A letter to a deist, in answer to several objections against the truth and authority of the scriptures
Stillingfleet, Edward, 1635-1699.
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IMPRIMATUR hic Liber (cui Titulus, A Letter to a DEIST.)

Feb. 8. 1676.

Guil. Jane, R. P. D. Henr. Episc. Lond. a Sacris Domest.

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A LETTER TO A DEIST, In Answer to several OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE TRUTH and AUTHORITY OF THE Scriptures,

LONDON, Printed by W. G. and are to be sold by M. Pitt, at the Angel in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1677.

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THE PREFACE.

THis following Discourse was Written for the satisfaction of a particular Person, who owned the Being and Providence of God, but expressed a mean Esteem of the Scriptures, and the Christian Religion. Which is become so com∣mon a Theme among the Scepticks of this Age, that the Author of this Discourse thought it worth his time and care, to consider the force of the Ob∣jections that were made against them. Especially, being written in a grave and serious manner, and not with that Raillery and Buffonry, which the rude Persons of this Age commonly be∣stow upon Religion. It might be Page  [unnumbered] justly expected from such who pretend to Breeding and Civility, that they would at least shew more respect to a thing, which hath prevailed so much among Men of the best Understanding and Education, and who have had no Interest to carry on by it. For it is against the ordinary Rules of Conver∣sation, to affront that which others think they have great Reason to esteem and love; and they would not endure that scorn and contempt of their meanest Servant, which they too often shew to∣wards Religion, and the things belonging to it. If they are not in earnest when they scoff and mock at sacred things, their own consciences will tell them it is a horrible impiety; if they are in ear∣nest, let them debate these things calmly and seriously, and let the stron∣ger Reason prevail. Men may speak sharply and wittily against the clearest things in the World, as the ScepticksPage  [unnumbered] of old did against all Certainty of Sense and Reason; but we should think that Man out of his senses, that would now dispute the Being of the Sun, or the Colour of the Snow. We do not say, the Matters of Religion are capa∣ble of the same evidence with that of Sense; but it is a great part of judg∣ment and understanding, to know the proportion and fitness of evidence to the Nature of the thing to be proved. They would not have the Eye to judge of tasts, nor the Nose of Metaphysicks; and yet these would be as proper as to have the senses judge of Immaterial Beings. If we do not give as good Reason for the Principles of our Religion, as the nature of Religion considered, can be given for it, let us then be blamed for our weakness in defending it; but let not Religion suffer, till they are sure nothing more can be said for it.

Page  [unnumbered] There is a late Author, I hear is * mightily in vogue among many, who cry up any thing on the Atheistical side, though never so weak and trifling. It were no difficult task to lay open the false Reasonings, and inconsistent Hypotheses of his Book; which hath been sufficiently done already in that Language wherein it was written. But if for the Advancement of Irreli∣gion among us, that Book be, as it is talked, Translated into our Tongue, there will not, I hope, want those who will be as ready to defend Religion and Morality, as others are to decry and despise them.

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A Letter of Resolution to a Person unsatisfied about the Truth and Authority of the Scriptures.

SIR,

ALthough I do not pre∣tend to any skill in the depths of Theology, yet I am heartily concerned for the Truth and Honour of the Christian Religion; which it is the design of your papers to undermine. When I first looked them over, I could not think them so considerable as to deserve a particular Answer; especially, from one in my cir∣cumstances, who have so much Page  2 other business lying upon me, and so little leisure and health to per∣form it; but I found at the con∣clusion of your Papers, so earnest and vehement a desire expressed by you, that I would return an Answer, in order to the settle∣ment of your mind, that I could not refuse an Office of so great Charity, as you represent it to be. I confess, when I considered the nature of your Objections, and the manner of managing them, I could hardly believe that they proceeded from a doubtful Mind, that was desirous of any satis∣faction; but since you tell me so, I will first shew my Charity in be∣lieving it, and then in endeavou∣ring to give you my poor assi∣stance, and impartial advice, in or∣der to your satisfaction. And in truth, I think impartial advice will Page  3 contribute more to that end, than spending Time and Paper in run∣ning through all the difficulties, which it is possible for a cavilling Mind to raise against the plainest Truths in the World. For there is nothing so clear and evident, but a Sophistical Wit will always find something to say against it, and if you be the Person I take you for, you very well know, that there have been some, who wanted neither Wit, nor Elo∣quence, who have gone about to prove, That there was Nothing in the World; and that if there were any thing, it could not be understood by Men; that if it were understood by one Man, it could not be expressed to another: And besides such ex∣travagant undertakers as these, how many have there been, who with plausible and subtle Argu∣ments, Page  4 have endeavoured to over∣throw all manner of Certainty, either by Sense or Reason? Must we therefore quit all pretences to Certainty, because we cannot, it may be, Answer all the Subtilties of the Scepticks? And therefore I am by no means satisfied with your manner of proceeding, desiring all particular difficulties to be Answer'd, before we consider the main evidences of the Christian Faith: For the only reasonable way of proceeding in this matter, is to consider, first, whether there be sufficient Motives to perswade you to imbrace the Christian Faith; and then to weigh the difficulties, and to compare them with the Reasons and Arguments for belie∣ving; and if those do not appear great enough to overthrow the force of the other, you may rest Page  5 satisfied in the Christian Faith, al∣though you cannot Answer every difficulty that may be raised a∣gainst the Books wherein our Re∣ligion is contained. I pray Sir, consider with your self; do not you think it possible for any man to have Faith enough to save him, unless he can solve all the diffi∣culties in Chr••ologie that are in the Bible, unless he can give an account of every particular Law and Custom among the Jews, un∣less he can make out all the Pro∣phetick Schemes, and can tell what the Number of the Beast in the Apocalypse means? If a Man may believe and be saved, without these things, to what purpose are they objected for the over∣throw of the Christian Faith? Do you think a Man hath not reason enough to believe there is extended Page  6 Matter in the World, unless he can solve all the difficulties that arise from the extension or divisibi∣lity of Matter; or that he hath a Soul, unless he can make it clear how an immaterial and material Substance can be so united as our Soul and Body are? Or that the Sun shines, unless he can demon∣strate whether the Sun or the Earth moves? Or that we have any certainty of things, unless he can assign the undoubted criterion of Truth and Falshood in all things? These things I mention on purpose, to let you see, that the most certain things, have dif∣ficulties about them, which no one thinks it necessary for him to Answer, in order to his assurance of the Truth of the things; but as long as the evidence for them is much more considerable than the Page  7 Objections against them, we may safely acquiesce in our assent to them, and leave the unfol∣ding these difficulties to the Dis∣puters of this World, or the Knowledge of another. Is it not far more reasonable for us to think, that in Books of so great Antiquity, as those of Moses are, written in a Language whose Idiotisms are so different from ours, there may be some difficulty in the Phrases, or computation of Times or Customs of the People, that we cannot well understand, than that all the Miracles wrought by Moses should have been Impostures; and that Law, which was preserved so constant∣ly, maintained with that resolu∣tion by the wisest of the People of the Jews, who chose to dye rather than disown it, should be Page  8 all a cheat? Is it not more rea∣sonable for us to suspect our own Understandings, as to the Speeches and Actions of some of the Pro∣phets, than to think that Men who designed so much the advan∣cing Virtue, and discouraging Vice, should be a pack of Hypo∣crites and Deceivers? Can any Man of common sense suspect the Christian Religion to be a Fourb, or an Imposture, because he can∣not understand the Number of the Beast, or Interpret the Apo∣calyptick Visions? I could hardly have believed any Man preten∣ding to Reason, could object these things, unless I saw them, and were called upon to Answer them.

Therefore, Sir, my serious and impartial advice to you is, in the first place to consider and de∣bate Page  9 the main point, i. e. the proofs of the Christian Doctrin, and not to hunt up and down the Scriptures for every thing that seems a difficulty to you, and then by heaping all these together to make the Scriptures seem a confu∣sed heap of indigested stuff, which being taken in pieces and considered, with that modesty, diligence, and care, that doth be∣come us, will appear to contain nothing unbecoming that Sacred and Venerable Name which the Scriptures do bear among us.

If therefore, you design not cavilling but satisfaction, you will joyn issue with me upon the most material point, viz. Whe∣ther the Christian Religion were from God, or from Men? For if this be proved to have been from God, all the other things will easily fall Page  10 off of themselves, or be remo∣ved with a little industry.

In the Debate of this, I shall consider, first, what things are agreed upon between us, and then wherein the difference lies.

1. You grant an absolutely perfect and independent Being, whom we call God.

2. That the World was at first Created, and is still governed by Him.

3. That He is so Holy, as to be the Author of no Sin, although he doth not hinder Men from sinning.

4. That this God is to receive from us all Worship proper to Him, of Pray∣ers, Praises, &c.

5. That it is the Will of this God, that we should lead holy, peaceable, and innocent Lives.

6. That God will accept mens sin∣cere Page  11 Repentance and hearty endeavours to do his Will, although they do not perfectly obey it.

7. That there is a State of Re∣wards and Punishments in another World, according to the course of Mens Lives here.

8. That there are many excellent Precepts in the writings of the New Testament inducing to Humility and Selfdenyal, and to the Honour of God, and civil duty and honesty of Life; and these in a more plentiful manner than is to be found in any other Profession of Religion publickly known.

The Questions then remai∣ning, are, (1) Whether the mat∣ters of Fact are true, which are re∣ported in the Writings of the New Testament? (2) Supposing them true, Whether they do sufficiently prove the Doctrin to have been from God?

Page  12 1. Whether the matters of Fact were true or no? And as to this point, I wish you had set down the Reasons of your doubting, more clearly and distinctly than you have done: What I can pick up, amounts to these things. 1. That there can be no certainty of a matter done at such a distance of time, there having been many fictitious Hi∣stories in the World. 2. That it is probable, that these things might be written, when there was no one Living to detect the falshood of them; and thus you say, the Grecians, Romans, Egyptians, and other Nations were at first imposed upon by some Men, who pretended to deliver to them the Hi∣story of their Gods and Heroes, and the Wonders wrought by them. 3. That these things might more ea∣sily be done, before Printing was used; and that there is reason to Page  13 suspect the more, because of the Pious Frauds of the Primitive Christians, and the Legends of the Papists. 4. That there may have been many more Deceptions and Impostures in the way of propagating false Revelations and Miracles than we can now discover. 5. That we ought not to take the Te∣stimony of Scripture, or the Christian Writers in this case, because they may be suspected of partiality; and that the Testimony of Josephus is sus∣pected by divers learned Men to be fraudulently put in by Christians. 6. That there are susficient grounds from the Story it self, and the Ob∣jections of Enemies to suspect the truth of it; because of the contra∣diction and inconsistency of the parts of it; the want of accomplishment of the Promises and Prophecies of it; the obscurity and unintelligibleness of other parts; the defects of the Per∣sons Page  14 mentioned therein, St. Paul's oftentation, the jarrs between Peter and Paul, and Paul and Barnabas. 7. That from these things you have just cause to doubt the Apostles since∣rity, and you think they might have indirect ends in divulging the Mira∣cles recorded in Scripture; and that Men might be contented to suffer, to make themselves heads of a new Sect of Religion, and to rule over the Consciences of Men; and that they had time enough to make a considerable interest before the Persecutions began.

