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Christians and Jews, you must imagine, that the whole Jewish nation in all their most distant dispersions, united in a confederacy to furnish the world with armour against their own infidelity, and to represent themselves as the most unreasonable and wicked of all mankind. These absurdities are (I am sure) too gross for you to entertain ; and yet I may venture to challenge you to think of any other way, in which it is possible this could be done.
But you tell me, It:yet appears the greatest difficul. ty to you, to come at any certainty of the truth of those facts, upon which the evidence of Christianity depends.' And I readily acknowledge, that if these facts are not true, all our reasonings from prophecy, and miracles too, will come to nothing. It is therefore proper, to consider this case more particularly. And in order that this may be brought into the closest view, and all the conclusion neceffarily force itself upon our minds ; let us consider what consequences must follow upon the supposal, that these facts are not true. You can have no rational doubt of these things, but upon one of these fuppofitions : either,
1. That the apostles, and other reporters of these facts, did themselves certainly know that their narratives of these miracles were all of them mere fictions and falshoods : and that they never did in fact see any such miraculous works perform’d by Jesus Christ; they ne: ver did fee and converse with him after his resurrection; and that they never had thofe miraculous gifts and powers themselves; nor ever instrumentally conveyed them to others. Or,
2. That the reporters of these facts, and many thoufands of others, had their senses and imaginations imi posed upon; and were made to believe that they did see, hear, and feel, fuch miraculous operations, as were never performed. Or else,
3. That this whole history was an after-game; and a mere piece of forgery obtruded upon the world, after the facts were pretended to be done.
These are all the fuppofitions, that can posibly be made in this case. And I have already in my second
letter offer'd you fome proof, that they are all of them unreasonable and absurd. However, for your satisfac. tion, I will endeavour to fhew you under each of these fuppoftions, some of those abfurdities, that will necefsarily follow from them.
In the first place, If it be supposed, that the reporters of these facts did themselves certainly know that they were false ; then it will follow, that thousands of others, before whom those miracles were faid to be done, did also certainly know that they were mere fictions and fables. For they were as capable of certainty, whether they had seen those multitudes of plain open visible facts, which are reported, as the apostles were themselves. Upon this supposal, all Judea and Jerusalem must cer. tainly know, that they never saw any such descent of the Holy Ghost in cloven tongues upon the apostles and company ; and that they knew nothing of those gifts of languages, which were pretended. The several churches throughout the world, among whom the apostles went, did certainly know, that they saw no miracles wrought by them in confirmation of their mission ; that they never had nor knew any thing about those miraculous gifts, which were said to be so common among them. And yet that all these conspired in the deceit (Jews, as well as Gentiles) to the utter subversion of the religion in which they had been educated ; and multitudes of them at the expence of their honours, eftates, and lives, not one person among them all appearing to detect the villainy. The Jews tamely submitting to the loss of their religion, and to the imputation of the blackest crime, that ever was committed ; and the Christian churches as tamely submitting to all that is shocking and terrible to nature, rather than contradict and dir: prove what they knew to be false. Nay, what is more surprizing still, all of these, even the greatest enemies of Chriftianity among them, have not only allowed, but actually afferted the truth of these facts; which, upon this supposal, they might have so easily disproved, to the utter ruin of the Christian cause. And to crown all, there can be no motive in the world imagin'd, to put any of them upon acknowledging such notorious and
abominable falfhoods. A's I know, on th: one hand, that you cannot fwallow such gross abfurdities as thefe ; : so I also know on the other hand, that you have no way, to avoid them, upon the supposition before us.
