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THE DIVINE LEGATION OF MOSES, &c.
THE ASPERSIONS OF THE COUNTRY CLERGYMAN'S LETTER
of Feb. 24, 1737:
FTER having twice offered my Thoughts to the
Public, on two very important Subjects, and had the honour to be favourably heard, it must needs be a sufficient mortification to me to be obliged to descend to so low a subject as myself. That, and the deference due to the Public, had certainly restrained this appeal to it, had the matter terminated there. But when the accusation intended against me appeared visibly designed to render a projected defence of Revelation suspected; which, I will presume (and, as the author of it, the Reader will excuse me for presuming) may be of some small service to our holy faith, I thought it my duty to vindicate myself, in this public manner, from the horrid accusations of a letter-writer in the Weekly Miscellany of the 24th of February last. Whether this was the true motive of this Vindication will be best seen by the temper in which it is written. · The letter-writer begins with me in this manner, A late Writer, the Author of the Divine Legation of Moses, &c. is very severe upon All Clergymen who take the liberty of censuring the conduct of
ANY OF THEIR BRETHREN.
The passage, on which this accusation is founded, is in p. 21* of the Dedication - I appeal then to the Public, whether my severity falls on those who censure the conduct of any of their brethren: or on those, who abuse the whole body of the Clergy, considered as an Order instituted by Christ, and established by the State.
He goes on-If I am capable of understanding the meaning and drift of his Book, he had reason to apprehend it might draw upon him the censures of all the Clergy who are sincere friends to Christianity--therefore it might be politic to obviate the force of such animadversions beforehand. Had I been conscious of deserving the censure of any honest man, I had done, like those who delight in mischief; I had wounded in the dark. But when I chose to write without a name, it was for very contrary purposes. When I presumed to publish (in defence of the Established Clergy) a vindication of the Church of England, under the title of The Alliance between Church and State, which surely might deserve their pardon, lest the World should imagine I expected more, I put it out without my name. And now writing in the cominon cause of Christianity, I have publicly owned it. For if ever the suspicion of being ashamed of the faith of Jesus be more carefully to be avoided at one time than at another, it must certainly be in this, when infidelity is become so reputable as to be esteemed a test of superior parts and discernment.
He proceeds, -I shall add, that if he really means to defend Christianity, he hath published the weakest defence of it that I have ever read. How are we to understand him here? Must we rectify the proposition thus - If the Author gives this volume as a defence of Christianity, then it is the weakest?—The consequence will then indeed be true.---But I had cut off all pretence for begging the premisses. For I have formally and expressly said in the beginning, and repeated it towards the end, that the design of this volume † was only preparatory to the defence of Revelation, and to prove the use of Religion
in general, and the doctrine of a future state in particular to civil society. And had I not said this, the Book itself would shew that it is no more a defence of Christianity than the first proposition of the three terms is a syllogism.
But if the letter-writer means, what his words express That if I have a serious purpose of defending Christianity, this volume is the weakest defence-his premisses will be true indeed, but then they will have no relation to his conclusion. For it does not follow from those premisses, that this is any defence at all ; any more than that, if I had a serious purpose of building a house, the foundationstones were that house.
The deference due to the Public, from so obscure a writer as myself, was the true reason why this first part came out separately; the Author not presuming to obtrude a voluminous work upon it till he had some assurance of its willingness to receive it. But the same regard that obliged me to this conduct, would not suffer me to make a secret of the medium by which I pretended to establish my demonstration, especially as it had the fortune to be generally esteemed a parador. I therefore gave the proof in form two years ago in the Appendix to The Alliance between Church and State. There it is to be found; and had the letter-writer, instead of indulging his monstrous suspicions of the Author, turned himself to making objections to his argument, he might possibly have then as much served truth as he now has violated charity.
He goes on-He is a warmer advocate for Dr. who denies the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, than for the Scriptures themselves. How warm an advocate I am for him, we shall see by and by; how true an accuser the letter-writer is of him, we shall examine at present. Dr. says*, it is NECESSARY to believe of the Scriptures in general that they are divinely inspired; and that all which he denies is, that the Scriptures are of absolute and universal inspirations. He shews that Tillotson and Grotius were of t.e sa ne opinion,
* Remarks on a Reply to the Defence of a Letter to Dr. W. p. 69. † Ibid. p. 70.
who, who, he charitably presumes, were Christians. And as he tells his friends and acquaintance the same he tells the Public, the letter-writer must excuse me, if I believe a man whose candour, sincerity, benevolence, and charity I have experienced, before him, who has not given me the pleasure of remarking in him any of those Christian qualities.
But I would not have the letter-writer infer, that, because he has been pleased to make me Dr. 's advocate, I am to be responsible for his opinions. I differ widely from him in the matter of inspiration, and as widely in some others. But we can differ from each other, and avow and maintain our difference of opinion, without violation of common humanity, friendship, or Christian charity. I will give the letter-writer another instance of difference in opinion between us, from this very
Book he so much condemns. The writer of the Defence of the Letter to Dr. W. p. 45, says,—Is the notion of the divine origin of the law and inspiration of Moses to be resolved into fiction, or fable, or political lying ? No, far be it from me to think or say so. But this perhaps one may venture to say, that the supposition of some degree of such fiction may possibly be found necessary to the solving the difficulties of the Mosaic IVritings, without any hurt to their authority, or advantage to infidelity. I am, as I say, of a different opinion. The writer endeavours to support his by several arguments; amongst which one is, the professions and erample of the ancient sages and legislators. Now, in the Second Section of my Third Book I have inquired into the principles that induced the ancient sages and legislators to deem it lawful to deceive for the public good; in the discovery of which, I think, I have made it evident that those reasons or principles could have no place amongst the founders and propagators of the Jewish and Christian religions. This truth (as well as several others interspersed throughout this First Volume, and which may perhaps give offence to the indiscreet zeal of the letter-writer) is in my next volume * applied and inforced to the overthrowing that opinion that some degree
Containing Books IV. V. VI.