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and modern philosophy had discovered arguments to demolish religion, never heard of before. The old ornaments of deism have been “ broken off," upon the occasion, "and cast into the fire, and there
came out this calf.” These same difficulties have been again and again urged and discussed in public; again and again weighed and considered by learned and sensible men, of the laity as well as of the clergy, who have by no means been induced by them to renounce their faith.
Indeed, why should they ? For is any man sur. prised that difficulties should occur in the books of Scripture, those more especially of the Old Testament? Let him reflect upon the variety of matter on which they treat; the distance of the times to which they refer; the wide difference of ancient manners and customs from those of the age in which we live; the very imperfect knowledge we have of these, as well as of the language in which they are described ; the conciseness of the narratives, sufficient for the purpose intended, but not for gratifying a restless curiosity; above all, the errors and defects of translations.
Many and painful are the researches sometimes necessary to be made for settling points of this kind. Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer.
When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. And as people in general, for one reason or another, like short objections better than long answers, in this mode of disputation (if it can be styled such) the odds must ever be against us; and we must be content with those for our friends, who have honesty and erudition, candour and patience, to study both sides of the question. Be it so.
In the mean time, if we are called upon seriously for satisfaction on any point, it is our duty to give the best in our power. But our adversaries will permit us to observe, that'the way they are pleased to take (the way, I mean, of doubts and difficulties) is the longest way about; and I much fear they will never find it the shortest way home. For if they really have determined with themselves not to become Christians till every difficulty that may be started concerning the revealed dispensations of God, or any part of them, be fully cleared up, I will fairly tell them; that, I apprehend, they must die deists. I will likewise farther tell them, that if they should resolve not to believe in the existence of God, till every objection can be solved relative to the works of creation and the course of his providence, I verily believe they must die atheists. At least, I will not undertake their conversion, in either case. For, in the first place, whether the solution be satisfactory to themselves, none but themselves can be the judges ; and their prejudices will not suffer them to judge fairly. In the second place, if they produce an bundred objections, and we can solve ninety-nine of them, that which remains unsolved will be deemed a plea sufficient to justify their continuing in incredulity. In the third place, it is impossible, in the nature of things, that we should be equal to the solution of every difficulty, unless we were well acquainted with many points of which it has pleased God to keep us in ignorance, till the last day shall open and unfold them. Nay, in some instances, it is impossible, unless we could see and know, as God himself sees and knows.
But it is an axiom in science, that difficulties are of no weight against demonstrations. The existence of God once proved, we are not, in reason, to set that proof aside, because we cannot at present account for all his proceedings. The divine legation of Moses, and that of Jesus Christ, stand upon their
proper evidence, which cannot be superseded and nullified by any pretended or real difficulties occurring in the Jewish and Christian dispensations. If we can solve the difficulties, so much the better; but if we cannot, the evidence is exactly where it was. Upon that evidence is our faith founded, and not upon the ability of any man, or set of men, to explain particular portions of Scripture, and to answer the objections, which may be made to them. Otherwise, our faith, instead of resting on the power of God, would rest on the weakness of man, and might be subverted every day. Now the evidence that may be produced for the divine missions of Moses and of Jesus Christ, is such as never was produced in favour of any others laying claim to divine missions, since the world began; and it is such as no person can reject, without being obliged to believe a series of absurdities and impossibilities, that, in any other case, would choke the faith of the greatest bigot in Christendom: which is bringing the matter as near to
demonstration as a matter of this kind is capable of being brought, or as any reasonable being would desire it to be brought.
Thus much being premised, to prevent mistakes, I shall proceed in the next Letter to the consideration of the first section, the subject of which is that of Miracles.
The substance of this section, thrown into an argumentative form, stands thus : “ Miracles are not “ wrought now; therefore they never were wrought " at all.”
One would wonder how the premises and the conclusion could be brought together. No man would in earnest assert the necessity of miracles being repeated, for the confirmation of a revelation, to every new generation, and to each individual of which it is composed. Certainly not. If they were once wrought, and duly entered on record, the record is evidence ever after. This reasoning holds good, respecting them, as well as other facts; and to reason otherwise, would be to introduce universal confusion.
It is said, “ They are things in their own nature " far removed from common belief."
They are things which do not happen every day, to be sure. It
It were absurd, from the very nature of them, to expect that they should. But what reason can there be for concluding from thence, that none ever were wrought? Why should it be thought a thing more incredible, that the Ruler of the world should interpose, upon proper occasions, to control the operations of nature, than that he should direct them in ordinary? It is not impossible that a teacher