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Pallible authority, the direct contrary. And he begs all professed Christians of that persuasion to consider, whether it could be reconciled to any just ideas of wisdom in an earthly Potentate, if he should send an ambassador to a foreign state to mediate a negociation of the greatest importance, withoạt furnishing him with certain indubitable credentials of the truth and authenticity of his mission. And to consider further, whether it be just or seemly to attribute to the omniscient, omnipotent Deity, a degree of weakness and folly which was never yet imputed to any of his human creatures : for unless men are impious and hardy enough to pass so gross an affront upon the tremendous Majesty of Heaven, the improbability that God should delegate the Mediator of a most important Covenant to be proposed to all mankind, without enabling him to give them clear and indisputable proof of the divine authority of his mission, must ever infinitely outweigh the aggregate sum of all the probabilities which can be accumulated in the opposite scale of the balance. So that to all those who know of no other proof of the divine authority of the Gospel, no rational proof of it exists. Mere human testimony, whether recorded in written bistory, or deduced to us by oral tradition, is manifestly incompetent to afford satisfaction to any unprejudiced mind respecting communications of a supernatural kind. And with regard to miracles, under the Old Covenant, God himself, by his prophet Moses, cautioned the Jews against receiving the religious doctrines of any pretended prophet, though he should even work miracles to convince them, because they would be liable to be deluded and deceived by such evidence:* anil under the New Covehant he has warned us, by his prophet Jesus, in the persons of his Apostles Paul and John, that the false and fábulous superstition, which would for so many centuries supplant the true religion of the Gospel, would be embraced by the people, in consequence of tlieir delusion by.“ signs and lying wonders,t and all the “ deceivableness of unrighteousness.” This being the case with miracles considered in themselves alone, God, by his prophets both of the Old Covenant and the New, hath given us another, an infallible criterion by which to distinguish the true from a false religion, and, as I have shewn in the following pages, refer
us solely to the testimony of completed prophecy, which he would not have done, if any other had been necessary, or to be depended upon with equal certainty and satisfaction of mind.
In religion, as in every other science founded in truth, if we recur to its first principles, we shall find them self-evident propositions, by means of which the truth of all its doctrines.* may be clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated. For instance, that the whole is greater than any of its parts, is not a more unquestionable truth than the proposition, that no effect can exist without some adequate producing causea And on this axiom is founded, that certain, satisfactory demonstration, which the visible structure of the universe, and all it contains, affords us of the being of a God. From the very same axiom-if predictions of any men exist, respecting events that were not to take placé till many ages after the deaths of those men themselves; which predictions are known to have been promulged to the world several centuries before their completion, and which history and our own experience inform us have been punctually accomplished a sure demonstrative proof arises, that the prophets could have received their information only
through a revelation, communicated to thein by the Deity, of his will and decrees concerning the events of futurity; for such prophecies are effects 'which no other cause is conpetent to produce.
In the course of an investigation formed upon this plan, and pursued upon these grounds, the Author soon found himself convinced of the truth of Christianity, as taught by its first preachers; but was led also to remark many obvious inconsistencies and improbabilities in several of the canonical scriptures of the New Covenant, which he could not account for, on a supposition that the authors were men of that veracity and information of their subject, which must be expected from the Apostles and other miraculously gifted disciples of Jesus Christ. He therefore resolved to examine thoroughly into the nature of those proofs of the genuine authenticity of the books of the New Testament, which, till then, he had taken for granted, and supposed to be uncontrovertibly demonstrated; and was astonishedi to find, upon what slight and unsatisfactory, grounds scriptures of the greatest consequence have been universally received by professed Christians, as the infallible word, or God., From his studious
at*cntion to the prophetic parts of those scriptures, which alone carry certain evidence of their own divine authority along with them, he could not fail also to observe; that the chief and almost only argument in favour of the present canon of scripture, which does not rest upon mere human authority of the most suspicious kind, is manifestly fallacious; he means the argument which urges, that both the wisdom and goodness of God required the interposition of his povidence, to preserve pure and uncorrupt the genuine authentic records of that Gospel which he had thought fit, at the expence of so many miracles and prophecies, to publish to the world. For having, by his prophet Paul, declared that Christians, of times succeeding the apostolic age, would apostatize from the original faith and doctrines of the Gospel; that some with hardened hypocrisy would publish lies ;* and that professed Christians in general, would turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned unlo fables ; the veracity of the God of truth plainly demanded, that lying fictions and fabulous scriptures should, at least, be joined with the true and genuine records of the religion of the New Covenant, or it would
* 1 Tim. iv. 2.
+ 2 Tim. iv. 4.