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prophets foretold of the fate of Babylon, that it should be besieged by the Medes; that it should be taken, when her mighty men were drunken, when her springs were dried up; and that it should become a pool of water, and should remain desolate for ever; no one, I say, can be convinced, that all these, and other parts of the prophetic denunciation, have been minutely fulfilled, without spending some time in reading the accounts which profane historians have delivered down to us concerning its being taken by Cyrus; and which modern travellers have given us of its present situation.

Porphyry was so persuaded of the coincidence between the prophecies of Daniel and the events, that he was forced to affirm the prophecies were written after the things prophesied of had happened; another Porphyry has, in our days, been so astonished at the correspondence between the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, as related by St. Matthew, and the history of that event, as recorded by Josephus; that rather than embrace Christianity, he has ventured to assert (contrary to the faith of all ecclesiastical history, the opinion of the learned of all ages, and all the rules of good criticism) that St. Matthew wrote his Gospel after Jerusalem had been taken and destroyed by the Romans. You may from these instances perceive the strength of the argument from prophecy; it has not been able indeed to vanquish the prejudices of either the ancient or the modern Porphyry; but it has been able to compel them both to be guilty of obvious falsehoods, which have nothing but impudent assertions to support them.

Some over-zealous interpreters of Scripture have found prophecies in simple narrations, extended real predictions beyond the times and circumstances to which they naturally were applied, and perplexed their readers with a thousand quaint allusions and allegorical conceits; this proceeding has made unthinking men pay less regard to prophecy in general; there are some predictions, however, such as those concerning the present state of the Jewish people, and the corruption of Christianity, which are now fulfilling in the world, and which, if you will take the trouble to examine them, you will find of such an extraordinary nature, that you will not perhaps hesitate to refer


them to God as their author; and if you once become persuaded of the truth of any one miracle, or of the completion of any one prophecy, you will resolve all your difficulties (concerning the manner of God's interposition in the moral government of our species, and the nature of the doctrines contained in revelation) into your own inability fully to comprehend the whole scheme of Divine Providence.

We are told, however, that the strangeness of the narration, and the difficulty of the doctrines contained in the New Testament, are not the only circumstances which induce you to reject it; you have discovered, you think, so many contradictions, in the accounts which the evangelists have given of the life of Christ, that you are compelled to consider the whole as an ill-digested and improbable story. You would not reason thus upon any other occasion; you would not reject as fabulous the accounts given by Livy and Polybius of Hannibal and the Carthaginians, though you should discover a difference betwixt them in several points of little importance. You cannot compare the history of the same events as delivered by any two historians, but you will meet with many circumstances, which, though mentioned by one, are either wholly omitted or differently related by the other; and this observation is peculiarly applicable to biographical writings: But no one ever thought of disbelieving the leading circumstances of the lives of Vitellius or Vespasian, because Tacitus and Suetonius did not in every thing correspond in their accounts of these emperors; and if the memoirs of the life and doctrines of M. de Voltaire himself, were, some twenty or thirty years after his death, to be delivered to the world by four of his most intimate acquaintance; I do not apprehend that we should discredit the whole account of such an extraordinary man, by reason of some slight inconsistencies and contradictions, which the avowed enemies of his name might chance to discover in the several narrations. Though we should grant you then, that the evangelists had fallen into some trivial contradictions, in what they have related concerning the life of Christ; yet you ought not to draw any other inference from our concession, than that they had not plotted together, as cheats would have done, in order to give an unexception

able consistency to their fraud. We are not, however, disposed to make you any such concession; we will rather shew you the futility of your general argument, by touching upon a few of the places, which you think are most liable to your


You observe, that neither Luke, nor Mark, nor John, have mentioned the cruelty of Herod in murdering the infants of Bethlehem; and that no account is to be found of this matter in Josephus, who wrote the life of Herod; and therefore the fact recorded by Matthew is not true.-The concurrent testimony of many independent writers concerning a matter of fact, unquestionably adds to its probability; but if nothing is to be received as true, upon the testimony of a single author, we must give up some of the best writers, and disbelieve Fome of the most interesting facts of ancient history.

According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there was only an interval of three months, you say, between the baptism and crucifixion of Jesus; from which time, taking away the forty days of temptation, there will only remain about six weeks for the whole period of his public ministry; which lasted, however, according to St. John, at the least above three years.-Your objection fairly stated stands thus: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, in writing the history of Jesus Christ, mention the several events of his life, as following one another in continued succession, without taking notice of the times in which they happened; but is it a just conclusion from their silence, to infer that there really were no intervals of time between the transactions which they seem to have connected? Many instances might be produced from the most admired biographers of antiquity, in which the events are related, as immediately consequent to each other, which did not happen but at very distant periods: we have an obvious example of this manner of writing in St. Matthew; who connects the preaching of John the Baptist with the return of Joseph from Egypt, though we are certain, that the latter event preceded the former by a great many years.

