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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 that 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 Re-. 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 religion 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 Advo
cates of Revelation what was formerly said of Arnobius and Lactantius, that they undertook the defence of Christianity before they understood it?
But have none but Englishmen wrote of late in de fence of Christianity? Have 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 prove Christianity without understanding it? I solemnly declare, that in the passage above quoted I meant no English Clergyman whatsoever. So far from that, F expressly say, in the Dedication, that the Clergy of the established Church are they who have been princ!pally watchful in the common cause of Christianity, and MOST SUCCESSFUL in repelling the insults of its enemies. I must appeal 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 undervalued 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?
But the letter-writer should have considered, if this was his design, that in this very book I affirm more than once or twice, that the doctrine of redemption is the foundation, and of the very essence of Christianity. He should have known that all or most of those true Christian doctrines mentioned above are contained in the doctrine of redemption.
There are, and those esteemed sincere Christians too, who would have taken the names of infidel and heretic for favours at the hand of the letter-writer. But I am of a different humour. These titles have no charms for me. I have lived some time in the world; and, blessed be GOD, without giving or taking offence. This time has been spent in my parish church (for I am a country clergyman, and reside constantly on my Cure) in the service of my neighbour, in my study, and in the offices of filial piety
"With lenient Arts t'extend a Mother's breath,
Make Languor smile, and smooth the bed of death, Explore the thought, explain the asking eye, "And keep awhile one Parent from the sky."
Excess of zeal in such as the letter-writer, and defect of religion in others of better breeding, so efface these feelings of nature, that I could hardly have known how to have told them, had I not both the example, and the fine words too, of one of the politest men of the age to keep me in countenance. The time spent in my study has been employed in confirming, my own faith against the erroneous opinions the letter-writer has raked together, and then, in planning a Work to confirm my brethren. All the reward I ever had, or ever expect to have here, is the testimony of a good conscience within doors, and a good name without. The first no man can take from me; the other, this letter-writer, in the most unchristian manner, has attempted to invade.
-But I heartily forgive him: and instead of putting uncharitable constructions on his secret intentions, will believe, though I know no more of him than by his letter, that he is sincere, and only unhappily agitated by a furious zeal for the cause of GOD and Religion; instead of thinking he ought to be hindered from any farther ad
vancement in the Church. If the want of that be the cause of his spleen and virulency, I heartily wish it may be speedily removed: nay, that the letter he has wrote against me may contribute towards it. Instead of using any warm endeavours to lessen his credit, which he professes in so many words to be his purpose against me, I wish him all increase of reputation and honour: and instead of insulting him with the words he seems to apply to me-I pray for the forgiveness and conversion of all bad men, I will assure him, that I pray for him as a bro
I have only one word more to add: I have presumed to appeal to the Public, in a matter indeed that little concerns it, yet perhaps of some moment in the consequence and example. But whatever necessity I now found myself under of not submitting to so false a charge, the Public need not be under apprehensions that I shall ever give them a second trouble of the same kind. It must be some strange provocation indeed that can make me repeat it. For if I can forgive injuries of this kind, it is sure no hard task to despise them. In a word, I have made my defence against these calumnies now once for all; and my enemies must pardon me, if I decline to be drawn in, into a controversy of this nature; or to be drawn off from the subject I have commenced in defence of Revelation. And, by the grace of GoD, no unchristian treatment shall ever make me languid or remiss in vindicating the truth of the Christian cause. Whether I am a weak defender of Christianity must be submitted to the judgment of the Public. But I am persuaded that that Public will suspend all severity of judgment till they see the whole performance: and then, I hope, those who now think I have advanced a paradox that cannot be supported, will be of another opinion. But if it should not be my good fortune to make out my point to their satisfaction, yet I should hope they will pass a more equitable construction on the attempt than the letter-writer has thought fit to do; and make all favourable allowances for the newness and difficulty of the subject, and the many incidental points touched upon, which will, I hope, be thought by all persons of equity, candor, and good learning, to have their use. In the mean time, I can say
with great truth, and, I hope I may do it with modesty, that what I offer to the Public concerning The Divine Legation of Moses is not a hasty sudden thought, and what has appeared flattering to me upon its first appearance only; as such things often strike, which, upon review, give no satisfaction. But this has been long the subject of my thoughts; often laid by, and then again, at proper intervals, resumed, reviewed, and turned on all sides. What then I have been in no haste to approve after carefully weighing and examining every part, I shall hope the equitable Reader will be in no haste to condemn or suspect while he has seen only one.