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man out of the world, as an irrational brute, that should offer to deny Cæsar or Alexander, Homer or Virgil, their public works and actions; do, at the same time, value themselves as the only men of wit and sense, of free, generous and unbiassed judgments for ridiculing the histories of Moses and Christ, that are infinitely better attested, and guarded with sure marks, which the others want!
VI. Besides, that the importance of the subject would oblige all men to enquire more narrowly into the one than the other. For what consequence is it to me, or to the world, whether there was such a man as Cæsar ; whether he beat, or was beaten at Pharsalia: whether Homer or Virgil wrote such books; and whether what is related in the Iliads, or Eneids, be true, or false? It is not two-pence up or down, to any man in the world. And therefore, it is worth no one's while to enquire into it, either to oppose or justify the truth of these relations.
Bat, our very souls and bodies, both this life, and eternity, are concerned in the truth of what is related in the Holy Scriptures; and therefore, men would be more inquisitive to search into the truth of these than of any other matters of fact ; examine and sift them narrowly, and find out the deceit, if any such could be found : for it concerned them nearly, and was of the last importance to them.
How unreasonable, then, is it to reject these mattters of fact, so sifted, so examined, and so attested, as no other matters of fact in the world ever were; and yet to think it the most highly
unreasonable, even to madness, to deny other matters of fact, which have not the thousandth part of their evidence, and are of no consequence to us at all, whether true or false!
VII. There are several other topics, from whence the truth of the Christian religion is evinced, to all who will judge by reason, and give themselves leave to consider : As the improbability that ten or twelve poor illiterate fishermen, should form a design of converting the whole world to believe their delusions; and the impossibility of their effecting it, without force of arms, learning, oratory, or any one visible thing that could recommend them; and to impose a doctrine quire opposite to the lusts and pleasures of men, and all worldly advantages or enjoyments ; & this in an age of so great learning and sagacity, as that wherein the gospel was first preached: That these apostles should not only undergo all the scorn and contempt, but the severest persécutions, and most cruel deaths, that could be inflicted, in attesta. tion to what themselves knew to be a mere deceit and forgery, of their own contriving. Some have suffered for errors which they thought to be truth; but never any for what themselves knew to be lies. And the apostles must know what they taught to be lies, if it was so,; because they spoke of those things which they said they had both seen and heard, had looked upon, and handled with their hand, &c.*
Neither can it be said, that they perhaps might have proposed some temporal advantages
Acts, iv. 20. 1.Joha, i. 1.
to themselves; but missed of them, and met with sufferings instead of them : for if it had been so, it is more than probable, that when they saw their disappointment, they would have discovered their conspiracy; especially when they might not only have saved their lives, but got great rewards for doing of it.
How improbable, then, is it, that not one of them should ever, have been brought to do this!
But this is not all. For they tell us, that their Master bid them expect nothing but sufferings in this world. This is the tenor of all that gospel which they taught.: and they told the same to all whom they converted, So that bere was no disappointment.
For, all that were converted by them, were converted upon the certain expectation of sufferings, and bidden prepare for it. Christ commanded his disciples to take up their cross.dai . ly, and follow him ; and told them, that in the world they should have tribulation; that uhoever did not forsake father, moiher, wife, chila dren, lands, and their very lives, could not be his disciples ; that he who sought to save his. life in this world, should lose it in the next.
Now, that this despised doctrine of the cross should prevail so universally, against the allurements of flesh and blocd, and all the blandishments of this world's against the rage and persecution of all the kings and powers of the earth ; must shewrits original to be divine, and its protector almighty. What is it else could conquer without arms; persuasie without rhet
oric; overcome enemies, disarm tyrants, and subdue empires, without opposition ?
VIII. We may add to all this, the testimenies of the most bitter enemies and persecutors of Christianity, both Jews and Gentiles, to the truth of the matter of fact of Christ ; such as Josephus and Tacitus; of which the first flourished about forty years after the death of Christ, and the other about seventy years after : So that they were capable of examining into the truth, and wanted not prejudice and malice sufficient to have inclined them to deny the matter of fact itself, of Christ. But their confessing to it ; as likewise Lucian, Celsus, Pophyry, and Julian the Apostate ; the Mahometans since ; and all other enemies of Christianity that have arisen in the world, is an undeniable attestation to the truth of the matter of fact,
IX. But there is another argument, more strong and convincing than even this matter of fact ; more than the certainty of what I see with my eyes ; and which the apostle Peter called a more sure werd, that is, proof, than what he saw and heard upon the holy mount, when our blessed Saviour was transfigured before him and two other of the apostles : for having repeated that passage as, a proof of that whereof they were eye witnesses, and heard the voice from heaven, giving attestation to our Lord Christ, 2 Pet. i. 16, 17, 18. he says ver. 19. We have also a MORE SURE word of Proph. ecy, for the proof of this Jesus being the Messiah ; that is, the prophecies which had gone
before of him, from the beginning of the world ; and all exactly fulfilled in him.
Men may dispute an imposition or delusion upon our outward senses : but how can that be false which has been so long, (even from the beginning of the world) and so often (by all the prophets, in several ages) foretold ? How can this be an imposition, or a forgery?
This is particularly insisted on, in the Method syith the Jews. And even the Deists must sonfess, that that book we call the Old Testament, was in being, in the hands of the Jews, long be. fore our Saviour came into the world. And if they will be at the pains to compare the prophecies that are there of the Messiah, with the ful: filling of them, as to time, place, and all other circumstances, in the person, birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension, of our blessed Saviour : they will find this prove, whát, our apostle here calls it, a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts. Which, God grant ! Here is no possibility of deceit or imposture.
Old prophecies, and all so agreeing, could not have been so contrived to countenance a new cheat ; and nothing could be a cheat, that could fulfil all these.
For this therefore I refer the Deists to the Method with the Fews*
I desire them likewise to look there, Sect. 11, and consider the prophecies given so long ago, of which they see the fulfilling at this day, with their own ejes, of the state of the Jews, for ma
Written by Mr. Leslie, after the manner of this Letter.