurrection. Tho' they might have been de­cieved in his Resurrection, yet they could not be de­ceived in so many sensible Marks which Christ gave them of his Presence after he was risen from the Dead; and above all, in his Ascension. Tho' they might have been deceived even in his Ascension, yet they could not be deceived in the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, because they had a conti­nual Experience of that last Miracle. They knew whether it was true or not, there had appeared to them Cloven Tongues like as of fire; but still they [Page 225] knew yet much better, whether they had really re­ceived the Gift of Tongues, which were represented to them by that external Symbol: the Holy Ghost having particularly chosen that Gift above all others on purpose to make it the more remarkable; be­cause of all sorts of Gifts, this is certainly the most un­imitable, and the least capable of Error and Illusion.

For pray how is it possible, I should perswade my self that I can speak the Persian, Chinese, and Arabick Tongue, or that I understand all those Languages when they are spoken to me, had I no such Gift of Tongues? And if it be so rare a thing to see one single Man possessed with that foolish kind of Mad­ness as to imagin such a thing, it is most certainly impossible that a great number of Persons should fancy that they on a sudden spoke all sorts of Lan­guages in the World, when there was no such thing.

It must then necessarily be granted, that tho' the Disciples of Jesus Christ might perhaps have been im­posed upon in all the other matters of fact, yet they could not be deluded in this. For a Man cannot be ignorant whether or no he speaks those Languages which were before wholly unknown to him, much less can 2 Men be so, much less again 12, and much less still 70, and since every one of these Persons must necessarily know what passes within himself, it is impossible they should all believe they had received the Gift of Tongues, when there was no such thing.

The Consequence therefore of our Argument is most certain, most evident and undeniable, if ever any thing was so; and the Principle of it will appear to be so likewise.

The Disciples of Christ sincerely believed his Mira­cles, Resurrection, Ascension, and the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. If you would be more fully convinced of this, 'tis but reading the New Testament over from one end to the other: There you will [Page 226] find that Sincerity and that full Perswasion in their disinteressed Self-denial, which sprung from the Knowledge they had that Christ, as their only trea­sure, was ascended into Heaven; there you will see their Joyfulness in Afflictions arising purely from the Testimony they bore to the Truth; their Charity and Piety wholly inconsistent with the Character of Impostors; their Humility, Purity, Patience, burn­ing Zeal, and that fervent desire they had to Kindle all those Vertues in the Souls of others: these being two undeniable matters, first that the Disciples of Christ shewed themselves to have the most natural sentiments of Piety and Vertue imaginable; second­ly, that Piety and Vertue can never proceed from Imposture and Deceit. There you will also find the plain Honesty of the Disciples, and the Sinceri­ty of their Perswasion in the style of their Discourse. For if it be true, that Languages express the Genius and Manners of the People; it may be very well affirmed, that the Language of Christ's Disciples fully expresses the Miracles of the Gospel by a par­ticular Energy, which distinguishes the style of those Authors not only from that of all other Men, but also from that of the Law. You will meet with the same Sincerity even in that great number of ob­scure and difficult Texts which the Evangelists re­late: For on one hand it is impossible that they should counterfeit or invent those Precepts, or those difficult and obscure Sayings which they make Christ utter to the People, and on the other it is most cer­tain, that those difficult and obscure Texts almost always include some miraculous matter of fact, or at least some Allusion to those supernatural Miracles. First then, I say, that the Evangelists invented not those obscure and difficult Sayings they make Christ utter, which are truly very numerous: For how should those poor Fishermen have been industrious [Page 227] enough to forge and invent such Things which all the Doctors as have lived these sixteen hundred years down to us, were hardly able either to understand themselves, or make other Men comprehend?

Besides it is certain that those obscure and difficult sayings, either contain the History of those miracu­lous matters of fact we are now speaking of, or else include such plain and natural Allusions to them, that it is easie for any one to perceive that he that relates those Texts, both supposes that those mat­ters of fact were certainly true, and publickly known to the World. Thus for instance, why did our Lord say that there was not a greater Prophet than John the Baptist born of a Woman? 'Twas not surely be­cause of his Miracles, for he did none: Neither was it because of his extraordinary Piety. For Mo­ses called the meekest of Men, was without doubt in that equal to him. 'Twas then because of the ad­vantage he enjoyed both in Seeing and Hearing the Messias. But how comes our Saviour to add that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven was greater than him. Must we understand by the Kingdom of Heaven, that Kingdom of which John himself said, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand? Was it not rather because John saw none of all the Wonders of that Kingdom which the least of Christ's Disciples had seen? Which in­deed was the reason that our Saviour told them, Blessed are your Eyes, for they see, and your Ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, that many Prophets and righteous Men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Matth. 13. 16, 17. Now all this evidently supposes the Miracles of Christ, and all the other marvellous Events which serve for a Confirmation of our holy Religion.

What he also said himself concerning Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, is altogether strange and [Page 228] very surprising. Nay the very name he gave to that sin implies something in itself Singular and Extraor­dinary. For no body before him ever expressed himself after this manner. Men were not ignorant that sinning against God was a very great Crime, but they had no Knowledge of the sin against the Holy Ghost, much less were they satisfied if there was any harm in Blaspheming against him. This unusual Language necessarily proceeded from a new Revelation, and from new and different objects not seen or heard of before. For the Jews knew not what the Holy Ghost was (if we take that word in the Sense of the Evangelists.) Nay there were some of them who tho converted to the Gopsel of Christ, yet still were ignorant of the true meaning of that Expression. In the mean while if we will but consult the Writings of the New Testament, and therein the Gospels, the Acts of the Holy Apostles, and the Epistles of those great and extraordinary Men, they will presently inform us that by the Holy Ghost must be understood in most of those places, the extraor­dinary and miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit im­parted to the Men of those days; and that to Blas­pheme against him, is downright Blasphemy against that Divine and Glorious Principle of all things, which was, the cause of all the Perfections and Mi­racles of Christ, and gave such Power unto Men.

So that there is first in that Text such an obscuri­ty as proves that the Evangelists could not have thought of inventing it, had not Christ himself real­ly utter'd these very words; and secondly, it unde­niably supposes the miraculous matters of fact, the Pharisees were wont to ascribe to the Power of Bel­zebub, wherein indeed Chiefly consisted the Blasphe­my against the Holy Ghost.

In like manner this Text, Except a Man be born of Water, and of the Spirit, John 3. 5. implies a very [Page 229] puzling Difficulty; because it was not usual for­merly for Men to express themselves after this man­ner. It is a very difficult matter indeed to under­stand the true meaning of that Text, but it is yet far more difficult to invent it; and all the Doctors in the World might put their Heads together, and yet never be able to invent the like Text. Above all it was not natural for the Jews to invent any such thing, because they had no such objects amongst them as could fill up their Minds with any such Ideas. When we suppose the Baptism of the Holy Spirit confer'd upon Christ's Disciples, we may then easily comprehend the true meaning of that mysterious but very remarkable Expression. We might also add to this Text, that other which mentions the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire.

In like manner it pleased God in his Wisdom that they who related to us the History of Christ's Resur­rection, should tell us also some things which we can­not at first view easily comprehend (tho they have a true and reasonable meaning) on purpose to make us understand that as it was impossible those obscure and difficult sayings ascribed to him by them should come of themselves into their thoughts, had not he really spoke them, so consequently it can never be supposed that those Men should have forg'd the History of Christ's Resurrection, or their Discourses with him after he was risen from the Dead, as for instance, these Words which he spake to Mary, touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father, John 20. 17. We could make almost an infinite number of such Remarks as these, which tho' they cannot come up to an evident Demonstration, yet are very proper to make us sensible of the Truth of those matters of fact we are now speaking of.

The Sincerity of the Disciples will further appear by the great number of Circumstances with which [Page 230] their Narrative is fill'd, some whereof are so sin­gular, that they can't easily enter into any Man's Mind, and others so unbecoming their Master, or d [...]dvantageous to themselves, that there is not the least Probability they could have any Desire to forge them; others are so inseparably united with those Events which must necessarily have been well known, that they durst not so much as think of forging them against the publick Knowledge every body must have had of them, as we have already proved at large.

But lastly, 'tis not our present Design to insist purely upon probable Reasons, tho' never so proba­ble and sufficient of themselves, to form a true and perfect Demonstration when joyned together. I therefore proceed to that which is in itself wholly Demonstrative.

Now the whole Demonstration of the Truth of Christian Religion depends upon this Argument; namely, that the Apostles and Disciples of Christ sincerely believed his Miracles, Resurrection, Ascen­sion, and the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost; whence it follows, that all those matters of fact are most certainly true.

We have already given an invincible proof of the Consequence of this Argument, by shewing that it was impossible the Disciples should have been impo­sed upon in all these matters of fact; that tho' they might have been deceived in the Miracles of Christ, yet they could not be imposed upon in his Resurrecti­on; that tho' they should have been imposed upon in his Resurrection, yet they could not be deceived in his Ascension; and that tho' they should have been deceived in his Ascension, yet they could not be so too in the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which are matters of fact that they knew by inward sense, and continual Experience.

[Page 231] I prove also the Principle of this Argument, viz. that the Disciples of Christ sincerely believed all those matters of fact by the same Gradation. I say then, that the Disciples could not impose upon Men as to the Miracles of Christ, not only because they asserted them at the Expence of their own Quiet, of their dearest Blood, and even of their Lives, but also because they mention'd the Places, the Occasi­ons, the Time when they were done, and generally all the Circumstances absolutely necessary to disco­ver the Truth, and render the Design of imposing upon Mankind altogether impossible, and besides that, they confirmed those Miracles by others full as great if not greater than they were, which they pretended to do even in the sight of those to whom they preached the Gospel, not only telling them, That which we have heard, which we have seen with our Eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have han­dled, of the word of life declare we unto you, 1 John 1. 1. (alluding thereby to Christ's having deliver'd himself to be touched and handled by his Disciples after his Resurrection) but also adding these Words in another place, Therefore he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear: there being this further very remarkable in those Expressions; namely, that they pretended that the Holy Ghost descended not in great abun­dance upon them till after Christ's Glorification. For they make this Truth one of the chief Articles of their Gospel, the Holy Ghost, said they, was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified, John 7. 39. Thus it appears what it was they understood by the Holy Ghost, not the Grace of God only which they had already received when Christ was yet with them, not a few of the miraculous Gifts of the Ho­ly Ghost, for they had partly received them when they were sent into the different Parts of Judea to preach the Gospel and work Miracles in the Name [Page 232] of their Master, but also that extraordinary and a­bundant Effusion of the miraculous Gifts which they received on the day of Pentecost. For as they were then obliged to speak to all sorts of Nations, so they received the gift of speaking divers Tongues, and were baptised and fill'd with that Spirit which they had received but in part before. And this they cal­led the receiving the effect of the Promise, which every one of the Evangelists also termed, Baptising with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

But tho' it were not possible for us to prove that the Disciples sincerely believed Christ's Miracles, yet it must be granted, that they sincerely believed his Resurrection; it being impossible that they should either unanimously agree to testify the same, not­withstanding all the severe Trials they were forced to undergo in a time they must otherwise have been so much dejected, or that they could be able to maintain that Cheat with so much Constancy as they did. And the same thing I also affirm of his glorious Ascension.

Certainly, tho' the Sincerity of the Disciples might be justly suspected in both these two last Events, yet it can never be call'd in question concerning the mi­raculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost: For, if Christ's Disciples were not truly sincere, then they necessa­rily knew themselves to be Deceivers, and conse­quently not able to work any Miracles, or speak all sorts of Languages: And if so, they could not have boasted that they were able to do both, and make this an Essential Article of their Gospel. Nay they could not so much as have any Thoughts of attempt­ing it. And were they (as some pretend) perswa­ded that they could perform no Miracles, nor speak any Language but their own; tis impossible that they should yet declare that God had sent them to work Miracles, and preach to all Nations in the [Page 233] World in their respective Tongues. 'Tis yet still more impossible they should promise to enable their Proselytes to perform the same Miracles, and speak all sorts of Languages, so that they themselves and those to whom they spoke, should equally be sensible of it at the same time: For, if the Disciples knew by Experience they could speak no Language but their own, they would easily know by the same Ex­perience that their Proselytes would soon perceive how falsly they had promised them the Gift of seve­ral Languages.

And tho' one single Disciple of Christ should have been so foolish and stupid as not to perceive it, yet it cannot be that all of them together should be be­sotted with the same kind of stupidity.

Should we suppose that all the Disciples had un­dertaken to perswade their Proselytes, that they had confer'd upon them the Gift of Tongues, yet we can't suppose that those Proselytes would be­lieve it against their continual Experience to the contrary: For, if the Disciples knew by Experience, they could speak no Language but their own, by the same Experience their Proselytes would have known that they had not received the Gift of Tongues. And though one single Person might have fancy'd he had received it (which is yet im­possible in it self) yet a whole Multitude could never be perswaded of it; and it is still much more impossible that this pretended Illusion should have grown so universal and durable, that St. Paul not only supposed but found it settled in the World, and undertook to reform the Disorders which arose in several particular Churches concerning the Use of the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit. And tho' Christ's Disciples might have promised out of a particular Design of their own, to impart these mira­culous Gifts, which they were sensible they had not, [Page 234] and make other Men speak such Languages, as they neither understood, nor spoke themselves; and tho' a Multidude of Proselytes and Disciples might have perswaded themselves against their own Expe­rience and inward Sense, that they understood those things which they understood not, or spoke those Languages which they really spoke no more than they did before their calling; yet it is still impossible that those miraculous Gifts, supposing them to exist only in the imaginary conceit of the one and of the other, should have such an effect as any way to move the sight of the Spectators, or make the Jews glo­rifie God in that they had seen his Spirit descend up­on the Gentiles. But granting all this possible, tho' this Illusion should have taken place with respect to the Gift of speaking divers Tongues, yet men could not be deceiv'd in the Gift of interpreting them, and much less in all the other Gifts of the holy Spirit.

Add to this the consideration of the Patience of the Disciples, of their Holiness of Life, their Charity, their Zeal, their unaffected way of expressing them­selves, their Self-denial, Sincerity and plain Ingenui­ty. Methinks all these Characters put together, ne­cessarily and evidently convince us, that the Disci­ples were plain, honest, sincere Men, that had not in the least any Design to impose upon us; so that this Truth needs no further Demonstration.

It may not however be amiss, to remove some few small Difficulties which may seem to oppose what has been said concerning these miraculous matters of fact.

The first difficulty is to know how the Enemies of the Gospel could be able to extinguish the Know­ledge of so many extraordinary and miraculous mat­ters of fact, which seemed sufficient to convert all Mankind, or at least those Countreys where all those things came to pass.

[Page 235] I answer, first, those matters of fact were not in the least stifled or concealed. They were so far from it, that they converted an infinite number both of Jews and Gentiles, and that too in a very short time. Secondly, there were several external Causes which very much contributed towards the weakning the Impression they would otherwise have made up­on Mankind. For first, the Elders amongst the Jews endeavour'd as much as they could to perswade the People, that all those Miracles were nothing but the product of some Magick Power, or a kind of compact with the Devil.

Secondly, Those that were in Power were so much exasperated against the Disciples of Christ, that who­soever resolved to embrace his Doctrine, must im­mediately prepare himself to be cast into a Dungeon, or executed upon a scaffold. Nay, to undergo if pos­sible, any thing more sorrowful and fatal than this. And because nothing makes a greater Impression up­on Men than to see Punishments inflicted on others, all Parents strictly charged their Children not to hold any Conversation with the Christians, least they should see them end their days in the midst of Tor­ments. Nay they were very cautious and strict them­selves in avoiding their Society: which was the rea­son that keeping such an extraordinary distance from the Christians, they shut their Eyes and stopped their Ears that they might not hear their Words, nor see the Miracles which they perform'd.

Thirdly, The Doctrine of the Apostles was so con­trary to the Opinion the Jews had been prepossessed with, that they could not but hate and avoid it. For the Cross of Christ became a scandal to the Jews, and was treated as a folly by the Greeks.

Lastly, The Christian Religion putting an end to the bondage of the Law, and the Religion of the Hea­thens, a Jew then could not be converted to Christanity, [Page 236] without utterly renouncing what he always esteem­ed inviolable; nor could a Heathen believe in Jesus Christ, without looking upon that as profane, which he thought before most sacred. Hence it is that the holy Scripture speaks to us of the effects of the Gospel attended with the power of the Holy Ghost, as of the Creation of new Heavens, and of a new Earth.

If we add to this, the extraordinary care the Jewish and Heathenish Priests, and the Magistrates of both Nations took to smother the light of the Gos­pel; and the Weaknesses and Passions of Men, who were unable to sustain so much as the Idea of the torments that were invented, on purpose to hinder the progress of Christanity: I say if we consider this, we shall have no Reason to be any longer astonish'd at that which at first view so much surprised us.

But secondly, it may be asked why the Historians among the Heathens never mention'd any thing of those mighty Wonders of the Gospel, which yet deserved to have the most considerable place amongst the many other Events they have so carefully re­lated.

We answer, That this Consideration proves nothing against the truth of those Matters of fact we have so firmly established. First, because it is needless and extravagant to draw any further Consequences from a Principle which proves more than enough al­ready. 'Tis true, the Heathen Writers say little or nothing concerning Jesus Christ, for they hardly knew his Name. Suetonius speaks of him after this manner, Judaei tumultuati sunt Cresto impulsore. But what then? Does it follow that because Suetonius hardly knew the Name of Christ, that there was no such Person as Christ, or that he was not really cal­led Christus? The Heathen Authors you see relate not how several Christian Churches were in a small [Page 237] time settled at Rome, at Corinth, at Ephesus, at Sar­dis, at Smirna, at Philippi, at Thessalonica, &c. But must it follow from thence, that there was no such thing? Certainly if any matters of fact were true, this was undoubtedly true. I grant indeed, that the Miracles, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ were all matters of fact that might be doubt­ed of, yet we may at least affirm that the Establish­ment of those Christian Churches, composed of such Men as believed all those things, was a thing not to be doubted of. This was a matter of fact very im­portant and remarkable. Yet it was not in the least mention'd by the Historians of that Age, there­fore the Objection goes too far, it proves too much, and so consequently proves nothing.

Secondly, I say, that the Historians of those Times have so ignorantly treated of the Jewish Affairs, that we need not wonder they appear so little instructed in the Knowledge of what concerned the Christians, whom they supposed to have been a Sect belonging to the Jews. For if it appears that the History those Authors composed of them agrees not very well with the Gospel of the Apostles, 'tis but comparing it with that of Josephus, and we may clearly see that it agrees no better with one than with the other.

Lastly, the Heathen Authors consider'd the Christi­an Religion as a kind of Magick, and a detestable Superstition, which aimed at the total Destruction of Mankind. It is certain that some Men earnestly en­deavour'd to make it pass for such, among those who lived both in the Time of the Apostles, and long after them; and it was very dangerous to give it any other Name. The World was divided be­tween the Friends and Enemies of Christanity: Those who were the Friends of it, professed it, and deli­ver'd not only by word of Mouth, but in Writing, what they knew concerning the Wonders of it. As [Page 238] for its Enemies, they neither had the Boldness, Power, or Will to write ofit as the former had done: They would not do it, lest they should wrong their own Cause, and dishonour their own Religion: And they could not do it, because they themselves were not so well acquainted with the Miracles of Christanity, ha­ving always been afraid to converse with the Christi­ans, and esteemed the Belief of those Men a very sorrowful and dangerous Persuasion; since by pro­fessing their Religion, they were sure of getting no­thing but Torments, and Death it self. Lastly, they durst not presume to write things as they really were, tho' they had been never so well acquainted with them; because their own Writings would ac­cuse them of having embraced Christianity, a Crime which was so severely punish'd in those days, that it would unavoidably have brought upon them certain Death and Ruin, or at least, after their Death, Shame and Infamy upon their Families.

But thirdly, it may be asked why the Apostles who had Power to heal the Sick, and raise the Dead, did not raise all the Dead to Life again, nor heal all the sick that were in Judea, because then all the World would have been forced in spite of themselves to believe in Jesus Christ. We answer, That this Question is much like what the Murtherers of Jesus Christ said to him upon the Cross, He saved others, let him save himself, let him come down from the Cross and we will believe in him. Nay it is all one as if a Man should say, If there be a God, why does he not shew and manifest himself after a sensible manner, by speaking to men immediately from the highest Heavens? and then they would all be forced in spite of themselves to acknowledge him.

But God does not desire us to acknowledge him against our own Inclinations; and consequently, he is not obliged to manifest himself as we in our extra­vagant [Page 239] Desires would have him, but as it seemeth best to his infinite Wisdom. Had Christ or his Apostles raised all the Dead they found to Life again, we should then, contrary to the Design of the Almighty, have had no other Faith but what depended entirely upon our Senses. It is enongh that they healed almost an infinite number of Sick People, and raised not only one, but several Dead Men to Life: So much indeed was absolutely necessary to confirm the Truth of their Calling. Because they were not only to make Men believe in a crucified Saviour, and adore him as the Son of God, but also to oblige them, for the Confirmation of their Faith, to undergo Mar­tyrdom. More than this would have been but su­perfluous, because they were not obliged to alter the Oeconomy of Faith, but only to perfect it, not to make Men believe against their own Inclinations, but conformably to the Lights of their own Under­standing.

But tho' I should grant all these Difficulties to be greater than they really are; yet we ought to regu­late our speculative Opinions by some Arguments drawn from matters of fact, and not on the contrary, regulate the Arguments drawn from matters of fact by any speculative Opinions. And this is such a ge­neral Maxim, that it holds good in all respects.

Many Difficulties arose at first about the Belief of the Antipodes. Some pretended that such an Opinion was contrary to Reason; others affirmed, it could never be reconciled to the Principles of Religi­on: And both Parties raised several notable Objecti­ons against it. But as soon as the thing was evidently proved from undeniable matter of fact, all their Ob­jections and Difficulties were turned into Ridicule.

Some Philosophers have pretended to prove by Ar­guments, that Motion is impossible: But since we have daily Experience that there is such a thing as [Page 240] Motion, we let these Philosophers talk on, and chuse rather to believe our own Senses.

And I dare affirm (without begging any Excuse for the Boldness of my Assertion) that there never were, nor never will be any matters of fact, against which we might not raise several plausible Objections and considerable Difficulties that are meerly specula­tive. Some are daily raised against the Flux and Reflux of the Sea, against the Attraction of the Load­stone with Iron, the Source or Head of the River Nile, against Comets and Meteors, nay even against the peopling of the World, and the Propagation of Mankind. We readily grant the Incredulous, that several considerable Difficulties may be raised against the Mysteries of Religion, as we see there are no less considerable ones daily raised even against the My­steries and secret Operations of Nature. But I still affirm, that we must renounce the Evidence of Sense, if we prefer any Difficulties of meer Speculati­on before those Arguments which are taken from un­deniable matters of fact.

Tho' we should argue only upon the Nature of Things, and the Principles of Natural Religion, it would appear, if we compare the Obscurities which cause those Difficulties, with the Evidences which clear them, that the latter would gain more upon our Be­lief than the former; and this Truth we think we have sufficiently proved in our first Part of this Work. But tho' we should meet with nothing else but Difficulties in those natural Principles, without any Lights at all to clear them, yet ought we to banish all Scruples and Doubts that arise meerly from Speculation, the better to embrace the Opini­on which proceeds from the Arguments drawn from undeniable matters of fact, unless we have a mind to be guilty of an Absurdity not to be met with; which is wholly contrary to common sense and Reason.

[Page 241] But having thus evinced the Truth of the Essen­tials of our Religion, namely, those matters of fact contained in the Writings of the Apostles; it re­mains only, that we make Men further sensible of them, by laying down a few short Remarks which we shall make on several places of the New Testament, whose whole Purport shall be either to perswade us that the Apostles did really teach all these matters of fact, or assure us that they sincerely believed the things which they declared, or else to make it ap­pear, that they could not have been imposed upon in those matters of fact. For from those three princi­ples is formed the Demonstration of the Truth of the Christian Religion.

SOME REFLEXIONS ON THE Gospel according to S. Matthew.

CHapt. II. 1.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, behold there came Wise­men, &c. Those Wise-men were of all Nations the first that came to pay their Homage to Jesus Christ. The Priests and Elders amongst the Jews being consulted concerning the Birth of the Messias, freely owned he was to be born in Bethlehem, and were quite of another Opini­on than the Modern Jews, who pervert the Mean­ing of the Prophecy of Micah Chap. 5. As to what concerns us we affirm that the History of the coming of the Wise-men could not be falsely invented. I. Because it agrees admirably with the Prophecy of Balaam, Numb. 24. 17. where he Cries out, I shall s [...]e him, but not now, I shall behold him, but not nigh: There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scep­ter shall rise out of Israel. A Star of the Wise-men, indeed, and a Scepter of Jesus Christ. II. The Evangelist could not have made the whole City of Jerusalem believe, that they were troubled and asto­nisht at the Coming of those Wise-men: and much less perswaded the Inhabitants against their own publick Knowledge, that Herod had so barbaroufly [Page 243] shed so much Innocent Blood. III. Herod must ne­cessarily have been told that the Christ or Messias was to be born in Bethlehem, because thither he sent directly the Ministers of his execrable fury. IV. And lastly, Joseph fled into Egypt, and was afraid to re­turn again into Judea, when he heard that Arche­laus Reigned in the room of his Father Herod: A Circumstance that wonderfully agrees with all the rest.

Chapt. III. 1.

In those days came John the Baptist. In this Chapter John foretells the Destruction of the Jews in these Words, O generation of Vipers, who has warned you to fly from the wrath to come? and now also the ax is laid to the root of the Tree: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down, and cast into the fire, &c. He foretells also the Effu­sion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost upon the Apo­stles, in these words, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me, is mightier than I, &c. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Lastly, John saw the Holy Ghost De­scending upon Jesus under such a form as truly deno­ted the gentleness and mildness his Life was to be at­tended with, and he heard that voice from Heaven, this is my beloved Son, &c.

These three matters of fact have a necessary con­nexion with the Principles of our Religion, if they be true, as they will evidently appear to be to all who shall seriously consider and reflect upon them. 'Twould be to no purpose to suspect the Evangelist of having forged that prediction of the Destruction of Jerusalem, which he makes Jesus Christ himself ut­ter, because that Gospel was compiled long before that Event.

It would be as little to the purpose to pretend, that that other prediction of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost and with fire, was falslly inserted into the Histo­ry [Page 244] of John the Baptist. For what likelyhood is there that the Disciples should have made John the Baptist utter such a prediction, had they seen nothing like it? And if they were truly baptized with the Holy Ghost and with Fire, why should any body refuse to believe that St. John the Baptist foretold it?

Chapt. IV. 1.

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, &c. Had the Evangelists propo­sed any other Method to themselves in all their Writings, but to speak the plain truth, they would never have represented Christ to us as being deliver­ed into the power of the Devil to be tempted of him, who set him one while upon the Pinacles of the Temple, and another while upon an exceeding high Mountain. In all this Relation we have cer­tainly a most undeniable mark of their Truth and Sincerity.

Vers. 19.

And he saith unto them, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Who is this that without Riches, Arms, and Authority, nay without any assistance from Men, pretends to convert ordinary Fishers into Fishers of Men? How came any such Thoughts into his Mind? What a strange Design is this? What a rash undertaking! Nay what confidence joined to so great a weakness! For Jesus Christ to fortel and exe­cute that project, he must not only have been absolute Master of his Disciples to convert them so wonder­fully; but also of their minds to enlighten them, of their Hearts to make them less sensible of all word­ly objects; He must have been an absolute Master of suturity to foretel it, of time present, to Dispose of it, of those Men's Inclinations whom he was thus to change, of their resistance, and continual struglings and oppositions against him, nay he must have been absolute Master of all the Enemies of his Name; in a word, of all Events and Junctures whatsoever.

Vers. 24.

And his fame went throughout all Syria. 'Tis certain that the Evangelists could never have made the World believe that Jesus Christ was be­come famous for his Miracles, had he really neither wrought, nor pretended to work any Miracles. Besides, herein was Jesus Christ distinguish'd from John the Baptist, that the former wrought many no­table Wonders and Signs, but the latter was fa­mous only for the innocency of his Life, and purity of his Manners. And if Jesus Christ passed for a per­son who really did several Miracles, it remains only for us to know, whether those Miracles be true or false, and that solely depends upon the examination of the Witnesses that saw them, the nature of the matters of fact themselves, and the Enemies that so firmly opposed them, &c.

Chap. V. 1.

And seeing the multitude, he went up into a mountain, &c. And he opened his mouth and taught them, &c. I shall not say any thing concern­ing that excellent Sermon which Jesus Christ preach­ed on the Mount. We need only read it over to be satisfied that it is an abstract of the most Sound, Pure, and Spiritual, the most impartial, sublime, and sur­prizing Doctrine that ever was thought of. Read it therefore I say, and you will as much be surpriz­ed at his Doctrine, as the Multitudes that heard it.

Chap. VIII. 1.

When he was come down from the mountain, &c. In this Chapter we read of the cleansing of Lepers, of healing sick Persons that were absent and far off by the efficacy of his word, of his calming the Storms and Tempests of the Sea, of his casting Devils out of those that were possessed, of the consternation the Gadarenes were in at the loss of their Herd of Swine, and their surprize to see those healed that were possessed with Devils: all which are such matters of fact as the Evangelists could not have been perswaded of by a meer Illusion, [Page 246] nor the Disciples make others believe against their own publick Knowledge.

Vers. 11.

And I say unto you many shall come from the East and West, &c. Who was it that had thus enlightned the Mind of Jesus Christ, as to make him so clearly foretell the calling of the Gentiles?

Vers. 22.

But Jesus said unto him follow me, and let the dead bury their dead. This was certainly the ex­pression of a Man that had so deeply reflected upon the vanity of the World, and was truly perswaded of the Misery and Corruption of Mankind. For did ever any Man but him speak after this manner?

Vers. 34.

And behold the whole City came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they besought him that he would depart out of their Coasts. Here were a sufficient number of Witnesses who might have ea­sily convinced the Evangelists, had that matter of fact been false.

Chap. IX. 1.

And he entred into a Ship, &c. In this Chapter Jesus Christ calleth Matthew from the receit of custom, healeth a Woman that was disea­sed with an Issue of Blood twelve Years, restoreth sight to two blind Men, raiseth a young Girl to Life again, and healeth one that was possessed with a Devil. Now Matthew who compiled the History of all these matters of fact, and whom no interest whatsoever could have obliged to follow Jesus Christ to the prejudice of his own repose, could not but know certainly what force or secret Power had com­pelled him to follow Christ. And Jairus knew very well whether or no his Daughter had been raised to Li [...]e again, his Friends and Relations had been in­formed of it, the Neighbours and Minstrels who were already come to solemnize her funerals, could not be ignorant of it. In a word, the Blind, the Lame, and the Sick of that Town, could not but tell whether they really experienced that healing virtue [Page 247] which proceeded from his very garments. But who can suppose that so many Persons should have known the certain Truth of that matter of fact, and yet that the Disciples themselves should not have known it? And supposing they knew it, how is it possible they could have so unanimously agreed to impose up­on all the World at the expence of their lives, and against their own temporal interest?

Vers. 5.

For whether is it easier to say, thy Sins are forgiven thee; or to say arise and walk? There is no suspecting a Man's proceedings that proves by seve­ral sensible and healing Miracles the Authority he assumes and ascribes to himself.

Vers. 13.

But go and learn what that meaneth; I will have mercy and not sacrifice. A Spiritual worship is the only worship that God delights in. The ce­remonies of Moses's Law were only agreeable to him as they were founded upon the Obedience that is due to God. This Obedience derives its whole perfecti­on from a willing compliance out of love and Cha­rity. For a forced and constrained obedience can never be acceptable to God. That which is most excellent in Charity, is Mercy, which consists in for­giving injuries, and doing good to others without expecting any return from them. For a man may do good to another through a principle of vain Glo­ry. But the works of mercy proceed from another motive, and are a product of a noble disinteressed na­ture. Mercy then is the only thing that is acceptable to God in Religion: and both Scripture and Reason tell us so. But the World was so ignorant of this truth, when Jesus Christ first took it for a funda­mental maxim of his Religion, that nothing could be more surprizing to Men than his expressing him­self after this manner.

Vers. 13.

For I am not come to call the righteous but Sinners to repentance. An expression that thunders [Page 248] out against Hypocrisie, roots out of our Hearts that false Pride and vain Confidence we have of our selves, humbles mankind, glorifies the mercy of God, and makes us sensible of the use and necessity of repentance, and in a more especial manner evi­dently shews the self-denial of our Lord.

Chap. X. 1.

And when he had called unto him his twelve Disciples he gave them Power, &c. The Evan­gelist was not afraid of being contradicted by the twelve Disciples of our Lord, whose names he sets down, when he said, that Jesus Christ had given them power to heal all sorts of Diseases among the People.

Vers. 5.

These Twelve Jesus sent forth, and command­ed them, saying, go not into the Cities of the Gentiles, &c. but go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. These words remove all suspicions which our incre­dulous Adversaries may entertain, that the Author of this Gospel was willing to favour the Gentiles in prejudice to the Jews.

Vers. 7.

And as ye go preach, saying, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Was Jesus Christ in a fit con­dition to make himself known for that Monarch who was to come, unless he had first been endowed with an infinite Power?

Vers. 8.

Heal the Sick, cleanse the Lepers, raise the Dead, cast out Devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Is it possible that Jesus Christ could have made his Disciples believe they had freely received that which they had not in the least received? How bold then must that command have been to work so ma­ny Miracles?

Vers. 9.

Provide neither Gold, nor Silver, nor Brass, in your purses: nor scrip for your journey, &c. Christ wa [...] not content to chuse poor Men for his Disciples he s [...]rther obliged them to become poorer than they were. He forbid them to provide themselves any [Page 249] thing, designing to nourish them wonderfully by his Providence. He resolved so to dispose the Hearts of those that should believe in their words that they should feed and cloath them. This in­deed was spoke like the Master and God of Nature.

Vers. 22.

And ye shall be hated of all men for my name sake. Christ flattered not his Disciples, but foretold them from the very beginning of their ministry, all the evils that were to befall them. Now what can be suspected in all this?

Vers. 23.

But when they persecute you in this City flee into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the Cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come. This Text is somewhat difficult, because it does not plainly appear that the Prophecy it con­tains was exactly fulfilled. But this very Difficulty serves to confirm our Faith. For why should the Evangelist write this, he who lived to see the success of that matter? He knew well enough that in his time the Gospel had been preached not only in all the Cities of Israel, but almost in every Country in the World, though Jesus Christ had not yet come in all his Glory. Doubtless it was because he intended to relate things as they really were in themselves, and ascribed no more to his Divine Master but just the very words he uttered. And altho' Holy Writers by the coming of Jesus Christ commonly understand his last coming in his Glory, yet that same expressi­on does also sometimes signifie the Judgments which God executed upon the Jews, when he sent the Ro­mans to destroy their City: which explanation plainly solves the whole Difficulty.

Vers. 34.

Think not that I am come to send Peace on earth: I came not to send Peace but a Sword. A Ter­rible declaration indeed for those Men who, accord­ing to the vulgar errour of the Jews, imagined that the Messias should have raised them up to the height [Page 250] of Happiness and temporal prosperity! But who is he that was bold enough to foretel that his Gospel should disturb the Peace of the Universe? How comes it he did not rather foresee that that Gospel would unavoidably be involved in the darkness of Silence and Oblivion, having such weak Defenders to maintain, and such formidable Adversaries to op­pose it? Does it seem natural that a Man who dwelt on the Borders of the Lake of Gennesareth, should have pretended to make other Men rise up one against another by the bare efficacy of his word, without any Arms, Riches, or Authority, being only got at the head of ten or twelve miserable Wretches, who knew nothing beyond the mending their nets?

Vers. 28.

And he that taketh not his Cross and fol­loweth after me, is not worthy of me. Did ever Man get himself any followers by such declarations as these?

Chap. XI. 4, 5.

Jesus answered and said unto them, go, and shew John those things which ye do hear and see: The Blind receive their fight, and the Lame walk, the Lepers are cleansed, and the Deaf hear, the Dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. Jesus Christ convinced not his Disciples by meer spe­culations, but by evident Objects of Sense.

Vers. 12.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. Did ever Man in so mean and miserable a Condition as he was in, speak thus? Whence had he this Confidence? And what sort of Language is this?

Vers. 21.

Woe unto the Chorazin, &c. What probability is there that Christ should thus reproach the Jews who dwelt in all those Countrys, unless he had really wrought several Miracles amongst them?

Vers. 28.

Come unto me all ye that Labour, &c. [Page 251] There have been many Societies formed in the world since the beginning of it; but there never was one like this; nor was it ever seen that a Man should assemble a Company of Sinners, that were full of Repentance, and charged with heavy remorse and in­ward sorrow for their Crimes.

Chap. XII. 13.

Then saith he to the Man stretch forth thy hand; and he stretched it forth; &c. How is it possible that Christ could impose upon the Spectators in so sensible a matter of fact as this? Or how could the Evangelist select only such matters, on purpose to make others believe them, against the certain knowledge they must have had to the con­trary?

