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Mr. Considerate hold a tete-a-tete at one corner of the room.

The reader would be little entertained at the idle frivolous conversation of the card table, the substance of which was from the fertile genius of Mr. Spiteful, who continued his occasional invectives, especially between the deals, against modern seducers and enthusiasts; and among other things was running them down for their pretended pharisaic sanctity for doing so much more than their neighbours. This, Mr. Considerate overhearing, asked Mr. Spiteful how many scholars he had left at his free grammar school ? and what he had year by year for the slight attendance he gave to two or three children, just by way of keeping up the name of a school ? and whether it was not as great a crime for some to do too little, as for others to do too much? and whether it would be consistent to charge an honest hard working day labourer with such crimes because he would do three times the work of an idle careless fellow, who scarcely would do any work at all? This so irritated Mr. Spiteful that it threw him off his guard, and rendered him quite inattentive, when Miss Polly, as his partner, had also to lecture him for his negligence, declaring she had lost eighteen pence by him already, while the grave Mr. Wisehead was profiting by his folly ; declaring she would play with him no more, unless he would mind his cards. Mr. Considerate joined with them, that there might be no more quarrelling, there had better be no more playing. The hint was accordingly taken; and as Miss Polly said she was quite out of luck, the cards were cleared away. The two misses and the old lady retired to one corner of the room for a little cheap talk in their way, and in the next Dialogue, the concluding part of the conversation will be presented to the reader.]

DIALOGUE XV.

CONTAINING THE SECOND PART OF THE SAME CONVERSA. TION, WHICH WAS THUS INTRODUCED BY MR. CONSIDERATE,

Consid.

I

SHOULD be glad to know, if any

further dispute should arise between us, how far we are to settle the controversy by the Bible: for I understand your notions of the Bible are very loose at least as I suppose.

Wiseh. Just so far, Sir, as it is consonant with reason, and no further; I never can believe that which contradicts my reason.

Consid. Indeed, Sir, if this be the case, we are likely to be terribly misguided; while reason, among our ignorant and benighted race, appears to be so much under the influence of prejudice and passion. If twenty men of different persuasions be called together, however fatly they may contradict each other, they would all tell you they are guided by

reason.

Spitef. Well, Sir, for all that, I am quite of Mr. Wisehead's opinion, that we have no business with the Bible, when it flatly costradicts our reason, though in all points we may not understand it. It would be a fine thing surely, if we were to believe what we cannot comprehend, or else go to hell and be damned!

Consid. Why, then, Sir, am I so to understand you and Mr. Wisehead, as to suppose you are

as we can.

Atheists, for you cannot comprehend the incomprehensible attributes of God; or that you do not believe your own existence, because you cannot understand the nature of that existence? If you and Mr. Wisehead are only to believe the Bible so far as you can comprehend it ; that book, in your opinion, is nothing better than a mere history of uncertain events; and then, notwithstanding revelation; we have nothing left us but to guess at religion as well

Wiseh. Sir, I believe the book, which we generally call the Bible, is but little more than the works of good men, subject to the same infirmities with ourselves : who, though they might have written according to the best of their judgments, were still frequently warped by their national prejudices in favour of their own religion*.

Consid. Indeed, gentlemen, if the word conver. sion should be inapplicable to young Mr. Henry Littleworth, yet it cannot be unsuitable to either of you ; for Jews and Pagans believe a part of the Bible as well as yourselves, while neither you nor they give any more credit to it, as the Book of Revelation, than I do to the History of Robinson Crusoe.

Spitef. Why, really, Mr. Wisehead, I begin to be afraid we are going rather too far; this is making out the Bible to be but little beter than an old ill-written ecclesiastical history. Though I don't approve Lovegood's notions at all the more for that.

Wiseh. Indeed, Sir, if you wish to know more correctly

my opinion, what a Christian is bound to believe, with respect to the Scriptures, I am not afraid to answer, that the books, which are universally received as authentic, are to be considered as faithful records of past transactions.”—“No Christian is answerable for more than this, the writers of the books of Scripture were men, and therefore follible: but all that we have to do with them, is in the character of historians and witnesses of what they heard and saw ; of course, their credibility is to be estimated like that of other historians, viz. from the circumstances in which they wrote, as with respect to their opportunities of knowing the truth of what they relate, and the biasses to which they might be subject. Like all other historians they are liable to mistakes with respect to things of small moment, because they might not give sufficient attention to them; and with respect to their reason. ing, we are fully at liberty to judge of it as well as that of other men, by a due consideration of the propositions they advance and the arguments they alledge.

* See Priestley and other Socinian writers, passim.

"_" And if such men have even communications with the Deity, it by no means follows that they are, in other respects, more wise, and knowing than other men*.”

This point, I suppose to be proved by the lame account to Moses has given of the creation and fall of man, having not the means of exact information; so that, to suppose, “ the books of Scripture were written by particular divine inspiration, is a thing to which the writers themselves make no pretensio:s : it is a notion destitute of all proof, and that has done great injury to the evidence of Christianity 8.": As to Paul's Epistles, therefore, and the other Epistles, I never can admit that the authors of them were immediately inspired for the purpose of writing them.

* See Priestley's Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever, Part II. Pref. p. xiii. and Let. V.

† Priestley.
| Priestley's Letters, p. 58.

Consid. Well, Sir, this is speaking out with a witness. I don't think one Deist in ten would have spoken more decidedly against the Scriptures. Pray, Sir, if such be your judgment on the Epistles, what are we to think of the Gospels?

Wiseh. O, Sir, I have no doubt but all the four evangelists, as they are called, were very honest men, and that they wrote the “history of Jesus” according to the best of their judgment; though we suspect their genuine histories have been intermixed with many interpolations : and, it appears, that some texts of the Old Testament have been improperly quoted by writers of the New," who it seems were sometimes

misled by Jewish prejudices*.” Surely, therefore, it must be owned that “some obscurity” is left in the Scriptures themselves, which might mislead readers full of Heathen prejudices, and so left, it should seem, to whet human industry and the spirit of inquiryt ;” and “the Bereans are commended for not taking the word even of an apostle, but examining the Scriptures for themselves; whether the doctrine which they heard was true, and whether St. Paul's reasoning was justt.” Such, Sir, are the sentiments of all our great divines who have written on this subject.

Consid. "Are we then to suppose that the Bereans searched the Old Testament Scriptures under any other idea but that their decisions were definitive ? I should have thought when they searched the Scriptures, they referred to them as an infallible guide. If they had only to look into the lame account Moses gives of matters, I do not know that

* Theological Repository. See Fuller's Systems, p. 238. + Lindsey's Apology, ch. 2. | Belsham’s Sermon on the Importance of Truth, p. 39.

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