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it was not by their own power or holiness that they performed these works: should you find the strictest holiness and conformity to the Divine nature joined with these miraculous powers, would you not believe the truth of their pretensions? Would you not acknowledge, that God was in them of a truth?
Would you expect that those men, who were sent out to preach and propagate a new religion in the world, should themselves be inspired with a prophetic spirit, and capable to foretell future events? And is not this also visibly fact, in the case before us? Have they not distinctly foretold the state and fate of the church in all its periods, until the consummation of all things? Do not we ourselves see their predictions exactly and circumstantially verified, with respect to the rise, reign, and ruin of antichrist; and with respect to the jews still continuing a distinct people, and remaining in their unbelief, until God shall again graft them into the olive-tree, from whence they have been cut off?
Would you expect that the Messiah should prosper and succeed those disciples, whom he should send out to propagate the gospel among the nations, by the conversion of multitudes to the faith? And do we not find in fact, that he assisted a few mean and unlearned fishermen, without riches or power, art or eloquence, to triumph over all the prejudices in men's minds against the doctrines of the cross, over all the bitter opposition of the rulers of the world, all the rivetted prepossessions amongst both jews and gentiles, to their ancient religion, and all the learning of Greece and Rome; and to bring so great a part of the world into a professed subjection to the cross of Christ?
Would you expect, that the religion of such a Saviour should be every way worthy of God, agreeable to all his glorious perfections, and every way suitable
for man, perfective of his nature, and adapted to his welfare, in every station, relation, and capacity that he sustains in this world, as well as to his eternal interest in the world to come? All this, I think, is what the deists themselves are forced to allow.
Would you expect some apparent influence of this religion upon the hearts and lives of those who sincerely profess it, and who commit their souls and eternal interests into the hands of this Saviour? And do not you yourself see this continually exemplified? Does not every body see, that those who cordially receive the Lord Jesus Christ for their Prince and Saviour, are distinguished from the rest of the world, by the exercise of love both to God and man? Is not the change wrought in the hearts and lives of such, visible to every observer, in the blessed fruits of holiness, righteousness, charity, and beneficence? This change they themselves profess to have experienced by their exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This experience they justify to the world, by the steady conduct of their lives. And thus the great Redeemer approves himself indeed the great Physician of souls, by recovering all from their spiritual maladies who apply to him, and depend upon hin for a cure.
Would you expect a consistent and harmonious scheme of religion, through all the parts of Divine revelation? And is it not wonderful to observe, how the New Testament every way answers the design of the Old; and how all the numerous writers of these sacred books, notwithstanding their very different manner of writing, the very distant ages in which they wrote, and the very different circumstances of the church in their respective times of writing, have yet all taught the same doctrines, all described the same dangers, and all pointed out the same way to eternal salvation?
Thus, sir, I have set before you, in the closest and most connected view, some brief hints of the credentials of christianity. I know you are capable of extending your demands yet further; and of proposing something else, that may still serve to reflect new light upon the christian revelation: and there is yet much more at your service, when you will be pleased to make your demands. You must, however, in the mean time, allow me the freedom to say, that the evidence now in view is sufficient to fill the mind of every unprejudiced person with a necessary and infallible certainty of the truth we are inquiring after. Deliberately consider each of these arguments separately and particularly; consider them all in their connexion and relation to each other; and then try whether you can refuse your assent to the gospel of Christ.
There is, I am sensible, one objection ready to offer itself to your mind against all this; and that is, How do I know that the great and principal facts, upon which christianity is especially built, may be depended upon as certainly true? How do I know the congruity of the prophecies with the event? How do I know the miraculous conception of the Lord Jesus Christ, the attestation of the angels to his birth; or that he wrought such miracles in confirmation of his Divine mission; and that he rose again from the dead; and ascended up to heaven? How do I know that his apostles were inspired with such extraordinary and divine gifts, or that they performed such miraculous operations?
To this I answer, that some of the evidences which I have offered are what directly, upon the very first view, you may know, and cannot but know, to be certainly and infallibly true, if you will but open your eyes to observe them. You do certainly know, that
human nature is dreadfully corrupted and vitiated; that it is opposite to the holiness and purity of the Divine Being; and that there is therefore great necessity of a Saviour to bring us to God, and to rectify our depraved nature. You may certainly know, that there are a great variety of predictions of such a Saviour dispersed through the whole Old Testament ; and that the whole nation of the jews always did, and still do, from thence live in raised expectations of a Messiah. You may certainly know, that there were a great number of rites and ceremonies religiously observed and practised among the jews; and that sacrificing in particular was not only enjoined upon them, but early and generally practised among all nations. For none of which things can there be any manner of reason given or imagined, unless they were types and adumbrations of an expected Saviour. You may certainly know, that the time prefixed in the jewish prophecies for the manifestation of the Messiah, was the very time, in which, by the concurring testimony both of the friends and enemies of christianity, the Lord Jesus did appear. You may certainly know, that the jewish prophets did foretell a suffering Saviour, a Saviour that should be wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, that should make his soul an offering for our sin; and that should be cut off, but not for himself: and you are equally certain, from all other historians, as well as from the evangelists, that our Lord Jesus did undergo such contempt, misery, and death, as was foretold of the Messiah by the prophets. You may certainly know, that it was foretold in the prophets, that the sceptre should not depart from Judah, and a lawgiver from between his feet, until the coming of the Messiah; but that after his death, the jewish sacrifices should cease; and their holy city
and sanctuary be destroyed and made desolate and that the event does assure us, that the circumstances of the jewish nation did exactly answer to these prophecies, both before and after the death of Jesus Christ. You may certainly know, both by the jew. ish and christian prophecies, that under the gospel dispensation, the jews were to be rejected of God; and to continue despised and dispersed among all nations; but the gentiles to come to the light of the Messiah, and see his righteousness and glory: and that the event is agreeable to the prediction. You may certainly know, that the rise of antichrist was predicted to be after the fall of the roman empire, when that could no longer let or restrain him; that he should appear under the guise of a minister of religion in the temple of God; that he should pretend to all power, and signs, and lying wonders; that he should make war with the saints, and overcome them; that he should reside in the great city, that was then built upon seven mountains, and reigned over the kings of the earth, which was true of the city of Rome only. And you may also consider, whether all this is not true of the pope and the roman papacy. You may certainly know the amazing progress of the gospel in the first ages of christianity, in the face of the most formidable and powerful oppositions; and its continuing progress, against all the attempts of its heathen and papal enemies. You may know the excellence of its doctrines, and the glorious effects it has upon the hearts and lives of true believers. You may know (as, blessed be God, multitudes do know, by experience) how it conquers men's corruptions, changes their natures, pacifies their consciences, fills their souls with light and joy, strengthens them against temptations, sweetens the afflictions of life, and fortifies them