« PreviousContinue »
OF THE DIRECT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, AND WHEREIN IT IS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE EVIDENCE ALLEDGED FOR OTHER MIRACLES P. 329
That there is NOT fatisfactory evidence, that perfons pretending to be original witnesses of any other fimilar miracles, have acted in the fame manner, in atteftation of the accounts which they delivered, and folely in confequence of their belief of the truth of thofe accounts
CHA P. II.
Confideration of fome specific inftances
IDEEM it unneceffary to prove that man
kind stood in need of a revelation, because I have met with no ferious perfon who thinks that even under the Chriftian revelation we have too much light, or any degree of affurance which is fuperfluous. I defire moreover that in judging of Christianity it may be remembered, that the queftion lies between this religion and none: for, if the Christian religion be not credible, no one, with whom we have to do, will fupport the pretenfions of any other.
Suppose then the world we live in to have had a Creator; suppose it to appear VOL. I.
the predominant aim and tendency of the provifions and contrivances obfervable in the univerfe, that the Deity, when he formed it, confulted for the happiness of his sensitive creation; fuppofe the difpofition which dictated this council to continue: fuppofe a part of the creation to have received faculties from their Maker, by which they are capable of rendering a moral obedience to his will, and of voluntarily pursuing any end for which he has defigned them; fuppofe the Creator to intend for these his rational and accountable agents a second state of exiftence in which their fituation will be regulated by their behaviour in the first state, by which fuppofition (and by no other) the objection to the divine government in not putting a difference between the good and the bad, and the inconfiftency of this confufion with the care and benevolence difcoverable in the works of the Deity is done away; fuppofe it to be of the utmost importance to the fubjects of this difpenfation to know what is intended for them, that is, fuppofe the knowledge of it to be highly conducive to the
happiness of the fpecies, a purpose which fo many provifions of nature are calculated to promote Suppofe, nevertheless, almoft the whole race, either by the imperfection of their faculties, the misfortune of their fituation, or by the lofs of fome prior revelation, to want this knowledge, and not to be likely without the aid of a new revelation to attain it; under these circumftances is it improbable that a revelation fhould be made? Is it incredible that God should interpose for such a purpofe? Suppofe him to defign for mankind a future state, is it unlikely that he should acquaint them with it?
Now in what way can a revelation be made but by miracles? In none which we are able to conceive. Confequently, in whatever degree it is probable or not very improbable that a revelation should be communicated to mankind at all, in the fame degree is it probable or not very improbable that miracles fhould be wrought. Therefore, when miracles are related to have been wrought in the promulgating of a revelation
manifeftly wanted, and, if true, of ineftima ble value, the improbability which arises from the miraculous nature of the things related, is not greater than the original improbability that such a revelation should be imparted by God.
I wish it however to be correctly underflood, in what manner, and to what extent, this argument is alledged. We do not asfume the attributes of the Deity, or the existence of a future state, in order to prove the reality of miracles. That reality always must be proved by evidence. We affert only, that in miracles adduced in support of revelation there is not any fuch antecedent improbability as no teftimony can furmount. And for the purpose of maintaining this af fertion, we contend, that the incredibility of miracles related to have been wrought in attestation of a meffage from God, conveying intelligence of a future ftate of rewards and punishments, and teaching mankind how to prepare themselves for that state, is not in itself greater than the event, call it