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remain, in full force and vigour. It cannot be pretended, that the apoftles were impofed upon, with regard to thofe facts which compofe the fubftance of their hiftories: however grofs their education or their understandings may be reprefented, and however ftrong the delufions of ignorance and folly may in fome cafes be, it was totally impofiible for them, if they were not abfolutely infane, to suppose that they faw the blind reftored to fight, the deaf to hearing, the dumb to fpeech, the fick to health, and even the dead to life, if no fuch events took place: and least of all is it poffible they fhould believe, that Chrift himfelf appeared to them three days after his public crucifixion, death and burial; that they maintained a focial and friendly intercourse with him for forty days after his refurrection; and that they were afterwards eye-witnesses of his afcenfion to heaven, if these things were not really fo. In a word, this branch of the alternative is fo glaringly and monftroufly abfurd, that no man in his fenfes can confider it as capable of being defended; fo that it may fafely be pronounced, that if Christianity is an impofture, the apostles themselves were parties in that impofture; and guilty of inventing a fraudulent scheme, and of impofing upon the credulity and weakness of mankind; but this fuppofition is clogged with fuch infuperable difficulties, that it is fcarcely more tenable than the former. The enquiry that most obviously prefents itself on this occafion is, What motive could they have for this

this extraordinary attempt. As to Christ himself, it appears that he made, from the firft, his own. fufferings and death an effential part of his plan; differing in this, at least, from all other impoftors that have appeared in the world: and after that event had taken place, his disciples and followers renounced all selfish confiderations, sacrificed all their temporal profpects, for the fake of that religion which, according to this hypothefis, they knew to be falfe; which fubjected them to numberlefs calamities; which was wholly deftitute of evidence, and which therefore they laboured to propagate with fcarcely a poffibility of fuccefs; which was attended with ridicule, difgrace, diffi culty, and danger; but to which they were fo much attached, that they fcrupled not to lay down their lives with compofure, nay with alacrity and triumph in fupport of it, and upon every occafion to feal their teftimony with their blood. Can we suppose, that a being fo constituted as man fhould act a part fo oppofite to all his natural feelings, fentiments, and paffions? For every effect there must certainly be an adequate caufe; but, who will pretend to affign any probable or poffible caufe for a conduct fo abfurd, fo unnatural, fo unaccountable? Well might the poet exclaim,

Whence but from Heav'n, could men unskill'd in arts,
In different nations born, in different parts,
Weave such agreeing truths? or how, or why
Should all confpire to cheat us with a lie?
Unafk'd their pains, ungrateful their advice,
Starving their gains, and martyrdom their price?

Dryden.

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But a fill more extraordinary circumstance, if poffible, is, that notwithstanding men were deterred: by every conceivable motive from embracing this religion; notwithstanding the manifold dangers, and difficulties attending a public profeffion of it; notwithstanding its total defect in point of evidence; converts were every day added to the number of Chrift's difciples, and in a few years fymptoms appeared of a fpeedy and general diffufion of Chriftianity over all the provinces of the Roman empire. I fpeak of this religion as being totally deftitute of evidence; for, upon the fuppofition I am combating, the apostles had none to offer; they had the weakness and imprudence, indeed, to appeal to certain ancient predictions, which, as they pretended, had now received their accomplishment: they had the unparalleled affurance to reft the truth of their religion upon recent miracles performed by Chrift in the prefence of all the people of Judea, but for which, excepting themselves, not a fingle voucher could be found; and upon their own affertion, which, after fuch convincing proof of their frenzy and extravagance, one would imagine was not likely to obtain much credit, that Jefus Chrift was rifen from the dead. Here then is another inexplicable phenomenon; for my part, at least, I do not possess a fufficient knowledge of the human mind to be capable of explaining how Chriftianity, in fuch circumftances, could make any degree of progrefs in the world, much less how it was poffible

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that fuch numbers of intelligent and reflecting perfons fhould be induced to embrace it. A late celebrated historian has indeed attempted to account for this aftonishing fact upon natural principles; but it is obvous to remark, that the causes he enumerates imply a previous state of things, in which a firm faith in Christianity prevailed amongst the profeffors of it: this faith must have originated in evidence of fome kind or other; and the grand difficulty still remains unfolved,-what that evidence was, and upon what foundation that faith rested. Let Mr. G. afcribe whatever influence he pleafes to his fecondary causes, as a philofopher, he will allow us, I prefume, to confider those caufes as themselves produced by fome preceding caufe, and he will, I hope, permit us quickly to enjoy the delufion, that the truth of Christianity will better account for the existence of those caufes than the falfehood of it. What progrefs, to Mr. G. himfelf we appeal, would Mahometanifm have made in that enlightened age, unconnected with motives of ambition or intereft, trusting entirely to its own evidence for fuccefs, and propofing that evidence under every poffible difadvantage? Under fuch circumftances the intemperate zeal of the profeffors, together with all the terrible threats and magnificent promises contained in the Koran, would doubtless have made little impression on the minds of think ing and intelligent perfons, who would easily discover, if called upon to investigate, the extreme weaknefs and futility of its lofty pretenfions. The G 2 doctrine

doctrine of a future ftate, it has been well obferv. ed, was not a novelty first promulgated by Chrift; it was the doctrine of Plato and of Socrates five hundred years previous to his incarnation. Why then did it not produce equal conviction? For this reason only, because it was not attended by equal evidence.

I fhall next endeavour to exhibit, as concifely as poffible, the argument from prophecy on which Christians in general juftly lay an equal stress, and on which the whole fabric of Chriftianity depends for fupport. It is an unquestionable fact, then, that in certain ancient writings, which the Jewish nation had long been accustomed to regard as facred, plain intimations were given, that . a very great and extraordinary perfon would make his appearance in the world previous to the political fubverfion of that ftate; various circumftances relative to the place of his, birth, his family, his character, his office, the events of his life, and the manner of his death, are clearly specified. In Jefus, the author of the Chriftian religion, only can it be pretended that these predictions have received their accomplishment, and in him they centre as the rays of the fun in a focus, with a degree of ftrength and luftre which is truly aftonishing. The fubfequent predictions of Chrift himself and his apoftles, particularly of the apoftle Paul, defcribing in the most exprefs and unambiguous language the nature and extent of that grand apoftacy which has actually taken place in

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