This is the force of all I can find out, in the several parts of your Papers towards the invali∣dating the Testimony concerning the matters of fact reported in the Writings of the New Testa∣ment.

In Answer to all these things, I shall shew; 1. That matters Page  15 of fact done at such a distance of time may have sufficient evidence to oblige Men to believe them. 2. That there is no reason to sus∣pect the Truth of those Matters of fact which are contained in the History of the New Testa∣ment. 3. That the Apostles gave the greatest testimonies of their Sincerity, that could be expected from them; and that no matters of fact were ever better attested than those which are reported by them; from whence it will fol∣low, That it is not reason but unreasonable Suspicion and Scepti∣cism, if not willfulness and ob∣stinacy which makes Men to continue to doubt after so great evidence.

1. That we may have such evidence of Matters of Fact done at such a distance of time as may Page  16 oblige us to believe the Truth of them. This we are first to make out, because several of your Ob∣jections seem to imply, That we can have no certainty of such things; because we cannot know what tricks may have been plaid in former times, when it was far more easie to deceive; and that it is confessed, there have been se∣veral Frauds of this kind, which have a long time prevailed in the World. But have not the very same Arguments been used against all Religion, by Atheists? And if the Cheats that have been in Re∣ligion, have no force against the Being of God, why should they have any against the Christian Re∣ligion? And if the common con∣sent of Mankind signifie any thing as to the acknowledgement of a Deity, why should not the Page  17Testimony of the Christian Church, so circumstantiated as it is, be of sufficient strength to receive the Matters of Fact delivered by it? which is all I at present de∣sire. Do we question any of the Stories delivered by the common consent of Greek or Latin Histo∣rians, although we have only the bare Testimony of those Historians for them? And yet your Objections would lye against every one of them: How do we know the great prevalency of the Roman Empire? was it not delivered by those who belonged to it, and were concerned to make the best of it? What know we, but thousands of Histories have been lost, that confuted all that we now have concerning the greatness of Rome? What know we, but that Rome was destroyed Page  18 by Carthage, or that Hanniba quite overthrew the Roman Em∣pire; or that Catiline was one o the best Men in the World, be∣cause all our present Historie were written by Men of the other side? How can we tell bu that the Persians destroyed thMacedonians, because all our Ac∣counts of Alexanders Expeditio are Originally from the Greeks And why might not we suspec greater partiality in all these Ca∣ses, when the Writers did not giv a thousand part of that evidenc for their fidelity, that the FirsChristians did? And yet, wha should we think of such a perso who should call in question th best Histories of all Nations because they are written by thos of the same Countrey? By whic it seems, you will never allow Page  19 any competent Testimony at all; for if such things be written by Enemies and Strangers, we have reason to suspect both their knowledge and integity; if written by Friends, then though they might know the Truth, yet they would write partially of their own side: So that upon this principle, no History at all, ancient or modern is to be believed; for they are all reported either by Friends or Enemies: and so not only Divine, but all Humane Faith will be destroyed. I am by no means a Friend to unreaso∣nable credulity; but I am as little to unreasonable distrust and suspicion; if the one be Folly, the other is Madness. No pru∣dent Man believes any thing, be∣cause it is possible to be true; nor rejects any thing meerly because Page  20 it is possible to be false: But it is the prudence of every Man to weigh and consider all circum∣stances, and according to them, to assent, or dissent. We all know it is possible for Men to de∣ceive, or to be deceived, but we know there is no necessity of either; and that there is such a thing as Truth in the World; and though Men may deceive, yet they do not always so; and that Men may know they are not de∣ceived. For else there could be no such thing as Society among Mankind; no Friendship, or Trust, or Confidence in the Word of ano∣ther person; because it is possible that the best Friend I have may deceive me, and the World is full of dissimulation, must I therefore believe no Body? This is the just consequence of this Page  21 way of Arguing, That we have reason to suspect the Truth of these Matters of Fact, because there have been many Frauds in the World, and might have been many more than we can now dis∣cover; for if this Principle be pursued, it will destroy all So∣ciety among Men; which is built on the supposition of mu∣tual trust and confidence that Men have in each other: And although it be possible for all Men to deceive, because we cannot know one anothers hearts, yet there are such Characters of Honesty and Fidelity in some Persons, that others dare venture their Lives and Fortunes upon their Words. And is any Man thought a Fool for doing so? Nay, have not the most prudent and sagacious Men reposed a Page  22 mighty confidence in the Integri∣ty of others? And without this, no great affairs can be carried on in the World; for since the grea∣test Persons need the help of o∣thers to manage their business, they must trust other Men conti∣nually; and every Man puts his Life into the hands of others, to whom he gives any freedome of access, and especially his Servants: Must a Man therefore live in continual suspicion and jealousie, because it is possible he may be deceived? But if this be thought unreasonable, then we gain thus much, that not∣withstanding the possibility of deception, Men may be trusted in some cases, and their Fidelity safely relied upon: This being granted, we are to enquire what that assurance is which makes us Page  23 trust any one; and whereever we find a concurrence of the same circumstances, or equal evi∣dence of fidelity, we may re∣pose the same trust or confidence in them. And we may soon find that it is not any ones bare Word that makes us trust him; but either the reputation of his Integrity among discerning Men; or our long experience and ob∣servation of him: This latter is only confined to our own tryal; but the former is more general, and reaches beyond our own Age, since we may have the Testimony of discerning Persons convey'd down to us in as certain a manner, as we can know the mind of a Friend at a 100 Miles distance, viz. by Writing. And in this case, we desire no more than to be satis∣fied that those things were writ∣ten Page  24 by them; and that they de∣served to be believed in what they writ; thus, if any one would be satisfied about the passages of the Peloponnesian War, and hath heard that Thucydides hath accu∣rately written it, he hath no more to do, than to enquire whether this Thucydides were capable of giving a good account of it, and for that, he hears that he was a great and inquisitive Person, that lived in that Age, and knew all the occurrences of it; and when he is satisfied of that, his next enquiry is, whether he may be trusted or no; and for this, he can expect no better satisfaction, than that his History hath been in great reputation for its integrity among the most knowing Per∣sons; but how shall he be sure this was the History, written by Page  25Thucydides, since there have been many counterfeit Writings ob∣truded upon the World? Besides the consent of learned Men in all Ages since, we may compare the Testimonies cited out of it with the History we have, and the Style, with the Character given of Thu∣cydides, and the Narrations, with other credible Histories of those Times; and if all these agree, what reason can there be not to rely upon the History of Thucy∣dides? All learned Men do ac∣knowledge, that there have been multitudes of fictitious writings, but do they therefore question, whether there are any genuine? Or whether we have not the true Herodotus, Strabo, or Pausanias, because there is a counterfeit Be∣rosus, Manetho, and Philo, set forth by Annius of Viterbo? Do Page  26 any suspect whether we have any of the genuin Works of Cicero, be∣cause an Italian counterfeited a Book De Consolatione in his name Or whether Caesars Commentaries were his own, because it is un∣certain who Writ the Alexandrian War that is joyned with them By which we see, that we may not only be certain of the Fideli∣ty of Persons we converse with, but of all things necessary to ou belief of what was done at a great distance of time from thTestimony of Writers, notwith∣standing the many supposititious Writings that have been in the World.

But it may be said, That all this only relates to meer matters of Hi∣story, wherein a Man is not muh concerned whether they be true or false; but the things we are about are matters Page  27 that Mens Salvation or Damnation are id to depend upon, and therefore reater evidence should be given of these, to oblige Men to believe them.

To this I answer. 1. That ••y design herein, was to prove, hat notwithstanding the possibi∣lity of deception, there may be sufficient ground for a prudent and firm assent to the Truth of things done at as great a distance of time, and convey'd after the same manner, that the Matters of Fact reported in the New Te∣stament are; and hereby those ge∣neral prejudices are shewed to be unreasonable: And all that I de∣sire from this discourse is, that you would give an assent of the same nature to the History of the Gospel, that you do to Caesar, or Livy, or Tacitus, or any other ancient Historian. 2. As to the Page  28 greater obligation to assent, say it depends upon the evidence of Divine Revelation, which i given by the Matters of Fac which are delivered to us. An here give me leave to ask you; 1. Whether it be any ways re∣pugnant to any conception you have of God, for him to make use of fallible Men to make known his Will to the World? 2. Whether those Men, though supposed to be in themselves fal∣lible, can either deceive, or be deceived, when God make known his Mind to them? 3. Whether on supposition, that God hath made use of such Per∣sons for this end, those are not obliged to believe them, who do not live in the same Age with them? If not, then God must either make no Revelation at all, Page  29 or he must make a New one eve∣ry Age: If they are, then the obligation lies as much on us now to believe, as if we had lived and conversed with those inspired Persons.

2. That there is no reason to suspect the Truth of those Mat∣ters of Fact which are reported in the New Testament; For since it is universally agreed among Men, that Humane Testimony is a sufficient ground for assent, where there is no positive ground for suspicion; because deceiving and being deceived, is not the com∣mon Interest of Mankind; there∣fore we are to consider what the general grounds of suspicion are, and whether any of them do reach the Apostles Testimony, con∣cerning the Matters of Fact re∣ported by them. And the just Page  30 grounds of suspicion are these 1. If the Persons be otherwis known to be Men of artifice an cunning, full of tricks and diss∣mulation, and that make n Conscience of speaking Truth so a Lye tends to their greates advantage; which is too muc the Papists case in their Legends and Stories of Miracles. 2. they temper and suit their Stor and Doctrin to the Humour anGenius of the People, they hop to prevail upon, as Mahomet did in encouraging War and Lascivious∣ness. 3. If they lay the Scene o their Story at a mighty distance from themselves, at such an Age, wherein it is impossible either to prove, or disprove; which is the case of the Brachmans, as to their Brahmà, and their Veda; and was of the Heathens as to Page  31 their Fabulous Deities. 4. If there be any thing contained in the Story, which is repugnant to the most authentick Histories of those times; by which means the Impostures of Annius have been discovered. 5. If there be evident contradiction in the Story it self; or any thing repugnant to, or unbecoming the Majesty, Holiness, Sincerity, and Con∣sistency of a Divine Revelation; on which account we reject Fana∣tick pretences to Revelations. If there were any thing of this nature in the Writings of the New Testament, we might then allow there were some ground to sus∣pect the Truth of what is contai∣ned therein: But I shall under∣take, by the Grace of God, to defend that there is not any foun∣dation for suspicion as to any one of these.