Vers. 15.

And great multidudes followed him, and he healed them all. Here were a great number of Witnesses indeed!

Vers. 24.

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, this Fellow does not cast out Devils, but by Belzebub the Prince of the Devils. This accusation is an Homage those false Teachers were compelled to pay Christ. For when they said that he wrought Miracles by the Power of Belzebub, they thereby acknowledged that he performed several.

Vers. 50.

For whosoever shall do the will of my Fa­ther which is in Heaven, the same is my Brother, and Sister and Mother. The ordinary sort of Men have no other rule or standard of their affections but self­love. They seek themselves (if I may so speak) in different Objects, and love nothing else in their neighbours, but that proximity which unites them together. They have generally more or less affecti­on for their fellow creatures, according as they are more or less nearly related to them; because self­love is the origine and measure of all their other Passions. But this Man Christ Jesus, through an asto­nishing prodigy, entirely loves, or utterly hates [Page 252] external Objects, not as they have any reference to himself, but as they refer to God. The love of God is the rule of his Affections. He seeks God in all Objects, not himself or his own satisfaction. He loves other Men not according as they are related to him by the proximity of nature, but as they are re­lated to God through an effect of his Grace. What a nobleness of thought, what elevation and loftiness of mind is here contained in this one single sen­tence?

Chap. XIII. 16.

But blessed are your Eyes, &c. When a Man speaks after that manner, his mind must be very fully and throughly perswaded of what he says. And none but a Heart that leaps for joy at the Reflexion upon some extraordinary satisfaction, is able to express itself thus.

Vers. 31, 32.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like un­to a grain of Mustard seed, which a Man took and sowed in his Field. Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs, and be­cometh a tree; so that the Birds of the Air come and lodge upon the branches thereof. The progress of Christiani­ty which had such weak and imperfect beginnings, is wonderful, and the prediction of it is no less strange and surprizing.

Chapt. XIV. 21.

And they that had eaten were about five thousand Men, &c. Here were five thou­sand Witnesses.

Vers. 36.

And as many as touched him were made perfectly whole. 'Twas an easy matter to confute the Gospel, and to convince those of Deceit who declared such things, had not the Enemies of it been afraid to make the least enquiry into it, least they should immediately discover the Veracity of it.

Chapt. XV. 30, 31.

And great multidudes came unto him, having with them those that were Lame, Blind, Dumb, Maimed, and many others; and he healed them. [Page 253] Insomuch that the multidudes wondred when they saw the Dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the Lame to walk, and the Blind to see, and they glorified the God of Israel: Is it likely that St. Matthew could have deceived himself, and yet have been an Eye-Witness to all these things? Or that he left the receit of Custom, and embraced poverty and misery; on purpose to make us believe a parcel of Stories? Durst he tell us such things, the falsity of which he would soon have been convinced of by almost an infinite number of People? And was he not afraid lest some Per­sons should have enquired about them in those very places where he affirmed those things had come to pass. Nay rather, was he not ashamed to write such things in a time when every body must necessarily have had them fresh in their memory, had they really came to pass? How could he perswade his Brethren, who must have been Witnesses to all those Events? Can we think they would joyn with him to maintain such an Imposture? Or can we imagine that with­out a mutual contrivance they could have agreed to­gether to relate it, and invent the most impudent Lye that ever was, on purpose to oblige Men to become Faithful, Holy, and Just. Credat Judaeus Apella.

Chap. XVI. 18.

And the Gates of Hell shall not pre­vail against her. All the Powers of the World oppo­sed the growth of the Christian Church; every pas­sion of Man's Heart made War against her, every Age caused her to undergo new trials. All kinds of Punishments have exercised the Patience of her Children, and all the charms in the World have been offered to seduce her; But yet in spight of all those Powers, that Church made up of Persons that renounc'd the World was preserved, and oftentimes increased by the frequent persecutions and oppositi­ons it met with. Neither could it be otherwise, since Christ himself had so foretold it.

Vers. 23.

But he turned and said to Peter, get thee behind me Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of Men. How comes it that St. Matthew having represented Peter making an admirable Confession to his Master, and receiving such an advantagious Character from him, should re­present him immediately after as severely checkt in these terrible words? Can this incoherence be thought natural in those Persons who write nothing but of their own Invention? And what can be the Mystery of so severe a reproof from Christ?

Vers. 28.

Verily I say unto you, there be some stand­ing here which shall not taste of Death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom. We leave it to the Interpreters to solve all the Difficulties of this text, and to determine whether the coming of Christ may not be taken for the Judgments he exe­cuted, on the City of Jerusalem; At present we shall only draw this Consequence from it, viz. That this Gospel was Written whilst all the Disciples were alive. For how can it be supposed these words could be Written after the Decease of the Disciples, and yet not be in the least explained?

Chapt. XVII. 2.

And was transfigured before them. There was never a more Singular Event in all its Circumstances than this, nor one more difficult, nor less obvious to enter into the imagination of Man.

Vers. 4.

Then answered Peter and said to Jesus, Lord it is good for us to be here, if thou wilt let us make here three Tabernacles. What a strange piece of stupidity was this? and how well does it appear how incapable such gross and ignorant Men were of en­tertaining the least Design of imposing upon others! Besides, what makes St. Matthew relate this Circum­stance? What Honour could accrue thereby to Peter? and how could it of itself enter into his mind?

Vers. 16.

And I brought him to thy Disciples and they could not cure him. In this passage appears the Evangelists sincerity. For nothing else could have obliged him to relate that Circumstance, or make him so freely own the defects and want of Faith in a Society he himself was a Member of.

Chap. XVIII. 3.

Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little Children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. That Children should be so simple, no Man ought to wonder, because their want of knowledge is a pure effect of their Age: but that even Men should be obliged to return from the most refined Notions of worldly policy, from that sinful cunning and dexterity so often seen in them, to a State of a Holy and Amiable Sincerity. That they should at once become simple and prudent, righteous, and religiously wise, is such a thing that Men are wholly unacquainted with, and which disco­vers to us both the greatness and highest perfection of that Person, who taught Men a Doctrine so sub­lime and elevated.

Vers. 4.

Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little Child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. How different are these Notions from the common ones of Men! How different is the King­dom of Heaven from all worldly Empire! And how well does it appear that such surprising maxims as these; could not possibly proceed from the mind of Man!

Vers. 9.

And if thy Eye offend thee pluck it out, &c. By the Eyes here are to be understood our darling Sins, or whatever else is dear to us. So that Christ hereby teaches us that we ought to sacrifice to the glory of God whatever we dearly prize, and value most. Did ever any teacher less flatter mens va­nity?

Vers. 22.

I say not unto thee, until seven times, but until seventy times seven. This is a certain number made use of for an uncertain one, which signifies that we must continually forgive, that Mercy has no bounds, and that Charity cannot be limited. Who does not see that such a concern to unite all Hearts together, to banish all misunderstanding amongst Men in giving so vast a latitude to Charity and Mer­cy, can proceed from none but him, that was Master of all Hearts, and the common Father of Man­kind?

Chap. XXI. 43.

Therefore say I unto you, the King­dom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a Na­tion bringing forth the Fruits thereof. This is indeed a very express prediction of the Calling of the Gentiles.

Vers. 46.

But when they thought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude; because they held him for a Prophet. What could be so remarkable in Jesus Christ that he should be taken for a Prophet, but the efficacy of his Doctrine, and the Miracles whereby he confirmed it?

Chap. XXIII. 36, 37.

Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this Generation. O Jerusa­lem, Jerusalem, thou that killest, &c. Here the De­struction of Jerusalem is very plainly set down.

Chap. XXIV. 28.

For wheresoever the Carcass is; there will the Eagles be gathered together. The Body of Christ crucified was the Carcass, and the Roman Standards where the Eagles which were to fall upon the City of Jerusalem where the Carcass was.

Vers. 34.

Verily I say unto you, this Generation shall pass till all these things be fulfilled. The same Reflexions must be made in this place as we have made above.

Chap. XXVI. 13.

Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole World, there shall also this that this Woman hath done be told for a [Page 257] memorial of her. A Prophecy that has been sufficient­ly fulfiled.

Vers. 28.

For this is my blood of the New Testa­ment, which is shed for many for the remission of Sins. Did ever any Man act, or speak after so unheard of and surprising a manner? Can we find a Man who not only foretells his sufferings, but also establishes before-hand some memorial of a Death he might easily have avoided? And who but Christ ever took upon him to shed his Blood for the Remission of the Sins of Mankind?

Vers. 38, 39.

Then saith he unto them, my Soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto Death, &c. And he went a little further, and fell on his Face, and prayed saying, O my Father if it be possible let this Cup pass away from me. Tis easie to explain what this exceeding Sorrow and Agony was, yet it must be confessed that it presents us at first view with an Object very sur­prising, and that it can't be imagined that those Men whose chief Design was to invent such things as should be most for their Masters Honour, should yet give us such a Description of his Sufferings. At least we find here the sincerity of the Disciples, which sincerity shews us that we ought without scruple to receive the rest of their Relations.

Chap. XXVII. 42.

He saved others, himself he cannot save; if he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the Cross, and we will believe him. By this Text it appears that Christ passed for a Person that had performed several Miracles.

Vers. 45.

Now from the sixth Hour, there was darkness over all the Land unto the ninth Hour. How is it possible they could have made a whole City believe such a thing were it not true?

Vers. 51, 52, 53.

And behold the vail of the Tem­ple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom, and the Earth did quake, and the Rocks rent, and the Graves [Page 258] were opened, &c. How could St. Matthew have per­suaded Men to such things as these against their own knowledge to the contrary? Could the Vail of the Temple, or the Rocks be rent, could the Earth quake, and the Graves open, and yet the Jews know nothing of it? To whom did the Evangelist relate all these things? He wrote them before the Destruction of Je­rusalem, nay in the days of the Apostles themselves, and consequently in a time when there were several thousands of People still living that could witness the Truth of them. How then could he so much as imagin he could deceive so many Witnesses concern­ed in the business to whom he preached these things, and whom he designed to bring over to his Party; nay some of whom had already embraced the Gospel, and formed a very numerous and considerable Church at Jerusalem, where all these things had happened, and where he attempted to perswade others to the belief of them?

CHAP. VII. Wherein we shall further produce out of the other Gospels, several Places very proper to make us truly sensible of the Divinity of the Christi­an Religion.

St. MARK.

CHapt. I. 14.

Now after that John was put in Prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, &c. All these Ex­pressions the Gospel, or good Tidings, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, &c. are very strange and extraordinary. And because our Ears are some­what used to them, we do not reflect on them so [Page 259] much as we ought. Certainly it must be a strange kind of mutual agreement that several Fishermen made together, to go preaching about the World, and call the Subject of their preaching by the name of Gospel.

Chap. IV. 19.

And the Cares of this World, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entring in, choke the word, &c. Tis not usual for other Men thus to declare open War against their Passions; or if they do, they fail not presently to discover themselves, and lay open their own Hypo­crisy to the World.

Vers. 41.

And they said one to another, what man­ner of Man is this, that even the Winds and Sea obey him, &c. We too may as well say, what manner of Man is this, that not only the Sea, and Winds, but Dis­eases, Graves, Death, Hell, Earth, Men, and Devils, all obey him? For it is observable, there was no­thing within the bounds of Nature but what was sen­sible of his Miracles.

Chap. VI. 2, 3.

From whence has this Man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the Carpenter, the son of Mary, &c. Whence rather proceeds this astonishment of theirs, and what is the reason of this sort of reproach, had not Christ wrought several Miracles amongst them?

Vers. 4, 5, 6.

But Jesus said, unto them, a pro­phet is not without honour but in his own Country, &c. And he could not do many mighty works there, save that he laid his hand upon a few sick folk, and he healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. Every thing in this passage carries with it an Air of Truth without the least semblance of Falsity. For he that would invent a story, and desire other Men should believe it, would never make choice of such Cir­cumstances as these.

Vers. 56.

And whithersoever he entred, into vil­lages, or Cities, or Countries, they laid the Sick in the Streets, and besought that they might touch, if it were but the border of his Garment, and as many as touched him were made whole. It is impossible for any Man to impose upon other People in such matters of fact as these.

Chap. VIII. 27, 28.

And by the way he asked his Disciples, saying unto them, Whom do Men say that I am? And they answered, some say John the Baptist; but some say Elias; and others one of the Prophets. Here we may observe what a great Impression Christ's Mi­racles had already made upon other Mens minds.

Chap. XIV. 33.

And He began to be sore ama­zed, and to be very heavy. To own that Jesus Christ was reduced to this State, nay him whom they would have Men look upon as the Son of God, is the ef­fect of a strange and surprizing sincerity.

Vers. 62.

And Jesus said, I am: And ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power, and coming in the Clouds of Heaven. Did ever any Cri­minal brought before a Tribunal of Justice speak thus?

Chap. XVI. 17, 18, 20.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name they shall cast out Devils, they shall speak with strange Tongues; they shall take up Serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the Sick, and they shall recover, &c. And they went forth and preach­ed every where, the Lord working with them, and con­firming the word with Signs, &c. Either all these matters of fact must have been necessarily true, or St. Mark must have been strangely besides himself, when he related them. Let us consider. What is it that he relates? Or whom did he design to impose upon? nay what time did he choose to effect it? How could he possibly perswade the Disciples that [Page 261] they had done such Miracles, as they were never able to do? And how should they perswade them­selves, that Christ had given them that power to do Miracles, which they never received?

St. LUKE. Chap. I. 64.

And his mouth was opened immediate­ly, and his Tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God: And fear came on all that dwelt round about them, and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the Hill Country of Judea. No man is so mad, as to pre­tend to impose upon Men's belief in matters of fact so publick as these; he would rather make choice of passages scarce heard of, or at least but obscurely known.

Chap. II. 16.

And found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a Manger. Great was the exactness of these Writers in giving us a simple Relation of things as they really were. What can seem more contrary and irreconcilable one with another than all these Circumstances? A Child sleeping in a Man­ger, but a Child whose Nativity was declared, even by Angels, and celebrated by all the Host of Hea­ven; a Child that was banished the Society of Men, but elevated in dignity even above the blessed Spi­rits; a Child that was inconsiderable and of no esteem on Earth, but great in Heaven, and adored by Angels; that was indeed a while after his Birth worshipped by some Wise-men, that brought him Presents, but soon [...]orced to fly into Egypt for the safety of his Life. Certainly there appears nothing like a Fiction in all these Circumstances.

Chap. V. 19.

And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in, because of the multi­tude, they went upon the House-top and let him down through the tiling with his Couch into the midst before [Page 262] Jesus. Do such things as these enter easily of them­selves into a Man's mind, who writes nothing but of his own invention.?

Chap. VII. 38.

And she stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with Tears, and did wipe them with the Hairs of her Head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the Ointment; 'Twas easie to know the Redeemer of the World by that saving alteration he was seen to make in those that followed him.

Chap. IX. 45.

But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not. Great indeed was the Evangelists sincerity; who stuck not to own the ignorance and stupidity of the Disciples!

Chap. X. 19. 20.

Behold I give unto you Power to tread on Serpents and Scorpions, and over all the Power of the Enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoyce not, that the Spirits are subject unto you: but rather rejoyce because your Names are written in Heaven. A certain Character of true Religion indeed, which sets a greater value upon Spi­ritual benefits than any miraculous Gifts, altho the latter are more transcendent in the Eyes of Men than the former!

Vers. 41, 42.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful. And Ma­ry has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. Did ever a deceiver, or a Man whose mind was set upon this World, express himself after this manner?

Chap. XI. 27, 28.

And it came to pass, a certain Woman of the company lift up her voice, and said unto him, blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked: But he said, yea rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. It was [Page 263] impossible for any one to flatter Christ. For he ha­ving no regard to himself, nor taking any pleasure in the satisfaction of other Men's inordinate desires, had his whole Heart fixt upon God; his Eyes, his Ears were bent wholly upon his service, and his sole Felicity consisted in seeing his Father feared and ado­red. Nothing could be pleasant, nothing acceptable to him but true Piety. And that because God was the Center of all his Actions, and the love of him was as it were the Spring that gave motion to all his desires and affections. So great was his Behaviour and so sublime his Thoughts.

Vers. 40, 41.

Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and behold, all things are clean unto you. The Pharisees contended only for outward and corporeal Purity: but Christ for that which is Spiritual and Internal: Which think ye of the two knew best the Genius of true Reli­gion?

Chap. XII.

But he said unto him, man who made me a judge, or a divider over you? Christ utter­ly renounced all the cares and business of this World, and would scarce hear them mentioned. So strange­ly had he weaned his Thoughts from the World.

Vers. 30, 31.

For all these things do the Nations of the World seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek the Kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you. Christ designed to form a Society that should wholly consist of such Persons as were utterly to renounce the World, and not busy their Thoughts about temporal concerns, such as were to lose all their possessions, and suffer all kinds of Punishments to be numbred among his Followers. Did ever yet such a great and extraordinary design enter into any Man's Mind?

Chap. XIV. 33.

So likewise, whosoever he be of you, that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my Disci­ple. A strange and terrible Declaration indeed, which does not at all become a flattering Impostor!

Chap. XXIV. 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53

And ye are witnesses of these things. And behold I send the promise of my Father: but tarry ye in the City of Jerusalem, un­til ye be endued with Power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lift up his hands and blessed them. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Je­rusalem with great Joy: And were continually in the Tem­ple praising and blessing God. In these words we find four several things worthy of our Reflexion, 1. The Promise of the Holy Ghost, 2. The Ascension of Christ, 3. The Joy of the Apostles. And 4. Their continual assiduity in praising God. How could St. Luke have made his Brethren believe, that Chrict had promised them the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, that he ascended into Heaven in their sight, that the Disciples were ex­ceeding joyful, and continued daily in the Temple, praising and blessing God? And if he could perswade none of them to believe it, what could be his design in writing it? How comes it to pass that they all suffered Martyrdom in defence of such an incredible Fiction?

St. JOHN. Chap. I. 8, 9.

He was not that light, but was sent to [...]ear witness of that light. That was the true light, which [...]ightneth every man that cometh into the World. John was originally but a Fisherman; who then could have infused these sublime Notions into his Mind?

Vers. 14.

(And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the [...]nly begotten of the Father) full of Grace and Truth. There plainly appears in this discourse the stedfast [Page 265] persuasion of a Man who had seen with his eyes what he testified, and the fulness of an Understanding that was truly convinced of what he asserted; nay the persuasion of an Author that thought no expres­sion could be strong enough to utter what he thought, and who united together several Ideas different from one another; because a single Idea could not perfect­ly represent what he would say. The word Glory was not sufficient of it self, and therefore he further added a Glory full of Grace and Truth.

Chap. III. 7.

Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again What could be more extraordi­nary than this discourse? And how strangely per­suaded was he that spoke it, that we must be entirely changed before we can enter into the Kingdom of Heaven?

Vers. 13.

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven. Certainly this Man spoke not like other Men; whatever he says here seems either to be very extravagantly blasphemous, or something above the sublimest Thoughts of Men. If then the purity of his Manners, his Holiness of Life, his short, clear, expressive Precepts that seem to savour of no­thing but Piety and true Holiness, together with the surprizing and wonderful effects of the Gospel, force us to look upon the former part of the expression as Blasphemous, we can't at the same time but believe the latter to be so too.

Vers. 31.

He that is of the Earth, is earthly, and speaketh of the Earth: he that cometh from Heaven, is above all. Tho John the Baptist had not said this, we might have known Christ by his own words to have been the Lord of Life come down from Heaven.

Chap. IV.

But whosoever drinketh of the Water that I shall give, shall never thirst; but the Water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of Water [Page 266] springing up into everlasting Life. These expressions are something more than humane. Had Christ thought like other Men, he would certainly have exprest himself so too. But he thought no o­therwise upon earthly things than as they serv'd to make us understand those that were Spiritual. What ever he met with he made use of only for that design. He seemed to live here upon Earth for no other purpose than to guide us in the way to Heaven. To Fishermen he spoke of becoming Fishers of Men. To those who valued themselves upon their Birth, he spoke of being born again. When they spoke to him about eating, he answered that his meat was to do the will of his Father. And when he sat on the side of the Well, he spoke of his divine Grace as of a Well of Water springing up into everlasting Life. Who is not filled with admiration when he considers these things?

Vers. 24.

God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and in Truth. This was telling Men in short what they should have known, and what all till then were wholly ignorant of. This was what is most conformable to a rea­sonable nature, and the Principles of natural Reve­lation, what distinguished true Religion from Super­stition, what the wisest among the Heathens had not been able to discover at a time when reasoning and speculation were at the height, at least what they had but a very faint Knowledge of, what the Prophets themselves had spoke of but obscurely, and what the Jews who in the days of our Saviour minded no­thing in Religion but the External Corporeal part of it, were wholly ignorant of. What manner of Man then was he, who alone had so much Wisdom?

Chap. V. 25.

Verily Verily I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the Dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. [Page 267] He that could raise the Dead to Life again might well speak after this manner: But such Expressions would have been extravagant in any other but him.

Vers. 36.

But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father has given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Fa­ther hath sent me. Those works must have been very extraordinary indeed, since he preferred the witness they bore of him before that of John the Baptist. For were it otherwise he would have exposed himself to the scorn of those that heard him.

Vers. 44.

How can ye believe, which receive Honour one of another, and seek not the Honour that cometh from God only? He that designs to deceive others does not express himself after this manner. Christ should ra­ther have made use of the vanity and weakness of Men, which is nicely to be touched and delicately to be wrought upon in such cases.

Chap. VI. 14, 15.

Then those Men when they had seen the Miracle that Jesus did, said, this is of a Truth that Prophet that should come into the World. When Je­sus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a King, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. 'Twas not out of any weak­ness or fear that Christ refused to put himself at the Head of those that would have made him King. He that foretold his sufferings, and established a memo­rial of them, nay he who assembled together a Com­pany of distressed Wretches, whom he vouchsafed to lead about, would not surely have been afraid os the fortune of War, since he might have been fol­lowed by an innumerable company of People, who would have daily increased, being deluded by the common Opinion of those days, that he was to be a great King. What then deterred him from it? On­ly his Humility.

Vers. 35.

I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me, shall never hunger; and he that cometh to me shall never thirst. Did ever any man use an expression like this? How can a Man be the Bread of Life? And what can be the meaning of this expression? Was going to Christ enough to satisfy hunger and thirst? No one but an Enthusiast, or one that was really come down from Heaven to instruct Mankind, could have expressed himself thus. But who is he that shall dare to Blaspheme against the Wisdom of that Di­vine Person?

Vers. 63.

The Flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit and they are Life. This Comment excellently justifies the Wisdom of that wonderful Teacher, and clearly shews us what we should think of those seeming Paradoxes he advanced in the foregoing Verses, so contrary to all our for­mer Ideas and Prejudices.

Chap. VII. 17.

If any Man will do his will, he shall know of the Doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of my self. This is the best and surest Rule whereby we may judge of Christ and his Gospel. And therefore for a Man to be perswaded of the Doctrine of Christ, it is first requisite that his Heart be rightly disposed, rather than his understanding fully enlightned. Men at Christs coming into the World were wholly ignorant of this great and noble Truth. They made a Science of Religion, which none could understand but the learned. And the Reason of Man which would know every thing but scarce knows any thing perfectly, proudly assumed to itself the priviledge of judging in matters of Sal­vation. But were that a certain Rule to go by, the proud would be the greatest Favourites of God, and the more Men strove out of vanity or ambition to be­come learned, the clearer insight they would have into Revelation. That indeed would be proper to [Page 269] make a considerable progress in humane Sciences: but the Science of Salvation is not to be acquired but by Holiness and Humility. For Virtue is a pra­ctical Habit. The more Simple and Ignorant we are, the more our Eyes will be open. The better we live, the less scruples we shall entertain. The more we love God, the more sensible we shall grow of his admirable Precepts. What great Wisdom then does this Maxim contain, which Men in past Ages were wholly ignorant of, and which the pre­sent Age scarce yet understands?

Vers. 37, 38, 39.

In the last Day that great Day of the Feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any Man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that be­lieveth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his Belly shall flow Rivers of living Water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive. For the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) How could the Evangelist have made Christ utter such words as these, and a little after added this Annotation concerning the Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, had he really seen nothing happen that was like it? Who sees not plainly that the Parenthesis supposes that Event to be well known, since it informs us of the Reason of it?

Vers. 40, 41.

Many of the People therefore when they heard this, said of a Truth this is the Prophet: Others said, this is the Christ. But some said, shall Christ come out of Galilee? All these Disputes and little Contests manifestly shew the great impression the Doctrine and Miracles of Christ had already made upon Peoples minds. Besides they are of such a Nature as not easily to be thought of by a Person who could invent Lies.

Chap. VIII. 7. 10, 11

So when they continued ask­ing him, he lift up himself and said unto them, he that is [Page 270] without sin among you, let him first cast a Stone at her, &c. When Jesus had lift up himself, and saw none but the Woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine Accusers? hath no Man condemned thee? She said, no man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more. There is no need of a Comment to understand the Divine energy of these words. A Heart rightly disposed will sooner be sensible of it, than able to express it.

Vers. 51.

Verily, verily I say unto you, if a Man keep my sayings he shall never see Death. How could Christ advance such a Paradox? Or how is it proba­ble that John should make him utter it, he who had already seen several of his Master's Disciples die? These words then must secretly imply something more sublime and uncommon, than appears to us at first sight: And those who taught them had deeper Understandings, and more piercing Judgments than other Men.

Chap. XI. 25.

I am the Resurrection and the Life, he that believeth in me, tho he were dead, yet shall he live. This is such a strange discourse as was never met with before.

Vers. 43, 44.

And when he had thus spoken, he cri­ed with a loud Voice, Lazarus come forth: And he that was Dead came forth, bound Hand and Foot with Grave­cloaths: and his face was bound about with a Napkin, &c. Nothing can be more circumstantially told than this matter of fact. Lazarus had been Dead about four Days. He was buried, and a Stone had been rolled over his Grave. Nay he already began to Stink. Some of the Jews that were there present murmured, and said among themselves. Could not this Man who opened the eyes of the Blind, have caused that even this Man should not have died? John 11. 37. And others that were come to comfort the two Sisters were there assembled. The Dead Person was raised [Page 271] to Life again, he was seen, and heard to speak. Several that were there believed in Jesus Christ, so that the great Council among the Jews was terrified at it, and the Chief Priests and Pharisees being ga­thered together upon this Occasion, many of them cried out, and said, What do we? for this Man does many Miracles. If we let him thus alone, all Men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come, and take away both our place and Nation, &c. Had this mat­ter of fact been falsly invented, how durst the Evan­gelist so exactly describe it with all its Circumstan­ces? Why did not others make a strict enquiry, and dive into the Bottom of it? Did the Christians want Enemies to do it, they who were continually exposed to the Persecutions of all the Powers upon Earth? This Gospel was believed at Jerusalem, which place was yet extant, and Bethany was but a few Furlongs distant from Jerusalem. The Falshood alone of that single matter of fact, which was so sig­nal and so publickly known, would have utterly overthrown the whole Fabrick of the Apostles New Religion, given up the Cause to the Jews, and univer­sally silenced the Christians. Why then did they not manifest the Truth upon the Spot?

Chap. XIII. 35.

By this shall all Men know that ye are my Disciples, if ye have love one to another. A Di­vine Mark indeed! and a Character not in the least to be suspected!

Chap. XIV. 11, 12.

Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works sake. Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do. What could the Evangelists think when he related these things, if he was truly convinced by his own experience, and by that of his Associates, that Christ's Disciples could not perform any Miracles?

Chap. XV. 24.

If I had not done among them the works which none other Men did, they had not had Sin. He continually laid before their Eyes the Testimony of his Works.

Chap. XVI. 2.

They shall put you out of the Synagogues; yea the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth God service. 'Tis evident by this predicti­on the Evangelist ascribes to Jesus, that the Disci­ples did not then expect, nay were not to expect any thing but crosses and tribulations. What then could support them in their present sufferings, and the dis­mal prospect of worse to come, but the hopes of such a reward as is inconsistent with the quality of Im­postors. A Name which our Incredulous Adversaries are pleased to give them?

Vers. 33.

In the World ye shall have Tribulation; but be of good chear I have overcome the World. He was continually foretelling them what misfortunes they were to expect. This in all appearance should have disheartned them; but it only serv'd to try their Patience, and confirm the Word which they preached.

Chap. XVII. 25, 26.

O Righteous Father, the World has not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy Name; that thy love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them. Can a Man imagin that an Impostor should express himself thus? Is falshood then so different here from what it usually is, and does it breath out nothing but Virtue, Inno­cence, Love, and Charity? Has it altogether that Spirit of pure Holiness and elevated Simplicity, of ineffable consolation, and wonderful Trust and Reliance upon God, which run's through all the latter Dis­courses Jesus made to his Disciples, to comfort them for his approaching Departure?

Chap. XVIII. 36, 37.

My Kingdom is not of this World, &c. Pilate therefore said unto him, art thou a King then? Jesus answered, thou sayest that I am a King: And for this cause came I into the World, that I should bear witness unto the Truth. Every one that is of the Truth heareth my Voice. Jesus plainly declared that his Kingdom was not of this World: Yet he called himself King. Had he been an Impostor, he would have pretended to have reigned somewhere, or at least shewed some Ambition of it.

Chap. XX. 25, 26.

The other Disciples therefore said unto him, we have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, except I shall see in his hands the Print of the Nails, and thrust my hand into his Side, I will not be­lieve, &c. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Could any one have made Thomas believe that he had been more in­credulous than the rest of the Disciples, and that he would not be persuaded till he had seen and felt the Body of his Master?

Chap. XXI. 3.

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing: They say unto him, we also go with thee. They went forth, and entred into a Ship immediately; and that Night they caught nothing. But when the Morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore, &c. Christ being Dead, the Disciples betook themselves again to their former employment, for they could not subsist with­out doing something to get a Livelyhood. And Je­sus after his Resurrection appeared sometimes to them on the Sea shore, where they were a fishing. What can be suspected in all this?

Vers. 20, 21, 22, 23.

Then Peter turning about▪ seeth the Disciple whom Jesus loved, following, which also leaned on his Breast at Supper, and said, Lord, who is it that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him, saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this Man do? Jesus saith [Page 274] unto him▪ if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that Disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, he shall not die; but if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the Disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things, &c. Can we imagin that the Evangelist himself invented this Report, which he pretends went about concerning his Immortality? And do such Thoughts come into a Man's Head? However do but observe how all the particulars of this matter hang so one upon another, that whoso­ever grants one of them, must grant also the rest. For the Report spread abroad that John should not die, was grounded upon the Answer which Christ return­ed to Peter; and he returned not that Answer to Pe­ter, till after his Resurrection, and after having fore­told Peter himself, with what kind of Death he should glorifie God. This connexion therefore plain­ly shews us what we ought to believe upon this ac­count.

CHAP. VIII.
Wherein we shall further produce from the Acts of the Apostles, several Places very proper to make us truly sensible of the Divinity of the Christan Religion.

CHap. I. 8.

But ye shall receive Power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be wit­nesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, &c. unto the uttermost part of the Earth. [...]et these Witnesses be strictly examined, let their Patience be tryed with all kinds of severe punishments [Page 275] and it will then appear whether it be possible ever to force them to recant their Opinion.

Vers. 26.

And the Lot fell upon Matthias, and he was numbred with the eleven Apostles. In this election there appears neither Bribe, Preeminence or arbitrary Partiality; so different was that Society from these now established in the World.

Chap. II. 13:

Others mocking, said these Men are full of new Wine. These sort of Circumstances are of excellent use to shew the Exactness and Sincerity of the Historian.

Vers. 22.

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man approved of God among you by Miracles, and Wonders, and Signs, as ye your selves also know. How came they to know it had Christ wrought no Miracles among them? And what a strange piece of Confidence must it have been in the Apostles to speak thus?

Vers. 41.

And the same Day were added unto them about three thousand Souls. What but the wonderful Power of the Holy Ghost given to the Apostles, could make so many Proselytes?

Vers. 44, 45.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all Men as every Man had need. A holy Society indeed consisting of none but such as had given up all their Interest in this World, and glorified God by offering up themselves, and what was dearest to them, as a sacrifice to him. What could they hope for, who absolutely renounced every thing for the sake of Christ? Let a Man reason never so much upon the manner of uniting Men in a Body together, 'tis certain there was never a more effectual method to form a Society than Charity. For it makes those things equal which humane Passions had before distinguished; it subverts all competition, destroys all interest, banishes the designs of Pride and Ambition, and all the little distinctions Vanity [Page 276] creates. In a word, it unites Men in a State where­in they all equally enjoy the same Revelation, the same spiritual Worship, and the same Faith, Hope, and Charity. All which represents as it were on Earth the Joys we may partake hereafter, and gives us a lively Image and Idea of Heaven. And what greater Miracle than this can be brought to prove the Divinity of a Religion?

Vers. 46.

And they continuing daily with one accord in the Temple, and breaking Bread from House to House, did eat their Meat with gladness and singleness of Heart. What Perseverance, what Joy, nay what Simplicity of Heart did the Apostles here shew, supposing them to have been Deceivers? For we must either acknow­ledge them to be such, or else allow the Gospel they preached, to be most certainly true and Divine.

Chap. III. 8, 9.

And he entred with them into the Temple, walking and leaping, and praising God. And all the People saw him walking and praising God. Is it an easy matter to make other men believe such mat­ters of fact as these, supposing they were altogether false?

Vers. 12.

And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the People Ye Men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? Or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own Power, or Holiness we had made this Man to walk? Had Simon Magus performed such a Miracle, he would cer­tainly have took all the Honour of it to himself, and now more confidently than ever affirm, that he was the great Power of God. Observe I pray here a Cha­racter of Ingenuity, Humility and Sincerity, which can't be sufficiently expressed.

Vers. 16.

And his name through faith in his name, hath made this Man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him, hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. This multiplying expressions of the same thing may not so well please [Page 277] some Men, and seems to be an empty flourish of words, or a putting some good words finely toge­ther to signifie little; a thing not agreeable to the true Eloquence Men ought to use. But here it is not really so. The Apostles here regarded not Politness in the least, but rather were afraid they could not use expressions strong enough, to let them know that it was not in their own Names, but in the name of Jesus Christ, that all these things were done. Tis no matter then whether the Ear was offended at it or not, provided the Ʋnderstanding humbled itself in the presence of God, and ascribed that extraordina­ry Miracle to none but Christ himself.

Vers. 14.

But ye denied the holy one and the just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you. Observe how little he knew what it was to flatter those Men he spoke to!

Chap. IV. 4.

Howbeit, many of them which heard the word, believed, and the number of the Men were about Five thousand. How could S. Luke, who wrote in a time when the Church of Jerusalem consisting of so many Proselytes flourished, I say how could he have made so many believe such miraculous matters of fact, as had they been real they must have seen them with their own Eyes?

Chap. V. 15.

Insomuch that they brought forth the Sick into the Streets, and laid them on Beds and Couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by, might over­shadow some of them. Behold the completion of that Prophesy of Christ, who foretold that his Disciples should do far greater works than himself.

Vers. 32.

And we are his witnesses of those things, and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey. Christ daily convinced the Unbelievers by the Testimony of his Works; and his Disciples convinced them by the Gifts of the Holy Ghost im­parted to them. Is there then, any Dream or Eu­thusiasm, [Page 278] any Illusion, or Distraction of mind, any mutual erroneous Compact in all this? or rather do we not here visibly perceive the Wisdom, Truth, and Power of God in this occasion?

Chap. VII. 51.

Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in Heart and Ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your Fathers did so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your Fathers persecuted? All Deceivers and Impostors use quite another method, to flatter those they design to draw over to their side.

Vers. 59, 60.

And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus receive my Spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. Stephen died praying to God for his Enemies, in imitation of Christ. But he was not seiz'd with Sorrow, Anguish, or Fear; he cried not out, My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me? Could not he that represented the Servant so Couragious, have given us an excellent Description of the constancy of the Master, but that he had pro­posed to himself to write nothing but the Truth.

Chap. VIII. 14, 15, 16.

They sent unto them Peter and John, who when they were come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus) By these words it is plain, that every body might indifferently receive the Holy Ghost; but the Apostles alone could impart it to others. A distinction that is very remarkable. But it appears yet farther, that the Gifts of the Holy Ghost were so notable and visible, that whosoever had received them, could not but presently be sensible of it: And tho this Discourse of St. Luke might be whol­ly invented, yet it may well be supposed, that it was invented upon some probable Grounds and Reasons, and there can be no other for it but this, that in this time the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost were im­parted [Page 279] to the faithful; for otherwise, to talk thus, would be very impertinent and extravagant.

Vers. 20.

But Peter said unto him, thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with Money. How comes Peter to deal so nicely and delicately were he an Impostor in­deed as well as Simon Magus?

Vers. 22, 23.

Repent therefore of this thy Wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. How different are these expressions from those of a Man whose Con­science accuses him of Imposture and Infidelity.

Chap. IX. 7, 8, 9.

