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VERY little need be said to establish my first Proposition, which is singly this, that there is now extant a book intitled the New Testament; that is, there is a collection of writings distinguished by that denomination, containing four historical accounts of the birth, life, actions, discourses, and death, of an extraordinary person, named Jesus Christ, who was born in the reign of Augustus Cæsar, preached a new religion throughout the country of Judæa, and was put to a cruel and ignominious death in the reign of Tiberius. Also one other historical 10account of the travels, transactions, and orations, of some mean and illiterate men, known by the title of his apostles, whom he commissioned to propagate his religion after his death; which he foretold them he must suffer in confirmation of its truth. To these are added several epistolary writings, addressed by these persons to their fellow-labourers in this work, or to the several churches or societies of Christians, which they had established in the several cities Through which they had passed.
It would not be difficult to prove, that these books were written soon after those extraordinary events which are the subjects of them, as we find them quoted and referred to by an uninterrupted succession of writers from those to the present times; nor 11would it be less easy to shew, that the truth of all those events, miracles only excepted, can no more be reasonably questioned, than the truth of any other facts recorded in any history whatever; as there can be no more reason to doubt, that there existed a person as Jesus Christ; speaking, acting, and suffering, in such a manner as is there described, than that there were such men as Tiberius, Herod, or Pontius Pilate, his cotemporaries; or to suspect, that Peter, Paul, and James, were not the authors of those epistles to which their names are affixed, than that Cicero and Pliny did not write those which are ascribed to them. It might also be made appear, that these books having been wrote by various persons, at different times, 12and in distant places, could not possibly have been the work of a single impostor, nor of a fraudulent combination, being all stamped with the same marks of an uniform originality in their very frame and composition.
But all these circumstances I shall pass over unobserved, as they do not fall in with the course of my argument, nor are necessary for the support of it. Whether these books were wrote by the authors whose names are prefixed to them; whether they have been enlarged, diminished, or any way corrupted, by the artifice or ignorance of translators or transcribers; whether, in the historical parts, the writers were instructed by a perpetual, a partial, or by any inspiration at all; whether, in the religious and moral parts, they received 13their doctrines from a divine influence, or from the instructions and conversation of their matter; whether in their facts or sentiments there is always the most exact agreement, or whether in both they sometimes differ from each other; whether they are in any case mistaken, or always infallible; or ever pretended to be so, I not here dispute: let the Deist avail himself of all these doubts and difficulties, and decide them in conformity to his own opinions, I shall not contend, because they affect not my argument; all that I assert is a plain fact which cannot be denied, that such writings do now exist.14
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