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from the days of their writers ? and how could histories and cpistles be forged, so exactly to tally together in the most minute circumstances, without the least appearance of design? If ever books had internal marks of genuineness, which no rational man on diligent perusal can doubt, the Acts of the Apostles, and St. Paul's epistles have those marks: and I believe it would be impossible, for all the genius of all the knaves on earth combined together, to write a history, and a number of epistles, so manifestly open, frank, artless, and often immethodical ; and yet to make the one so perfectly to confirm the other. If the priests and rulers of the church should have attempted such an imposition, would the people have unanimously consented to the fraud? And would Jews, Pagans, and Heretics have allowed the forgeries of Christians to be genuine and ancient books ? A very probable story indeed is devised by our Oracle of Reason, when he supposes that the very church which held purgatory, dispensations, and other antichristian tenets, and which is exceedingly afraid lest its members should learn heresy from the New Testament, fabricated the books which compose that Testament, and which predict and condemn those abuses ! But the church could ' write, and therefore could fabricate them! Let Mr. P. or his more learned friends try to fabricate some epistles, and ascribe them to Luther, Calvin, Beza, Cranmer, or some of the reformers; and, even allowing them the immense advantage of saying they were never before published, they will soon find it much easier to write, than to establish a literary forgery!
The resurrection of Christ has been proved, and
the apostles shewn to have been faithful witnesses. Two of the gospels were written by them, and have evidently been extant from their days; as all competent judges must allow : and the other two. gospels were written by the companions of the apostles. These were published when the facts were recent; and no enemy, for nearly four hundred years afterwards attempted to disprove them. The miracles wrought by the apostles and evangelists confirmed the truth of the narrative. In these books the words of Christ are contained ; and they authenticate all the rest of the scripture. We have seen that he always quoted every part of the Old Testament as the word of God; and he gave his apostles “ the keys of the king“ dom of heaven, that whatever they bound or “ loosed on earth, should be bound or loosed in “ heaven.” This could only be done by their doctrine ; and all human censures and absolutions are valid so far as they agree with the doctrine of the apostles, and no further. But where shall we find this doctrine except in their writings ? Those writings contain also internal proof both of being genuine and divine; and are confirmed to us by prophecies which have been fulfilling ever since. Whatever men may now say of the sacred writers, they always speak of themselves and each other as declaring the truth of God to mankind, and they demand credit and obedience as the messengers
1 Our Lord says,
“ Had ye believed Moses, ye would have « believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his “ writings, how shall ye believe my words ?” (John v. 46, 47.) Does not this decide that the books of Moses are genuine, with all that believe the testimony of Christ ? VOL. V.
and ambassadors of Christ. On every account, therefore, we have good reason, independently of ancient opinion, to receive the whole scripture as the infallible word of God.-But ' Christ did not write his own life.'' What then? If he had, would not its authenticity or genuineness have been as liable to be questioned, as Matthew's or John's life of him? This again leads to universal scepticism, and is replete with most arrogant presumption.
Upon the whole, there is not a religion in the world at this day, except Christianity, that so much as pretends to be a revelation from God demonstrated by miracles and prophecies, and rendered successful by a divine power accompanying unarmed unlettered men, preaching a holy doctrine, in the midst of potent and violent enemies, and patiently enduring all sufferings, even to death in the cause. The Jews adhere to the Old Testament; but that evidently foretels and terminates in the New. Mohammed, respecting whom Mr. P. has spoken with great incorrectness, propagated even his licentious religion by the sword, and with many advantages had very
little success, till he adopted that measure : and there are no other candidates which even Mr. P. thought worthy to be mentioned. What, therefore, has been discoursed concerning revelation, miracles, prophecy, and the canon of scripture, contains such a mass of evidence in proof of Christianity, as never was, nor can pretend to be, equalled by the advocates for any other religion in the world.
· P. i. p. 8.
Mr. P. allows, 'in one sense, that every thing is a mystery to us :---that we, however, know as much 'as is necessary for us ;-and that it is better the ' Creator should perform all for us, than that we should be let into the secret.' Yet he calls 'mystery the antagonist of truth,' 'a fog of human invention that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion.'1 "To believe there is a God may be easy, or necessary ;' though atheists would dispute that point: but to know the nature and perfections of God is another matter. The pagan philosopher, who averred that the more he thought
of the Deity the less he seemed to know con'cerning him,' spoke far more reasonably on this subject than modern deists. The religion, that has any connexion with an infinite and incomprehensible God and a boundless eternity, must be in many respects mysterious : unless a finite mind can fully understand infinity. But Mr. P. repeatedly calls ethics religion ; and
says, ' Religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow creatures hap'py.*? He alludes to the words of the prophet Micah ;3 but he prefers an unmeaning repetition to the clause, “walking humbly with thy God.” But an atheist may do all that he specifies : and is not that a singular definition of religious duties, which admits atheists to have been very exemplary in them? No doubt such a religion may be as free from mystery as any thing in the world
P. i. p, 54, 55.
? P. i. p. 4.
3 vi. 8.
But mystery, in scripture, signifies something relative to God, and his dealings with us, which could not have been discovered if it had not been revealed; which can only be received by crediting revelation; which can be known no further than God has seen good to discover it ; and which is so connected with things unrevealed and incomprehensible, that it cannot be fully understood or explained. The believer therefore understands the mystery as far as it is revealed, provided he fully credit the whole divine testimony: but a great deal respecting it still continues undiscovered. He knows it, not by reasoning, but by believing : he is still greatly in the dark, and must wait for fuller light till the Lord see good to afford it. In this sense religion must be mysterious ; and even Mr. P.'s revelation, that is the external world, is by his own confession almost as mysterious as the Bible. But on that subject he does not confound mystery with contradiction and absurdity.
The scriptures plainly ascribe divine perfections and operations to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; and use the strongest language of personality respecting each of them, even in plain commands and promises : and, as there can be but one infinite and eternal God, we infer that He is revealed as subsisting in three Persons; being Three in one sense, and One in another. But how