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OF THREE OF
OUR BLESSED SAVIOUR'S MIRACLES :
THE RAISING OF JAIRUS'S DAUGHTER, THE WIDOW OF
NAIN'S SON, AND LAZARUS.
IN ANSWER TO THE OBJECTIONS
MR. WOOLSTON'S FIFTH DISCOURSE ON THE MIRACLES OF OUR SAVIOUR.
The ensuing vindication was drawn up about nine months since. But it was done for my own satisfaction, without any view to a publication at that time. And when the Reverend Dr. Harris's remarks on the case of Lazarus came out, I thought the public and Mr. W. had received in a short compass a full answer to all the material objections of the discourse, with which these papers are concerned.
Nor did I determine to send them to the press, till after I had seen a passage in Mr. Wr's defence of his Discourses, p. 61, where he says: "Whoever was the author of the - foresaid treatise, s'i'he Trial of the Witnesses of the Resur• rection of Jesus] he humbly and heartily begs of him to · publish what in the conclusion of it he has given us some • hopes of, the trial of the witnesses of the resurrection of
Lazarus, because his Rabbi's objections to it are a novelty • and curiosity, which, by way of such a reply to them, he • should be glad to see handled.' I also wish the ingenious author of that performance may be at leisure to grant Mr. W.'s request. In the mean time Mr. W. still expressing a particular regard for his Rabbi's objections, I thought it not amiss to send abroad this Vindication, which I had by
If Mr. W. by way of such a reply, means a reply drawn up with the wit and spirit of that author, I free y own it much above my capacity, and am not so vain as to attempt it. If by way of such a reply he means a reply without abusive railing terms, or invoking the aid of the civil magistrate, I have done it in that way. I wish Mr. Woolston no harm; I only wish him a sincere conviction and profession of the truth effected and brought about by solid reasons and arguments, without pains or penalties. And in this point I agree exactly with that learned Dominican, De Maussac, who in bis Prolegomena to Raymond Martini's Pugio Fidei, written against Moors and Jews, says: “We
must with Tertullian openly profess, that the new law does • not defend itself by the sword of the magistrate : forasmuch
as it has pleased Christ the author of it, that no man should • be forced to the embracing of his law by the punishments • of this life, or the fear of them, as appears from many places • of the New Testament, not only of Paul, but also of John, • and Luke, and Matthew. Nor is it, as the same father says • at the end of his book to Scapula, a part of religion to force religion, which must be taken up freely, not upon compulsion.
Who will lay upon me the necessity of believing * what I will not, or of not believing what I will ? as Lactan. tius says. Nothing is so voluntary as religion. In which, • if the mind be averse, religion is quite destroyed. Faith • is to be wrought by persuasion, not by compulsion. Se
verity has always done harm, and always will do harm : • and our minds, like noble and generous steeds, are best
managed with an easy rein ; rather by reason than autho• rity, rather by good words than by threats.'a
When, at the erecting the Royal Society, into which were freely admitted men of different religions and countries, some it is likely, were apprehensive of this free converse of various judgments, Dr. Sprat) frankly asserts, that our • doctrine and discipline [those of the church of England]
* Nam cum Tertulliano palam est profitendum, legem novam non se vindicare ultore gladio : quod Christo ejus auctori placuerit neminem ad receptionem suæ legis cogi hujus vitæ pænis, vel earum metu, ut patet ex variis Novi Testamenti locis, tum Pauli, tum Joannis, tum Lucæ, tum Matthæi: quod non sit religionis, eodem teste ad Scapulam in fine, cogere religionem, quæ sponte suscipi debet, non vi. Quis mihi imponat necessitatem vel credendi quod nolim, vel quod velim non credendi ? ait Lactantius. Nihil tam voluntarium quam religio. In quâ si animus aversus est, jam sublata, jam nulla est. Fides autem suadenda est, non imperanda ; nocuit enim, et nocebit semper, rigor : et ingenia nostra, ut nobiles et generosi equi, melius facili fræno reguntur, docendo magis quam jubendo, monendo quam minando.
History of the Royal Society, p. 63, second edition.
! will be so far from receiving damage by it, that it were • the best way to make them universally embraced, if they
were oftener brought to be canvassed amidst all sorts of • dissenters :—That there is no one profession amidst the several denominations of christians, that can be exposed to the search and scrutiny of its adversaries, with so much safety as ours.
Dr. Bentley, in a sermon at a public commencement at Cambridge, says, “It has pleased the Divine Wisdom, ne
ver yet to leave christianity wholly at leisure from op• posers; but to give its professors that perpetual exercise • of their industry and zeal. And who can tell, if without * such adversaries to rouse and quicken them, they might not in long tract of time have grown remiss in the duties, and ignorant in the doctrines of religion ?'
These learned men have assured us upon the foundation of the scriptures, of the fathers, and reason, that all force on the minds of men in the matters of belief is contrary to religion in general, and to the christian religion in particular; and that severity instead of doing good, has always done harm.
These points might be enlarged upon, but nothing new can be offered. Possibly some good men may still be in some doubt concerning the issue of admitting the principles of religion to be freely and openly canvassed. But I think that such may find satisfaction even upon this head in the passages I have quoted, provided they will be pleased to consider them. However I will add a few observations briefly upon this matter.
