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instructors in our author's Christianity. So that the gentlemen that assume to themselves the title of Deists, seem resolved that for the future they only shall be called the true Christians too. Those that look upon the New Testament to be divinely inspired, and receive it as the rule of their faith, and take their religion from thence, must be called Christian Jews, who only put a strange inixture of inconsistent religions upon the world for Christianity : whereas these Christian Deists teach it in its purity, and in order to propagate pure uncorrupted Christianity they do their utmost to discard the writings of the New Testament, that is, the writings that give us an account of the doctrines taught by Christ and his apostles. But since these gentlemen' will not allow us the honourable title of Christians, it is but fair that they should leave us that of Free-thinkers, to which I really think the advocates for the gospel revelation have a much juster pretension than they. But they seem to be too fond of this title to part with it. All the religion this writer seems willing to allow us is only an historical, political, clerical, mechanical faith and religion, which are terms of art he often makes use of to describe revealed religion ; whilst he appropriates real religion, and moral truth and righteousness,' to himself, and those of his own faction.
Thus, whatever the rest of the world think of these gentlemen, they are resolved to think very well of themselves. If others will but take their words for it, they must pass for the only free-thinkers, the only moral philosophers, and the only men of sense; for he lets us know, that there is not a man of sense in England' that goes to church for any other reason but for fear of the imputation of atheism, that the clergy would otherwise lay upon him, p. 115. They are the men, and wisdom must die with them ; the only men of real
; religion, and friends of moral truth and righteousness, and finally, in their own opinion, the only true Christians. It will be easily allowed, that their pretensions to all these characters are alike just and well-founded.
But besides all this, they seem to set up for a kind of infallibility too. This writer talks of his moral philosopher's having his 'understanding irradiated with the beams of immutable eternal reason,' which he calls an infallible light from heaven to teach and inform us how to act. He represents him as receiving intelligence and
' information from eternal wisdom, and hearing the clear intelligible voice of his Maker and Former, speaking to his silent undisturbed attentive reason ;' whereas others that seek for information in religion from books ‘meet with nothing but confusion and distraction, a Babel of faith and religion. He often talks as if he and those of his way, who pretend wholly to govern themselves by the principles of moral truth and righteousness, had an infallible criterion of divine truth, by which they were secured from error, and in which men cannot be mistaken. He represents the principles of the religion of nature as what all men must agree in, whereas they are for ever divided in points of mere revelation, p. 94. But how comes it then, that this writer, in this very book, thinks himself obliged to argue
against some of his brethren, who he tells us would be thought to be 'great philosophers and very wise men,' who yet deny man's freeagency, the obligations of the duty of prayer, and God's continual and immediate agency and influence in the government of the world? I suppose he will hardly pretend that these are uncertain and of no importance, because men, and those too that profess to be impartial inquirers, are divided about them. For he tells us, that
, these things are of infinite consequence to mankind ;' and yet in several parts of his book he raises a mighty stir about the differences among Christians, with relation to the articles of their faith, as if this were a demonstration that these doctrines are uncertain and obscure, and of no use to mankind. An argument that may be turned with equal force against natural religion, and against the common principles of sense and reason.
He expresses his apprehension, that this performance of his would raise up all the clergy of the nation; that the silversmiths would be all in an uproar; the judaizing clergy would be in arms; and many large elaborate volumes would be written, and a thousand sermons preached against his book.' He also foretels, that they would clearly and triumphantly confute all that he had said, without so much as answering any one objection,' see pp. 11, 357, 358. All that can be concluded from this is, that he looks upon himself to be a writer of very great importance. But I do not find there has been so general an alarm, or that his attack against revealed religion has been judged so very formidable as he seems to apprehend. Perhaps to have taken no notice of him at all would have been a greater mortification to this writer than the best answer that could be published against him. And yet, on the other hand, it is not unlikely that in the opinion he seems to have formed of his own sufficiency, he might be ready to flatter himself that if the friends of revelation did not answer him, it was because they could not do it. Indeed I should think it of very little consequence to the world what he thought of this matter ; but possibly the suffering such an insolent attack upon revealed religion to pass unregarded might be of disadvantage in an age already too much inclined to infidelity. This writer's smart and confident way of saying things, and the high pretences he every where makes to reason and demonstration, may be apt to impose upon some that will not give themselves the trouble of a very close examination. And the objections he has raised give occasion to the clearing some difficulties, and to the setting some things in a proper light, that they may be of service to those who, though they are not without their doubts, are willing to be informed. I thought therefore it might be of use to enter upon a strict examination of this philosopher; in which have not willingly concealed the strength of any objection he has advanced, and perhaps have considered several things he offers more fully and particularly than some will judge needful.
