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AN

Introductory Dissertation,

in which

THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY ARE FAIRLY STATED,

The New Testament proved to be genuine,

AND THE RELIGION OF JESUS TRULY DIVINE.

Tis a well-attested truth, that im themselves the wisest of mankind, or, morality ever grows

with infide in other words, the free-thinkers of lity, and to the prevalence of vice the age, have been desirous of banishmust certainly be imputed that scorn ing God and his truths from their and derision in which too many in knowledge; and it is therefore the less the present day hold the sacred ora to be wondered at, if God hast given cles of God, the revealed will of the them up to a reprobate mind ; to the Great Creator of Heaven and Earth. most infamous lusts and enormities ;

and to a depth of degeneracy, which, From hence, therefore, it is rea while it is in part the natural consesonable to ask, what cause can pro quence, is in part also the just, but duce so strange a deviation from the dreadful punishment to their apoways of God? Doubtless, from that stacy from the faith. And we are unhappy disregard, either to the persuaded that those who wish well Gospel in general, or to his peculiar to the cause of Christ, as every true and essential truths, so visible in the christian most certainly does, cannot world, and which appear to be con serve it more effectually, than by entinually increasing. It is too evident deavouring to establish' men in their that multitudes among us, like those belief of the Gospel in general, and of old, who thought and professed to build them up in its most holy

а

faith. The latter, we flatter ourselves, | pel, as well as for the edification of we have sufficiently done in the fol those who embrace it, should we lowing lives of the blessed Jesus and wholly overlook those arguments, or his apostles and followers : and we neglect to acquaint ourselves with propose in this Dissertation to prove

them. This is the evidence we prothat the Christian religion is true, pose, and beg our readers would and owes its origin to God himself. peruse it with becoming attention.

In prosecution of this great design, It will be needless to observe, that

we shall endeavour more particularly this is a matter of the highest import

to shew, that if we take the matter ance, as every one will apprehend

on a general survey, it will appear that this is the foundation of all our

highly probable that such a system hopes. It is absolutely necessary, in

of doctrines and precepts, as we find this age of libertinism, that every Christian should be able to give a rea

Christianity to be, should, indeed,

have been a divine Revelation; and son for the hope that is in him, and to

then that if we examine into the exterput to silence the tongues of those

nal evidence of it, we shall find it men who have evil will at Sion. And may the Almighty enable us to plead it had its origin from on high.

certain in fact, that it was so, and that his cause with success ; May the divine Spirit accompany these argu First, then, we are to shew, that, ments, that the faith of our readers

taking the matter nerely in theory, it being more and more established, it

will appear highly probable, that may appear that the tree is watered at

such a system as the Gospel, should the roots, by all the other graces be, indeed, a divine revelation. growing and flourishing in an equal proportion !

To prove this, we shall endeavour

to shew, That the state of mankind God has made ample provision for was such, as greatly, to need a revelathe honour and support of his Gospel, tion ; That there seems from the light by furnishing it with a variety of of nature, encouragement to hope, proofs, which

may,

with undimi. that God would grant one : That it nished, and, indeed, with growing is reasonable to believe, that if any conviction, be displayed in the eyes were made, it would be introduced of the whole world : and we should and transmitted, as Christianity was ; be greatly wanting in gratitude to him, and that its general nature and subin zeal for a Redeemer's kingdom, stance should be such as we find that and in charitable concern for the con of the Gospel is. If we satisfactorily version of those who reject the Gos prove these particulars, there will be

a strong presumptive evidence that the ly bewildered in their religious noGospel is from God, and a fair way will tions and practices, very different be opened for that more divine proof, from each other, and almost equally which is principally intended. differing on all sides from the appear

ances of truth and reason? Is any 1. The case of mankind is naturally thing so wild as not to have been such as to need a divine revelation. believed : any thing so infamous as

not to have been practised by them, We would not be understood to speak here of man in bis original state, justify it by reason, but to have con

while they not only pretended to though, even then, some instruction from above seemed necessary to in

secrated it as a part of their religion ?

To this very day, what are the disform him of many particulars, which

coveries of new nations in the Ameriit was highly proper for him then to

ca know; but we speak of him in the

can or African world; but generally degenerate condition in which he speaking, the opening new scenes of now so evidently lies, by whatever enormity? . Rapine, lust, cruelty, means he fell into it. It is very easy idolatries, are, and always have been,

human sacrifices, and the most stupid to make forid encomiums on the per- the morality and religion of almost all fection of natural light, and to deceive

the Pagan nations under heaven; and unwary

readers by an ambiguous term, as a late author has done in his if they have discovered a dawn of deistical writings; a fallacy beneath

reason, it has only sufficed to con

vince them of an abler guide, to an ingenuous reasoner, and which

direct them in pursuit of real happialone ought to have exposed his book to the contempt of every serious reader. Truth needs no disguise; a But perhaps some of our readers candid advocate scorns such subter have only heard those things by uncerfuges ; let facts speak for themselves, tain reports. If this be the case, look and controversy will soon be decid around you within the sphere of your ed. We appeal to every intelligent own observation, and remark the reader, who is acquainted with the temper and character of the generalirecords of antiquity, or that has any ty of those who have been educated

of the present state of in a Christian, and even in a Protestthose countries where Christianity

ant country

Observe their ignois unknown, whether it is not too rance and forgetfulness of the Divine obvious a truth, that the whole bea. Being, their impieties, their debauthen world has lain, and still lies, in cheries, their fraud, their oppression, a state of wickedness ? Have not the their pride, their avarice, their ambigreater part of them been perpetual- tion, their unnatural insensibility to

ness.

