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6thly, There is one objection more, and it is the only one I can recollect, which seems to have any considerable claim to notice. “ How can that revelation, it is said, be of divine authority, which is not perfectly consistent with it. felf? Now it is easy to point out a variety of inconsistencies, both with respect to facts and teafonings, in those books which compose the canon of scripture, and in which only the Christian religion is contained ?” This objection is founded upon a very erroneous notion, which has been and ftill is too much countenanced by the profeflors of Christianity themselves, who in general maintain that the sacred writings were compofed under the immediate influence of divine inspiration; a notion highly improbable in itself, plainly contrary to the general tenor of scripture, and wholly destitute of proof, excepting such as may be derived from a gross perversion of a few detached paffages. The Apostles and Evangelists never pretended, like the great impoftor Mahomet, that their writings were dictated by the Angel Gabriel, or ever urged the perfection of their own compofitions, as a decisive proof of the authenticity of the Christian religion. They were indeed witnesses faithful and true, men of strict integrity, who had the best opportunity of being informed of the leading facts which they asserted, and who were under no conceivable temptation to wish to impose a vile and incredible falsehood upon the world, and men who were of all others least likely to succeed in fo absurd an attempt; but the testimony they gave to the truth of Christianity was to all intents a human testimony, established indeed by miracles and prophecies, but by no means exempt from those venial errors which accompany every thing human. Were I even convinced, that in a decree promulgated by the joint authority of the twelve Apostles, convened in general council, there were contained any
article which demonstrated that they were not entirely emancipated from Jewish weakness and prejudice; were it clearly proved, that the reasonings of St. Paul, or St. Peter, were sometimes inclufive, or that the facts reported by St. Luke, or St. Matthew, were in some points inaccurately stated, I should still believe, with exactly the same degree of confidence, that Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power, by his resurrection from the dead, and that he will come again to judge the world in righteousness :
66 But if an entire and implicit dependance is not to be placed on every part of holy writ, where shall we draw the line ? If a habit of scepticism is indulged, where shall we stop?” Such is the language of weakness and timidity. But it may be asked, what necessity is there for drawing a precise line or boundary in this case, or what pretence is there for requiring a degree of precision on this subject, which moral subjects in general and the very nature of moral evidence do not admit?-Let every man use that portion of reason and understanding which God hath given him, for the purpose of
investigating the evidence and the principles of Christianity, and let him determine for himself, after a cool and impartial deliberation, what this religion teaches, and upon what authority it stands. Let not the apprehension or reproach of scepticism alarm or deter him from the most perfect freedom of enquiry; for that investigation which does not originate in doubt, can never terminate in rational conviction.
T the first view, it must be acknowledged
that the idea of hereditary succesion appears fo whimsical, and even absurd, that one is tempted to wonder how it could have obtained fo decided a preference in almost all civilized countries. In an affair so important to the general interests of mankind, as the choice of those persons who are destined to hold the highest rank in civil communities, and are invested with such powers as the ftrongest political necessity only could induce an enlightened people to intrust to any individuals, is it not contrary to every principle of reason and common sense, to lay a greater stress upon the single and accidental circumstance of birth, than upon those moral and intellectual qualities which have an immediate tendency to secure the great ends of government, the peace, happiness, and prosperity of the community ? such as genius, wifdom, knowledge, beneficence, or valour-qualities which must ever excite the highest degree of esteem and admiration. It would, however, be easy to shew, and it has in fact been repeatedly demonstrated, that hereditary succession is attended
by by advantages which infinitely overbalance the inconveniencies to which it is liable; and that a power of electing the supreme magistrate, in whatever hands it might be lodged, must in all probability be productive of such a degree of political animosity, disorder, and confusion, that the poffeffion of such a privilege would be a great and real misfortune. In this country, at least, this truth is so generally acknowledged, that it would be very superfluous to enter into a formal discussion of it. Perhaps, amongst all the political zealots with which this kingdom abounds in these days of innovation and reformation, there is not one who would wish to extend our liberties by converting this ancient hereditary monarchy into an elective one. But there is another question relative to this subject, of much less consequence indeed, which may not, perhaps, be so easily folved, or the solution of which, at least, may not afford such universal fatisfaction. It is this: Whether the order of succession established in this monarchy, is that which is in itself most eligible; or, in other words, that which is most likely to preserve the public peace and tranquillity? I do not hesitate to confess, that in my opinion it is not; and this opinion I shall endeavour to fupport, by such confiderations as have occurred to me when I have chanced to turn my thoughts to this subject.