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Rutilius, A. D. 418, ridicules monkery, and laments the progress of the christian religion.
Zosimus, who wrote his history about 425, cafts many fevere reflections upon Constantine and Theodofius ; and loudly complains of the progress of the christian religion. At the same time he is himself so superstitious, and so credulous in receiving, and recording filly fables and fictions, as to expose, rather than recommend the ancient religion, to which he adhered.
Befides these our author has alleged the testimonies of Himerius, Olympiodorus, Hierocles of Alexandria, Proclus, Maripus, Damascius, and Simplicius, but they are of little importance.
• Among all the testimonies to chriftianity, which we have met with in the first ages, none, says he, are more valuable and important, than the testimonies of those learned philosophers, who wrote against us. All know whom I mean : Cel. fus in the second century; Porphyrie, and Hierocles, and the anonymous philosopher of Lactantius, in the third, and Julian in the fourth centurie. These may be seemingly against us, but are really for us. They are not come down to uś entire. But we have large and numerous fragments of fome of them ; which bear a fuller, and more valuable testimonie to the books of the New Teftament, and to the facts of the Evangelical history, and to the affairs of christians, than all our other wit. nefíes besides. They purposed to overthrow the arguments for christianity. They aimed to bring back to gentilism those who had forsaken it, and to put a stop to the progress of christianity by the farther addition of new converts. But in those désigns they had very little success, in their own times, and their works, composed and published in the early days of chriftianity, are now a testimonie in our favour, and will be of use in the defence of christianity to the latest ages.
« One thing more which may be taken notice of is this : that the remains of our ancient adversaries confirm the present prevailing sentiments of christians concerning those books of the New Testament, which we call canonical, and are in the greatest authority with us. For their writings shew, that those very books, and not any others, now generally called Apocryphal, are the books which always were in the highest repute with christians, and were then the rule of their faith, as they now are of ours.'
Here our author, having brought down-his examination of heathen testimonies to the year 550, concludes his enquiry. He then proceeds to consider the state of gentilism under christian emperors ; upon which he makes the following obfervations :
1. Constantin, and divers other christian emperors acted contrary to the edict, which was published by him and Licinius in the year 313.
• 2. There was as yet no laws of christian emperors, reItraining the freedoin of speech in gentil people, or the freedo.n of writing and conference in things of religion.
3. There were then no laws or edicts of chriftian princes, requiring men to frequent the religious assemblies of chilstians, or to embrace and profers the christian religion, upori the pain of any inconvenience, or suffering either in their persons, or their properties.
4. I think, it must be fuppered, and allowed that the laws :gainst gentilisin, above recited by me, were not rigorously executed.
5. Our Blerted Saviour gave not any directions to his dil tiples to propagate his religion by external force and violence.
• 6. All wife and understanding men of every sect and re: ligion, recommend modcration, and condeir.ni force and compulsion in things of religion.
• 7. We cannot juftify the laws and edicts of christian emperors, which prolibited the practice of the religious rites of genfilisini upon heavy pains and penalties, such as confiscation of goods, banishment, or death, or exclusion from civil and mi. litarie offices.
i 8. 'The christian religion is able to uphold, and recormend itself without worldly encouragements, and without the aid of external force and compulsion.
Laftly; having now seen in ancient Jewishi and heathen writers fo many testimonies to the accompliment of our Saviour's predictions concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and to the books of the New Testament, and to the facts of the Evangelical historie, and therein to the truch of the christian religion, must we not be hereby induced not only cordially to embrace it, but likewise to recommend it to others, according to the best of our ability ?'
We are how come to the conclusion of this long and laboo rious work, which the author says, has been in hand almost half a century. It is, however, a complete performance in its kind. Every heatheni writer, who lived between the commencement of christianity and the year 550, and has left ang inemorial of christian affairs, is faithfully cited. His own words are generally produced. There is, perhaps, hardly a sentence, relative to the subject, to be collected from the wrecks of time, which our indefatigable author has omitted. But, which is the chief recommendation, this work is executed with great accuracy and judgment. The passages which bear the marks of forgery and interpolation are critically examined ; and the legendary tales in favour of christianity, which have been reeorded by weak and credulous authors, are treated in the inane ner they deserve,
III. An Appeal to Common Sense in Behalf of Religiin. 8vo.
8.vo. Pri 5%.
Cadell. T is generally supposed, that mankind have run into vari.
ous absurdities for want of employing their reasoning faculties on the capital truths of religion. Reasoning therefore has been deemed the only security against error and delusion. Upon this persuasion the art of difputation is encouraged at our universities; and our theological writers are accustomed to support the cause of christianity by argumentation. But the ingenious author of this treatise endeavours to evince, that an internperate love of reasoning is the foible of the human mind; and that in many cases, it is frivolous, impertinent, and fitter to perplex and abuse the understanding, than to assist it in the discovery of truth.
. To what purpose, says he, should we fet about the proof of the being of matter and motion, of gravitation or any other primary truth? Can we by the rules of reasoning add any thing to the conviction we have of these realities? Or can we at all reason on the subject ? Where shall we find a medium; or how form the fyllogifm? We may affume the truth in ques tion, as is often done, for a principle of reasoning, and so form a sophism ; or we may have recourse by analogy to other truths not more evident, and so produce a trifling demonstration. But we shall never offer any thing that deserves the name of argument in proof of primary truths; for as they do not require, so they cannot admit of any proof....