And the Men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no Man. But they led him by the hand, and brought him unto Damascus. And he was there three days without sight, and neither Eat nor Drank. Had St. Luke design­ed to impose upon our belief in this rehearsal, he would have managed it with more Judgment. For what necessity was there of his relating how that St. Paul had Company with him, when the Light of God shone round about him? What made him quote the place, the occasion, and the Witnesses, of whom the Synagogue might have easily known the whole Truth? How could he make them believe, that the Men which accompanied Saul, led him by the hand to Da­mascus, and that he continued there three days and three nights deprived of his sight?

Vers. 16.

For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my names sake, &c. The whole Life of S. Paul was an exact accomplishment of this Prophecy.

Vers. 31.

Then had the Churches rest throughout all Ju­dea and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the Comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. How strange and sur­prising was the progress of the Gospel, which [Page 280] founded so many Churches almost every where in so small a time!

Vers. 34, 35.

And Peter said unto him, Eneas, Jesus Christ make thee whole; arise, &c. And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. Doubt­less those Men here mentioned knew well enough whether there was any such Miracle performed; And those Churches which consisted altogether of Proselytes, who must necessarily have been Specta­tors of that Miracle, could not be imposed upon in this respect.

Vers. 41, 42.

And he gave her his hand, and lift her up; and when he had called the Saints and Widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Jop­pa; and many believed in the Lord. This was a Mi­racle notorious enough, and there were Witnesses suf­ficient to contradict and convince the Author of this Book, supposing this Miracle had been only a fra­med Story and a Sham upon Men's belief.

Chap. X. 45, 46, 47.

And they of the Circumcision which believed, were astonished as many as came with Pe­ter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the Gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with Tongues, and magnifie God. Then answered Peter, can any one forbid Water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as we? What was the meaning of that astonishment in those of the Circumcision? Twas because they had not seen till then that the Holy Ghost was im­parted to the Gentiles. The very mixture of such Circumstances as these, is often of it self sufficient to convince us of the Truth of any narration.

Chap. XI. 18.

When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto Life, This indeed was the Language of the Holy Ghost; the perfect stile of God; And the very expression of the heavenly Jerusalem!

Chap. XII. 18, 19.

Now as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the Soldiers, what was be­come of Peter. And when Herod had sought for him, and found him not, he examined the keepers, and command­ed that they should be put to Death. A circumstance that can't be forged, and which excellently confirms the relation of Peter's miraculous Deliverance.

Chap. XIII. 3.

And when they had fasted, and pray­ed, they laid hands on them. This Historian, who re­presents the Disciples continually fasting and pray­ing, could not devise that matter of fact, supposing it to be false. He would be very extravagant that should believe, that the Apostles led an ill course of Life, and plunged themselves in all sorts of lewd Debaucheries. Their Words, their Actions convince us of the contrary. Yet it may be said that they were Villains indeed, if what they preached was false: But if they were downright plain honest Men, as their speech necessarily evinces to us, then was their preaching also necessarily true.

Vers. 12.

Then the Deputy when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the Doctrine of the Lord. 'Twould argue but little Judgment in any one that designs to impose a Fiction upon Men's be­lief, to pitch upon Circumstances, as are contrary to publick knowledge. The Conversion of a Deputy, was certainly an Event very remarkable.

Chap. XV. 39.

And the contention was so sharp be­tween them, that they departed asunder one from the other; and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus. This Historian is very exact in relating the least oc­currences. He is sincere too, since he scruples not to relate the Contentions which arose among the Apostles themselves.

Chap. XX. 12.

And they brought the young Man alive, and were not a little comforted. Can any thing be more surprising or convincing, than the Resurrecti­on of the Dead?

Chap. XXIV. 25.

And as he reasoned of Righteousness, Temperance, and Judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. Great indeed was the Divine efficacy of his words, which made a Judge tremble, sitting on his Tribunal of Justice, and before the Chains of his Prisoner.

Chap. XXVIII. 30, 31.

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired House, and received all that came unto him, preaching the Kingdom of God, &c. Here endeth the History of the Acts of the holy Apostles written by St. Luke. 'Tis manifest he compiled it before the Destruction of Jerusalem, because he men­tions nothing of that Event. Neither do the Gos­pels or Epistles of the Apostles speak of it: But they often speak of the sudden coming of the Lord, or of the Judgments he had resolved to execute upon the Jewish Nation.

CAHP. IX. Wherein we shall yet farther produce from the Epistles of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St John, several Texts very proper to make us truly sensi­ble of the Divinity of the Christian Religion.

Epistle to the Romans.

CHap. I. 1, 2, 3, 4.

Paul the Servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God, &c. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the Flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with Power, ac­cording to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the Dead. Men generally insert all their Titles in [Page 283] the Epistles they write; but St. Paul inserts the whole Gospel in his: And what was the reason of it? Because his Mind and Heart were so full of it, that he could not speak of any thing else. Jesus Christ was his Alpha and his Omega, his Beginning and his End.

Vers. 7.

To all that [...]e in Rome, beloved of God, cal­led to be saints; Grace be unto you, and Peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Did ever Man before him write in this stile? He directs his Dis­course to those only that were called to be Saints: He does not vainly complement them after the usual way of the World, but wishes them the Peace and Grace of God. Certainly he would not have wrote thus, had he been an Impostor, or an Enemy to his Country Men, who endeavoured to render them odious throughout the World, by accusing them of an imaginary Crime.

Vers. 16.

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto Salvation, to every one that believeth, &c. How strongly perswaded must that Man be of what he says, who expresses himself after so pathetical a manner! And how well does the fulness of his mind appear by all these manifold and multiplied expressions?

Chap. VIII. 37, 38, 39.

Nay in all these things we are more than conquerours, through him that loved us▪ For I am perswaded that neither Death, nor Life, nor An­gels, &c. An immoveable Constancy indeed! and a Divine confidence which he so naturally set down▪ and which could not possibly arise from the Soul of an Impostor!

Chap. XI. 28, 29.

As concerning the Gospel, they are Enemies for your sake; but as touching the Election, they are beloved for the Father's sake. For the Gifts and cal­ling of God, &c. Why did St. Paul here speak so movingly and tenderly of the Jews? And why did he [Page 284] earnestly endeavour to soften and mitigate the Minds of the Gentiles towards them? Whence comes that inclination both of his Heart and Affections to favour those implacable Enemies, who sought nothing but his Destruction and Ruin? Certainly a Man that had forsaken his own Nation out of spight, or a desire of revenge could not be of such a Temper.

Chap. XII. 2.

And be not conformed to this World; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, &c. We have here a Man who having been wholly chang­ed, having acquired new Knowledge, new Habits, and new Affections, speaks of nothing but of being transformed, renewed, and becoming a New Creature, &c. A Man who having been enlightned in his way to Damascus speaks of nothing but of illumination, of a Light that shone from Heaven, of a Kingdom of Light. A Man in fine, who having had mercy shewn him in the midst of the fury of his persecutions, speaks of nothing but Pardon and Grace. Tis an easy matter to collect his History from his very expressions.

Vers. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

Be kindly affecti­oned one to another, with brotherly love, in Honour prefer­ring one another: not slothful in business, fervent in Spirit; serving the Lord: Rejoycing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of Saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless and curse not; rejoyce with them that do rejoyce, &c. Can we suppose these to be the words or thoughts of an Impostor?

Chap. XIII. 5.

Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Religion as it were Cements the good and welfare of a State, and Piety seems inseparable from the publick good of a Society; because God, by whose appointment Kings reign, is the prime Author of Religion.

Vers. 12, 14▪

The night is far spent, the day is at hand, &c. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no [Page 285] provision for the Flesh, to fulfil the Lusts thereof. This Author's words continually follow and express his thoughts. He considered the Gospel as a Light that dissipated all the erroneous Darkness and Igno­rance of his Mind; he considered Christ as one that supplied all his wants and necessities. He was there­fore obliged to make use of such unusual and surpri­sing expressions.

First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Chap. I. 13.

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul? A singular and uncommon piece of Humility! since Men are not by nature displeased and disquieted at those, who endeavour to pay them too much Honour.

Chap. II. 4.

And my speech and my preaching was not with inticing words of Man's wisdom, but in demonstrati­on of the Spirit and of power. It is beneath a King, to study how to adorn his Discourse, and make use of the Charms of Eloquence, when he goes about to speak to his Subjects to whom he shews mercy, and prescribes Obedience. Such a way of dealing would be much more beneath the Holy Ghost. Wherefore Paul opposes the power of the Holy Ghost, which serves him to confirm the Gospel, to the Eloquence of the Men of his Age, which he absolutely contemns and despises. For the latter may, but the former can't be suspected.

Chap. III. 5.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed? Those Men were not like Simon Magus, Cerinthus, S [...]turninus, Basili­des, Menander, &c. who positively affirmed them­selves to be the power of God, the Word, and the Pro­phet, and who strove to excel one another in extra­vagant Vanity.

Chap. IV. 11, 12, 13, 14.

Even unto this present hour, we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless: be­ing persecuted we suffer it: being defamed we intreat: we are made as the filth of the World, and are the off­scouring of all things unto this day. I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved Sons I warn you. Did Paul imagin he could easily impose upon those he wrote this Epistle to, in those matters which must have been so publickly known? Or did he think he could incite them to emulate his Patience by such narrations as every body knew to be utterly false?

Vers. 19, 20.

But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power. For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. By these words it appears that the extraordinary and miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost justified in those days the mission of the Pastors of the Church; and indeed what can be less liable to suspicion than such a mark and sign of them?

Chap. V. 5.

To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the Spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. The Apostles testified of the Gospel by their works, and not their words only.

Vers. 11.

If any Man that is called a Brother, be a Fornicator, or Covetous, or an Idolater, or a Railer, or a Drunkard, or an Extortioner, with such an one, do not eat. What strange Severity was this! What amazing and wonderful effects, what surprizing changes in Men were produced by the Gospel! Be­lieve it, if you can, after what has been said, that this was a Society of Deceitful Impostors, as it must need be confessed, supposing their Testimony false.

Chap. VI. 9, 10, 11.

Be not deceived: Neither For­nicators, nor Idolaters, nor Adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, &c. shall inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, &c. Had the Testimony of Jesus been a meer Imposture, how could he have sanctified Mankind? And what could be the design of the Apostles, in deceiving Men to make them righteous, in making a false Belief serve to lead them to the practice of all Virtues? For such notions as these our Incredulous Adversaries must necessarily en­tertain.

Chap. XII. 28, 29, 30.

And God hath set some in the Church, first Apostles, secondly Prophets, thirdly, Teachers, after that Miracles, then Gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of Tongues. Are all Apostles? are all Prophets? are all Teachers? are all workers of Miracles? have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with Tongues? It appears that the Apostle by this enumeration of the miraculous Gifts of the Ho­ly Ghost, supposes them to have been very common in the Church, as being a matter of fact publickly known. Was he then out of his Senses to talk thus? We have seen Men who falsly boasted they could work many Miracles: but we never heard of any that pretended to make a numerous Society believe, that they also could work Miracles, when they had not indeed the power to perform any.

Vers. 31.

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. He preferred Charity before Miracles themselves, and all the mi­raculous Gifts of the holy Spirit. How different then was his opinion from the Vanity, Ambition and Super­stition of the World!

Chap. XIV. 24, 25.

But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is con­vinced [Page 288] of all, he is judged of all. And thus are the secrets of his Heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a Truth. This was the Gift of knowing the secrets of Men's Hearts, which this same Author speaks of in another place, saying, tho I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, &c. Was there ever any Seducers seen, who to prove their mission pretended themselves able to know the secrets of Man's heart? How comes this Author then to speak of it cursorily, and as a thing generally known to them all?

Chap. XV. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19.

But if there be no Resurrection of the Dead, then is Christ not risen. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is vain also; yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that he raised up Christ; whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not, &c. And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen a sleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Nothing can better acquaint us with the perswasion of our Apostle than these words. For I pray observe after what manner he relates the Opi­nion of those men, who thought there was no Resur­rection of the Dead. He seems very much surprised to see them prepossessed with any such Opinion, after what they had known of Christ's Resurrection, of their Happiness that slept in him, and the Afflictions they endure in this Life, which they could not en­dure without some reason, some hope, and expecta­tion of future Happiness.

Vers. 32.

If after the manner of Men, I have fought with Beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the Dead rise not? Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we die. Since the beginning of the World, Men of [Page 289] wordly Minds and carnal Appetites, who aim only at the good things of this Life, have always argued thus; and indeed they would have a great deal of reason in arguing thus, and pursuing their reasons, were there no Resurrection of the dead.

Chap. XVI. 21.

The Salutation of me Paul with mine own hand. If any Man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha. He begun still, and ended with Christ, which evidently shews the strong persuasion of his Mind.

Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

Chap. I. 8, 9.

For we would not brethren, have you ig­norant of our trouble, &c. That we should not trust in our selves, but in God which raiseth the dead. By these words we perceive what troubles they underwent, and what hopes they had to sustain them in their Sufferings.

Chap. II. 14, 15, 16.

Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and maketh mani­fest the savour of his Knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, &c. To the one we are the savour of Death unto Death; and to the other, the savour of Life unto Life: and who is suf­ficient for these things? And who is sufficient to ex­press all the force and energy of these words, unlike the false Charms of humane Eloquence, yet such as are easily discerned by an Heart rightly disposed?

Chap. IV. 6.

For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the Knowledg of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. The Eloquence of Men which is generally above the thing it represents, has usual­ly but one Idea to represent one single object: But if that Idea be a complex one, then it is composed of several others, proportionable and agreeable to it. [Page 290] There cant well be in this sort of Eloquence a mix­ture of various Ideas and different Metaphors toge­ther in one and the same Period. But on the contra­ry, the Eloquence of the Holy Ghost which is always inferiour to those Objects it lays before us, makes use of several different Images and Ideas at once, because a single one could not express what it endeavours to represent: As for instance in these ex­pressions, M [...]l. 4. 2. Luke 1. 78. The Sun of righteousness with the healing of his wings, has visited us through his tender mercies; as also in this place, where the Apostle thought he could never say enough, this is a light which shineth; which shineth into the heart, which giveth the light, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. For a Man to express himself thus he must really be very strong­ly perswaded of what he could say. The Orators of this World are usually Masters of their own Thoughts; but this Writer here was as it were filled, and wholly taken up with the greatness of the Object he was about to represent.

Vers. 15.

For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. Thanksgiving, Grate­fulness, Acknowledgement, Glory of God, Charity, Confession of their Frailties, Prayer, Exhortation, &c. are the only Subjects that all the Writings of those pretended Impostors are full of.

Vers. 17.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. No Writer ever spoke with so much energy, because no Writer was so strongly perswaded of the Truth of what he delivered.

Chap. V. 17.

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new Creature. What Teachers ever required such things of their Disciples? What mean these Words, and this strange Exhortation?

Chap. VI. 1, 4, 5, 6.

We then as workers together with him, beseech you also, that ye receive not the grace of God in vain, &c. but in all things approving our selves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings, by pure­ness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned. Do such Exhortations usually come from the Men of this World, or rather do they not proceed from the Holy Ghost himself?

Chap. VIII. 18.

And we have sent with him the bro­ther, whose praise is in the Gospel, throughout all the Church­es. He speaks of St. Luke in this place; and what he says of him is sufficient to make us understand that the Gospel according to St. Luke was read even in those days in all the Christian Churchès, which over­throws all suspicion that that Gospel had been filled with sham Stories of certain matters of fact, in a time when every body had yet fresh in their Remem­brance, all that came to pass in those days.

Chap. XII. 12.

Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. St. Paul wrote these things to se­veral numerous Churches, and to whole Societies. And can we suppose he could perswade them that he wrought so many Wonders and Signs among them, when he wrought none?

Chap. XIII. 5.

Examine your selves, &c. prove your own selves, &c. how that Jesus Christ is in you. What mean these Expessions? We are in Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ is in us. And whence come they? Who first established such a strange Language? And who did the Apostles learn this Stile from, a Stile till then un­known to the World? Had Men ever said before that time, Cesar is in us? No surely, because they had never received the Spirit of Cesar, But the Dis­ciples had received the Spirit of Jesus Christ

Epistle to the Galatians.

Chap. III. 4, 5.

O foolish Galatians! &c. Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministreth to you the Spirit, and worketh mi­racles among you, doth he it by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? What means this Interrogati­on, If the Miracles and the miraculous and extraor­dinary Gifts of the Holy Ghost had been only meer Fictions? Is it possible we should not perceive the Truth of that matter of fact, by the ingenuous sim­plicity wherewith this Author takes it for granted, when he makes it a Principle of his Arguments, and takes an occasion from thence to censure the Galatians after so sharp and severe a manner?

Chap. VI. 12, 14, 15.

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be Circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the Cross of Christ, &c. But God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the World is crucified unto me, and I unto the World. For in Christ Jesus neither Circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncir­cumcision, but a new Creature. Great indeed was his Faith! for he would not subscribe to their Maxims, who constrained the faithful to be Circumcised, tho he might have thereby avoided a sharp Persecution. But he shews us that the Circumcision of the Heart only was acceptable to God; that none but the New Creature could be for the future agreeable to him: A Circumcision indeed infinitely more painful than the first, and a New Creature established upon the Ru­ins of the World, the pleasures of which are so dear to us▪ Certainly it is impossible this Doctrine so spi­ritual, so holy, and so necessary in it self, should have proceeded only from Flesh and Blood.

Epistle to the Ephesians.

Chap. III. 17, 18, 19.

That ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth all Know­ledge, &c. Had the Apostles been such Deceivers as the Incredulous would have them to be, what mean those transports of admiration as often as they re­flect on the mercy of God, which every Page of this Book is full of? Were they then deceived? No surely, because they could not be imposed upon in such certain matters of fact. Had they then a mind to deceive other people? That could not be neither, because their Writings seem to be designed only to induce Men to fear God.

Chap IV. 24, 25.

And that ye put on the New man, which after God is created in Righteousness and true holi­ness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every Man truth with his neighbour, &c. A strange and surpri­sing Discourse indeed! but which would have been much more astonishing should it have been uttered by the mouth of an Impostor.

Epistle to the Philippians.

Chap. I. 29.

For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake. The Stoicks, who had so much distinguished and raised themselves above all other Men by their sublime Morality, had ever imagined that the Wise man might very well preserve a tranquil and sedate Mind in the midst of his Afflictions; and they were so much intoxicated with Pride, that they were alto­gether insensible of any Pain or Torment. But the Disciples of Christ went yet higher. They looked [Page 294] upon the most cruel Sufferings as upon so many Bene­fits, and so many causes of Joy, and Peace, and Ineffa­ble Consolation and Comfort. They cried out, I re­joyce in my sufferings, &c. I delight in Stripes, in Afflicti­ons, &c. Nay more than this, they returned Thanks to God for having been thought worthy to suffer for his Name's sake. Their Afflictions gave rise to their Gratitude. And all this, because they were support­ed by a Divine hand, and were most certain to ob­tain an everlasting Reward. A strange thing indeed, that this Certainty only should be absolutely requi­site to demonstrate the truth of Religion! The Apostles could never have entertained any false hopes of reward, because their hopes were grounded on what they had seen, and on the miraculous Gifts of God they had both received and often imparted to others. We can't then doubt, but that they had the hopes of a future Reward in prospect, unless we will be wilfully Blind and Ignorant. So blind must the Incredulous be, who wilfully shut their Eyes, and refuse to be convinced of so evident a Truth.

First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

Chap. I. 4.

For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, &c. By these words it appears that the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost continually testified of the Gospel.

Chap. III. 4.

For verily when we were with you, we told you before, that we should suffer tribulation; even as [...]t came to pass, and ye know. The Disciples of Christ had been prepared by him, and had prepared them­selves, nay prepared their Successors also to suffer patiently according to the Words of this Apostle, who says in another place, 2 Tim. 3. 12. All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Twas therefore in cold Blood, with their own choice and [Page 295] free deliberation they suffered such Torments.

Chap. V. 27.

I charge you by the Lord, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. St. Paul fear­ed not in the least his being contradicted, or con­vinced of any Falsity he had advanced concerning his Afflictions, and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost. And therefore he commanded that his Epistles should be read to all the holy Brethren.

First Epistle to Timothy.

Chap. III. 16.

And without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justi­fied in the Spirit, seen of Angels, preached unto the Gen­tiles, believed on in the World, received up into glory. This mystery can't be invented only by Humane un­derstanding, for several Reasons. 1. Because it is so great and sublime, that Men tho never so learned and quick sighted in other things, yet would never have been able to find it out of themselves, barely by the Scrutinies of their Reason. 2. Because they were only poor Fishermen that preached it. 3. Be­cause this so sublime and magnificent Object proceeds, if I may so speak, from the Death and Sufferings of a Man, who was condemned and punished with the most rigorous Punishments that could be thought of. For twas only after the Passion of Christ, that the Disciples went about preaching every where the wonderful works of God. 4. And lastly, because the contemplation of it depends upon Experience it self; and altho this mystery appears at first view infi­nitely exalted above the reach of our capacity, yet it must have been both seen and touched by the Disci­ples. They certainly saw Christ, and beheld his glory as the Glory of the only Son of God, full of Grace and Truth. They saw with their Eyes that Flesh in which cor­poreally dwelt an intire fulness of the glorious God­head. [Page 296] They were fully convinced of the extraor­dinary excellence of his Mysteries and the perfection of his Holiness. They themselves received the Gifts of that same Spirit in which God himself was justified. They saw Angels ascending and descending to mini­ster unto him. They preached it themselves to the Gentiles, and so compelled the World to believe in him by their Patience and Preaching, which was continually attended with the Demonstration of that Spirit and the Evidence of those Miracles performed by them in the Name of Jesus. Lastly he ascended into Heaven in their sight. So that these are all sure and certain proofsof the Truth of that great Mystery which can't in the least be suspected.

Second Epistle to Timothy.

Chap. III. 15, 16.

And that from a Child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, &c. All Scripture is given by inspiration. There is no maintaining false Religions in the World but by the help of Ignorance, Negli­gence, and a blind Submission. But the Christian Reli­gion can't be suspected of any such defects, because it is wholly founded upon Instruction and Knowledge. Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal Life, John 5. 39.

Chap. IV. 7, 8,

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a Crown of righteousness. St. Paul was drawing nigh toward his latter end; and the words of a dying Man are always to be regarded. Whence then comes that chearful Joy, the Apostle so natural­ly expresses in this occasion? His Hopes, had they been of this World, must have been soon buried with him in his Grave, and his Happiness too at an end. Whence then derived he that great Confidence which he seems to have had? Was it from the inward sense of a guilty [Page 297] Conscience, which reproach'd him for having betray'd the Synagogue, blemished his Country Men, deceived Mankind, testified of a Seducer, and forg'd such ficti­tious Visions by the most signal Imposture that ever was? Let any one believe it if he can.

First Epistle of St. Peter.

Chap. I. 3.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively Hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the Dead. The Mind of those Wri­ters was so full of the Salvation that was revealed to them, that they were never weary of returning thanks to God for it.

Chap. II. 17, 18, 19, 20.

Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the King. Servants be subject to your Masters, with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, &c. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently; this is acceptable with God, &c. It is a strange thing, we should be desired to own that a mutual Agreement of Malice and Falshood, which really is a wonderful Agreement of Piety, Charity, Obedience, and Righteousness. Paul expressed himself like Peter, and Peter spoke like Paul. They both acted and suffered alike; nay they bore the very same Testi­mony, being endowed with the same Patience, practi­sing the very same Virtues, and discovering one and the same Wisdom in all their words. Now what have we any reason to suspect in all this?

Second Epistle of St. Peter.

Chap. I. 16, 17, 18.

For we have not followed cun­ningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the [Page 298] power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were Eye­witnesses of his Majesty. For he received from God the Father, Honour and Glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my well beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from Heaven, we heard when we were with him in the holy Mount, &c. This is a Witness who spoke of what he had seen; who suffered Death in defence of the Truth of his Testimony; who saw it not alone, for several others had seen the same thing; who spoke not out of any principle of Interest, or con­cealed what he knew through any fear, or apprehen­sion of Death; and who for all that did his utmost endeavours to sanctifie Mankind, and bestowed all his Time, his Labour and his Life in advancing such an extraordinary work, which is so little to be sus­pected. And if so, what Man is there that can rea­sonably mistrust him?

First Epistle of St. John.

Chap. I. 1, 3.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our Eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the word of Life, declare we unto you, &c. If you should doubt whether the Apostles did really go about testifying every where that they had seen with their Eyes, both the Miracles and Resurrection of Christ, 'tis but learning it from their Epistles, and their own words too.

Chap. II. 1.

My little Children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. But what was it to him whe­ther Men sinned, or not? Did ever the design of sanctifying Mankind and contributing to their Salva­tion at the cost of ones Blood, ones Liberty, ones Life, enter before into any Man's Heart but theirs?

[Page 299] These and the like Reflexions are of themselves suf­ficient to give the Reader a relish of those Truths, and incite him to make some of his own, as shall more effectually instruct, and convince him: For my part I have made several, which perhaps satisfy me better than they would any body else. And no questi­on but he will also make several of his own that will convince him far better than those of another. In the mean while let us pass on to the consideration of the Substance of that Religion which Christ himself did bring into the World. For after having consi­dered the outside, tis very necessary to look into the inward part of the Building.

SECTION IV.
Wherein we shall prove the Truth of the Christian Religion by the Conside­ration of it's Nature and Properties.

Several Portraitures in which it may be consi­dered.

HItherto we have insisted as it were upon the Shell and Bark of Religion; we have examined the proofs taken from matters of fact, being the first that offered themselves to our mind: It seems there­fore now Expedient we should discover as it were the Substance and Spirit of Christianity, and so proceed to those other proofs drawn from the Nature of it, and that by shewing the truth of it by it's Beauties and proper Excellencies. But because this is too copious a Subject for us who study Brevity, we shall endea­vour to reduce what we have to say into as small a Compass as we can; and since we cannot allow our Reflexions their due and proper Extent, to give at least some Plan or Draught of the same, as shall sup­ply that defect.

And tho the Christian Religion may be considered under several different Faces, because in this respect 'tis like unto its Object, which has no Bounds to con­fine it's Extent; yet methinks we may give an Idea just and adequate enough to our present design, by considering it in eleven different Draughts or Por­traitures. I. In the Multitude of Testimonies given in favour of it; which we shall touch upon cursorily, [Page 301] because we have already partly examined them all II. In its essential opposition to all false Religions that ever were. III. In it's Effects, which can only justly be referred to a Divine and Supernatural Cause. IV. In the Purity of its end. V. In it's Suitableness to the Heart of Man, which it undertakes to reform. VI. In the Relation it has to the Glory of God, which it should advance. VII. In it's Morality. VIII. In it's Myste­ries. IX. In the conformity of it's Mysteries to the light of Reason. X. In that exact proportion it bears to the Jewish Religion. XI. And lastly, in that pro­portion it bears to Natural Religion.

I hope these Portraitures will, like so many degrees of Light, wonderfully illuminate the Minds of the in­credulous, and discover to them the truth and certain­ty of the Christian Religion, by the sublimity and ex­cellencies of it.

I. Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in the multitude of Testimonies gi­ven in favour of it.

THough Testimonies be somewhat foreign and exterior to the Christian Religion, and there­fore may seem improper to discover the Perfection of it: Yet it will appear they do discover it, if we but carefully unite them together, and so consider well their joynt union and agreement.

We can't but have a very great Idea of a Religion which the Wisdom of God has been pleas'd to con­firm unto us by Nine several Testimonies, each where­of would have been singly sufficient to discover the Truth of it.

The first is that of the Prophets, who all testified of Jesus Christ by a long and continued series of [Page 302] Prophecies, some far plainer than the rest; for some of the Prophets saw almost as clear in the Night (as I may so speak) of shadows and figurative Types, as we can in the Day, of their exact accomplishment, as has been already shewn.

The second is that of John the Baptist, so much the more certain because it was foretold in the old Testa­ment, and Christ and his Disciples continually refer'd the Jews to that Testimony; so much the more con­siderable, because we can't suspect John the Baptist of having been guilty of any base complacency towards the Jews, or mean designs for his own Interest; The Wisdom of God having been pleas'd to set him above such Suspicions, by the Austerity of his Manners and his unusual way of living, set down in the Gospel with such a strange and particular Description.

The third is that of the Apostles, those witnesses, whose Constancy was tried by the severest Punishments inflicted upon them; yet they boldly resisted the Violence offered them by so many Torments they en­dur'd, Torments sufficient to extort even from the greatest Malefactors a confession of their Crimes: Yet here is the difference between Them and common Of­fenders; that the latter are compell'd unwillingly to undergo the Torture, but the Disciples of our Lord rejoyc'd in being thought worthy to suffer. Male­factors indeed know certainly they shall be executed, if they confess the Truth; but the Disciples of Jesus would have had much more reason to fear Death, had they disguised the Truth by any close Deceit.

The fourth Testimony is that of the three Persons which bare record in Heaven, the Father when he de­clared in Jordan, that Jesus Christ was his well beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased; and in another place, I have glorified him, and will glorifie him again: The Son, when he testified of himself by his Miracles: And the Holy Ghost, when he confirmed the Testimony of the [Page 303] Son by the Effusion of his extraordinary and miracu­lous Gifts upon the Disciples.

The fifth is that of the Conscience of Men, which acknowledges freely that the Christian Religion can re­move our Fears, comfort us in our Afflictions, humble our Minds in the midst of plenty, and strengthen them in poverty; in a word, sanctifie us by delivering us from our sins; and so consequently supply all our wants and necessities.

The sixth is that ev'n of the Enemies of our Re­ligion, who have been forced to speak favourably on our side. The Jews and Gentiles have testified in our behalf, the Wisdom of Providence, and the convincing force of Truth having obliged them tacitly to own that Truth, against which they had declared themselves such inveterate and implacable Enemies. The ancient Jews believed that the fa­mous Gem. tract. San. Cap. 11. prophecy Jacob uttered upon his Death-bed, The Scepter shall, &c. was to be understood of the Messias: This their own Writings testify, and their Talmud acknowledges, that that Man of Sorrows and acquainted with Grief, who was to be bruised for our iniquities, and from Gem. tract. San. Lib. 12. whom they hid their faces as from a Leper, was the true Messias. Nay, they are forced to have recourse to the extravagant Fiction of a double Messias; and ev'n by that they pay a kind of homage to the Truth. The Samaritans were of Opi­nion, that the Messias was shortly to appear in the World, as is evident by the discourse of Christ with the Woman of Samaria. And this the Jews were so strongly perswaded of, that some of them chose ra­ther to own Herod the Great for the Messias, tho an Idumaean and wicked Prince, than renounce an Opi­nion they were prepossess'd with, and which was so deeply rooted in their Minds. Others led away by the same Opinion, cast their Eyes upon one Agrippa, [Page 304] descended from Herod, who was engaged in the Roman party. Others also instigated by the same hopes, fol­lowed a certain Robber into the Wilderness. And the Jews seeing their City just ready to be laid in Ashes, imagined that their Messias was just upon manifesting himself. Nay, the merciless Ring-leaders of those factious Wretches, who tore one another in pieces during the devastation of Judea, so obstinately sought after one another's Ruin, only because they expect­ed to vanquish the Romans, and so become the Con­querours of the World, that were to fulfil ancient Prophecies. Few Ages after, they turned to one Barko­kebas a villainous Robber, only because they thought him the Messias, according to their Computation of the years of his coming. Josephus, a great Man and well versed in the Scriptures, imagined as well as others that the Time prefix'd for his coming was ac­complished; or if he did not really think so himself, he took at least an occasion from that Opinion com­monly approved of in the East, to ingratiate him­self with Vespasian. Herod the Great himself terrified and amazed by all these Reports, made his fearful ap­prehension remarkable by a deluge of Blood. Then did the Jews acknowledge that in the days of the Mes­sias there would be no Government; No Magistrates, nor any Commonwealth left in Israel. But Gem. Tract. San. Cap 11.afterwards the necessity of maintain­ing their Opinion against us, made them have recourse to several different Evasi­ons. Not many Ages after the coming of Jesus Christ into the World, when they found that their Messias did not appear, some of them began to say that he had hid himself; others that he was come already in the Person of Hezekiah; others that his coming was put off, by reason of the crying sins of the People; nay, they went on to that degree of impiety and irreligion, as to pronounce them cursed who should calculate the [Page 305] years of the coming of the Messias. From all which we see plainly that by these their Confessions and Shifts, they in a manner bear witness (tho unwil­lingly and without design) to the Christian Faith.

As for the Heathens, besides the au­thentick Testimony of Pliny the young­er Tertul. Apolog. 5.concerning the Innocence of the Christians, and besides that of Tiberius concerning Jesus Christ, whom he would have inserted among the Gods, being himself astonished at the surprising Wonders which he had heard of him; we all know, that there See a discourse concerning U­niversal Histo­ry by the Bishop of Meaux.have been several famous Emperors who were not able to conceal from the World their favourable Opinions of the Christian Religion; that some of them had for Inscriptions in their publick Edifices several Maxims of the Gospel; that others would have con­secrated Churches for the Use of the Christians; and lastly, that others professed themselves Admirers of the Morality of Christ.

But what shall we say of the Jews and Gentiles, who not being able to deny Christ's Miracles, were for­ced to refer them, some to a Magick Power, and others to a certain I know not what mysterious Pronunciati­on of the word Jehovah. So strange a thing it is that ev'n the very Enemies of our Religion should thus testify of it, and yet scarce perceive it.

The seventh Testimony is that of several strange Events, which the Wisdom of God so ordered that they firmly establish the Truth of Christianity. Of these there are several very remarkable; but it shall suffice at present to mention Three only, which among the rest deserve a particular Consideration; the First is, the Destruction of the four Monarchies, which had sorely afflicted and harass'd God's People, at the end of which the Kingdom of Heaven was im­mediately [Page 306] to be established; the Second, the entire Destruction of the Jewish Government, and the sig­nal Devastation of the holy Land, an Effect of the divine Wrath pour'd out upon that Nation; the Third and last, the Settlement of the Christian Church, or the Calling of the Gentiles, attended with so many Circumstances as plainly shew that nothing but the hand of God could perfect so great a Work.

The Eighth is that Testimony given of Christ by the Revelation of Moses: And the Ninth that which is given of him by Natural Religion: But of these two Testimonies we shall not speak at present, for as much as we design to end this Work with a parti­cular Consideration of them.

In the mean time, 'tis plain the Christian Religion must be true, because it was confirmed by the Testi­mony of so many authentick Persons which can't be suspected of Deceit: And it would be extravagantly ridiculous to imagine, that the Prophets should have so clear an insight into Futurity, meerly to counte­nance and authorize a Fiction; that John the Baptist having been at first taken by the Jews for the Messias, should renounce the Honour which that Title would have conferred upon him, only out of Love and Complaisance to an Impostor; that the Apostles and the rest of the Disciples should so readily sacrifice their Estates, Reputation, Repose, and Life it self to a Person they knew to be a false Christ; that the Heavens should countenance a Flam and a Lye by working such signal and sensible Miracles; that the Heart of Man should have found every thing that can supply it's Wants and Necessities in a meer Cheat; that ev'n the Enemies of our Religion should coun­tenance and approve of our false Prejudices; that all Events should so exactly coincide with an errone­ous Imposture; and that the Revelation of Moses and Natural Religion should thus testify so palpable a Fiction.

[Page 307] To this we may add the Necessity and Impor­tance of the Christian Religion, since the Wisdom of God leads us to it by so many different ways; as also the admirable Perfection and Transcendency of it, since in a manner Heaven and Earth, the Time past and present, Events ordinary and natural, as well as those supernatural and miraculous, since the Prophets and Apostles who were altogether unknown to one another, have agreed unanimously to reveal it, and propose it to us as an Object for it's transcen­dent excellency worthy of our greatest Admiration.

II Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is opposed to all other Religions.

ALL these Truths will more evidently appear, if we consider the Christian Religion in it's Opposi­tion to all other Religions. The Excellency of the Christian Religion consists in that it has Advantages which other Religions have not, and yet none of their Faults.

I say, no other Religion has Advantages equal to those of the Christian Religion; for no other can boast of it's having been confirmed by ancient Pro­phecies. Ev'n Mahomet thought it better to oblige Men to call the Scripture in question, than do derive any Arguments from it which might serve to confirm his Mission; as appears by his not boasting that he had been preceeded by any Forerunner who made his paths streight.

There are indeed several Religions which perhaps may have had their Martyrs: But what sort of Mar­tyrs? superstitious Men who blindly exposed them­selves to Death without knowing what they did; like those Barbarians who prostrated themselves by thousands before their Idol, that their Colossus might crush them in pieces with it's Wheels as it passed [Page 308] along. But no Religion besides the Christian was ever confirmed by the Blood of an infinite number of sensible understanding Martyrs, who voluntarily suffered Death in Defence of what they had seen; who from vitious and profligate Persons became Saints upon the Confidence they had in their Master, and who at length being dispersed in all places of the World, by their Death gain'd Proselytes▪ and ma­king their Blood the Seed of the Church, chearfully suffered Martyrdom, having certain Assurance of being crowned after their Death: A certain Assu­rance which they derived from what they themselves had formerly seen.

