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Society in Lowell, Mass., 1836. The third is “ An Argument for the Truth of_Christianity,” in a series of discourses, by Rev. 1. D. Williamson, pastor of the Universalist Society in Baltimore, Md., 1836.
. The fourth is “ The Causes of Infidelity Removed,” by Rev. Stephen R. Smith, pastor of the Universalist Society in Albany, N. Y., 1839.
II. As it was desirable to include in this work a chapter on the Evidences of Revealed Religion, the mind of the author has been much exercised as to the best manner of introducing a large amount of evidence into a small compass. It has, after much reflection, seemed best to him, on the whole, to republish entire the masterly work of Leslie, entitled "A Short and Easy Method with the Deists.” This work has never been answered ; and an answer never was attempted, except by one man, who finally abandoned his design in despair. It seems impossible that a man should read it, and not be satisfied with the truth of revealed religion.
A SHORT AND EASY METHOD WITH THE DEISTS.
BY REV. CHARLES LESLIE, M. A.
Sir, — In answer to yours of the third instant, I much condole with you your unhappy circumstances, of being placed among such company, where, as you say, you continually hear the sacred Scriptures, and the histories therein contained, particularly of Moses, and of Christ, and all revealed religion, turned into ridicule by men who set up for sense and reason. And they say, that there is no greater ground to believe in Christ than in Mahomet ; that all these pretences to revelation are cheats, and ever have been among Pagans, Jews, Mahometans, and Christians ; that they are all alike impositions of cunning and designing men, upon the credulity, at first, of simple and unthinking people, till, their numbers increasing, their delusions grew popular, and came at last to be established by laws; and
then the force of education and custom gives a bias to the judgments of after ages, till such deceits come really to be believed, being received upon trust from the ages foregoing, without examining into the original and bottom of them. Which these our modern men of sense (as they desire to be esteemed), say, that they only do ; that they only have their judgments freed from the slavish authority of precedents and laws in matters of truth, which, they say, ought only to be decided by reason; though by a prudent compliance with popularity and laws, they preserve themselves from outrage and legal penalties ; for none of their complexion are addicted to sufferings or martyrdom.
Now, Sir, that which you desire from me, is, some short topic of reason, if such can be found, whereby, without running to authorities, and the intricate mazes of learning, which breed long disputes, and which these men of reason deny by wholesale, though they can give no reason for it, only suppose that authors have been trumped upon us, interpolated and corrupted, so that no stress can be laid upon them, though it cannot be shown wherein they are so corrupted ; which, in reason, ought to lie upon them to prove who allege it ; otherwise it is not only a precarious, but a guilty plea ; and the more, that they refrain not to quote books on their side, for whose authority there are no better, or not so good grounds. However, you say, it makes your disputes endless, and they go away with noise and clamor, and a boast, that there is nothing, at least nothing certain, to be said on the Christian side. Therefore you are desirous to find some one topic of reason, which should demonstrate the truth of the Christian religion, and at the same time distinguish it from the impostures of Mahomet and the old Pagan world ; that our deists may be brought to this test, and be either obliged to renounce their reason, and the common reason of mankind, or to submit to the clear proof, from reason, of the Christian religion, which must be such a proof as no imposture can pretend to, otherwise it cannot prove the Christian
And you say
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.
you cannot imagine but there must be such a proof, because every truth is in itself clear, and one; and, therefore, thât 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 judginents.
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 performed.
4. That such monuments and such actions or observances 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 inyent 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 contrådićt me, as to the mark of cutting off the joint of a finger ; and that being part of my original matter of fact, must đemonstrate 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