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common foundation; osten attributing diffe- in these books, we find every supposition rent actions and discourses to the person negatived, by which they can be resolved whose history, or rather memoirs of whose into fraud or delusion. They were not secret, history, they profess to relate, yet actions and not momentary, nor tentative, nor ambidiscourses so similar, as very much to bespeak guous ; nor performed under the sanction of the same character; which is a coincidence authority, with the spectators on their side, that, in such writers as they were, could only or in affirmance of tenets and practices albe the consequence of their writing from fact, ready established. We find also ihe evidence and not from imagination.
alleged for them, and which evidence was by These four narratives are confined to the great numbers received, different from that history of the Founder of the religion, and upon which other miraculous accounts rest. It end with his ministry. Since, however, it is was contemporary, it was published upon certain, that the affair went on, we cannot the spot, it continued ; it involved interests help being anxious to know how it proceeded. and questions, of the greatest magnitude ; it This intelligence hath come down to us in a contradicted the most fixed persuasions and work purporting to be written by a person, prejudices of the persons to whom it was himself connected with the business during addressed ; it required from those who acthe first stages of its progress, taking up the cepted it, not a simple, indolent assent, but story where the former histories had left it, a change, from thenceforward, of principles carrying on the narrative, oftentimes with and conduct, a submission to consequences the great particularity, and throughout with the most serious and the most deterring, to loss appearance of good sense, information, and and danger, to insult, outrage, and persecucandour ; stating all along the origin, and the tion. How such a story should be false, or, only probable origin, of effects which unques- if false, how under_such circumstances it tionably were produced, together with the should make its way, I think impossible to be natural consequences of situations which un- explained ; yet such the Christian story was, questionably did exist ; and confirmed, in the such were the circumstances under which it substance at least of the account, by the came forth, and in opposition to such diffi strongest possible accession of testimony which culties did it prevail. a history can receive, original letters, written An event so connected with the religion, by the person who is the principal subject of and with the fortunes, of the Jewish people, the history, written upon the business to as one of their race, one born amongst them, which the history relates, and during the establishing his authority and his law throughperiod, or soon after the period, which the out a great portion of the civilized world, it history comprises. No man can say that this was perhaps to be expected, should be noticed altogether is not a body of strong historical in the prophetic writings of that nation ; evidence.
especially when this Person, together with When we reflect that some of those from his own mission, caused also to be acknowwhom the books proceeded, are related to ledged the divine original of their institution, have themselves wrought miracles, to have and by those who before had altogether been the subject of miracles, or of supernatural rejected it. Accordingly, we perceive in these assistance in propagating the religion, we writings various intimations concurring in the may perhaps be led to think, that more credit, person and history of Jesus, in a manner, and or a different kind of credit, is due to these in a degree, in which passages taken from these accounts, than what can be claimed by merely books could not be made to concur ir anv human testimony. But this is an argument person arbitrarily assumed, or in any person which cannot be addressed to sceptics or except him who has been the author of great unbelievers. A man must be a Christian changes in the affairs and opinions of manbefore he can receive it. The inspiration of kind. Of some of these predictions the weight the historical Scriptures, the nature, degree, depends a good deal upon the concurrence. and extent, of that inspiration, are questions Others possess great separate strength : one in undoubtedly of serious discussion ; but they particular does this in an eminent degree. It are questions amongst Christians themselves, is an entire description, manifestly directed and not between them and others. The to one character and to one scene of things : doctrine itself is by no means necessary to the it is extant in a writing, or collection of writbelief of Christianity, which must, in the first ings, declaredly prophetic ; and it applies to instance at least, depend upon the ordinary Christ's character, and to the circumstances maxims of historical credibility, (see Powell's of his life and death, with considerable preciDiscourses, disc. xv. p. 245.)
sion, and in a way which no diversity of inIn viewing the detail of 'miracles recorded terpretation hath, in my opinion, been able
to confound. That the advent of Christ, See Peter's speech upon curing the cripple, (Acts, iii. 18,) the council of the apostles, (xv.) - Paul's discourse at Athens, and the consequences of it, should not have 'xvii. 22, 1-before Agrippa, (xxvi.)-I notice these passages, both been more distinctly revealed in the Jewish ax franght with good sense, and as free from the smallest tincture
sacred books, is, I think, in some measure accounted for by the consideration, that for disposed and controlled by that Providenice the Jews to have foreseen the fall of their which conducts the affairs of the universe, institution, and that it was to merge at though by an influence inscrutable, and genelength into a more perfect and comprehensive rally undistinguishable by us. And in this, dispensation, would have cooled too much, and Christianity is analogous to most other prorelaxed their zeal for it, and their adherence visions for happiness. The provision is made ; to it, upon which zeal and adherence the pre- and, being made, is left to act according to servation in the world of any remains, for laws, which, forming a part of a more general many ages, of religious truth might in a great system, regulate this particular subject in measure depend.
common with many others. Of what a revelation discloses to mankind, Let the constant recurrence to our observaone, and only one, question can properly bo tion of contrivance, design, and wisdom, in the asked. Was it of importance to mankind to works of nature, once fix upon our minds the know, or to be better assured of? In this belief of a God, and after that all is easy. In: question, when we turn our thoughts to the the counsels of a being possessed of the power great Christian doctrine of the resurrection of and disposition which the Creator of the the dead, and of a future judgment, no doubt universe must possess, it is not improbable can possibly be entertained. He who gives that there should be a future state; it is not me riches or honours, does nothing ; he who improbable that we should be acquainted with even gives me health, does little in comparison it. A future state rectifies every thing ; bewith that which lays before me just grounds cause, if moral agents be made, in the last for expecting a restoration to life, and a day event, happy or miserable, according to their of account and retribution ; which thing conduct in the station and under the circumChristianity hath done for millions.