We find other Religions which pretend to be con­firmed and authorized by several Signs and extraor­dinary Events from Heaven▪ The Ro­mans See Min [...]t. Feli [...].used to attribute to their Religi­on all the Advantages they got over other Nations: And the Mahumetans pretend that the great Successes God was pleased to give their Prophet, were so many certain and undeni­able Marks of the Truth of their Religion. But to pretend that temporal Prosperity is a certain Cha­racter of a true Religion, or Adversity that of a false one, is to suppose, as we have already said else where, that the most profligate Wretches, provi­ded they are happy in this World, are the greatest Favourites of God. But certainly 'tis not Prosperity or Adversity▪ simply considered, but Prosperity or Adversity as foretold by God or his Prophets that is a certain Character of true Religion: And when we affirm that several extraordinary Events bear witness to the Truth of Christianity, we mean only those Events which had been foretold by the Prophets; as for instance, the calling of the Gentiles, the De­struction of Jerusalem, and the establishment of the Christian Church. Finally, there may be several [Page 309] Religions that may deceive, but none but the Chri­stian Religion that can truly satisfy Mankind. There are some Religions grounded upon fabulous Mira­cles, and confirmed by Witnesses easily convinc'd of Imposture; but none but the Christian Religion is firmly and solidly establish▪t upon true Miracles and valid Testimonies. It appears then, that no Religi­on in the World has such extraordinary qualificati­ons as the Christian Religion; of which it must also be affirmed, that it is free from all such Defects as are incident to other Religions.

We need no deep search, no great sagacity or penetration of Mind to discover this Truth: For it is manifest that the Christian Religion is not design'd for the satisfaction of the carnal and worldly Appe­tites of Men, as that of the present Jews, who aspire only after temporal Prosperity and worldy Pomps: Nor is it a Monstrous medly, like that of the Sama­ritans, made up of a ridiculous mixture of the Pagan and Jewish Religion. Nor is it impious and cruel, like that of the Gnosticks; nor has it any of the Faults or extravagant Superstitions of the Pagan Religion. But since we have not leisure to oppose it particularly to all the Errors of other Religions, we must be contented to shew in this Comparison, the advantages the Christian Religion has above all the rest, by laying down the following Rules:

I.
Other Religions, as being principally of human Invention and Institution, were formed by degrees from the different Imaginations of several Persons who successively made such Additions or Alterati­ons as they thought convenient. The Greeks, for Example, added several things to that Religion they received from the Egyptians; and the Romans to that they had received from the Greeks. Menander s [...]ll improved the [...]ottish Impieties of Simon Magus; [Page 310] and Saturninus and Basilides added to those of Menan­der. And the reason is, because Men are never weary of inventing, nor the People of believing Novelties. But it is not so with the Christian Religion, which was wholly deliver'd by Christ, is entirely contain'd in every one of the Gospels, and ev'n in each Epistle of the Apostles. What ever alterations Men have thought fit to make in the Doctrine Christ brought into the World, did only corrupt the Purity and Spirituality of it▪ as appears by the great dispropor­tion there is betwixt the Apostolical Doctrine, and the ordinary speculations of Men.

II.
Other Religions durst not shew themselves open­ly in full light, and therefore were veiled over with a mysterious Silence and affected Darkness. The Gnosticks chose the Night to cover the Impurity of Juvenal.their abominable Mysteries. And the Romans exposed themselves to the saty­rical Railery of their Poets, [...] being so careful to conceal the Worship they paid to their Goddess Bo­na. Julian and Porphyrius set all their Wits to work, either to set off the ridiculous and offensive Ceremo­nies of Paganism, or to palliate their Superstition by several various explanations of it; as when they so st [...]ffly affirmed that they worshipped one only supreme God, tho they acknowledged at the same time other Subordinate Deities depending one upon another; and when they endeavour'd to justify the Worship they paid to their Idols, by using many subtile and nice Distinctions.

It is certain there is a Principle of Pride implant­ed in the Hearts of Men, which is the Reason they cannot endure to be accused of entertaining any ab­surd and extravagant Opinions; so that▪ when ever their Passions have made them embrace a Religion which seems not very reasonable, they employ all [Page 311] heir Wit to make it at least appear consonant to Reason. But the Christian Religion requires no Veil to cover it, no mysterious Silence, no dark Dissimulati­on, or close Disguise, altho it proposes such kinds of Objects to us as are vastly contrary to all our Prejudices and receiv'd Opinions. The Apostles free­ly confess that the Preaching of the Gospel is as it were an apparent Folly; but yet they assure us God was resolved to save the World by that seeming Fol­ly. They knew that the Death of Christ became a scandal to the Jew, and a folly to the Greek; yet they publickly declared, that they were determined not to know any thing save Jesus Christ and him cru­cified. And how comes it then that they did not in the least mince, or endeavour to soften the sense of that seeming Paradox (so far were they from con­cealing it) but that they were strongly and fully persuaded of the Truth of that adorable Mystery, and that the abundance of their Understanding serv'd on­ly to make them more fully comprehend the efficacy of the Cross?

III.
Should we strictly consider some Religions, we should find they were first for the most part institu­ed, either by Poets or Philosophers; and that they ge­nerally spring from the sportive Conceits or witty Speculations of the Understanding; which is the rea­son they were not so universally approved. The Philosophers always derided the Religion of the Vulgar; and the Vulgar understood nothing of the Religion of the Philosophers. Socrates ridiculed the Religi­on of the Athenians; and the Athenians accused So­crates of Impiety and Atheism, and condemned him to death. The Christian Religion alone is approved of as well by the Philosophers as the vulgar People, as neither depending upon the Ignorance of the lat­ter, nor proceeding from the Learning of the former. [Page 312] It has a divine Efficacy and agreeable Power suitable to all Hearts: It is adapted to the Capacity of the most simple and ignorant, tho infinitely raised above the Philosophy of the Wise: It is sublime without being nicely speculative, and simple without being mean; in its Sublimity preserving its Clearness, and in it's Simplicity preserving it's Dignity. In a word there is nothing so great nor so inconsiderable in hu­man Society, but what may some way fall under it's consideration, and it is equally approved of and ad­mired by all.

IV.
Other Religions brought Men from Spiritual Ob­jects to those that were Corporeal and Earthly: The Christian Religion brings them from the Objects of Sense to those of the Ʋnderstanding. We all know that the Heathens when they Deified Men, or wor­ship'd a Deity under an human Shape, they were so far paying that Deity a Worship due to a Spiritual Na­ture, that their Adoration consisted in several Games, Shews, and divers Exercises of the Body. The Jews and Samaritans by their eager Disputes, whether God was to be worshipped in Jerusalem, or in Mount Gerazim, extinguished Charity, the true Spirit of Religion, in their too hot defence of the external part [...] 58. 5.of it. Nay, the Prophets complained formerly, that the Jews made [...] to consist in bowing down their Heads as a [...]rush, and putting on Sackcloth and Ashes. And the holy Scripture observes, that the Priests of [...] Kings. [...]8. 28. Baal were wont to cut themselves with Knives and Lances, when they sacrificed to him, as if there were no other way to make their God hear their Prayers, but by inflict­ing such Punishments on their own Bodies. The modern Jews can't be persuaded that we have been called to the knowledge of the true God (tho they [Page 313] find we all profess to put our trust and confidence in him) because they perceive not that we use any Corporeal Ceremonies. And the Mahumetans, more irreligious than superstitious, make their Religion and its Happiness depend chiefly on their Senses▪ when they Worship, they turn themselves towards Mecha, as the Jews did towards Jerusalem, and ear­nestly desire of God that he would gratify their Sen­ses; and tho they have a sort of a Religious Respect for the Letters that compose the Name of God, and the Paper it is written upon, yet they are enjoyned to oppress Men that bear the Image of God, by their Religion, which breaths out nothing but Violence, Fury, and Oppression.

The Reason why Men usually refer thus every thing to their Senses, is because a Worship that is corporeal and sensual is far more easie: It is much easier for a Man to take the Sun for a God, than to be continually taken up in seeking after a God that is invisible; to solemnize Games and Festivals in ho­nour of a pretended Deity, than to renounce himself for the sake of a true one: 'Tis much easier for him to fast, than to renounce his Vices; to sing spiritual Songs, or bow to a Statue, than forgive his Enemies. It appears then, that the Christian Religion bears a more excellent Character, in that it gives us for the Object of our Worship, not a God under an human Shape, but a God that is a Spirit, in that it teaches us to honour him, not with a carnal, but a Spiritual Worship. And this Christ himself has very elegant­ly told us in these Words, God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in Spirit and in Truth, John 4. 24. Who could fill his Mind with such ele­vated Notions? And how comes it that he so excel­lently sets down in that short Precept the Genius of true Religion, of which Men before were wholly ig­norant?

[Page 314] V.
It may be said of all other Religions, without Ex­ception, that they induce us to look after the Plea­sures and Profits of the World in the Worship of God; whereas the Christian Religion makes us glorify God by renouncing the World. Thus the Heathens designing rather to please themselves than their Dei­ties, introduced into Religion whatever could any ways flatter and divert them. And the Mahumatan Religion not being Incumbred with many Ceremo­nies, at least affixes temporal Advantages to the Practice of its Worship; as if the Pleasures of the World were to be the future Reward of Religion: But certainly both of them are much mistaken; for the Heathens should have known that the Worship of God consisted not in diverting and pleasing them­selves; and the Mahumetans should not have been ignorant, that since temporal and worldly Advan­tages were insufficient in themselves to satisfy the boundless Desires of Man's Heart, they could not come in Competition with those Benefits which true Religion had peculiarly designed for him. But both these follow'd the Motions of Self-love, which being naturally held in suspense between the World and Religion, imagins that nothing can be more pleasant than to unite them both, thinking thereby to re­concile its Inclination and Duty, consecrate it's Pleasures, and put no difference between Conscience and Interest.

But the first Rule of true Religion teaches us, that that mutual Agreement is impossible; or, to use it's own Words, that Christ and Belial are incompatible one with the other; that we must either glorify God at the expence of worldly Pleasures, or possess the Ad­vantages of the World with the Loss of our Religi­on: And this certainly shews the Christian Religion to have a Divine Character.

[Page 315] VI.
Other false Religions debase the Deity and exalt Man; whereas the Christian Religion humbles Man, and exalts the Deity. The Egyptians, a Nation that boasted so much of their Antiquity, made Monsters of their Deities; and the Romans made Deities of their Emperors, who were rather Monsters than Men▪ The most famous Philosophers were not asha­med to rank their Deities below themselves, and themselves ever before Jupiter; but the Christian Religion teaches us that we owe all to God, who owes nothing at all to us. It humbles us by the Conside­ration of that infinite Distance there is between God and us; it shews that we are miserable despi­cable Creatures in comparison of God who is a Su­pream▪ Being, and only worthy our Love and Adora­tion. Who then can chuse but admire so excellent a Religion?

VII.
Other Religions made us depend upon those Be­ings which were given us to command; and saucily pretend a Power over that supream Being upon whom we ought wholly to depend. They taught Men to burn Incense to the meanest Creatures, and impu­dently to equal themselves to the Universal Monarch of the World. But 'tis no wonder that Men should be so impious, as to desire to become Gods, since they were so base as to forget that they were Men; and yet how ill their Pride became them when they disdain'd not to submit to the four-footed Beasts, to the Fowls of the Air, the creeping Animals and Plants of the Earth, as St. Paul reproaches them, and how basely superstitious were they, in that they were not content to Deify themselves, but would al­so Deify their own Vices and Imperfections? But the Christian Religion alone restores that equitable Order which ought to be establish'd in the World, by sub­mitting [Page 316] every thing to the Power of Man, that he might submit himself to the Will of his God. And what can be the Duty of true Religion, but to re­store such just and becoming Order in the World?

VIII.
We need no deep search into other Religions to find that they chiefly tend to flatter Men's corrupt Desires, and efface those Principles of Justice and Ʋprightness which God has imprinted on their Minds. But he that shall truly consider the Christian Religi­on, will certainly find that it tends to the rooting up those corrupt Desires out of our Hearts, and re­storing those bright Characters of Honesty and Justice imprinted on our Minds by the hand of God. The Heathens flattered their Passions to that degree, as to erect Altars in Honour of them; and Mahomet was so well pleas'd with temporal Prosperity, that he made it the End and Reward of his Religion. The Gnosticks imagined, that when they had arrived to a certain degree of Knowledge, which they called a State of Perfection, they might commit all sorts of Actions without any Scruple of Conscience; and that Sin which polluted others would be sanctified in them. But what Blindness! what Impiety was this! How admirable is the Christian Religion, which alone among all others shews us our own Wickedness and Corruption, and heals it with such Remedies as are as wholsome to the Soul as unpleasing to the Body!

IX.
'Tis observable, that other Religions are contra­ry to Policy, either in favouring or restraining too much human Weakness and Corruption, upon the Account of Policy: Whereas the Christian Religion preserves it's Rights and Privileges inviolable, in­dependent from either. The Pagan Religion was against Policy in giving too much to human Weak­ness and Corruption. It would have been much [Page 317] better for the Good and Welfare of the State, if Men had framed to themselves a greater Idea of the Holiness of their Gods; because they would have been less licentious, and more submissive to the Ci­vil Laws; whereas they were encourag'd by the Example of their Deities to violate the most sacred and inviolable Rights. Mahomet, desirous to avoid this Irregularity, retain'd the Notion of a true God; but then being willing also to flatter Men's Inclina­tions to draw them to his side, he confusedly mixed with that Idea the carnal and gross Notions the Hea­thens had of Paradise, borrowing from Christianity such Objects as must necessarily mortify our Passions, and assuming those from Paganism which serve to flat­ter our bad Inclinations. But the Christian Religion keeps no such Measures either with Policy or Corrupti­on. Policy complains that the Doctrine of Christ ne­cessarily softens Men's Courage, and that instead of encouraging them to list themselves Soldiers for the welfare and preservation of the State, it rather makes them Lambs, who can hardly be exasperated against their Enemies, whom they must continually pray for, and are obliged to love as themselves. And as for human Frailty and Corruption, it murmurs to see itself impugned by the Christian Religion, even in the Dispositions and most secret Recesses of the Soul; and that the Veil of Hypocrisy, and the pious Pretences and Dissimulations of the Soul under which it thought to lye secure, are ineffectual against it. VVho then but God, can be the Author of a Re­ligion so equally contrary both to the covetous De­sires of the mean, and the Ambition of the great, and so equally averse both to Policy and Corruption?

X.
Other Religions would have God should bear the Image of Man, and so necessarily represent the Deity as weak, miserable, and infected with all manner [Page 318] of Vices, as Men are. Whereas the Christian Religi­on teaches us that Man ought to bear the Image of God; which is a Motive to induce us to become perfect as we conceive God himself to be holy and perfect. That Religion then which restores God his Glory, and the Image of God to Man, must ne­cessarily be of Divine Authority.

XI.
Lastly, Other false Religions were the irregular confus'd Productions of the politest and ablest Men of those Times; whereas the Christian Religion is a wonderful Composition, which seems wholly to pro­ceed from the most Simple and Ignorant sort of People. The Heathens have often condemned the extravagant Notions the vulgar People had framed to themselves of the Deity; they have blamed the barbarous Cruelty of those Sacrifices which were offer­ed to their Gods in so many places, and the impurity of their Mysteries, the Falshood of their Oracles, and the Vanity and Childishness of their Ceremonies. Cicero says in some part of his Works, that two Au­gurs could not look one another in the Face with­out Laughter. And nothing can be more extrava­gant than the Divinity of the Gnosticks, who held that there are Invisible Eternal Spirits, who mixing one with the other produc'd others. We all know that when Philosophers took upon them to treat of Religion, they always exceeded one another in Ex­travagancies▪ and no one, I dare say, is still to learn what are those Visions and fabulous Stories with which the Rabbins filled their Traditions, the Cata­logue of which would be very curious indeed, were it not so extreamly long. And tho we cannot dis­own but that the Heathens, the Philosophers, &c. made several wonderful Discoveries in Arts and Sci­ences: Yet it will appear that a long succession of ve­ry understanding Men among▪ them were guilty of [Page 319] many repeated Extravagancies in this respect, and that by a Prodigy not to be parallelled, did not the Christian Religion offer such another, by shewing us a Company of Wise and Learned Men in such Ignorant Persons as the Disciples of Jesus Christ.

Certainly 'tis a strange thing to see the most un­derstanding Men become the most stupid, and the most ignorant prove the most understanding in mat­ters of Religion. 'Tis a true sign that God design'd to confound the understanding of the VVise, and a proof that their Religion was form'd rather accord­ing to the corrupt desires of their Hearts, than the dictates of their Understanding. For had it been according to their Understanding, it would have been more reasonable in proportion to the VVisdom and Knowledge of the Authors of it. But because it was made to sooth their corrupt Desires and flatter their Passions, it is as extravagant and irregular as those Passions.

And now let us put together all these Characters, and ask the Incredulous, whether they can be so ex­travagant as to ascribe to an Impostor a Religion so perfect in it's Original, that nothing could ever since be superadded to it, but what necessarily lessens the Perfection of it; a Religion that proposes it's Mysteries with such Authority and Boldness, that brings Men from Sensual Objects to Spiritual ones, that extirpates Corruption, restores the Principles of Righteousness and Ʋprightness that were imprinted on our Souls; that teaches us to glorify God without any regard had to Self-love or Pleasure; to exalt God and humble our selves; to submit our selves to his VVill, who is above us all, and to raise our selves above those Beings that he has put in subjection under us; a Religion that is contrary to Policy, and yet more averse to Corruption; that astonishes our Reason and yet gives us the peace of a good Conscience; and [Page 320] in a word, is as delightful to the one, as it is com­fortable to the other.

If the Christian Religion then has all these Qualifi­cations, as it certainly has, we cannot doubt but that it is directly as to these Qualifications opposite to all other Religions. And if it be thus opposite to all other Religions, it must necessarily have a Prin­ciple opposite to them: So that as all other Religi­ons peculiarly belong to the Flesh, the Christian whol­ly appertains to the Spirit; and as the former are the Products of the corrupt Desires and Imaginati­ons of Men, so the latter must have for it's Princi­ple the God of Holiness and Purity.

III Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in it's Effects.

WE may distinguish Four several kinds of Socie­ties in which the Efficacy of Religion may be acknowledg'd, (viz.) a Natural, a Political, a Vi­cious, and a Religious Society.

And first, the Society of Nature is innocent and equitable in it self; but it cannot stand out a Trial with Men's irregular and disorder'd Passions. Men will indeed be united among themselves as long as they are concern'd only in indifferent matters; but Covetousness soon disunites them: And therefore there is something wanting to establish and confirm it. As for the Society of Corruption and Vice, it is essentially sinful; and therefore Self-interest, and Men's Desires and Passions that form it, are either to be remov'd or regulated. A Political Society is soon violated by Law-suits, Wars, and Dissentions; all which are occasion'd too by the Passions. To sup­port therefore and maintain it, such Principles of [Page 321] Fidelity are to be establish'd, as shall remain inviola­ble: All which is best done in a Society of Religion, the most perfect of them all, and as it were a Prop to the rest: This Society must be firmly oppos'd to all accidental Revolutions, must unite those Persons together, whom the distance of Time and Place, and the disparity of Interest would otherwise have for ever divided.

Now the Christian Religion restores the Society of Nature: For by uniting Men so strictly in the Bond of Charity, it farther strengthens that natural Love which we call Humanity. It destroys too the Socie­ties of Interest and Ambition, because it extirpates such inordinate Desires as are not true Principles of Ʋni­on and good Ʋnderstanding one among another. It also strengthens Civil Society, by commanding us to obey our Superiours, and teaching us to render unto Cesar, the things that are Cesars, and unto God the things that are Gods. Lastly, it establishes such a Society, as restores the Equality of Nature among us; and whereas there was in the World till the coming of Christ, a Society of Men externally indeed united by the Bond of Civil Laws, Government, and the De­grees of Proximity of Blood, but internally divided by their irregular Passions, Christ shews us a Society of Men externally divided by the distance of Time and Place, and the disparity of their Conditions, but internally united by the Bonds of the same Faith the same Hope, and the same Charity.

Nor are these meer Ideas or Speculations; for be­sides that the Christian Religion visibly relates wholly to the Design of making Men holy and pure, and de­dicating them to God; besides that the Apostles tell us, that it is the End of their Preaching, directing themselves in their Epistles to those that are called to be Saints, and to the Spiritual Israel, and declaring concerning Apostates, that they went from them be­cause [Page 322] they were not of them; besides, that Jesus Christ on all occasions makes the very same Distinction, re­fusing to own them for his Disciples that should be wholly taken up with the advantages of the World, and giving this Mark and Character of those whom he owned for his, My Sheep hear my Voice; and the World hates them, because they are not of the World, Joh. 17. 14. I say, besides all this we have this Satisfa­ction, that we can produce a Society of holy Men, that yielded not to any Powers of the World, but withstood the most rigorous Trials of Persecutions, and renounced the enticing Charms of the World, the better to adhere to the Cross of Christ; A Socie­ty victorious in Temptations, that overcame Vices, and deluded the indefatigable Endeavours of Ty­rants; a Society composed of Mortal Men, yet not to be exstinguished by Death; that was subject to the Laws of Nature, yet encourag'd with motives Super-natural; that conversed in the World, yet des­pised it; that was dispersed in several different Times and Places, yet always united in the same Thoughts and Opinions; that was continually at­tack't by different Passions, yet constantly surmount­ed them: In a word, a Society that still flourish'd in the midst of Persecution, increas'd the more, as often as it was defeated, and rais'd it self out of it's own ruins. Certainly he must have read but little of Ec­clesiastical History, that is unacquainted with all these Truths, and he must be wilfully blind, and purposely impose upon himself, that acknowledges not the Ef­ficacy of Religion in all those wonderful Effects.

And 'tis properly in that Society of holy Men, or in the Church it self, that we ought to seek for the Fruits of Religion, for there we shall find the Accom­plishment of those ancient Prophecies, which promised to shew us the Sheep feeding with the Bear, and the Leopard with the Lamb, &c. And as the Ark of God [Page 323] could not be left in the midst of it's Enemies without working several Wonders among them, which even those Infidels were sensible of; so the Christian Church cannot continue in the World, without producing such remarkable Effects in it, which the most in­credulous themselves cannot call in question.

For let them tell us, if they can, how came the Oracles of the Heathens to be immediately silenced when the Apostles first preach'd the Mysteries of Christianity, and by what Power the Sound of those Men being gone to the end of the World, made those Oracles eternally cease, which had so long foretold things to come, and so forc'd the Hea­thenish Writers, as Plutarch and others, to inquire into the Cause of that so sudden and so unexpected Silence? For to object with Julian, that the Jewish and Christian Oracles have been also silenced, con­cludes nothing; because the Apostles foretold that the Gift of Prophecy should cease: But how appears it, that the Oracles among the Heathens declar'd they should one day be silenced? The Accomplish­ment of our Prophecies, being an everlasting Proof of the Truth of our Religion, serves us instead of Perpetual Oracles: But what Accomplishment of Prophecies confirms the Pagan Religion?

No less wonderful an Effect of our Religion, was the abundance of Revelation which brought so many Superstitious and Idolatrous Nations to the Know­ledge of the true God. Hence came the World to be fill'd with Wisdom by the preaching of ignorant Persons, and the meanest Servants to have more no­ble and rational Ideas of the Deity, than the most quick Clear-sighted Philosophers, and that too by the Proposal of such a Doctrin as seems indeed to the Flesh an Object of Scandal and Horror.

We cannot deny but that the Christian Religion has the advantage of all others for having utterly [Page 324] abolished all those Sacrifices wherein they offered the Blood of Men: Neither can we doubt but that this cruel and bloody Superstition was sufficiently ad­vanc'd in the World, since we find that the Holy Scripture reproaches the Jews, for having sacrificed their Children to Moloch; and that Julius Cesar tells us in his Commentaries, that it was an ancient Custom among the Gauls to offer Human Victims to their pretended Deities.

I confess indeed, the Romans had already re­nounced such a barbarous and cruel Superstition; but then I question whether they did not still retain some Spice of it in those Spectacles they exhibited to the People, wherein they were extreamly pleased to see the Blood of their Gladiatours run down, who killed one another meerly to make them Sport: A Sacrifice so much the more impious, because dedi­cated rather to the unlawful pleasure of Men, than the Honour of those Beings they look't upon as Gods. And what but the Christian Religion could have abolished all those bloody Spectacles and hor­rid Divertisements?

We have just reason to be surprized to think how licentiously that abominable Sin, usually punish'd by God and Man with Fire, reign'd heretofore in the World; and we cannot without horror and a­mazement reflect, how that the love of both Sexes seem'd equally grown common to Men; and that ancient Authors freely speak of that kind of De­bauchery which our own Writers dare not so much as mention, lest they defile their Writings. Socra­tes is represented to us by some of them as being deeply smitten with the Beauty of Alcibiades, and the Emperour Trajan, (whose Panegyrick well de­serv'd thirty Years labour) strangely blemished his Reputation by that monstrous Lechery: Which pretty well shews the just Grounds for St. Paul's re­proach [Page 325] to the Heathens, who says, that because when they had known God, they glorified him not as God, there­fore God also gave them up unto vile Affections, Rom. 1. 21. And indeed it was no inconsiderable service the Christian Religion did Men, in partly abolishing and disgracing so much that kind of detestable De­bauchery, that we look upon those to be no less than abominable Monsters, that seem any way in­clinable to it.

Humility and Charity, those two Virtues so Essen­tial and necessary to Men, were so utterly unknown formerly, that their Names were scarce known in all the Pagan World. To what then do we owe the knowledge and Esteem we have of those two so excellent Virtues, but to the Religion we profess? Lastly, 'twas by the means of this Religion that the Creature was again call'd a Creature, and God again called by his own Name, Jehovah. 'Twas this Religion that took away from Vice the name of Virtue, and reclaimed Virtue from the scandal of passing for Vice; restored right Reason to it's former Privileges, enlightned the Consciences of Men, mor­tified their irregular and disorderly Passions, and confounded their Avarice. And surely by all these divine effects you must necessarily perceive and ac­knowledge the Divinity of Christianity.

IV. Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as consider'd in the Purity of it's End.

IF the Effects of the Christian Religion are truly an­swerable to the Characters of it, we may also affirm that it's End is truly answerable to it's Effects, it being manifest, there never was any so uncor­rupt, so pure, so extraordinary, and so perfect.

[Page 326] For we cannot but acknowledge that it is the main End and Design of Christian Religion to check and mortify Men's irregular Passions, and restore the Principles of Righteousness and Uprightness in them, which their Corruption had as it were Ef­fac'd.

And it cannot be suppos'd this was the intention of the Devil, whom we conceive to be as a Spirit naturally averse to the Good of Mankind; nor that of Flesh and Blood, that aim at nothing else but to satisfy their Lusts; nor that of Nature, which is easily perswaded, being byassed by the Pleasures which Vice gives her a Prospect of; nor that of Po­licy, which tends only to the restraining the Licen­tiousness of all external Crimes, in as much as they violate and invert the Order of publick Society, but looks indifferently upon all Crimes that respect the Soul. Neither can it be the scope and design of Rea­son, which is easily corrupted by Avarice; nor even that of Pride, which is mortified much more than all the other Passions by this Doctrin, unknown to the Flesh, and insufferable to Nature. Who then is it that concerns himself so much with Pride as to take away it's Errors, it's Vain-glory, it's chimerical Perfections; Preferences, Hypocrisy and Affectations, and all this only by a serious Consideration of the divine Nature? Who takes upon him to deprive Self-love of it's Injustice, the Flesh of it's unlawful Pleasures, and in a word, all human Passions of their Disorders and Irregularities? What can such a Design mean? And how could this Thought of sanctifying Mankind enter of it self into any Man's Mind?

We may justly therefore ascribe this End and Design to the Christian Religion: For it is certain it contains neither Exhortation nor Precept, Promise nor Threat, History nor Prophecy, but what directly aims at [Page 327] that very End. The Holy Scripture is not of the Nature of those Books, that contain nothing but vain Speculations, or curious Enquiries; all those of that kind were brought to the Apostles to be burnt, who returned no other Answer to those that asked them, Men and Brethren, what shall we do? But this, Repent ye. They plainly declared that the Design of the Gospel was to free Men from the Bon­dage of their Sins; and their Example shews us as much. For what other Design could they have had in renouncing every thing, and enduring all Perse­cutions, but to perswade other Men they should re­nounce this present World? Besides, whether they speak, or write, they don't run out into vain Con­tests and Disputes, the ordinary product of the Va­nity of Mankind; but come immediately to their purpose, and insist only on what is material and essential to it. Every particular in their Discourses and Writings is practical and relating to the Perfection of Morality; so much they despise the Fineness of Eloquence, and Subtilty of Human Philosophy, and propose only to themselves the edification of Men. These things write I unto you, say they, that ye Sin not, 1 John. 2. 1. But supposing them such Deceivers as the Incredulous imagin; what was it to them whether we Sinned, or not? What injury would it have been to the Son of a Carpenter, tho the Pha­risees were dissembling Hypocrites, and dishonour'd the Deity by their Traditions, and tho there had been Tables of Money-changers in the Court of the Temple? What was it to him, whether Sinners repented of their Sins, or not? Whether Men were Just and Merciful, or thought they could appease God only with vain Offerings? Whether the City that kill'd the Prophets, knew the things that belong'd to her Peace, or not? What could move him to shed Tears in such abundance at the thoughts of [Page 328] the approaching Destruction of Jerusalem? A sensi­ble and effectual Proof indeed of his being very much concern'd for her Salvation. What would it have signified to a few poor deluded Wretches, whether the Gentiles had the Knowledge of the true God, or not? To a Company of false Witnesses, whether Men were Cheats or Liars? To persons o­dious and had in abomination every where, whe­ther Men truly loved one another, or not? To the Victims of publick Hatred, whether Men were re­conciled to God or not? To such afflicted and dis­consolate Wretches, whether other Men were tru­ly made sensible of a Divine Comfort, and of the Peace of God which passeth all understanding? Who can imagin that those Men designed to be wicked, only to make us become honest? To deceive all Mankind on purpose to establish a sacred and invio­lable Law of Fidelity? To become the Enemies of their own Nation, to make us be in Charity with all Mankind? In a word, to establish a Religion in the World that tends wholly to the Sanctification of Mankind, by the most signal Imposture, and most heinous Crime that Men could be guilty of?

'Twould be strange, if such wicked and deceitful Men, as the Incredulous imagin the Apostles to have been, should have the least Thoughts of sancti­fying others: And 'twould be yet more surprizing if that Thought should be so fixed in their Minds, as to become a full and perfect design of venturing and losing all, to compass it. Nay, 'twould be next to a Miracle, if that Design should be put in execution; and yet more, 'twould be an unheard of Prodigy, if a continual succession of People should adhere to the same Principles, and continue in the same disposition of Mind against their own Interest, and in spite of the severest Persecutions. Certainly we may confidently say, that Imposture and Deceit [Page 329] never had such a design, or, the like success. For tho' self-love may have hitherto made use of Deceit and Falshood to effect its own Desires, without any regard had to Justice and Charity, so indispensably due to our Neighbour; it was yet never known, nor ever will be, that Charity made use of Impo­sture and Deceit to bring about its Designs for the good of others, without the least consideration of its own Interest and Desires. And to insist further upon it, would be to endeavour to add Light to the Sun, and prove a thing that is already as clear as Noon-day.

V. Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is Considered in it's Suitableness to the Necessi­ties of Mankind.

WE cannot seriously reflect upon our selves, without immediately discovering our own Weakness, Misery, and Corruption: Neither can we look upon the Christian Religion, without acknowledging that it was peculiarly designed to free us from those three Imperfections inherent in our Nature.

As to the Corruption of Man, it may be said that it was the only thing in the World that Men most knew, and yet at the same time were most ignorant of: For the effects of it were palpable and evident to the Senses. It was easily believed, that Men were very wicked and corrupt, when it was so manifest­ly seen that they committed so many enormous Crimes: But Men were still ignorant that there was a general Depravation from Nature in the Heart of every Man, that dispos'd him to the strangest Irre­gularities; and it has so happened that Men have made no great Reflexion upon the Nature of that Original Depravation so incident to Mankind, [Page 330] that it continually attends them from the Cradle to the Grave. They only concern'd themselves a­bout what was external, without searching into the bottom of their Hearts and Consciences.

But the Christian Religion gives us in that respect all necessary light: It teaches us that we are cor­rupt, and that that Corruption proceeds from our selves: It shews us the extent of it, and confirms what the Old Testament taught us, That all flesh had corrupted his way, Gen. 6. 12. It shews us that that Cor­ruption makes us subject to the Curse of God, and that we are by nature the children of wrath, Eph. 2. 3. It assures us that that Original Corruption has such power over Man's Heart, that it moves all the Faculties of his Soul, so that every imagination of the heart of man is only evil continually, Gen. 6. 5. Lastly, It shews us how impossible it is for Man ever to recover himself of that Malady so inveterate and deeply rooted within him; and that by repre­senting him to us as one that is lame, that has a Lethargy, that is dead in respect of Life, Holy­ness, and Justice; all which Truths we know too well by Reason and Experience.

How comes it then that the Christian Religion teacheth us such things as were so generally unknown to Mankind? Above all, how comes it to shew us so distinctly the true Principle of our own Corrup­tion? Who taught the Son of Mary that Self-love is the true Source and Original of all our Irregulari­ties? And why does he make Man to become an Enemy to himself?

Yet the Christian Religion not only teaches us to know Man, and thoroughly to search into all his Frailties, but also that alone furnishes us with such Remedies, as can cure all his Weaknesses and Imperfections.

[Page 331] For we can't see that any thing else can do it. Not Education, which is as often evil as good; not the Civil Laws, whose business is only to regulate outward actions; Nor the Law in general, which instead of removing, rather increases this Original Corruption, being in that respect like a Bank which causes the Flood to swell; Not the Decorum obser­ved among Men, which usually varies according to the diversity of Countries; Nor the Respect we commonly have for our selves, a thing too thin and metaphysical not to submit to the Sense of Plea­sure; Not Reason it self, which the Passions so easily corrupt; Nor the Example of Men, who commonly lead a very irregular life; Not worldly Honour, which regards only external Pomp and Grandeur; nor Lastly, Philosophy, which wants motives sufficient to effect it: or if it has any, it derives them all from our own Pride.

Must we then have recourse to the Virtues in fa­shion in the World? we may easily perceive that they are only Pride and Interest differently manag'd according to the various Turns and Affairs, since they have no other Motives but what they have from the World.

The Falshood of Human Virtues is a thing not to be disputed. We all know that Self-denial is only a piece of nice delicate Interest; Liberality, a meer Trade of Pride, which values no Gifts, provided it have the Glory of being liberal; Modesty, the Art of concealing our Vanity; Civility, but an affect­ed Preference of other Men before our selves, to conceal how much we really value our selves above all the world; Bashfulness, but an affected Silence in those things which our Lusts make us think of with pleasure, the desire of obliging other Men, but a secret desire of obliging our selves by getting them to befriend us another time; just as Impatience [Page 332] to acquit our selves of an Obligation, is but a Shamefacedness for having been too long behold­ing to others for some Favour received. So that all these Virtues in general are so many Guards Self-love makes use of to prevent our darling and secret Vices from appearing outwardly. What Remedy then can be brought for the Irregularities of our cor­rupt Nature, the pernicious Poyson of which secretly insinuates it self ev'n into our Virtuousactions? And who can cure such a Distemper, when the Remedies applied to it are rather a Disease than a Cure?

Experience shews us, that by effectually resisting one Vice, we often confirm and establish another. Would you destroy Avarice? you must attack it by such Arguments as necessarily flatter Pride. And is Pride to be overcome? it must be impugn'd by such Motives as encourage Avarice. In vain shall you strip Self-love of all it's pleasing Objects and Allurements; still it will endeavour to secure it self either by contemning the Goods of Fortune, or by shewing it's Moderation in patiently enduring Disgraces. Self-love when seated on the Throne, makes Tyrants; when reduc'd to Want and Poverty, it makes Philosophers, who despise every thing they can't enjoy. It oft indeed changes it's Object, but not it's Disposition. It's Pride (as I may say) out­lives its own Death, and not being able to pre­vent it's perishing it would seem to look pleasantly upon its Downfal, and as it were triumph in it's own Ruin. Who then can give this Hydra it's Deaths wound, when the lopping off one Head, serves only to give rise to another?

It is certain therefore that nothing can remedy this Corruption, unless it be more constant than the Principles of Education, more infallible than the Rules of Decency and Civility, more holy than the Civil Laws, which require only an outward Purity, [Page 333] and consult the exterior Good of publick Society? more powerful than all worldly Honour which regards only Pomp and Renown; more Effectual than all worldly Motives, which are unable to subvert those Passions, the Vanity of which they flatter; more strong than a vain and fruitless Wisdom, which pretends to free Man from his Misery by annihilating him, and has no other Motives but what proceed from the greatest of our Imperfections, our Pride. The Chri­stian Religion alone has all these Advantages, and con­sequently is alone suitable to the Necessities of Man.

