« VorigeDoorgaan »
of fiction may be necessary, &c. And even in this I could not forbear, in the most conspicuous place of my Book, to shew the use of it, as may be seen by these words of the Contents, B. III. S. 2.--The principles, that induced the ancient sages to deem it lawful to deceive for public good in matters of religion, are e.xplained AND SHEWN TO BE SUCH AS HAD NO PLACE IN THE PROPAGATION OR GENIUS OF THE JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN KELIGIONS. But I am a warm advocate for Dr.
In what? I have called him a very formidable adversary to the Free-Thinkers. And I think I had reason : for the arguments he hath used for the TRUTH of Christianity against Tindal have never yet been answered by them, nor I think ever can. I say for the truth of Christianity; for his reasonings, from p. 59 to 64*, relate only to its truth, and can be understood in no other sense. After this, to think he would have Christianity supported only because it is useful, is such a way of interpreting a writer as my charity will never suffer me to follow.
The opinion I have of Dr. 's abilities, and of the sincerity of his professions, were the true reasons of that esteemn I express for him ; being desirous of allaying all disgust, if
hath arisen in him, froin the treatment of his less candid adversaries; and of engaging him to a further and more compleat vindication of our holy faith, at a time when the good dispositions of the meanest advocate for Revelation should not, I think, in prudence be discouraged: Nay, was I so unhappy to think of Dr. as the letter-writer is disposed to do, I should yet be inclined to behave myself very differently towards him. I should be so far from estranging him further from the faith by uncharitable anathemas, that I should do all I could to court and allure him to Christianity, by thinking well of its professors. Thus much, I conceive, Christian charity would require; and how far Christian policy would persuade, let the learned say, who know what ornament his pen would be to the Christian faith, and bis acquaintance of what example his morals to Christian practice, Letter to Dr. W. B 3
But the letter-writer, having taken it into his head, that Dr. s true sentiments are, that Christianity can only be defended as useful in the present circumstances of life, makes, as it would seem, this imagination the key to my real sentiments and designs in defending Revelation, Hence those strange expressions--If I um capable of understanding the meaning and drift of his book-he must excuse me, if I suspect his faith and condenin his book-This I am sure of, the author must be a subtile enemy to Revelation, or a very indiscreet friend--I must own he has left me in no doubt. Now if those be Dr. 's true sentiments, which yet I no more believe than that Tindal was a Christian in his heart, I shall not scruple to say that he whom I called one of the most formidable of the Free-thinkers adversaries, is indeed one of the weakest and most contemptible. But if they be inine, after all I have said in this volume, I will not scruple to say, that that character would be far too mild for me ; and that it would be but justice to esteem me the most abandoned writer that ever appeared in any cause.
Let us now take this key, and apply it to what I have written. —And it will indeed thoroughly serve the letter. writer's declared purpose to lessen my credit. For it will make the whole volume a heap of absurdities and contradictions. But lay aside this visionary key, and let me be interpreted by those common rules that all mankind have ever used in understanding one another, and then it will be seen I could not possibly have had any other intention than TO PROVE MOSES TO BE A TRUE PROPHET SENT IMMEDIATELY AND EXTRAORDINARILY FROM God.
-I pretend to do it from Moses's omission of the doctrine of a future state; which under an unequal Providence, is (as I have shewn in this Book, that being the only end of writing it) absolutely necessary to society. From whence I conclude Moses's pretensions were true : who assured the Israelites that God had chosen them to be his people, had condescended to be their king, and would consequently govern them by an EQUAL, that is an EXTRAORDINARY PROVIDENCE; which conclusion (that appears almost self-evident) I employ my second volume to support, illustrate, and free from objections. 12
Hence Hence it appears on what account I so niuch insist on the usefulness and necessity of religion in general, and the doctrinc of a future state in particular to society: The course of my argument, and all the rules of logic, obliged me to this conduct: and indeed I thought it the peculiar happiness of my argument that they did so; for I suppose, till the infidels be convinced that religion is useful to civil society, they will never be brought to believe it true.
I now haste to the other part of the letter-writer's charge, lest he, should be tempted, in his impatience, to repeat it; and say again, that I am a warmer advocate for Dr.
ihan for the Scriptures. The Reader, who has never seen iny book, will naturally conclude from these words, that either I had undervalued Scripture, or at least neglected a fair opportunity of vindicating it. He will be surprised to be told that the latter part of the charge was only for completing the antithesis: So indeed it appears to me; but the Reader shall judge for himself.
