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object of all their afperfions to impeach: and after having afferted, and in his manner attempted to prove, that by far the greater part of the New Teftament is a mere unauthorised addition to, and corruption of the genuine doctrines of JESUS; fubfcribes himself with, great deliberation, and folemnity, at the end of his deistical work,-A Rational Chriftian.

How far his principles, and his arguments in their fupport, will intitle him to this very honourable appellation; or even to the more general one, of a Rational Inquirer; it fhall be my bufinefs, for the fake of true religion, and of thofe who fincerely believe in CHRIST, to examine.

To the body of the work in general, which is fet apart for the illuftration of the moral precepts of the gofpel only, nothing needs be said, unless occafionally in confidering the other parts of the book. Whether this Author has explained the morality of the New Testament in a manner that is masterly, or even always juft, is a point not worth writing about. His general defign, has been to exalt, not to depreciate it; and how inaccurate foever his manner of explaining fome, if not moft of our Saviour's precepts may be, were the explaining of them the fole intent of his work, it would naturally be productive of more good than harm. And I am glad to have it in my power to acknowledge to his praife, that he has expreffed a fuller belief of natural religion, and a greater concern for moral virtue in fome of its branches, than perhaps any other deiftical writer.

The principles advanced in the Preface and. Introduction, and, formally contended for in the Conclufion, and which do indeed require an examination, are thefe: That JESUS was not a publifher of any revelation properly speaking, nor taught any thing more than reafon itself teaches;



and that whatever we find in the books of the New Teftament more than this, was either added to his genuine doctrines, by the original writers, without authority from him; or has proceeded from the interpolations and forgeries of later times. These therefore are the principles which it fhall be my object to refute: first, by proving their flagrant abfurdity, and the utter impoffibility of their being true; and afterwards, by examining diftinctly all thofe arguments which he has most confufedly tacked together in their fupport; taking little notice, if any, of his quotations from feveral divines, or his remarks on Mr. LOCKE, and Bp. WARBURTON; as the entering into them would rather perplex than clear up the great fundamental points in debate *.

That the Author's profeffed principles are exactly what we have just attributed to him, will immediately appear. He allows JESUS to have been " a wife and good man: one concerned to "promote the happiness of his brethren :-whofe

juftice was inflexible, whofe charity was diffu"five, and whose benevolence was univerfal. "Add to thefe, fays he, that meekness and hu"mility, which he fo much recommended, and

you will have a fketch of his genuine charac"ter t

*The writers against 'revelation are fo apt to wear a malk, and to difguife their real fentiments, that for any thing we can tell to the contrary, the author and his friend in the preface, may not in reality believe, that the New Teftament is either fo unauthorised, or interpolated, as they have endeavoured to perfuade their readers it is; and may perhaps be difpofed to laugh at the thoughts of any one's fetting down to give them a ferious reply. But as the mifchievous tendency of what they have written, does not depend upon their own perfuafion of its truth, or confcioufness of its falfehood; what they have written, not their fecret opinions, are the objects of our regard.

Introduction, p. 7.

B 2



Our author very foon adds," I do not find "that CHRIST himself ever affumed a higher "character, than that of a meffenger from God; "and fuch he well might be faid to be, as he "was employed in the republication of the religion of nature, which is the law of God."Here we fee, that tho' the Author allows JESUS might be faid to be a meffenger from God, he means nothing more by this, than that the task JESUS chose to undertake was certainly in itself agreeable to God; not that he was really fent by God to perform it; any otherwife than as every man is fent into the world to do good. For which reafon he immediately fubjoins-" Nor

was it neceffary for him to produce a commif"fion immediately from God, to claim the regard "and attention of mankind; feeing that what " he taught them was plain and clear, and had a "natural tendency to promote their happiness +"

One conceffion indeed he does make, beyond. what might have been expected." Whether,. (fays he) Chrift was in a fupernatural way in-, fpired by God with refolution, fteadiness, for-, titude, wisdom, patience, and perfeverance, in "this great work; the republication and revival,

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of the law of nature; human reafon cannot. "determine: but this, I think, may be allowed, "that if ever God does fupernaturally interpofe "to direct the actions of men, he never could "have a motive for fo doing more worthy of him


felf, than to affift in the republication and more "effectual propagation of that religion, which he "had originally planted in the minds of his intelligent creatures; but which, by the abuse "of their freedom, they had shamefully neglect* ed ‡.

* Introduction, P. 8. + Ibid. p. 8.


P. 10.

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But plainly the utmoft conceffion here made is, not that JESUS undertook the great work in which he was engaged, by any fpecial appointment from God; but only, that after he had of his own mere motion undertaken fo excellent a work; the nature of the work itself makes it poffible, or perhaps likely; provided God does ever fupernaturally influence the minds of men; that he might be fupernaturally inspired by God, with courage and difcretion, but nothing more, to enable him more effectually to accomplish his own voluntary undertaking.


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This undertaking, as we have feen, in our Author's account of it was merely the republication of natural religion. Accordingly he contends elsewhere, that "all the myfterious and fuperna"tural doctrines of the New Teftament were, very "probably, of human invention *."And in the end he concludes quite explicitly," By the religion of Chrift I would always be under"ftood to mean his moral doctrines and precepts: "and therefore I earnestly recommend, that we "make use of our reafon to distinguish those parts of christianity, which are agreeable to nature, and to what God has written in our hearts; from thofe parts, which, for many rea"fons given in these fheets, must be the inventions "of men; whatever we may be required to be"lieve concerning them +."


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The Author indeed fets out with informing his reader in the beginning of his book, "That he "fhall take little notice of the mysterious parts "of the New Teftament, further than to remark, "that they have not fo apparently the feal of God, nor can they be fo clearly proved to have "the fame divine origin as its moral precepts . And notwithstanding those explicit declarations + P. 373. Introduction, p. 4, 5.

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P. 343.



we have juft quoted from him, has not fcrupled to affert at the fame time;-"That all he con"tends for is, that believing, difbelieving, and fufpending our opinions, all depend on fair enquiry, proper application, honeft endeavours "after information; and hence, in the final re"fult, upon the nature and quantity of evidence "from hence arifing *."-But the utter incon fiftency between this affertion, and those principles we have juft feen him explicitly laying down, is fo manifeft as not to admit of any fubterfuge

or denial.


The abfurdity of the Author's fundamental principles relating to the true character of JESUS, and the writings of the New Teftament, directly fhern.


HE Author's fundamental principles, as we have already seen, are indifputably these :That JESUS was not a publisher of any revelation, in the proper fenfe of the word; nor taught any thing more than mere reafon itself teaches; and that whatever we find in the books of the New Teftament more than this, was either added to his genuine doctrines by the original writers, without authority from him; or has proceeded from the interpolations and forgeries of later times.-The laft fuppofition is That indeed on which he chiefly infifts; but fince he has not fcrupled occafionally to have recourfe to the firft+; though in

P. 356.

+ Inftances of this will be found in his attack upon St. PAUL, and thro' him upon all the writers of the New Teftament, founded on 1 Cor. vii.; fect, 12: And his position that no pure revelation was ever committed to writing, fect. 8.


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