It is that which purifies the very Bottom of our Consciences, by shewing us that it is to no pur­pose to cleanse the Outside of the Cup and the Plat­ter. It reforms our Principles, by making a Tem­poral Interest give place to an Eternal one, and ex­tinguishing the desire of an imaginary by the hopes of a real Immortality. It proposes to us an un­alterable Rule and a true Model of Perfection to go by. It informs us that we have both a Judge and a Witness of all our actions, who discovers us, tho' in the Dark, and cover'd as it were with a Cloud; whose piercing Eye sees through all our Pretences and Disguises, who forces us to know our selves, to combat and mortify our Desires; and that, whe­ther we are seen or not seen, whether the World approves or condemns our Actions; God being Essentially independent from all outward Objects, and not limited by any exteriour Circumstances.

And indeed what but such an infinite Deity could have supplied us with such a Remedy, so effectual, and so suitable to all our Wants and Necessities? For Misery and Wretchedness are the portion of our Corruption; and he that cannot shake off the latter, will certainly always be subject to the two former.

Nor is it sufficient to say that Man is miserable▪ We may add that he is in some measure the very [Page 334] Center of Misery. We see that whilst all other Animals peaceably enjoy those good things Nature has allotted them, Men seem to be in some respect mark'd out for Misery by the hand of Divine Justice; they are equally dissatisfied as well with what they possess, as what they possess not: They are terrified with the Idea they have of Death; tormented with the consideration of Futurity; af­flicted that they are unable to fix Time, which bears them away with it as it rolls on; Miserable for what they know, or rather for not knowing more; mortified and disappointed in their Desires, tormented with Remorses, affronted and injured by their Fellow-Creatures, and harrass'd by the continu­al Inquietudes of their Heart: In a word, they enjoy Peace and Tranquility no longer than they can deceive themselves with a Scene of imaginary Bliss, and frame to themselves false Ideas of their present Condition.

And this desire of imposing thus upon our selves, in fancying our Happiness greater than it is, makes us vainly imagin we should be less miserable, if we were in the condition of those that are far a­bove us. But Experience soon undeceives us, and shews that the distant Prospect of Honour and Riches gives more pleasure and delight than a near­er possession of them; and that the Hope of enjoy­ing them makes us more truly happy, than their Fruition; which excellently shews us the Emptiness and Insufficiency of all such temporal Advantages.

Nor do we think it enough to deceive our selves in respect of our Condition, but endeavour also to deceive others by making them entertain a vast Idea of our Merit, or our Happiness; and through a certain Weakness to be pitied, we afterwards make use of that Esteem and Respect we have acci­dentally and unawares extorted from others, to im­pose [Page 335] more effectually upon our selves, and enlarge that Chimerical Idea of our own Perfection, which Self-love entertains in our Breasts with so much com­placency and satisfaction. Who then can direct our Minds, or clear our Undestanding in this inex­tricable and continued Maze of Illusions and Errors, the false Principles of a false Satisfaction? And who can find Remedy for so great a Misery? Since bare­ly to bring us acquainted with it, would serve only to increase it.

The Christian Religion then having the Character of performing all this, is certainly a Religion truly Divine; and is it not strange that it should make Man happy by teaching him how to know Himself, and to remove his Misery by shaking off his Igno­rance, especially when that Ignorance is the cause of his Tranquility and Satisfaction? Yet we ought not to wonder at it, since Religion gives us a new Pros­pect of things, and much different from what we ever had before. It makes us patiently endure Dis­eases, by discovering to us the Cause and Design of them. It comforts us in all our sudden and unex­pected Disgraces, by assuring us that nothing can come to pass without the Dispensation of God's Pro­vidence, who turns all things to our advantage: It humbles us in Prosperity, and supports us in Affli­ctions: It eases the Troubles of our Heart, by calming our Passions: It strengthens us against the Fear of Death, by teaching us to consider it as a Passage to a far better Life: It comforts our Con­sciences by it's Promises: It continually attends us in all Times, in all Places; and in all Dangers, strengthens us; in our Solitude hinders us from fal­ling into deep Melancholy and Sorrow, when we consider our selves, and what shall be our future State; and Lastly, comforts and chears us upon our Death-bed, where alone it serves us indeed instead [Page 336] of all things, when the Charms of Self-love are at an end, and the Scene of the World begins for ever to vanish out of our sight. And truly we must be wilfully blind, if we perceive not the Divine Au­thor of that Religion, which at once shews us so well our own Misery, and gives us such excellent Remedies for all the Imperfections of our Nature.

Nor does it less enlighten our Understanding in respect of our Wretchedness, another Consequence of our Corruption. For is not Man strangely wretch­ed and contemptible, when in his own natural State, he neither knows what he himself is, nor what he should be, but is continually taken up with Con­cerns unworthy his Nature; full of Projects and No­tions but of a Moment's concern; unable to bear long the consideration of himself, and incapable of living without the help of Others?

Yet to speak the Truth, it must be confess'd that there are such Sentiments implanted in Man that plainly discover some Greatness in him, even through his Weakness and Ʋnworthiness. His Mind indeed is often taken up with the meanest Objects; yet can't be satisfied with the consideration of the greatest: He cannot subsist without other Men's help; yet endeavours to be esteem'd by all, desiring to diffuse himself every where by a sort of Immensity, which he derives only from the Author of his Being. He is buried as it were in the Cares of this Life; yet since he finds every thing in it disproportionable to his Nature, his Thoughts aspire to Eternity; and tho perhaps he is ignorant of any true and real one, he frames at least an imaginary one to himself, and would feign out-live his Days in spite of Death, by immortalizing himself in the remembrance of Men. Who then can reconcile Man to Himself? How come such lofty Sentiments to be joyned with so much Wretchedness and Misery? Or why should a [Page 337] Being so mean and humble, have such great and ele­vated Notions?

If we consult the Christian Religion we shall soon be satisfied in this Point. For the first Rudi­ments of it will solve all the seeming Riddles. It will teach us that Man consists of two Parts, Body and Soul, whose qualities and parts are very diffe­rent: The Body makes him a Member of the Ma­terial World, from whence he derives his Wretch­edness and Misery: In his Soul he bears the Image of God, which is the Foundation of his real Good­ness.

If the Mind be subject to Matter, we see only his Imperfections, and find nothing but a Sensitive Man in him; but if the Body be wholly subject to the Soul, then only the Greatness and Glory of the Soul appears; and we find a Spiritual Man in him. Whatever therefore may be said concerning the Greatness of Man, becomes an incredible Para­dox if applied to his outward and carnal part: And whatever may be said concerning his Imperfection and Unworthiness, will be utterly false if applied to him as a Being glorious and purely Spiritual.

But in our present State the Soul and Body are in a continual War: Sometimes the Excellence and Greatness of Man's Nature, and sometimes the Weak­ness and Ʋnworthiness of it appears, according as the Flesh or Spirit are predominant and this serves for a certain Rule to judge of Mans Perfection or Imperfection, that every thing is great and noble in him, that brings the Flesh in subjection to the Spirit; and every thing seems vile and contempti­ble, that basely brings the Spirit in subjection to the Flesh.

For what sort of Greatness can we find in the latter? and wherein consists the Excellence of his outward qualifications, by which alone he endea­vours [Page 338] to procure the Esteem of other Men? Not in the Antiquity of his Original, for that brings him but the nearer to his primitive Nothing, or to the Clay out of which he was first formed. He betrays his weak Judgment in esteeming so much the Original of his Body, and not regarding that of his Soul. As for the Goods of Fortune, they swell his Heart with Pride, and therefore he values himself more for what he enjoys, than for what he really is. Suppose him a Conquerour, or if you please, Lord of the Ʋniverse; But alas that can be of no great continu­ance. His Reason indeed exalts him far above all other Creatures; but even that Reason is a Slave to his Scnses; his Passions deject rather than elevate him: Ambition is a Weakness which makes him unable to rule his Desires; Pride an Imperfection, which so possesses his Mind that he cannot pass by the least Affront to his Reputation; Avarice a base fear of future want, a limited Consideration of Self-love, that forgets it self, to think better upon what is least valuable in its condition; The Punctilios of Honour, a vain Imperfection, that makes an Idol of it self; That Valour which affronts Death, nothing but a Mans strangely forgetting himself, and being insensible of the Dangers that surround him: And Lastly, all the Passions but so many Deviations from the End we ought to pursue; so many Disorders and Irregularities of the Soul, as appears fully by what we have said elsewhere concerning the End for which Man was orginally designed.

And tho' these be all Moral Truths, they are not the less certain. Experience confirms them, and [...]he free confession of the Incredulous, who are glad of any Opportunity of making us observe all these signs and characters of our Wretchedness and Misery, thinking thereby to persuade us that so [Page 339] miserable a Creature was not designed for such a glorious End as we imagin.

But let them only consider how truly great Man is, when he submits the Lusts of the Flesh to the Rule of the Spirit, and they'll be asham'd of their false Opinions: They'll find him indeed a Being that had a Beginning, but yet one that glories in God as the Author of it: They'll find him an Atom that raises it's self above all other Creatures, by running back to it's first Author, and paying him Homage for it's Unworthiness: A Worm that has the Honour of referring it's self to the Glory of God, to which also all other Beings are re­ferr'd, but without knowing it. They'll find him a Being that is indeed Mortal, carries it's Hopes be­yond Death: A Being that is finite; yet it's Desires and Intentions are unlimited: A small quantity of Earth will cover his Body, yet nothing but Immen­sity will satisfy his Soul: He possesses all things, for he calls himself the Son of him that created all things: He is not to be rank'd among those Crea­tures which grow proud by promotion, or cannot be humble without debasing themselves. He is great, but not proud, because he knows his Natural Vile­ness; and he is humble, but not base, because he is sensible of his true Greatness and Worth. He has made such a Covenant with his God, as the De­struction of the Body is not able to dissolve. Tho' he conqers not Kingdoms, nor razes Cities, yet he is able to overcome those Passions which have produced the like effects. He sacrifices to God those very Passions to which Men heretofore sacri­ficed all their Possessions: He esteems not a Crown, and the highest Dignities are of no Value in his Thoughts: He quits a Throne to equal himself to Shepherds, and tho' but a Shepherd he thinks him­self as great as the most powerful Monarch. What [Page 340] the World admires, is but a Dream to him. Tho he enjoys the greatest Titles, yet has he the same humble Thoughts of himself. Should the World afflict him on every side, it cannot lessen his Opini­on of himself. He raises himself above what he sees to humble himself in the sight of God, who is in­visible: He possesses Eternity, tho he exists in Time: He is a Child of God, tho he lives amongst Men: He is sensible of his Exaltation above all other Be­ings, but he is truly Great in his own Humility. Thus the Christian Religion not only shews us Man's Excellence, but is also the Cause of it, by making the meanest part of our Nature subservient to the nobler. He therefore that utterly renounces all Religion, loses the perfection of his Nature; and the less he believes, the more he debases himself below other Creatures.

'Tis therefore the Christian Religion alone that shews us the Cure as well as the Disease; that pro­duces our hidden Virtues and unmasks our Vices; that discovers to us our Misery, and frees us from it; that puts an end to all the Wretchedness of our Na­ture, by making us truly sensible of it; that makes us great by making us humble; that fits it self to all the Conditions of Life, and satisfies all the De­sires of our Hearts. In a word, it is the Christian Religi­on that sanctifies us, exalts us, and compleats all our Wishes; and tho Men and Angels should joint­ly endeavour to contrive a more excellent one, and more suitable to our Wants and Necessities than this, 'tis certain they could never accomplish their Design.

VI Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is consider'd in the Relation it bears to the Glory of God.

IT is with the Deity as with the Sun, which being bright in it self, diffuses abroad it's Glory by it's Beams, and imprints upon the Clouds, or Waters, an imperfect Image of it self; which Image tho it wants the full Splendor of it's Original, is yet pure, agree­able, and adorn'd with sufficient Brightness and Ma­jesty.

The Deity has an essential Glory, consisting in it's supereminent Virtues and infinite Perfections, to which nothing can be superadded; and the Brightness of it is more than Man can bear. This Glory streaming from the eternal Author of All things, diffuses it self abroad in all his Works, and forms out of the bright Efflux of those Beams which strike by reflexion upon us, and are united into the Heart of Man, an Image of that refulgent and im­mortal Sun; which Image tho it has not all it's full, perfect, and dazling Splendor, is yet pure, bright, lively and transcendent. And this Glory is what we call the Christian Religion; easily prov'd to be so, in that it refers it self solely to the Glory of God, and is as it were a lively Image and Transcript of His Perfection, and Our Duty.

This Religion is alone capable of undeceiving Man, by removing those false Notions, they had so long entertain'd of the Deity. This alone discovers the true Nature of God, removes all Symbols, Types, Shadows, material and sensible Appearances, under which he was Worship'd; all which were more pro­per to disguise, than discover the true Nature of [Page 342] the Deity. It gives us some insight into that Na­ture, by assuring us that God is invisible; and re­moves him from our Senses, to make him the Object of our Ʋnderstanding.

'Tis this Religion alone that discovers that Eter­nal Counsel of God, so full of Mercy and Consola­tion to us, that he sent his Son into the World, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 'Tis this alone that glorifies God in his Attributes, and shews distinctly their infinite Perfection. By this alone we are taught that God governs all things by his Providence; that he makes Evil it self instr [...]mental to our Good; that by his Goodness he supplies all our Necessities; that our Sins being inconsistent with his Truth and Justice, he cannot consequently bear with them, and yet that his Mercy and Compassion is without Bounds.

It teaches, us not only that we are bound to Worship God and serve him, but assures us also that this was the End of our Creation. It teaches us to ask of him, above all things, the advance­ment of his own Glory, and to begin our Petitions with this Form, Hallowed be thy Name; Thy King­dom come; Thy Will be done. It requires of us that we should glorify him, not only with our Lips, or barely by our spiritual Songs, but with all our Thoughts, Words, and Works. It shews us, that there is no Creature but what is under his Providence; no Sin but what may fall under his Justice; no Sinner but what may experience his Mercy; no motion or in­clination to [...]ty, but what ought to be attributed to the Efficacy of his Grace; nor no unlawful Acti­on but what will one day fall under his Judgment.

It discovers to us such Miracles as glorify his infi­nite Power, such Events as clearly manifest the Won­ders of his Providence, such Benefits as evince his Goodness and Mercy; and it allows all his Divine [Page 343] Attributes (a thing before unknown to Man) their just Extent, that is, an Extent without Limits. Now from whence can proceed those Ideas we have of the Eternity of God, of his Immensity, Omnipotence, his infinite Knowledge, and Immutability, &c. but from this Divine Religion?

No other Religion could at once elevate both God and Man. It shews us how admirably Man is united to God, and God to Man. It alone induces us to submit our Will to God, to acquiesce without any murmuring to the Decrees of his Providence, and to direct all our Desires and Affections to him as our supream Good. Men indeed heretofore en­deavour'd to honour their Deities by Offering Beasts as a Sacrifice: But was it ever known before, that they were to glorify God by the Sacrifice of them­selves? And what other Religion but this, could incite Men to Offer such a Sacrifice, in which there seems to be so much Pain and Reluctance?

Certainly, unless we wilfully blind our Selves, 'tis a thing incredible that we should not perceive; that the Christian Religion is as it were a pure and spiritual Communion between the Perfections and Attributes of God, which make Man sensible of their effects; and the inward sense of Man's Heart, which glorifies God. Neither Flesh and Blood; Neither the World, Nature, or Education, were forcible enough to produce so great and sublime an Effect; and this can be the Work of none but him, who perfectly knew the agreement of all things, and was certain that our Hearts were wholly made for the Glory of God, and that the Sentiments of his Glory were to be imprinted in our Hearts only by the help of Religion.

VII Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in its Morality.

WEre we never so little acquainted with what passes within us, we should not only find that the two principal Faculties of our Soul, the Sensitive, and Intellectual Apetite by consent alter­nately deceive one another; but we should also per­ceive that it is almost impossible to undertake to rectify the one, without increasing the Disorders of the other.

If by the Knowledge of those things we were before ignorant of, we remove the Darkness of our Understanding, we usually then grow proud of our Learning: And if we satisfy our Desires by sooth­ing our Passions, we often cherish the most danger­ous Principles of Errour and Prejudice that obscure the Light of the Understanding. And 'tis a Truth but too well experienced, that the Know­ledge which enlightens the Understanding, often corrupts the Heart; and a Sin indulg'd in, which satisfies the Heart corrupts the Understanding.

And this is the cause of the ill Success those Men have met with, who endeavour'd to regulate the Desires of Man. For some observ'd not the Dictates of Right Reason, in being too indulgent to their Passions, as the Epicureans, who making Pleasure the only End of Man, debase him to a Brute to render him more happy. Others were puff'd up with a kind of Spiritual Pride in ascribing the know­ledge of too many things to their Reason; such were the Stoicks, who forgot that they were Men, because they had such a deep penetration of Mind, and attempted to exalt Man above himself, by infa­tuating him with the Conceits of his own Wisdom.

[Page 345] But God, who knows best what Remedies are most proper for us, has given us a Religion which satisfies the Heart, without corrupting the Ʋnder­standing, and enlarges the Ʋnderstanding without corrupting the Heart; and that because it satisfies, and yet mortifies; it enlightens, and yet confounds the Understanding. If to the Understanding seve­ral great and sublime Truths are revealed, it has not therefore any pretence to exalt it self; because it knows that Knowledge to be above its Capacity, and ows it only to Revelation. If the Heart finds the Objects of Religion answerable to it's infinite De­sires, it has no reason to be puffed up by them; be­cause those Objects destroy its darling Passions and vitious Inclinations. So that the only means to en­lighten, and at the same time humble our Under­standing, was to intermix some Obscurity with the Light of Revelation; and the only way to satisfy the Heart, and prevent its being puffed up, was to qualify some sorrowful and mortifying Duties with the extraordinary Promises of the Gospel. Thus the Severity of Christian Morality, and the Obscu­rity of its Mysteries are two different means which God has made use of to enlighten the Understand­ing, without puffing up the Heart, and to satisfy the Desires of the Heart without flatering those Passions which corrupt the Understanding. Which manifestly shews, that the Christian Religion has not only the Divine Stamp upon it, since it contains the true manner of reforming and regulating the De­sires of Mans Heart; but also that the Severity of the Christian Morality, and the Difficulty of its My­steries, which shock the Incredulous most in the Principles of Christianity, were purposely made use of by God in his eternal Wisdom, as the most pro­per Means to sanctify Mankind, which is the grand Design of the Christian Religion.

[Page 346] We have then here the Two most essential and most important parts of our Religion, Its Morality, and Mysteries: The latter are necessary in respect of Faith, and the former is the Rule of those Du­ties which God is pleased we shall perform, as a Means to attain Everlasting Life. It would be superfluous to lay down here at large, what Do­ctrin or Precepts are contained in the Gospel, because it has pleased God that we cannot pretend any Ig­norance of them; and besides, 'tis the Truth of Re­ligion in general we are now treating of; we are oblig'd to speak here only of Christian Morality, and the Doctrin of Faith in general.

As for the Morality of Christ, it has so many remarkable Characters, that it is impossible to re­flect upon any of them, without immediatly acknow­ledging its Divinity.

For, I. 'Tis it seems a Paradox to the Senses, to the Heart, to the Mind, and Nature of Man. It was never before heard of or known, that a Man must take up his Cross, and think those Blessed that are poor in Spirit; that mourn, and are persecuted for Righteousness sake; that we must love our Enemies, and pray for them that shall revile and persecute us; that we must not only comfort our selves in the midst of our Afflictions and Crosses, but also rejoyce for being thus afflicted, and esteem our Happiness and Glory the greater, as our Sufferings are increas­ed. Men, I say, had never such Thoughts before; and the Puradoxes of the Stoicks are nothing to these; for here we find, to our great surprize, that a few poor Fishermen, rustick in their Speech, preach such Maxims abroad as are as far above the ordinary Capacity of the Understanding, as they are contrary to the Affections and Inclinations of the Heart.

[Page 347] II. 'Tis observable, that Christian Morality seems to be a very sad and mortifying thing. For it curbs and restrains all our Passions: Self-love repines at it: Ʋoluptuousness can't endure it. Pride is whol­ly humbled and mortified by it; and those who seem to allow of it most, cannot but privately hate it, when ever their Hearts are engaged in any Pas­sion. It has been often observ'd, that there have been Christians in all Ages, who attempted to per­vert the sense of it, by putting such Glosses and In­terpretations upon it as were more conformable to their Inclinations, than to the Truth it self; and by endeavouring to extirpate it at least indirectly, when they durst not attempt it in a more open man­ner. But let no man imagin that this Morality was offered to the World under any Disguise. Christ, who among so many other wonderful Characters of his Calling, has a very remarkable one, and that is, never to flatter the loose Inclinations of Men, plain­ly declares, that whosoever will be thought his Dis­ciple, must pluck out his Eyes, and cut off his Hands; must hate himself, deny himself, nay even hate his own Soul, &c. Expressions which explain one an­other, and certify us that the Pains and Torments the observers of his Morality must undergo, are like unto those which Men endure when they cut off their Arms, or pluck out their Eyes, or are in a manner separated from Themselves. There is nothing in all this, like the cunning Address and subtle Man­agement of Men in the World, when they endea­vour to establish new Doctrins; and it evidently appears that Christ alone is a Teacher come from God.

III. The better to comprehend this, it is obser­vable, that all the Principles of Christian Religion de­pend upon Humility as their chief Foundation. For if we pretend to the qualification of Christ's Disci­ples, [Page 348] we must be meek, single in heart, poor in Spirit, weary and heavy laden, little in our own Conceits, Lambs, little Children in Innocence and want of Malice, and Servants of other Men. Christ has u­nited two different qualities, before not easily recon­cilable, the Humility of the Heart, and the Light of the Understanding, charging us to be wise as Ser­pents, and harmless as Doves. 'Tis manifest this U­nion was necessary for the true Sanctification of Mankind, a Secret indeed Men had not yet been able to find out. There have been some who have for­saken their Interest, and have been either burnt, or had their Arms and Hands cut off, who durst en­counter Death it self supported by Pride and a vain hope of Glory, which they prefer'd before all things: But it was never known that Men had so little Self-love, as to sacrifice their Lives, unless at the same time they could make their Name immortal: Such a Miracle is only to be produced by the Christian Mo­rality.

IV. After what has been said, we shall have less Reason to wonder that this Morality roots up every Vice, since all Vices proceed either from Pride or Ʋoluptuousness. This Morality then, which subverts the former by the severe Mortifications of Repen­tance, and destroys the latter by the Ideas it gives us of the Greatness and Perfection of God, as op­posed to our Wretchedness and Misery; I say this Morality contains every thing absolutely necessary to extirpate our Vices in their first Rise, and stifle them even in their Birth. We may also affirm, that it comprehends all in one word; and that our Sa­viour by giving this Command, thou shalt not Covet, its full extent, and so carefully enjoyning the Purity of the Heart and Conscience, in opposition to the false Gloss and Interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees, who neglected the Inside, and took care [Page 349] only to keep the Outside clean; has established the true Principle of our Sanctification, which few Peo­ple were before acquainted with, and none put themselves to any great trouble or enquiry to find out.

V. And this is another divine Character of the Christian Morality, that in two words it establishes the Principle of all Christian Virtues. A little knowledge of Mans Heart will teach us that Self-love ascribes every thing to it self, and prefers us before God, to whose Glory all our Actions should tend as to their common Center. It sacrifices every thing to it self: It desires every thing, and blind­ly led astray by its own Inclinations seeks even those things that are contrary to its own good: All its Motions are but so many Mediums to this End; so many eager Wishes for what is not its own; so ma­ny Transports for Glory, or Pleasure, its greatest Object; so many secret Steps to attain them, or so many Hypocritical Self-denials, whose chief End is to carry that by surprize which they seemingly re­fuse. Whether the Body wallows in voluptuousness, or whether there is such a false pleasure in Pride, as obscures the Light of the Understanding, and casts a Mist before the Soul; whether Interest makes us steal, or Hipocrisy teaches us to over reach People, or Ambition makes us attempt to gain what is not our own; Give things what Name you please, both Virtues and Vices in the Hearts of Worldly-mind­ed Men, are but so many Means which Self-love makes them interchangably use to carry on their In­terest. What then is to be done to reform these Irregularities, and establish a Principle of Virtue as true and equitable as Self-love, the Spring of them, is impure and corrupt? Oblige Men only to love God above all things.

[Page 350] For as the Preference of our Selves before God is as it were the Source and Spring of all Vices; so without doubt the Preference of God before our Selves will give life and rise to all other Virtues. The Love of God will reform all the Irregularities of Self-love, which will be no more culpable in ascrib­ing every thing to it self, when we shall dedicate and give up our Selves, our Thoughts and Actions to God. Self-love will no longer be blindly igno­rant of its true Interest, which consists in carefully pleasing him, from whom we have received all things. A Man can't love God, without delight­ing to reflect upon him, nor reflect upon him, with­out humbling himself before him. He that loves God, will certainly raise himself above his Passions, disdain to indulge every vitious Inclination of his Heart, and by living conformably to the Divine Will in all Justice and Temperance, endeavour to be like that perfect Deity, whose bright Image he bears. Thus we see what solid Virtues proceed from the love of God. But how comes it that Christ made so happy a Choice, and had so good Success, in establishing the Foundation of his Mo­rality?

VI. To be satified in this, and be assured of his Success, we need only follow the Notions his Mora­lity gives us of Virtue, to attain to the true Prin­ciple of Happiness. Men had too long in vain ex­pected the happy conjunction of two things, which Nature and Reason tell us ought to have been joyn­ed together: And because they had no solid Virtue, therefore had they no real Felicity. Their Happi­ness was answerable to their imaginary Virtues; and as those Virtues were but a Compound of Pride, so their Felicity was but a false vain Joy, pleasing yet empty, overcoming and deluding the Senses, but not satisfying the Mind. And this Brutus him­self [Page 351] freely owned at his Death. But the Satisfaction we reap from the Christian Morality is excellently suited to the Solidity of those Virtues it prescribes, and the Spirit of Holiness is the Essential Principle of our Felicity. In following the way to Virtue, which Christ has set down, we follow also that which leads us to Happiness. If we take away Concupis­cence, we cut off a fruitful Source of Misery, and remove an infinite number of Cares and Troubles which tend to that as to their Center. If we love God as we ought, we shall take as much pleasure in the Advancement of his Glory, in the Contemplati­on of his infinite Perfections and Felicity, as if we possessed them all our selves. We shall delight as much in the Contemplation of the Beauty and Mag­nificence of the World, as a Son in the sight of the Greatness and noble Magnificence of his Father's Possessions. The Glory of God will then be our Glory; his Advantages will seem to be ours; and by making him the fole Object of our Love, we shall at last be made partakers of his infinite Felici­ty. Reason and Experience teach us that these are most undeniable Truths.

For since Experience assures us, that he who loves any Object, derives his Satisfaction from the know­ledge of it; a Man must doubtless necessarily be happy in loving God, since he finds in that single Ob­ject every thing that is capable of supplying his Ne­cessities. He lives securely, because he relies upon God: He fears not the loss of any thing, knowing that every thing passes away; but that God alone remains always the same. The consideration of fu­turity disturbs him not in the least, because God abideth for ever. He delights in Solitariness, be­cause he has thereby the greater opportunity to entertain himself with God. He is not dejected with Fear or Despair at any Afflictions, looking upon [Page 352] them as so many fatherly Chastisements, or Trials of his Patience, which all conduce to his Welfare and Preservation: He is certain that he shall possess Joy and Immortality, because he knows that all those things are eminently in God. Turn the Matter which way you please, it is impossible for us to love God, without being intirely pleased and thus de­lighted with him; which we cannot be, without a full and entire Satisfaction, such a one as those Men have, who think they want for nothing, and that they have found comprehended in one Object what­ever they could desire.

It is therefore certain, that the Idea of our Duty leads us to the very Principle of Happiness; a clear Demonstration of the Justness of that Duty, and an undeniable Proof that the Morality which so re­commends it to our practice and observance, must necessarily be pure, sound and true.

VII. But 'tis not sufficient that the Measure of Virtue, which Christ prescribes us as the Foundation of the Law and the Gospel, should be the Measure of the particular Happiness of every individual Per­son; it farther establishes the Prosperity and Wel­fare of publick Society; and by a happy Privilege it has above all other Virtues, it causes the publick Good to concur with the Advancement of the Pri­vate, and the private with that of the publick. For instance, what will follow from the practice of Charity, which enjoyns us to love God with all our Heart, and with all our Mind, and our Neighbour as our Selves? The Result of it will be, that every Man's Interest shall be the same; that there shall reign no Hatred or Animosities, no Jealousy or Competition amongst them; that every Man will thank God for the Blessings that others have received at his hands; that Charity will make every thing our own; that we shall be happy in other Men's Ad­vantages, [Page 353] as a Son in the Prosperity of his Father, and a Father in that of his Son; that a publick So­ciety will make but one Family more closely united, since Charity can make those things equal that hu­mane Passions had before distinguish'd, and much the happier, since the Happiness of one single Person shall be enjoy'd by all, and the Happiness of all by each single Person.

'Tis easy to foresee what Objections our Incredu­lous Adversaries will make. They will say, that Christian Morality is undoubtedly a very fine Idea of true Perfection; but very unprofitable; since it is so far raised above our ordinary Strength and Capacity. The Answer to this Objection depends upon those Reflections we shall continue to make up­on the Characters of this Morality.

VIII. We therefore assert, that altho by reason of the continual Warfare betwixt the Flesh and the Spirit, we cannot observe this Christian Morali­ty in its full Perfection, and consequently cannot be sensible of the advantages which accrue to us from it in their utmost extent, it is enough if by observ­ing it according to our present condition, it pro­cures us a thousand advantageous Effects, which clearly demonstrate, that it is not a meer Idea: And this is such an undeniable Truth as is daily confirmed by Experience; so true it is that the strict observance of this Divine Morality tends to our Pro­fit and Welfare, that Parents themselves wish it to their Children; Husbands to their Wives, and Wives to their Husbands; Servants to their Ma­sters, and Masters to their Servants; Princes to their Subjects, and Subjects to their Princes; Creditors to their Debtors, and Debtors to their Creditors, as the Principle of Fidelity, Love, Ʋnion, Virtue, and even of Joy and Satisfaction.

[Page 354] Self-love indeed looks upon it as a meer Idea, e­specially when it commands it to shake off its evil Inclinations, and thinks it self not able to observe it strictly; but still it thinks it very just, reasona­ble and perfect, when there is occasion to reform other men's Imperfections and Vices; and it is well pleased to see (if it be not extreamly degenerated into the worst Irregularities) that that Bridle suf­ficiently curbs, at least in other Men, their Concu­piscence and unruly Passions, whose End is only to confound, ruin and violate all things.

IX. But that which wholly secures Christian Mo­rality from the Reproach it might be charged with in this respect, is that it is it self either endowed with such Strength as must necessarily exalt the Souls of Men, or contains such Objects, which together with the efficacy of that Spirit which continually attends them, outweigh the most sensible Objects, and that passionate Inclination we all have for the World. Philosophers indeed may be very justly charged with this Reproach, namely, that their Morality is meer Speculation, because their excellent Maxims have no Motives powerful enough to support them. They tell us, 'tis true, that we must overcome our Selves, and renounce our evil Desires; but if once they are asked the reason of it, they are much perplexed how to solve the Query. It cannot be denied, but that their Morality is very Excellent; but the Motives that induce Men to observe it, are weak; and a lit­tle Renown acquired in practising that Virtue they so strictly recommend, as also the Title of Wisemen, and that abundance of Vanity always concomitant with it, are very weak Inducements to constrain the Heart of Man to deprive it self of its darling beloved Passions.

But it is not so with the Morality of Christ, which is wonderfully supported by the Motives it lays be­fore [Page 355] us. Every thing is coherent in it, and all the Parts proportionable. It requires our Observance of many hard and mortifying Duties. It curbs the Affections of the Heart, and mortifies the Flesh. But since that cannot be done without great Difficulty and more than ordinary Endeavours, it promises us a magnificent and glorious Reward. The Great­ness of the Promise is supported by many terrible Threatnings, and both these Objects are confirmed by such Favours, as are very proper to gain our Affections.

The Blessings are a sure Token of the Truth of the Promises; and the Truth of these makes us believe that of the Threatnings. I grant, the Promises of a blessed Life and Immortality, which we find in the Gospel, are very great and glorious; but still not greater than that which Jesus made to Two of his Disciples, when he called them unto him, saying, Come after me, and I will make you Fishers of Men. There was less probability that a few poor ignorant Fishermen should have been able to catch in their Nets, the Doctrin, Authority, Wit and Eloquence of Men, than that we should see God after Death.

The Truth of his Promises cannot subsist with­out that of his Threatnings; and 'tis evident, when he promises that the pure in Heart shall see him, he threatens also to exclude those that are not so, from the beatific Vision.

Let not Men therefore slatter themselves; let them shake off their Unbelief of the severe Punish­ments that attend the wicked after this Life. Their Reason will tell them, that God can do no less than banish those his Presence, who have persisted in a wilful design of offending him by their Sins, and that such a Banishment is attended with the greatest of all Miseries, and that is, eternal Death. The Stings of Conscience convince us of this, and the [Page 356] Promises of God inform us of it. His Justice points it out to us: His Law teaches it, and the Gospel con­firms it. The very Nature of things will not suffer us to doubt it, since God cannot direct Man to the true end of his Creation, without revealing himself to him; and he cannot reveal himself to him, with­out making his Will known to him according as he pleases; nor can he make his Will known to him, without giving him a Law; nor give him a Law, without annexing to it such Motives as must be ei­ther Promises, or Threatnings deeply engraven'd in the Conscience, if they accompany the Law of Na­ture; but deliver'd in writing if they follow the written Law; nor can he make such Promises or Threatnings unto Men, without being punctual in the accomplishment of them. And can we have any greater Certainty than that which is so visibly founded upon the Veracity of God, and the Nature of things themselves?

There is nothing therefore capable to free Man from this Necessity, and it is to no purpose to al­ledge his Meanness and Wretchedness; for that Circumstance rather aggravates the Crime, than excuses it, it being impudent beyond all pardon for a Traytour to plead Innocence, because he is a Pea­sant and not a Lord. It will be also in vain to lay the Fault upon the evil Temperament of Body and Mind. For if either submits to those Reasons which you have for committing no indecent action before a Sovereign, and if that and all its Passions are calm, when you fall into any Danger, or expect Sentence of Death; there is the same Reason that the Presence, the Will, and Judgments of God should have the same effect upon it. Nor will Ignorance be any Ex­cuse. It would indeed justifie you (if it were not only a bare pretence) as it does Brutes, Children and Ideots. But what Man knows not his Duty? [Page 357] 'Tis also in vain to rely on the Mercy of God; for that extends not to impenitent Sinners; and the Almighty saves only those that desire and endeavour to be saved. Lastly, 'Tis meer folly to assert that eternal Punishments are disproportionable to the weakness of our Nature. For is not God himself eternal, whom you have offended? And is not your Soul also eternal that has Sinned against him? Self-love however blinded thinks not life eternal a thing disagreeable, and imagins nothing in it dispropor­tionable to our Condition. But 'tis shock'd at the Thoughts of everlasting Pains, and therefore willing to believe them improbable Dreams and Whimsies. But why it does so, is hard to be ima­gin'd, unless we suppose its design to be at any rate to impose upon it self.

In the mean while since you can neither destroy the Eternity of God, or the Soul, which Reason it self forces you to acknowledge, you must either suppose that the Soul is to dwell eternally with God, or that it must be eternally banished from his Pre­sence; that is, that it must live, or die eternally. For to live with God is to enjoy the greatest Perfe­ction of Happiness, and to be banished his Presence, is certainly the greatest Misery that can be thought of. As soon as we know the Existence of God, that the Soul has no Parts, and that 'tis incapable of any Dissolution; that its Nature, altogether di­stinct from that of Matter, cannot be buried un­der the Ruins of the Body, it is then very hard for us to oppose the Doctrin, which the Gospel teaches us concerning the State of the Soul after Death. Nay, we are so far from impugning of it, that there is even a Necessity incumbent upon us readily to embrace the same. For if the Souls of the Wick­ed, together with those of the Good, are equally to be banished the Presence of God, then Reason, Na­ture, [Page 358] and all our other Knowledge impose upon us, in giving us Hope of a future Reward. And if the Souls both of the Wicked and the Good are to en­joy alike the Presence of Almighty God, then too those very Principles delude us, in making us dread his pretended Judgments; and so Gods Justice and Veracity, together with all our other Know­ledge, are at an end. To avoid therefore falling into such an impious Assertion, we must own, that the Souls of the Good are to dwell for ever with God; but that contrariwise, those of the Wicked are to be banished his Presence, and in owning this we affirmthe only thing in the World that is most agreeable to all our Knowledge, and most visibly flows from the nature of things themselves.