Page  32 1. As to the Persons, such wh go about to deceive others, mus be Men that are versed in business and know how to deal with Men; and that have some inte∣rest already that they have gained by other means, before they can carry on such a design as to abuse Mankind, by Lyes and Impo∣stures in Religion: Therefore the Atheists lay the deceiving the World by Religion, to the Charge of Politicians and Law-givers, to Men versed in the practice of Fraud, such as Numa, or Lycurgus, or Xaca, or Mahomet, such as un∣derstood the ways of cajoling the People; or to subtle Priests, that know how to suit the hopes and fears of the superstitious mul∣titude; whence came the mul∣titude of Frauds in the Heathen Temples and Oracles. But would Page  33 any Man in the World have pitched upon a few Fishermen, and illiterate Persons, to carry on such an intrigue as this? Men that were rude and unexperienced in the World, and uncapable of dealing in the way of Artifice with one of the common Citi∣zens of Hierusalem. When was it ever heard that such Men made such an alteration in the Religion of the World, as the Primitive Christians did, against the most violent persecutions? And when they prevailed so much, the common charge still against them was, that they were a company of Rude, Mean, Obscure, Illiterate, Simple Men: And yet in spight of all the Cunning, and Malice, and Learning, and Strength of their Adversaries, they gained ground upon them, and prevailed over Page  34 the Obstinacy of the Jews, anWisdom of the Greeks. If thChristian Religion had been a mee design of the Apostles to mak themselves Heads of a new Sect what had this been but to hav set the Cunning of twelve, o thirteen Men, of no Interest or Reputation, against the Wis∣dom and Power of the whol World? If they had any Wisdom they would never have unde taken such an impossible desig as this must appear to them first view: And if they ha none, how could they ever hop to manage it? If their aim wer only at Reputation, they migh have thought of thousands ways more probable, and mor advantageous than this: If w suppose Men should be willin to hazard their Lives for thePage  35 Reputations, we may suppose withall such Men to have so much cunning as not to do it till they cannot help it; but if they can have Reputation and ease to∣gether, they had rather have it. I will therefore put the Case con∣cerning the only Person that had the advantage of a Learned Edu∣cation among the Apostles; viz. St. Paul, and whom you seem to strike at more than the rest: Is it reasonable to believe, that when he was in favour with the Sanhedrin, and was likely to advance himself by his opposi∣tion to Christianity, and had a fair prospect of Ease and Honour together; he should quit all this, to joyn with such an inconside∣rable and hated company, as the Christians were, only to be one of the Heads of a very small Page  36 Number of Men, and to pur∣chase it at so dear a rate as th loss of his Friends and Interest and running on continual Trou∣bles and Persecutions, to the ha∣zard of his Life? It is possibl for Men that are deceived an mean honestly to do this; bu it is scarce supposable of a Ma in his Senses that should kno and believe all this to be a cheat and yet own and embrace it, to s great disadvantage to himself When he could not make himsel so considerable by it, as he migh have been without it. Me must love cheating the World at strange rate, that will let go fai hopes of preferment and ease and lead a life of perpetual trou∣ble, and expose themselves to the utmost hazards, only for the sake of deluding others. If the Page  37Apostles knew all they said to be false, and made it so necessary for all Men to believe what they said to be true; they were some of the greatest deceivers which the World had ever known: But Men that take pleasure in decei∣ving, make use of many artifi∣ces on purpose to catch the silly multitude; they have all the arts of Insinuation and Fawning Speeches, fit to draw in the weakest, and such as love to be flatter'd; but what is there ten∣ding this way in all the Apostles Writings? How sharply do they speak to the Jewish Sanhedrin, upon the Murther of Christ? With what plainness and simplicity do they go about to perswade Men to be Christians? They barely tell the Matters of Fact concer∣ning the Resurrection of Christ,Page  38 and say they were eye-witnesses of it, and upon the credit of this Testi∣mony of theirs, they Preach Faith and Repentance to Jews, and Gen∣tiles: Was ever any thing farther from the appearance of Artifice than this was? So that if they were deceivers, they were some of the Subtilest that ever were in the World, because there seems to be so little ground for any sus∣picion of Fraud; and we can∣not easily imagin Persons of their Education, capable of so profound dissimulation and so artificial a Cheat. Besides all this, we are to consider how far such Persons do allow the liberty of dissimulation and artificial Jug∣lings, especially in Religion; we see the Papists could not practice these things, without being for∣ced to defend them, by shewing Page  39 how convenient it is for the Peo∣ple to be told strange Stories of Saints, on purpose to nourish De∣votion in them: To which end, they say, it signifies not much, whe∣ther they were true or no: And with∣all they assert the Lawfulness of Equivocations, and Mental Reserva∣tions, and doing things, not other∣wise justifiable, for the Honour of their Church and Religion; And I shall freely confess to you, if I found any countenance to such things as these, from the Doctrin or Practice of the Apostles, it would give me too just a ground for suspicion as to what they de∣liver'd. For if they allowed Equi∣vocations, or Mental Reservations, how could I possibly know what they meant by any thing they said? For that which was neces∣sary to make the Proposition true, Page  40 lay without my reach in the Mind of another; and while they so firmly attested that Christ was risen from the Dead, they might un∣derstand it of a Spiritual or Mysti∣cal Resurrection; but if they should be found to allow Lying or Cheating for the cause of Religion, their credit would be gone with me; for how could I be any lon∣ger sure of the Truth of one Word they said? I should be so far from thinking them Infallible, that I could not but suspect them to have a design to deceive me. The first thing therefore we are to look at in Persons who require our belief, is the strictest veraci∣ty; if they falter in this, they expose themselves to the suspi∣cion of all but credulous Fools. But we no where find greater plainness and sincerity required, Page  41 no where more strict and severe prohibitions of dissimulation in Religion, nor more general Pre∣cepts about speaking Truth, than in the Writings of the New Testa∣ment. But might not all this be done with the greater artifice to prevent suspicion? Suspicion is a thing, which he that set bounds to the Sea, can set no bounds to; if Men will give way to it, without rea∣son, there can be no end of it. For the most effectual ways to prevent it, will still afford new matter and occasion for it. If Men do use the utmost means that are possible, to assure others of their sincerity, and they will not believe them, but still sus∣pect the design to be so much deeper laid; there is no way left possible to satisfy such Men; their suspicion is a disease incu∣rable Page  42 by rational means, and such persons deserve to be given over as past all remedy. If Men act like prudent Men, they will judge according to the Reason of Things; but if they entertain a jealousie of all Mankind, and the most of those who give them the greatest assurance they have no Intention to deceive them, it is to no purpose to go about to satisfie such Persons, for that ve∣ry undertaking makes them more suspicious. If the Apostles therefore gave as much ground as ever any Persons did, or could do, that they had no design to impose upon the World, but proceeding with all the fairness and openness, with the greatest evidence of their sincerity, there can be no reason to fasten upon them the imputation of cunning Page  43 Men who made it their business to deceive others.

2. This will more appear if we consider the Matters deliver'd by them, and the nature of their Doctrin. For if the Christian Re∣ligion were only a contrivance of the first Preachers of it, it must by the event be supposed that they were very subtle Men, who in so little time, and against so great opposition could prevail over both Jews and Gentiles; but if we reflect on the nature of their Doctrin, we can never imagin that these Men did proceed by the same Methods that Men of subtilty do make use of. If it were there own contrivance, it was in their power to have fra∣med it as they thought fit them∣selves; and in all probability, they would have done it in a way Page  44 most likely to be successful; but the Christian Religion was so far from it, as though they had in∣dustriously designed to advance a Religion against the genius and inclination of all Mankind. For it neither gratifies the voluptuous in their Pleasures, nor the Am∣bitious in their desires of Exter∣nal Pomp and Greatness, nor the Covetous in their thirst after Riches; but lays a severe restraint on all those common and pre∣vailing Passions of Mankind; which Mahomet well understood, when he suited his Religion to them. Christianity was neither accommodated to the Temper and Genius either of Jews or Gen∣tiles: The Jews were in great ex∣pectation of a Temporal Prince at that time to deliver them from the Roman Slavery; and every Page  45 one that would have set up for such a Messias, might have had followers enough among them, as we find afterwards by the attempts of Barchocebas and o∣thers. But the Messias of the Christians was so directly contrary to their hopes and expectations, being a poor and suffering Prince, that this set them the more against his Followers, because they were hereby frustrated of their grea∣test hopes, and defeated in their most pleasing expectations: But besides, if they would have ta∣ken in the Mosaick Law, it might in probability have succeeded bet∣ter; but this St. Paul would by no means hear of. But if they rejected the Jews, methinks they should have been willing to have had some assistance from the Gentiles. No, they charged them with Page  46Idolatry where ever they came, and would not joyn in any parts of their Worship with them; nor so much as Eat of the remain∣der of their Sacrifices. But sup∣posing they had a mind to set up wholly a new Sect of their own; yet we should think they should have framed it after the most plausible manner, and left out all things thar were most liable to Reproach and Infamy: But this they were so far from, that the most contemptible part of the Christian Religion, viz. A Crucified Saviour, they insist the most upon, and Preach it on all occasions, and in comparison of it, strangely despise all the Wisdom and Philo∣sophy of the Greeks. What did these Men mean, if Christianity had been only a contrivance of theirs? If they had but left out Page  47 this one circumstance, in all Hu∣man probability, the excellent moral Precepts in Christianity would have been highly mag∣nified among all those who had been bred up under the Instructi∣ons of Philosophers. Nay, they would not make use of the most commendable Methods of Hu∣mane Wisdom; nor do as the Jesuits have done in China, make Men have a better opinion of the Religion they brought, for their skill in Mathematicks and Astrono∣my; but as much as it was possi∣ble, to let the World see it was no contrivance of Humane Wis∣dom, they shunned all the ways of shewing it in the manner of its propagation. Nay, when the People would have given the Apostles Divine Worship, never were vain Men more concerned Page  48 to have it, than they to oppose it; And do these things look like the Actions of Men that designed only to make themselves great, by being the Heads of a new Sect of Religion?

