Imatges de pÓgina





[This tract, though stated only to have been revised by Bishop Sherlock, seems to contain many touches by his masterly hand : at any rate it forms an appropriate and almost necessary accompaniment to the preceding one, and is on that account introduced into this work. -Ed.]


The Considerer introduces himself and his book to the world in a very extraordinary and pompous manner. The Trial of the Witnesses had, it seems, gone through ten editions unanswered; had (as he most ingeniously expresses himself,) “miraculously supported the miracles of the gospel; had gained an indisputable conquest, and reached the remotest corners of infidelity.” What then was to be done in this distress? Why he is called on by his friends to read it, and by his ardent love of truth to answer it; and seems to think that all the hopes of infidelity centre in him.

An author of so much vivacity, and so full of himself, can hardly be expected to keep the dull road of reasoning; his wit will sometimes run away with him. Hence it is that we meet with so much pertness and spirit in his performance ; hence proceed those beautiful expressions of miraculously supported the miracles,' the damnably bad' opinions of somebody or

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other; and the witty conceit of introducing ghosts · in white
sheets and dark lanterns' into this serious argument. Of all
which, and many others of equal politeness, I take leave once
for all, and give them up to be enjoyed by the author and his
admirers without disturbance.
But I must needs commend this author for the


and frank declaration of his principles in respect to religion. Some have pretended friendship to the gospel, that they might the more successfully undermine the foundations of it; but this author acts with more bravery and more honesty. He says fairly, “ in my opinion great judgment and great faith are such contradictions that they never unite so as to meet in one person.” I daresay he did not make this declaration on any suspicion he had of his own judgment. Again, with respect to miracles, he tell us,

“every real miracle is an absurdity to common sense and understanding, and contrary to the attributes of God.” After these

express declarations, one would wonder how this author could propose himself to the world as a proper person to make a fair examination of the evidence of the resurrection, which is both the greatest miracle and the greatest article of the Christian faith. But he had his view in so doing, and has been so good as to acquaint us what he proposed by his answer to the Trial of the Witnesses; and he shall tell it himself. My design is to promote that veneration for wisdom and virtue which has been debased and degraded by faith ; by a faith which has not sent peace on earth, but a sword. Where this foolish faith bears sway, the tree of knowlege produces damning fruit; but under the benign influence of George our King in this glorious day of light and liberty, this divine hag and her pious witchcrafts, which were brought forth in darkness and nourished by obscurity, faint at the approach of day, and vanish on sight.”

The faith which the gospel proposes in Christ Jesus, the ever blessed Son of God, and the only name under heaven by which we may be saved, is here with an astonishing degree of impiety called a divine hag with pious witchcrafts. Unhappy man! what could he mean by this ? I pity him from my

heart. But what could he mean by abusing the king, unless he had a



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mind to show that he is just as good a subject as he is a Christian ?

Every serious man will read these passages with abhorrence; and they are a warning to every reader to be on his guard against the representations made of the doctrines of the gospel and the evidences of Christianity by so determined and so inveterate an enemy to both.

But let us examine this author in another respect. So little qualified was he to write an answer to the Trial of the Witnesses, that he did not understand it when he published his answer, but mistook sometimes the objection for the answer to the objection, and sometimes vice versa ; and ascribed to the author of the Trial the very opinion he was confuting. A few instances will explain my meaning.

The Considerer charges the author of the Trial with founding faith on education, and writing in favor of that opinion. To support this charge he quotes from the Trial the very words that disclaim that opinion. The words are: “What prevailed with those who first received it ? (that is, the belief of the resurrection :) they certainly did not follow the examples of their fathers. Here then is the point; how did this fact gain credit in the world at first ? Credit it has gained without doubt.” It is marvellous how the Considerer could read, could transcribe these words into his book, and not feel that the meaning and intent of them was to lay the force of custom and education quite out of the case, and to bring the question to rest on the original evidence of the resurrection at the first, before custom or education could possibly have any influence. It is hard to account for his mistake, but mistake he does, and goes on for a page or two together with great triumph, reasoning against this phantom of his own raising. “ Then,” says he, “every story that has gained credit in the world, as this has done, is also true;" and concludes with this wise saying, “ believing truth for company's sake is no more meritorious than believing error.” But he has been so far ashamed of this blunder as to drop the whole passage and his own reasoning on it in his new edition.