John has said nothing of the institution of the Lord's supper; the other evangelists have said nothing of the washing of the disciples' feet :-What then? are you not ashamed to produce these facts, as instances of contradiction? If omissions are contradictions, look into the history of the

age of Louis the Fourteenth, or into the general history of M. de Voltaire, and you will meet with a great abundance of con tradictions.

John, in mentioning the discourse which Jesus had with his mother and his beloved disciple, at the time of his crucifixion, says, that she, with Mary Magdalene, stood near the cross; Matthew, on the other hand, says, that Mary Magdalene and the other women were there, beholding afar off: this you think a manifest contradiction; and scoffingly inquire, whether the women and the beloved disciple, which were near the cross, could be the same with those, who stood far from the cross?-It is difficult not to transgress the bounds of moderation and good manners, in answering such sophistry; what! have you to learn, that though the evangelists speak of the crucifixion, as of one event, it was not accomplished in one instant, but lasted several hours? And why the women, who were at a distance from the cross, might not, during its continuance, draw near the cross; or from being near the cross, might not move from the cross, is more than you can explain to either us, or yourselves. And we take from you your only refuge, by denying expressly, that the different evangelists, in their mention of the women, speak of the same point of time.

The evangelists, you affirm, are fallen into gross contradictions, in their accounts of the appearances, by which Jesus manifested himself to his disciples, after his resurrection from the dead; for Matthew speaks of two, Mark of three, Luke of two, and John of four. That contradictory propositions cannot be true, is readily granted; and if you will produce the place in which Matthew says, that Jesus Christ appeared twice, and no oftener, it will be further granted, that he is contradicted by John, in a very material part of his narra tion; but till you do that, you must excuse me, if I cannot grant, that the evangelists have contradicted each other in this point; for to common understanding it is pretty evident, that if Christ appeared four times, accordingto John's account, he must have appeared twice, according to that of Matthew and Luke, and thrice, according to that of Mark.

The different evangelists are not only accused of contradicting each other, but Luke is said to have contradicted himself; for in his gospel he tells us, that Jesus ascended into heaven from Bethany; and

in the Acts of the Apostles, of which he is the reputed author, he informs us, that Jesus ascended from Mount Olivet. Your objection proceeds either from your ignorance of geography, or your ill-will to Christianity; and upon either supposition, deserves our contempt: be pleased, however, to remember for the future, that Bethany was not only the name of a town, but of a district of Mount Olivet, adjoining

to the town.

From this specimen of the contradictions, ascribed to the historians of the life of Christ, you may judge for yourselves, what little reason there is to reject Christianity upon their account; and how sadly you will be imposed upon (in a matter of more consequence to you than any other) if you take every thing for a contradiction, which the uncandid adversaries of Christianity think proper to call


Before I put an end to this address, I cannot help taking notice of an argument, by which some philosophers have of late endeavoured to overturn the whole system of revelation; and it is the more necessary to give an answer to their objection, as it is become a common subject of philosophical conversation, especially amongst those who have visited the continent. The objection tends to invalidate, as is supposed, the authority of Moses; by shewing that the earth is much older, than it can be proved to be from his account of the creation, and the scripture chronology. We contend, that six thousand years have not yet elapsed, since the creation; and these philosophers contend, that they have indubitable proof of the earth's being at the least fourteen thousand years old; and they complain, that Moses hangs as a dead weight upon them, and blunts all their zeal for inquiry.

The Canonico Recupero, who, it seems, is engaged in writing the history of Mount Etna, has discovered a stratum of lava, which flowed from that mountain, according to his opinion, in the time of the second Punic war, or about two thousand years ago; this stratum is not yet covered with soil, sufficient for the production of either corn or vines; it requires then, says the Canou, two thousand years, at least, to convert a stratum of lava into a fertile field. In sinking a pit near Jaci, in the neighbourhood of Etna, they have discovered evident marks of seven distinct

lavas, one under the other; the surfaces of which are parallel, and most of them covered with a thick bed of rich earth; now, the eruption, which formed the lowest of these lava (if we may be allowed to reason, says the Canon, from analogy,) flowed

