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produce, with a parade of argument, and with the dogmatical violence of enthusiasts, who affert posi. tively, and repeatedly, the certainty of their divine authority, but produce not any proofs to establish it ;
-directly the reverse of this was the manner in which the evidence of Christianity was proposed, exhibiting direct proofs and facts, but exhibiting them with an artless fimplicity and calm dignity, well suited to conscious truth and genuine hspiration,
. Thus it appears, that the original manner of proposing the evidences of Christianity, adopted by our Lord, and his apoftles, to those who were candid and unprejudiced, was plain and artless, but at the fame time most clear and convincing, most calm and dignified; but amongst those who were prejudiced and hostile, who laboured to raise objections, and to find some pretexts for rejecting the proofs thus plainly submitted to them, they proceeded in a manner different indeed, but equally natural, rati. onal, and convincing ; they did not on sạch occafi, ons proudly attempt to silence enquiry, or refuse to answer it; they did not content themselves with, barely repeating positive assertions of their divine mission, and denouncing condemnation to all who presumed to doubt of it :-no-as far as the peculiar circumstances of the case would admit, they obvi. ated the objections that were raised; they removed the prejudices which prevented the full force of the: evidence offered from being seen or acknowledged; they vindicated their characters from calumny; they pointed out the erroneous interpretations of the prophets, which led the Jews to form wrong expectations of the Messiah ; they corrected their perversions' of morality, which rendered them unfavourable to the purity of the gospel; they addressed to the different classes of their hearers such arguments as seemed best suited to their previous information, and best calculated to win their assent. Thus they confirmed and illustrated the evidence which had been originally proposed ; they removed many objections ; they added many new circumstances ; the fimplicity of the manner in which, in the first instance, they submitted to men's observation the proofs of Christianity, shewed they were fully assured of their certainty; while the readiness with which they submitted these proofs to strict fctutiny, and entered into argumentation in defence of them, as far as was neceffary, afforded a ftill fur, ther proof of their fincerity and zeal; in both they shewed foundness of understanding and fobriety of mind, utterly inconsistent with the weakness and incoherence of fanaticism, as well as the cunning and caution of imposture.
That this, as it may be termed, argumentative man. ner, was frequently adopted by our Saviour, and his apostles, we have even in the course of this work
Vid. particularly, chap. i. sect. 3d and 4th ; and this chapter, sed. If and 2d.
feen so many instances as may render any minute dea . tail of them here unnecessary. We have seen that our Saviour submitted his miracles fearlessly to the scrutiny of his enemies, and performed them in such a manner as excited the attention of these enemies : we have seen that the strongest appeals to his works, as clear proofs of his divine mission, and his most direct application of the prophecies to himself, were made in consequence of the opposition of the Pharifees, and of the message from the Baptist; we have accounted for his sometimes concealing his miracles, and refusing a sign to the Pharisees, which at first feem most objectionable in this view; we have shewn that the apostles addressed to the Jews and the Heathens those arguments, on whose validity they could best decide-and it is plain, that they frequently exhorted men to exercise their reason, in obferving the nature and tendency of the doctrines taught, and thence judging of their divine original, and in searching the fcriptures for themselves. Thus the Bereans are
represented as more noble than the inhabitants of » Thessalonica, because they not only received the word
with readiness, “. but searched the scriptures daily, “ whether these things were fo.”
The difcourses, and much more the epistles, which they addressed to their converts, abound with appeals to recent facts, to acknowledged prophecies, with historical deductions, and close inferences, answers to objections, and solutions of difficulties, which
senseless fanatics would have wanted both inclination and capacity to supply.
But the writings of the apostles, considered as criterions of their freedom from fanaticism, will form the object of further discussion; for the present it is fufficient to observe, that had their success depended on the impulse, of enthusiasın-were men to have been converted by a filent whisper; or an irresistible light from heaven, that flashed conviction on their souls, it should seem that miracles and prophecies would have been useless, arguments impertinent, and instructions - fuperfluous. Thus every page of the New Testament appears to confute those rash and fuperficial declaimers, who attribute to wild fanaticism the origin and success of a scheme, which every where lays its foundation on plain facts, and vindi. cates its truth by fober reasoning. .
Here, then I might with safety rest the decision of this question, and contend that enthusiasm could not have been: the source of the zeal with which the apostles maintained the resurrection, and divine authority of their crucified Lord; or of the fuccess which they obtained in the promulgation of the gospel ; because the proofs of miraculous power on which their own conviction was founded, as well as those by which they convinced their converts, were such as excluded the possibility of mistake or delusion--plain facts, submitted to the deliberate
examination of the senses--facts various, repeated, permanent, and decidedly supernatural and divine. And the arguments derived from the prophecies which our Saviour delivered or fulfilled, were rati. onal, clear and fatisfactory—while in the apostles we discover the strongest marks of fobriety of mind, from their advancing no claim to a prophetic character, further than was ftri&ly supported by truth, and their delivering only such predictions, as it was most likely should have been dictated by divine inspiration; predictions, not applying to immediate or private circumstances, but to events of most signal importance and of remote accomplishment.
But though these are the great principles on which we should fix our attention, it may yet be satisfactory to pursue our enquiry somewhat further, and vindicate the apostles and evangelists from every fufpicion, that they did at all distort the facts they relate, or corrupt the do&rines they deliver with any mixture of fanatic extravagance, by fhewing that this fobriety of mind appears so strongly predominant in the uniform tenor of their conduct, and of their writings, that we must confess them wholly free from those weaknesses that give rise to enthusiasm, and all the follies and extrava.. gancies which attend and expofe its influence,