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and was generally deemed authentick and divine, though they refused to submit to it's authority. The inducements indeed to forgery, in the primitive times, were poverty, stripes, contempt, imprisonment, and martyrdom!—Mr. P.'s sneers at possessions may excite the laughter of some readers, but do not at all disprove the facts authenticated by the evangelists. And if the type and the anti-type, the prophecy and its fulfilment actually coincide; as the key and lock exacuy fit together, notwithstanding the greatest intricacy of wards: the word picklock will never convince a rational man, that they were not intended for each other.
THE AcTS OF THE APOSTLES.
Mr. P. has scarcely said any thing about this book, except that it is anonymous and anecdotal.* But it is in fact an avowed appendix to St. Luke's Gospel, and inscribed to the same person. And it is of far more consequence in the argument, than this slight notice seems to intimate: for it certainly gives us a most distinct and probable account of an undeniable fact, which it is impossible by any other means to account for, namelv, the success of Christianity, after the crucifixion qf its founder, in opposition to all the authority, learning, and religion of the world, by the labours of a few poor fishermen, and others of equally obscure rank in the community. Admit this narrative to be true; and the resurrection of Christ, with the divine authority of the Scriptures, is established beyond dispute: deny it; and besides the difficulty of disproving
• P. ii. p. 33.
so long received an history, it becomes necessary to give some other probable account of the early prevalence of the gospel, which is rendered indisputable by the testimony even of pagan writers.
The conversion of St. Paul likewise is recorded in this book; which Mr. P. indeed denies to have been miraculous. Does he then mean that the light above the brightness of the sun, the articulate voice calling to Saul by name and discoursing with him, and the other circumstances of the apostle's narrative, may all be ascribed to a flash of lightning?—The extraordinary change in the conduct and principles of Paul were notorious to all the world: and his own history of the manner in which it took place must be deemed authentick, till it be proved either false or impossible. He gave sufficient proof, that he did not attempt to impose on others: and the facts which he relates were of such a nature as to exclude the possibility of hisbeing himself deceived: while his subsequent blindness for three days, and the silence of his companions, who would have contradicted his account had it been false, combine to establish it.
Mr. P. objects to Paul's testimony to christianity, because he was a zealot; or in other words because he spake and acted as a man in earnest: as if no man were an unexceptionable witness, who thoroughly believes his own testimony, and is ready to lay down his life in confirmation of it!—The difference between a fact and a doctrine in this case is not to the purpose: for admit the facts, by which the apostle was convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah; and the doctrine which he preached must be owned to be divine. Vex. HI. ,3 H
That Paul had been extremely prejudiced and violent against christianity must be allowed; and this rendered his conversion the more wonderful: but he ran into no extremes, in his zeal for the gospel: at least his vehement zeal was gentle, loving, patient and prudent, and he seemed disposed to treat no one with severity except himself. t
Mr. P. seems to have very little examined this part. of Scripture! for he scarcely notices any particular in it, except the apostle's discourse concerning the resurrection, which he strangely mistakes, or misrepreSČntS. “If,’ says he, “I have already died in this body, ‘ and am raised again in the same body, it is presump‘tive evidence I shall die again.” This objection entirely coincides with the cavil of the ancient Sadducees, and is answered by our Lord himself. Certainly this view of a resurrection is gloomy enough: but the apostle's doctrine of “this mortal putting on immor“tality, and this corruptible putting on incorruption,” has a very different aspect.—Mr. P. says he should prefer a ‘better body, with a more convenient form;’ and he thinks that every animal has in many respects the advantage of us. I apprehend some deists may so far reverence the Creator, as to deem Mr. P.’s language on this subject reprehensible, and savouring of ingratitude: nay, perhaps they may be disposed to maintain, that the erect structure of the human body best suits the rational nature; and that the astonishing ad
vantages, which our hands afford us, give us a decided pre-eminence over all other creatures here below. We have however such bodies as it hath pleased God, and we must exist in another world according to his good pleasure, whatever we may choose or hope.
Mr. P. next retorts the apostle's words upon him, and repeatedly calls him afoot! But had he duly considered the nature of death, which is not absolutely ceasing to exist, but ceasing to exist in the former manner; he would, as a naturalist, have seen, that except seeds die, they are not quickened. "Unless they die they abide alone," as our Lord also says; who is thus involved with the apostle in our author's peremptory charge. The seed, before it grows, ceases as much to be a grain of corn, as a man at death ceases to be a living man; and is as absolutely irrecoverable to its former mode of existence by any human power: yet it springs up into a new life, incomprehensibly, by the power of God, as men will rise at the last day. So that the illustration is sufficiently just and clear; even though ingenuity could find out some shades of difference, with which men in general are wholly unacquainted.
The rest of the epistolary writings are passed over by our author, with the same kind of neglect as he shewed to the minor prophets; except that he insiniLates they were forged, and pretends that they are of no consequence in the argument; which will be coosidered in another place.
I suppose, his wit, in saying, ' the whore of Baby, 'Ion has been the common whore of all the priests; • and each has accused the other of keeping the ‘strumpet,' is intended as his confutation of the Apocalypse; for, this sally and an assertion; ‘that it is a , book of riddles, which requires a revelation to ex‘plain it,” is all that he advances concerning this part of Scripture. Yet the numerous predictions it contains, and the undeniable accomplishment which many of them have already received, amounts to a complete moral demonstration that it is the word of God. Having gone through Mr. P.'s objections to the New Testament; I must declare my complete assurance, that, after all his most confident declamations about contradictions, lies, and impostures, he has not substantiated one single charge. And it would be easy to retort upon him: for the instances of disingenuity, misrepresentation, wilful calumny, or astonishing ignorance of the subject, which might be produced, were that necessary, are exceedingly numerous. And thus I leave the matter to the judgment of the candid and impartial reader. I shall now proceed, in a second Part, to call the reader's attention to several important subjects, which are not peculiar to any part of Scripture, but relate in some measure to the whole of the sacred oracles. In doing this, I mean both to exhibit the great outlines of that positive proof, on which I believe the divine inspiration of the Scriptures; and the real nature and tendency of the religion contained in them.