stances in which they are placed, it seems Other articles of the Christian faith, although not very material by the operation of what of infinite importance when placed beside any causes, according to what rules, or even, in other topic of human inquiry, are only the you please to call it so, by what chance or adjuncts and circumstances of this. They are, caprice, these stations are assigned, or these however, such as appear worthy of the original circumstances determined. This hypothesis, to which we ascribe them. The morality of therefore, solves all that objection to the divine the religion, whether taken from the precepts care and goodness, which the promiscuous or the example of its Founder, or from the distribution of good and evil (I do not mean lessons of its primitive teachers, derived, as it in the doubtful advantages of riches and should seem, from what had been inculated by grandeur, but in the unquestionably importheir Master, is, in all its parts, wise and pure ; tant distinctions of health and sickness, neither adapted to vulgar prejudices, nor flat- strength and infirmity, bodily ease and pain, tering popular notions, nor excusing esta- mental alacrity and depression) is apt on so blished practices, but calculated, in the matter many occasions to create. This one truth of its instruction, truly to promote human changes the nature of things; gives order to happiness, and in the form in which it was confusion ; makes the moral world of a piece conveyed, to produce impression and effect ; a with the natural. morality, which, let it have proceeded from Nevertheless, a higher degree of assurance any person whatever, would have been satis- than that to which it is possible to advance factory evidence of his good sense and inte this, or any argument drawn from the light grity, of the soundness of his understanding of nature, was necessary, especially to overand the probity of his designs; a morality, in come the shock which the imagination and every view of it, much more perfect than could the senses receive from the effects and the have been expected from the natural circum- appearances of death, and the obstruction stances and character of the person who which thence arises to the expectation of either delivered it; a morality, in a word, which is, a continued or a future existence. This diffiand hath been, most beneficial to mankind. culty, although of a nature, no doubt, to act
Upon the greatest, therefore, of all possible very forcibly, will be found, I think, upon occasions, and for a purpose of inestimable reflection, to reside more in our habits of value, it pleased the Deity to vouchsafe a apprehension, than in the subject; and that miraculous attestation. Having done this for the giving way to it, when we have any the institution when this alone could fix its reasonable grounds for the contrary, is rather authority, or give to it a beginning, he com- an indulging of the imagination, than any mitted its future progress to the natural means thing else. Abstractedly considered—that is, of human communication, and to the influence cousidered without relation to the difference of those causes by which human conduct and which habit, and merely habit, produces in human affairs are governed. The seed, being our faculties and modes of apprehension—I do sown, was left to vegetate ; the leaven, being not see any thing more in the resurrection of
; inserted, was left to ferment; and both accor- a dead man, than in the conception of a child, ding to the laws of nature : laws, nevertheless, I except it be this, that the one comes into his
world with a system of prior consciousness electricity, magnetism, though constantly pre about him, which the other does not: and no sent, and constantly exerting their influence ; person will say, that he knows enough of either though within us, near us, and about us, subject to perceive that this circumstance though diffused throughout all space, overmakes such a difference in the two cases, that spreading the surface, or penetrating the conthe one should be easy, and the other impos- texture, of all bodies with which we are sible; the one natural, the other not so. Το acquainted, depend upon substances and the first man, the succession of the species actions which are totally concealed from our would be as incomprehensible, as the resur- senses. The Supreme Intelligence is so himself. rection of the dead is to us.
But whether these, or any other attempts Thought is different from motion, perception to satisfy the imagination, bear any resemfrom impact ; the individuality of a mind is blance to the truth, or whether the imaginahardly consistent with the divisibility of an tion, which, as I have said before, is the mere extended substance; or its volition, that is, its slave of habit, can be satisfied or not; when power of originating motion, with the inert- future state, and the revelation of a future ness which cleaves to every portion of matter state, is not only perfectly consistent with the which our observation or our experiments can attributes of the Being who governs the unireach. These distinctions lead us to an imma- verse ; but when it is more, when it alone terial principle; at least, they do this,—they so removes the appearances of contrariety which negative the mechanical properties of matter, attend the operations of his will towarıls in the constitution of a sentient, still more of creatures capable of comparative merit and a rational being, that no argument drawn from demerit, of reward and punishment; when those properties, can be of any great weight in a strong body of historical evidence, confirmed opposition to other reasons, when the question by many internal tokens of truth and authenrespects the changes of which such a nature is ticity, gives us just reason to believe that such capable or the manner in which these changes a revelation liath actually been made ; we are effected. Whatever thought be, or what- ought to set our minds at rest with the assuever it depend upon, the regular experience of rance, that in the resources of Creative Wissleep makes one thing concerning it certain, dom, expedients cannot be wanted to carry that it can be completely suspended, and into effect what the Deity hath purposed : completely restored.
that either a new and mighty influence will If any one find it too great a strain upon his descend upon the human world to resuscitate thoughts, to admit the notion of a substance extinguished consciousness; or that, amidst
trictly immaterial, that is, from which exten- the wonderful contrivances with which the