from the mountain at least fourteen thousand years ago.-It might be briefly an swered to this objection, by denying, that there is any thing in the history of Moses repugnant to this opinion concerning the great antiquity of the earth; for though the rise and progress of arts and sciences, and the small multiplication of the human species, render it almost to a demonstration probable, that man has not existed longer upon the surface of this earth, than according to the Mosaic account; yet, tirat the earth was then created out of nothing, when man was placed upon it, is not, according to the sentiments of some philosophers, to be proved from the original text of sacred scripture: we might, I say, reply, with these philosophers, to this formidable objection of the Canon, by granting it in its fullest extent; we are under no necessity, however, of adopting their opinion, in order to shew the weakness of the Canon's reasoning. For in the first, place, the Canon has not satisfactorily established his main fact, that the lava in question is the identical lava, which Diodorus Siculus mentions to have flowed from Etna, in the second Carthaginian war: and in the second place, it may be observed, that the time necessary for converting the lavas into fertile fields, must be very differeat, according to the different consistencies of the lavas, and their different situations, with respect to elevation or depression; to their being exposed to winds, rains, and to other circumstances; just as the time, in which the heaps of iron slag (which resembles lava) are covered with verdure, is different at different furnaces, according to the nature of the slag, and situation of the furnace; and something of this kind is deducible from the account of the Canon himself; since the crevices of this famous stratum are really full of rich, good soil, and have pretty large trees growing in them.

But if all this should be thought not sufficient to remove the objection, I will produce the Canon an analogy, in opposition to his analogy, and which is grounded on more certain facts. Etna and Vesuvius resemble each other, in the causes which produce their eruptions, and in the

nature of their lavas, and in the time ne cessary to mellow them into soil fit for vegetation or if there be any slight difference in this respect, it is probably not greater than what subsists between different lavas of the same mountain. This being admitted, which no philosopher will deny, the Canon's analogy will prove just nothing at all, if we can produce an instance of seven different lavas (with interjacent strata of vegetable earth) which have flowed from mount Vesuvius, within the space, not of fourteen thousand, but of somewhat less than seventeen hundred years; for then, according to our analogy, a stratum of lava may be covered with vegetable soil, in about two hundred and fifty years, instead of requiring two thousand for the purpose. The eruption of Vesuvius, which destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii, is rendered still more famous by the death of Pliny, recorded by his nephew, in his letter to Tacitus; this event happened in the year 79; it is not yet then quite seventeen hundred years since Herculaneum was swallowed up: but we are informed by unquestionable authority, that the matter which covers the ancient town of Herculaneum, is not the produce of one eruption only; for there are evident marks, that the matter of six erup tions has taken its course over that which lies immediately above the town, and was the cause of its destruction. These strata are either of lava or burnt matter, with veins of good soil betwixt them.'-I will not add another word upon this subject; except that the bishop of the diocese was not much out in his advice to Canonico Recupero-to take care, not to make his mountain older than Moses; though it would have been full as well, to have shut his mouth with a reason, as to have stop ped it with the dread of an ecclesiastical


You perceive, with what ease a little at tention will remove a great difficulty; but had we been able to say nothing, in explanation of this phænomenon, we should not have acted a very rational part, in making our ignorance the foundation of our infidelity, or suffering a minute philosopher to rob us of our religion.

Your objections to revelation, may be numerous: you may find fault with the account, which Moses has given of the crea tion and the fall: you may not be able to get water enough for an universal deluge: nor room enough in the ark of Noab, for

all the different kinds of aërial and terres trial animals; you may be dissatisfied with the command for sacrificing of Isaac, for plundering the Egyptians, and for extirpating the Canaanites: you may find fault with the Jewish œconomy, for its ceremonies, its sacrifices, and its multiplicity of priests; you may object to the imprecations in the Psalms, and think the immoralities of David, a fit subject for dramatic ridicule: you may look upon the partial promulgation of Christianity, as an insuperable objection to its truth; and waywardly reject the goodness of God toward yourselves, because you do not comprehend, how you have deserved it more than others; you may know nothing of the entrance of sin and death into the world, by one man's transgression; nor be able to comprehend the doctrine of the cross and of redemption by Jesus Christ; in short, if your mind is so disposed, you may find food for your scepticism in every page of the Bible, as well as in every appearance of nature; and it is not in the power of any person, but yourselves, to clear up your doubts; you must read, and you must think for yourselves; and you must do both with temper, with candour, and with care. Infidelity is a rank weed; is nurtured by our vices, and cannot be plucked up as easily as it may be planted; your difficulties, with respect to revelation, may have first arisen from your own reflection on the religious indifference of those, whom, from your earliest infancy, you have been accustomed to revere and imitate; domestic irreligion may have made you willing hearers of libertine conversation; and the uniform prejudices of the world, may have finished the business at a very early age; and left you to wan der through life without a principle to direct your conduct, and to die without hope. We are far from wishing you to trust the word of the clergy for the truth of your re ligion; we beg of you to examine it to the bottom, to try it, to prove it, and not to hold it fast unless you find it good. Till you are disposed to undertake this task, it becomes you to consider, with great seriousness and attention, whether it can be for your interest to esteem a few witty sarcasms, or metaphysical subtleties, or ignorant misrepresentations, or unwarranted assertions, as unanswerable arguments against revelation; and a very slight re flection will convince you, that it will cer tainly be for your reputation, to employ