3. Men that made it their de∣sign to deceive the World, if they had thought it necessary to bring in any matter of Story con∣cerning the Author of their Reli∣gion would have placed it at such a distance of time, that it was not capable of being disproved: As it is apparent in the Heathen My∣thologie; for the Stories were such, as no person could ever pretend to confute them other∣wise than by the inconsistency of them with the common princi∣ples of Religion. But if we sup∣pose Christianity to have been a meer device, would the ApostlesPage  49 have been so senseless to have laid the main proof of their Religion on a thing which was but newly acted, and which they were very capable of en∣quiring into all the Circumstan∣ces that related to it, viz. the Resurrection of Christ from the Dead. We may see by the whole design of the New Testament, the great stress of Christianity was laid upon the Truth of this; to this, Christ himself appealed before hand: to this all the Apostles re∣fer as the mighty confirmation of their Religion; and this they deliver as a thing which them∣selves had seen, and had conver∣sed with him for 40 Days toge∣ther, with all the demonstrati∣ons imaginable of a true and real Body: And that not to one or two credulous. Persons, but so Page  50 many of them who were hard to be satisfied, and one, not with∣out the most sensible evidence, but besides these, they tell us of 500 at once who saw him, whereof many were then living when those things were written. Now I pray tell me what Religion in the World ever put it self upon so fair a tryal as this? Of a plain Matter of Fact as capable of be∣ing attested as any could be. Why did not Amida, or Brahma or Xaca, or any other of the Authors of the present Religions of the East Indies? Why did not Orpheus, or Numa, or any other introducers of Religious Customa among the Greeks or Romans? Or Mahomet among the Arabians put the issue of the Truth of their Religion on such a plain and easie tryal as this? If you say That Christ Page  51 appeared only to his Friends, who were ready to believe such things, and not among his Enemies: I Answer, That though they were his Friends, yet they were very hard to be perswaded of the truth of it at first; and afterwards gave larger Testimonies of their fide∣lity than the Testimony of the greatest Enemies would have been; for we should have had only their bare Words for it, (if they would have given that, which is very questionable, considering their dealing with the other Mi∣racles of Christ:) But the Apostles manifested their sincerity by all real proofs that could be thought sufficient to satisfie Mankind; appealing to the very Persons who were concerned the most in it, having a hand in the Death of Christ, declaring their grea∣test Page  52 readiness to suffer any thing rather than deny the Truth of it, and laying down their Lives at last for it. If all this had been a meer Fiction, how unlikely is it, that among so many as were conscious of it, no one person by hopes or fears, by flatteries or threatnings, could ever be prevailed upon to deny the Truth of it. If there had been any such thing, what tri∣umphing had there been among the Jews; and no doubt his name had been Recorded to Posterity among the Writers both of Jew and Gentiles that were professed Enemies of Christianity. But they are all wonderfully silent in this matter; and instead o saying enough to overthrow the truth of Christianity, as you seem to suggest, I do assure you, I am Page  53 mightily confirmed in the belief of the Truth of it, by carefully observing the slightness of the Objections that were made against it, by its most professed Enemies.

But you seem to imply, That all this Story concerning Christ was invented long after the pretended time of his being in the World, Why may not you as well suspect, that Julius Caesar lived before Romulus; or that Augustus lived at the Seige of Troy? For you might as well reject all History upon such grounds as those you assign; and think Mahomet as right in his Chronology, as the Bible. It is time for us to burn all our Books, if we have lived in such a Cheat all this while. Methinks you might as well ask, whether Lu∣cretia were not Pope Joan? Or Page  54Alexander the sixth, one of the Roman Emperours? Or whether Luther were not the Emperour of Turky? For there is no greater evidence of any History in the World, than there is, that all the things reported in the New Te∣stament were done at that time, when they are pretended to be.

4. Therefore we offer this Story of the New Testament to be compared with all the Circumstan∣ces of that Age, delivered by any other Historians, to try if any inconsistencies can be found therein: Which is the most reasonable way can be taken to disprove any History. If it could be proved, that there could be no such Taxation of the Empire as is mention'd in the time of Augu∣stus, that Herod did not live in Page  55 that Age, or that the Jews were not under the Roman Government, or that there were no High Priests at that time, nor the Sects of Pharisees and Saducees, or that there were any other remarkable cha∣racters of time set down in the History of the New Testament, which could be manifestly dis∣proved; there were some pre∣tence to call in Question the Truth of the Story; but there is not the least Foundation for any scruple on this account; All things agreeing so well with the truest accounts we have of that Age, both from Josephus and the Roman Historie. I shall not insist on the particular Testimony of Josephus concerning Christ, because we need it not; and if those who question it, would proceed with the same severity against many Page  56 other particular passages in good Authors, they might as well call them in question as they do that; since it is confessed, that all the Ancient Manuscripts have it in them, and supposing that it doth not come in well, must we sup∣pose it impossible for Josephus to Write incoherently? Yet this is the main Argument that ever I have seen urged against this Te∣stimony of Josephus. But I say, we need it not; all other things concurring in so high a degree to prove the Truth of the History of Christ. Yet since you seem to express so much doubtfulness con∣cerning it, as though it were framed when there was no one living capable of disproving it; give me leave to shew you the great absurdity of such a Supposition. 1. Because we have the plain Testimonies of Page  57 the greatest Enemies of Christi∣anity, that there was such a Per∣son as Christ was, who suffered according to the Scripture Story. For Tacitus not only mentions the Christians as suffering at Rome for their Religion in the time of Nero, (Annal. 15.) but saith, That the Author of this Religion was one Christ, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, Procurator of Judea, in the time of Tiberius; which is an irrefragable Testimony of the Truth of the Story concerning Christ, in an Age, when if it had been false, nothing could have been more easily detected than such a Fiction, by the num∣ber of Jews which were continu∣ally at Rome: And neither Julian, nor Celsus, nor Porphyrie, nor Lucian did ever question the truth of the Story it self; but only up∣braided Page  58 the Christians for attribu∣ting too much to Christ. 2. If there were really such a Person as Christ was, who suffered as Tacitus saith, then the whole Story could not be a Fiction, but only some part of it; and these additional parts must either be contrived by the Apostles, or after their time: Not after their time, for then they must be added after Christianity was received in the World, for that, as appears by Tacitus, was spread in the Apo∣stles times as far as Rome; and if these parts were not received with it; the Cheat would presently have been discover'd as soon as broached, by those who had embraced Christianity before: And besides, Tertullian in his time ap∣peals to the Authentick Writings of the Apostles themselves, which Page  59 were then extant, wherein the same things were contained, that we now believe: If these things then were forged, it must be by the Apostles themselves; and I dare now appeal to you, whether ever any Story was better capable of being disproved than this was, if it had not been true, since it was published in that very time and place, where the Persons were living, who were most concerned to disprove it: As ap∣pears by the hatred of the Jews to the Christians, both then and ever since: which is a very observa∣ble circumstance for proving the truth of Christian Religion; for the Jews and Christians agreed in the Divine Revelations of old, the Christians believed moreover, that Christ was the Messias promised; this Christ lived and dyed among Page  60 the Jews his Enemies; his Apo∣stles Preached, and wrought Mi∣racles among their most inve∣terate Enemies, which Men that go about to deceive never care to do: And to this Day the Jews do not deny the Matters of Fact, but look on them as insuf∣ficient to prove Jesus of Nazareth to have been the Messias: Nay, Mahomet himself, who in all pro∣bability would have overthrown the whole Story of the New Te∣stament, if he could have done it with any colour, yet speaks very honourably of Christ and of the great things which were said and done by him.

5. That there is nothing in the Christian Religion, unbecoming the Majesty, or Holiness, or Truth of a Divine Revelation. As to the precepts, you acknowledge their ex∣cellency;Page  61 and the Promises chiefly refer either to Divine Grace, or future Glory; And what is there herein unbecoming God? And as to what concerns the Truth of it, we have as great Characters of that throughout, as it is possible for us to expect; there appea∣ring so much simplicity, sinceri∣ty, candour, and agreement in all the parts of it. Some Men would have been better pleased, it may be, if it had been all writ∣ten by one Person, and digested into a more exact method, and set forth with all the Lights and Ornaments of Speech. This would have better become an Invention of Men, but not a Revelation of God: Plainness and simplicity have a natural great∣ness above art and subtilty; and therefore God made choice of Page  62 many to write, and at several times, that by comparing them we may see how far they were from contriving together, and yet how exactly they agree in all things which Men are concerned to believe. But you say, We have many infirmities of the Apostles dis∣covered therein, their heats and ani∣mosities one against another. But I pray consider; 1. How came you to know these things; Is it not by their own Writings? And if they had been such, who minded only their applause, had it not been as easie to have con∣cealed these things, and would they not certainly have done it, if that had been their aim? If St. Paul seems to boast, doth he not do it, with that constraint to himself, as a Man that is forced to do it for his own vindication Page  63 against malicious Enemies? And who ever denyed a Man of a generous mind the liberty of speaking for himself? 2. But suppose they had infirmities and heats among them; doth this prove that God could not make use of them as his Instruments to declare his Truth to the World? Then it will follow, that God must never reveal his will by Men, but by Voices from Heaven, or Angels, or the assumption of the humane Nature by the Divine. But, if God be not denyed the liberty of imploying meer Men, we cannot find so great evidences of Piety and Zeal, of Humility and Self∣denyal, of Patience and Mag∣nanimity, of Innocency and universal Charity in any Men as were in the Apostles; And therefore did appear with the Page  64 most proper Characters of Em∣bassadors from Heaven. And I dare venture the comparison of them with the best Philosophers, as to the greatest and most excellent virtues, for which they were the most ad∣mired; notwithstanding the mighty difference as to their Edu∣cation; allowing but the same Truth as to the Story of the New Testament, which we yield to Xenophon, or Diogenes Laertius, or any other Writers concerning them.

But what is it then which you object against the Wri∣tings of the New Testament, to make them inconsistent with the Wisdom of God? I find but two things in the Papers you sent me. 1. Want of the conti∣nuance of the Power of Miracles, which you say is Promised. Mark Page  65 16. 17. 2. The number of the Beast in the Revelations. But, Good Sir, consider, what it is to call in question a Divine Reve∣lation for such Objections as these are? Must there be no Revela∣tion, unless you understand eve∣ry Prophecy, or the extent of every promise? Be not so inju∣rious to your own Soul, for the sake of such Objections, to cast away the great assurance which the Christian Religion gives us, as to the Pardon of Sin upon Re∣pentance here, and eternal Hap∣piness in another World. Would you reject all the Writings of Plato, because you do no more understand some part of his Ti∣maeus than the number of 666? You must have a very nice faith, that can bear with no difficulties at all, so that if there be but Page  66 one or two hard things that you cannot digest, you must throw up all the best Food you have taken; at this rate you must starve your Body, as well as ruin your Soul. But of these places afterwards.