This work is entirely confined to the objections he urgeth against the Old and New Testament, and therefore no notice is taken of the account he pretends to give of the sentiments and practice of the primitive Christians, though this might
furnish us with farther proofs of the injustice and disingenuity of this writer. Nor have I meddled with his invectives against the clergy, the priests, the theologasters, the systemmongers, the faith-mongers,' &c. These are things so much to be expected from writers of this kind, that they only pass for words of course. He acknowledgeth indeed that many ecclesiastics of the several denominations are wise and reasonable men ;' but I believe they will scarce feel themselves obliged to him for his compliment, since he insinuates at the same time that they are in his own way of thinking. But as for those that stand up for positive, instituted, revealed, and political religion, or the religion of the hierarchy,' for all these are in his language the same thing, he plainly lets us know that it is not his design to distinguish between one sort of clergy and another, because in this case they are scarce distinguishable,' p. 94.
I have endeavoured in the following answer to dispose his objections into some order, than which nothing can be more confused and irregular as they lie in his book. I first consider what he offereth concerning the proofs of divine revelation in general; and then proceed to examine the objections he hath advanced against the Old Testament or the law of Moses and the prophets, with regard to which he acteth an open undisguised part, and nowhere concealeth his malice. In the last place the authority of the New Testament, and the doctrine and character of our Saviour Jesus Christ and his apostles, is asserted and vindicated, and his pretended account of the Jewish Christianity detected. The summary of the several chapters which followeth this preface will give the reader a fuller view of the design and method of this work; in which several things are considered more fully than would have been necessary, if I had nothing in view but precisely to answer the book before me. As I have once before engaged in a work of this nature, I sometimes beg leave to refer to it that I may not be guilty of needless repetitions.
Our author declares in his preface that he had no other design in view than to serve the cause of virtue and true religion.' How far the methods he makes use of are consistent with such a design, the impartial reader will determine. I can sincerely profess that the reason of my undertaking this work is because I am firmly persuaded that the cause of Christianity is the cause of God, of religious truth and virtue : that to assert the authority of the Scriptures is one of the best services that can be done to mankind, and even to the interests of natural religion, the main principles of which are there most clearly explained, most strongly established, and most powerfully enforced : that if the Christian revelation were once discarded, the strongest restraints to vice and wickedness would be removed, and the most effectual motives to the practice of virtue and the purest morals, together with those glorious and divine hopes which are the chief support and joy of a good man's life, would be subverted, or in a great degree weakened: that to take the Scriptures out of the hands of the people would be to give them up to all manner of wickedness, ignorance, superstition, and false worship, and to leave them exposed to be practised upon by artful and designing men, against all which a thorough acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, and a firm adherence to them as the great rule of faith and practice, is the most effectual preservative.
I can scarce form to myself an idea of a revelation whose doctrines and precepts have a more manifest tendency to promote the honour of God and the good of mankind, or that is more remote from the views of worldly ambition, avarice, and sensuality ; in a word, that carries in it greater internal characters of goodness and purity, or is attended with more illustrious external attestations of a divine original. Nor are the difficulties that attend it greater than may well be expected, supposing a revelation really given to mankind. Several of these difficulties are obviated in the following book, and if what is here offered may be of service to the interests of real religion and important truth, I shall not repent the pains I have been at under much bodily weakness to serve so glorious
The author's objections against the Law of Moses from the internal constitution
of that law, considered. His pretence that that law extended only to the outward
practice and behaviour of men in Society, and that the obligation of it with re-
spect to civil and social virtue extended no farther than to the members of that
Society, and that they were put into a state of war with all the rest of the world.
It is shown that that law required an inward purity of heart and affections. Tbe
great tenderness and humanity that appears in its precepts. It required a kind
and benevolent conduct, not only towards those of their own Society, but towards