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tage of religion, from observing the númeTous controversies which are carried on amongst its professors ; and likewise of inducing a spirit of lenity and moderation in our judgement, as well as in our treatment of those who stand, in such controverfies, upon sides opposite to ours. What is clear in Christianity we shall find to be sufficient, and to be infinitely valuable ; what is dubious, unnecessary to be decided, or of very subordinate importance; and what is most obscure, will teach us to bear with the opinions which others may have formed upon the same subject. We shall say to those who the most widely diffent from us, what Augustine said to the worst heretics of his age; ** Illi in vos fæviant, qui nesciunt, cum quo labore verum inveniatur, et quam difficile caveantur errores --- qui nesciunt, cum quantâ difficultate fanetur oculus interioris hominis --- qui nesciunt, quibus suspiriis et gemitibus fiat, ut ex quantulacunque parte poffit intelligi Deus *."
* Aug. çontr. Ep. Fund. cap. il. n. 2, 3
A judgement, moreover, which is once pretty well satisfied of the general truth of the religion, will not only thus discriminate in its doctrines, but will poffefs sufficient strength to overcome the reluance of the imagination to admit articles of faith which are attended with difficulty of apprehension, if such articles of faith appear to be truly parts of the revelation. It was to be expected beforehand, that what related to the deconomy, and to the persons, of the invisible world, which revelation professes to do, and which, if true, it actually does, should contain some points remote from our analogies, and from the comprehension of a mind which hath acquired all its ideas from sense and from experience.
: It hath been my care, in the preceding work, to preserve the feparation between evidences and doctrines as inviolable as I could; to remove from the primary queftion all considerations which have been un, necessarily joined with it ; and to offer a defence to Christianity, which every Chrif
tian might read, without seeing the tenets in which he had been brought up attacked or decried: and it always afforded a satisfac, tion to my mind to observe that this was practicable; that few or none of our many controversies with one another affect or relate to the proofs of our religion ; that the rent never descends to the foundation,
The truth of Christianity depends upon its leading facts, and upon them alone. Now of these we have evidence, which ought to satisfy us, at least until it appear that mankind have ever been deceived by the same. We have some uncontested and incontestable points, to which the history of the human species hath nothing similar to offer. A Jewish peasant changed the religion of the world, and that, without force, without power, without support; without one natural source or circumstance of attraction, influence, or success. Such a thing hath not happened in any other instance. The companions of this person, after he himself had been put to death for his attempt, asserted
his supernatural character, founded upon his supernatural operations; and, in testimony of the trùth of their affertions, i. e. in consequence of their own belief oí that truth, and in order to communicate the knowledge of it to others, voluntarily entered upon lives of toil and hardship, and, with a full experience of their danger, commi'ted themselves to the last extrensities of persecution. This hath not a parallel. More particularly, a very few days after this person had been pnbliely executed, and in the very city in which he was buried, these his companions declared with one voice that his body was restored to life; that they had seen him, handled him, eat with him, converfed with him ; and, in pursuance of their persuasion of the truth of wliat they told, preached his religion, with this strange fact as the foundation of it, in the face of those who had killed him, who were armed with the power of the country, and necessarily and naturally disposed to treat his followers as they had treated himself; and having done this upon the fpot where the event took
place, place, carried the intelligence of it abroad, in despite of difficulties and opposition, and where the nature of their errand gave them nothing to expect but derision, insült, and outrage. This is without example. These three facts, I think, are certain, and would have been nearly so, if the Gofpels had never been written. The Christian story, as to these points, hath never varied. No other hath been set up against it. Every letter, every discourse, every controversy, amongst the followers of the religion ; every book written by them, from the age of its commencement to the present time, in every part of the world in which it hath been professed, and with every sect into which it hath been divided (and we have letters and discourses written by contemporaries, by witnesses of the transaction, by persons themselves bearing a share in it, and other writings following that age in regular succession), concur in representing these facts in this manner. A religion, which now possesses the greatest part of the civilised world, unquestionably sprang up at Jerusalem at this time. Some account