It is impoflible, he thinks, for a man of sense to take an attentive survey of the harmony of the universe, and doubt of the being and perfections of God; and equally impoffible for one of his character to confider with attention certain un. doubted facts appearing from the face of the christian revelation, and doubt' of its truth'; and therefore he concludes, that to make a due impression on sceptics, or to produce in them that belief which is due to primary truths, nothing more is necessary than to put them on viewing those truths in their native evidence, and comparing them with their opposite absurdities, by a simple appeal to common sense.
The author has divided this work into seven books. In the first he shews, that mankind in all ages have paid too little regard to the authotity of common sense ; that the learned and unlearned have a strong propensity to pursue far-fetched difcoveries, to the neglect of truths more obvious and ufeful ; that the sages of antiquity neglected obvious truths of the greatest moment to the interests of virtue, through an absurd inclination to employ their reasoning powers on improper subjects'; and
that christian divines, in contradiction to common sense, and to the detriment of religion, have subjected the most sacred and obvious truths to the refinements of reasoning.
Many of the best written books, he says, are full of trains of reasoning, of laborious reasoning, with but here and there a discovery of consequence. We meet with opinions, and fyltems of opinions, various, opposite, and contradictory, with a great variety of arguments, objections, and confutations, and but few of those indubitable maxims, on which a wise man would choose to found his conduct. Setting aside the doctrines of natural philosophy, which are founded upon repeated experiment and observation, or upon a species of reasoning equally to be depended on, the useful and undoubted truths to be gathered from all the other sciences, bear no proportion to the dubious pofitions, and conje&tural reasonings in support of these positions, with which the writings of the learned abound. So true is this observation, that a man may go through the circle of science, without being able to pick up as much} information as would be sufficient for his conducting himself with propriety in any station of life....
• The folly of overlooking obvious and certain truths, and running eagerly in pursuit of those more remote and uncertain, is not peculiar to the learned. It is the foible of human nature, and discovers itself in all the arts, the most necessary, the most common, and in the lowest occupations, as’well as in the sciences. Do husbandmen, artificers, and those who are em ployed in the several branches of trade, give due attention to the various methods of improving and enlarging the branches of business in which they are engaged, those methods, I 'inean, which lie within their sphere, and offer themselves to observa.? tion! They do it just so far, and no farther than they are urged: by neceflity, or solicited by the near prospect of great gain. Beyond that they feldom go; but hold on, with little variation, the track into which they were first put, till their curiosity is awakened by some far-fetched discovery of some bold adventurer, who often engages all the men of enterprise in rash and dangerous exploits...
• Just as the vulgar pass over what is plain and useful, to puzzle themselves with dark passages of scripture in which they have little concern ; and as our young gentry, overlooking the police, the manners, and even the geography of their own country, run abroad to make cursory remarks on the fingularities of foreign nations; and as all idle people enter more keenly into the politics of Europe, than into the governinent of their families, or the management of their own affairs, so do the generality of magkind, men of business, and men of
letters, make light of interesting, obvious, and undoubted truths, which are obje&ts of fimple perception and judgment, through an ungoverned ambition af employing their reasoning powers in discoveries of no real use, and unlupported by any solid evidence. The folly is ingrained and inveterate, breaks out en all occafiops, in every class of inen, and in all ages and patians.
We admire the wise men of Greece and Rome: and with Fearon; for on many accounts they are worthy of high esteem. They were men of great industry and ability, aniinated with a laudable zeal for knowledge ; and, bating the folly so common to mankind, of relying more upon reasoning, than simple perçeption of priinary truths, were intitled to the character of wife, but fo far gone in that folly, as disqualified them for be. ing guides to others in what may be called the first philofophy.
That the Epicurean scheme was no other than Atheisin disguis.d; that the hypothesis of the Stoics was little different from the Polytheisin of the vulgar , and that the faith of the Academics was either none at all, or faint and fluctuating at þest, will not be disputed by those who have any knowledge of antiquity. If you will judge of their sentiments by occasional sayings with which modern philosophers were wont to embellifh their works, you inay believe, as many have done, that ancient philosophers were polietied of the whicle system of națural religion. But look into their writings, and you will be undeceived. Or if you will take the testimony of one of the most considerable among thim, who had made their doctrines his Budy, you will be told, that the being and providence of God was, of all other subjects, a matter of the greatest doubt and disputation among philosophers. Now, how came men of such capacity and judgment to hesitate about fo evident a truth? The answer is plainly this. They would not pronounce upon it as men of sense, but as philosophers. They would not reft in the testimony which the phænomena of nature bear to this great truth, bui, by a process of reasoning, would needs make out a strict proof of what is too evident to admit of any; and failing in the attempt, they fell into great perplexity, confufion, and doubt. Let Cicero's dialogues concerning the nature of the gods, stript of rhetorical embellishments, and reduced to limple propositions, be put into the hands of some peasant of cominon understanding, and tolerably acquainted with the Christian revelation, and he will be much astonished at the opinions of the ancients, the gross stupidity of the 'Epicureans, the frivolous fuperftition of the Stoics, and the presumptuous rashness of the Academics, and heartily thank his God for bestowing on him the gift of common sen.e, and of the holy scriptures.'