3. I have hitherto removed the grounds of Suspicion, I now come to shew the positive Te∣stimonies of their Sincerity which the Apostles shewed, which were greater than were ever given to any other Matter of Fact in the World. I will then suppose the whole Truth of the Christian Do∣ctrine to be reduced to this one Matter of Fact, Whether Christ did rise from the dead or no? for (as I have said already) it is plain, the Apostles put the main force of all that they said upon the Truth of this; and often declared, that they were appointed to be the Page  67Witnesses of this thing. Now et us consider how it is possible or Men to give the highest assu∣rance of their sincerity to others; and that must be either by giving the utmost Testimony that Men an give; or by giving some Te∣stimony above that of Men, which cannot deceive, which is the Testimony of God.

1. They gave the utmost Te∣stimony that meer Men could give of their fidelity. I know no bet∣er way we have for a full assu∣rance as to any humane Testimo∣ny, than to consider what those Circumstances are which are generally allowed to accompany Truth, and if we have the con∣currence of all these, we have as much as can be expected: For nothing that depends on Testi∣ony can be proved by Mathema∣tical Page  68 Demonstration. But notwith∣standing the want of this, eithe we may have sufficient ground to assent to Truth upon Testimony, o there can be no difference known between Truth and Falshood by Humane Testimony; which over∣throws all Judicial proceeding among Men; the Justice where∣of doth suppose not only the veracity of Humane Testimony; Bu that it may be so discerned by others, that they may safely re∣ly upon it. Now the main thing to be regarded as to the Truth o Humane Testimony are these. 1. I Men testifie nothing but wha they saw. 2. If they testifie i at no long distance of time from the thing done. 3. If they te∣stifie it plainly, and withou doubtful expressions. 4. If a great number agree in the same Page  69 Testimony. 5. If they part with all that is valuable to Man∣kind, rather than deny the Truth of what they have testified: And where all these concur, it is hardly possible to suppose greater evidence to be given of the Truth of a Thing; and now I shall shew that all these do exactly agree to the Apostles Testimony concerning the Resurrection of Christ.

1. They testified nothing but what they saw themselves. The Laws of Nations do suppose that greater credit is to be given to eye witnesses than to any others, thence the Rule in the Civil Law Testimonium de auditu regulariter non valet: Because, say the Civilians and Canonists, Witnesses are to te∣stifie the Truth, and not barely the pos∣sibility of things; that which Men see, they can testifie whether Page  70 they are or not: That which Men only hear, may be, or no be; and their Testimony is no of the Fact, but is looked on as more uncertain, and ought to have greater allowances given it; but the Apostles testified on∣ly what they saw and handled; and that after the most scrupulous en∣quiry into the Truth of Christ Body, and after many doubts ansuspicions among themselves abou it; so that they did not seem ha∣stily and rashly to believe what they afterwards declared to the World. Now a Body was a pro∣per object of Sense, and no try∣al could be greater, or more ac∣curate than theirs was; nor an satisfaction fuller than putting their fingers into the very wound of the pierced side.

2. They did not stay till the Page  71circumstances might have slipt out of their Memories, before they testified these things; but very soon after, while the impression of them was fresh upon them: If they had let these Matters a∣lone for any long time, the Jews would have asked them present∣ly, if these things were true, why did we not hear of them as soon as they were done? Therefore we see the Apostles on the very day of Pentecost, a little after Christs ascension to Heaven, openly and boldly declare the Truth of these things, not in private corners among a few Friends, but in the most so∣lemn meeting of their Nation from all parts; which was the worst time could have been cho∣sen, if they had any intention to deceive.

Page  72 3. They testifie it in as plain a manner as is possible, on purpose to prevent all mistakes of their meaning, This Jesus hath God*raised up, whereof we all are Wit∣nesses; Therefore let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Men that had a mind to deceive would have used some more general and doubtful words, than these were.

4. If this had been testified by one single witness, the World would have suspected the Truth of his Testimony; for according to the Rule in the Civil Law in the case of Testimony, Vox unius, vox nullius est: But this was testified by very many; not meerly by the twelve Apostles, but by 500 at once; among whom some Page  73 might be supposed to have so much honesty, or at least capa∣ble of being perswaded to have discovered the Imposture, if they had in the least suspected any.

5. But that which adds the greatest weight to all this, is, that there was not one of all the Apostles, and scarce any one of the rest, but exposed themselves to the utmost hazards and dangers, rather than deny or retract the Truth of what they witnessed. If the People had been careless and indifferent about Religion, it is possible Men might have gone on in a Lye so long till they had gotten interest enough to maintain it; but no sooner did the Apostles appear, witnessing these things, but they met with an early and vigorous opposition, and that from the chiefest Men in Page  74Power, who made it their busi∣ness to suppress them. Now in this case, they were put to this choice, if they would renounce or conceal the Truth of what they testified, they might pre∣sently enjoy ease, and it may be, rewards too; but if they went on, they must look for nothing but the sharpest persecution; and this they met with almost in all pla∣ces; and is it conceivable, that Men should be so fond of a lye, to forsake all and follow it, and at last to take up their cross for it? If credit and interest in the hearts of People, might carry a Man on a great way in the delusion, yet he would be loth to dye for it; and yet there was never a one of the Apostles, but ventured his life for the Truth of this; and all but one, they tell us, did suffer Page  75 Martyrdom for it. I pray, Sir, consider, where you ever meet with any thing like this, that so many Men should so resolutely dye, for what themselves at the same time knew to be a lye; and that they must certainly do, if it were all a contrivance of their own heads.

2. But although in these things they went as high as it was pos∣sible for humane Testimony to go, yet they had something beyond all this, which was a concurrence of a Divine Testimony, in the mi∣raculous gifts and operations of the Holy Ghost. And this we assert to be the highest Testimony can be given in the World, of a Truth of any thing; because God will not employ his Power to de∣ceive the World. And as all other Truth hath a criterion proper Page  76 to it; so this seems to be the pro∣per criterion of a Divine Testimony, that it hath the power of Miracles going along with it. For if we do suppose God to make known his Mind to the World, it is very reasonable to believe there should be some distinguishing note of what is immediately from God, and what comes only from the inven∣tions of Men; and what can be more proper to distinguish what comes from God, and what from Men, than to see those things done which none but God can do? But against this you object several things, which I shall easily and briefly Answer.

1. You cannot tell what it is that Miracles do attest; not all their Do∣ctrin, since Paul said, some was not from the Lord. Answ. Mira∣cles do attest the veracity of the Page  77Speaker, and by consequence the truth of the Doctrin; not that you should believe that to be from the Lord, which he said was not; but that which he said, was from the Lord. But when he makes such a distinction himself, it is very unreasonable to urge that as an Argument, that he had nothing from the Lord; it is much rather an argument of his candor and ingenuity, that he would not pretend to Divine Revelation, when he had it not.

2. You would have it signified, what Doctrin it is which is attested by Miracles, since the Doctrins of Scripture lye in heaps and confusion. Answ. To what purpose should any Doctrins be singled out to have the Seal of Miracles set to them, since it is their Divine Commission to Teach and declare Page  78 the Will of God, which is sealed by it? And what they did so Teach and declare, is easily known by their Writings.

3. But why do not Miracles still continue? Answ. Because there are no Persons employ'd to Teach any new Doctrines; and no Pro∣mise of Scripture doth imply any more: For the signs which were to follow them that believe, were such as tended to the first confir∣mation of the Christian Faith; which being effected, their use ceased; and so to ask why God doth not continue a Gift of Mi∣racles to convince Men that the former were true, is to the same purpose as to ask why God doth not make a New Sun, to satisfie Athiests that he made the Old?

4. But doth not the Scripture say, that wonders are not always to be Page  79 taken as confirmations of the Truth of Doctrin, since false Prophets may work Wonders, Deuteron. 13. 1. Answ. That signifies no more, than that Wonders are not to be believed against the Principles of Natural Religion; or Revealed Religion already confirmed by greater Miracles: And that those who would value such a particu∣lar sign above all the series of Mi∣racles their Religion was first esta∣blished by, may be justly left to their own delusions. You might as well object the lying Wonders of the Man of Sin, against all the Miracles of Christ and his Apo∣stles. If God hath once done enough to convince Men, he may afterwards justly leave them to the tryal of their Ingenuity; as a Father that hath used great care to make his Son understand Page  80true Coyn, may afterwards suffer false to be laid before him, to try whether he will mind his being cheated or no?

5. But you may yet farther de∣mand, what the Testimony of Mi∣racles doth signisie to the Writings of the New Testament? Answ. 1. The Miracles do sufficiently prove the Authority of that Doctrin, which was delivered by those who wrought Miracles; as Christ and his Apostles. 2. If there had been the least ground to question the Truth and Authority of these Writings, they had never been so universally received in those Ages, when so many were con∣cerned to enquire into the Truth of these things; for we see se∣veral of the Books were a long time examined, and at last, when no sufficient reason could Page  81 be brought against them, they were received by those Churches, which at first scrupled the recei∣ving them: And I am so far from thinking the doubts of the first Ages any Argument against the Authority of a Book, that by the objections of some against some of them, I am thereby assured, that they did not pre∣sently receive any Book, because it went under the name of an Apostolical Writing: As I am the more confirmed in the belief of the Resurrection of Christ, because some of the Disciples were at first very doubtful about it.

6. You may yet ask, What doth all this signifie to the Writings of the Old Testament, which were writ∣ten at a longer distance of Time from us, and in a more Ignorant Age of of the World? Answ. There can∣not Page  82 be a more evident proof of the Old Testament, than by the New: For if the New be true, the Old must be so, which was confirmed so plainly and evident∣ly by it; our Saviour and his Apo∣stles appealing to Moses and the Prophets on all occasions. So that the same Miracles which prove their Testimony true, do at the same time prove the Divine Au∣thority of the Old Testament, since it is so expresly said in the New, That Holy Men of God did speak as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

But after all this, You urge, that you have discover'd such things in these Writings as could not come from God, as

1. Contradictions in them. 2. Somethings inconsistent with the Wisdom of God. 3. Promises made that were never fulfilled. 4. Things so obscure Page  83 as no one can tell the meaning of them. Under these four Heads I shall examin the particular allegations you bring against the Scriptures.

1. Under the head of Contra∣dictions, you insist on the Prophecy Gen. 15. 13, 14, 15, 16. made to Abraham concerning his Posterity; compared with the Accomplishment mentioned, Exod. 12. 40. 41. And the force of your Argument lyes in this, That the Prophecy in Genesis doth imply that the Servitude of the Children of Israel in Egypt was to be 40 Years; or 430 saith Exod. but both these are repugnant to other places of Scripture, which make their abode in Egypt not to exceed 215 Years; or at the highest, by the number of Generations could not exceed 350 Years, stretching them to the utmost advantage. To this which you lay so much Page  84 weight upon, I Answer di∣stinctly,

1. By your own confession, supposing the 430 Years to begin from the Covenant made with Abraham, the accomplishment mentioned, Exod. 12. 40. doth fall out exactly in the time of the Children of Israels going out of Egypt, for you have proved from Scripture, that from the Covenant with Abraham to Jacobs being in Egypt, were 215 Years; to which you add, that Coath being suppo∣sed 5 Years Old at the going into Egypt; and that at 70 Years he Be∣gat Amram, and that Amram at at 70 Begat Moses, to which Mo∣ses his 80 Years being added, makes up the other 215 Years, whereby we have the full 430 Years, by your own computation. Now, Sir, I pray consider what reason you have Page  85 to charge the Scripture with con∣tradiction in a Matter your self acknowledges, so exactly ac∣complished in this way of com∣putation?