The Considerer says, “it is argued the Apostles were sincere, therefore what they reported was true.” He does not indeed

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directly charge the author of the Trial with arguing thus; but whomsoever he means to charge, he shows plainly that he never understood the use or force of the argument drawn from the topic of sincerity; which is never applied to prove that the

r sincere reporter delivers nothing but truth, for he may be and often is imposed on himself; but is used merely to show that he is not a deceiver himself, and acting with a design to impose on others. The Considerer has with great success encountered the mistake, which he imputes to somebody or other; but the only thing he has made clear is, that he did not know what he was writing about. But some kind friend pointed out this mistake, and it disappears on the new edition.

The next instance of this kind with which I shall trouble the reader, will hardly pass for a mistake only. Whatever it is, it has received the approbation of the Considerer's second thoughts, and found a place in his new edition.

The author of the Trial, or the person designed by B in the Trial, repeats an objection, which A, the pleader against the resurrection, had insisted on. “ There is,” says B, or the author of the Trial, “but one observation more, which the gentleman (that is, A, the objector to the resurrection) made under this head. Jesus, he says, referred to the authority of ancient prophecies to prove that the Messias was to die and rise again. The ancient books referred to are extant, and no such prophecies, he says, are to be found. Now whether the gentleman (that is, the objector) can find those prophecies or no, is not material to the present question."

Is it not manifest to sight that those words, “ the ancient books referred to are extant, and no such prophecies to be found,” express the sense and opinion of the objector to the resurrection ? But the Considerer charges it to the author of the Trial as his own sentiment, which he could not have done had be quoted the passage fairly. For this reason he has altered it, and left out all the words which expressly refer the opinion to the objector. His quotation stands thus : “ The author of the Trial (or Mr. B.) says that though Jesus referred to the authority of the ancient prophecies to prove that the Messias was to die and rise again, and that though the ancient books referred to are extant, and no such prophecies to be

found, whether the prophecies can be found or no, it is not material to the present question."

I shall leave the Considerer's fair dealing to be tried on a comparison with the passage as it stands in the Trial, and as it is transcribed into his answer; and let him account to his readers as he can for having so grossly imposed on them.

The only thing here properly to be charged on the author of the Trial is expressed in those words, “ whether the gentleman (that is, the objector) can find those prophecies or no, is not material to the present question.” I think this is said very justly; for surely believers are not to wait for the evidence of prophecy until infidels can or will see it ; and therefore whether the gentleman (the objector) could find the prophecies or no, was not material; and farther, whether he could or not find the prophecies, it was not material to the present question. The present question related to the truth of the resurrection, considered merely as a matter of fact; and as facts must be proved, not by prophecy, but by historical evidence, it was impertinent to talk of prophecy, when the inquiry concerned a mere fact only.

But the Considerer, for want of discernment or something else, says, “it is granted the gospel historians suggest there are prophecies which are not to be found in the books they refer to; but this is said not to be material.” He leaves out the words, “ to the present question,” and goes on; “ Strange! is it not material whether what the Evangelists say be true or false? whether this is a true or false insinuation to countenance the history? whether through ignorance they imagined there were prophecies which there were not, and so were deluded ? and whether through design they suggested there were, and so deceived others ?All this is very well ; but before the Considerer can be intitled to the full merit of it, he must show what he is doing, and whom he means to confute. He appears to me to be hunting down nothing but a very great blunder of

his own.

The objector to the truth of the resurrection says, “ in other cases the evidence supports the credit of the history; but here the evidence itself is presumed only on the credit which the history has gained.” The Considerer quotes the words, and intro

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