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thing about those miraculous gifts, which were said to be so common among them. And
that all these conspired in the deceit (Jews as well as Gentiles), to the utter subversion of the religion in which they had been educated; and, multitudes of them, at the expense of their honoursy, estates, and lives, not one person among them all appearing to detect the villany. The Jews tamely submitting to the loss of their religion, and to the imputation of the blackest crime that ever, was committed; and the Christian churches as tamely submitting to all that is shocking and terrible to nature, rather than con: tradict and disprove what they knew to be false. Nay, what is more surprising still, all of these, even the greatest enemies of Christianity among them, have not only allowed, but actually asserted, the truth of these facts; which, upon this supposal, they might have so easily disproved, to the utter ruin of the Christian cause. And, to crown all, there can be no mative in the world imagined, to put any of them upon acknowledging such notorious and abominable falsehoods. As I know, on the one hand, that you cannot swallow such gross. absurdities as these; sọ I also know, on the other hand, that
you have no way to avoid them, upon the supposition
It may be further observed, that if the reporters of these miracles, did themselves know that their narratives were fictitious and false, it will also follow, that the most vile and wicked men that ever were in the world, and the most abandoned to all sense of virtue and piéty, did draw up tem of practical religion, the most worthy of God
the best sys
and man that ever was known; that they, contrary to their inward principles, set the best examples, and walked according to the rules of this religion themselves; yea, without any known motive, spent their whole lives in a continued course of the greatest toil, fatigue, and misery, that ever men did, to promote this religion, to impress it upon the minds of others, and to teach them, according to it, to live in the love and fear of God. It will also follow, that these enemies of God and godliness (who were so profane, as, against their own light, to propagate this imposture in the name of God Almighty) did not only give up the hopes of future happiness, but all the comforts of this life also, in vindication of this known falsehood ; that to this end they ventured upon every thing that is most terrible and affrightening to human nature, and even upon the most cruel and barbarous death, without the least possible hopes of advantage, either in this world or that to
For they did know, and could not but know, that they were going themselves, and leading their followers, upon the pikes of their numerous and potent adversaries, without any prospect beyond the grave (upon the supposition before us) but of eternal damnation. And what still increases the absurdity of this supposition is, that not one of these ever retracted this known falsehood, even in the article of death; but boldly encountered the most shameful and painful deaths their adversaries could inflict, rather than confess the truth. What, Sir, can you possibly imagine of such conduct as this? That these, men were not mad and distracted, appears evidently by their works, which, though plain
way or other.
and familiar, were the most consistent, divine, and rational, that ever appeared in the world. Here must therefore be a continued scene of miracles, one
It must at least be allowed miraculous, for so many men, knowingly and continually, to act in direct opposition to all their interests, comforts, and hopes; and run counter to all the principles of humanity, to all the springs of action, that were ever known among men.
Let us now try the second supposal ; and inquire whether it is possible, that the reporters of these facts, and all other spectators of them, had their senses imposed upon, by any legerdemain trick, juggle, or deceit?
Whether, for instance, the senses of the apostles were imposed upon for some years together, while there were daily 'miracles wrought by their Master before their eyes ? : Whether the senses of whole multitudes were imposed upon, that they really thought they saw the sick healed, the dead raised, &c. and these things repeated again and again, for a long track of time, when there was indeed nothing at all in it? Whether the witnesses of our Lord's resurrection were imposed upon, when they supposed they saw him, after his death, ate and drank, and conversed familiarly with him for forty days together, and beheld him taken up to heaven before their eyes? And whether all the first churches were imposed upon, when they imagined that they saw miracles repeatedly wrought among them; and had themselves miraculous gifts and powers? If these extravagant suppositions are allowed, of what service can our senses be to us; and how can we any way be certain
of any thing whatsoever?
We may as reasonably imagine, that our whole life has been one continued dream; and that in reality we never saw, heard, felt, thought, spake, or acted any thing at all. Here likewise you must necessarily allow a continued course of miracles, one way or other. At least it must be allowed miraculous, that so great a part of the world should all lose their senses together; and yet all of them imagine that they had all this time their senses in their full exercise.
Let us next consider, whether the last of the sups positions, that the whole history of the miracles wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, was an after-game, a mere piece of forgery, obtruded upon
the world in some distant time after the facts were pretended to be done, will appear more reasonable than the others already considered.
I have spoken something to this in my second letter, to which I refer you; and shall now only add some hints further to illustrate the case before us. If this last case be supposed, the forgery must be palmed upon the world either before or after Christianity had generally obtained. If this false history
after the facts were pretended to be done, before Christianity had generally obtained, it will then follow, that all the historians of those times, (Christian, Jewish, and Pagan,) have united in confederacy, to give us a false account of Christianity's immediately succeeding the crucifixion of Christ, not only in Judea, but in all parts of the Roman empire. That they do all agree in this report, is what you must acknowledge; but how they came to unite in relating
such matters of fact, which they all (upon this supposition) must know to be false, is what no man can possibly imagine. If this was done after Christianity had obtained, it will follow, that a great part of the world renounced the religion in which they had been educated, for the despised doctrine of the cross, and for a life of continued contempt, misery, and peril, without knowing the reason why; and altogether ignorant of the foundation upon which their new religion was built. For, if they professed Christianity before they knew the history of Christ's life, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension, and before they had beard of the apostles' progress and miraculous works, with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost, which accompanied their ministry; they then all agreed to sacrifice their most valuable tempo. ral interests; and multitudes of them endured the most terrible deaths, in a cause which they knew nothing about, and none of them knew any manner of reason why they should do so.
That is, in plain English, a great part of the world run mad at once, most unaccountably; and from these madmen, Christianity is descended down to the present time.
It may be further observed, that upon the supposition before us, it will follow, that in whatever distant age from these pretended facts this history was palmed upon the world, all men at once must be persuaded to believe for truth what they knew to be false. These histories declare, that they were written by the apostles and immediate disciples of our Lord; that the authors of these histories did
propagate the Gospel through the world, did send these writings to the churches, to be kept in their hands, as the