the flippancy of your rhetoric, and the poignancy of your ridicule, upon any subject, rather than upon the subject of religion.

I take my leave with recommending to your notice, the advice which Mr. Locke gave to a young man, who was desirous of becoming acquainted with the doctrines of the Christian religion, Study the holy scripture, especially the New Testament: Therein are contained the words of eternal life. It has God for its author; Salvation for its end; and Truth without any mixture of error for its matter.'


Bishop Watson. § 121. A Prayer or Psalm. Most gracious Lord God, my merciful Father; from my youth up, my Creator, Comforter. Thou, O Redeemer, my Lord, soundest and searchest the depths and secrets of all hearts; thou acknowledgest the upright of heart; thou judgest the hypocrite; thou ponderest men's thoughts and doings as in a balance; thou measurest their intentions as with a line: vanity and crooked ways cannot be hid from thee.

Remember, O Lord, how thy servant hath walked before thee; remember what I have first sought, and what hath been principal in my intentions. I have loved thy assemblies, I have mourned for the divisions of thy church, I have delighted in the brightness of thy sanctuary. This vine, which thy right-hand hath planted in this nation, I have ever prayed unto thee, that it might have the first and the latter rain, and that it might stretch her branches to the seas and to the floods, The state and bread of the poor and oppressed have been precious in mine eyes; I have hated all cruelty and hardness of heart; I have (though in a despised weed) procured the good of all men. If any have been my enemies, I thought not of them, neither hath the sun almost set upon my displeasures, but I have been as a dove, free from superfluity of maliciousness. 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.

Thousands have been my sins, and ten thousands my transgressions, but thy sanc tifications have remained with me, and my heart (through thy grace) hath been an unquenched coal upon thine altar.

O Lord, my strength! I have since my

youth met with thee in all my ways, by thy fatherly compassion, by thy comfortable chastisements, and by thy most visible providence. As thy favours have increased upon me, so have thy corrections; so as thou hast been always near me, O Lord! And ever as my worldly blessings were exalted, so secret darts from thee have pierced me; and when I have ascended before men, I have descended in humiliation before thee. And now when I thought most of peace and honour, thy hand is heavy upon me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving-kindness keeping me still in thy fatherly school, not as a bastard, but as a child. Just are thy judgments upon me for my sins, which are more in number than the sands of the sea, but have no proportion to thy mercies, for what are the sands of the sea? Earth, heaven, and all these, are nothing to thy mercies. Besides my innumerable sins, I confess before thee, that I am a debtor to thee for the gracious talent of thy gifts and graces, which I have neither put into a napkin, nor put it, as I ought, to exchanges, where it might have made best profit, but misspent it in things for which I was least fit; so I may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger in the course' of my pilgrimage. Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for my Saviour's sake, and receive me into thy bosom, or guide me into thy ways. Lord Bacon.

§ 122. The doctrine of Christ a doctrine of truth and simplicity.

The Gospel of Christ, as taught by himself and his apostles, in its original plainness and purity, is a doctrine of truth and simplicity, a doctrine so easy to be understood, so reasonable to be practised, so agreeable to the natural notions and reason of mankind, so beneficial in its effects, if men were really governed by it; teach. ing them nothing but the worship of the true God, through the mediation of Christ; and towards each other, justice, righteousness, meekness, charity, and universal goodwill; in expectation of a future judgment, and of a lasting state of happiness in a better world, for them who love God and keep his commandments; this doctrine of Christ, I say, in its native simplicity and purity, is so reasonable, so excellent, and of such irresistible evidence, that had it never been corrupted by superstitions from within, it never could have been opposed by power from without; but it must of

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