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about it.

Curious articles of intelligence from time to time may be given to the public, and they again may publish accounts of monstrous animals, or strange adventures; and other marvellous stories may pass current without a syllable of truth in them: they may continue uncontradicted, and being uncontradicted, will in some degree be credited and all for this reason that they concern nobody-no one is interested to inquire into them; but if an event be publicly asserted, which affects individuals or the public, or trade, or taxes, or occupations, or professions as that a law has been passed, or peace concluded, a victory obtained, a defeat suffered, or war broken out betwixt neighbouring nations-or a plague or infection, distemper or epidemic, rages in countries carrying on intercourse with our own; such events, and such narratives, if they be asserted and believed for any length of time, you may be almost certain they were true: and the foundation of them certainly is, that having others concerned in the truth or falsehood of these articles, they would be investigated, and if false, detected; and also, that those who were from their interest able to inform themselves of the truth would do so before they proceeded upon them as truths; men not being accustomed to act upon slight or slender evidence, and without inquiry.

Now let us see how it stands in this respect with the gospel history. What were the miracles of Christianity? They were of infinitely more im

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portance to all to whom they were preached and related than any thing which affects a man's property and business can be; for upon these facts and accounts being true depended all their hopes of everlasting happiness.

Nor was this all-a convert to Christianity would and must reason with himself in this manner: " If these accounts be true, what then?-why, if they be true, I must give up the opinions and principles I have been born and brought up in. I must quit the religion in which my forefathers lived and died, and which I have all along believed and practised—I must take up with a new course of life, part with my old pleasures and gratifications, and begin a new set of rules and system of behaviour:" this is never easily done, and it is not conceivable that the first believers in Christianity should do it upon any idle, blind report, or frivolous story; or indeed without fully satisfying themselves of the truth and credibility of the history which was related to them, and upon the sole strength and credit of which they took the steps, and underwent the difficulties they did.

There are further considerations of a similar nature to those already proposed, together with some objections to the argument, which we must defer to another opportunity.

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ACTS v. 38, 39.

If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it.

HAVING observed three principal marks and tokens, by which a true history is known and distinguished from a false one, namely, that the history be published near the time in which the facts related are said to have happened, near the place which was the scene of the transactions, and that they be of a nature to interest and concern those to whom the history is addressed; and how or in what manner these circumstances apply to the case of the Gospel history; I now proceed to describe a fourth particular, of as much weight and moment in the scale of credibility as any of the others; and that is, whether the story coincided with the prevailing opinions and prejudices, or was supported by the authority of the time and place where it was delivered. We are all sensible that a story, which falls in with our own previous

sentiments and passions, gains an easy admission. When parties run high, on the contrary, the most incredible things told against one side will go down with the other; rumours and reports will be received and repeated upon the slightest foundation, if they confirm the notion one party has taken up of the adversary, or serve to humour their resentment against them; but it is not only where faction and factious passions are concerned, which confound and prevent every rule of reason and justice, but any prevailing opinion whatever will espouse and embrace accounts which support and favour it, with very little examination into the testimony, and, consequently, often with little testimony at all. It is upon this principle that the many stories, which are handed down to us from the early parts of the last century, concerning witches and apparitions, find few people to believe them at this time of day, because we know that such stories might be a mere propagation, or credited upon the slenderest evidence; for there was no more doubt entertained at that time of the reality of witchcraft and apparitions than we have of our own; and therefore accounts of them were received, not as we should receive them, with surprise and caution, or any curiosity to see into the bottom of them, but with open ears, with more greediness and less distrust than any common transactions or ordinary circumstances whatever. Of a like nature were the popular stories that were formerly told of Jewish barbarities to Christian infants. Such stories were put forth at a

time when the populace were beforehand enraged against that people; and, by their falling in with the public prejudice and hatred, disposed people to believe and repeat them against all reason and probability. The same observation holds with respect to the popish miracles, which were pretended to be wrought in the dark ages of Christianity. This proved nothing but what was already allowed: they had the popular cry and persuasion on their side to set off with; and it is remarkable that these miracles were never pretended in Protestant countries, or amongst enemies, where one would think they were not wanting; but the case was, that such pretences would there have been investigated and examined into more than they could brook. Whilst these miracles were only produced as vouchers for tenets and principles already professed and believed, no one was interested to inquire into them, or detect the imposition, if there was any. Every one found himself disposed to credit them himself and pass them to others; but when miracles attempt to make converts to new opinions, and are produced to overturn old and favourite opinions, they will find unbelievers enow: every man to whom they are proposed is inclined to question them; and if they are done upon the spot, they must have the opportunity, as well as the inclination, to know the truth of the matter on one side or the other.

Public authority, also, by stifling inquiry or silencing contradiction, may frequently hold up the

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