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Serm. I. the Author and the Authority of the Book.
Whatever becomes of the Author, the Authority of the Book is unquestionably good; if it be shewn, that it could not have been received from the first by a vast Number of Persons as a true History, but upon a Supposition that it really was fo: it being an impracticable Thing to obtrude upon the World a Variety of recent Facts with the most memorable and glaring Circumstances, aflerted to be done before the Chief Priests and Scribes, and the whole People of Jerufalem, as Spectators and Eye-witnesses. Whoever were the Authors of the Gospels, they certainly expected to be believed : But how could they have expected any such Thing in Case of an Imposture, when they refer expressly and by Name, to Time, Place, and Person; when they virtually appeal to the Senses of that very Age and Nation for the Truth of their Relations? It is not the Interest of an Impostor to be particular, explicit, and circumstantial: He must avoid, as a Rock upon which he must inevitably split, Dates of Time, the particular Place of Action, (especially if it be a public one; and near at Hand, where such a Miracle is pretended to be wrought) the Names, Number and Rank of the Spectators. His Art consists in laying the Scene at a great Distance, in giving general, confused and undistinguished Accounts of Things,
ånd in skulking behind a thousand Evasions, Serm. I., those Holes which Creatures of Subtlety have sequestered from the Light of the Sun; and to which they always retreat, when closely pursued. Whereas in the New Testament there is that undissembled Openness of Soul, that unaffected Frankness and unconstrained Freedom in relating Things with perfect Ease and without any Effort; which could come from none but ingenuous Writers, and can, I think, be resisted by none but disingenuous Readers.
Add to this, that whoever' were the Authors, they were inspired. For one of the notorious Facts on which great Stress in many Places is laid, is that the Holy Ghost was given by the laying ôn of the Apostles Hands; in Consequence of which the new Converts prophesied and spoke with new Tongues. For the Truth of this St. Paul appeals to the Church of Corinth; and if it had not been true, he must have been looked upon by them as an abandoned Impostor, charging them with the Abuse and Mifapplication of spiritual and miraculous Gifts they never had. Whoever intends to deceive, must be solicitous to save the Appearances of Truth; which, upon a Supposition of the Falsity of this Fact, St. Paul by no means did. For he lays down that as a known Truth, which those to whom he addressed his Epistle must know,
Serm. I. from what passed within them, to be egre
giously false. Now if there was such a plentiful Effusion of the Holy Spirit even to those who did no distinguished Service to the Church ; we cannot rationally suppose it was denied to those, who made it their honest Endeavour to perpetuate the Faith by their Writings. The Dew of Heaven, while it descended on Places comparatively waste and barren, would not be with-held from a more kindly Soil, productive of the most generous Fruits for the Service and Food of Man.
In prosecuting this Subject, I shall shew,
Is, How far and in what Degree an Alfent to the Truth of Christianity is obligatory upon us, fuppofing a Sufficiency of Evidence for it.
Ildly, That there is such a Sufficiency of Evidence for it, that we cannot, confiftently with Reason, refuse to be determined by it.
ȚIIdly, I shall conclude with a short Reflection on the Importance of Christianity, and our Insensibility of it's just Value.
Chriflianity stands upon the very fame Footing as Morality does, in Point of Obligation. For we resolve the Obligation of Morality, or trace it up to it's Fountain
Head, after the following Manner.
SERM. I. Virtue is necessarily productive of the Happiness of Mankind ; and Vice of Misery and Confusion.- A Being of infinite Benevolence must will whatever is necessarily productive of general Happiness. Every Creature is obliged to conform himself to the Will of his Creator.
To apply this to Christianity. One cannot consistently disbelieve Christianity, without disbelieving every thing else, that has only the same Degree of Evidence.-One cannot disbelieve every Thing else that has the same Degree of Evidence, without proceeding upon a Principle, that is, in it's genuine Tendency, destructive of univerfu. Happiness, and defeat; the very End of our social Nature. One cannot therefore difbelieve Christianity without counteracting the great Will, and sovereign Pleasure of Him, who made us social Beings, and wills the Happiness of all his Creatures.—The Consequence of which is, that the Belief of Christianity is as obligatory, terminating ultimately in the Will of the Deity, as is the Practice of Morality; and stands upon the very fame Foundation. The End of Society cannot be attained, if there be nothing to be believed, or depended upon between Man and Man ; or, if there be no satisfactory Grounds why a Thing is to be depended upon; or, if we be not obliged
Serm. I. to pay any Regard to them. For which
Reason, Deism, if it could be consistent with itself, in the last Resort must lead to and terminate in Atheism. For there could be no Providence, if the World were all Chaos and Confusion. Now the World must be all Chaos and Confusion, (there being nothing left for us to depend upon our Intercourse with one another) upon a Supposition that Moral Evidence, however perfect in it's Kind, does but lead us into Error. For if there be such a Thing as Providence, all the Administrations of it from the Beginning have proceeded, and the Course of the World has been ordered, upon a Supposition that there is such a Thing as Sincerity and a Regard for Truth prevailing among Mankind; and that there are certain Marks to distinguish, in many Cases,, Honesty from Imposture. But the Scheme of the Deifts (as they set aside the Testimony of the Apostles and primitive Martyrs, who have as fair Pretensions to Honesty, as any other Persons) must
proceed upon a contrary Supposition; that the World is one wide Scene of Villainy and Confusion; that we may weary ourselves in the Search of a Man of Sense that is not a Deceiver; and a Man of Honesty that is not a Dupe. The Wheels of Government must be interrupted and stand still, if such Evidences, as Christianity is attended with,