The Blessings of God excellently answer his libe­ral Promises, and the formidable Severity of his Punishments. All the Creatures of this visible World conspire together to do us good: And besides all the temporal Blessings daily conferr'd upon us, besides the whole Earths being replenished with the Know­ledge of the true God; the Hearts of Men are sancti­fied, their Souls comforted, the Gospel preached throughout the whole World, the Son of God died for our Offences, and was raised for our Justification; our crucified Saviour came out of the Grave to bring us Peace from God, and seal the Truth of his Gospel by his frequent Apparitions after his Death; there was a visible and frequent Effusion of the Gifts of the Holy Ghost upon Men, a multitude of Martyrs sent from God to reclaim the World by their Ex­amples and Conversation, from Vice and Idolatrous Superstition; all these things, I say, are such Bles­sings as are wonderfully suitable to the Promises and Threatnings of God, and fully convince us that the Christian Morality has as many Objects to exalt and [Page 359] comfort Men's Souls, as it has to excite and terrify their Minds to the performance of their Duty.

X. But to prove that this Morality is not a meer Idea of Perfection, God in is Wisdom was pleased not only to have it set down in the Book of the New Testament; but also to have it lively Painted first in the Life of Christ, and afterwards in the dai­ly practice of the Primitive Christians. These Men are not such Teachers, as might deservedly be ac­cused of speaking well but doing ill, as it was ob­jected formerly to Seneca, who composed very ex­cellent Discourses concerning Poverty, and the con­tempt of the Goods of Fortune, when he himself was richer than the wealthiest Citizen of Rome. These on the contrary confirm'd by their practice what they taught. And by extirpating their evil Desires, form'd such a Society as is conformable to that we have had above but a faint Prospect of, when we laid down the Idea of Man's Duty. They ut­terly renounced those Passions which put a Distincti­on betwixt them and other Men. They forgot their Quality and Condition, the better to use one another like Brethren. The same Interests were common to them all. They sold their Possessions to ease the Wants and Necessities of those that suf­fered Adversity: They rejoyced for having been thought worthy to suffer for the Name of God: E­very thing conduced to their Happiness, even Af­flictions themselves: They prayed for those that des­pitefully us'd them; and as Charity, and not Self­love, was the Rule of their Affections, so all the Motions of their Heart tended to one, as to the same Center, to the Glory of God, and the good of their Neighbours; which gave the Scripture occasion to say, that they were but one Heart and one Soul.

I confess that State could not always continue in the Church; but the Wisdom of God permitted it [Page 360] should last for some time, to give us a lively Image and Idea of Heaven here on Earth, and so to con­firm by the excellence of such an Example, a Mo­rality already supported by so many great and powerful Motives.

VIII. Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is consider'd in its Mysteries.

THe Mysteries God has revealed unto us in his Word, are like the cloudy Pillar which led the Children of Israel through the Wilderness. For like that, they are clear on one side, but dark and obscure on the other.

If we contemplate them on the brighter side, they appear great, sublime, and conformable to the Na­ture of things, worthy of God, and closely united to the most inviolable Principles both of our Heart and Understanding.

Their Greatness and Sublimity caused such an Admiration in those Persons, who had the Honour to divulge them to the World, as they could not possibly conceal. For sometimes they are forced to declare that they are things which Eye has not seen, nor Ear heard, neither have entred into the Heart of Man, 1 Cor. 2. 9. An Expression which is as natural as full of Energy, and clearly demonstrates what great Ideas they had of them. Another while they ex­press themselves after this manner, and without controversy, great is the Mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the Flesh, justified in the Spirit, &c. 1 Tim. 3. 16. And again, Colos. 2. 3. they call them the Treasures of Wisdom, and seem to be continually at a loss to find out Expressions worthy the Majesty of them.

[Page 361] And these Objects are infinitely raised above our Senses, scarce seem to have any probability, are al­together repugnant to the Ideas of the Heathens, and carnal Notions of the Jews; are above any Con­jecture of Men, and consequently Objects worthy of God himself. For they glorify him after an ex­cellent manner; and clearly reveal unto us his Greatness and Majesty, either in the Gifts he con­fers upon Men, or the Sublimity of those Duties he prescribes them to follow, or the Excellency of the Reward he proposes to them, or the use of those means whereby he leads them to it. Compare the Notions of Christianity with those of other Religi­ons, and you'll be convinc'd of this Truth. But 'tis not sufficient that those Mysteries seem to us far above the Capacity of Men, who could never have invented them, and worthy the Majesty of God, who alone was able to reveal them to us. We may also further add, that the Principles of Reason and Natural Religion exactly fall in with them.

For they are not like the idle Tales and Fictions of the Poets, which the Heart of Man formerly so eagerly embraced, when at the same time their Reason condemned them for it. The Creation of Heaven and Earth by an Almighty Being, the Re­demption of the World by a Mediatour, the expia­tory Sacrifice of Christ, the Communion of Saints, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Remission of Sins and life Everlasting, are all Objects equally reason­able, sublime and full of Majesty, and the Denial of them will take away the improvement of the Light of Reason by the clearest Revelation, and de­stroy the very Nature of the Supream Being.

What would become then of the Wisdom of God? Would it suffer Men to be wholly taken up by such ends as are contrary to the design of their Creation? Would God permit Irregularities and Confusions to [Page 362] reign in publick Societies, and never compose them; whilst at the same time he establishes a firm Union, and as it were a Society amongst irrational Crea­tures? If so, what would then signify those Principles of Morality, and that natural Law which he has written in our Hearts? Wherefore should he make so many things for the good and preservation of Man, that were not the End he was designed for? What would become of the Justice of God? And what would be the Truth of the inward sense of Con­science? What would be the Punishment reserved for the Wicked, and the Reward which attends the Just? What would become of our Soul, since Reason has taught us, that the thinking Principle within us, is distinct from Matter, and that the Soul depends not upon any Dissolution of the Parts of Matter? Whence is it that this Soul has Notions of its Immortality? What use would there be of Equi­ty and Justice? Why might not Men rather give themselves up to Vice, which would then be wholly preferrable before Virtue?

Who then will refuse to acknowledge such Prin­ciples to be in themselves lawful and reasonable, without which there is nothing but Confusion and Disorder in publick Society, Darkness and Incer­tainty in the Mind; nothing but Errour and Illusi­on in the Conscience and natural Law of Reason; nothing but Prejudice and Misery in the practice of Virtue; and if things are so, then also the Good­ness, Wisdom, and Justice of God are at an end, those excellent Attributes which had so clearly proved to us the Truth of his Existence.

These are not the Speculations of contemplative Men, or the Niceties of School-men; but certain Truths that slow from the nature of things, and in an excellent manner agree with the ultimate End of Man. But how clear soever the one side of these [Page 363] Mysteries may be, they are very obscure on the o­ther; not that they have, or can contain any thing that is repugnant to sound and unprejudiced Reason; but 'tis because they cannot be fathomed by our shallow Understanding, and that tis neither secure nor allowable, or even possible for any man to search into the Depth of them.

Now, tho' it be not absolutely necessary for us to enquire, why God was pleased not to explicate all Difficulties in his Mysteries, and tho' it be suffici­ent only to alledge that such was his Will and the Decrees of his Wisdom, yet we must not neglect to illustrate and interpret them as far as Scripture and Reason will permit.

Every body knows the Difference between Sight and Faith. Sight admits of no Difficulty; but Faith is intermixed both with Light and Darkness; both their Objects being very different from one another. For we do not see what we believe, and properly speaking, we do not believe that which we see.

To see, is to perceive by ones self; but to be­lieve is to perceive by another Mans Eyes. Sight is twofold, that of the Sense, which perceives those Ob­jects only that are suitable to its nature; and that of the Ʋnderstanding, when it judges of the nature of things by its own proper Light. Faith also is twofold, Humane and Divine. The first, is that Persuasion we have of sacred Mysteries, grounded upon the Testimony of Men; and the other, that which is established upon the Testimony of God. So that after what has been thus premised, 'tis an easy matter to understand the meaning of the Apo­stle, who tells us, that the Will of God is that we should walk by faith and not by sight, that is, we must lay aside our Reason, and follow only the Light of Revelation, and receive those Truths which promise us Salvation on the Testimony of God alone.

[Page 364] Nevertheless, 'tis easy to perceive how great a Repugnance we have to it, in as much as the Plea­sure of God in not giving us Mysteries without Difficulties, restrains the roving Speculations of our Minds. It humbles the proud Reason of Man, and robs him of the Priviledge of a full Insight into matters, which yet infinitely concern him. When we should renounce the World, which is present to our Eyes, we would fain see those Objects Religion has put in the other Scale to overbalance it; but tis not the Pleasure of God we should, and we must rest content to believe those Objects which make us thus renounce that which we actually see. And should they be never so agreeable to the Principles of Com­mon Sense, yet Faith, and not Reason ought chiefly to induce us to receive them. Now the same Prin­ciple that sets the Heart at variance with the Law that imposes on it the necessity of acting after that manner, the same Principle, I say, makes Reason op­pose Revelation, which lays upon it an invincible Necessity of believing what it cannot comprehend.

'Tis certain however, that this Command of God is very conformable to the nature of things, very suitable to our present Condition, necessary to our Sanctification, and useful for the advancement of Gods Glory. We must not think it strange that the Dispensation of Faith should preceed that of Sight, since we daily observe Darkness to preceed Light, by a natural Order, and that we are Children before we come to be Men. Both Experience and Reason tell us, that our Knowledge is very imperfect in this Life, wherein the Soul is as it were pressed down by the Clog of the Body, that we may walk more se­cure by the help of the Light of Nature. And those Heathens who attempted to go beyoud it, wandred blindly about, and lost their Way.

[Page 365] There are two sorts of Irregularities in Man, which produce all his other Disorders, Pride, and Ʋoluptuousness. The latter of which springs up in the most inferiour part of the Soul, and is chiefly produced by the Senses: But Pride is properly a De­fect of the Mind. As therefore there has not been found hitherto a better Remedy against Voluptu­ousness, than that of afflicting the Senses, by deny­ing them those Pleasures they so earnestly thirst af­ter; so it does not appear there has been as yet a better means thought of, to remove the Pride of the Mind, than to humble it, by restraining those Speculations of Knowledge, which puff it up beyond measure, and mortify it by requiring it to sacrifice all its weak Conjectures and vain Reasonings to Faith.

And indeed this Sacrifice of our selves is deserved­ly owing to God, since there is as much Reason for submitting our Willby our Obedience to his Laws, as there is for subjecting our Mind to him by Faith. For by the former of these acts, we own him for our Lord that has a Right to command us; and by the latter, we readily confess his Veracity, and that we need not fear being imposed upon, when we re­ceive those things he commands us to observe.

Thus Man, who had lost himself in his Desire of infinite Knowledge, is bound in some measure to ex­piate his Crime in not desiring to know any thing by himself. He had attempted to get as clear a Know­ledge of all things as God himself; But now he re­fuses to know any thing but from God.

He was blind whilst he walked in the Light of Nature, but now he must see clear in the Darkness of the Dispensation of Faith. For after that, in the Wisdom of God, the World by Wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, 1 Cor. 1. 21.

[Page 366] 'Tis certain, should God familiarly and frequent­ly Reveal himself unto Men by sensible and conti­nued Miracles, we should then walk by Sight and not by Faith; and 'tis true also, that if the Objects of Revelation were not in some sort obscure, there would be no Endeavours, no Difficulty, no Sacrifice of Reason made to believe them.

The Difficulties that Mysteries are attended with, have almost the same Influence over our Ʋnderstand­ing, as Afflictions have upon our Heart: For as these bring the latter in subjection, so the others serve to try the Constancy of the former. And since God Almighty was pleased to encrease our Patience by two different sorts of Sufferings, the one, which he him­self inflicts immediately upon us; and the other he permits worldly minded and sinful Men to inflict upon us; so in like manner he was pleased to exer­cise our Faith by two different sorts of Difficulties, some whereof spring immediately from God him­self, and others proceed from the very Heart and Ʋnderstanding of Men.

For we must distinguish betwixt that Obscurity with respect to the Mysteries which proceed from God, and that which proceeds from the Ʋnderstand­ing of Men. The first is either necessary, as all those Difficulties which arise from the essential Dispro­portion between infinite Objects, such as those of Revelation, and a finite Understanding, like ours; or else voluntary, and so enter into the very Plan and Design of Religion it self.

And these again may be distinguished according to that Diversity which in our manner of conceiv­ing things, we are obliged to suppose in the Perfe­ctions of God himself; There being some which proceed from the Council of his Wisdom; others from that of his Justice; others from that of his Majesty; and lastly, from that of his Goodness and Mercy.

[Page 367] Thus Divine Wisdom was pleased to intermix some sort of Darkness amidst the most express Pro­phecies we have, lest that too clear an Evidence of them, should destroy their Event. To this Princi­ple also must we refer all those Shadows, Types, Para­bolical Representations, that mixture of sensible Ob­jects with spiritual Benefits, that of the State of the Church with the State of Israel according to the flesh; and generally all those other means, which the Ho­ly Ghost made use of, partly to cover those Events he has declared to Men many Ages before their Com­pletion.

God drew a Veil over the most essential Truths of the Old Testament, such as the Immortality of the Soul, the Trinity, the Redemption of Mankind, &c. that a distinct Revelation from all these Objects, might be an undeniable Character of the Messias; and that his Disciples might boldly affirm, that Life was manifested in Jesus Christ, that Grace had appeared unto all Men. For no Man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him, John 1. 18. To this Wisdom of God also must be referred that Con­duct of the Holy Ghost, in inspiring the Patriarchs, thereby to reveal a better life to them, and make them cry out upon their Death-beds, Lord I have waited for thy Salvation; but withal giving them but a faint Prospect of that Object, by such obscure Thoughts and dark Notions as they were not able of themselves to solve; deferring to give a more per­fect Knowledge of his Mysteries till that Time which he had set apart for the fulfilling of his Oracles, and the Manifestation of him, that was to be the Author and End of Christian Religion. For this cause therefore there is hardly mention made of any thing else in the Writings of Moses, but of tempo­ral Promises and Threatnings; and hence it was [Page 366] [...] [Page 367] [...] [Page 368] that Jesus Christ himself, when disputing against the Sadducees, proved the Resurrection of the dead but by Consequence only.

Divine Wisdom was also pleased that Jesus Christ should be born in Obscurity and Humiliation, that those mean outward Appearances being offensive to the prejudice of carnal and worldly minded Jews, they might as it were by chance give occasion to the execution of those things, which the Council of God had determined. And this is one of the prin­cipal causes of his Poverty and Humiliation; of the Meanness of his Birth, and the Ʋnworthiness of his first Profession; the choice of his Disciples, &c.

The Justice of God acting in concert with his Wisdom, obliges him to speak to all prophane Contemners of his Mysteries in an obscure Language, and so as it were to conceal those Pearls from them, lest like unclean Beasts they should trample them under their Feet. And this may very well serve for a Reason of the denial which Christ formerly made to the Unbelievers of those Times, of signa­lizing his Power among them, and of the great care he often took to conceal his Miracles from them. For this cause therefore spoke he sometimes in Pa­rables to Strangers; but he always very clearly ex­prest himself to his Disciples, giving them to un­derstand the meaning of those Parables, and telling them, that as for them they had the Priviledge of seeing all things openly.

Neither does his Majesty suffer him to reveal himself as familiarly to the sinful Man, as he would to the innocent. This we ought not to wonder at, since Men themselves are wont so to deal with one another. There is nothing more common than for Great Men to banish their Presence those who have incurr'd their Displeasure. To think it then strange if God conceals himself from a Sinner, would be to [Page 369] entertain a more unworthy Idea of his Majesty, than that of an Earthly Monarch. This was the Reason why God took such care to conceal himself, even when he design'd to manifest his Glory. And for this Cause he shewed himself only in Visions and Dreams, or when hidden in the Cloud and Ark, or covered with some other Veil. On this account also he was wont to banish from his Presence all those as were defiled in their Bodies, and order the Priests of the Sanctuary to purifie themselves. He com­manded too the People to wash their Garments, when he gave them notice, that within three Days he would come down to them; nothing but an ex­ternal and corporeal Purity being sufficient to qua­lify those that were to approach the Deity manife­sted under corporeal Symbols. But Christ fulfilling in the Spirit every thing hidden in the Letter of the Law, teaches us that those only shall see God, who shall be found pure in Heart; so that we have no reason to wonder, if when Man, by reason of his Guilt hides himself from God, the Almighty with­draws the Influence of his Glorious Majesty from Man.

Lastly, The Goodness and Mercy of God oversha­dows Revelation with some sort of Darkness, to ex­ercise our Faith and keep up our Minds in Vigour, which also would grow sluggish, if not stirred up by such Difficulties as are proper to Mysteries; as also to humble our proud and haughty Reason, which is immediately puffed up with its own Know­ledge; to make us submit our Understandings to him, since we ought to believe any Truths, tho in­credible, if he reveals them; as also to sway our Hearts and Affections, which ought readily to em­brace any sorrowful and mortifying Objects that he is pleased to offer them; to strip our Pride of all its Pretences, and to dispose our Minds that we must [Page 370] necessarily acknowledge every Benefit we enjoy, springs from him; and that too so much the more, because we thereby attain to life Eternal by such means and objects as are above our Capacity to comprehend: So necessary is it that it should appear that our Sufficiency is of God, and that the Gospel is the Power of God unto Salvation to every one that be­lieveth, Rom. 1. 16. To this Principle we owe the choice of those persons which God has made use of to preach the Gospel; the nature of those seeming Paradoxes he commanded them to publish, so con­trary to the Light of Nature and Reason; the Silence of the Holy Ghost in those things which a few Words from him would have rendred plain, and easy to our Understandings.

But God is not content to exercise our Faith by those Obscurities we find dispersed throughout the Divine Revelations; he further permits, Heresies, Schisms, and Errours, nay Superstition it self to reign among us, that those who are approved may be made manifest. Thus we may say he suffers all Egypt to be covered with Darkness, the more eminently to discover his wonderful Protection, in blessing at the same time the Land of Goshen with the Light of his Truth; that is, by giving us a Religion ac­companied with so bright an Evidence, as carnal and worldly minded Men can never comprehend, because their Reason is eclipsed by Sensuality, and the Corruption of their Hearts produces those thick Clouds that hide the Truth from their sight. God, 'tis true, enlightens the Minds of Men; but Men wilfully blind themselves. He permits it should be so to confound their Ignorance, and demonstrate to us that he is the Father of Light. But let us now enquire into the Principles of that Obscurity which solely springs from Men.

[Page 371] And I. So gross are all the Prejudices of the Sen­ses, that there is no body so void of shame as to fol­low them openly. Yet 'tis certain, they are very prevalent in the Hearts of most Men, who stick not to say, I never saw the like; I could willingly believe it, if I should but see it. Who ever saw dead Men rise a­gain from their graves? And who ever ascended into Heaven, or went down into the Pit? All which Reason­ings are manifestly absurd. For can there be any greater Folly in a Man, than to refuse to believe that which he does not see, when these Objects of his Faith could have no Existence, were they not invisi­ble? Did any one ever see the Time past long be­fore he liv'd, or the future long after his Death? Did he ever see his own Soul, the Deity, &c. For 'tis nothing else but the Time past and the future, the Objects and Interests of the Soul, together with the Benefits of God, which Faith offers to our Con­sideration.

II. We are accustomed by Education not to believe any thing that happens not in the ordinary course of Nature. We confine our selves as it were to a Circle of Objects, which we willingly admit of, be­cause they contain nothing that is repugnant to Ex­perience or Probability: So that the Custom we have of refusing to give our Assent to all other things, reaching even unto matters of Religion, inevitably casts us into Scepticism and Incredulity. Yet should we but throughly consider those Objects which fall under common Experience, they would certainly appear as surprising and incomprehensible as those of Religion. If you think it strange that the Soul should outlive the Ruins of the Body, you must be much more surprised to see it so closely united to a subject so different from its Perfection. 'Tis the Union of the Soul with the Body, and not its Dis­solution we ought to admire. Endeavour to com­prehend [Page 372] if you can the strict Alliance there is be­tween a thing that is extended, that takes up Space, that is confined to certain Limits, that acts upon Subjects present only and nearest to it; and a thing that has neither figure nor extension, colour, fluidity, or solidity, which in some sense is every where, and yet has no Parts to take up any Space; which re­flects upon the Time past, and the future; upon it self, and its manner of acting in such a wonder­ful way, as must necessarily perswade us maugre all our Reluctancies and Doubts, that we have a Spi­ritual and Immaterial Substance within us.

If you are amazed when you are taught that there is a Maker and Preserver of all things; you ought rather to be surprised to think you have lived so long in the World, without putting these Questi­ons to your self, To what End was I made? Whence have I my Being? What will at last become of me? And who was th [...] Authour of all that I behold?

The Thoughts of a future Judgment, whatsoe­ver notion you may have of its Accomplishment, ought not in the least to startle you, who ought ra­ther to wonder at the long Forbearance of God, who permits all things, that he may one day judge all things. That Confusion and Disorder that ap­pears in publick Society, might raise Scruples in you, were it not bounded by such an Event, as will clearly justify the Justice and Wisdom of God. To follow the Opinion of Incredulous Men, one would say that there is nothing extraordinary o [...] surpri­sing in the World; whereas we cannot behold any thing that is not so.

III. But all our Incredulity arises principally from our Passions, and it is their greatest Interest to cre­ate in us an Aversion for Religion, and in order to that make us inclinable to receive those Doubts which favour their Pretences.

[Page 373] And this is that which gives rise to all sorts of Difficulties. Men are incredulous, meerly because they will be so; and they will be so, because it con­cerns their Passions to have it so. Hence it is that every thing concurrs by accident towards the pro­ducing so miserable an End; so Sciences, Eloquence, Policy, &c. create Doubts and Difficulties in us, not of themselves, but through our ill management of them.

IV. Pride, of all the Passions the most dangerous and most inveterate, suffers us not to remain in such a due disposition of Mind as God requires we should have, in order to receive his Revelation. Now this Disposition is twofold. 1st. It consists in our readily receiving all revealed Truths; and 2ly, in receiving them altho they are far above our Capacity to com­prehend, without endeavouring to dive too far in­to the Depth of the Council of God.

To have then a right Belief, we must not only be perswaded of the Certainty of all revealed Truths; we must also learn how to be satisfied with the Ig­norance of those things it has pleased God to con­ceal from us. We must be always ready to acknow­ledge our Ignorance, and that we do not clearly un­derstand, what yet we sincerely believe. We must humbly close our Eyes before the dark side of My­steries, as well as gladly open them to behold the bright one. 'Tis our Incredulity which makes us reject those Truths we ought to acknowledge at first sight, and the irregular Curiosity of the Mind prevents our paying our profound Reverence, to those sacred Obscurities wherein they are invol­ved.

Now from this Principle we may very reasonably conclude, 1st. That nothing could argue more Extra­vagance and Impiety, than the project of several Doctors, who tho famous upon other Accounts for [Page 374] their Learning and great Insight into things, yet have endeavoured to make as it were a New System of Religion, by removing all the Difficulties of it, and oftentimes cutting those Knots asunder, which they were not able to untie. And this shews, that they were ignorant, how that the dark Mysteries of Religion, either follow the Nature of things, or else proceed from the external Wisdom and Council of God, in designing to give us such a Religion as should not be free from such dark Mysteries, as the Apostles themselves give us to understand, when they tell us that the Will of God was to bring to no­thing the understanding of the prudent; and when they cry out, O the Depth of the Riches both of the Wisdom and Knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Rom. 11. 33. Secondly, We may infer from thence, That hu­mane Curiosity that has so much increased the num­ber of Theological Questions, is one of the greatest Obstacles which Faith is with much strugling to over­come.

For we are not content to have a bare Knowledge of things; we yet endeavour to search into the Manner how things are done; whereas 'tis the Manner how they are done which God is pleased to conceal from us; and 'tis the dark side we ought to look upon with profound Reverence.

It was sufficient for us to know that we were ve­ry corrupt from our Cradles, and that nothing but the Grace of God is capable to deliver us from that wretched State we are in. But we were not wife enough to fix our Enquiries there: We further had a mind to know how Sin entred into the World; what Springs of our Soul were first of all put out of order by it, and how it was transmitted to Poste­rity. The Holy Ghost is as the Wind, the Sound whereof we hear, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and [Page 375] whither it goeth. Nevertheless, so impertinent is the Curiosity of Men, as to attempt diving into his manner of acting. They pretend by such and such Decisions to limit the Degrees of his operation and retrench whatsoever they please. They continual­ly use such Distinctions as are altogether obscure and barbarous in comparison of the Scripture, as Ante­cedent Grace, Consequent, Sufficient, Efficacious, Ʋni­versal, Particular, mediate, and immediate▪ Grace; all which Distinctions they seem indeed to have con­trived, as so many deviations and shifts on pur­pose to be exempted from owning, that notwith­standing all our Endeavours, it is God which work­eth in us both to will and to do of his good Pleasure, Phil. 2. 13. And tho 'tis certain we are altogether igno­rant of the manner of his Operation, yet can any thing be more just and reasonable than such a free and ingenuous Confession? And does it not very far exceed all the Speculations of School-men, who are themselves confounded, and fall from one Depth into another, whilst they pretend to search into those Mysteries God has concealed from them?

But the Misfortune which results from all this, is, that the Christians having prodigiously swell'd up their System of Divinity by these and other like Spe­culations (whose End is to dive into the Manner how those things are done which God has revealed to us,) thereby give Rise to the most considerable Difficul­ties of our Incredulous Adversaries, who heap up all those humane Speculations together, the better to impugn the Foundations of Religion it self, or else rashly conclude from those vain Disputes of humane Curiosity, that Religion has nothing of Certainty or Solidity in it. But we shall easily confute both the Errour and Injustice of those Un believers.

Faith is assaulted by two sorts of Enemies. 1st. The Incredulous, who impugn it on that side on which it [Page 376] is most clear and evident; and 2ly. The Inconsiderate and Curious, who have no regard to its sacred Ob­scurity; so that we have here those who deny all things, and those who will know all things. You will do well to shew those curious inconsiderate Men that they are mistaken; and think not that their being convinc'd of the Uselessness of their nice Di­stinctions can do any prejudice at all to Religion; because an unseasonable Curiosity is no less contrary to the Genius of Religion and the Nature of Faith, than Scepticism and Incredulity.

V. This Curiosity is inseparably attended with Rashness; and it is impossible to express into what strange Excesses both of them have insensibly brought Men. To confirm this, we shall only set down one necessary Example, and that is, of the Trinity, and Incarnation, one of the most profound and unsearch­able Mysteries of our Religion. In this, Curiosity has induced Men to exceed the Bounds of Revelation, and Rashness has obliged them not to believe it.

The Scripture teaches us, that there is but one God, and one Mediatour. It assures us also, that Jesus Christ is God, that he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; that he made the World, Time, and all things therein. It ascribes to him all the Attributes, the Works and the Names of the Deity, his Power, his Wisdom, his Eternity, Immensity, &c. It further assures us, that the Holy Ghost is God. It asserts that those Three are One. It commands Baptism in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as of Three Persons. And why should we not rest satisfied with this?

'Tis because the Pride of Men thinks fit it should be otherwise. I do not know, or I do not understand are Confessions so terrible to them, that there is nothing they won't invent to avoid them. They [Page 377] are desirous to know how three Persons can subsist in one and the same Essence. They tell us of Modes, and Relations, of modal and formal Distinctions, of absolute and relative Entities, &c. They assert that the divine Intellect produced the Word, and that the Holy Ghost is the uncreated production of the Di­vine Will, and a thousand other things of this kind, which if certain, at least are not revealed. And why all these Distinctions and Subtilties? Unless they would make us comprehend a Mystery God is resolved shall remain the incomprehensible Object of our Faith.

Others, displeased with those Scholastick Specula­tions, are so impious as to attempt to destroy that Mystery which they cannot conceive, either by utterly rejecting those places of Scripture which mention it; or if they receive them, by putting such a forced In­terpretation upon them, that the Holy Ghost must needs have had a design to deceive us, if he meant what such Teachers would have him. Thus for in­stance, this place of Scriptnre, Before Abraham was I am, signifies, according to the Socinians, before the Prophecy contained in the Name of Abraham was fulfilled, and before he became the Father of all Nations, I am. So they say this Text, Glorify me with the Glory which I had with thee before the World was, John 17. 5. imports as much as, Glorify me with the Glory thou hadst resolved to honour me with. And this other; The same was in the beginnning and all things were made by him, that is (as they interpret it) he was before the time of John the Baptist, and by him all things were done in the Church.

But to what end do they invent those Niceties so contrary to the Gospel Simplicity and Truth? 'Tis doubtless on purpose to make void the effect of those sacred Obscurities, which God has dispersed throughout his Mysteries, and to save those by Hu­mane [Page 378] Wisdom, whom God designed to bless with Life eternal through the Foolishness of preaching, as Men first called it.

VI. We may add Superstition to this irregular Cu­riosity and rashness of the Mind, which arises by little and little from the Passions, endeavouring to hide themselves, or avoid by vain Pretexts the Mor­tification of Repentance, and shift off the severe In­junctions of Christian Morality; and to that end they employ Man in some unprofitable bodily Exer­cises, or else wholly fix his Mind upon some carnal Worship. Superstition is no sooner thus insensibly formed, but it thrusts it self into Credit, and as it were claims a privilege of Freedom in Religion; So that the most prodigious Whymsies and Imagin­ations of the former, are confusedly hudled toge­ther with the most sacred Mysteries of the latter; and then there are no Absurdities so extravagant that human Passions suggest, but what the Incredu­lous immediately take hold on as Instruments where­with they attack the Foundations of Religion, which is in some respect as it were infected with them. And such is the Folly of Men, that they will needs save all, or lose all. For if you go about to destroy Superstition, you are then immediately condemned for being an Enemy to Christianity: And if you endea­vour to maintain the Glory and Holiness of Christi­anity, Men expect you should too in some manner defend the absurd Extravagances of Superstition.

But our Design of writing in behalf of the Chri­stians in general, suffers us not to make any Appli­cation of this at present. It is enough if the Positi­on we advance be certainly true, as will fully ap­pear by the Examples as may be sought of it else­where, and which 'tis no difficult matter for any Man to find out.

[Page 376] We shall therefore rest contented to assert in that respect, that the Multiplicity of Sects which so mi­serably divide the Christian Church amongst Men, and on whose Account the Name of our common Lord and Master is so frequently Blasphemed among Infidels, solely springs from these Three Principles, viz. An irregular Curiosity, a Rashness of the Mind, and Superstition; and these Three Principles them­selves proceed from a more antient Original, which is the Disorder and Irregularity of our Passions.

Now to demand why God permits such a multi­tude of Sects and different Religions to reign a­mongst Men, is just as if one should ask, why God suffers Wicked Men to live in the World? For he that permits the Licentiousness of the Passions, ne­cessarily suffers the natural Effects and infallible Consequences of them.

VII. This being granted, we cannot doubt but that Philosophy it self is another Source of inevitable Difficulties, when joyned to Religion. Their Ends are so different, that they may justly be allowed to be opposite. For 1. The main Design of Philosophy is to gratify the vain Curiosity of Men; whereas Religion designs only to mortify it. 2. The one en­deavours to find out the Nature of things, the other professes an utter Ignorance of them. 3. That swells up the Heart of Man, by encreasing his Knowledge; This humbles it, by requiring him to submit his Reason to his Faith. Lastly, Philosophy endeavours to comprehend all things; whereas one of the most essential parts of Religion consists in hmbly acknowledging that we comprehend nothing at all of the hidden Mysteries of Nature, much less of those of Religion.

And therefore hence it is that Philosophy seldom agrees with Religion, nor Religion with Philosophy. Thus Copernicus and Descartes doubtless were not [Page 380] well pleased with the Descriptions the Author of Genesis gives us of the Creation of the World; of the Two great Luminaries of Heaven; of the Miracle of Joshuah, who stopt the Course of the Sun, of the third Heaven which St. Paul speaks of; of the New Heavens and the New Earth, which sacred Authors make us expect; of the Conflagration of the Heavens, the Dissolution of the Elements, and the putting out the Light of the Stars; all which Signs are to preceed the great and wonderful Day of Judgment; I say such Philosophers as these would perhaps cry out, that these Objects had no relation to their Ideas of Astronomy.

But certainly there is no reason to wonder at it. For those Holy Writers intended to speak in the Lan­guage of the People, and not in that of the Philoso­phers. They had a mind to sanctify Mankind, and not to explain the Mysteries of Nature; and there­fore it was highly necessary they should accommo­date their Expressions to the Vulgar Notions. Nay, the Holy Ghost was pleased they should use no other, that so his Mysteries being represented under those Vulgar Ideas, might be suitable to every ones Capa­city, at least in the manner of their Revelation, since they could not be so in their own Nature.

Nor ought we to think this Conduct of his, extra­ordinary or unusual. For thus the Wisdom of God acted when it was to represent to the Ancient Israel­ites the Wonders of the Gospel Dispensation. And it made use of Expressions borrowed from Customs and Practices generally received amongst Men. It says, that all Nations shall go up to Mount Sion; that there shall be an Altar in the midst of the Land of Egypt; that in every place Incense shall be offered unto God, and a pure Offering; that the Tabernacle of God shall be with the Gentiles, &c. But if it be asked then, why the Prophets foretold the Calling of the Gentiles in [Page 381] this familiar way? 'Twas because those were the Noti­ons of the People, and that it was necessary they should use only Expressions known and familiar to the Vul­gar, since Revelation it self would have become unin­telligible without that condescending Goodness of God, who is wont to accomodate himself to the Capacity of every Man, without Exception.

For supposing that God had deferr'd his Revealing to us the Truth of the Creation of the World, the Miracle of Joshua, the Glory which the blessed enjoy in the other World, the Judgment to come, &c. till all Men had been made to understand by the Principles of Philosophy, that the Stars are bigger than the Moon; that 'tis the Earth, and not the Sun which moves; that the Heavens are nothing but liquid Spaces of an Infinite Extension; that the Sun is so essentially bright, that he cannot lose his Brightness without an immediate Annihilation of his Essence, &c. Heavens! where should we be, and what would become of us, if all Men must necessa­rily first become Philosophers, before they can learn to fear God?

But the Wisdom of God is so wonderful, in that he not only accomodates Himself to the Notions of every Man that he may render Himself intelligible to all; but also in that he has at the same time tak­en care we should not be deceived, in urging too far the literal Sense of all those vulgar Expressions.

Thus for instance, nothing can be more insipid than the ridiculous Jests of our Incredulous Adver­saries touching those Descriptions which the Scrip­ture gives us of Hell-fire. And certainly, they do but Expose themselves as often as they pretend to mock and despise Religion. For he that will truly consider what Holy Writ tells us in that respect, will certainly find that it puts several different Images together, to represent to us by known and [Page 382] familiar Ideas an Object altogether unknown, and set before us by all those different Images, such No­tions as one single Idea was wholly unable to re­present. Thus for that end it borroweth the No­tions of the Fire and Brimstone of Sodom, the sore Affliction of the Days of Noah, the Judgments which God himself displayed over the Nations in the Valley of Josaphat, the terrible Darkness spread over all the Land of Egypt, whilst at the same time the People of Israel freely enjoy'd the the Light of God in the Land of Goshen; the unquenchable Fire and the Worm of the Valley of the Children of Hin­non, which dieth not, &c. the weeping and gnash­ing of Teeth of those Children sacrificed to Moloch, who for that End were thrown alive into the Arms of that burning Statue.

Now 'twould be full as reasonable to carry on the sense of some of these Ideas too far, as to raise any Difficulties upon the Notions of Paradise, the Bo­som of Abraham, the Celestial Canaan, the Heaven­ly Jerusalem, &c. all which Notions are particu­larly designed to represent to us the Bliss that at­tends the Faithful. And these Ideas would be ab­solutely false and contradictory, if understood in a literal Sense; because 'tis certain that Paradise can never be taken for the Land of Canaan, or Jerusa­lem for the Bosom of Abraham.

Hence therefore it plainly appears by the Variety of all those Images, that they can never be taken in a strict and literal Sense; and that the Nature of the Object represented to us after so many diffe­rent ways, was too great and sublime to be describ­ed unto Men by any one single Idea of this Kind.

And indeed according to this Notion 'tis an easy matter to answer a certain Objection raised about a future Judgment, which at first may seem some­what considerable, and to carry in it some intricate [Page 383] Difficulty. Some hold, that the Description which Holy Writ gives us of the Day of Judgment, when it tells us that the Son of God is to be preceeded by his Holy Angels; that he will place Men, some on his right Hand, and others on his left, &c. I say, they affirm that this Description neither agrees with the Idea which we already have of the Nature of Spi­rits, nor with that we should entertain of so great and signal an Event.

To answer this Objection, we are only to distin­guish the Object from the manner after which it is represented to us. The first indeed is very reason­able, great, and sublime, worthy to take up our Thoughts, and able to move our Hearts. And we have already sufficiently evinced its Conformity to our Reason in shewing that we either must deny a­ny Evidence to be in the light of Reason, and Na­ture of things themselves, or else acknowledge a future Judgment. And what can be greater than an Object which justifies the Wisdom of God, his Justice, and all his other Attributes, and brings all Men under his strict Examination, all their Acti­ons, all the Thoughts of the Understanding, and all the Motions of the Heart? And this Object is that alone as is real and immutable.

