Imatges de pÓgina
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progress truth had made. What were the public institutions of religion but the worst and grossest superstition and impiety? So much of truth as had been discovered was confined to the few; and if happily they might chance to keep it, it was not likely to get any farther. Every national religion was looked on as the dictates of the gods, and forbidden to be altered by man; so that truth was as it were prohibited by law. How then was it to be recovered, with the civil power and the prejudices and passions of mankind against it? Let the Considerer show, if he can, that a man of honesty and understanding without any supernatural powers would be equal to this work.

But the Considerer thinks “ a power of working miracles is contrary to the unchangeableness of God;" for “ the same causes,” he says, “ must always produce the same effects.” His reason, if he intended it as a reason, is a very unlucky one. I cannot see the most distant relation between the premises and the conclusion. The same causes produce the same effect. Right! but in miracles a new cause is introduced ; and if his argument proves any thing, it proves that natural causes will not produce miracles; but do we ascribe miracles to natural causes ? He

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- but miracles are urged to prove a change in the will of God; that is, impossible things are urged to prove an impossibility.” According to the Considerer, it seems, it is a principle agreed on by both believers and unbelievers, that miracles are used to prove a change in the will of God. If you grant him this, and admit too that miracles are impossible, he will draw this notable conclusion, that impossibilities are urged to prove an impossibility.

But suppose neither of them is granted, what will become of his conclusion? The reader has already seen his reasons, if they may be called reasons, for thinking miracles to be impossible. But what pretence has he to say that miracles are urged to prove a change in the will of God? Where or when were they ever urged to this purpose ? or how indeed do they prove it? The Considerer is intirely silent as to all these points, and yet he goes on reasoning on the supposition of miracles proving a change, nay, of their being allowed to prove a change in the will of God.

The Considerer has puzzled himself unaccountably with the immutability of God, than which there is not one attribute in the divine nature more clear and precise. It is his being and perfections that are immutable, and not his actions, unless you will

suppose men and all other beings immutable too. His actions are always the same when circumstances are the same; but what sense is there in supposing that immutable wisdom must act in all cases, how different soever, in the same way? The counsels of Providence are directed by unerring wisdom; but the same wisdom prescribes different measures on different occasions. Miracles of themselves can be no proof that God's counsels are mutable, either with respect to the natural or the moral world ; not with respect to the natural, because suspending some one law of matter to serve some moral purpose is no proof that the counsel of God is changed with regard to the general laws and constitution of matter; not in the moral, because miracles may, for any thing that appears to the contrary, be useful to answer some moral end, and to serve the great purposes of Providence in some cases and not in others.

This the Considerer is not willing to allow; for if miracles were ever necessary, they must in his judgment be always necessary

The Considerer has so good a talent at reasoning, that I cannot refuse him and the reader the justice of producing his argument, as he himself has stated it. “ If miracles were ever necessary, whether the divine and human nature, or the nature of things be changeable or unchangeable, they must be always necessary. For if God ever wrought miracles to be the proof of the knowlege of his will, he will always pursue the same methods, if he is an unchangeable being." That is to say, “the proposition is true, whether God be changeable or not, for a reason which expressly supposes him to be unchangeable.” The Considerer has generally the fortune to have his positions and his reasons hang very ill together. But let us examine the latter part of the argument by itself, and see what there is in it. “ God is an unchangeable being; therefore, if he ever wrought miracles as a proof of his will, he will always pursue the same method.” It is allowed that God is an unchangeable being. It follows from thence that his conduct will always be the same in the same state of things; if he works miracles in one case,

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he will do it again whenever the same case, with all its circumstances, returns, But if he does it when the state of mankind requires it, it does not follow that he will do it when the state of mankind does not require it. Let the Considerer show that it cannot be expedient for mankind at one time and not at another. Till he can prove this, he proves nothing. Let us try his reasoning in a common case. Should the subjects of some great prince rise in arms against him, and should he quiet them by offering a general pardon without punishing their crime will it follow that he ought to pursue the same method in every rebellion ? And will it follow that his counsels are mutable if he does not? The Considerer himself will not have the folly to assert it. Lenity may be necessary at one time, and severity at another; and each of these measures, though not only different but opposite, may

be the effect of the same wisdom and prudence.

