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these our modern men of sense, as they desire to be esteemed, say that they only do ; that they only have their judgments freed. from the slavish authority of precedents and laws in matters of truth, which, they say, ought only to be decided by reason; though by a prudent compliance with popularity and laws, they preserve themselves from outrage and legal penalties; for none of their complexion are addicted to sufferings or martyrdom.
Now,- sir, that, which you desire from me; is some short topic of reason, if such canbe found, without running to authorities, and the intri. cate mazes of learning, which breed long disputes, and which these men of reason deny by wholesale, though they can give no reason for it, but only suppose that authors have been trumped upon us, interpolated, and corrupted, so that no stress can be laid upon them, though it cannot be shown, wherein they are so corrupted; which, in reason, it ought to lie upon them to prove, who alledged it; otherwise it is not only a precarious, but a guilty plea; and the more so, as they refrain not to quote books on their side, for whose authority there are no better, or not so good grounds. However, you say, it makes your disputes endless, and they go away with noise and clamor, and boast, that there is nothing, at least nothing certain, to be said on the Christian side. Therefore you are desirous of finding some one topic of reason, which will demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion, and at the
same time distinguish it from the impostures of Mahomet, and of the old Pagan world; that our Deists may be brought to this test, and be obliged either to renounce their reason and the common reason of mankind, or to submit to the clear proof, from reason, of the Chris. tian religioni; which must be such proof, as no imposture can pretend, otherwise it cannot prove the Christian religion not be an imposture. Whether such a proof, one single proof, to avoid confusion, may not be found, you desire to know from me.
You say that you cannot imagine but there must be such a proof, because every truth is in itself clear and one; and therefore that one reason for it, if it be the true reason, must be sufficient, ; and, if sufficient, it is better than many; for multiplicity confounds, especially weak judgments.
Sir, you have imposed a hard task upon me; I wish I could perform it. For, though every truth is one ; yet our sight is so feeble, that we .cannot always come to it directly, but by many inferences.
But I think that in the case before us there is such a proof, as you require, and I will set it down as concisely and plainly, as I can.
II. Firstly then, I suppose that the truth of the doctrine of CHRIST will be sufficiently evinced, if the matters of fact, which are recorded of him in the gospels, be true; for his miracles, if true, do vouch the truth of what he.delivered.
The same is to be said as to MODES. If he brought the children of Israel through the red sea in that miraculous manner, which is rela: ted in Exodus, and did such other wonderfot things, as are there told of him ; it must nem eessarily follow, that he was sent from God;
these being the strongest proofs, we can desire, · and which every Deist will confess he would acquiesce in, if he saw them with his eyes. Therefore the stress of this cause will depend upon the proof of these matters of fact. ::
The method, I shall take, is firstly to lay down such rules, as to the truth of matters of fact in general, that, where they all meet, such matters of fact cannot be false. Then seco ondly, to show that all these rules do meet the matters of fact of Moses, and of CHRIST; and that they do not meet in the matters of fact of Mahomet, and of the Heathen deities, nor can possibly meet in any imposture whatsoever.
2. The rules are these, ist. That the matter af fact be such, that men's outward senses, their eyes and ears may be judges of it. 2. That it be done publicly in the face of the world. 3. That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward actions be performed. 4. That such monuments, and such actions or observances be instituted, and do commence from the time, that the mat
and that omet, and in any imp
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3. The two first rules make it impossible for any such matter of fact to be imposed upon
men at the time, when such fact was said to be done, because every man's eyes and senses would contradict it. For example ; suppose any man should pretend that yesterday he di. vided the Thames, in presence of all the people of London, and carried the whole city, men, women, and children, over to Southwark, on dry land, the waters standing like walls on both sides ; I say, it is morally impossible, that he could persuade the people of London, that this was true, when every man, woman, and child could contradict him, and say that this was a notorious falsehood, for that they had not seen the Thames so divided, nor had gone over on dry land. Therefore I take it for granted (and I suppose, with the allowance of all the Deists in the world) that no such imposition could be put upon men, at the time, when such public fact was said to be done.
4. Therefore it only remains, that such matter of fact might be invented some time after, when the men of that generation, wherein the. thing was said to be done, were all past and gone; and the credulity of after ages might be so imposed upon, as to believe that things were done in former ages, which were not.
For this the two last rules secure us as much, as the two first rules in the former case ; for, whenever such a matter of fact came to be invented, if not only monunients were said to remain of it, but likewise that public actions, and observances were constantly used ever since the fact was said to be done, the deceit must be
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detected, by no such monuments appearing, and by the experience of every man, woman, and child, who must know that no such actions or observances were ever used by them. For example; suppose I should now invent a story of such a thing, said to be done a thousand years ago, I might perhaps get some to believe it ; but, if I say that not only such a thing was done, but that, from that day to this, ev. ery man, at the age of twelve years, had a joint of his little finger cut off ; and that every man in the nation did want a joint of that finger ; and that this institution was said to be part of the matter of fact, done so many years ago, and vouched as a proof of it, and as having descended without interruption, and been constantly practised, in memory of such fact, from the time that such fact was done ; I say, it is impossible I should be believed in such a case, because every one could contradict me, as to the mark of cutting off a joint of the finger ; and that, being part of my original matter of fact, must demonstrate the whole to be false.
III. Let us now come to the second point, to show that the matters of fact of Moses, and of CHRIST, have all these rules or marks before mentioned ; and that neither the matters of fact of MAHOMET, or what is reported of the bea. then deities, have the like ; and that no impostor can have them all. :
1. As to Moses, I suppose it will be allowed me, that he could not have persuaded 600, ovo men, that he had brought them out of E