« PrécédentContinuer »
the fober and benevolent fyftem of the gospel has been stigmatized as the offspring of fanaticism, and the parent of bigotry and perfecution, it feemed no unfeasonable or useless attempt to refort to that gofpel itself, and from its plain narration and unadulterated doctrines, vindicate it from those foul afperfions which have no femblance of truth, except when for the divine original men fubftitute the corruptions of human fraud or folly, and the mifdeeds of pride and cruelty, which in ages of barbarism and violence ufurped and abused the facred name of our holy religion. From a wish to contribute fomething to prevent the spread of error, prejudice and impiety, the writer of the following work has endeavoured to vindicate the characters of the apoftles and evange lifts from an accufation now fo popular. Writing principally for the young and uninformed, he has freely used, and gratefully acknowledged, the affiftance of those writers who have treated of the evidence and doctrines of Christianity, by almost all of whom this fubject has been incidentally touched on, and by fome more fully. He has not however confined himself entirely to their ideas, but has endeavoured by studying the fcriptures themselves, to confirm the conclufion he wished to establish, by a greater variety of arguments, and a more full induction of particulars than entered into the plan of any one preceding writer. He has chofen to throw his thoughts into the form of a direct proof, rather than that of a particular refutation of objections, as better calculated to fhew the real ftrength of the evidence which fcripture
fcripture fupplies on this topic, and more free from the intricacy and obscurity of controversy, so apt to disgust that class of readers, for whom the following pages are chiefly defigned.
It will not, he hopes, be deemed a deviation from due attention to his principal defign, that where the fame facts have ferved to prove that the apoftles and evangelifts were not fraudulent deceivers, as well as to evince their freedom from enthusiasm; this has been noticed. In fact, thefe two topics neither can nor ought to be confidered as entirely feparate and unconnected, It is the obfervation of the fagacious • Warburton," that the most fuccefsful impoftors, 46 as we fay, have fet out in all the blaze of fanati"cifm, and compleated their schemes amidst the
cool depth and ftillness of politics ;" and he has illustrated the nature of this ftrange union of fraud and fanaticifm, as well by the nature of the human mind, as by the examples of Mahomet, Ignatius Loyola, (the founder of the Jefuits) and Oliver Cromwell; it was therefore defirable to point out how totally free the first preachers of Christianity were from both these characters. In truth, integrity, as well as fobriety of mind, are fo confpicuous in the conduct and writings of the apoftles, that a patient and candid enquirer can scarcely fufpect them of fraud or fanaticifm in any ftep of their progrefs.
• Vid. Warburton's Divine Legation, book 3, fect. 6, fubfect 3.
Having mentioned Warburton, it feems indifpenfibly neceffary to vindicate the author from the charge of prefumption, in attempting a fubject which that celebrated writer has difcuffed in his Sermons on enthusiasm, and his Doctrine of Grace; it is therefore necessary to remark, that the design of the following work is widely different from that of the learned prelate, who laboured more to expose what he
The fame obfervation which is here made on Warburton, applies to most of the principle works on Fanaticism. To Bishop Stillingfleet's Difcourfe of the Idolatry and Fanaticism of the Church of Rome, c. iv. To the Comparison between the enthusiasm of the papifts, and some modern fectaries, in 2 vols. Lond. 1751. To Hicks's Spirit of Enthusiasm exorcifed, Lond. 17c9. To Lee's History of Montanifm. To, The New Pretenders to Prophecy, examined-both annexed to Dr. Hicks's work. To Stinftra's Effay on Fanaticism, tranflated from the Dutch, and published in Dublin, 1774, by the Rev. Ifaac Subremont. The learned Merick Cafaubon has exhibited a View of the different Species of Enthusiasm, in a treatise on that fubject, published Lond. 1656, which contains much curious information ;-but in none of these works has it been the object to exhibit a connected view of the direct proofs, which form the subject of the following effay. Lord Lyttleton on the Converfion of St. Paul, and Dr. Archibald Campbell in his Effay to prove the Apostles were not Enthusiasts, have briefly noticed many of these proofs, but the former confines himself to that fingle fact, which was the peculiar object of his work, and the latter extends his argu ment no farther than to fhew that the Apoftles were not Enthusiasts in their Belief of the Refurrection of our Lord-on this account the author of the following pages, while he acknowledges the great affiftance he has received from thefe learned writers, is yet led to believe that they do not anticipate the objea, or fuperfede the neceffity of a more extenfive view of this important
he conceived to be the errors and extravagancies of a particular fect of Chriftians, than to illuftrate the general evidence of Christianity itfelf; this last is the fole object of these pages, in which the author anxiously wishes not a single thought may be found, that has not a tendency to promote, amongst all fects of fincere Chriftians, that mutual charity and brotherly love, which are perpetually recommended in the gospel of peace. Happy, indeed, would be the confequence if different fects were anxious, not only to remove from the tenets of their faith thofe errors, which each maintain have infected every other, and to unite the truths which each receive; but if befides this, they perpetually laboured to purify their practice from every thing fimilar to the mifconduct, which in others they condemn, and to unite in it every excellence, for which any other description of their brethren is peculiarly distinguished, and thus provoke one another to love, and to good works. Were this 'done, diverfity of opinion would contribute to ex
important fubject, which fhould confider the conduct, the writings, and the doctrines of all the apostles, and should exclude thofe controverfies which, in fo many other works, have diverted the attention of their authors from thefe grand objects.
Hebrews, x. 24.
The following obfervation of the eminently pious and fagatious Hartley on this fubject, is well worthy the most ferious. attention. Hartley on the Truth of the Chriftian Religion, prop. 45, vol. 2, of his works, p. 194; or Watfon's Tracts, vol. I. "The fuccefs of fects has, in general, been owing to their making greater pretences to purity and gospel per
cite emulation in active virtue; thus too, endeavour. ing to trace the praife-worthy conduct of those who diffent from us, we fhould be frequently led to ob serve, that even those who differ from us most did, notwithstanding, in many inftances, exhibit models well worthy of our imitation: hence, where we could not approve of their principles, we fhould give them due credit for their conduct as better than these principles, and none would dare to pronounce men excluded from the pale of falvation, who thus, in many inftances, might appear better than themfelves. An hiftorical view of the conduct of different fects, thus designed to place their merits, as well as their demerits, in a clear light, unclouded by calumny and prejudice, by bigotry and misrepresentation, and to collect the peculiar virtues of each for the common imitation of all, would perhaps materially contribute to smooth the afperity of controversy, and extend the mildnefs of toleration; it would exhibit a view of ecclefiaftical history, well calculated
"fection than the established churches, and to their both teach"ing and practifing fome neceffary duties which established "churches have too much neglected in the corrupted state of
Christianity. Every fect of Christians has magnified some great truth, not above its real value, but above the value "which other fects have fet upon it, and by this means each
important religious truth has had the advantage of being fet "in a full light by fome party or other, though too much ne
glected by the reft; and the true catholic church, and com"munion of faints, unites all thefe fects, by taking what is "right from each, and leaving the errors, falfehoods, and "corruptions of each, to combat and deftroy one another.