There are but two places in this volume, in which I had occasion to make observations on the Scripture; the one is, where I endeavour to shew that the argument which the Commentators use to prove the Pentateuch (against Spinosa and others) to be written by. Moses, is a very strong and solid one. The other is, where I say,
that the New Testament does not contain any regular or compleat system or digest of moral laws; the occasional precepts there delivered, how ercellent and divine soever, arising only from conjunctures and circumstances that were the subjects of those preachings or writings, in which such precepts are found. For the rest, for a general knowledge of the whole body of moral duty, the great pandect of the law of nature is held open by it to be searched and studied. Finally, says the Apostle Paul, Whatsoever things are true, &c.
I suppose then, if the letter-writer had any particular meaning, this was the place that was to justify him in saying that I was no warm advocate for the Scriptures. But does the New Testament contain any such compleat or regular system will the letter-writer say so ? will any, one besides say so? How weak and indiscreet a friend
soever he may please to think me of religion, I will assure the Reader, that as I make it one point of my religion to say nothing but what I think the truth, so I do not use to throw about those truths at random. The observation was here necessary to overthrow the most pernicious doctrine that ever infected society. If it was true, then, it was not untimely urged. But had the letter-writer had a little patience, he would have seen in the second volume (as tat will be the case of many other truths interspersed throughout the first) that, by the assistance of this very truth, I overthrow a prevailing notion, which I suppose, He, no more than I, will think very orthodox, namely, that Christianity is only a republication of the Rez ligion of Nature.
This, I can assure the Reader, is the case of all other principles occasionally laid down in this first volume, which are not only here used to prove the usefulness and truth of religiou in general, but are in the next volume applied to prove the truth of Revelation in particular. To give one instance at present, in the Sixth Section of the Second Book, I have attempted to explain the nature of Paganism, as distinguished from true Revelation ; where I have shewn, that though they abounded in pretended revelations, they were utter strangers to the idea of one revelation's being founded upon, or the completion of another. This principle I apply and inforce in the second volume against the fourth chapter of Collins's Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, where he lays it down for one of his fundamental principles (against all antiquity and fact) that it is a common and necessary method for new revelations to be built and grounded on precedent revelations.
The letter-writer proceeds- Mr. Warburton modestly says, they (the English Clergy] have undertaken to prove Christianity without understanding it. As in the case before, about censuring the conduct of Clergymen, the letter-writer turned what I said in general of the body, particularly, to individuals; so here, by a strange perversity, he turns what I said particularly, of some certain persons, generally, to the English Clergy. My words are these : Who, in this long Controversy between us and the Deists, hath not applied to certain late Advocates of Revelation what was formerly said of Amobius and Lactantius, that they undertook the defence of Christianity before they understood it?
But have none but Englishmen wrote of late in defence of Christianity? llave no Englishmen but the English Clergy wrote in defence of it? If neither of these questions can be answered in the negative, I would ask a third, What possessed the letter-writer to bear witness against me, to the world, that I have any where said that the English Clergy have undertaken to proce Christianity without understanding it? I solemnly declare, that in the passaye above quoted I meant no English Clergyman whatsoever. So far from that, I expressly say, in the Dedication, that the Clergy of the established Church are they who have been principally watchful in the common cause of Christianity, and MOST SUCCESSFUL in repelling the insults of its enemies. I must appeai then, this second time, to the Public for justice.
As I was cold in defence of Scripture in general, so my next charge is, that I have undertalued the evidence arising from miracles. Would the Reader know how? Hardly, by saying, as I expressly do, that men have proved our religion actually divine thereby. But this went for nothing, because I said in the same place, that the external evidence (in which miracles are included) is not capable of strict demonstration, but that the internal is. Now here might be some pretence for saying I overvalued internal evidence: But by what kind of logic it could be inferred that, therefore, I undervalued miracles, I know not.
The letter-writer next turns (as it would seem) from me to those who deny the Divinity of Christ, the merits of his death, the obligation and effects of the sacraments, and the doctrine of grace. ' But it is but seeming. He appears willing that these false opinions should be thought - mine: for having charged me with horrid crimes, without shadow of proof or probability, he would cover the scandal by insinuating me guilty of heterodoxy; or why else did he lead his reader to the very door of calumny, by artfully joining me, as undervaluing miracles, to one of these, who he says denies the truth of one of them?'.