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A judgment, moreover, which is once pretty well fatisfied of the general truth of the religion, will not only thus difcriminate in its doctrines, but will poffefs fufficient ftrength to overcome the reluctance of the
imagination to admit articles of faith which are attended with difficulty of apprehenfion, if fuch articles of faith appear to be truly parts of the revelation. It was to be expected beforehand, that what related to the economy, and to the perfons, of the invisible world, which revelation profeffes to do, and which, if true, it actually does, fhould contain fome points remote from our analogies, and from the comprehenfion of a mind which hath acquired all its ideas from fenfe and from experience..
It hath been my care, in the preceding work, to preferve the feparation, between evidences and doctrines as inviolable as I could; to remove from the primary queftion all confiderations which have been unneceffarily joined with it; and to offer a defence of Chriftianity, which every Chrif tian
tian might read, without feeing the tenets in which he had been brought up attacked or decried and it always afforded a fatisfaction to my mind to obferve that this was practicable; that few or none of our many controverfies with one another affect or relate to the proofs of our religion; that the rent never defcends to the foundation.
The truth of Chriftianity depends upon its leading facts, and upon them alone. Now of these we have evidence which ought to fatisfy us, at leaft until it appear that mankind have ever been deceived by the fame. We have fome uncontested and inconteftable points, to which the hiftory of the human species hath nothing similar to offer. A Jewish peasant changed the religion of the world, and that, without force, without power, without support; without one natural fource or circumftance of attraction, influence, or fuccefs. Such a thing hath not happened in any other inftance. The companions of this perfon, after he himself had been put to death for his attempt, afferted his
his fupernatural character, founded upon his fupernatural operations; and, in teftimony of the truth of their affertions, i. e. in confequence of their own belief of that truth, and in order to communicate the knowledge of It to others, voluntarily entered upon lives of toil and hardship, and, with a full experience of their danger, committed themselves to the last extremities of perfecution. This hath not a parallel. More particularly, a very few days after this perfon had been publicly executed, and in the very city in which he was buried, thefe his companions declared with one voice that his body was reftored to life; that they had seen him, handled him, eat with him, converfed with him; and, in pursuance of their perfuafion of the truth of what they told, preached his religion, with this ftrange fact as the foundation of it, in the face of those who had killed him, who were armed with the power of the country, and neceffarily and naturally difpofed to treat his followers as they had treated himself; and having done this upon the fpot where the event took
place, carried the intelligence of it abroad, in despite of difficulties and oppofition, and where the nature of their errand gave them nothing to expect but derifion, infult, and outrage. This is without example. Thefse three facts, I think, are certain, and would have been nearly fo, if the Gofpels had never been written. The Chriftian story, as to these points, hath never varied. No other hath been fet up against it. Every letter, every difcourfe, every controversy, amongst the followers of the religion; every book written by them, from the age of its commencement to the prefent time, in every part of the world in which it hath been profeffed, and with every fect into which it hath been divided (and we have letters and discourses written by contemporaries, by witnesses of the tranfaction, by perfons themselves bearing a share in it, and other writings following that age in regular fucceffion), concur in representing these facts in this manner. A religion, which now poffeffes the greatest part of the civilifed world, unquestionably sprang up at Jerufalem at this time. Some account
must be given of its origin; fome cause affigned for its rife. All the accounts of this origin, all the explications of this caufe, whether taken from the writings of the early followers of the religion (in which, and in which perhaps alone, it could be expected that they should be diftinctly unfolded) or from occafional notices in other writings of that or the adjoining age, either exprefsly alledge the facts above ftated as the means by which the religion was fet up, or advert to its commencement in a manner which agrees with the fuppofition of thefe facts being true, and which teftifies their operation and effects.
These propofitions alone lay a foundation for our faith; for they prove the existence of a tranfaction, which cannot even in its most general parts be accounted for, upon any reasonable fuppofition, except that of the truth of the miffion. But the particulars, the detail of the miracles or miraculous pretences (for fuch there neceffarily must have been) upon which this unexampled tranfac