Billeder på siden

us solely to the testimony of completed prophecy, which he would not have done, if any other had been 'necessary, or to be depended upon with equal certainty and satisfaction of mind.

In religion, as in every other science founded in truth, if ive recur to its first principles, we shall find them self-evident propositions, by means of which the truth of all its doctrines, may be clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated. For instance, that the whole is greater than any of its parts, is not a more unquestionable truth than the proposition, that no effect can exist without some adequate producing cause. And on this axiom is founded, that certain, satisfactory demonstration, which the visible structure of the universe, and all it contains, affords us of the being of a God, From the very same axiom—if predictions of any men exist, respecting events that were not to take place till many ages after the deaths of those men themselves; which predictions are known to have been promulged to the world several centuries before their completion, and which history and our own experience inform. have been punctually accomplished—a sure demonstrative proof arises, that the prophets could have received their information only


through a revelation, communicated to them by the Deity, of his will and decrees concerne ing the events of fụturity; for such prophecies are effects which no other cause is com. petent to produce.

In the course of an investigation formed upon this plan, and pursued upon these grounds, the Author soon found himself conpinced of the truth of Christianity, as taught by its first preachers; but was led also to remark many obvious inconsistencies and improbabilities in several of the canonical scriptures of the New Covenant, which he could not account for, on a supposition that the authors were men of thạt veracity and information of their subject, which must be expected from the Apostles and other miraculously gifted disciples of Jesus Christ. He therefore resolved to examine thoroughly into the nature of those proofs of the genuine authenticity of the books of the New Testament, which, till then, he had taken for granted, and supposed to be uncontrovertibly demonstrated; and was astonished to find, upon what slight and unsatisfactory grounds scriptures of the grcatest consequence have been universally received by professed Christians, as the infailible word of God. From his studious

attention to the prophetic parts of those scriptures, which alone carry certain evidence of their own divine authority along with them, he could not fail also to observe, that the chief and almost only argument in favour of the present canon of scripture, which does not rest upon mere human authority of the most suspicious kind, is manifestly fallacious; he means the argument which urges, that both the wisdom and goodness of God required the interposition of his povidence, to preserve pure and uncorrupt the genuine authentic records of that Gospel which he had thought fit, at the expence of so many miracles and prophecies, to publish to the world. For having, by his prophet Paul, declared that Christians, of times succeeding the apostolic

age, would apostatize from the original faith and doctrines of the Gospel; that some with hardened hypocrisy would publish lies ;* and that professed Christians in general, would turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unio fables ;f the veracity of the God of truth plainly demanded, that lying fictions and fabulous scriptures should, at least, be joined with the true and genuine records of the religion of the New Covenant, or it would

* 1 Tim. iv. 2.

+ 2 Tim. iv. 4.



[ocr errors]

have been impossible for the apostate Church to fulfil those prophecies, by disregarding the latter and paying devout attention to the for

That many therefore of those seriptures, which form the most essential part of the canon of the apostate Church, must be fabulous and false, seems as certain, as that the word of God is true.

Strongly impressed with this apparently inevitable consequence from those prophecies, and dissatisfied with all the external evidence which the case admits, he turned his attention more particularly to those internal marks of anthenticity or spuriousness, which genuine or fietitious scriptures must always necessarily contain. And that attentive examination brought him to the conclusions which he here submits to public consideration. He does this the more cheerfully, because the subjects of discussion, like the Gospel of Christ itself, are level to common capacities, and intelligible to every person who will exert his rational faculties about them: for where the detection of forgery and falsehood de: pends upon gross and palpable inconsistencies and contradictions, it is not peculiarly the province of th:t critical skill which requires a knowledge of the original language of the

scriptures attainable to few; but, when those contradictions are pointed out, becomes the proper business of the common sense of every reader of even the vulgar translations. He is fully persuaded, that nothing can so effectually amend and bless mankind, as a general, rational comprehension and well-grounded belief of the Gospel Covenant; and that nothing can so much promote the cause of Christian truth and piety, as the distinguishing them from fabulous falsehood and impious superstition. Unconnected for near thirty years with any religious sect or party what. : soever, disapproving in every point of view of the office of a teacher of so plain a thing as Christianity, considered as a lucrative occupation, and much too far advanced in life to have any temporal interest in view, the Author trusts his mind has been perfectly unbiassed and impartial in its investigations. But if he should have deceived himself, and be judged by others to be in the wrong, still his errors, if found to be such, may most easily be exposed and refuted; and no one will be better pleased than himself with their just and candid refutation. Should this, however, be attempted, he hopes it will be effected in a more manly, rational manner,

« ForrigeFortsæt »