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It will be the concern of every wise man, therefore
, to take warning in time, to be cautious how he gives credit to the representations of Unbelievers, and consider well what the end of our present state of trial will be. It is an easy business to revile and stigmatize the Bible. Few things more so. Any smatterer in learning, who hath got a wicked heart, a witty head, and a comfortable flow of scurrilous language, is competent to the task. Examples of this kind we meet with in every neighbourhood. Profound scholars, however, and modest inen, have always been incapable of such conduct. What Lord Bacon* saith of Atheism is equally true of Deism: “A “ little philosophy inclineth man's mind to Atheism, but
depth in philosophy, bringeth men's minds about to
Religion." Our great moral Poet, too, will teach us the same lesson :
“A lit:le learning is a dangerous thing ;
What then if Thomas PAINE, who is well known to
* Lord BACON was a serious believer in the Gospel of Christ, and hath given us his Creed at some length, which is worthy the attention of the reader. The above passage is taken from his Essays, No. 16.Io a prayer which he wroie upon a certain occasion, he addresses the ALMIGHTY by saying " Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much more. I have sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens ; but I have found thee in thy temples."
Sir Richard Steel gives us a fine character of this extraordinary person.
He says, " He was a man, who for greatness of genius, and compass of knowledge, did honour to his age and country; one might almost say, to human nature itself. He possessed at once all tkose extraordinary taients which were divided amongst the greatest authors of antiquity. He had the sound; distinct, comprehensive knowledge of ARISTOTLE, with all the beautiful lights, graces and embellishments of Cicero. One does not know which to admire most in his writings, the strength of reason, force of style, or brightness of imagination.”
Tatler, No. 267. + "The Christian Religion,” says another great writer," has nothing to apprehend from the strictest investigation of the most learned of its
be both illiterate and immoral, insolent and satirical (ill qualifications for the discovery of moral and religious truth, which consists in purity, modesty, humility, sobriety, and goodness), though otherwise a man of good natural understanding, is an unbeliever in the divine mission of the Son of God? It may be some consolation to remember, that the first characters, who ever adorned our world, in every department of human life, have not been ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. Every man would do well to reflect, in these days of abounding licentiousness, by way of supporting the mind against the ridicule of professed Deists, that the Divines, BUTLER, and BENTLEY, and Barrow, and BERKLEY, and CudWORTH, and CLARKE, and SHERLOCK, and DODDRIDGE, and LARDNER, and PEARSON, and TAYLOR, and USHER, and a thousand more, were believers : that the Poets, SPENCER, and WALLER, and Cowley, and Prior, and THOMSON, and Gray, and Young, and Milton, were believers : that the Statesmen, Hyde, and SOMERS, and CULLEN, and PULTENEY, and HOWARD, and HarRINGTON, and King, and BARRINGTON, and LITTLETON, with numberless more*, were believers : that the Moralists, STEEL, and Addison, and HawKSWORTH, and JOHNSON, were believers : that the Physicians, ARBUTH NOT,and CHEYN E,and BROWN E, and BOERHAAVE, and PRINGLE, and HARTLEY, and HALLER,and MEAD, and FOTHERGILL, were believers: that the Lawyers, HALE, and MELMOTH, and FORBEs, and Hailes, and PRATT, and BLACKSTONE, and Jonest, were believers : F 3
adversaries; it suffers only from the misconceptions of sciolists, and silly pretenders to superior wisdom. A little learning is far more dangerous to the faith of those who possess it, than ignorance itselt,"
* WASHINGTON was lately a living character, and generally allowed to be fo e of the first of warriors, the first of politicians, and worthiest of men. This same gentleman was the delight of “ an admiring and astonished world,” and yet-hear it, Oye minute philosophers of degenerate Europe he was a serious Christian!
+ It is a pleasure to hear such men as the honourable Thomas ErsBINE, a member of Parliament, and one of the first orators of the age,
that the Philosophers, PASCAL, and Grotius, and Ray, and Cotes, and FERGUSON, and Adams, aud Locke, and EULER, and NEWTON, were believers*. Where is the great misfortune, then, to the interests of religion, if lukewarm Christians of every persuasion betray the cause they pretend to espouse; and if Unbelievers of every description imagine a vain thing against the ReDEEMER of mankind, and the Book which he hath caused to be written for our instruction. Nothing less than demonstration on the side of Infidelity should induce any man to resist the momentum that these venerable names give in favour of the Gospel. Many of them were the ornaments of human nature, whether we consider the wide range of their abilities, the great extent of their learning and knowledge, or the piety, integrity, and beneficence of their lives. These eminent characters, Bacon, Newton, Locke, BOYLE, Ditton, ADDIson, Hartley, LittleTON, WOODWARD, PRINGLE, Haller, Jones, BOERHAAVE, MILTON, GROTIUS, BARRINGTON, and EULERT, in particular, firmly adhered
come boldly forward in favour of the Gospel of Jesus.
r. No man ever existed,” says he, “ who is more alive to every thing connected “ with the Christian faith than I am, or more unalterably impressed " with its truths.'
