Page CHAP. VI.-That the story, for which the first

propagators of Christianity suffered, was mira. culous

47 CHAP. VII.-That it was, in the main, the story

which we have now, proved by indirect considerations

50 CHAP. VIII.-The same proved, from the authority of our historical Scriptures.

63 CHAP. IX.-Of the authenticity of the historical Scriptures, in eleven Sections

75 Sect. IQuotations of the historical Scriptures by ancient Christian writers

82 Sect. II..Of the peculiar respect with which they were quoted

103 SECT. III.-The Scriptures were in very early times collected into a distinct volume .

107 Sect. IV.-And distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect

110 Sect. V.„Were publicly read and expounded in

the religious assemblies of the early Christians . 112 Sect. VI. Commentaries, &c. were anciently written upon the Scriptures

115 Sect. VII.--They were received by ancient Chris

tians of different sects and persuasions 119 SECT. VIII.-The four Gospels, the Acts of the

Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Saint Paul, the First Epistle of John, and the First of Peter, were received without doubt by those who doubted concerning the other books of our present canon

125 Sect. IX.-Our present Gospels were considered

by the adversaries of Christianity, as containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded

129 Sect. X.-Formal catalogues of authentic Scriptures

were published, in all which our present Gospels were included.

135 Sect. XI.-The above propositions cannot be pre

dicated of those books which are commonly called

apocryphal books of the New Testament . CHAP. X-Recapitulation.

• 141


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• 137


[ocr errors]


Page CHAP. I.--The Discrepancies between the several Gospels

298 CHAP. II.-Erioneous Opinions imputed to the Apostles

302 CHAP. III.-The connexion of Christianity with the Jewish History

306 CHAP. IV.- Rejection of Christianity

308 CHAP. V.- That the Christian miracles are not re

cited, or appealed to, by early Christian writers themselves, so fully or frequently as might have been expected

322 CHAP. VI.-Want of universality in the knowledge

and reception of Christianity, and of greater clearness in the evidence

330 Chap. VII.--The supposed Effects of Christianity 336 CHAP. VIII.-Conclusion

• 343




PREPARATORY CONSIDERATIONS, I DEEM it unnecessary to prove, that mankind stood in need of a revelation, because I have met with no serious person who thinks that, even under the Christian revelation, we have too much light, or any degree of assurance, which is superfluous. I desire, moreover, that in judging of Christianity, it may be remembered, that the question lies between this religion and none : for if the Christian religion be not credible, no one, with whom we have to do, will support the pretensions of

any other.

Suppose, then, the world we live in to have had a Creator ; suppose it to appear, from the predominant aim and tendency of the provisions and contrivances observable in the universe, that the Deity, when he formed it, consulted for the happiness of his sensitive creation ; suppose the disposition which dictated this counsel to continue ; suppose 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 designed them; suppose the Creator to intend for these, his rational and accountable agents, a second state of existence, in which their situation will be regulated by their behaviour in the first state, by which supposition (and by no other) the objection to the divine government in not putting a difference between the good and the bad, and the inconsistency of this confusion with the care and benevolence discoverable in the works of the Deity is done away ; suppose it to be of the utmost importance to the subjects of this dispensation to know what is intended for them; that is, suppose the knowledge of it to be highly conducive to the happiness of the species, a purpose which so many provisions of nature are calculated to promote : suppose, nevertheless, almost the whole race, either by the imperfection of their faculties, the misfortune of their situation, or by the loss of some prior revelation, to want this know. ledge, and not to be likely without the aid of a new revelation, to attain it :-under these circumstances, is it improbable that a revelation should be made ? is it incredible that God should interpose for such a purpose ? Suppose him to design for mankind a future state; is it unlikely that he should acquaint him with it?

Now in what way can a revelation be made but by miracles? In none which we are able to conceive. Consequently in whatever degree it is probable, or not very improbable, that a revelation should be communicated to mankind at all; in the same degree is it probable, or not very improbable, that miracles should be wrought. Therefore when miracles are related to have been wrought in the promulgating of a revelation manifestly wanted, and, if true, of inestimable value, the improbability which arises from the miraculous nature of the things related, is not greater than the ori. ginal improbability that such a revelation should be inparted by God.

I wish it however to be correctly understood, in what manner, and to what extent, this argument is alleged. We do not assume 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 assert only that in miracles adduced in support of revelation, there is not any such antecedent improbability as no testimony can surmount. And for the purpose of maintaining this assertion, we contend that the incredibility of miracles related to have been wrought in attestation of a message from God, conveying intelligence of a future state of rewards and punishments, and teaching mankind how to prepare themselves for that state, is not in itself greater than

« VorigeDoorgaan »