Abbildungen der Seite

fall from that sfate : Of the age of man, extended to near a thousand years : Of the destruction of the world by a deluge: Of the arbitrary choice of one people, as the favourites of lieaven ; and that peo. ple, tire countrymen of the author : Of their deli. verance from bondage by prodigies the most asto. nihing imaginable : I desire any one to lay his hand upon his he:irt, and after serious confideration declare, whether he thinks, that the falihood of such a book, supported by such a testimo‘y, would be nore extraordinary and miraculous than all the miracles it relates ; which is, however, necessary to make it receiv’d, according to the measures of probability above etablish'd.

What we have said of miracles may be apply'd, without any variation, to prophecies ; and indeed, all prophecies are real miracles, and as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation. If it did not exceed the capacity of human nature to foretel future events, it would be absurd to employ any prophecy as an argument for a divine mission or autho. rity from heaven. So that, upon the whole, we may conclude, that the Christian Religion, not only was at firft attended with miracles, but even at this day can. not be believ'd by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its vera

city :

city : And whoever is mov'd by Faith to affent to ic is conscious of a continued miracle in his own perfon, which subverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience,

[blocks in formation]

E s S A Y




I WAS lately engag'd in conversation with a friend,

who loves sceptical paradoxes ; where, tho’ he advanc'd many principles, of which I can by no means approve, yet as they seem to be curious, and to bear fome relation to the chain of reasoning carry'd on thro' these essays, I shall here copy them from my memory as accurately as I can, in order to submit them to the judgment of the reader.

Our conversation began with my admiring the fingular good fortune of philosophy, which, as it requires intire liberty, above all ocher privileges, and flourishes chiefly from the free opposition of sentiments and argumentation, receiv'd its first birth in an age and country of freedom and toleration, and

[blocks in formation]

was never cramp'd, even in its most extravagant principles, by any creeds, confessions, or penal itatutes. For except the banishment of Protagoras, and the death of Socrates, which laft event proceeded partly from other motives, there are scarce any inftances to be met with, in antient history, of this bigotted jealousy and persecution, with which the present age is so much infested. Epicurus liv'd at Athens to an advanc'd age, in peace and tranquility : Efi. Cureans * were even admitted to receive the sacerdo. tal character, and to officiate at the altar, in the most sacred rites of the established religion : And the public encouragement + of pensions and fallaries was afforded equally, by the wisest of all the Roman emperors I, to the professors of every fect of philosophy. How requisite such kind of treatment was to philosophy, in its first origin, will easily be conceiv'd, if we reflect, that even at present, when it may be suppös'd more hardy and robust, it bears with much difficulty the inclemency of the seasons, and those harsh winds of calumny and perfecution, which blow upon it.

You admire, says my friend, as the fingular goodfortune of philosophy, what seems to result from the natural course of things, and to be unavoidable in every age and nation. This pertinacious bigotry,

Luciani orum. , manufa.. . + Id, toexos. I ld. & Dio.

« ZurückWeiter »