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sequence of it was, that he was unexpectedly invited by the congregation to be assistant to their minister. After mature deliberation he accepted the offer, which, as he declared in his letter of acceptance, was peculiarly agreeable to him, because it allotted him a part of service, in the work of the gospel, with their honoured pastor, for whom he had entertained, from his early youth, a high regard and esteem. On the 14th of September, he entered upon his new charge: and the subject of his first sermon was taken from 2 Cor. v. 20. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ: as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be reconciled to God.” In Mr. Lardner's prayer before sermon, after the intercessions for the public, and for Dr. Harris in particular, he proceeded to pray for himself, in the following strain of integrity and piety: - And we beseech thee, do thou
graciously assist thine unworthy servant, whom by thy pro• vidence thou hast also called to serve thee in this place. • Grant that he may take great heed unto himself and his
doctrine, that he may save himself and them that hear him. • Do thou enlighten him more and more in the knowledge of the truth ; and grant that he may be faithful to thee, and speak the word with boldness, not shunning to declare the • whole counsel of God, so far as he is acquainted therewith. And may the hearts of thy people be opened to receive the truth with all readiness : may they carefully and impartially 'examine the things which they hear, and embrace what is ' agreeable to thy will. O Lord, our hope is in thee! do thou
strengthen us, and make us sufficient for what thou callest * us to. Let thy strength be made perfect in our weakness : cause thy face to shine upon us ; let us see thy power and thy glory in the sanctuary. May some who are yet in darkness and ignorance be here enlightened ; may some be converted; and may thy people be comforted, and continually edified more and more in their most holy faith. May we meet with • thee in thine house, and have joy and pleasure in drawing • near unto thee. May we, by all thy ordinances, by prayer, • by the ministry of thy Word, and by thy Sacraments, be * made more meet for all the events of providence; for all • the services and sufferings of this life; and for the state of * perfection and glory in the world to come.' His account of this prayer is succeeded by the subsequent ejaculation. May . God hear my earnest prayers, in enabling me to perform this "service he has called me so as may be for his glory, and • the edification of his people.'
8 Memoirs, p. 12, 13, 14.
The religious world was at this time engaged in an important controversy, relative to the christian revelation. That of which I am speaking had been begun by Mr. Woolston, who, perhaps, was rather an enthusiast and a madman than an infide!. By reading Origen, and other mystical writers, he had been led to embrace the allegorical mode of explaining the scriptures, which, at length, he carried to a most extravagant and ridiculous excess. After several absurd publications, he contended, in a tract, entitled, The Moderator between an Infidel and Apostate,' to which two supplements were added, that the miracles of our Lord were not real, or ever actually wrought. For this work a prosecution was commenced against him, in 1726, by the Attorney General ; but, in consequence of Mr. Whiston's intercession, it was laid aside. Mr. Woolston was not induced by this indulgence to continue in silence. He pursued the subject through the years 1727, 1728, 1729, and 1730, in six discourses, and two defences of them; in which he not only maintained the same principles he had done in his Moderator,' but treated the miracles of our Saviour with a licentiousness, buffoonery, and insolence, that had all the appearance, if not the reality, of malignant infidelity. The prosecution therefore was renewed against him; and, being tried before Lord Chief Justice Raymond, he was condemned to one year's imprisonment, and a fine of a hundred pounds.
A far better method of confuting Mr. Woolston was adopted by many learned divines at that period. The pamphlets written against him were, indeed, very numerous; and among the rest of the defenders of revelation, Mr. Lardner appeared to no small advantage. His work upon this occasion, which was published in the latter end of the year 1729, was entitled, 'A Vindication of Three of our blessed Saviour's Miracles, viz. The raising of Jairus's Daughter, the Widow of Naim's Son, and Lazarus.' It was in answer to the objections of Mr. Woolston's fifth discourse, that this piece was composed. Mr. Lardner had drawn it up for his own private satisfaction, wthout any immediate view to publication; and his modesty was such, that for a time he did not think of printing it, because his colleague, Dr. Harris, had subjoined to two discourses on the reasonableness of belief in Christ, and the unreasonableness of infidelity, some brief remarks on the case of Lazarus. It was to the advantage of the public that our author changed his opinion. His vindication was undoubtedly one of the best treatises which appeared in the controversy with Mr. Woolston; and it is no exaggeration to say, that it
abounds with admirable and judicious observations, and contains a complete defence of three of the most important of our Lord's miracles. Accordingly, it was very favourably received by the learned world, and soon came to a second edition.
Mr. Lardner was not one of those who approved of the prosecution which was carried on against Mr. Woolston by the civil magistrate. In his preface, therefore, he has made some excellent remarks on the subject of free inquiry and discussion. If men be permitted to deliver their sentiments freely in matters of religion, and to propose their objections against christianity itself, he declares it to be his opinion, that there would be no reason to be in pain for the event. • On the side of christianity,' says he, • I expect to see, as hitherto, the greatest
share of learning, good sense, true wit, and fairness of dis'putation; which things, I hope, will be superior to low
ridicule, false argument, and misrepresentation. He farther observes, that all force on the minds of men, in the matters of belief, is contrary to religion in general, and the christian religion in particular; and that severity, instead of doing good, has always done harm. Dr. Waddington, at that time bishop of Chichester, who was highly pleased with the whole of Mr. Lardner's Vindication of the Three Miracles, was not equally satisfied with his preface, and therefore wrote to him upon the subject. To the bishop our author sent an answer, which produced a second letter from his lordship, and a reply in return. These four letters, which were written with great mutual civility and respect, are given in the Appendix ; hi and it will now be little doubted, on what side lay the advantage of the argument.