As for the manner that is proposed to us of its Accomplishment, 'twould never suit with our weak Knowledge, were it altogether as sublime as the Ob­ject it self; and we should be so far from compre­hending any thing in the nature of it, that it would certainly dazzle our shallow Reason, if God did ex­actly represent it to us as it is in it self.

But Christ has sufficiently shewed us we must not push too far the signification of any of those expres­sive Images, in that he uses such a multitude and variety of others to represent that Judgment to us. For sometimes he describes it by the Parable of the [Page 384] groom and the Virgins; then again by the just Judg­ment a Lord past upon all his Servants, whom he had in his absence intrusted with his Talents. One while he represents the Judge of all the World as a Shepherd selecting his Sheep from the He-goats, a­nother time he describes him under the Image of an Housholder, plucking up the Tares and di­viding it from the Wheat, that he might burn the former, but gather the latter into his Barn. In a word, he compares him to a glorious and trium­phant Monarch, who is preceeded by several Legi­ons of Angels, or Messengers, sounding the Trum­pet before him. Now all these Descriptions would certainly be of no use, were they to be taken in a strict and literal Sense.

The same Judgment must necessarily be made of the History of Dives and Lazarus, which tho it ap­pears never so reasonable and circumstantially told, yet for all that is but a Parable in the Opinion of all the sensible part of the World, and would seem absurd if it were understood in a literal Sense.

Let not then Philosophy any longer be offended at any of the Scripture Phrases, or its figurative Ex­pressions: Let it not object, that a material Fire pro­perly so called cannot burn up our Souls; that An­gels have no Mouths to sound Trumpets; that the Valley of Josaphat is too little to contain all Man­kind, &c. These are such trivial Difficulties as can't puzzle those who are never so little acquainted with the Language of Canaan.

Besides, it is certain that the Mixture Men have made of Philosophy and Religion, has been considera­bly prejudicial to our Faith. For first, Philosophy as it were heaping up one Speculation upon ano­ther, tells us, that there is an infinite Extension of Matter; that there are other Globes inhabited and peopled, other Worlds framed of the Concourse of [Page 385] Atoms; that there are certain invio Iable Laws of Na­ture; that there is an Eternity of Matter, and se­veral other Imaginations of this kind, as have not the least relation with the Principles of Religion. And thereupon the Passions which are upon the watch to catch and embrace every thing that fa­vours their several pretences in resisting Faith, au­thorise the smallest Conjectures, and give such weight and credit to those things, which otherwise would certainly pass for meer Extravagancies. And thus it happens, that the Scruples of Philosophy are changed into Certainties, through our unreasonable desire of changing Certainties of Religion into Doubts.

Secondly, Philosophy creates in us an Habit of en­deavouring to judge of every thing by our selves on­ly; a Disposition indeed absolutely contrary to the Nature of Faith, which requires of us a Belief purely grounded on the Testimony of God. But Men are so far from relying upon it, that they are continu­ally asking Demonstrations of us, and those too they would have to be Geometrical ones, that is, so clear and evident, as to be free from all perplexing Obscurity. These Men make large Pretensions and Demands; and sure it is that we have sufficient Demonstrations, but they are all Demonstrations of Faith, and there can be no Faith but what has some Obscurity as well as Light.

Thirdly, Another very dangerous Effect of Phi­losophy, is that it changes Religion from Practice in­to Speculation. For the nicer and sublimer our In­quiries are into the Nature of Mysteries, the more we neglect the Body of Religion, which is essential­ly practical. Religion appears not then to us in its usual Brightness and Majesty. And the more we pursue it by nice Speculations, the farther it gets out of our reach. Experience teaches us, that the [Page 386] Progress we make in reasoning, sets us at a greater Distance from the true Center of Religion, which is Piety; and that the more Metaphysical it is, the less able it is to satisfy our Mind, but rather raises Scruples in the Understanding. Whereas on the contrary the more we practise Religion, the better we are acquainted with it, because we grow then sensible of its divine Efficacy by our own Experi­ence, and are made to believe the true value of it by the Impressions it leaves in our Hearts. Had Religion indeed been purely design'd to teach us how to Philosophize and argue about the Nature of things, it would have been sufficient to take the Measure of it from a Speculative Knowledge of the Understand­ing. But since it was given us to sanctify our Hearts, it is but reasonable that Contemplation should yield to Practice, and the inward sense we have of its Divine Efficacy.

VIII. Policy is yet a far greater Enemy to Religion than Philosophy. Not but that it often happily makes use of Religion to keep Men within the Bounds of their Duty; but it pretends to have a Right of Supe­riority over it. It would have Religion submit to its Orders, whereas Religion submits only to the Orders of God. Policy generally looks upon the greatest part of Men as no better than Slaves to those that are in power; but Religion in spite of Policy makes all Men equal, and effectually removes all those Distin­ctions which humane Passions had put between them. Policy according to the Prejudices of Pride and Am­bition, acts as if the Lives of the meaner sort of Peo­ple, were of no more value than those of Brutes. But Religion assures us, that the Soul of a Peasant is as dear and precious to God as that of a Monarch. What! Says the Ambitious Man, must all People become my Equals and Companions? Yes certain­ly, replies Religion, and far happier than thou art [Page 387] like to be, unless thou repentest. A great and mighty Character indeed, which truly convinces us that it solely springs from God, who is no respecter of Persons; and not from Men, who give and receive Praise and Honour from one another.

But Politicians usually argue thus. Religion, say they, is very useful to us to keep Men within the Bounds of their Duty, and bring them under Sub­jection to the Sovereign and the Laws of the State. It follows therefore, that Religion was designed for no other End. But this does not follow.

And to comprehend that Religion was designed for a sublimer and nobler End, they ought chiefly to consider, that 'tis no less repugnant to the Am­bition of Princes, than the Rebellion of their Peo­ple; that it relates not to the Welfare of any pri­vate State; but essentially tends to promote Peace a­mongst Nations and Kingdoms, and perfect that Union and Society which ought to reign amongst Men; that it despises all Prohibitions, Politick Laws, and even the secular Power when it endeavours to constrain it; that all the Roman Policy tho' armed with the severest and most cruel Punishments that could be thought of, was not powerful enough to stop its wonderful Effects; that by teaching Men to despise Death, and hope for a better Life after this, it puts them above the reach as well of the Promises as Threats of Policy; and that by sancti­fying both their Hearts and Consciences, it pro­duces that Effect in them, which Policy never durst so much as attempt.

IX. In like manner, Rhetorick has been prejudicial to Religion, through the ill use Men have made of it. The Objects of the Gospel, as they were at first offered to Men, without any Ostentation of Wit and Learning, struck their Minds with such Surprize and Admiration, as moved their Hearts, [Page 388] and made them wholly renounce their dearest Plea­sures and darling Sins. This was the only Eloquence used in the Primitive times. But the Church after­wards unfortunately taking in the filly Vanities of the Greeks and Romans, the Mysteries of the Gospel be­came then either Matters of Philosophical Disputes, or subjects of Eloquence; and because this last de­rives its Original from Poetry, whose grand Com­mendation solely consists in Fiction, things came to be either disguised and varnished, or heightned and exaggerated; and from thence proceed all your Pa­negyricks, Funeral Orations, &c. and all those Paradoxes and false Tenets set off with glittering Reasons and pompous Language, which in time pro­duced so many monstrous Opinions. But this we ought the less to wonder at, since Eloquence, and all the charming Expressions of humane Invention, are no less repugnant to Religion than we have shew'd Phi­losophy to be. For if it becomes not Men to endea­vour to comprehend by the help of Philosophy those Mysteries which God himself is pleased should re­main incomprehensible, it certainly as ill becomes them to attempt to set off with false Ornaments of humane Eloquence, those Objects which the Wisdom of God design'd should be adapted to every Mans Capacity, by the simple manner after which he was pleased to propose them.

X. Lastly, Even Grammar, when differently mana­ged according to the Passions and evil Designs of Men, mav serve to darken and perplex Religion. This gives occasion to some Mens Complaints, that the Jewish Grammar is uncertain; that the pointing of it is dubious; that there are several various Read­ings both in the Old and New Testament; that we are ignorant who it was that collected the Books of Scripture, and composed the Catalogue of those Books which are to be held Canonical; that the A­postles, [Page 389] when quoting the Prophecies in their E­pistles, altogether make use of the Greek Translati­on of the Septuagint, and are not very exact in re­citing all the Words of those Texts they mention; that there are many obscure and imperfect places in them for want of Expressions to fill up the Sense, &c.

But 'tis certain, that this grammatical Exactness, or rather Superstition, is not very agreeable to our Faith. This a certain Author has very well hinted at, when he says, Scriptura non amat nimium diligentes. And the Reasons that may be alledged for it are, 1. Because the Objects of the Gospel are of too great and important concern for the Wisdom of God to suffer them to depend upon the insignifi­cant Niceties of Grammar. If Men dont usually enquire whether a King's Laws are set forth in such words as are altogether in use, or whether there be any Transpositions and Parentheses, in them; whe­ther the Rules of Grammar are duly observed, or who it was that drew them up; if it be enough that we know them to be really the Laws of such a Prince, and that they are clear enough to be un­derstood by all; I say, if those considerations are sufficient to incline us to a due Observance of them, I do not see how any one can reasonably raise all these Difficulties, against the Books of Scripture, which have that peculiar Advantage over the Ordi­nances of Princes, that the very same things are often and often repeated in them, and consequent­ly need no Grammatical alteration.

Besides, if the Essentials and Substance of Religi­gion depended upon any such external Alterations, it would follow from thence, that no Man could be a Christian, without being first a Critick; and that he must be a perfect Master of Languages, before he could be allowed to study the Means of Salvation; [Page 390] and consequently, that we could make no further Pro­gress in Religion, than we had well employed our Time in the Ʋniversity, which certainly is a thing contrary to the Design of God, who is pleased to call all sorts of Men to the Knowledge of himself.

To this we might also add, that if Mens Salva­tion was affixed purely to the Order and Disposition of Words and Syllables, they would pay a Reverence to Words and Syllables instead of Mysteries; and thus we should inevitably fall into all the Extrava­gances of the superstitious Cabbalists,

Suppose you had lived in the Time of the Apostles, and had distinctly heard them one after another preaching the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Hea­ven, tho' each of them expressing himself after his particular way, 'tis certain you would never have made your Salvation depend upon their different manner of expressing their Thoughts, but upon those Objects they would have unanimously laid be­fore you; and had you been never so little moved at those excellent things which they preached and repeated several ways, it may well be presumed you would not have cavilled about a few equivocal Words as perhaps escaped them, or the Method and Order of their Discourse, or any other insigni­ficant Trifles of this Kind. Now the written Word is of the very same Nature with that which they preached, and consequently we cannot chuse but pass the same Judgment upon it. For those good and holy Men who spoke as the Spirit gave them ut­terance, that is, with all Simplicity as was necessary for the Accomplishment of the Design of God, ima­gined not in the least that those who were to come after them would be so nice in their Judgments, or raise any such Scruples against their so very simple and natural Expressions.

[Page 391] It is our chiefest Concern to regard the Substance and Essential part of their preaching, and that is God's Design, to save Mankind by the Death of his Son. To this every thing relates, and it is sup­ported by Three other very great and important Objects, the Resurrection of Christ attested by the Apostles themselves; the Completion of all the Pro­phecies contained in the Old Testament; and the mi­raculous Gifts of the Holy Ghost; all which things the Apostles saw, and clearly and distinctly taught Men, and at last digested in Writing, directed by the Wisdom of God, when the whole Earth seemed full of Astonishment at the sight of the Extraordi­nary Gifts God poured down upon Men, at the ac­complishment of so many Prophecies in the Person of Christ, and at the sufferings and Trials of the Witnesses of God.

And this is the main Substance of the Writings of the Apostles, as well as of their Preaching. And Divine Providence was pleased that all those things should be digested in Writing, in a time when they could not possibly be forged or altered; that they should be received and approved of in all Christian Societies of the World; that they should be first dispersed every where by an infinite number of Co­pies and Translations of them, then afterwards quoted by almost an infinite number of Doctors, carefully preserved almost every where, and car­ried generally into those places whence Persecution had banished and removed the Christians. Nay, God has pleased that those Writers should all conspire to teach us the same things, tho each expressed him­self after his own particular way; that the manner of their Compositions should be the same with that of their Speaking; that they should exactly follow in all their Quotations the Greek Translation which was known of the People, and not puzzle the Faith [Page 392] of the simple and ignorant by any critical Remarks, which were things beneath those Men who had both seen and handled the Word of Life, had declared the wonderful Works of God, and received the Gift of Tongues, that they might be clearly understood by all Men. It was also necessary, that those won­derful Writers should insist rather upon the things themselves, that they delivered, than the ordering of their Words, that so they might keep up the great Character of their Office, and we might learn from thence to regard rather the Sense of what they have written, than the accuracy of their Expressions. They have sufficiently expounded all the fundamen­tal Truths of Religion, which tho not very many, are yet repeated almost in every Page of their Writings. They left to their Disciples the Care of collecting their Writings, and setting together those Canonical Books, which contain all things ne­cessary for Salvation: Not that that Collection has all the Writings of the Apostles, but it contains certain Truths often and often repeated by them sufficient to promote the Sanctification of Mankind. As for the various Readings, they are so few and so inconsiderable in themselves, that they alter not in the least the Sense of these Books, so far are they from changing the unalterable Substance of Religion, in as much as there is no part of the Apo­stles Writings to which it is not inseparably united, and almost every where repeated.

And as for the Objections about the Hebrew Grammar, and Authority of the Books of the Old Testament, were all true as is objected, which yet is dubious, it ought not to disturb us, since Christ and the rest of his Apostles have so fully confirmed those Books. Those little and inconsiderable Diffi­culties are far from being prejudicial to our Faith, since 'tis enough to know that the Scripture is the [Page 393] Word of God, as we perceive by the Marks and Characters of it. 'Tis enough to be certain that it is impossible that either through the Faults of the Transcribers, or Negligence of Men, or the want of Exactness found in the Translations; or lastly, through the Multitude of equivocal Terms, it should ever want those important Precepts and evident Truths which are necessary for our Salvation and Sanctification, and of which 'tis as it were a con­stant Repetition: For otherwise God must either have deceived us, or his Wisdom have been deceived, in being wanting in the preservation of such Means, as it purely design'd to maintain and keep up the Faith of Mankind.

However it be, 'tis not our present Design to blame in the least, either the Care which some take to instruct themselves in the Criticisms of the Holy Scripture, or the Respect they have for its Expressions, which are indeed worthy to be prefer­red before all others. God forbid we should ever entertain any such impious and foolish Thoughts: We therefore here intend only to assert Two things; 1st. that all those small Difficulties the Criticks raise against them, ought not to be looked upon as any way sufficient to shake the Foundations of our Faith, the Wisdom of God having wonderfully provided, that our Faith should be established without Respect had to those Difficulties. The second is, that those very Difficulties are not only of excellent use to humble our Minds, but also necessary to keep us from the Superstition of insisting only upon a liter­al Signification, and from that Folly which we may call the Adoration of Words.

We must therefore grant, that all things, our Senses, Education, the Curiosity of the Mind, Super­stition, Philosophy, Policy, Humane Eloquence, and Gram­mar, are as so many Instruments which our Passions [Page 394] employ to make void that Submission which our Faith owes to God; that through the ill use we put them to, they are converted into so many different ways of shaking off that Divine Obedience; and that the Speculations which spring from all these Princi­ples, aim at nothing else but the weakning our Faith, just as the loose and remiss Maxims of some Casuists tend to the Destruction of Morality; it be­ing as difficult for the Ʋnderstanding to believe, as for our Heart to mortifie it self.

Nevertheless, it may reasonably be affirmed; 1st. That this Submission of our selves to God, is abso­lutely necessary; and that unless we pay it him by readily receiving the Principles of his Religion, we must inevitably yield it up to Matter, and so give up our selves to the most wretched and impious Ig­norance, and horrid Darkness of Understanding; it being most certain, that we shall no better com­prehend, what Eternity, Infinity, Extension, the manner and necessity of the Existence of Matter is, than we already know what passes within God. 2ly. That our Heart is disposed to such a submission of Mind in those things which relate to our civil and natural Concern. And if it be certain that we do not defer to receive Nourishment, till we are fully instructed after what manner Nutrition is made within us, and if we are easily induced to be­leive the Attraction of the Magnetick Stone, tho we are ignorant of the manner of that Operation, why should we not in like manner as easily beleive My­steries, tho we are not able to dive into the manner of them? 3dly. This Submission to God is so very reasonable, that none but a Man utterly void of Sense, can be so stupid as not to perceive it. For till we are endowed with an infinite Understanding, we shall never be able to know but one side of things, and consequently we must necessarily be for ever [Page 395] ignorant of the other. 4thly. It is very just and e­quitable, if ever any thing was so; and it aims at nothing but shewing us our Ignorance, and repre­senting to us that being liable to be deceived, we ought carefully to follow Revelation as a true and faithful Guide. We should certainly be extra­vagant, proudly to deny our own Ignorance, or im­piously suspect that God could deceive us, when his Design is to reveal his Majesty to us.

V. But what is chiefly to be observed for the Honour of our Religion, what shews the Characters of its Divinity, and forces us to acknowledge them, is that it teaches us that to see clear into matters of Religion; we ought not to rely upon the Light of our Understanding, and that we must lay aside the Evidence of Reason, if we would be free from Errours in point of Faith.

'Tis a wonderful Effect of the Christian Religion, that it renders us happy, by inducing us to renounce our selves; and no less admirable that it enlightens our Minds by obliging us to renounce our Rea­son.

To look boldly and stedfastly upon Mysteries is the way to be blind; whereas we shall easily perceive the Light of God shining about us, if we do but humbly cast down our Eyes. We shall be suffici­ently learned if we rest satisfied with the Know­ledge of what God has been pleased to reveal unto us: And nothing more betrays an Universal Igno­rance than an insignificant Desire to be ignorant of nothing. In other Sciences a Man's Skill is mea­sured by his Knowledge; but in that of Salvation, he is best instructed who is most humble; he who has the least Pride has the most understanding. And the proof of it is easy. We have already seen that the nice Speculations of Reason about Mysteries do but more perplex and darken what was before ob­scure. [Page 396] Let us now see how much the submitting our Reason to Faith makes us have a clearer Insight into those Mysteries, or at least how much it hin­ders our being confounded by them.

'Tis certain, that by continuing in such a state of Humility, whatsoever Difficulties may arise, they will not have force enough to discompose our Minds. We shall not be surprised that we are not able to comprehend the Nature of God, or his man­ner of Knowing, loving and acting; or his Eternity, Immensity, &c. but we shall rather be ravished with Admiration to think that we that are no better than Worms or Atoms, are yet thought worthy to know him, and raised to that pitch of Glory, as to have some Prospect, tho but a faint one of his won­drous Works and infinite Perfections.

Neither shall we have any reason to be offended because, God formerly abandon'd the Gentiles, and casts away other Nations which still abide in pro­found Ignorance and Darkness; tho perhaps there is nothing in Nature so difficult, or incomprehensi­ble as the Conduct of God. But we shall rather re­flect upon our Selves, and endeavour to search into the Knowledge of our own Nature. And upon such a consideration we shall find our selves buried and swallowed up, if I may so speak, in some Corner of this vast Universe, and that too in such a Time or conjuncture as is a meer Point, in comparison of that almost infinite Duration of Time which has elapsed, and that Eternity which is still to pass away. We shall only perceive a few Years and a few Nations, which we ascribe to Providence as its Object; as if that which presides over the whole Creation were to be bounded by a few Ages or Na­tions. But weak and foolish Creatures that we are, we perceive not that infinite Succession of Objects which take their Turn, and move on according to [Page 397] the Decree of eternal Wisdom; we perceive not the strict union of this World with that which is to come, or the share those Nations (whose Igno­rance we so much deplore) have in that continued Chain of Events; nor the Rights which Divine Ju­stice has over them, or at least we have but a faint and imperfect Knowledge of them: We consider not that a thousand Years are as one Day, and one Day as a thousand Years; one Nation as an hun­dred Nations, and an hundred Nations as one Nati­on in his sight, who is able to create an infinite number of them out of Nothing, as he did us. And in this we may be compared to those, who lying in the bottom of a Well, would fain see the whole Extent of the Heavens.

Were we truly sensible of our wretched Nature, we should not be so curious or inconsiderate, but rather dread the Fate of those Men who were smit­ten from above, for having looked into the Ark of God. We should find out the Falsity of those Opi­nions which are the products of a rash Curiosity; and whilst we limited our Enquiries by Revelation, we should easily discern those that went beyond it. We should distinguish Religion which mortisies us, from Superstition which flatters and agreeably de­ludes us; and however Policy in the height of its Pride might rank us among Creatures not much su­periour to Brutes, we should not cease to think our selves the Children of God. No Charms of Elo­quence should impose upon our Belief; no idle Ni­ceties of Grammar perplex that Faith which de­pends upon the Objects of the Gospel, which are indeed too manifest in their Nature, too often re­peated, and closely united to the Principles of Common Sense; too well confirmed and attested by their Events; too worthy of God himself, and con­duce too much to our Sanctification to be ever cal­led [Page 398] in question. In a word, we should then shake off our Incredulity, when we removed that which excited within us a secret Propension to it.

It is therefore certain, that God has covered the Mysteries of Religion with a sacred Darkness, and has even permitted Men to make them yet more obscure by their vain Speculations. But what at once gives us Wonder and Consolation, is that the deepest Philosophers and most curious En­quirers see not always clearest into the matters of Religion; but those only who make least use of the force of their Reason, and forbear to enquire nicely into those things which it becomes them humbly to believe. This seems to be the Opinion of Christ himself, who said to his Father, I thank thee O Fa­ther, Lord of Heaven and Earth, because thou hast hid these things from the Wise and Prudent, and hast reveal­ed them unto Babes, Mat. 5. 11.

And here indeed we cannot but tremble with Re­verence and Admiration, when we joyn this Cha­racter of the Divinity of our Religion to the rest. Hence it is that we must renounce our selves, and beg of Almighty God that he would enlighten our Understanding, when we perceive that such a sublime and elevated Science, which offers such noble and magnificent Objects to our Consideration, is yet conceived by those only that are pure in Heart. Here then ought we to cry out, what a Divine Religion is this! Which at once enlightens and humbles us, which amazes, and yet clears our Understanding; which leads us to saving Knowledge by the free and ready confession of our own Ignorance; and takes a­way all the Imperfections of our Understanding by making it submit to Faith. Where is the Wise? Where is the Disputer of this World?

IX Portraiture of the Christian Religion; or, the Conformity of its Mysteries to the Lights of Reason.

HAving look'd into the Original of all our false Prejudices, 'tis now no difficult matter to distin­guish Religion from Superstition, and Divinity from Philosophy. Without such a Distinction we must in­evitably fall into the greatest Difficulties; and by it 'tis easy to demonstrate, that Religion contains no greater Difficulties than even Nature it self.

Thus the Doctrin of Predestination, of Grace and Original Sin, are such unfathomable Depths as ter­rify at first view the Mind of him that endeavours to reconcile them to the Light of Nature, and me­thinks I already hear a Multitude of Doctors crying out against me, that I ought not to presume to dive into thebottom of those profound Mysteries, which confound their Reason, the more attentively they consider and reflect upon them.

But I beg leave of those worthy Men, to tell them, that all those matters would seem to them less diffi­cult than they do, were they less Philosophers than they are. And I would have them always remem­ber, that Faith and Reason, Divinity and Philosophy are essentially distinct one from the other, in as much as the former barely perceives the Object it self, without endeavouring to search into the man­ner of it, and consists in that Submission which pre­vents its further Enquiries, Pride and Rashness being contrary to it; whereas the latter continually en­deavours to know both the things and the man­ner of them, together with the Physical Causes of them, having no greater Enemy than Ignorance, to oppose its Progress.

[Page 400] Accordingly a Divine ought only to enquire whe­ther there be any such thing as Grace, Predestinati­on, Original Sin, &c. But a Philosopher not satis­fied-with a bare Knowledge of it, will yet further enquire, what is the order of the immutable Decrees of God, after what manner Grace determines our Free Will, and by what means Original Sin was trans­mitted from the first Man to his Posterity.

The Apostles, who were the truest, and indeed on­ly Divines, that confined themselves within the due Limits of Divinity, have very largely instructed us in all those Objects, by fully demonstrating the truth and necessity of them; yet have not let fall the least Word that could give us an Insight into the manner of them. But the succeeding Christians applying themselves to the study of the Platonic and Aristotelian Philosophy, really thought the know­ledge of Salvation a Science as well as the rest, and thereupon framed to themselves many fruitless and unprofitable Speculative Systems, which in many places were repugnant to Piety, and perplex'd our Divine Religion with several humane Difficul­ties.

It would be injurious to imagin, that St. Paul in his large Discourse about the Doctrin of Predesti­nation, aimed at nothing else but to gratify the vain Curiosity of those he address'd himself to. All that he there says, tho' seemingly Speculative, is in reality Practical. The Question was, Whether the Distinction that was between the Jews and Gtntiles was not wholly taken away; and if so, whether the Gentiles were not to make up one and the same Body with the beliving Jews? Those of the Circumcision being accustomed to look upon the Heathens as a People that were cursed, could not easily imagin that they should ever enjoy the same Privileges with them. But St. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, [Page 401] endeavours to confute this Prejudice of theirs; and to that purpose he shews them, that God is the God of all Men; that he suffered that all Men should Sin, that he might thereby extend his Grace to all; that the Choice he made of the Jews for his peculiar Peo­ple was a free and liberal Election; that 'twas by by Faith alone, and not by Works that the Patri­archs were acceptable to him; that his Mercies were not entailed upon the Posterity of the Patri­archs; that the Circumcision of the Flesh was not the reason of their Acceptance with God; that the Law of it self could not have that effect; that it was not for the Good Works of Jacob that his Po­sterity was preferred before that of Esau; for whilst the Children were yet in their Mothers Womb, and had done neither Good nor Evil, it was told Rebekah, consulting the Divine Oracle about them, that the Elder should serve the Younger.

Now the Reflections to be made upon this Doctrin of St. Paul, are these, 1. That the abso­lute Necessity there was then to treat of those mat­ters, and the urgent occasion that obliged the A­postles to speak of them is now wholly at an end; for there's none among the Christians, that either calls or ought to call in Question the Election of those Gentiles who sincerely believed the Gospel: So that if we happen now adays to be ingaged in any eager Disputes about those matters, 'tis meerly out of a Principle of Vanity, or Obstinacy, or a rash and impious Curiosity. Every thing was practical in St Paul's Discourse of Predestination, whereas those are wholly Speculative that are in these latter Days composed about it. St. Paul had no other Design but to create Peace and Charity between the Jews and Gentiles, by shewing them that they were both the Object of the Divine Election: But now this Doctrin is changed into Speculation and Philoso­phy, [Page 402] and has no other use but to create Scandalous Divisions in Christian Societies.

2. The best and surest Method in this Case is to imitate the Modesty of St. Paul, who barely asserted the thing, taking great care not to search into the manner of it. He only spoke of Election in gene­ral. And when his curious and impertinent Reason went about to examine the performance of it, he only cryed out; O the Depth of the Riches! &c. It must be confessed St. Paul had as much Wit as any modern Divines can pretend to, and so could have framed as probable Systems of the Consent and Harmony of the Decrees of God, or have found out either in the ill use we make of our Free Will; or in the Springs of our Soul, wherewith to solve these Difficulties. Yet he never attempted it. And the reason was, he was a true Divine, and not a meer Philosopher, and knew very well that the most essential part of Faith consists in humbly casting down our Eyes before the dark side of the Mystery.

3. But because we are allowed to conceive di­vine matters after our own way, and that it would otherwise be utterly impossible for us to speak of them, so may we also distinguish the several Decrees of God; We may conceive them depending upon, and subordinate one to another; but still remem­bring the Truth of this Principle, Deus non vult hoc propter hoc, sed vult hoc esse propter hoc, yet we should appear no more reasonable for urging against Re­ligion the Difficulties which arise from this Order of the Decrees of God, than if a Man should pretend to raise very serious Objections against the Distincti­on we conceive between the Hands and Feet and Eyes of God. For as we should readily answer the the latter, that he did not do well in urging too far those figurative and humane ways of speaking; so should we tell the former, that there being no real [Page 403] dependence or distinction in the Decrees of God, he need not be perplexed at those Difficulties that seem to take their rise from it.

4. In the mean while I grant it ought to be our chiefest Concern to range those Decrees in an order most conformable to our own Reason, and most worthy the Majesty of God. Being therefore ob­liged to conceive God under the notion of a Man, it is but reasonable we should conceive him under the notion of a Wise and Prudent one. It must be confessed that there can be no greater Extravagance than that of those Philosophical Divines, who main­tain so fierce a War about the manner of conceiv­ing the Order of the Decrees of God. The Apostles themselves never argued about them. They were neither Supralapsarians, nor Ʋniversalists, nor Parti­cularists, for they desired not to frame Systems of their own, nor did they design to prefer Speculation before Practice. What was then the Doctrin of the blessed Apostles? The same that is common to all those several sorts of Divines; that which is con­tained in our Catechisms; which does not require we should go through a Course of Philosophy, be­fore we can understand its Precepts; that which teaches us purely the Thing it self, and not the Manner after which it is brought to pass; that, in short, which procures Peace and good Understand­ing among Christians, and not that which is the uni­versal Cause of all their Dissentions.

5. There are Two things to be considered in the Doctrin of Predestination, as it is offered to us by St. Paul; The Expression, and the Thing it self. The Expression indeed may sometimes seem to us strange and unusual, because we are not very well acquaint­ed with the Hebraisms the Apostles were often wont to use in their Discourses. Thus for instance, this Expression God hardeneth, which seems to denote a [Page 404] positive act unworthy of God, signifies only, that God does not use to take away the hardness of Heart. As for the Thing it self, there are two several E­lections, a general, and a particular Election, both which may well be supposed to be spoken of in the 9th. Chap. of the Epistle to the Romans.

As for the general Election of the Jewish Nation St. Paul undertakes to shew that it did not depend upon any external Causes, but that it proceed­ed from the sole Will and good Pleasure of God. He tells us, it was not on the account of the Righ­teousness of Jacob, (as the Jews imagined) that Is­rael had been preferred before the Posterity of Edom, since long before the Children had done either Good or Evil. Rebekah was told that she carried two great Nations in her Womb, meaning her two Sons, and that the Elder should serve the Younger. And that the Apostle speaks in this place of a general Election of the People of the Jews, is easy to perceive from this Text of Malachi, Chap. 1. v. 2, 3. which he quotes as follows, I have loved you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's bro­ther? saith the Lord: Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his Mountains and his Heritage Waste, for the Dragons of the Wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, we are impoverished, but we will return, &c. 'Tis past all dispute that Malachi speaks here of the two Na­tions, from whence we cannot but conclude, that 'tis also the intent of St. Paul to speak of their Electi­on in the 9th. of the Romans, which exactly agrees with the precedent and following Words. For in the foregoing Verses he shews us, that in order to be admitted into the Covenant, 'tis not sufficient to be of the Posterity of Abraham according to the Flesh, but 'tis further requisite we should be so by Faith, beca [...]se it was said, in Isaac shall thy seed be called; [...]nd that Isaac was the Son of the Promise. And in [Page 405] the following Verses, the Apostle introduces Hosea speaking after this manner, I will call them my people which were not my people; and her beloved which was not beloved.

It cannot be supposed but that St. Paul speaks also of the Election of private persons, and makes men­tion of it in those excellent words of the foregoing Chapter, where he says, whom he did foreknow, he al­so did predestinate to be conformed, &c. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified, &c. and a little further he adds, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of Gods elect, &c. Now 'tis observable, that this continued Chain of Benefits does not make make any Order in the Decree it self, but in its execution. So that the Sum of all that may be gathered from these Words, is to this effect, that God predestinates us, and that having predestinated us, he calls us, he justi­fies us, and he glorifies us; all which thus far ad­mits of no considerable Difficulty.

Let us not then carry our Enquiries higher than that Apostle did his; and since he never argued Phi­losophically concerning the Order of the Decrees of God, let us lay aside all those unprofitable Specula­tions, which will vanish of themselves, when we have supposed the Simplicity of the Divine Nature; or if we must needs Philosophize upon it, let us at least separate our Philosophy from our Faith, and make a Difference betwixt our own Reasoning, and the Notions of the Holy Ghost; let us not vainly con­tend barely about the manner of conceiving the na­ture of things.

Were there are a right understanding amongst Christians, to make that happy Distinction between Philosophy and Divinity, which we require of them, by keeping themselves within the Bounds of Revela­tion, [Page 406] which barely informs us of the nature of the thing, and rejecting in matters of Religion all Phi­losophy which endeavours to dive into the manner of it, it would be the surest method to extinguish all those Sects which rage among us, and restore all things to the primitive Unity and Simplicity of the Apostolical Religion.

The Doctrin of Predestination would then be no longer a confused Heap▪ of Darkness, Contradicti­ons, and endless Difficulties, as it is now adays, through the fault and neglect of Men; 'Twould then appear to us more conformable to Reason to hold Predestination than otherwise. For if there be a God, he cannot but foresee what will become of Men, and that they will fall into Misery and Sin. And if some of them be saved, 'twould be ve­ry absurd to think that God designed them not un­to Salvation.

And this Doctrin of Predestination, when di­stinguished from the Speculations of Schoolmen, and vain inquiries of humane Curiosity, is wholly com­prised in these two Propositions; God foresees the Sin and Misery of Mankind, and some part of them he designed to Save, according to that of the Apo­stle, those whom he did foreknow, he also did predesti­nate, &c. Now can any thing be more reasonable than these two Principles are?

For if a wise Man can be said to foresee the Time to come by the Rules of his Prudence and Conduct, would it not be below the Majesty of God, to sup­pose him ignorant of Futurity, who was the Author of Time? Is it possible he would not as yet be con­cerned in the Salvation of Mankind? And can it be supposed that Man should be saved as it were by an unforeseen Chance, against his Will? What would become of his Mercy, if what he did, proceeded not from the Design he had to save us? Could he [Page 407] have sent his Son into the World, and yet deny Salvation to those who were to be born after the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ?

There occurs in all this but one Difficulty, which is the same that St. Paul urged to himself, when he said, Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his Will? Are we guilty then, will the Gentiles say, because we were not sooner partakers of his Light? Or how can I be saved, the Reprobate will cry out, since God did not predestinate me to Salvation? To this we re­ply, We must not call in Philosophy to our assistance to avoid this Difficulty, which is common to all Systems, and in some becomes greater. St. Paul went no further than this; let us in imitation of him stop there also: Let the Bounds of Revelation, be those also of our vain Curiosity. The greater skill Philosophy affords us to solve this Objection, the further it removes us from the Truth, which seemed wholly impenetrable to a Writer far more learned than us, and who was forced to cry out when he reflected upon it, O the Depth, &c.

'Tis easy to shew that this is a common Difficul­ty. We cannot own the Existence of God, with­out ascribing to him a Fore-knowledge of the Time to come; and it is certainly true, that to explicate the Divine Prescience, will produce in us the same intricate Doubts, as Predestination; so that both of them being infallibly true, 'tis utterly impossible to go against either of them.

'Tis further evident, that this Difficulty is no less considerable in natural things, than it is in those that concern Religion. For if God can foresee the Time to come, he must of necessity have foreseen and set Bounds to our Lives; which if true, we may eat, or not eat, we may preserve, or not pre­serve our Selves, it being all one; since we cannot [Page 408] exceed, or come short of those Limits which the Al­mighty has prescribed us.

Whence I conclude, That the Doctrin of Prede­stination contains two sorts of Difficulties; the first, which spring from the too refined Notions of Philosophy, which ought not to perplex our Minds; for we are not obliged to answer them: The second, which are natural, and common to all the Affairs of Life, so soon as you have laid down this Prin­ciple, That there is a God who made us, and that he can foresee that which will certainly come to pass. For if we are taught both by Experience and Rea­son that God hath a knowledge of Futurity, and that he hath foreseen and foretold it upon many Occasions, as it appears by the fulfilling of Prophe­cies, 'tis evident from thence, that both Experience and Reason perswade us to receive the most difficult things, or rather the only Difficulty that is implied in the Doctrin of Predestination.

The same might easily be proved in Original Sin, and the Efficacy of Grace, if we distinguish between the manner and the thing it self: It is true, we are Originally defiled with Sin, having been shapen in iniquity, and conceived in Sin, and being by nature Children of Wrath. The Holy Scripture informs us of the thing it self, because absolutely necessary to our Humility and Sanctification. 'Twas unnecessa­ry to know the manner of it, since it is to no pur­pose for a Man to know how he fell into a Pit; his business then being to find the means how to get out of it. And therefore the Holy Scripture is silent as to the manner in which Original Sin was transmitted to us, that is, as to the Physical manner of its infect­ing the whole Race of Mankind. All the Questi­ons which Divines generally Start, are meerly Phi­losophical, containing such Difficulties as we are not obliged to answer. If we distinctly understood the [Page 409] union of our Soul and Body, we might very clearly explain that incomprehensible Transmission of Ori­ginal Sin; but since our Learning can never arrive to that Height, we have great Reason to distrust our Philosophy; but be it as it well, the Difficulties proceeding from our vain Curiosity ought not to be taken for the Effects of Faith.