2. But you say, the Words will not bear this; because they speak of the 400 Years to expire in their Ser∣vitude in Egypt. Answ. For this we must consider the importance of the Words both in Genesis and Exodus. There is not a Word of Egypt mentioned in Genesis; but only in general it is said, Thy Seed shall be a Stranger in the Land that is not theirs, and shall serve them, and they shall afflict them 400 Years; and it will conduce very much to the right understanding this Pro∣phecy to consider the main scope and design of it, which was not to tell Abraham how long they should be in servitude to the Egyp∣tians,Page  86 but how long it would be before his Seed should come to the possession of the promised Land; And it seems Abraham by the Que∣stion, Gen. 15. 7. 8. did expect to have the Inheritance of this Land in his own time: To this therefore God Answers, by telling him, he meant no such thing, but it was intended for his Seed, and that not suddenly neither, for they were to tarry till the ini∣quity of the Amorites should be full, which would not be till the fourth Generation; and then his Seed should after 400 Years, come to the Posses∣sion of the Promised Land; but in the mean time they were to Sojourn in a Land that was not theirs, and to meet with many hardships and difficul∣ties. This is plainly the scope of this prophecy, and by atten∣ding to it, the great Objections Page  87 presently appear without force; for the Land of Canaan notwith∣standing the Promise, was by the Patriarchs themselves looked on as a Land wherein they were Strangers. So Abraham saith Gen. 23. 4. I am a Stranger and a So∣journer with you; and which is more remarkable in the blessing of Jacob by Isaac, to whom the Promise was made, it is said; And give thee the Blessing of Abra∣ham to thee, and to thy Seed, that thou mayest inherit the Land wherein thou art a Stranger, which God gave unto Abraham, Gen. 28. 4. Where the very same Word is used concerning Jacob, that is expressed in the Prophecy, Gen. 15. 13. So that the Patriarchs looked on themselves as Strangers in the Land of Canaan, so long after the promise made, and after Page  88 the increase of the Seed of Abraham▪ And therefore the land of Canaan was called Terra Peregrinationum, the Land wherein they were stran∣gers; Gen. 36. 7.—37. 1. And when God was calling the People of Israel together out of Egypt, yet then the Land of Canaan was called by the very same title, the Land of their Pilgrimage, where∣in they were strangers: Exod. 6. 4. And Ps. 105. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. where we have a full account of the Promise made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, concerning the inheritance of that Land it is said, that they were few, and strangers in it, when they went from one Nation to another, from one Kingdom to another People. Which doth fully explain the meaning of the Pro∣phecy in Genesis, and that it is not to be restrained to the servi∣tudePage  89 of the People of Israel in Egypt, but to be understood of their state of Pilgrimage for 400 Years, wherein they were to suffer great hardships, before they should come to the Inheritance of Ca∣naan. This is no forced or unnatural exposition of the Words, as you seem to suggest; but to my ap∣prehension, very plain and easie, if we attend to the main scope and design of them which was to acquaint Abraham how long it would be before the prophecy were accomplished, and what the condition of his Seed should be the mean time, viz. That they should have no Land which they should call their own by Inheritance all that time, but they should be exposed to great hardships, yea even to Servi∣tude; but that Nation whom they should serve, should at last suffer for Page  90 their ill usage of them, and they should come out of that Captivity with great substance; and all this to be done in the fourth Generation of the Amorites when their Iniquities should be arrived at the full height. All which particulars, were so re∣markably accomplished at such a distance of time, and under such improbable circumstances, that that this very prophecy were enough to convince an unpreju∣diced mind, that it came from Divine Inspiration. For where do we meet with any thing like this in the Histories of other Na∣tions? viz. A Prophecy to be accomplished 400 Years after, and the very manner foretold, which no humane conjecture could reach to, since the manner of deliverance of the People of Israel out of their Captivity in Page  91Egypt, was to all humane ap∣pearance so impossible a thing, especially at such a time when the Spirits of the People were sunk and broken by so long a slavery: And not only the man∣ner foretold, but the accom∣plishment happened to a day, according to Exodus 12. 41. And it came to pass at the end of the 430 Years, even the selfe-same day it came to pass, that all the Hosts of the Lord went out from the Land of Egypt. But against this you object, That the sojourning is spo∣ken of the Children of Israel in Egypt for 430 Years; which cannot hold good any ways; since, to make it up, the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, must be taken in who could not be called the Children of Israel. Answ. For the 430 Years, I grant, that according to St. Paul,Page  92 they did commence from the Covenant made to Abraham Gal. 3. 17. and that the 400 Years began from Isaac's being owned for the Promised Seed; between which time the 30 Years were passed; and all appearance of difficulty is avoided, if we ad∣mit the reading of the best Co∣pies of the LXX. which is in these words, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Now the sojourning of the Children of Israel who dwelt in Egypt and Canaan, they and their Fathers was 430 Years. This is the reading of our Alexandrian Copy, and the Complutensian, and that of Aldus, and of Euse∣bius in his Chronicon, and of St. Hierome in his Translation of it; Page  93 and of the Church in St. Au∣gustins time, and afterwards; and lest any should reject this as a late Interpolation, or gloss received into the Text, besides these Testimonies of the Antiqui∣ty of it, we find the very same in the Samaritan Copy, which the Enemies of it do allow to be as ancient as our Saviours time. And that which very much con∣firms the Truth of this reading is, that the Jews themselves fol∣low the sense of it, who are the most eager contenders for the Authority of the Hebrew Copy; who all agree, that the beginning of the Computation of the 430 Years is to be taken before the Children of Israels going into Egypt: and Menasseh Ben Israel contends with many others, that the 430 Years did begin from Page  94 the Promise made to Abraham, and the 400 from the time of Isaac, to which their most ancient Books of Chronology do agree, and to the same purpose speak both Philo Judaeus, and Josephus; who although in one place he seems to make the Israelites af∣fliction in Egypt to have been 400 Years, yet when he speaks more particularly of it, he makes the time of their abode in Egypt to have been only 215, and the 430 to be∣gin from Abrahams entrance into Canaan: The Targum of Jona∣than begins the 430 from the Vision of Abraham, and the 400 from the Birth of Isaac; all which I mention, to let you see that the Jews themselves do in sense concur with the Samaritan and Greek Copy; and therefore we have more reason to suspect Page  95 something left out in the present Hebrew, than any thing added in those Copies. But doth not this take off from the Authority of the Scripture? Not at all: For the only Question is about the True Reading: And having the con∣sent of the Samaritan, Alexan∣drian, and other Copies of the LXX. and of the Ancient Church; and of the Jews them∣selves as to the sense of it, we have reason to look on this as the truer Reading: Which is making no addition to the scri∣pture either as to Persons or Places, but only producing the more Authentick Copy; much less is this Adding or Changing as we please, for if we did this without so much Authority as we have for it, you might as easily reject it as we produce it.

Page  96 3. After all this, I do not see the mighty force of your Reason to charge the Scripture with Con∣tradiction, supposing the 400 Years were to be spent in the servitude of the Children of Israel in Egypt. I confess, when I found the Scri∣pture so boldly, so frequently charged with no less than Con∣tradiction, I expected something like Demonstration in the Case, especially in this place which you chose to put in the Front of all; but I do not find any thing like such a proof of a Contradiction, supposing we should allow the 400 Years to be spent in Egypt. Yes, say you, Coath was 5 Years Old when he came down into Egypt, and When he had lived there 65 Years he begat Amram, and Amram being 70 Years Old begat Moses, to which Moses his 80 Years being Page  97 added, we have only 215 Years. But since the Scripture doth not assign, the particular Age of any of these, when they begat their Children, I see no impossi∣bility or repugnancy in the sup∣position, that 400 Years should pass from Levi's going into Egypt, to the Eightieth of Moses, any more than from Salmons entrance into Canaan to the time of David, for no more are reckoned in scrip∣ture than Boaz the Son of Salmon, by Raab, and Obed, and Jesse; So that by the same way, this lat∣ter may be explained, the for∣mer may be so too. If it be said, That either they begat their Children at a great Age, or that the scripture in Genealogies doth not set down all the intermediate Parents, but only the most eminent, (as Caleb is called the Son of Esron. Page  98 1 Chron. 2. 9, 18. although there was at least one between them,) the very same Answer will serve to clear this part of the Chronology of Scripture from any appearance of Contradiction. These things you might have found more largely deduced and fully handled by those Learned Persons, who have undertaken to clear the Chronology of Scripture: Who were men of more Judgment, than from any difficulty of this nature, to call in question the Truth and Authority of the sacred Scriptures; and although the Opi∣nions of Chronologers, are like the City Clocks, which seldom a∣gree, yet some come nearer the time of the day than others do; and therefore you ought to ex∣amine and compare them before you pronounce so peremptorily Page  99 about Contradictions in scripture, which you have no reason to do till you find that no one hypothesis among them will serve to free the scripture from Contradiction: For otherwise, you do but blame the Sun, because you cannot make the Clocks agree.

This is all I can find in your Papers under the head of Contra∣dictions; and I leave you now soberly to consider, whether this place did afford you sufficient ground for so heavy a Charge; but if you say, you have a great many more by you, but you sent me this only for a Tryal of my skill; be∣fore you send any more; I be∣seech you, Sir, to consider,

1. How easily things do ap∣pear to be Contradictions to weak, or unstudied, or pre∣judiced minds, which after due Page  100 consideration appear to be no such things. A deep prejudice finds a Contradiction in every thing; whereas in Truth, nothing but ill will, and impatience of considering, made any thing, it may be, which they Quarrel at, appear to be so. If I had been of such a quarrelsome hu∣mour, I would have undertaken to have found out more Contra∣dictions in your Papers, than you imagin, and yet you might have been confident, you had been guilty of none at all. When I consider the great pains, and Learning, and Judgement, which hath been shewn by the Christian Writers in the Explica∣tion of the Scriptures; and the raw, indigested Objections which some love to make against them, if I were to judge of things barely Page  101 by the fitness of persons to judge of them, the disproportion be∣tween these, would appear out of all comparison. A modest Man would in any thing of this nature say with himself, me∣thinks, if there were such Con∣tradictions in the Bible, as now seem to me; so many persons of incomparable Abilities in the First, and latter Ages of the Christian Church, who have made it their business to enquire into these things, would have discerned them before me: And yet they retained a mighty vene∣ration for the scriptures, as com∣ing from God himself; and there∣fore it may be only weakness of Judgement, want of Learning, or some secret prejudice may make me suspect these things; or else I must suspect the honesty of Page  102 all those persons who have pre∣tended such a Devotion to the Scriptures, and yet have belie∣ved them full of Contradictions.

