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her with fullying, by an action of such complicated baseness, that illuftrious character to which I have paid this willing, but inadequate, tribute of applause and admiration.
HE critical and interefting fituation in which mankind are placed, naturally prompts them to a thousand different enquiries and inveftigations, which are either immediately or remotely connected with that regard to our own happiness 'which is the grand fpring of all our actions. Of these it must be acknowledged, that no one can merit a greater degree of attention than the question respecting the truth of the Christian religion. The life of man is fo fhort and tranfient, and the evidence which reafon affords of a continuation, or renovation, of our thinking powers in another state, fo feeble and defective, that the authenticity of a religion, the fundamental article of which is a general refurrection to an immortal life, is a matter of the utmost moment and confequence. Many other religions there are, indeed, in the world, which make fimilar pretences to a divine original; but happily they include in them fuch grofs and palpable
palpable violations of fenfe and confiftency, and are fo totally unaccompanied by any kind of evidence, that they fcarcely demand or admit of a formal refutation. Chriftianity alone, of all the various religions of the univerfe which advance thefe fupernatural claims, can ever attract the serious regard of anintelligent and enlightened mind; and though very plausible and fpecious, nay, though very subtle and cogent objections have been urged' against even this religion, it must be admitted, by the ingenuous and candid infidel himself, that it is fupported by an appearance at leaft of proof fufficient to perplex, if not to fatisfy the judgment, to confound, if not to convince the understanding. It is, however, undeniable, that many of the greatest geniuses which the world has ever produced, in the most enlightened age which that world has ever known, and in a country where freedom of enquiry has been pursued to the utmost poffible extent, have not fcrupled to avow their firm perfuafion of the truth of this religion, and of the force and fufficiency of that evidence by which it is fupported. Need I mention the illuftrious names of NEWTON, LOCKE, MILTON, BACON, BOYLE, CLARKE, ADDISON, or HARTLEY, in proof of this affertion? Will any one venture to object to the competency of thefe judges? Are they deficient in knowledge, in understanding, or impartiality? or can they be accused of giving only a flight and curfory attention to the subject? No, in fuch minds, a firm and permanent conviction can be the result of
nothing less than a full and accurate investigation, of which their writings afford ample proof. Is it poffible then, without a mixture of indignation and contempt, to hear the fops and witlings of the age attempt to turn that to ridicule, which the best and wifeft of mankind have agreed to regard as facred? This infignificant race of beings cannot be thought, indeed, deferving of much attention; but it is truly painful to a generous and liberal mind, to fee fuch writers as a Hume, a Gibbon, or a Voltaire, attacking by fly infinuations, contemptuous fneers, or ambiguous innuendoes, that religion, which not only permits, but which dares and invites, the most accurate investigation, and the closest scrutiny. No one, indeed, who is poffeffed of any confiderable ftrength or energy of mind, will be much influenced by these unfair and difingenuous artifices; but the danger is, left men of inferior capacity, and more circumfcribed understandings, fhould apprehend, that they may incur fome degree of mental degradation by embracing that religion which was professed and defended by NEWTON and LOCKE. My intention is, in the prefent Effay, which may, poffibly, fall into the hands of fome who are not very deeply verfed in Newton or Locke, to ftate a few of the leading arguments in favour of Chriftianity; and, in a fucceeding one, I may, perhaps, confider a few of the more plaufible objections to which it seems liable and I fhall begin, with offering fuch obfervations as occur to me on the exprefs, pofitive,
tive, and direct teftimony we have of the life and miracles of Jefus Chrift, the great founder of the Christian religion; and it is to be prefumed, that no one will be fceptical enough to difpute, that in the reigns of Auguftus and Tiberius a very eminent and extraordinary perfon was born and flourished in Judea, who laid claim to divine communications, who was the founder of a religious fect or fociety, and who suffered crucifixion under the government of Pontius Pilate the Roman procurator.
This being premised, we are to confider, upon what authority the disciples and followers of Jefus afferted, that he was what he professed to be, viz. a prophet fent from GOD; and if we call in question the truth of their teftimony, we have our choice of this alternative—either they were dupes or impoftors, either they were deceived themselves, or the intentional deceivers of others. In vain do infidels exclaim, that this is an alternative applicable to all the religions that ever existed upon earth, and that they are under no obligation to afcertain the exact proportions of knavery and folly of which this or any other religion may be compounded. Of other religions, indeed, the knavery and the folly are fully apparent; nor is it material to determine, how far the one or the other may predominate; but with respect to Christianity, not the most distant fymptom appears of either; and this provoking and perplexing dilemma ftill remains, and ever will remain,