knowledge

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the wants, sorrows, and interest of he would not certainly conclude he each other: and when you see how would never do it: considering, on bad they generally are in the midst of the one hand, how justly they stood so many advantages, judge by that of exposed to his final displeasure: and, the probable state of those that want on the other, what provision he had them. When the candid reader has made by the frame of the human well weighed these particulars, let mind, and, of nature around us, for him judge whether a revelation be an giving us. such notices of himself, as unnecessary thing.

would leave us inexcusable, if we ei

ther failed to know him, or to glorify 2. There is, from the light of na him as God, as the apostle argues at ture, considerable encouragement large. (Rom. i. 20, &c.) Nevertheto hope, that God would favour his less, we should have something of this creatures with so desirable a thing as kind to hope, from considering God a revelation appears to be.

as the indulgent father of his crea

tures; from observing the tender That a revelation is in itself a possi- care he takes of us, and the liberal ble thing, is evident beyond all sha- supply which he grants for the supdow of doubt. Shall not He that

Shall not He that port of the animal life: especially from . made man's mouth, who has given us the provision he has made for man, this wonderful faculty of discovering considered as a guilty and calamitous our sentiments, and communicating creature, by the medicinal and healour ideas to each other; shall not he ing virtues he has given to the be able to converse with his rational ductions of nature, which man, in a creatures, and by sensible manifesta- | perfect state of rectitude and happt tions, or inward impressions, to con ness, never would have needed. vey the knowledge of things, which lie beyond the discernment of their This is a circumstance which seems natural fạculties, and yet may be strongly to intimate, that he would, highly conducive to their advantage ? some time or other, graciously proTo own a God, and to deny him vide an adequate remedy to heal the such a power, would be a notorious minds of the children of men; and that contradiction. Butit may appear much he would interpose to instruct them in more dubious, whether we will please his own nature, in the manner in which to confer such a favour on sinful he is to be served, and in the finaltreat.creatures.

ment which they may expect from

him. And certainly such an appreNow it must be acknowledged, that | hension seems very congruous to the

pro

sentiments of the generality of man is certain that no method of arguing is kind; a sufficient proof that men na so short, so plain, and so forcible, and turally expect some such kind of in on the whole so well suited to convicterposition of the Almighty.

tion, and probably the reformation of

mankind, as a course of evident, re3. It is natural to conclude, that if peated, and uncontrolled miracles. a revelation were given, it would be And such a method of proof is espeintroduced, and transmitted in such cially adapted to the populace, who a manner as the Evangelists shew us are incomparably the greater part of Christianity was.

mankind, and for whose benefit

we may assure ourselves a revelation It is, for instance, highly probable, would be chiefly designed. It might that it should be taught either by be added, that it was no way improsome illustrious person, sent down bable, though not in itself certain, from a superior world, or at least by that a dispensation should open graa man of eminent wisdom and piety, dually to the world; and that the who should himself have been not most illustrious messenger of God to only a teacher, but an example of men should be ushered in by some righteousness. In order to this, it predictions which should raise a great seems probable, that he should be expectation of his appearance, and led through a series of calamities and have an evident accomplishment in distress; since, otherwise, he could him. not have been a pattern of that resignation which adorns adversity, and is As to the propagation of a religion peculiar to it. And it might also so introduced, it seems no way imhave been expected that in the ex- probable, that having been thus estatremity of his distress, the Almighty, blished in its first age, it should be whose messenger he was, should in transmitted to future generations, by some extraordinary manner, have credible testimony, as other imporinterposed either to preserve or to tant facts are. It is certain, that affairs recover him from death.

of the utmost moment, transacted

among men, depend on testimony: It is, moreover, exceedingly proba. on this, voyages are undertaken, setble, that such a person, and, perhaps, tlements made, and controversies also they who were at first employed decided : controversies on which not as his messengers to the world, only the estates but the lives of men should be endowed with a power of depend. Though it must be owned, working miracles, both to awaken that such an historical evidence is not men's attention, and to prove his equally convincing with , miracles divine mission, and the consequent which are wrought before our own truth of his doctrines, some of eyes; yet it is certain, it may rise to which might perhaps be capable of such a degree as to exclude all reasonno other proof; or if they were, it able doubt. We know not why we

b

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