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VIÉ W, &c.


OST of the writers, who have undertaken to prove the divine origin of the Christian Religion, have had recourse to arguments drawn from these three heads : the prophecies ftill extant in the Old Teftament-the miracles recorded in the Newor, the internal evidence arifing from that excellence, and those clear marks of supernatural interpofition, which are fo confpicuous in the religion itself. The two former have been fufficiently explained and enforced by the ableft pens; but the laft, which feems to carry with it the greatest degree of conviction, has never, I think, been confidered with that attention, which it deferves.

I mean not here to depreciate the proofs arifing from either prophecies, or miracles: they both have, or ought to have, their proB 2 per


per weight; prophecies are permanent miracles, whofe authority is fufficiently confirmed by their completion, and are therefore folid proofs of the fupernatural origin of a religion, whofe truth they were intended to testify; fuch are those to be found in various parts of the fcriptures relative to the coming of the Meffiah, the destruction of Jerufalem, and the unexampled ftate in which the Jews have ever fince continued, all fo circumftantially defcriptive of the events, that they seem rather histories of paft, than predictions of future tranfactions; and whoever will seriously confider the immense distance of time between fome of them and the events which they foretell, the uninterrupted chain by which they are connected for many thousand years, how exactly they correfpond with thofe events, and how totally unapplicable they are to all others in the history of mankind; I fay, whoever confiders these circumftances, he will scarcely be perfuaded to believe that they can be the productions of preceding artifice, or pofte

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rior application, or can entertain the leaft doubt of their being derived from fupernatural inspiration.

The miracles recorded in the New Teftament to have been performed by Christ and his Apostles, were certainly convincing proofs of their divine commiffion to those who saw them; and as they were feen by fuch numbers, and are as well attested, as other historical facts, and above all, as they were wrought on fo great and fo wonderful an occafion, they must still be admitted as evidence of no inconfiderable force; but, I think, they must now depend for much of their credibility on the truth of that religion, whofe credibility they were at first intended to fupport. To prove therefore the truth of the Christian Religion, we should begin by fhewing the internal marks of divinity, which are stamped upon it; because on this the credibility of the prophecies and miracles in a great measure depends: for if we have once reason to be convinced, that this religion is derived from a supernaB 3


tural origin, prophecies and miracles will become fo far from being incredible, that it will be highly probable, that a fupernatural reve→ lation fhould be foretold, and enforced by fupernatural means.

What pure Christianity is, divested of all its ornaments, appendages, and corruption, I pretend not to fay; but what it is not, I will venture to affirm, which is, that it is not the offspring of fraud or fiction: fuch, on a fuperficial view, I know it must appear to every man of good fenfe, whofe sense has been altogether employed on other subjects; but if any one will give himself the trouble to examine it with accuracy and candor, he will plainly fee, that however fraud and fiction may have grown up with it, yet it never could have been grafted on the fame ftock, nor planted by the fame hand.

To afcertain the true fyftem, and genuine doctrines of this religion, after the undecided controverfies of above feventeen centuries, and to remove all the rubbish, which artifice and ignorance have been heaping upon it

during all that time, would indeed be an arduous task, which I fhall by no means undertake; but to fhew, that it cannot poffibly be derived from human wisdom, or human imposture, is a work, I think, attended with no great difficulty, and requiring no extraordinary abilities, and therefore I fhall attempt that, and that alone, by stating, and then explaining the following plain and undeniable propofitions.

First, That there is now extant a book intitled the New Testament.

Secondly, That from this book may be extracted a system of religion intirely new, both with regard to the object and the doctrines, not only infinitely fuperior to, but unlike every thing, which had ever before entered into the mind of man.

Thirdly, That from this book may likewife be collected a system of ethics, in which every moral precept founded on reafon is carried to a higher degree of purity and perfection, than in any other of the wisest philofophers of preceding ages; every moral preB 4 cept

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