2. Wherein the Contradiction appears. Is it in the main and weighty parts of the Religion re∣vealed herein; or is it only in some smaller Circumstances as to time and place? The great thing you are to look after, are the Matters those Scriptures tell you your Salvation depends upon; and if there be a full consent, and agreement therein; you find enough for you to believe and practice. And if some Contra∣dictions should still appear to you in smaller Matters, what follows from thence, but only that the same care was not taken about little, as about great things? And you ought to set that appea∣rance Page  103 of Contradiction in small Matters, together with the real consent in the things of the high∣est importance; and from thence rather to infer, that this was no combination or design to deceive others; for such persons take the greatest care to prevent suspicion, by their exactness in every minute Circumstance; and sometimes the over-much care to prevent suspicion doth raise it the more.

3. What ways have been used by Men of judgement and lear∣ning, to clear those places from the charge of Contradiction. For, not one of the Objections you can start now, but hath been considered over and over; and all the difficulties that belong to it examined; If you will not take the pains to do this; it is plain you do not desire satisfacti∣on, Page  104 but only seek for a pretence to cavil; especially, if you on∣ly search the weakest or most injudicious Writers on the Scrip∣tures, and endeavour to expose their opinions, without taking notice of what others have said with more clear and evident Reason. This shews either want of Judgment in choosing such Expositors, or want of Can∣dor and fair dealing and a de∣sire of taking any advantage against the Scriptures.

4. How hard a Matter it is for us at this distance to under∣stand exactly the grounds of Chronology, or the manner of computation of Times used so long ago: and therefore in all difficulties of this nature, we ought to make the fairest allow∣ances that may be, considering Page  105 withall, that escapes and er∣rours are no where more easily committed by Transcribers, than in numbers: and that it is a very unreasonable thing, that a Book otherwise deserving to be thought the best Book in the World, should be scorned and rejected, because there appears some difference in the computation of times. We do not so exactly know the manner of the Hebrew Chronology, nor, the nature of their Year, or Intercalations, nor the customs of their Genea∣logies; nor the allowance to be made for interregnums, so as to be able to define peremptorily in these things; but it is sufficient to shew, that there is no impro∣bability in the accounts that are given; and no sufficient reason can be drawn from thence to Page  106 reject the Authority of the Scrip∣tures.

2. I come to consider the places you object, as containing things inconsistent with the Wisdom, or Goodness of God, according to a rational perswasion; and those are either, 1. From the Laws of Mo∣ses. 2. From the express story of the Bible, or actions of the Pro∣phets.

1. From the Laws of Moses: Your first Objection is from Exod. 21. 7. Where a Man is supposed to sell his Daughter; which you say, it is incredible to believe that God should permit; because it implies un∣natural affection and covetousness in the Father. But, Sir, 1. You do not consider, that this is barely a provisional Law, and is not the permission of the thing, so much as the regulation of it, supposing Page  107 it to be done, i. e. in case a Man should part with his interest in his Daughter to another Person, upon an extraordinary case of necessity, as the Jews understand it; yet then, she was not to be in the condition of a Servant, but to be either Betrothed to the Person who receiv'd her, or to his Son; which was intended for the restraint of promiscuous Buy∣ing and Selling Daughters, meer∣ly for the satisfaction of Lust. The Jews who certainly best un∣derstood their own Judicial Laws, do say, that this was never to be done, but where there was a presumption of such a betrothing; for no Man could Sell his Daugh∣ter to those to whom it was un∣lawful for her to Marry by their Law; so that this was looked on as a kind of Espousals of a young Page  108 Girle, taken into Wardship by another; but so, that if she were not Betrothed, she was to remain her 6 Years during her Minority, as the Jews under∣stand it; unless she were redee∣med, or set Free, or the Jubile came, or the Master dyed, or the time of her Minority expired.

2. The case of necessity being supposed, it hath been thought lawful for Parents to make ad∣vantage by their Children, not only by the Jews, but by other Nations, who have been in the greatest esteem for Wisdom. For by the Law of the 12 Tables, among the Romans, the Father had the liberty of Selling his Son three times, for his own ad∣vantage, as Dionys. Halicarnas∣seus relates; and before that time, it was not only in use among Page  109 the Romans, but in such esteem among them, that upon the re∣view of their Laws the Decem∣viri durst not leave it out; but by one of the Laws of Numa Pompilius, it was restrained to the times before Marriage, for in case the Son had the Fathers con∣sent to Marry, he could not Sell him afterwards, as the same Author tells us. This Law con∣tinued in force among them, till Christianity prevailed in the Roman Empire, for although there were a prohibition of Diocletian against it, yet that signified nothing, till Constantine took care, That such indigent Parents should be re∣lieved out of the publick charge, Cod. Theodos. l. 11. tit. 27. 2. And yet after this, the Custom did continue, when the Parents were in great want, as appears by a Page  110Law of Theodosius, Cod. 3. tit. 3. Omnes quos Parentum miseranda for∣tuna in servitium dum victum requi∣runt addixit, ingenuitati pristinae reformentur. And it further ap∣pears, that even in Constantin's time, notwithstanding the Law made by him, Parents would still, when they thought them∣selves overcharged with Chil∣dren, part with their Interest in them to others for advantage, but it was chiefly while they were sanguinolenti, as the Law expresses it, i. e. new Born. Cod. Theod. l. 5. tit. 8. By the Laws of Athens, before Solons time, Parents might sell their Children, as appears by Plutarch, in his Life; and the same Philostratus reports of the Phrygians, l. 3. vit. Apollon. Tyan. and the like custom doth obtain among the Chineses to this Page  111 day, if persons do think them∣selves unable to bring up their Children themselves. And there are two things to be said for it. 1. The natural obligation lying on Children to provide for their Parents in necessity, by any way they are able. 2. The probabi∣lity of better Education under more able Persons; and there∣fore the Thebans had a Law, That Parents in case of poverty, were to bring their Children to the Magi∣strate, as soon as they were Born, who put them out to such as were judged*fit to bring them up, and to have their service for their reward.

But however, you say, This place implys a toleration of having many Wives, because it is said, if he take him another Wife, v. 10. I do not deny, that the Mosaical Law did suppose the practice of Page  112Polygamy; but as it doth no where expressly allow it, nei∣ther doth it expressly condemn it. And although we say, the Chri∣stian Law is far more excellent, which reduceth Marriage to its first institution; yet you will find it a hard Matter to prove such a permission of Polygamy as this was, to be so repugnant to the Law and Principles of Nature, as from thence to infer, that this Law of Moses could not be from God: You might have said the same about the Matter of Divorce, which was permitted them; Christ saith, for the hard∣ness of their hearts: Which shews, that God doth not always require that from Men which is best plea∣sing to himself; and that as to his Political Government, he may not always punish that, which is not so pleasing to him.

Page  113 The next Law you quarrel at is that, Deut. 22. 13, &c. About the tryal of Virginity: Which you object against, as immodest, and uncertain, and therefore unbecoming the Wisdom of God. So, many customs of those elder times of the World, and of the Eastern parts to this day seem very strange to us, that are not so well acquainted with the Reasons of them. Methinks, it better becomes our Modesty in such ca∣ses, to question our understan∣ding those customes, than pre∣sently to cast so much disparage∣ment on the Author of them. If you had been offended at the literal sense of those Words, ma∣ny of the Jews themselves say, they are to be understood figu∣ratively of the evidence that was to be brought and laid open Page  114 before the Judges, on behalf of the defamed Person. And both Josephus and Philo omit the laying open the Cloth. But supposing it to be taken in the plainest lite∣ral sense, I have Two Things to say in vindication of this Law. 1. That however uncertain some Physitians have thought that way of Tryal to have been in these parts of the World; yet it is generally agreed to have held for the Eastern parts, by the most skilful Physitians among the Ara∣bians: And a custom of the same nature is said by good Authors to have been observed among the Egyptians, and other Africans, as well as the Arabians; so that this could not be thought so strange or immodest among the Inhabitants of those parts: And it is very probable that some Page  115 particulars, as to the Practice of these Laws are not set down, which might very much tend to the certainty of them, as the Age of the Married Persons, which was most likely then, as it is to this day in the Eastern parts, very early, the Jews say, at 12 years old, which would make the Tryal more certain. 2. As to the Modesty of it, you are to consider, that the Law was inten∣ded to keep persons from unjust defamations, and such a way of Tryal was therefore pitched upon to deter persons from such defa∣mations; which Men might other∣wise have been more ready to, because of the liberty of divorce, and the advantage they had in saving the dower, if they could prove the party vitiated before Marriage; therefore all the proof Page  116 of that Nature was to be passed soon after the consummation of Marriage, which being agreed then by all the Friends, there was to be no liberty left for defa∣mation afterwards; but in case any Man should be guilty of it, the producing those Evidences, which before they were agreed upon, should be sufficient to clear the Innocency of the party accused. And therefore I look on this Law, as the Jews do on that of the rebellious son, of which they say, that there is no instance of the practice of it; the Penal∣ty threatned being so effectual to prevent the occasion of it.

And such in a great Measure, I suppose the other Law mentio∣ned by you to have been, viz. of the Water of Jealousy, which you make so strange a matter of; Page  117 and think it savours too much of a design to gratify the jealous humour of the Jewish Nation: But you might have put a fairer constru∣ction upon it, viz. That it was intended to prevent any occasion of suspicion being given to the Husband, by too much familia∣rity with other persons; since the Law allowed so severe a Trial, in Case the Wife after ad∣monition did not forbear such suspected familiarity, but if you had looked on the Law, as it is, Num. 5. 12, 13. &c. you would have found, that the de∣sign of it was to keep Women from committing secret Adultery, by so severe a Penalty; yet with∣all allowing so much to a reaso∣nable suspicion, (for so the Jews understand it, with many Cau∣tions and Limitations) that rather Page  118 then Married persons should live under perpetual jealousies, he appointed this extraordinary way of Tryal, whereby Adultery was most severely punished, and the honour of Innocency publickly vindicated; which certainly are not ends at all unbecoming due Conceptions of God.

