Classic Works of Apologetics - The Deist Controversy
The Deist Controversy
DEIST, noun One who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion, but follows the light of nature and reason, as his only guides in doctrine and practice; a freethinker.
DEISM, noun [Latin God.] The doctrine or creed of a deist; the belief or system of religious opinions of those who acknowledge the existence of one God, but deny revelation: or deism is the belief in natural religion only, or those truths, in doctrine and practice, which man is to discover by the light of reason, independent and exclusive of any revelation from God. Hence deism implies infidelity or a disbelief in the divine origin of the scriptures.
"The view which the rising greatness of our country presents to my eyes, is greatly tarnished by the general prevalence of deism which, with me, is but another name for vice and depravity." P. Henry, Wirys Sketches.
The Deist Controversy was an extended debate that took place first in England and then on the continent, with many participants, over the span of a bit more than half a century (late 1600s through the mid 1700s), in which the deists -- most of whom believed that there was a god worthy of worship who had created the world, but that Christianity as a revealed religion was false and even contemptible -- were answered by an array of scholars who hammered out many of the fundamental apologetic arguments that Christians still find useful today.
Science, Doubt, and Miracles.
"The analogy suggests that Hume has started with the wrong notion of natural laws. The laws of nature are not properly defined as exceptionless regularities. Rather, they are our best attempt to say what nature will always do when left to itself. The vast body of observational and experimental evidence that provides support for our beliefs about the laws of nature has been collected from cases where, as Christians and skeptics agree, God has not been intervening to bring about something that nature itself cannot do. What would happen if He chose to do so is another matter entirely. The question, then, is not, 'How probable (or improbable) is it that we are wrong about the laws of nature?' Rather, it is, 'How probable (or improbable) is it that, in this instance, God has reached into His creation to do something that nature alone could not?'"
A miracle, seen from this point of view, is not an exception to the exceptionless; it is, instead, an occasion when nature is not left to itself. Should it be surprising that we would experience something completely unprecedented when God reaches into the order of nature? Or to put the question in the words of the apostle Paul, 'Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?' (Acts 26:8)"
Professor, University of Cambridge, Faculty of Music, Emeritus.
Handel's oratorios and eighteenth-century thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Also here, here, and here. Abstract: "In this wide-ranging and challenging book, Ruth Smith shows that the words to Handel's oratorios reflect the events and ideas of their time and have far greater meaning than has hitherto been realised. She explores literature, music, aesthetics, politics and religion to reveal Handel's works as conduits for eighteenth-century thought and sensibility. She provides a full picure of Handel's librettists and shows how their oratorio texts express key moral-political preoccupations and engage with contemporary ideological debate. British identity, the need for national unity, the conduct of war, the role of government, the authority of the Bible, the purpose of literature, the effect of art - these and many more concerns are addressed in the librettos. The book thus enriches our understanding of Handel, his times, and the relationships between music and its intellectual contexts. Winner of the 1996 Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, awarded by the British Academy."
Introduction -- Pt. I. English origins of English oratorio. Artistic norms -- The purpose of art -- Music, morals and religion -- The biblical sublime -- The survival of epic -- The defence of Christianity -- Towards oratorio -- Pt. II. The Patriot libretto from the Excise Bill to the Jew Bill: Israelite oratorios and English politics. Political events and political thought -- Allegorical politics -- Moral politics -- Esther to Athalia -- In time of war -- Images of government -- The conflict of public and private interests -- Coda : the end of Handel's Israelite oratorios -- Appendix 1. Libretto authors and sources -- Appendix 2. The oratorios and Methodism.
English deist and philosopher. Read about Blount here.
With Dryden, John,; Herbert of Cherbury, Edward Herbert.
Religio Laici London : Printed for R. Bentley and S. Magnes ..., 1683. (, 95 p.)
Note(s): The "epistle dedicatory" signed: C.B. [i.e. Charles Blount] Cf. Halkett & Laing (2nd ed.); DNB./ "The 'Religio laici, ' which professes to be supplementary to Dryden's poem of the same name (1682) was, in fact, chiefly taken from Herbert's treatise 'De religione laici.'"--DNB.
Essays and treatises on several subjects. In two volumes. By David Hume, Esq. A new edition. London, 1768. 582 pp. Vol. 1 of 2. Of National Characters.
"I am apt to suspect the negroes, and in general all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion then white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences."
See Philosophical Dictionary by Swediaur for response.
Three essays, moral and political. Never before published. Which compleats the former edition, in two volumes, octavo. London, 1748. 62 pp. Includes "Of National Characters."
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. "I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, that a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of proof from human testimony; though, perhaps, it will be impossible to find any such in all the records of history."
Christianity not mysterious, or, A treatise shewing that there is nothing in the Gospel contrary to reason, nor above it and that no Christian doctrine can be properly call'd a mystery. London: Sam. Buckley, 1696. 206 pp.
