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to by the apologists for Christianity; which answers the allegation of the objection.

I am ready, however, to admit, that the ancient Christian advocates did not infift upon the miracles in argument, fo frequently as I fhould have done. It was their lot to contend with notions of magical agency, against which the mere production of the facts was not fufficient for the convincing of their adversaries: I do not know whether they themselves thought it quite decifive of the controverfy. But fince it is proved, I conceive, with certainty, that the sparingnefs with which they appealed to miracles, was owing neither to their ignorance, nor their doubt of the facts, it is, at any rate, an objection, not to the truth of the history, but to the judgment of its defenders.

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Want of univerfality in the knowledge and reception of Chrifiianity, and of greater clearnefs in the evidence.

OF a revelation which really came from God, the proof, it has been said, would in all ages be fo public and manifeft, that no part of the human species would remain ignorant of it, no understanding could fail of being convinced by it.

The advocates of Christianity do not pretend that the evidence of their religion poffeffes thefe qualities. They do not deny that we can conceive it to be within the compass of divine power, to have communicated to the world a higher degree of affurance, and to have given to his communication a ftronger and more extenfive influFor any thing we are able to difcern,



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God could have fo formed men, as to have perceived the truths of religion intuitively; or to have carried on a communication with the other world, whilft they lived in this; or to have seen the individuals of the fpecies, inftead of dying, pass to heaven by a fenfible tranflation. He could have prefented a separate miracle to each man's fenfes. He could have eftablished a ftanding miracle. He could have caused miracles to be wrought in every different age and country. Thefe, and many more methods, which we may imagine, if we once give loose to our imaginations, are, so far as we can judge, all practicable.

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The question, therefore, is not, whether Christianity poffeffes the highest possible degree of evidence, but whether the not hav ing more evidence be a fufficient reafon for rejecting that which we have.

Now there appears to be no fairer method of judging, concerning any difpenfation which is alledged to come from God, when a queftion

a question is made whether fuch a difpenfation could come from God or not, than by comparing it with other things which are acknowledged to proceed from the fame council, and to be produced by the fame agency. If the difpenfation in queftion labour under no defects but what apparently belong to other difpenfations, these seeming defects do not justify us, in setting aside the proofs which are offered of its authenticity, if they be otherwise entitled to credit.

Throughout that order then of nature, of which God is the author, what we find is a fyftem of beneficence, we are feldom or ever able to make out a fyftem of optimism. I mean, that there are few cafes in which, if we permit ourselves to range in poffibilities, we cannot fuppofe fomething more perfect, and mo unobjectionable, than what we fee. The rain which defcends from heaven is confeffedly amongst the contrivances of the Creator, for the fuftentation of the animals and egetables which fubfift upon the furface one earth. Yet how partially


and irregularly is it fupplied! How much of it falls upon the fea, where it can be of no use; how often is it wanted where it would be of the greateft! What tracts of continent are rendered deserts by the scarcity of it! Or, not to speak of extreme cases, how much, fometimes, do inhabited countries fuffer by its deficiency or delay !—We could imagine, if to imagine were our businefs, the matter to be otherwife regulated. We could imagine fhowers to fall, juft where and when they would do good; always feasonable, everywhere fufficient; fo diftributed as not to leave a field upon the face of the globe fcorched by drought, or even a plant withering for the lack of moifture. Yet does the difference between the real cafe and the imagined cafe, or the feeming inferiority of the one to the other, authorize us to say, that the prefent difpofition of the atmosphere is not amongst the productions or the defigns of the Deity? Does it check the inference which we draw from the confeffed beneficence of the provifion? or does it make us cease to admire the contrivance?


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