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altar, and scattering of the fire, instantly took place ; and the capital prophecy was exactly fulfilled by pious king Josiah, as you may see by comparing 1 Kings xiii. 1. &c. with 2 Kings xxiii. 15. &c. Can we reasonably suppose, that books, containing accounts of such public events, would have been received as divine by a divided people, if their authenticity had not been confirmed by indubitable matter of fact? Nay, is it not as absurd to assert it, as it would be to affirm, that the offices for the 5th of November, and the 30th of January, were forged by crafty priests; and that the papists, puritans, and royalists of the last century, agreed to impose upon the world the history of the gun-powder plot, and of King Charles's decollation, with which those parts of our liturgy are so inseparably connected?
7. This scattered, despised people, the irreconcileable enemies of the christians, keep, with amazing care* the old testament, full of the prophetic history of Jesus Christ, and by that means afford the world a striking proof that the new testament is true; and christians in their turn show, that the old testament is abundantly confirmed, and explained by the new. The
* If the histories contained in the old testament, were in gene-. ral for the credit of the Jews, the love of praise might indeed have engaged some of them to join in a public forgery But that book of which they have always been so tenacious, presents the world chiefly with an account of their monstrous ingratitude, unparalelled obstinacy, perpetual rebellions, abominable idolatries; and of the fearful judgments, which their wickedness brought upon them. Moses, who leads the van of their sacred authors, sums up his history of the Israelites and draws up their character in these disgracef words, which he spake to their face: You have been rebellious against the Lord, from the day that I knew you, Deut. ix. 24. And even David and Solomon, their greatest kings, are represented in those books as guilty of the greatest enormities. O ye deists, I appeal to your reason, and ask, Would you die for, would you even connive at a notorious forgery, supposing the design of it were merely to impose upon the world as divine, a book that should perpetually stigmatize your ancestors, and fix horrid blots upon the names, for which you have the greatest veneration?
Earl of Rochester, the great wit of the last century, was so struck with this proof, that upon reading the 53d chapter of Isaiah, with floods of penitential tears he lamented his former infidelity, and warmly embraced the faith, which he had so publicly ridiculed.
8. To say nothing of the venerable antiquity, and the wonderful preservation of those books, some of which are by far the most ancient in the world: To pass over the inimitable simplicity, or true sublimity of their stile; they carry with them such characters of truth, as command the respect of every unprejudiced reader.
They open to us the mystery of the creation, the nature of God, angels, and man, the immortality * of the soul, the end for which we were made, the origin and connection of moral and natural evil, the vanity of this world and the glory of the next. There we see inspired shepherds, tradesmen, and fishermen surpassing. as much the greatest philosophers, as these did the herd of mankind, both in meekness of wisdom and sublimity of doctrine....There we admire the purest morality in the world, agreeable to the dictates of sound reason, confirmed by the witness which God has placed for himself in our breast, and exemplified in the lives of men of like passions with ourselves....There we discover a vein of ecclesiastical history and theological truth, consistently running through a collection of sixty-six different books, written by various authors, in different languages, during the space of above 1500 years.... There we find, as in a deep and pure spring, all the genuine drops and streams of spiritual knowledge, which can possibly be met with in the largest libraries ....There the workings of the human heart are describ
* It is remarkable that the wisest heathens with all their philosophy, seldom attained to a full assurance of the immortality of the soul. Cicero himself says: Nescio quoomdo dum lego assentior ;. cum posui librum, et mecum ipse de immortalitate animorum capi cogitare assentio omnis illa elabitur. Tusc. Quest. lib. 1.
ed, in a manner that demonstrates the inspiration of the Searcher of hearts....There we have a particular account of all our spiritual maladies, with their various symptoms, and the method of a certain cure; a cure that has been witnessed by millions of martyrs and departed saints, and is now enjoyed by thousands of good men, who would account it an honour to seal the truth of the scriptures with their own blood....There you meet with the noblest strains of penitential and joyous devotion, adapted to the dispositions and states of all travellers to Sion....And there you read those awful threatenings and cheering promises, which are daily fulfilled in the consciences of men, to the admiration of believers and the astonishment of attentive infidels.