But if “God has wrought wonders in one generation and not another,” it seems, “ he must be a partial being.” The Considerer does not know what he is about when he charges God with partiality. According to his little view of things, Providence

may be accused as partial in many other instances, and with more appearance of reason than in this. Why does he not complain that one man has greater natural endowments than another, that he is superior in wealth, in dignity, in power, or whatever else is esteemed great and illustrious? If that is to be looked on as partiality which the Considerer judges to be such, I leave him to reflect where his opinion will terminate. He says,

“ that miracles are equally necessary to all people, and therefore if God grants them to one generation and not another, he is a partial being.” If bold assertions were to be admitted as proofs, there is nothing which the Considerer is not capable of proving. Let him prove (instead of asserting) that miracles are equally necessary in all ages, and then it will be time to talk with him. Here is a maxim which the Considerer himself allows to be a just one, that Providence does nothing in vain. If then a series of wonders are wrought in one age, why may not the memory of them be duly preserved for the benefit of succeeding ages ? And if they are so preserved, would not repeating them in succeeding ages be unnecessary?

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When error and corruption have been once conquered, and the true religion established by the help of miracles, why are not such miracles, when recorded by proper hands, sufficient to support and preserve it? The Considerer calls on show “ what lasting monuments we have of them, by which they may be clearly evidenced, and may appear true against all contradiction.” He needs not go to the place in which they were wrought, where only he thinks such monuments are to be found. They are much nearer home than he is willing to believe ; they are already in his own hands, if he knew how to use them and set a just value on them. The gospels are the monuments wherein those miracles are recorded, and he must prove them to be all a forgery, before he can with reason complain for want of authentic monuments; which he will find it no easy matter to do, against the testimony of all antiquity, of the enemies of Christianity, as well as its friends.

I have now gone through the material things, and to my own sorrow many immaterial things in the Considerer's book. When the book first appeared, it seemed to require no answer; and to those who can judge of the weight of arguments, it required none. But when it came into the hands of those who were not able to see how they were imposed on, the case was altered. For their sakes this answer was prepared, and is now published. One thing at least they may learn from these papers, not to trust a man who abuses religion out of love to truth. It is not Scripture he attacks, whatever he pretends ; but Scripture distorted and perverted. Look

pretended Answer to the Trial ; where is there an argument of any weight that is built on a true representation of Scripture? I will not say that all his mistakes of this kind are wilful; many of them, I am afraid, are so. But I judge him not.

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SUMMARY.

Abraham and Melchizedek.

Previous observations on the professions of an author. On the history of Abraham: one of the facts therein, relating to his interview with Melchizedek, stated. Mr. Chubb's interpretation of it, contrary to the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, makes Melchizedek give tithes to Abraham. Passage quoted. Version of the Septuagint. Manner of Mr. Chubb's reasoning on it, as cited from the English version, considered. Mr. Chubb shown to argue like one that has not attended to the language of the Bible, in which nothing is more common than a change of persons in the same sentence : instances given. This criterion of the sense failing, recourse must be had to the circumstances of the case to determine it: these di

The things which Abraham had, from which he could give tithes, are clear : those of Melchizedek not so evident. Reasons given from ancient custom, why Abraham should dedicate a tenth part of his spoils. Objections raised by Mr. Chubb against the priesthood of Melchizedek refuted: also those raised against the propriety of Abraham giving tithes, when he was himself a priest. The peculiar character of Melchizedek considered. Consideration of Mr. Chubb's remark, that the Canaanites at this time, with the exception of Melchizedek and his subjects, were idolaters. Conclusion.

lated on.

Esau and Jacob.

Remarks on the history of God's providence, and difficulties in it, which however are no just objections to its truth. Refe

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