View of the Causes, &c. p. 56. * We are well aware'that the truth of Christianity cannot be established by authority. But if its truth cannot be so established, neither can its falsehood. Indeed no man can be a competent judge, either of the truth or falsehood of the Gospel, who has not turned his attention to it for a considerable time with all seriousness of mind, and with a considerable share of literary information. We may experience its saving power, but we are ill qualified to defend its veracity.
+ It is said of this great Christian philosopher, in the General Biographical Dictionary, that few men of letters have written so much as he. His memory shall endure, continues his biographer, till science herself is no more. No geometrician has ever embraced so many objects at one time, or has equalled him, either in the variety or magnitude of his discoveries. He had read all the Latin classics, could repeat the whole Æneids of Virgil by heart; was perfect master of ancient mathematical literature ; had the history of all ages and nations, even to the minutest facts, ever present to his mind; was acquainted with physic, bo any, and chemistry ; was possessed of every qualification that could render a man estimable. Yet this man, accomplished as he was,
to the belief of Christianity, after the most diligent and exact researches into the life of its FOUNDER,
the authenticity of its records, the completion of the : prophecies, the sublimity of its doctrines, the purity of
its precepts, and the arguments of its adversaries. Here, you will remark, was no priest-craft. These were all men of independent principles, and the most liberal and enlarged minds. They investigated the pretensions of the Gospel to the bottom; they were not only satisfied with the justice of its claims, but they gloried in it as a most benevolent and godlike scheme *; and they all endeavoured, if not by their oral discourses, yet by their immortal writings, to recommend it to the general reception of mankind. It was their study in life, their solace in death.
Why then are so many of our fellow-creatures found to oppose, with such malignant virulence, what these great men have so successfully laboured to establish? The rea
was filled with respect for Religion. His piety was sincere, and his de. votion full of fervour. He went through all his Christian duties with the greatest attention. He loved all mankind, and, if ever he felt a motion of indignation, it was against the enemy of Religion, particularly against the declared aposties of Infidelity. Against the objections of these men, he defended Revelation in a work published at Berlin in 1747.
* Dr. DISNEY ALEXANDER, a physician now living, was favoured with a religious education, and brought up with a view to the church. By mixing with the world as he advanced in life, he lost his religious impressions. At this time he began to read the writings of Messrs. Jebb, Lindsey, and PRIESTLEY, and became a confirmed Socinian. In this state of mind, he met with the writings of Helvetius and VOLTAIRE. He read them with avidity, and it was not long before he commenced Deist. In this state of mind he continued some years, applarding his own superior discernment, and triumphing in his boasted freedom from the shackles of the Gospel. Necker's book on the Importance of Reli. gious Opinions, however, falling accidentally into his hands, the fame of the author induced hiin to read it. Here his Infidelity received a shock; his mind underwent another change ; and he was partiy brought back to Religion. Some months after this again Paley's Evidences of Chris. tianity were recommended to him. He bought the book. He read it eagerly twice over in a litole time with
great care. He was convincedand is now a zealous and happy Christian. This is his own account pub. lished in the Arminian Magazine,
son, in most cases, is obvious. They will not have this man reign over them, because he is not to their taste. And they oppose the Bible, because it condemns their practice. For if Jesus is indeed the only Saviour of mankind, and if the declarations of Scripture are at all to be regarded, their situation is desperate, and they can. not escape the condemnation which is therein denounced against all such characters. Other reasons, however, may be given for such a preposterous conduct. Abundance of men are so neglected at first in their religious education, and when grown up to maturity are so immersed in the pleasures and pursuits of life, that they never give themselves leisure to examine into the foundation of religion. They are as inattentive to it, as if it was none of their concern. This seems to have been the case with the learned Dr. HALLEY. For when he was throwing out, upon a time, some indecent reflections against Christianity, his friend Sir Isaac Newton stopt him short, and addressed him in these, or the like words, which imply that this great astronomer had employed his life in studying only the book of nature :-“ Dr. “ HALLEY, I am always glad to hear you, when you "speak about astronomy, or other parts of the mathe“matics, because that is a subject you have studied, “and well understand; but you should not talk of “ Christianity, for you have not studied it: I have; " and am certain you know nothing of the inatter*.'
Many other persons, possessed of some discernment, observe the hypocrisy of several of the greatest pretenders to religion: they see them no better, and scarce even so good as some who make less pretensions; and this becomes an insuperable offence to them. If these discerning men, however, would attend more to their own conduct, and less to the misconduct of others, it would be much happier for them, and more to their homour. Can any thing be more unreasonable than that the Gospel should be made answerable for all the weak
See the Life of Mr. Emlyn for this anecdote. There is a sufficient account of the reasons for Dr. HALLEY's Infidelity in Goadby's British Biography, vol, viii, p. 97.