Another correspondent, occasioned by the Vindication of the Three Miracles, was the Lord Viscount Barrington; who had made some remarks, and suggested some difficulties concerning the death of Jairus's daughter. These remarks are unhappily lost; but Mr. Lardner's letter in answer to them is preserved, and will be found in the Appendix. His lordship, who possessed a very enlightened mind on the subject of religious liberty, highly approved of Mr. Lardner's preface; and the approbation of so good a judge was received by our author with peculiar satisfaction. I have a great deal of reason,' says he, 'to rejoice, that the manner in which the argument for free writing is managed in the preface, is not unacceptable to your lordship; for as to the principles themselves, I had no doubt but they would be agreeable to your Appendix, No. I.
Appendix, No. II.
judgment, however they may be suspected or disliked by • others, who have less studied the christian doctrine. A true christian may suffer on account of his religion, but he
can never make others suffer on account of theirs : whatever ' may be the consequence of it, we are not to support christi• anity by force. Our blessed Saviour, rather than make use
of compulsion, would choose to be without a follower. John vi. 67.
Though Mr. Lardner's time was chiefly employed in his preparations for the pulpit, and in carrying on his great work, he nevertheless found leisure to write other occasional pieces, besides his Vindication of the Three Miracles. In 1730 he sent a letter to Mr. La Roche, to be inserted in bis Literary Journal, a periodical work, which, besides giving an account of books, admitted short original communications, consisting of critical disquisitions and dissertations. The subject of the letter was a difficulty concerning the omission of the history of our Saviour's ascension, in the gospels of St. Matthew and St. John, though it is related by St. Mark and St. Luke. This disiculty our author has removed with his usual good sense and discernment, as the reader may see by having recourse to the Appendix.' In the same year he wrote his Letter on the Logos. It was not composed with a view to publication; and indeed, was not published till nearly thirty years after, when I shall have occasion to mention it again. From a passage in the Vindication of the Three Miracles, I collect that Mr. Lardner had very recently embraced the doctrine advanced in the Letter, or at least had not long come to a final determination on the subject. For in that passage he asserts, that our Saviour descended from the height of glory • he bad with the Father.'m Or is it to be considered as an incidental expression, which dropped from our author, though he might for some time have had his doubts and difficulties with regard to the pre-existence of Christ?
In 1733 appeared the first volume of the second part of • The Credibility of the Gospel History; or the PRINCIPAL • Facts of the New Testament confirmed by passages from 'ancient authors, who were contemporary with our Saviour • or his apostles, or lived near their time. It was Mr. Lardner's original intention not to publish a part of the evidence for the principal facts of the New Testament, until the whole work was completed. But he was diverted from this purpose by the importunities of his friends. He could have wished, Memoirs, ubi supra, p. 32.
Appendix, No. III. in See Vol. x. p. 38.
however, to have exhibited at once the whole evidence of the two first centuries of christianity; but he thought it expedient to break off sooner, that he might not render the volume of an inconvenient size. Our author took this opportunity of expressing his gratitude for the favourable reception which had been given to the former part of his work. Besides its being universally well received at home, it was so much approved abroad, that it was translated by two learned foreigners; by Mr. Cornelius Westerbaen of Utrecht, into Low Dutch, and by Mr. J. Christopher Wolff of Hamburgh, into Latin. • cannot but esteem it,' says Mr. Lardner, ' as an uncommon • happiness, that my thoughts have been so justly represented
by persons well known in the republic of letters for composi• tions of their own.'
The testimonies produced and considered, in the first volume of the second part of the Credibility, were those of St. Barnabas, St. Clement, Hermas, St. Ignatius, St. Polycarp, Papias, Justin Martyr, Dionysius of Corinth, Tatian, Hegesippus, Melito, St. Irenæus, and Athenagoras, Our author has also treated on a fragment called St. Clements second epistle, the relation of St. Polycarp's martyrdom, the evangelists in the reign of Trajan, the epistle to Diognetus, and the epistle of the churches of Vienne and Lyons. In the introduction he hath given an admirable summary of the history of the New Testament. Among other proofs of approbation and regard which Mr. Lardner received in consequence of this publication, he could not avoid being pleased with the following affectionate remarks by his learned and valuable friend, the Rev. Mr. Joseph Hallet, jun. of Exeter. Your
new volume, with which you have now obliged the world, ' will, I am persuaded, do much good service to the cause of
christianity. You cannot be ignorant of my opinion of it, * from the conversation I had the honour to hold with you * about it in your study.-Your method, upon the whole, pleases me much better than Mr. Jones's, because he hardly ever does more than refer to chapter, verse, and page;
whereas, you write the words of the text and of the quotation • at length; and when he has a huddle of references, you, in • the case of Irenæus, prudently choose one plain quotation • of each book of the New Testament cited by him. When • the work shall be all finished in that manner, it will be worth • its weight in gold, and all the christian world will be obliged ' to thank you for it.'" In 1735, was published the second volume of the second
Memoirs, ubi supra, p. 49.