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Page 43. “Out of forty Gospels we receive four “ as canonical-Why do we receive them, and not " the rest ?"
For the best reasons in the world, assigned at large by Dr. Lardner in his Credibility', &c. a work which these gentlemen should answer, or for ever hold their peace upon this subject. The true Gos. pels are shown by proper evidence to have been written at the time when they are said to have been written, and by the persons whose names they bear. It matters not how many others were written, if upon their appearance, after due examination, they were found to be spurious, and rejected as such.
Page 43. The primitive Christians are complained of, for "preventing the arguments against their religion from being exposed to view."
I hope there is no ground for any such complaint now. There is no argument yet devised against Christianity, we may presume, which has not been proposed in public; and there is none, we may affirm, which has not received its answer.
The few remaining pages of this pamphlet are spent in enumerating some particulars in the history of our Lord's passion and resurrection, which are differently related by the four evangelists. But how many times have these objections been considered, and replied to?' Have the infidels the modesty or the conscience to expect, that we are to draw up a new harmony of the Gospels, as often as any one of them shall think proper to ask a few old questions over again ? If any Christian find bimself perplexed by difficulties of this sort, let him carefully peruse the Gospels as they lie in Macknight's Harmony and Commentary, and weigh well the solutions of such difficulties, with which that book will furnish him.
* See the review of his work in the twelfth volume.
These gentlemen tell us in plain terms, page 46, that the “ event of Christ's resurrection bears every “ mark of a forgery;" and speak of the apostles as
men engaged in the attempt of forming a sect or
party,” that is, as men who had projected a plan and thought themselves able to execute it) of persuading the world that their master was risen from the dead, when he was not risen; and of propagating over the earth a new religion, upon the strength of that persuasion. We can know no more of the apostles than the Gospel history, with great simplicity and evident sincerity, informs us.
Let any man duly consider their characters and qualifications as there described ; let him then stand forth, lay his hand upon his heart, and say, that he can possibly bring himself, for a single moment, to believe they could ever have entertained the thought of projecting and executing such a plan. I should be glad to see that man. I would subscribe handsomely towards erecting a statue to his memory. For, take him either as a fool or a knave, he is at the top of his profession.
But if no such plan by such persons were or could be concerted, then the evidence of the apostles and disciples (to five hundred of whom Christ appeared at once, and among whom he walked in and out for forty days together) is as good and valid for the fact
of the resurrection, as for any other fact concerping his life or his death. Nor it is true, that “God “ chose to deprive all mankind of the proper evi"dence of the resurrection, because the Jews of that
age were sinners.” Whatever evidence it had pleased God to vouchsafe to “the Jews of that age, “all mankind” besides could have received it only upon testimony; and they enjoy now, upon testimony, more and better evidence for the resurrection of Christ, than ever was produced for any one transaction that has happened from Adam to the present hour. The descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost; the propagation of the Gospel by instruments otherwise totally inadequate to the work; the conversion of so many thousand Jews; the destruction of Jerusalem; and the establishment of the Christian church, in opposition to the efforts of the whole Roman empire--all these considerations, added to the original positive evidence for the fact, and the futility and absurdity of the arguments then and since employed to invalidate it, form such a moral demonstration in its favour—the only demonstration we can have, in cases of this kind that there must be something very wrong indeed in the head, or the heart, of him who, at this time of day, sets himself to deny and blaspheme it. With joy and pleasure I desire to risk upon the truth of it every thing that is dear to me, in this life, and that which is to come.
Page 47.-It is asked, whether God expects that we should " show our faith and reliance on him by “ making a sacrifice of our reason, and believing not
by an act of the understanding, but of the will?”
many cases, the concurrence of the will is towards the production of faith, daily experience may convince us. We see men rejecting the strongest evidence, when opposed by interest, prejudice, and passion; and accepting the slightest, which falls in with them. The best arguments in the world avail nothing on one side, when pride, pleasure, and profit are engaged on the other. Hope of what is deemed good, and fear of what is deemed evil, will find means to elude the force of all the syllogisms which the most skilful disciple of Aristotle can frame. “ This man,” said the rulers of the Jews, “ doeth
many miracles.”—Acknowledge and receive him, therefore, as a man sent from God.--"No: we will
apprehend and crucify him.”—For what reason ?" Because if we let him alone, all men will believe “ in him; and the Romans will come and take away
our place and nation"-But he has raised Lazarus from the dead—“Why then, we will put Lazarus to “ death again.”—What can be done with such people as these? Or what effect would the appearance of Christ among them after his resurrection have produced, but that of provoking fresh blasphemies and fresh insults ?
And thus you see, dear Sir, we are come round to the point from whence we set out.
Assent to proper evidence is an act of the highest reason. Such evidence for revelation, once established, is not to be set aside, or invalidated, by any difficulties, supposed or real, which may occur in the matter of that revelation. Malice and ignorance will always find room for objections; and they will never believe, who have
no mind to believe. The infidels, therefore, have not ground for the surmise, that we want to “deprive " them of God's best gift.” We wish only to teach them the right use of it. Reason is not “ the first " and only revelation from God;" for it is, properly speaking, no revelation at all. Man, at his creation, was not left so much as a single day to reason. It is the eye, not the light. It can with certainty know nothing concerning the things of another world, but by information from thence. To this truth the writ. ings of the best and wisest among the heathen philosophers bear a testimony irrefragable and insurmountable. It is the faculty which enables us upon proper evidence to receive, and after due study to understand, such information. And blessed is he who, at the return of his Lord to judgement, shall be found to have so employed it.
The production which has thus passed under our consideration, from the low and illiberal manner in which it is penned, has been by many accounted to be beneath notice. But nothing is beneath notice, which is calculated to deceive and seduce the ignorant and unwary, among whom, though even now scarce known in the shops, this pamphlet has been privately spread and recommended as a chef d'auvre. And though the execution be coarse and mean, the objections, in substance, are such as continually occur in writings of a much higher class, which make part of the furniture of every circulating library through Great Britain, from whence they pass into the hands of our idle young people of fashion, while under the discipline of the friseur, in the metropolis,