It rray be further observed, that if the reporters of these miracles did themfelves know, that their narratives were fi&titious and falfe, it will also follow, that the nioft vile and wicked men that ever were in the world, and the most abandon'd to all sense of virtue and piety, did draw up the best system of practical religion, the most worthy of God and man, that'ever was known ; that they, contrary to their inward principles, fet the best examples, and walk'd according to the rules of this religion themfelves; yea; without any known'motive, spent their whole lives in a continued course of the greatest toil, fatigue; and 'misery, that evet men did, to promote this religion, to impress it upon the minds of others, and to teach them, according to it, to live in the love and fear of God. It will also follow, that these enemies of God and godlinefs (who were so profane, as against their own light to propagate this impofture, in the name of God Almighty) did not only give up the hopes of future happiness, but all the comforts of this life also, in vindication of this known falchood"; that to this end they ventured upon every thing that is most terrible and affrightening to human nature, and even upon the most cruel and barbarous death, without the least poffible hopes of advantage, either in this world, or that to conte. For they did know, and could not but know, that they were going themselves, and leading their followers, upon the pikes of their numerous and potent adversaries; without any prospect beyond the grave (upon the supposition before us) but of eternal damnation. And what still increases the abfurdity of this suppofition, is, that not one of these ever retracted this known falfhood, even in the article of death; but boldly encountréd the most Thameful and painful deaths their adversaries could infiet, rather than confess the trath. What; Sir, can you possibly imagine of such conduct as this? That these men were not mad and" diftra&ed, appears evidently by their works' whicli,
though plain and familiar, were the most confiftent, divine, and rational, that ever appeared in the world. Here iust therefore be a continued scene of miracles, one way or other. It must at leaft be allowed miraculous, for so many men knowingly and continually to act in direct opposition to all their interests, comforts, and hopes; and-run counter to all the principles of humanity, to all the springs of action, that were ever known among men,
Let us now try the second supposal; and enquire whether it is pollible, that the reporters of these facts, and all other spectators of them, had their senses im posed upon, by any legerdemain trick, juggle, or deceit? Whether, for instance, the senses of the apostles were imposed upon for some years together, while there were daily miracles wrought by their master before their eyes? Whether the senses of whole multitudes were imposed upon, that they really thought they saw the fick healed, the dead raised, &c. and these things repeated again and again for a long tract of time, when there was indeed nothing at all in it? Whether the witnesses of our Lord's resurrection were imposed upon, when they supposed they saw him after his death, eat and drank and con. versed familiarly with him for forty days, together, and beheld him taken up to heaven before their eyes?. And whether a! the first churches were imposed upon, when they imagin'd that they saw miracles repeatedly wrought among them; and had themselves miraculous gifts and powers? If these extravagant suppositions are allowed, of what service can our senses be to us ; and how can we any way be certain of any thing whatsoever? We may as reasonably imagine, that our whole life has been one continued dream; and that in reality we never faw, heard, felt, thought, fpake, or acted any thing at all. Here likewise you must neceffarily allow a continued course of miracles, one way or other. At least it must be allowed miraculous, that, so great a part of the world dould all lose their senses together; and yet all of them imagine that they had all this time their fenses in their full exercise.,
let us next consider, whether the last of the suppogo
tions, that the whole history of the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, was an aftergame, a mere piece of forgery obtruded upon the world in some distant time after the facts were pretended to be done, will appear more reasonable, than the others already considered, 0 9900
I have spoken fomething to this in my second letter, to which I refer you: and shall now only add some hin:s further to illustrate the cafe before us. If this last case be supposed, the forgery must be palm'd upon the world,
either before or after Christianity had generally obtailid. *If this falfe history was thrust upon the world in fome distant age after the facts were pretended to be done, before Chriftiarity bad generally obtain'd, it will then follow, that all the historians of those times (Chrillian, Jewish, and Pagan) have united in confederacy, to give us a false account of Christianity's immediately fucceed. ing the crucifixion of Christ, not only in Judea, but in all parts of the Roman empire. That they do all agree in this report, is what you must acknowledge: but how they came to unite in relating such matters of fact, which they all (upon this fuppofition) must know to be false, is what no man can possibly imagine. If this was done after Christianity had obtain'd, it will follow, that a great part of the world renounced the religion in whicla they had been educated, for the defpifed doctrine of the cross, and for a life of continued contempt, mifery, and peril, without knowing the reason why; and altogether ignorant of the foundation upon which their new religion was built. For, if they profeffed Chriftianity, before they knew the history of Christ's life, miracles, death, resurrection, ascengon, and before they had heard of the apostles progress and miraculous works, with the niiraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which accompanied their ministry; they then all agreed to sacrifice their most valuable temporal interests, and multitudes of them endured the most terrible deaths, in a caufe which they knew nothing about, and none of them knew any manner of reafon why they should do so. That is, in plain English, a great part of the world run mad at once,