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OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT
WITH A PARTICULAR VINDICATION
CHARACTER OF MOSES, AND THE PROPHETS, OUR SAVIOUR
JESUS CHRIST, AND HIS APOSTLES,
AGAINST THE UNJUST ASPERSIONS AND FALSE REASONINGS OF A BOOK,
THE MORAL PHILOSOPHER.
TO WHICH IS ADDED
A DEFENCE OF THIS BOOK
THE EXCEPTIONS AND MISREPRESENTATIONS IN THE SECOND VOLUME OF THE
BY JOHN LELAND, D. D.
PRINTED FOR T. TEGG AND SON, CHEAPSIDE;
R. GRIFFIN AND CO., GLASGOW; T. T. AND H. TEGG, DUBLIN :
ALSO J. AND S. A. TEGG, SYDNEY AND HOBART TOWN,
A just liberty of thinking (which on the one hand is not governed by old and popular prejudices, nor on the other hand led aside by the affectation of novelty and a desire of thinking out of the common way,) which hath nothing but truth in view, and the serving the cause of real goodness and righteousness, is certainly one of the noblest things in the world. To be a freethinker in this, which is the most proper sense of the word, must be owned to be an honourable and amiable character. This the enemies of our holy religion are sensible of, and therefore they have done themselves the honour to assume this character as if it were their sole privilege, and a distinction that sets them above the rest of mankind. But as no man is a freethinker or a good reasoner, merely for calling himself so, the justness of their pretensions to that character must be examined by other things than their own confident boastings. If these gentlemen were really what they pretend to be, the sincere lovers and friends of truth, and of a just liberty of thinking, this would appear by their fair and ingenuous way of treating the argument they have undertaken. We should be able to trace in their conduct and in their writings the fair and beautiful lines of candour and sincerity, an impartial love of truth, and an openness of mind to conviction and evidence, a modesty of sentiment, and a calm and serious temper of mind becoming the importance of the inquiry. But I shall hardly be thought severe, if I say, that he that would look for any thing of this kind in the writings of those that have lately appeared amongst us in the cause of infidelity, would find himself very much disappointed. Bold and confident assertions he will everywhere meet with, many things that discover high conceit of their own sagacity and penetration, and a contempt of others that do not think in their way; a willingness to use any arts of misrepresentation to serve their cause; and a strong desire to give an odious or a ludicrous turn to every thing where revelation is concerned ; and all covered over with a pretended regard (though it must be owned the disguise is generally very thin) for that religion they are using their repeated endeavours to subvert and to destroy.
But amongst them all there is scarce any who hath rendered himself more remarkable this way than one that hath lately ap
peared under the character of the Moral Philosopher,' though, if there be any morality in writing, I never knew any that had a less just pretension to this character. I would be one of the last to charge any man with a want of honesty and sincerity; but there are many things in his book that look like a wilful perversion and misrepresentation of facts as well as arguments; and sometimes so circumstanced, that it is scarce possible for the most extensive charity to suppose that it was owing to mere ignorance. Perhaps the author himself would not be willing to accept of this apology. I cannot help looking upon it as an honour to Christianity, that its adversaries find themselves obliged to take such methods as these, in order to carry on their designs against it. Does not this argue a secret consciousness that they can never prevail by a fair attack upon the Scriptures? For surely he must be either very wicked or very foolish that would have recourse to such bas arts as these to serve his cause, if he thought his end could be answered without it, and that fair and just reasoning and an equal candid management would do as well.
This author pretends to go farther in his concessions, than some of his brethren and fellow-labourers in the same cause. knowledgeth the great usefulness of revelation, in aid of human reason in the present corrupt state of mankind; and seems to find fault with those who maintain, that ' under the present pravity and corruption of mankind, the religion of nature is written with sufficient strength and clearness upon every man's heart;' and who therefore are not so thankful as they ought to be “for the light of the gospel,' p. 145. And though he openly and avowedly rejects the Old Testament, and plainly declares that he will have nothing to do with it in religion ; yet if we were to judge of his sentiments by several passages in his book separately considered, one would be apt to think that he entertained very favourable thoughts of Christianity. It were easy to fill several pages with direct and formal passages, where he speaks honourably of Jesus Christ, and the religion he hath introduced, as having brought clearer discoveries of our duty, and enforced it by stronger motives, and provided more effectual aids, than ever was done before And he expressly declares himself to be a Christian upon the foot of the New Testament,' p. 352. But if we compare these with other passages in his book, we shall find reason to think that all his pretended regard for Christianity, and the religion of Jesus is only the better to carry on his design of subverting it. At the same time that he affects to speak with great respect of Jesus Christ, he insinuates several base reflections upon his conduct and character; and justifies those that put him to death as acting like good patriots, who were under a necessity of doing what they did out of a regard to the welfare and safety of their country. Though he pretends to acknowledge the usefulness of divine revelation, and particularly of the revelation brought by Jesus Christ in the present corrupt state of mankind, he leaves us no way of knowing when a divine revelation is really given; and particularly endeavours to
destroy the proof on which the authority of Christ's divine mission, and of the Christian revelation is established, drawn from miracles, prophecy, and the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost : yea, he absolutely denies them to be any proofs at all. Though hé sometimes talks of the great benefit of the light of the gospel, yet he will not allow that any one thing was discovered by that revelation but what was known as well before, except salvation by Jesus Christ as the Jewislı Messiah,' that is, as he explains it, the national deliver of the Jews, and the restorer of the kingdom to Israel in a temporal political sense. This very thing which he all along explodes as false and absurd, he represents as the only proper article of the Christian faith,* and as the whole of that gospel which was preached by all the apostles, except St. Paul, who he pretends preached a different gospel from the rest. He professeth to be a Christian on the foot of the New Testament, and yet he represents it as 'leaning strongly towards Judaism,' and as a jumble of inconsistent religions, and not at all to be depended on for a just account either of doctrines or facts. And what plainly discovereth his determined malice against the New Testament, is, that he pretends the canon, as we now have it, was 'corrected, revised, and published by the Jews, who altered it according to their own prejudices and false opinions ; even by those very Jews who soon after, upon being disappointed in Jesus, set up Barchocab for their Messiah, pp. 440, 441. Finally after all the compliments he pays to revelation in general, and to the Christian revelation in particular, as of great use in the present corrupt and degenerate state of mankind, and notwithstanding his acknowledgment that the religion of nature is not written with sufficient strength and clearness upon every - man's heart, yet when he comes to describe the true religion, or moral philosophy, as he calls it in the latter end of his book, and the means by which it is to be obtained, he doth not send men to the gospel for instruction, but sends every man to the light of nature in his own breast, to the heaven, to the earth, and especially to the brute creatures, to learn, reason, virtue, and religion.' Where he seems to put a special note upon the brute creatures as much more proper instructors than books of historical religion, which is the title he usually thinks fit to bestow upon the Holy Scriptures, see pp. 418–430.
This may give the reader some notion of this writer's candour and sincerity, and what we are to think of his pretended regard for Christianity, which in effect amounts to this: that the Christianity revealed in the writings of the New Testament is Jewish Christianity, that is, Christianity corrupted and adulterated with Judaism, which according to him is the worst religion in the world. But the true and genuine Christianity is Christian Deism, to be learned not from the writings of the New Testament, but from the volume of nature, from every man's own breast, from the heavens, the earth, and especially the brute creatures,' the genuine uncorrupted
See p. 319.