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AN INSTANCE OF
CONJUGATION OF PROBABILITIES,
PROVING THAT THE RELIGION OF JESUS CHRIST
IS FROM GOD.
FROM BISHOP TAYLOR'S DUCTOR DUBITANTIUM.
AN INSTANCE OF
CONJUGATION OF PROBABILITIES,
PROVING THAT THE RELIGION OF JESUS CHRIST IS
THIS discourse, of all the disputables in the world, shall re
quire the fewest things to be granted ; even nothing but what was evident, even nothing but the very fubject of the question, viz. that there was such a man as Jesus Christ; that he pretended such things and taught such doctrines : for he that will prove
these things to be from God, must be allowed that they were from something or other. But this poftulate I do not ask for need, but for
order's fake and art ; for what the histories of that age reported as ,2 public affair, as one of the most eminent transactions of the
world, that which made so much noise, which caused so many changes, which occasioned so many wars, which divided so many hearts, which altered so many families, which procured so many deaths, which obtained so many laws in favour, and suffered fo many rescripts in the disfavour of its self; that which was not done in a corner, but was thirty-three years and more in acting; which caused so many sects, and was opposed by so much art, and so much power, that it might not grow, which filled the world with noise, which effected such great changes in the bodies of men, by curing the diseased, and smiting the contumacious or the hypocrites ; which drew so many eyes, and filled so many tongues, and employed fo many pens, and was the care and the question of the whole world at that time, and immediately after ; that which
was consigned by public acts and records of courts, which was in the books of friends and enemies, which came accompanied and remarked with eclipses and stars and prodigies of heaven and earth; that which the Jews even in spite and against their wills confessed, and which the witty adversaries intending to overthrow, could never so much as challenge of want of truth in the matter of fact and story; that which they who are infinitely concerned that it should not be believed, or more, that it had never been, do yet only labour to make to appear not to have been divine : certainly, this thing is so certain that it was, that the defenders of it need not account it a kindness to have it presupposed; for never was any story in the world that had so many degrees of credibility, as the story of the person, life and death of Jesus Christ : and if he had not been a true prophet, yet that he was in the world, and faid and did fuch things cannot be denied; for even concerning Mahomet, we make no question but he was in the world, and led a great part of mankind after him, and what was less proved we infinitely believe'; and what all men say, and no man denies, and was notorious in itself, of this we may make further inquiries whether it was all that which it pretended, for that it did make pretences and was in the world, needs no more probation.
13. But now whether Jesus Christ was sent from God, and delivered the will of God, we are to take accounts from all the things of the world which were on him, or about him, or from him. Confider first his perfon : he was foretold by all the pro phets : he, I say, for that appears by the event, and the corre. fpondencies of their fayings, to his perfon : he was described by infallible characterisms which did fit him, and did never fit any but him ; for when he was born, then was the fulness of time, and the Messias was expected at the time when Jesus did appear, which gave occasion to many of the godly then to wait for him, and to hope to live till the time of his revelation: and they did so, and with a spirit of prophecy which their own nation did confess and honour, glorified God at the revelation : and the most excela' lent and devout perfons that were conspicuous for their piety did then rejoice in him, and confess him ; and the expectation of him at that time was so public and famous, that it gave occasion to divers impostors to abuse the credulity of the people in pretending to be the Meffias ; but not only the predictions of the time, and the perfect synchronisms did point him out, but at his birth a strange Har appeared, which guided certain Levantine princes and fages
to the inquiry after him ; a strange star which had an irregular place and an irregular motion, that came by design, and acted by counsel, the counsel of the Almighty Guide ; it moved from place to place, till it stood just over the house where the babe did sleep; a star of which the Heathen knew much, who knew nothing of him ; a star which Chalcidius affirmed to have signified the descent of God for the salvation of man; a star that guided the wise Chaldees to worship him with gifts (as the fame disciple of Plato does affirm, and) as the holy Scriptures deliver ; and this star could be no secret ; it troubled all the country ; it put Herod upon strange arts of security for his kingdom ; it effected a fad tragedy accidentally, for it occasioned the death of all the little babes in the city and voisinage of Bethlehem : but the birth of this young child, which was thus glorified by a star, was also signified by an angel, and was effected by the holy Spirit of God, in a manner which was in itself supernatural ; a virgin was his mother, and God was his father, and his beginning was miraculous; and this matter of his birth of a virgin was proved to an interested and jealous person, even to Joseph thė supposed father of Jesus it was affirmed publicly by all his family, and by all his disciples; and published in the midst of all his enemies, who by no artifice could reprove it; a matter so famous, that when it was urged as an argument to prove Jesus to be the Messias, by the force of a prophecy in Isaiah, “ a virgin shall conceive a fon,” they who obstinately refused to admit him, did not deny the matter of fact, but denied that it was so meant by the prophet, which if it were true, can only prove that Jesus was more excellent than was foretold by the prophets, but that there was nothing less in him than was to be in the Meflias; it was a matter so famous, that the Arabian' physicians, who can affirm no such things of their Mahomet, and yet not being able to deny it to be true of the holy Jesus, endeavour to elevate and lessen the thing, by saying, It is not wholly beyond the force of nature, that a virgin should conceive, so that it was on all hands undeniable, that the mother of Jesus was a virgin, a mother without a man. This is that Jesus at whose presence before he was born, a babe in his mother's belly also did leap for joy, who was also a person extraordinary himself, conceived in his mother's old age, after a long barrenness, signified by an angel in the temple, to his father officiating in his priestly office, who was also struck dumb for his not pres nt believing : all the people saw it, and all his kindred were