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calculated to produce; it will not appear to a reflecting mind incredible or improbable, that Christianity, abstracted from the idea of a particular fuperintending providence, will insensibly prevail over all opposition, and ultimately become the universal religion of mankind. But is it possible that a few illiterate impostors, or, at best, enthusiasts, should frame a religious system which thus bids fair to descend to the latest generations, bidding defiance to the united attacks of wit, learning, and malice? Is it possible that the original author of this wonderful delusion, the man who bled on Calvary, should be acknow, ledged as the immediate delegate of heaven, commissioned to execute the purposes of divine compassion and mercy, by those who may be reasonably supposed both able and willing to detect and expose the fraud, however cunningly devised, by the wisest and best of mankind, by the most enlightened geniuses of the most enlightened ages and countries? This is monstrous and incredible ; a thing past all comprehension and belief: it is impossible that an imposture framed, under such circumstances, could endure the test of a serious and impartial discussion; if a forgery, it must be a gross and palpable one, such as no man of sense or reflection could hesitate for a moment whether to receive or reject. What a paradox for the enemies of Christianity to solve that a religion, which they affirm to be totally destitute of evidence, fhould have prevailed over fuch potent opposition,
and should still go on, conquering and to conquer, by the mere force of evidence.
But thirdly, Independent of the proofs arising from testimony, and from prophecy, there is another argument which has often been urged by the advocates of Christianity with great success; and that is, the intrinsic excellence of our holy religion. This has been generally distinguished by the appellation of the internal evidence of Christianity; and of this a striking view has been given by an elegant and justly admired writer of our own times. I do not profess, indeed, to approve, much less to vindicate, all that Mr. Jenyns has thought proper to advance in that popular performance. I do not, for my own part, see how the divinity of any
contested doctrine can be inferred from its “ contrariety to
every principle of human reason, as well as to 56 all our ideas of the divine attributes.” I content myself with inferring the divine origin of Christianity from its perfect consonancy, to the principles of natural religion, and to those ideas which reason teaches us to entertain of the sus preme Being; not that I mean to countenance the opinion, that Christianity is as old as the creation, or that unaffisted reason was capable of demonstrating those sublime truths which constitute the fundamental articles of the Christian faith; but my meaning is, that Christianity is such a revelation as reason would teach us to hope for,
and with gratitude and joy to receive; it confirms those exalted ideas which reafon taught some of her most favoured votaries to entertain of the being and perfections of a God, of the reality of a future state of existence, of the necessity of virtue in order to attain to happiness in that state ; and it inculcates a system of the purest morality, such as has a direct tendency to diffuse a universal spirit of benevolence, unity, and concord. This religion, while it ascribes glory to God in the highest, breathes peace on earth, and good-will to men. In a word, it is a religion worthy of its divine author ; it is not only a system too refined and exalted for a few ignorant and illiterate men to frame or invent; but it is far superior in dignity, in consistency, and utility, to all that the genius, the learning, and the philanthropy, of a Socrates, a Plato, a Tully, a Seneca, or an Antoninus, could effect in their united and immortal labours, for the purpose of instructing and of reforming mankind,
HAT objection which seems entitled to
our first notice and attention, as being, if not the most formidable, perhaps the most acute and ingenious, which has ever been urged by the enemies of Christianity, and also as being of such a nature, as, if valid, to supersede all other objections, is contained in Mr. Hume's celebrated Essay on Miracles. I shall state it as fairly and concisely as possible. “A miracle,” says Mr Hume,“ is a violation of the established laws of nature. Now, the credit due to miracles rests entirely upon testimony; but · no testimony can be sufficient in this case to produce a rational conviction ; for however cogent the proof derived from this source may be represented, still it must be acknowledged, that the falsehood of the strongest testimony does not amount to a violation of the established laws of nature, or, in other words, is not absolutely miraculous :therefore, if we believe a miracle upon the credit of the strongest human testimony conceivable, we.
admit, of two improbable things, that which is most improbable ; whereas reason requires us to reject the miracle, except the falsehood of the testimony should be more miraculous than the event it is intended to establish.”
This is the objection in its full force; but however plausible and ingenious it may be deemed, the fallacy of it immediately appears from this consideration, that the evidence of testimony obviously admits of such an accumulation of force, as to produce necessarily and mechanically a degree of conviction fully equal to the evidence of fense; whatever is capable then of being proved by the senses, is capable of being equally proved by testimony. No rational person can any more enterain a doubt of the existence of such a city as Paris, or such a man as the King of France, than of his own existence :the evidence of testimony is here plainly equal to ocular demonstration. But Mr. Hume will not deny, that a man may be rationally convinced of a miracle by ocular demonstration ; then why not on such evidence as is equivalent to ocular demonftration? To say, that the testimony upon which Christianity is founded is of inferior force; is totally to desert his argument, which positively denies the sufficiency of that species of evidence, abstra&ly considered, to prove any event of a miraculous nature. But were the miracles of Christ supported by the same kind and degree of evidence with that which compels us to believe the existence of such a country as France, or such a city as