9. The wonderful efficacy of the Scriptures is another proof that they are of God. When they are faithfully opened by his ministers, and powerfully applied by his Spirit, they wound and heal, they kill and make alive, they alarm the careless, turn or enrage the wicked, direct the lost, support the tempted, strengthen the weak, comfort mourners, aad nourish pious souls. As the woman of Samaria said of Jesus, Come see a man that told me all that ever I did: Is not this the Christ? A good man can say of the Bible, "Come, see a book that told me all that was in my heart, and acquainted me with the various trials and dangers I have met with in my spiritual travels ; a book where I have found those truths, which, like a divinely tempered sword, have cut my way through all the snares and forces of my spiritual adversaries ; and by whose directions my soul has happily entered the paradise of divine and brotherly love. Is not this the book of God?"
10. To conclude: It is exceedingly remarkable, that the more humble and holy people are; the more hey read, admire, and value the scriptures and on the contrary, the more self-conceited, worldly-minded, tnd wicked; the more they neglect, despise, and asperse them.
As for the objections which are raised against their perspicuity and consistency, those who are both pious and learned know, that they are generally founded on prepossession, and the want of understanding in spiritual things; or on our ignorance of several customs, idioms, and circumstances, which were perfectly known when those books were written. Frequently also the immaterial error arises merely from a wrong punctuation, or a mistake of copiers, 'printers, or translators; as the daily discoveries of pious critics, and ingenuous confessions of unprejudiced inquirers, abundantly prove.
To the preceding arguments, I beg leave to add the following queries. Do not disbelievers, by supposing that the scriptures are a forged book, and consequently that christianity is a false religion, run upon the very rocks, which they seem so afraid of? And may they not be charged with indirectly setting their seal to opinions, far more incredible than those which they reject?
(1.) O ye Disputers of this world, if ye believe that Moses and Jesus Christ, St. Peter and St Paul, publicly worked sham miracles for years, in various cities and countries, before thousands of their sharpsighted opposers, without ever being detected in any of their tricks; might you not as reasonable believe, that thousands of shrewd men were once turned into stupid asses?
(2.) If you believe that the gospel is the production of human deceit; and yet, that in the prodigious number of apostates once concerned in carrying on the amazing villainy, such as Judas, Demas, Simon Magus, Alexander the Copper-smith, who did St. Paul much evil, &c. not one was ever found, that would prove the forgery: might you not as reasonably believe, that if Mr. Wilkes, and all his friends, knew of a gross villainy, carried on by the ministry, in order to turn the kingdom upside down; neither he, nor any
one of them, could ever be prevailed upon to disclose and prove it to the world?*
(3.) You believe, that the miracles and resurrection of Christ, together wtth the gifts of the Holy Ghost, were nothing but enthusiastical or knavish pretensions: and yet you are forced to grant, that thousands of Jews, strongly attached to their religion, amazingly averse to that of Jesus, and guilty of persecuting him unto death, took him openly for their Saviour a few weeks after they had seen him publicly scourged; and in the very city in sight of which he had just been crucified between two thieves. Now is not this as absurd as to believe, that if a few fishermen cried up the last person hanged in London for a notorious forgery; and if they affirmed that he was the Son of God, appealing to a great number of miracles, supposed to have been wrought by him in the squares and hospitals of the metropolis, and especially in St. Paul's church-yard: and maintaining that some of them had been acknowledged genuine by the † great
* Pliny, a learned and prudent Roman governor, who was employed by the emperor Trajan in stopping the progress of christianity, wrote to him, that the apostates affirmed, the whole of their their crime had been to meet before day, and sing an hymn to Christ as to their God. His own words are," Affirmabant, hane "fuisse sumam vel culpæ suæ vel erroris, quod essent soliti stato "die ante lucem convenire, carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere."
† Some remarkable instances of this we have in the sacred books, published when the facts above mentioned therein were notorious, and when some of the persons named were probably yet alive. After the resurrection of Lazarus, the chief priests and the pharisees gathered a council, and said, what do we? for this man does many miracles. If we let him alone, all men will believe on him. John xi. 47....And after Peter and John had publicly cured the cripple, who used to beg at the gate of the temple; the rulers, and elders, and scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem, saying what shall we do to these men? for that indeed a NOTABLE MIRACLE has been done by them, is manifest to ALL them that dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. Acts iv. 5-16.