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cause left for doubt and uncertainty about it; for the least room for doubting in such a case, throws so considerable a weight into the scale of immediate self-interest, and our natural appetites and infirmities, as renders it next to impossible that its precepts should have any valuable efficacy upon him who doubts; notwithstanding all the prudential suggestions of modern preachers, that he who walketh religiously, walketh surely; and that the truest wisdom is to act upon the supposition of the truth of the Christian Revelation. Men sometimes act upon uncertain, dubious prospects, in the trifling concerns of the present life; but the views of futurity, opened to us by revelation, are too vast, too important for the calculation of chances, or the principles of commercial speculation, if they are not indisputably certain, they are nothing.
The Apostles and primitive Christians acted under a full conviction of the infallible certainty of the doctrines which they believed and taught... And if satisfactory proofs of the truth and divine authority of the Gospel, and a complete knowledge and understanding of its intent and doctrines, be really attainable to the ordinary faculties of the human mind, and easy to be comprehended by children and
the most illiterate of the people, it is then like what it was represented to be when it was first preached to the unlearned and the poor; worthy of the impartial benevolence of the common father of the human race; and fit to be an universal rule of life, and source of religious information, to every rational individual of all the nations of the earth. If, on the contrary, its own truth, and the authenticity of the scriptures which teach it, rest solely upon the plurality of the voices of corrupt and erring men, of no authority from heaven, and supported only by the power of earthly magistrates; if its most important, because its fundamental, doctrines are to be interpreted only by the critical sagacity of the learned, respecting the meaning of a few controverted words or sentences of Greek or Hebrew, it is then involved in endless doubt and uncertainty; is totally unlike the Gospel preached originally by Jesus and his Apostles; absolutely useless, because unintelligible, to the great bulk of mankind; and, in every way, unbecoming that eternal fountain of wisdom and intelligence from which it is said to be derived.
Under this dilemma, thinking the certainty of either the truth or falsehood of a revelation
of the will of God to be of the highest importance, the Author of the following disquisition, at once to satisfy his own mind, and to qualify himself for a faithful and beneficial performance of the duties of the Christian ministry, for which he had been educated, many years ago determined to study the scrip tures diligently, with no other illustration than what they reflect upon each other; and more especially those prophetic parts of them which, if duly fulfilled, must afford the strongest and most convincing evidence of the divine authority of the revelation itself; and almost necessarily lead to a right understanding of the nature of that religious Covenant to which they bear a supernatural attestation.
He had remarked, indeed, that amongst its professional teachers all the ablest advocates for the truth and divine authority of the Gospel, as if they knew of no certain, demonstrative proof which could be adduced in a case of so much importance, seemed to content themselves, and expect their readers should be satisfied, with an accumulation of probable arguments in its favour, And the Author has even been told, that the case admits of no other kind of proof. He is happy, however, to have learned, from the only in
fallible authority, the direct contrary. And he begs all professed Christians of that persuasion to consider, whether it could be reconciled to any just ideas of wisdom in an earthly Potentate, if he should send an ambassador to a foreign state to mediate a negociation of the greatest importance, without furnishing him with certain indubitable credentials of the truth and authenticity of his mission. And to consider further, whether it be just or seemly to attribute to the omniscient, omnipotent Deity, a degree of weakness and folly which was never yet imputed to any of his human creatures; for unless men are impious and hardy enough to pass so gross an affront upon the tremendous Majesty of Heaven, the improbability that God should delegate the Mediator of a most important Covenant to be proposed to all mankind, without enabling him to give them clear and indisputable proof of the divine authority of his mission, must ever infinitely outweigh the aggregate sum of all the probabilities which can be accumulated in the opposite scale of the balance. So that to all those who know of no other proof of the divine authority of the Gospel, no rational proof of it exists. Mere human testimony, whether re
corded in written history, or deduced to us by oral tradition, is manifestly incompetent to afford satisfaction to any unprejudiced mind respecting communications of a supernatural kind. And with regard to miracles, under the Old Covenant, God himself, by his prophet Moses, cautioned the Jews against receiving the religious doctrines of any pretended prophet, though he should even work miracles to convince them, because they would be hable to be deluded and deceived by such evidence:* and under the New Covenant he has warned us, by his prophet Jesus, in the persons of his Apostles Paul and John, that the false and fabulous superstition, which would for so many centuries supplant the true religion of the Gospel, would be embraced by the people, in consequence of their delusion by "signs and lying wonders,† and all the “deceivableness of unrighteousness.” This being the case with miracles considered in themselves alone, God, by his prophets both of the Old Covenant and the New, hath given us another, an infallible criterion by which to 'distinguish the true from a false religion, and, as I have shewn in the following pages, refer
*Deut xiii. 1-5.
Thess. ii. 9, 10. Apoc. xiii. 13, 14, and xix. 20.