Imatges de pÓgina
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or on that side of a river; keep within or step over the boundaries of a state ; cr even in the same country, and by the same people, so often as the event of a battle, or the issue of a negotiation, delivers them to the dominion of a new master; points, I say, of this sort are exhibited to the public attention, as so many arguments against the truth of the Christian religion-and with success. For these topics being brought together, and set off with some aggravation of circumstances, and with a vivacity of style and description familiar enough to the writings and conversation of free-thinkers, insensibly lead the imagination into a habit of classing Christianity with the delusions that have taken possession, by turns, of the public belief; and of regarding it, as what the scoffers of our faith represent it to be, the superstition of the day. But is this to deal honestly by the subject, or with the world ? May not the same things be said, may not the same prejudices be excited by these representations, whether Christianity be true or false, or by whatever proofs its truth be attested ? May not truth as well as falsehood be taken upon credit ? May not a religion be founded upon evidence accelsible and satisfactory to every mind competent to the enquiry, which yet, by the greatest part of its professors, is received upon authoe

part

rity?

But if the matter of these objections be repres hensible, as calculated to produce an effect upon the reader beyond what their real weight and place in the argument deserve, still more shall we discover of management and disingenuousness in the form under which they are dispersed among the public. Infidelity is served up in every shape that is likely to allure, surprise, or beguile the imagination ; in a fable, a tale, a novel, a poem; in interspersed and broken hints ; remote and oblique surmises ; in books of travels, of philosophy, of natural history ; in a word, in

any

form rather than the right one, that of a professed and regular disquisition. And because the coarse buffoonery, and broad laugh, of the old and rude adversaries of the Christian faith, would offend the taste, perhaps, rather than the virtue, of this cultivated age, a graver irony, a more skilful and delicate banter, is substituted in their place. An eloquent

An eloquent historian, beside his more direct, and therefore fairer, attacks upon the credibility of evangelic story, has contrived to weave into his narration one continued sneer upon the cause of Christianity, and upon the writings and characters of its an.

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cient patrons. The knowledge which this author possesses of the frame and conduct of the human mind, must have led him to observe, that such attacks do their execution without enquiry. Who can refute a fneer? Who can compute the nume ber, much less; one by one, scrutinize the justice, of those disparaging insinuations, which crowd the pages of this elaborate history? What reader suspends his curiosity, or calls off his attention from the principal narrative, to examine references, to search into the foundation, or to weigh the reason, propriety, and force of every transient sarcasm, and ly allusion, by which the Christian testimony is depreciated and traduced ; and by which, nevertheless, he

may

find his persuasion afterwards unsettled and perplexed ?

But the enemies of Christianity have pursued her with poisoned arrows. Obscenity itself is made the vehicle of infidelity. The awful doctrines, if we be not permitted to call them the sacred truths, of our religion, together with all the adjuncts and appendages of its worship and external profession, have been sometimes impudently profaned by an unnatural conjunction with impure and lascivious images. The fondness for ridicule is almost universal ; and ridi.. çule to many minds is never so irresistible, as

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when seasoned with obscenity, and employed
upon religion. But in proportion as these noxi-
ous principles take hold of the imagination, they
infatuate the judgment; for trains of ludicrous
and uncharte associations adhering to every sen-
timent and mention of religion, render the mind
indisposed to receive either conviction from its
evidence, or impressions from its authority. And
this effect being exerted upon the sensitive part
of our frame, is altogether independent of argu-
ment, proof, or reason; is as formidable to a
true religion as to a false one ; tó a well-grounded
faith, as to a chimerical mythology, or fabulous
tradition. Neither, let it be observed, is the
crime or danger less, because impure ideas are
exhibited under a veil, in covert and chastized
language.

Seriousness is not constraint of thought; nor
levity, freedom. Every mind which wilhes the
advancement of truth and knowledge, in the
most important of all human researches, must
abhor this licentiousness, as violating no less the
laws of reasoning, than the rights of decency.
There is but one description of men, to whose
principles it ought to be tolerable ; I mean that
class of reasoners who can see little in Chriftia-
nity, even supposing it to be true. To fuch ad-

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versaries

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versaries we address this reflection-Had Jesus Christ delivered no other declaration than the following: “The hour is coming, in the which “ all that are in the grave shall hear his voice, “and shall come forth; they that have done

good, unto the resurrection of life, and they « that have done evil, unto the resurrection " of damnation;" he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance, and well worthy of that splendid apparatus of prophecy and iniracles with which his mission was introduced, and attested-a message, in which the wisest of mankind would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts, and rest to their enquiries. It is idle to say, that a future state had been discovered al- ' ready-It had been discovered, as the Copernican system was-it was one guess among many. He alone discovers, who proves;. and no man can prove this point, but the teacher who teftifies by miracles that his doctrine comes from God.

MORAL

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