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that with which the present Sacred Writings are attended ? The very errors of professors, and the corrupt state of religion in every Christian country, are the literal accomplishment of several prophecies, and, of course, so far are they from being any just objection to the Gospel, that they are a strong proof of the Divine Mission of its great Author.
But could it even be solidly evinced, that Jesus was an impostor, that the Virgin MARY was a bad woman, that the Scriptures are false, and that the scheme of redemption therein contained is all a cunningly devised fable of these arch-deceivers, the Priests ; yet still it is found true in fact, that a lively Believer in Christ Jesus, who hath done justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with his God, is much happier than the most accomplished Infidel that ever existed, both in life, and at the approach of death. Turn back your attention to the complete inan of the world, Earl CHESTERFIELD: in himn you see a finished character, all that rank, honour, riches, learning, philosophy can make us. But was he happy? Read his own account, and be confounded. And are you more at rest in your spirit? What is your life?You eat, and drink, and sleep, and dress, and dance, and sit down to play. You walk, ride, or are carried abroad. You labour, toil, transact business. You attend the masquerade, the theatre, the opera, the park, the levee, the drawing-room, the card-table, the assembly, the ball, the club, the tavern. In what manner do you spend your time at any of these places? Why sometimes you talk; make your observations ; look one upon another; dance, play, trifle like the rest of the triflers there. And what are you to do again tomorrow ?. The next day? The next week?
The next year? -You are to eat, and drink, and sleep, and labour, and dance, and transact business, and dress, and play, engage in small talk, walk, ride, and be carried abroad again
* The man of fashion is well described by a late poet in the following humorous, manner:
“ What is a modern Man of fashion?
And is this all ? Was it for this immortal faculties were bestowed upon us? Miserable round of secular pursuits, and empty dissipation! If faith in the Bible be a deception, it hath at least the merit of being a comfortable and beneficial one. It' rescues us from this pitiful way of spending our time and money; it enables us to abound in works of faith and labours of love ; it excites us to live, in some degree, worthy of our high-raised expectations, and prepares us to die with a hope full of immortality. We quit the stage of life without a sigh or a tear, and we go wind and fide into the haven of everlasting rest *.
In sleep, and dress, and sport, and play,
Taught by the Great bis smiles to sell,
And lives an ape, and dies a fool!” * Not many men ever trified inore agreeably, and at the same time more perniciously, than LAWRENCE STERNE, the author of Tristrum Shandy. Among the various beautiful and pathetic passages which occur in his volumes, he administers poison in a manner the most imperceptible and þewitching. Few writers ever more corrupted the public taste. He was a man of considerable, but peculiar talents, making great pretensions to sympathy, wit, and benevolence, but with an heart in no small degree depraved. And as he had lived with the reputation of a wit, he was determined to die as such, even though he should sacrifice every appearance of Christian piety and decorum. Accordingly, when this clerical buffoon came to be in dying circumstances : perceiving death to make his advances upwards, raising himself and sitting up, he is said, either in a real or pretended rage, to have sworn at the sly assassin, that he should not kill him yet.
This remarkable circumstance, though not mentioned in his life, is, I þelieve, strictly true. It is only observed in general in the account prefixed to his works, that “ Mr. STERNE died as he lived, the same indifferent, careless creature; as, a day or two before, he seemed not in the least affected with his approaching dissolution.”
This brings to mind the case of another unhappy man who was a professed Atheist. Dr BARRABY, an eminent physician in London, was intimately acquainted with him: his name was STR-T, Esq.
“ With us no melancholy void,
Or unimprov'd below,
And only him to know." No man, however, can prove the falsehood of that inestimable Book. Difficulties, many and considerable, we know it contains. We are not disposed to conceal them. It would be very surprising if a book so circumstanced did not*. But its foundation is built upon the pillars of everlasting truth. Conscientious Unbelievers should examine those difficuities with calmness and patience. The whole collective evidence of the Gospel is very considerable, and requires time and application t. It is expected that they attend to the consistency, After some time, he was seized with a vioient fever, and sent for the Doctor; who came, and prescribed several medicines, but none of them took effect. At length he told him plainly, “ Sir, I know nothing more that can be done ; you must die.” Upon this, he clenched his fists, gnashed his teeth, and said with the utmost fury, “ God! God! I won't die!" and immediately expired.
* “ It would be a miracle greater than any we are instructed to believe, if there were no difficulties in the Sacred Writings; if a being with but five scanty inlets of knowledge, separated but yesterday from his mother earth, and to-day sinking again into her bossom, could fathom the depths of the wisdom and knowledge of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY."
All arts and sciences abound with difficulties, and a perfect knowledge of them is not to be attained without considerable labour and application; why then should we expect that Theology, the first of sciences, and that to which all others ought to be subservient, should be without its abstrusities, and capable of being understood without labour and application of mind ? Nay, even that practical religion, which is required of the humblest followers of the REDEEMER, requires a high degree of attention. Agonize to enter in at the strait gate, is the command of the Son of GOD. And did ever any labour more in the cause of virtue than Christ and his Apostles?
+ There are four grand arguments for the truth of the Bible. The first is the miracles it records. 2. The prophecies. 3. The goodness of the doctrine. 4. The moral character of the penmen.
The miracles flow from Divine power; the prophecies from Divine understanding; the excellence of the doctrine, from Divine goodness: and the moral character of the penmen, from Divine purity.
Thus Christianity is built upon these four immoveable pillars, the power, the understanding, the goodness, and the purity of God.