Faith and Reason are here in a perfect union, by keeping themselves within their due Bounds. Faith teaches us the thing it self, and Reason assents to it. Reason comprehends not the manner of it, and Faith supposes it incomprehensible.

If Reason could deny that Men were from their Cradles inclinable to Evil, it would be contrary to Faith, which teaches us that Principle. And if Faith should flatter us with the hopes of freeing that Ob­ject from all the Difficulties occuring to those who endeavour to search into the bottom and manner of it, it would be also contrary to Reason, which knows Faith wholly incapable of such an attempt. But since it is not so, nothing hinders but that we acknowledge the agreement between Faith and Reason.

The same proportion there is between Reason and Faith, is also betwixt Reason and Sense: And as Faith is above Reason, so is Reason above Sense. 'Tis an undeniable Truth, that Reason and Sense ne­ver oppose one another, altho one of these Fa­culties cannot comprehend the manner of those things which the other does. Thus for instance, Sense testifies that there is an ebbing and flowing of the Sea; and Reason which is truly convinced by this Testimony, together with the unanimous Consent of Men, agrees to the Truth of it, tho wholly ig­norant of its Physical Cause: If Sense could certify that this Phenomenon could be perfectly known, it would be contrary to Reason, which scarce under­stands [Page 410] it at all; and if Reason absolutely denied there were any such Phenomenon, it would be also contrary to Sense, since all unanimously testify there is such a thing. But Sense certifies the Existence of that Phenomenon, and Reason is truly perswaded that it is so. Reason thinks it a very hard matter to understand, and Sense affirms not the contrary; Reason therefore and Sense perfectly well agree to­gether, and such is likewise the joint Agreement of Faith and Reason in the greatest Mysteries of Reli­gion.

Those are Difficulties indeed worthy to be ad­mired, which Philosophy so confidently starts up in matters of Divinity. There are many things in Nature, whose Existence we readily own, but no­thing, tho inconsiderable in it self, the manner of which we can comprehend; and yet it never came into any Man's Mind, that had but common Sense, to call them in question. If then we shew our selves so very reasonable in Natural things, why should we prove so senseless in matters of Religion? In common things our Understanding acts naturally, but in Religion 'tis deluded by the Passions which continually seek how to suggest to it new occasions of Doubting.

We may pass the same Judgment upon matters of Grace. Do but distinguish Philosophy from Divinity, and you will avoid thereby an infinite number of Difficulties; it being certain that for the most part they proceed, either from the eager desire we have to understand what is altogether incomprehensible, or from the Speculations we have already made upon that we could not comprehend. Now to know the Injustice of Men in this, we need but observe that most of them being fully perswaded, that God preserves us, nourishes, and supports us by his per­petual Concurrence, without which the Meat we [Page 411] eat, and the Care we have of our Preservation would stand us in no stead, and by which we im­mediately Subsist; yet we never heard that any one did seriously conclude from thence, that we ought wholly to lay aside the Care of our own Preserva­tion, and solely rely on the Concurrence of God. We never saw any one so sensless as to perplex himself with these sorts of needless Questions; If it can be said, that I nourish my self by taking those Aliments as are absolutely requisite for my Preservation, how can it be reasonably affirmed that God nourishes, or preserves me? Or if it be God as nourishes me, how do I lie under an Obligation of doing it my self? I say, we never heard any of those Difficulties objected a­gainst Natural things; whereas it appears they are continually started in matters of Religion. Howe­ver, there are as good Grounds for them in the one as the other; because they consist in the Dependence we have upon the Deity, either in our being Crea­tures already, or being born again, or becoming new Creatures.

In Nature, we all know we subsist only by the Concurrence of God, without inquiring into the manner of it. But in Religion we are not content to know that we are Regenerated by Grace; we further desire to search into the manner of that O­peration, and our principal care is how to find it out; so that those very Difficulties which could not perplex Men in matters of Eating and Drinking, seem terrible and frightful to them, when 'tis re­quisite they should lead a good Life. If you would know the reason of it, you must consult the Heart of Man. 'Twill be sufficient for us if we Act with as much reason in Religion as we do in civil Life.

If we consult the purest Lights of Reason, it will inform us that 'tis as necessary the New Crea­ture [Page 412] should have its Dependence upon God, as that the Creature should depend upon him; because God himself is as well the Author of the one as of the other; and as our Bodies have neither Life, Motion nor Being but from him, so our Souls have no Faculties, Knowledge, or Affections, but what they derive from thence. Every Being comes from him, and nothing but what is defective can have any other Principle.

The thing it self then is very certain, I mean that there is such a Grace to which we must necessa­rily refer all the good that is within us, and that belongs to Divinity. But the manner of its opera­tion, that is, the degree of virtue it displays over us, the manner in which it determines our Free-will, its minutest Conjunctures, &c. may be hidden My­steries belonging to the consideration of Philosophy, but not in the least prejudicial to our Faith, which consists in an humble Submission, as well as in Know­ledg, and can as readily profess its utter Ignorance of a hidden Mystery, as it gladly perceives it when revealed.

I question, whether Divines have observed, that when the Apostles are pleased to point out to us what is most eminent in Mysteries, they neither ex­amine the Order of the Decrees of God, nor the in­conceivable Transmission of Original Sin, whereby the Wickedness of the First Man was conveyed down to us; nor why Grace seems incompatible with Free-will: Whence proceeds this, if not from their Ignorance of Philosophy and want of vain Curiosity, which by their own Example they designed to teach us to avoid?

What is then, according to them, the great My­stery of Godliness? This is it, God was manifest in the Flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of Angels, believed on in the World, preached unto the Gentiles, received up into Glory, Tim. 3. 16.

[Page 413] The Incarnation which is expressed in these Words, God was manifest in the Flesh, is a great and sublime Mystery; but if we lay aside our Prejudices, we shall find it conformable to our Reason.

1. For it must be first of all granted, that in this Covenant, the Almighty debases not himself in fa­vour of those with whom he makes it, as we see in dishonourable Treaties, where a King is upon e­qual terms with his Subjects. This is a Covenant wherein God unites himself to the Creature, with­out diminishing his Greatness and Glory, and where the Creature unites it self to God without losing its due sense of Humility. The Sun unites himself with the Cloud where it imprints its Brightness, with­out an Eclipse; and why should not God unite himself with an innocent Nature, without lessening his real Worth and Dignity?

2. We have an excellent Representation of this Truth, in the Union of our Soul and Body, where two Substances distinct in the highest degree are u­nited together, without having any natural pro­portion betwixt them. What has the Soul to do with the Body? And how can there be any Affinity betwixt things of so different a Nature? It may perhaps be answered, that there is a greater Dispa­rity betwixt the Humane and Divine Nature, than the Soul and the Body. I agree, that the Dispari­ty is infinitely greater; but the Diversity is still the same; and there is a great deal of difference be­twixt an Union which carries a mutual dependence along with it, such as that of our Soul and Body, and an Union, which contains the dependence only on the one part, such as that which is betwixt the Divine and Humane Nature. And what is most surprising, in the former of those two Unions, is to see that the Soul, which is so noble a Being, should be so closely fastened and united to Matter, [Page 414] and even depend upon it in all its Operations. Now 'tis not so with the Incarnation of Christ: And it can never be said, that the Divine Nature depends on the Humane; but contrariwise, 'tis the Humane Nature which depends on the Divine. In this U­nion God remains the same as before, All-perfect, All-mighty, All-full, Eternal and Immutable; but Man is changed, and sanctified, and exalted by it. What Inconveniency then can there result from it? As it is surprising to see a most noble Being subject to a less perfect Being; so it is natural for a less perfect Being to be subject to one more Noble. Now the latter of these the Mystery of the Incarnation evi­dently demonstrates; and the Union of the Soul with the Body discovers the former. It follows hence therefore, that the Union of the Soul with the Body is in some sense very extraordinary, and far more surprising than the Mystery of the Incar­nation.

3. If still you require another Representation of this Object, that might further give you a clearer Notion of the same, Conceive a false Sun, com­posed of two different things, so closely united to­gether, that they seem as it were confounded toge­ther, viz. A Cloud, and the Light of the Sun. The Cloud is not the Sun, nor is the Sun the Cloud; And thus the Humane Nature of Christ is not the Di­vine Nature the same with the Humane. This false Sun, is a Sun, and yet a Cloud; so likewise Christ is God, and Christ is Man. This false Sun is formed of the Substance of the Earth, because it is composed of a Cloud, which is nothing else but the Vapours of it; and of the Sun himself, being formed out of those Beams in which the Body of that Planet consists; so in like­manner Christ is taken from the Earth and is a part of the common Lump of Mankind, because he is [Page 415] Man, which does not hinder him from being the Substance of the Father, since he is the Brightness of his Glory. This is a very just Representation of that great Mystery, but not perfect. But we hope every just and equitable Reader will easily forgive the De­fects of this Comparison in a Subject that is so far exalted above our weak Imagination.

4. Moreover of all those who pretended to treat of the Nature of the Deity, none but the Epicureans, who thought it was idle and lazy, divided it entirely from its Creatures; and all other Men besides, looked upon it as united to its Works. The Heathens, for instance, imagined it was affixed to their Temples and Statues, to which they supposed it constantly united. But the Jews more properly looked upon God as being united in a more parti­lar manner to a Bush, or a Cloud, or the Ark. And several of the Incredulous now adays represent the Deity to themselves as an Ʋniversal Soul affixed to universal Matter, just as our Soul is united to our Body. If then it be so common to Men to conceive God as being united to his Works, why should it seem so strange to them to represent him as closely united to the Humane Nature of Christ, and that too in a more particular manner than to any of his other Creatures? For if there be any Creature which the Deity may be united to, it must necessa­rily be such an holy and innocent Creature as that is. And if it be possible for God to unite himself to any living Body, it is much more likely he should impart himself to the Soul of Jesus Christ. If an Ark was capable to be filled with the Presence of God, there is not the least Difficulty in conceiving that Humane Nature being pure and holy, and far perfecter than all the Arks in the World, should have been thus honoured in a more particular man­ner. And if Men, in short, stick not to make the [Page 416] Ʋniversal Soul as it were depending upon Matter by its Union to it, why should we refuse to admit of an Union which leaves to God his intire Inde­pendence and Liberty, and aims at nothing else but the bringing the Body and Soul of Christ in a greater subjection to Him?

We no sooner embrace the Mystery of the Incar­nation, but every thing that seems offensive in the Doctrin of Christian Religion, will presently vanish. We shall then easily comprehend that 'twas possible for Christ to die, since he was Man; and that his Death is infinitely valuable, since he was God. And so great is the Dignity which proceeds from the Union of those two Natures, that it makes the Death of Christ equivalent to the Punishments our Sins had so justly deserved.

We shall not then think it difficult to be fully convinced of the Truth of the Resurrection of our Lord; for it would be unreasonable to suppose, that a Nature as had been honoured with so particular an Union to the Deity, should yet have been for ever dissolv'd, and remain'd to all Eternity under the Power of Death: But we shall think it very reasonable to imagin that it could not but have risen from the Grave, into which it had been pleas­ed to descend. If then Christ be truly risen from the Dead, can our Incredulous Reason still refuse to believe that we shall also rise again?

But how can that Reason contradict a Truth which the Disciples saw? They beheld the Glory of Christ, both in the Miracles which he perform­ed, and in his Holiness of life: They saw God manifested in the Flesh, and were Witnesses of the Resurrection of our Lord: They perceived Angels coming down towards him: The Gospel was preached to the Gentiles by their Ministry: The World believed on their Preaching; and Lastly, [Page 417] they saw Christ ascending into Heaven, all which were very sensible and evident matters of Fact.

The Mystery then of the Incarnation, tho the hardest to comprehend of all those of Christian Re­ligion, implies however nothing contrary to Rea­son. But we must except the most Holy and ever­blessed Trinity, another Mystery, which being infi­nitely exalted above the reach of our shallow Capa­city, is not easily reconcilable to it. Nevertheless 'tis most certain, that the Sublimity of its Nature renders it not any ways repugnant to Reason. 1st. Because the word Person is not to be taken in the same sense with that of Essence. I grant that three Persons and one Person, one Essence and three Es­sences implie a Contradiction; but the Notion of one Essence and three Persons is not liable to any, af­ter you know the Signification of those two Terms▪ 2ly. Because the Deity is so great and so sublime a Subject, that we ought not to wonder if we can't reach to the Greatness of it by our weak Imagina­tion. 3dly. Because for ought we know, the most considerable Difficulties of this Mystery proceed from a Defect of Revelation; or the silence which holy Writ observes on that account. Perhaps we should not think it at all hard to conceive, if the Holy Ghost had been pleased to reveal its Nature a little more clearly to us▪ But such is the wonderful Conduct of God, who is resolved to humble us, and not to satisfy our vain Curiosity nor indulge the Pride of our Understanding, which is too greedy of Knowledge. 4thly. Because we are not wholly desti­tute of Images, there being several capable to illu­strate that Object, tho never so incomprehensible in it self. Thus for instance, the same Soul is an Ʋn­derstanding, as it perceives; a Will, as it has a de­sire; and a Memory, as it recalls the things past to the Mind; all which three Faculties are comprehend­ed [Page 418] in one and the same Understanding. In like man­ner also the same Light is in the Heavens a Sun; in the Air, Brightness; and in the Cloud, a false Sun. 5thly. To all this we may yet further add, that the greatest Difficulties of this Mystery proceed from those Speculations in which School Divinity has in­volved it, to the great Scandal of our Faith, and e­ternal Confusion of our Reason.

For who can endure the Liberty those Metaphy­sical Divines have taken, in pretending to form and decide ridiculous, rash, and impious Questions concerning that greatest Mystery of our Religion? Can we think any reasonable Man could read all their impertinent Questions without Indignation? As, whether several Divine Persons could take but one and the same Person? Whether the Word could have taken upon him in an Hypostatical Uni­on the Form of an Angel, of a Beast, of a Woman, of an insensible Being, of an Accident, of an Act of Sin, of a Devil; so that if these Propositions were true, God is a Sin, a, &c. Whether the Word has taken the Soul in an Hypostatical Union rather than the Body, or the Body rather than the Soul? Whe­ther, if Man had not Sinned, the Word would not have taken our Flesh upon him? Whether Humane Nature was first united to the Essence, or the Person? Whether the Humane Nature was united to the Divine by several Unions? Whether a Divine Per­son may take upon it self the Form of a created Person? Whether Humanity was united to the Per­son of Christ by way of Accident, or of Substance? Whether the Humane and the Divine Nature are a part of Christ, and whether Christ be two several things? Whether Christ be of a create or uncreate Unity? How it came to pass he did not take upon him the very individual Nature of Adam? Whether this Proposition, Christ is Man, was true during [Page 419] those three Days he remained in the Grave? Last­ly, Whether Christ should have died of old Age, had he not been crucified in his Youth, &c.

These are the only Difficulties that occur in the Christian Religion. As for the rest 'tis so essentially, so visibly, and so necessarily agreeable to Reason, that we cannot but wonder that our Incredulous Adversaries have not yet perceived it. This we have already sufficiently proved in several places of this Work, and we cannot well insist further upon it, without repeating again what has been already said.

It is sufficient therefore to observe, that Christ is as it were the Reason of Nature, Society and Religi­on. He is the Light enlightening every thing, with­out which we should fall into infinite Troubles and Perplexities. Christ is the Center of all Events, which seemingly relate to his coming; he is the Center of Truths, which are the more clearly re­vealed the nearer we approach him; the Center of all the Mosaical Ceremonies, which are meer Extra­vagance in themselves if they relate not to him; the Center of all Virtues, which have no sufficient Force or Motives able to induce us to practise them, but by the consideration of Life and Immortality re­vealed to us in Christ; the Center and Foundation of the inviolable Rule of Conscience, which would be nothing else but Errour and Illusion, if the Chri­stian Faith were a Fable. The Center of all those Characters of Wisdom visibly diplay'd in all the Works of God, since nothing but the Christian Re­ligion can lead Man to the true End of his Creation; none but that can justify the Wisdom of God; the Center of all the Hopes of Man; for what is there that he could hope for, if Christianity were a Lye? The Center of all the Evidence and Certainty that is in our Knowledge; for what is there that we could be certain of, if our Soul were only a Disposition of [Page 420] Atoms, and had no such Spirituality and Immortality as that imputed to it by the Christian Religion? There need have been only a different Configuration of Parts to form first Notions quite contrary to those we now have. Let any one therefore closely consi­der the Matter, and it will appear to him, that if we deny Christ, who teaches to know our own selves in revealing to us Life and Immortality, no Salva­tion can be expected either for Reason or Consci­ence.

X Portraiture of the Christian Religion; Or, the Proportion it bears to the Jewish Religi­on.

THere is nothing truer than that the Jewish Re­ligion is great, noble and divine; and we can­not reflect on the Greatness of its Miracles, the Sub­limity of its Morality, the Purity of its Doctrin, the Holiness of its Precepts, and the Completion of its Prophecies, without immediately acknowledging it to be stampt with Divine Characters. But yet we shall find it altogether defective, if we separate it from Christianity, since its Essence consists in its relation to that.

We cannot conceive without it, how God can be the God of one Nation, and yet not be that too of other Nations also; that the Deity should be con­tained in a material Ark, and being the Father of Spirits should so carefully seek after an external and corporeal Purity; that unwilling to satisfy his Ju­stice, he should require Sacrifices of Men; or if wil­ling to be appeased by Offerings and Oblations, he should demand such mean ones of them, which were unworthy the Majesty of his God-head; that God [Page 421] who made Heaven and Earth, should dwell in a Temple made with Hands; or that he who created all things visible and invisible, should take pleasure in an external Pomp; that he who made the Smelling, which he wants not himself, should delight in the smell of Incense; or that his Voice, properly so cal­led, should be heard, to which Thunder it self scarce bears the Resemblance of an Echo: I say, we can never conceive any of these things, without the help of Christian Religion.

For who can reconcile the Wisdom seen in the Religion of Moses, with the Imperfections discover­able in it? How could that Lawgiver prove so con­trary to himself? And how could so many Chara­cters of Divinity be attended with so many seeming­ly superstitious Customs and trivial Ceremonies? Consult but the Christian Religion, and you'll then no longer wonder at it; there you will find both the Reason and Wisdom of every thing that surpris'd you in the Old Covenant.

All the Customs contained in the Books of the Old Testament are partly reducible to Three Heads. 1st. To a general Preparation of all things for the recep­tion of the Messias who was to come. 2ly. To the Representation of his Office and Oeconomy, by a Type or Shadow. 3dly. To the describing of him after such a manner, as to render it altogether im­possible for the Elect Souls not to know him when he came. Whosoever shall consider the Books of the Old Testament under these Three Notions, will cer­tainly discover nothing in them that can perplex his Faith; but he will find that every thing therein serves to increase his Knowledg, by discovering to him as it were the Scheme of God's Councels, and his great Plan and Design of Religion.

But since 'tis not our present Design to dive into the unfathomable Abyss of the Justice, Wisdom and [Page 422] Mercy of God, so neither shall we enquire into the Reasons which induced him to permit Men to sin; or why he was pleased to save some rather than o­thers; or upon what account he made use of the In­tervention of a Mediatour, rather than of any other Means; or whether there were any other way to ex­piate the sins of Mankind, but the Death of Christ? I say we shall not trouble our selves about any of these vain and fruitless Enquiries: And since it is but just we should freely own our Ignorance, I think we can never find a better opportunity to acknowledge it than when we are talking about the secret Methods and Councels of God, because we can never disco­ver the bottom of them, unless we cease to be what we are, or he to be what he is.

Without attempting then to search into the man­ner of these things, which is altogether incompre­hensible to us, and of which we are not able to speak but imperfectly, we freely suppose the Truth of them. We do not in the least question but God per­mits Sin, because we are all Sinners. We know that a small Number of Men are sanctified, to whom the Scripture makes several great and sublime Promises. And we are also taught, that they are delivered from their Sins by the intervention of a Mediatour, and that God had resolved to bring it to pass by such means even before the Foundation of the World. But let us now consider how the Wisdom of God prepared and disposed Men for it.

These Preparations related in the Old Testament are manifold. For there are Preparations of Events, Preparations of Ceremonies, Preparations of Pro­phecies, Preparations of Precepts, and Preparations of Tenets.

As for the Events, they all relate to this great Center of Religion. Had Abraham always lived in Ʋr of the Chaldees, he must necessarily have fallen in­to [Page 423] Idolatry as well as the rest of his Kindred, or he could never have preserved to his Posterity the Knowledge and Worship, of the true God; and his Seed consequently could not have been a Seed of Blessing for all the Nations to come. It was then ab­solutely requisite he should forsake his Country, as well as his Kindred. And had Jacob always lived with his Father Laban, the Posterity of the latter would have corrupted that of the former; so that Esau having already mixed himself with Strangers, the holy Race could by no means avoid being con­founded with the profane, and so the Promise of the Messias would not have been entailed upon any par­ticular Family or Nation, because in Succession of Time it would have been altogether impossible to di­stinguish it from the rest. It was then necessary, that Jacob should forsake his Father-in-Laws House, and consequently live apart from all other Nations. And had it not been for the protecting Providence of God, this People, who was honoured with his Co­venants and intrusted with his Oracles, would have absolutely perished in Egypt, and together with them the Hopes of a promised Redeemer. To preserve therefore such comfortable hopes, they were necessa­rily separated from all other Nations; and the bet­ter to keep themselves in that State, tho' they differ­ed from them all in matters of Policy, Manners, In­clinations, and Religion, yet it was necessary they had God for their supream Magistrate, who gave them all those wonderful Marks of his Protection we read of in the Old Testament. Tho' thev were carried a­way captives into Babylon for their Sins they were ne­cessarily gathered together again from that Dispersi­on Seventy years after, lest a longer Bondage should have made them for ever lose the Marks of their E­lection.

'Tis no difficult matter to perceive that it was in [Page 424] behalf of the Messias only that God was pleased to make so many Distinctions: And the Promise of his coming could not be entailed upon every Nation of the World. He set apart one single Nation from the rest, purposely to intrust them with so great a Salvation. And because 'twas absolutely requisite this Distinction should remain till the Birth of that Redeemer, so for that End he appointed five very re­markable Principles of that Separation. The first whereof was, the Knowledge of the true God, a di­vine Character of the Election of that People, and a Priviledge they could not chuse but be infinitely jealous of, especially when they considered, what pro­found Darkness, Ignorance and Superstition was then dispersed in the World. The second was, the Circum­cision, that sign of his Covenant, which God was pleased the Israelites should bear in their Flesh, to distinguish them the more effectually from all other Nations. For it was not by meer Chance, or out of any fantastical Humour that this Custom was first settled among the Jews. 'Tis not to be supposed they could have received, without very powerful Motives to it, so painful and difficult a Custom, so contrary to the natural Affection of Mothers, as ap­pears by the Example of Zeporah; nay, which even seems at first view somewhat shameful and obscene. As for Philo's and other Mens Reflexions on the Cu­stoms of the Circumcision, they are very pitiful. The third Principle of that Distinction was the Land of Canaan, which God gave to the Patriarchs and their Posterity after them, tho' he did not give them immediatly an actual possession of it. He fixed the Hearts of that People upon that particular Land, lest they should have been insensibly dispersed over the Face of the whole Earth. And the Patriarchs upon their Death-beds strictly recommended the car­rying of their Bones into it, the better to fix the [Page 425] Hopes and Affections of the whole Nation upon it. But lest it should have happened, that the Canaan­ites, the Perisites, the Jebusites, &c. who were be­fore in possession of that Land, should have inter­mixed themselves with the holy Generation, and consequently corrupted them by their Superstition; God himself consented that those Nations should in this Life undergo an exemplary Punishment for their Sins which had been carried on to the utmost pitch of Excess, and for that end his Vengeance made use of Josuah and his Armies as Instruments to destroy them utterly. The fourth was the Tabernacle, and afterwards the Temple, which God resolved should be the Center of the ceremonial Worship, he hav­ing solemnly declared that no Sacrifices, or any o­ther material Oblations whatsoever could be accept­able to him, but what were offered in them, intend­ing to prevent by that means the Israelites wan­dring from that place, which was to be as it were the Center of their Religion, and by consequence to e­stablish their Separation from all other Nations up­on a surer and stronger Foundation, which too was necessary to make one day their Messias known. Lastly, the fifth Principle of that Distinction was the Worship of the Law it self, which was of such a Na­ture, that the observance of its Ordinances indis­pensably obliged the Jews to abominate and detest all Commerce with other strange Nations, or indu­ced all other Nations to look upon the Jews with Horrour and Indignation. For it injoyned the Jews to sacrifice the Creatures other Nations worshipped as Deities, and the latter scrupled not to feed upon the Flesh of those Animals, which the Jews had in Execration, &c. In a word, the external and cor­poreal Purity the Law so carefully prescribed them, prohibited the Jews all manner of Commerce with those prophane and polluted Nations.

[Page 426] But God thought it not sufficient to set apart un­to himself one particular Nation from the rest; he was further pleased to seperate also in that Nation one Tribe from all the rest; viz. the Tribe of Judah, in particularly assigning to it those Promises of the Messias which are contained in that excellent Prophecy uttered by the Mouth of an expiring Pa­triarch; The Scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the Lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the People be, Gen. 49. 10. God was also pleased to chuse one single Family in that Tribe, to ascribe principally to it the Promise of the Messias: And that was the Fa­mily of David, to whom he promised that he would make his seed sit upon the Throne as long as the Sun and Moon endureth; which Promise would have been manifestly false and absurd, were it not exactly fulfilled in the person of the Messias. Lastly, he chose such a Branch of the Family of David, as shot forth as it were out of a dry ground, and out of the root of Jesse, that is, a Branch of it that was fallen in a very mean and wretched Con­dition. All which Distinctions were designed only to make Men discern and know the true Messias, and to prevent the loss of that Knowledge so necessary to their Salvation, in the Confusion of Nations, Tribes, Families, and Generations.

But it was not only by meer Events that God dis­posed the Hearts of the Israelites to receive the Mes­sias; he imposed upon them also an infinite number of Ceremonies to inspire a more fervent Desire in them of being freed from the Burthen of those Rites. He revealed to them but in part many sublime and important Tenets, that they might earnestly desire a clearer and fuller Revelation of them. He gave them a Law too, which wholly consisted in carnal Motives and Rewards, and was attended only with temporal [Page 427] Blessings and Threatnings, which Law was to dis­pose them by its Insufficiency to receive a better Co­venant. The Law intervened, that Sin might abound; and God suffered it to abound by way of prevention, that Men at length being made sensible of their Guilt, might have recourse to his Mercy, which was ready to be revealed unto them in Jesus Christ. Thus it appears all things as it were prepared the Jews to a new Oeconomy and Dispensation.

We may also add, that there was nothing but what represented it. The Lawgiver and People, the Covenant it self, the Mediatour, the Worship and State of the Faithful; in a word, every thing was shadowed in the Old Testament, as in a great and magnificent Picture, drawn by the hand of God him­self, and exposed to the publick view of Men in all Ages to come.

Therein the Deity is represented under an humane Shape, to give us a Type of God manifested in the Flesh. He is said to have wrestled with Jacob, as an Admonition to us, that Prayer is a sort of Wrest­ling wherewith God is well pleased. He charged Moses not to come near the fiery Bush where he ma­nifested himself, till he had first put off his Shoes from his Feet, the better to make us understand, that without Holyness we neither ought, or can approach unto God. He shewed his Back-parts only to his Servant Moses, to inform us, that the advantage of seeing him Face to Face, that is, of perfectly know­ing his Will and his Councels, particularly belonged to a far greater Prophet than Moses.

The Two Covenants are likewise represented to us by Abraham's Two Wives. The Covenant of the Gospel by Sarah, the Mother of the free Children; and the Covenant of the Law, by Agar, the Mo­ther of the Bond-men.

[Page 428] The faithful People, that is, the Church or the Congregation of those Men who are chosen for e­ternal Life, are farther represented to us sometimes by the People of Israel, sometimes by the Assembly of the first-born, and sometimes by the Multitude of the Levites and Priests. And the Conformity be­twixt the People of Israel and the Christian Church is very remarkable. The People of Israel were set a­part from all other Nations, and so are the faithful from the rest of Mankind. God was the Protector of Israel only, when at the same time he forsook all other People. In like manner none but that Holy Congregation of People we call the Church, how­ever dispersed in all Times and in all Places of the World, can justly boast of its being immediately pro­tected by the Almighty. The People of Israel were abhorred and had in execration by all other Nations, and so is the Church hated by all the World. The People of Israel cried unto God for help in the midst of their Oppression, and their Cry came unto him; and just so has the Church had its Martyrs and af­flicted Sufferers, continually crying out night and day, How long, Lord, &c. The People of Israel, had no other Guide but God; no other Light but his; no other Support to defend them but his Providence: They were fed for a long time with nothing but that Bread he miraculously gave them from Heaven for their Sustenance, &c. The Church in like manner has no other Lights but what proceed from God; no other means of preservation but his Providence; no other Support but his Strength, &c. God dwelt in Israel, and being willing to conform himself as it were to the Israelites, would have a Tabernacle erect­ed him, when they themselves dwelt in Tabernacles, and a House when they also made their Abode in Houses. So God is now in the midst of his Church, and the Faithful themselves are his Temple and his Sanctuary.

[Page 429] Further, the Divine Worship paid to God in Is­rael, was an excellent Figure and Type of that spi­ritual Worship that we Christians are bound to give him. To the Temple that was divided into the Porch, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies, is answerable the World, the Church and the Heavens, the eternal Sanctuary of God; To the Levites, all the Faithful without Exception that are designed to serve God; to the White Cloathings of the Ministers of the Ta­bernacle, the Innocence and Holyness of all those who design to approach unto him; to the Purity of the Body, the Purity both of the Heart and Conscience; to the Blood of Goats and of Lambs, which was a Confirmation of the Old Covenant, the Blood of Je­sus Christ which confirms the New Testament; to the Entrance of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies, wearing the Names of the Twelve Tribes written up­on his Breast, and presenting to God the Blood that was shed in the Porch, corresponds the Ascention of Christ into Heaven, where he continually presents us to God his Father, and intercedes for us by vir­tue of that Blood which he shed for the Expiation of our Sins; to the purifying Waters which washed a­way all the Pollutions of the Body, the Waters of Grace which sanctify the Spirit; To Mount Sinai, Mount Zion, to the sound of the Trumpet of Rams Horns, the Voice of the Gospel; to Moses himself the Mediatour of the Law, Jesus Christ, the Medi­atour of the New Covenant.

The different state and condition of the Church is is also further represented to us by the various con­dition of the People of Israel. Our spiritual Bon­dage is marked out by their temporal Slavery, our Deliverances by their Deliverances, our Enemies by their Enemies; and so just and reasonable is the Con­formity there is betwixt those Images and their Ori­ginal, that the Holy Scripture often makes little [Page 430] distinction betwixt them, and intermixes in one and the same Chapter that which concerns the temporal State of the Israelites, and that which concerns the Spiritual condition of the Faithful, as also the Events that attended the Jewish Oeconomy, and the Won­ders of the New Covenant. These things are worth our Observation, and he that does not duly consi­der them, will never be able to understand any thing in the Prophecies contained in the Books of the Old Testament.

Lastly, The Wisdom of God was resolved we should not want a competent number of Types that might sufficiently represent to us the Excellence, Of­fices, and Ministry of our Mediatour. Thus Isaac conceived in the Womb of a barren Woman the De­light of his Father, the Foundation of all the Pro­mises of God, offered up for a Sacrifice upon a Mount by the very hand of his Father, rising as it were from the Dead, by being delivered from the Knife he had already lifted up against him, and having after­wards a Seed as numerous as the Stars of Heaven and the Sand of the Sea; this Isaac, I say, was a lively Image of Jesus Christ, who was conceived in the Virgins Womb, the Darling of his Father, in whom he was well-pleased, the Foundation of all his Promises, the Source of his Blessings, dying up­on Mount Calvary, rising again in a wonderful manner after his Death, and seeing his Seed after him when he had made his Soul an Offering for Sin. Thus a­gain, Joseph sold by his Brethren, betrayed out of Envy, accused tho' Innocent, condemned because he would not submit to the immodest Desires of a la­scivious Woman, delivered out of Prison, appear­ing before Pharaoh, cloathed in Garments suitable to that Honour, and then sitting at his Right Hand, was a wonderful Representation of Jesus Christ be­trayed out of Envy, sold by the Jews themselves, [Page 431] who were his Brethren, condemned for refusing to comply with the Synagogue, cast down into the Darkness of Death, endued with heavenly Gifts, raised again to Heaven, and sitting at length▪ at the Right Hand of God. Moses defigned to be the Me­diatour of the Legal Covenant, rescued at his Nati­vity from a Deluge of Blood, exposed to the River­side, and as it were given up to a sure and infalli­ble Death; but afterwards delivered by a kind of Miracle from the Fury of the Waters, and also de­livering not long after his own Nation himself by a lucky Turn, when he seemed to be cast away, was an exact Representation of Jesus Christ, who came into the World to be the Mediatour of the New Co­venant, was delivered at his Birth from the Murder of Herod, and saved Men after his having suffered Death. Jonas who was cast into the Sea to appease the Tempest, and swallowed by a Whale, which three Days after cast him again on the Shore, suffi­ciently gives us to understand, who it was that calm'd by his Death that Storm our Sins had raised, that went down into the Grave, and afterwards rose again the third Day. Lastly, David being raised from the State of a Shepherd to that of a Monarch, was an excellent Type of Christ, who after his Hu­miliation inherited a Name that is above every Name.

And as for those Prophecies which have describ­ed to us by such notable Epochaes and signal Chara­cters, both the Person, Coming, and the Time of the Coming of the Messias, we have already very largely spoke of them; so that what we have said in that respect, is more than sufficient to make us ad­mire the exact Proportion there is betwixt the first and second Covenant, as well as betwixt the Jewish and Christian Religion. Moses Illustrates Christ as we have proved in our first Part of this Treatise; and [Page 432] Christ again Illustrates Moses as appears plainly by the Comparison we just now made of them.

XI Portraiture of the Christian Religion, as it is considered in the Proportion it bears to natu­ral Religion.

WE have already described the Christian Reli­gion as it is thus considered, in having fully proved in several places of this Work that it takes away the Corruption which had disordered Nature; that it subverts Paganism, which was the Corruption of natural Religion; that 'tis the perfect Restauration of the latter; that it reestablishes the Principles of Justice and Equity, which God had imprinted in our Hearts; that it produces the most perfect Union of Society by Love and Charity; that Humility, Tempe­rance, Wisdom, and all other kind of Virtues which support natural Religion, derive the Force of their Motives from the Christian Religion, they alone be­ing equivalent to all sensible Objects; and lastly, that it makes us answer the End of our Creation.

'Tis a wonderful Comfort and Satisfaction to our Minds, and at the same time exalts our Nature to reflect that the End for which Man was designed, is the same with that of Christian Religion; and the End of Christian Religion the same with the true End of Man's Creation. Every thing that goes to the Constitution of Man's Nature does in a manner seek after God. The infinite Curiosity of our Minds in­cessantly thirsting after the Knowledge of New Ob­jects, seeks after that Deity which the Christian Re­ligion discovers to us, because that Deity contains all things in the Excellence of its own Nature. The greedy and hasty Desires of our Hearts, which can [Page 433] never be truly satisfied with any Object we see, seek after God as a Supreme Good, which contains in it all other Advantages.

It was a thing before unheard of, that a Man must satisfy the Desires of his Heart by glorifying God. To give our selves up to Godby renouncing our selves, and to renounce our selves to dedicate our selves wholly to God, are meer Paradoxes; yet such the Christian Religion plainly demonstrates to be true, by supplying the Defects of Mankind, and restoring natural Religion.

And now reflect upon those Eleven different Por­traitures or Characters which we have thus offered to your Consideration. Observe that our own Imagi­nation had no share in the Product of natural Religi­on, of the Revelation of Moses, of the Heart of Man, of the Morality of Christ, of its Doctrin, its End, and the Effects of it; of the Testimonies given in favour of it; of its relation to the great End of Man's Crea­tion, the Glory of God. Consider, that all those Representations depend not upon any of our foolish Fancies, or fantastical Whimsies of the Incredulous; and that altho we should not understand the Origi­nal of the Christian Religion, yet we ought to refer it to a Celestial Principle, since we have discovered that it is qualified and adorn'd with so many Chara­cters of Divinity.

What then shall we say, when we reflect that we have it by a voice from Heaven; that an infinite number of Martyrs suffered Death to confirm it, that the Events and Miracles performed in the World taught it us; that many undeniable matters of Fact convince us of it; that the Prophets declare it, and the Devils themselves silently own it? What can we say now that we are surrounded on all sides with Light, with the Ligh