It is an old saying, which has been much admired and applauded for its wisdom, that truth is great, and strong above all things. There is certainly some real excellence in Truth above error. Great and important truths are clearer than others, and not likely to be mistaken, but to shine the more for examination. The christian religion in particular, as contained in the New Testament, abounds with evidence.
These are considerations taken from the nature of things. Experience is on the same side. The christian religion triumphed for the first three hundred years over error and superstition, without the aids of civil authority, against the veneration of ancient custom, against ridicule and calumny, false arguments, and many severe persecutions. From small beginnings by its own internal excellence, and the force of that evidence with which God had clothed it, and the industry and zeal of its honest professors, it spread it
© Page 3, quarto edition, 1696.
self over the Roman empire, and the neighbouring countries,
The christian church had in the same space of time a triumph within itself over those false and absurd opinions that sprang up under the christian name. • These heresies,' Eusebius " says, “ soon disappeared one after another, being
continually changing into new forms and shapes. But the • catholic and only true church, always the same and constant * to itself, spread and increased continually; shining out
among Greeks and barbarians by the gravity, simplicity, • freedoin, modesty, and purity of its manners and principles.' This joint victory over Gentilism, and over heresies, was e obtained, as he intimates, by the writings and discourses of the patrons of truth at that time. And indeed it could be owing to nothing else but to those methods, supported by holy lives and patient sufferings.
Our own time also affords a convincing instance to all that will open their eyes to observe. The protestant states and kingdoms of Europe, as they enjoy greater liberty than others, proportionably exceed their neighbours in the justness of their sentiments, and the goodness of their lives. Indeed there is among us protestants a great deal of vice and irreligion, which all good men observe with grief and concern, and some very bad and selfish men delight to aggravate and magnify with a view to their own evil designs; but still without vanity, if we be barely just to our circumstances, sure we have some reason to glory over some of our neighbours in this respect. Which advantage can be ascribed to no other cause so much as the liberty we enjoy. For introduce among us the tyranny they are under, and we shall be as ignorant, as superstitious, and corrupt, as they.
If then men should be permitted among us, to go on in delivering their sentiments freely in matters of religion, and to propose their objections against christianity itself; I apprehend, we have no reason to be in pain for the event. On the side of christianity, I expect to see, as hitherto, the greatest share of learning, good sense, true wit, and fairness of disputation : which thing's, I hope, will be superior to low ridicule, false argument, and misrepresentation. For ought I can see, in an age so rational as this we live
Aλλων επ' αλλαις αιρεσεων καινοτομεμενων, υπoρρεασων αει των προτερων, και εις πολυτροπες και πολυμορφες ιδεας αλλοτε αλλως φθειρομενων. Προσηει δ' εις αυξησιν και μεγεθος, αει κατα τα αυτα και ωσαύτως εχασα, ή της καθολο και μονης αληθες εκκλησιας λαμπροτης, κ. λ. Η. Ε. 1. 4. c. 7.
Ομως δ' αν κατα της δηλωμενες αυθις παρηγεν εις μεσον η αληθεια πλειος εαυτης υπερμαχος, και δι' αγραφων αυτο μονον ελεγχων, αλλα και δι' εγγραφων αποδειξεων κατα των αθεων αιρεσεων σρατευομενες. Ιbid.
in, the victory over our enemies may be speedily obtained. They will be driven to those manifest absurdities, which they must be ashamed to own; and be silent in dread of universal censure. But
the contest should last for some time, we shall all better understand our Bibles: we shall upon a fresh examination better understand the principles and the grounds of our religion. Possibly some errors may be mixed with our faith, which by this means may be separated, and our faith become more pure. Being more confirmed in the truths of our religion, we shall be more perfect in the duties of it. Instead of being unthinking and nominal, we shall become more generally serious and real christians : each one of which advantages will be a large step toward a complete and final victory.
This victory obtained upon the ground of argument and persuasion alone, by writing and discourse, will be honourable to us and our religion; and we shall be able to reflect upon it with pleasure. We shall not only keep that good thing we have received, but shall deliver it down to others with advantage. But a victory secured by mere authority is no less to be dreaded than a defeat. It may appear a benefit for the present, but it really undermines the cause, and strikes at the root of our holy profession. Will any serious and sensible Christian, in the view of a future judgment, undertake to answer for the damage thereby brought to the doctrine of his Saviour, the meek and patient Jesus ? as meek in his principles, as in the example he has bequeath
I might now address myself to our adversaries, and tell them, that it is a very desirable thing, that all authors should write as scholars and gentlemen, at least like civilized people: that it is a point long since determined, that in controversial writings, authors should confine themselves to things, that is, the merits of the cause, without annoying persons: that it is grievous to all sorts of men, to have those things which they respect, treated with indecency, I might tell them, that other men's reputation is as sacred as their own.
I might remind them, that christians at this time, generally speaking, are in as good temper as they were ever known to be : that some, being of opinion that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and that it is his pleasure, that men should not be compelled to receive his law by the punishments of this life, or the fear of thein, leave men to propose their doubts and objections in their own way: that others have openly declared, that they ought to be invited; and others that they ought to be permitted to pro