I add further;
The Bible must be the invention, either of good men or angels, bad men or devils, or of Gon.
harmony, and connection of all its various parts; the long chain of prophecies undeniably completed in it; the astonishing and well attested miracles which attend it; the perfect sanctity of its Author; the purity of its precepts; the sublimity of its doctrines; the amazing rapidity of its progress; the illustrious company of confessors, saints, and martyrs, who died to confirm its truth; the testimony of its enemies; together with an infinite number of collateral proofs and subordinate circumstances, all concurring to form such a body of evidence, as no other truth in the world can shew; such as must necessarily bear down, by its own weight and magnitude, all trivial objections to particular parts *. They should consult the best books upon the subject, and call in the assistance of learned and disinterested men, who have made theological subjects their study. They should apply to them as they would to a Lawyer about an estate, or a Physician about their health. And they should make the investigation a matter of the most diligent enquiry t. Religion is
It could uot be the invention of good men or angels, for they neither would nor could make a book, and tell lies all the time they were writing it, saying, Thus saith the LORD, when it' was their own invention.
It could not be the invention of bad men or devils, for they would not make a book, which commands all duty, forbids all sin, and condemns their souls to hell to all eternity.
I therefore draw this conclusion.—The Bible must be given by Divine inspiration.
* See Bishop Porteus's Sermons, vol. i. p. 41, 42.
+ Bishop WATSON'S Apology for Christianity, in answer to Mr. GIBBON; and his Apology for the Bible, in answer to THOMAS Paine, before mentioned, are admirably well calculated to remove a considerable number of difficulties attending the records of our salvation. Bishop Horne's Letters on Infidelity are wisely suited to the same purpose. But he that is able and willing to examine thoroughly the grounds of his religion, should have recourse to Bishop BUTLER'S Analogy of Religion, natural and revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature: a work well adapted to give satisfaction to enquiring minds, upon the most important of all subjects, Religion. I need not say, that GROTIUS on the truth of Christianity, is an excellent little work. DODDRIDGE's three Sermons, on the Evidence of Christianity, seem better suited to the understandings of common readers than almost any other. LARDNER'S Credibility; Michaelis's Introduction to the New Testament; and PALEY's View of the Evidences of Christianity, are all works of high reputation. BeATTIE's Evidences of the Christian Religion, is a valu. able small work. BAXTER on the Truth of Christianity, is not to
a serious thing. It is either all or nothing. A few pert objections, started in mixed company, or in a circle of friends be answered. EDWARDS on the Authority, Style, and Perfection of Scripture, is very valuable. GILDON'S Deist's Manual-KIDDER'S Demonstration of the MESSIAS-STILLING FLEET's Origines Sacre
-- HARTLEY on the Truth of the Christian Religion-BRYANT'S Treatise on the Authenticity of the Scriptures-- JORtin's Discourse concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion-DELANY's Revelation examined with Cândour—PASCHAL's Thoughts on Religion-YOUNG's Night Thoughts, and Centaur not Fabulous—DITTON ON the Resurrection-Cure of Dejsm-Foster's Usefulness, Truth, and Excellency of the Christian Revelation-CLARKE's Truth and Certainty of the Christian Religion-LALLY's Principles of the Christian Religion-PALEY's Hora Paulina-Bishop Sguire's Indifference for Religion Inexcusable—LOCKE's Reasonableness of Christianity-MURRAY'S Evidences of the Jewish and Christian Revelations -CHANDLER's Plain Reasons for being a ChristianADDISON on the Truth of Christianity-Bishop WATSON's Two Sermons and Charge-Sykes's Essay upon the Truth of the Christian Religion--WARBURTON's Divine Legation of Moses-- Dr.GREGORY SHARPE's Two Arguments in Defence of Christianity-LESLIE'S Short Method with Jews and Deists-Bishop BERKLEY'S Minute Philosophe-Dr. RANDOLPH's View of our SAVIOUR's MinistryBishop CLAYTON's Vindication of the Histories of the Vid and New Testament--Dr. Bell's Enquiry into the Divine Missions of JOHN the Baptist and JESUS CHRIST-Lively Oracles, by the Author of the Whole Duty of Man--BOYLE on the Style of the Holy Scripture -MACKNIGHT on the Gospel-actions as probable-West on the Resurrection-Lord LYTTLETON on the Conversion of St. PaulLE PLUCHÉ on the Truth of the Gospel-Socinus's Argument for the Authority of Holy Scripture-Bishop CHANDLER's Defence of Christianity-PRIESTLEY's Letters to a Philosophical UnbelieverPRIESTLEY's Evidence of Revealed Religion. These are all works of some reputation. Several of them are unanswerable, and ail contain more or less matter upon the truth of the Scriptures, that is useful and important. Many others have written upon the same subject, but these I have bad an opportunity of penising, and can recommend them every one, as containing much that is valuable. There is, liowever, one very small work more, which I would take the liberty of recommending to the common reader, because it is so plain, satisfactory, and concise; and that is Dr. DAVID JENNING'S Appeal to Reason and Common Sense for the Truth of the Holy Scriptures. For the compass of it, this is a very satisfactory performance. The whole is coptained in two serions of moderate length, and may be obtained for a very trifting sum. To these may be added LELAND'S Deistical Writers; a work of high and deserved reputation--LESLIE's Truth of Christianity Demonstrated-Bishop Taylor's Moral Demonstration that the Religion of Jesus Christ is from God. Writings on these subjects of such universal importance are very numerous, and, indeed, it is scarcely possible they can be too much