The last of the Jewish Laws, which you quarrel with is the prohibition of Usury, in several places of Moses his Law and the Psalms: And from hence you fall into a long Discourse to prove the lawful∣ness of Usury: But to what pur∣pose I beseech you? For you were to prove, that God could never forbid it; you might have spa∣red your pity for Men, as you think, Blinded with superstition, and chea∣ted with New and Aëry Notions: For by all that I can see by these Page  119 Papers, some pretended Ene∣mies to superstition have no better Eyes than their Neighbours, and are as easily cheated with ground∣less Fancies and Aëry imaginati∣ons. The only thing to the bu∣siness in that long Discourse is this, That you cannot imagine that God should make a Law so much to Mans inconvenience, and forbid him so nice and indifferent a thing, as Moderate increase of profit by letting out of Money, when it is allowed upon Lands, Houses, and Trade, &c. To this I Answer, that the prohibition of Usury, to the Je∣wish Nation, was upon political Grounds peculiar to the constitu∣tion of that People; as appears by the words of the Law, Deut. 23. 19, 20. Thou shalt not lend to Usu∣ry unto thy Brother—Unto a Stran∣ger thou maist lend upon Usury; but Page  120 none of the Laws which are foun∣ded upon common and Moral Reasons have such Limitations as this; for God would never have said, Thou shalt not commit Adultery with thy Brothers Wife; but with the Wife of a Stranger thou maist. But there was this par∣ticular Reason, for the prohibi∣tion of Usury to the Jewish Nation: It pleased God to fix their Habi∣tation, not upon the Sea-side, as Tyre and Sidon stood; but within Land where they had no conveniencies of Trading, but the Riches of the Nation lay in Agriculture and Pasturage: In which the Returns of Money are neither so quick nor so advantage∣ous to make sufficient compensa∣tion for the Interest of the Money in the time they have it: For the main thing valuable in Money is Page  121 the advantage the borrower makes of it; and where that is great, it seems reasonable that the person whose the Money is, should have a proportionable share of the advantage made by it; but where persons borrow only for present occasions to supply their necessi∣ties, there it is only an Act of kind∣ness to lend, and it would be un∣reasonable to press upon, or take advantage by anothers necessities. And this seems to have been the case among the Jews; they were on∣ly the Poor that wanted Money for present necessities; the Rich had no way to imploy it in Trading, unless that they lent to the Tyrian Merchants, which it was lawful by their Law to do; now if they took Usury of their own people, it must be of those whose urgent necessity, and not hopes of a Page  122 mighty increase by it made them borrow, and therefore it was a very just and reasonable Law to forbid Usury among them: which I believe he would never have done, if he had placed the Jews upon the Coasts of Phoenicia, where Trading was so much in request.

These are all the Laws which you have picked out of the whole Body of the Jewish Law, to represent it unbecoming the Wisdom of God: And now I pray Sir, look back again upon them, see how few, how small, how weak your Objections are; and compare them with the weight, and justice, and prudence, and piety, expressed in all the rest, and I hope you will find cause to be ashamed of speaking so har∣shly of those Laws, so well Page  123 accommodated to those Ages of the World, and the Condi∣tion of that People for whom they were appointed.

2. I now consider what you object against the story of the Bible.

1. That passage of Moses; Exod. 32. 32. Blot me out of thy Book which thou hast written: Where your design is to shew that Moses prayed to be Damned, and that this was a very irrational thing: And savouring more of passi∣on than of the Spirit of God. But what if Moses meant no such thing as Damnation? As there is not any word in the Context relating that ways, but all the design of that Chapter is about a Temporal punishment, which was a present Destruction of the People for their sins. And the Book out of which he prayed Page  124God to blot him, seems to me to be no other, than the Roll of Gods chosen people, who were to pos∣sess the Land of Canaan: For so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 properly signifies a Roll or Register. Psalm 69. 28. We meet with 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉the Roll of the living, or the Book of the living we render it, because all ancient Books were in the fashion of Rolls. In that Chapter, Moses intercedes with God on behalf of the Peo∣ple, that he would make good his promise to them, of brin∣ging them into the Land of Ca∣naan. v. 13. and v. 30. He goes up to make an Atonement for the People, i. e. as to the cutting them off in the Wilderness, and therefore he desires rather than the People should be de∣stroy'd, that God would strike him out of the Roll, that he might Dye in Page  125 the Wilderness rather than the People: And God gives that Answer to this purpose, v. 33. Whoever hath sinned against me, will I blot out of my Book, the sense of which is the same with those words of the Psalmist, he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his Rest. Psal. 95, 11. And according to this interpretation, which is most natural and easie, all your long Discourse against praying to be Dam∣ned comes to just nothing; there being no pretence for it, either in the Text or Context.

2. The story of Ruth doth not please you, as savouring in your opinion of a great deal of Immodesty; but you would have a better opi∣nion of it, if you consider that the reason of her carriage to∣wards Boaz, in such a manner, was upon Naomies telling her that Page  126 he was one to whom the right of re∣demption did belong, and by conse∣quence, by their Law, was to Marry her. Ruth 2. 20. And this Ruth pleaded to Boaz, Ruth 3. 9. By which it appears, that she verily believed that he was legally her Husband; and Boaz we see speaks of her as one that was a vertuous Woman, and known to be such in the whole City. v. 11. And he confesses he was her near kinsman, only he saith, there was one nearer. v. 12. By which it seems, if there had not, Boaz had made no Scruple of the matter: And the Jews say, in such Marriages very little Cere∣mony was required, if the next of kin did not renounce his right, because the Law had determined the Marriage before hand. If you had but considered this one Page  127 thing, you would have spared the many Observations you make on this story.

3. You Object against 2 Sam. 12. 8. as too much countenancing either Incest or Adultery, because it is said, that God gave to David his Masters Wives into his Bosom. But 1. It is very strange to bring this place as a countenance to Adultery, which was purposely designed to upbraid David with the sin of Adultery; and you will find it no easie matter, by the consti∣tution of the Mosaical Law, to prove Polygamy to be Adultery. 2. The Jews give a fair Interpretation of this place, for they say, that the Wife of a King could never Marry after her Husbands decease, as the Gemara on the Title Sanhedrim expresly saith, although some among Page  128 them follow the opinion of R. Jehuda, that she might Marry the succeeding King; but that is built chiefly on this place; of which the rest give a better ac∣count, viz. that 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth not * imply Sauls Wives, but the Maids of Honour, or Attendants, on the Court of Saul, which all fell into Davids power, and out of whom he might choose Wives, without danger of Incest; and even some of those who assert it lawful for one King to Marry his predeces∣sors Wife, yet say in this case of David, that the Word only im∣plies, that they were of Saul's Family, as Merab and Michal were, but not Saul's Wives. So that all the difficulty here arises only from the Interpretation of an unusual word, in which we have much more reason to trust Page  129 the Jews than other Writers.

4. You are much offended at Hosea's Marrying an Adulteress: But all the formidable difficulties of that place will presently vanish, if you allow the Prophetical Schemes, wherein those things are said to be done, which are in∣tended only to represent in a more lively manner the things signified by them. And so you may see the Chaldee Paraphrase, fully ex∣plains this place of Hosea and Maimonides purposely discourseth on the Prophetick parables, and * brings this as one of the instances of them; and with him the rest of the Jewish Interpreters agree. But you Object against such a way of Teaching, as tending to the en∣couragement of Vice, which it is very far from, being designed to represent the odiousness of it: Page  130 For the whole Scope of the Pro∣phet is to let the People under∣stand, that their Idolatry was as hateful to God as the sin of Adul∣tery, and that the consequence of it would be their Misery and Ru∣ine. And yet that God expressed as much tenderness to them, as a Man that was very fond of a Wo∣man would do, in being unwil∣ling to put her away, although he knew she were false to his Bed: the former is intended in the first Chapter, and the latter in the third. And what is there tending to Immorality in all this? May not God make use of one Vice, whose evil is more notorious to represent another by, whose evil they are more hardly con∣vinced of? May not he set forth a Degenerate People by the Sons of an Adulteress? And by the Names Page  131 given to them express his detesta∣tion of their wickedness? Espe∣cially when the Parabolical Terms are so clearly explained, as they are in the second Chap∣ter.

But you will say, these things are related as plain matters of Fact: with the several circumstances belon∣ging to them. It is true, they are so, but so Parables use to be; so was Nathan's to David; so is that of the Rich Man and Laza∣rus in the New Testament; so is Jeremies going to Euphrates to hide*his Girdle; (for it is not very likely the Prophet should be sent 18 or 20 days Journey into an Enemies Country for no other end:) So is Ezekiels lying on one side for 390 *days, and having his Head and Beard contrary to the Law, as Maimonides observes: And his *Page  132digging in the Walls of the Temple at Hierusalem, while he was in *Babylon: And many other things of a like nature, which are set forth with as punctual a Narra∣tion of circumstances as this of Hosea, and yet they were only figurative expressions. We that are accustomed to another way of Learning, think these things strange; but this was a very com∣mon way in the elder times, and it is to this day much used in the Eastern Countries, to represent Duties to some, under the Parables of things as really done by others: As may be seen in Locman and Perzoes, besides what Clemens Alexandrinus and others have said, concerning the Antiquity and com∣mon use of this Parabolical way of Teaching.

I now come to your Objecti∣ons Page  133 against the New Testament: but I find them so few, and those so slight and inconsiderable, as to the end for which you produce them, that I may easily pass them over. To that about the continuance of Miracles, I have already Answer'd: And I find not one word in the places mentioned by you, which im∣plies the necessity of the conti∣nuance of them in all Ages of the Christian Church. That place, Mark 10. 29, 30. speaks of no more but such a recom∣pence in this life as is consistent with persecution; and therefore must chiefly lie in inward con∣tentment; which all wise Men have valued above external ac∣commodations; although with∣all, by the account St. Paul gives of himself, and his Bre∣thren, Page  134 God did abundantly pro∣vide for them one way or other. As having nothing, and yet enjoying*all things: Which amounts to a Hundred-fold in this life.

But certainly you are the first Man, Who have Objected the obscurity of the Book of Revela∣tions, againgst the Authority of the Scriptures: Which is just as if one should Object the quadra∣ture of the Circle against Mathematical certainty. If we grant that there are some things in that Mystical Book, we do not yet well understand; what then! Must neither that Book, nor any other of the Bible be of Divine Revelation? I will not pursue the unreasonable∣ness of this way of arguing so far as I might; but I leave your self to consider of it; and of Page  135 all that I have Written, in order to your satisfaction. If you think fit to return an An∣swer, I pray do it clearly and shortly, and with that freedom from Passion, which becomes so weighty a Matter: And I beseech God to give you a right understanding in all things.

I am

Sir,

Your Faithful Servant.

June 11. 1675.

FINIS.
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