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TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY
CHRISTIAN. It is strange you should stand it out so against your own happiness, and employ your whole wit and skill to work in yourself a disbelief of any
future rewards or punishments, only that you may live easy (as you think) in this world, and enjoy your pleasures. Which yet you cannot enjoy free and undisturbed, from the fear of those things that are to come, the event of which you pretend not to be sure of; and, therefore, are sure of a life full of trouble, that admits not of any consolation, and of a miserable and wretched death, according to the utmost that you yourself propose.
Deist. How can you say that, when I propose to live without any fear of those things? I fear not hell, and I have discarded the expectation of heaven, because I believe neither.
C. Are you sure there are no such things?
C. Then you must remain in a doubt of it. And what a condition it is to die in this doubt, when the issue is eternal misery! And this is the utmost, by your own confession, that you can propose to yourself. Therefore, I called yours a disbelief, rather than a belief of any thing. It is we Christians who believe, you Deists only disbelieve. And if the event should prove as you would have it, and that we should all be annihilated at our death, we should be in as good a condition as you. the other hand, if the event should prove as we expect it, then you are eternally miserable, and we eternally happy. Therefore, one would think it the wisest part to take our side of the question; especially considering that those poor pleasures, for the sake of which you determine yourselves against us, are no real enjoyments. Nay, we had better be without them than have them, even as to this life itself. Is not temperance and a healthful constitution more pleasant than those pains and aches, sick head and stomach, that are inseparable companions of debauchery and excess, besides the clouding our reason, and turning sottish in our understanding.
D. We take pleasure in them for the time, and mind not the consequences.—But, however, a man cannot believe as he pleases. And, therefore, notwithstanding all the glorious and terrible things which you speak of, it makes nothing to me, unless you can evidently prove them to be so. must still leave me to judge for myself, after you have done all
C. What I have said, is only to dispose you to
hear me iinpartially, and not to be prejudiced against your own happiness, both here and hereafter.
D. Well, without more prefacing, the case is this: I believe a God, as well as you; but for Revelation, and what you call the Holy Scriptures, I may think they were written by pious and good men, who might take this method of speaking, as from God, and in his name, as supposing that those good thoughts came from Him, and that it would have a greater effect upon the people; and might couch their morals under histories of things supposed to be done, as several of the wise Heathens have taken this course, in what they told of Jupiter and Juno, and the rest of their gods and goddesses. But as to the facts themselves, I believe the one no more than the other; or that all the facts in Ovid's Metamorphoses, or in Æsop's Fables, were true.
C. You seem willing by this to preserve a respectful esteem and value for the Holy Scriptures, as being written by pious and good men, and with a good design to reform the manners of men.
But your argument proves directly against the purpose for which you brought it, and makes the penmen of the Scriptures to be far from good men, to be not only cheats and impostors, but blasphemers, and an abomination before God. For such the same Scriptures frequently call those who presume to speak as from God, and in his name, when he had not sent them, and given them authority to do so. And the law in the Scriptures condemus such to be stoned to death as blasphemers. It was not so with the Heathens : their moralists did not use the style of “ Thus saith the Lord;" and their philosophers opposed and wrote against one another without any offence. For all the matter was, which of them could reason best; they pretended to no more. And for the facts of the fables of their gods, themselves did not believe them, and have written the mythology or moral that was intended by them.
D. But many of the common people did believe the facts themselves. As it is with the common people now in the church of Rome, who believe the most senseless and ridiculous stories in their books of legends to be as true as the Gospel; though the more wise among them call them only pious frauds, to increase the devotion of the people. And so we think of your Gospel itself, and all the other books you say were written by men divinely inspired. We will let you keep them to cajole the mob, but when you
would impose them upon men of sense, we must come to the test with you.
C. That is what I desire; and to see whether there are no more evidences to be given for the truth of Christianity, that is, of the Holy Scriptures, than are given for the legends, and all the fabulous stories of the Heathen gods. And, if so, I will give up my argument, and confess that it is not in my power to convince you.
D. I cannot refuse to join issue with you upon this. To begin, then, I desire to know your evidences for the truth of your Scriptures, and the facts therein related.
C. If the truth of the book, and the facts therein related, be proved, I suppose you will not deny the doctrines to be true.
pretended and a cheat; and the priests of all religions to be the same contrivers and jugglers; and therefore they proclaim war equally against all, and are equally engaged to bear the brunt of all. And if the contest be only betwixt the Deists and the priests, which of them as the men of the greatest parts and sense, let the effects determine it; and let the Deists yield the victory to their conquerors, who, by their own confession, carry all the world before them.
XVII. If the Deists say, that this is because all the world are blockheads, as well as those priests who govern them; that all are blockheads except the Deists, who vote themselves only to be men of sense; this (besides the modesty of it) will spoil their great and beloved topic, in behalf of what they call Natural Religion, against the Revealed, namely, appealing to the common reason of mankind; this they set up against revelation; think this to be sufficient for all the uses of men, here or hereafter, (if there be any
after state) and therefore, that there is no use of revelation : this common reason they advance as infallible, at least as the surest guide, yet now cry out upon it, when it turns against them; when this common reason runs after revelation, (as it always has done) then common reason is a beast, and we must look for reason, not from the common sentiments of mankind, but only among the beaux, the Deists.
XVIII. Therefore, if the Deists would avoid the mortification (which will be very uneasy to them) to yield and submit to be subdued and hewed down before the priests, whom of all mankind they hate and despise; if they would avoid this, let them con