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religion not to be an imposture. And whether such a proof, one single proof (to avoid confusion), is not to be found out, you desire to know from me.
And you say, that you cannot imagine but there must be such a proof, because every truth is in itself clear, and one; and, therefore, that one reason for it, if it be the true reason, must be sufficient; and, if sufficient, it is better than many; for multiplicity confounds, especially to weak judgments.
Sir, you have imposed a hard task upon me; I wish I could perform it; for though every truth is one, yet our sight is so feeble, that we cannot always come to it directly, but by many inferences, and laying of things together.
But I think, that in the case before us, there is such a proof as you require, and I will set it down as short and plain as I can.
I. First, then, I suppose, that the truth of the doctrine of Christ will be sufficiently evinced, if the matters of fact which are recorded of him in the gospels be true; for his miracles, if true, do vouch the truth of what he delivered.
The same is to be said as to Moses. If he brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea in that miraculous manner which is related in Exodus, and did such other wonderful things as are there told of him, it must necessarily follow, that he was sent from God. These being the strongest proofs we can desire, and which every deist will confess he would acquiesce in, if he saw them with his eyes. Therefore, the stress of this cause will depend upon the proof of these matters of fact.
And the method I will take, is, first, to lay down. such rules as to the truth of matters of fact, in general, that, where they all meet, such matters of fact cannot be false. And then, secondly, to show, that all these rules do meet in the matters of fact of Moses and of Christ; and that they do not meet in the matters of fact of Mahomet, of the heathen deities, nor can possibly meet in any imposture whatsoever.
The rules are these:
1. That the matter of fact be such, as that men's outward senses, their eyes and ears, may be judges of it.
2. That it be done publicly, in the face of the world. 3. That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward actions to be per
4. That such monuments and such actions or obser vances be instituted, and do commence from the time that the matter of fact was done.
The two first rules make it impossible for any such matter of fact to be imposed upon men, at the time when such matter of fact was said to be done, because every man's eyes and senses would contradict it. For example; suppose any man should pretend, that yesterday he divided the Thames, in presence of all the people of London, and carried the whole city, men, women, and children, over to Southwark on dry land, the water standing like walls on both sides: I say, it is morally impossible that he could persuade the people of London that this was true, when every man, woman, and child could contradict him, and say, that this was a notorious falsehood, for that they had not seen the Thames so divided, nor had gone over on dry land. Therefore, I take it for granted (and, I suppose, with the allowance of all the deists in the world), that no such imposition could be put upon men, at the time when such public matter of fact was said to be done.
Therefore it only remains, that such matter of fact might be invented some time after, when the men of that generation, wherein the thing was said to be done, are all past and gone; and the credulity of after ages might be imposed upon, to believe that things were done in former ages, which were not.
And for this the two last rules secure us, as much as the two first rules in the former case; for whenever such a matter of fact came to be invented, if not only monuments were said to remain of it, but likewise that
public actions and observances were constantly used ever since the matter of fact was said to be done; the deceit must be detected, by no such monuments appearing, and by the experience of every man, woman, and child, who must know that no such actions or observances were ever used by them. For example; suppose I should now invent a story of such a thing, done a thousand years ago, I might perhaps get some to believe it; but if I say, that not only such a thing was done, but that from that day to this, every man, at the age of twelve years, had a joint of his little finger cut off; and that every man in the nation did want a joint of such a finger; and that this institution was said to be part of the matter of fact done so many years ago, and vouched as a proof and confirmation of it, and as having descended without interruption, and been constantly practised, in memory of such matter of fact all along, from the time that such matter of fact was done : I say, it is impossible I should be believed in such a case, because every one could contradict me, as to the mark of cutting off the joint of a finger; and that being part of my original matter of fact, must demonstrate the whole to be false.
II. Let us now come to the second point, to show, that the matters of fact of Moses, and of Christ, have all these rules or marks before mentioned; and that neither the matters of fact of Mahomet, or what is reported of the heathen deities, have the like; and that no imposture can have them all.
As to Moses, I suppose it will be allowed me, that he could not have persuaded six hundred thousand men that he had brought them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, fed them forty years without bread, by miraculous manna, and the other matters of fact recorded in his books, if they had not been true. Because every man's senses that were then alive, must have contradicted it. And, therefore, he must have imposed upon all their senses, if he could have made them believe it when it was false, and no such things done. So that
here are the first and second of the abovementioned four marks.
For the same reason, it was equally impossible for him to have made them receive his five books as truth, and not to have rejected them, as a manifest imposture, which told of all these things as done before their eyes, if they had not been so done. See how positively he speaks to them, Deut. xi. 2-8, "And know ye this day; for I speak not with your children which have not known, and which have not seen the chastisement of the Lord your God, his greatness, his mighty hand, and his stretched-out arm, and his miracles, and his acts, which he did in the midst of Egypt unto Pharaoh the king of Egypt, and unto all his land; and what he did unto the army of Egypt, unto their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the water of the Red Sea to overflow them as they pursued after you, and how the Lord hath destroyed them unto this day; and what he did unto you in the wilderness, until ye came into this place; and what he did urto Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, the son of Reuben: how the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their households, and their tents, and all the substance that was in their possession, in the midst of all Israel. But your eyes have seen all the great acts of the Lord, which he did," &c.
From hence we must suppose it impossible, that these books of Moses (if an imposture) could have been invented and put upon the people, who were then alive when all these things were said to be done. ·
The utmost, therefore, that even a suppose can stretch to, is, that these books were wrote in some age after Moses, and put out in his name.
And to this I say, that if it was so, it was impossible that those books should have been received as the books of Moses, in that age wherein they may have been supposed to have been first invented. Why? Because they speak of themselves as delivered by Moses, and kept in the ark from his time. "And it came to pass,
when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee," Deut. xxxi. 24-26. And there was a copy of this book to be left likewise with the king. "And it shall be when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them," Deut. xvii. 18, 19.
Here you see, that this book of the law speaks of itself, not only as a history or relation of what things were then done, but as the standing and municipal law and statutes of the nation of the Jews, binding the king as well as the people.
Now, in whatever age after Moses you will suppose this book to have been forged, it was impossible it could be received as truth; because it was not then to be found, either in the ark, or with the king, or anywhere else; for when first invented, everybody must know, that they had never heard of it before.
And, therefore, they could less believe it to be the book of their statutes, and the standing law of the land, which they had all along received, and by which they had been governed.
Could any man, now at this day, invent a book of statutes or acts of parliament for England, and make it pass upon the nation as the only book of statutes that ever they had known? As impossible was it for the books of Moses (if they were invented in any age after Moses) to have been received for what they declared themselves to be, viz. the statutes and municipal law of the nation of the Jews; and to have persuaded the Jews, that they had owned and acknowledged these