Vindicius liberius. Or, M. Toland's defence of himself, against the late Lower House of Convocation, and others; wherein (besides his letter to the prolocutor) certain passages of the book, intitul'd, Christianity not mysterious, are explain'd, and others corrected: with a full and clear account of the authors princi[ples] relating to church and state; and a justification of the Whigs and commonwealthsmen, against the misrepresentation of all their opposers. London: Printed for Bernard Lintott at the Post-House next the Middle-Temple-Gate in Fleetstreet, 1702.
Amyntor, or, A defence of Milton's life containing I. a general apology for all writings of that kind, II. a catalogue of books attributed in the primitive times to Jesus Christ, his apostles and other eminent persons ..., III. a complete history of the book entitul'd Icon basilike, proving Dr. Gauden and not King Charles the First to be the author of it, with an answer to all the facts alledg'd by Mr. Wagstaf to the contrary, and to the exceptions made against my Lord Anglesey's Memorandum, Dr. Walker's book or Mrs. Gauden's narrative, which last piece is now the first time publish'd at large. London: n.p., 1699. , 172 pp.
English religious writer and Deist. Read about Woolston here.
(TM):When David Hume first published his attack on the reasonableness of belief in miracles in his Philosophical Essays in 1748, the work provoked a great number of replies of varying quality. Adams's work, now inexplicably forgotten by most apologists and neglected by Hume scholars, is one of the earliest and ablest rejoinders to Hume's attack. Adams pursues Hume courteously (Hume is said to have remarked that Adams had treated him better than he deserved) but also relentlessly, reading him closely, criticizing his reasoning, and rebutting him point by point.
The 3rd edition of the work, linked here, contains a particularly good discussion of the alleged miracles at the tomb of the Abbé Paris to which Hume refers in the second part of "Of Miracles." Adams makes full and careful use of sources that Hume does not mention, distinctly refuting the key claims Hume makes regarding the affair.
Puritan divine. Learn more about Baxter here and here.
English minister. Learn more about Benson here. Disclaimer: Though Benson held to Socinian views, his work is often cited by orthodox writers, so he has been included here.
The Reasonableness of the Christian Religion, as delivered in the Scriptures. In four parts. Part I. Contains the arguments for the truth of the Christian religion. Part II. The answers to the difficulties and objections proposed by the anti-revelationists. Part III. An interpretation of several texts, which they have perverted. Part IV. A vindication of the three preceding parts. The third edition. London: printed for J. Waugh; and W. Fenner, 1759. Volume 1; Volume 2. 1743 edition.
Alciphron, or, The Minute philosopher: in seven dialogues: containing an apology for the Christian religion, against those who are called free-thinkers. Dublin: printed for William Williamson, 1757. ,370 pp.; 8⁰
The Works of George Berkeley, D.D., bishop of Cloyne; Edited by George Sampson, with a biographical introd. by A.J. Balfour. Volume 2. London: George Bell and Sons, 1898.
English divine. (TM): There are few names more honored in the history of the Anglican church than that of the theologian, apologist, and philosopher Joseph Butler (1692-1752), Bishop of Durham.
Read more about Butler here, here, and here.
The Analogy of Religion natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of nature. To which are added, two brief dissertations: I. On personal identity. II. On the nature of virtue. Together with a charge delivered to the clergy of the diocese of Durham, in the year MDCCLI. By Joseph Butler. A new edition, corrected. With a preface by Samuel Halifax. London: printed for F. and C. Rivington, G. Wilkie, W. Otridge, J. Deighton, and Cadell and Davies, 1798. iv, xlix, , 408 pp. 1863 edition here. 1873 edition here.
(TM): The Analogy of Religion has long been recognized as one of the masterpieces of Christian apologetics. The deists, who were a rising force in England in the early 18th century, acknowledged the existence of a divine author of nature who had created the universe and given man a moral conscience; but they objected to the idea of special revelation, often attacked miracles, and criticized the character of God as he is revealed in the Old Testament. Butler's response was to show that the Christian revelation, though surpassing knowledge that can be acquired from nature, is nevertheless analogous to the order of nature. Objections to the character of God on account of events recorded in the Old Testament, for example, could equally well be used against the author of nature.
Butler is a thoughtful and careful writer, and his discussion of the particular evidence for Christianity in Part II of the Analogy, though brief, shows a profound appreciation for the nature of a cumulative case argument. The work is available in multiple editions. At the end of his long life, the four-time Prime Minister of England, the Rt. Hon. William Ewart Gladstone, paid a handsome compliment to Butler by writing Studies Subsidiary to the Works of Bishop Butler (1896).
(TM): George Campbell was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and professor and principal at Marischall College and a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, of which the noted Scottich philosopher Thomas Reid was also a member.
Read more about Campbell here.
A Dissertation on Miracles: containing an examination of the principles advanced by David Hume in an Essay on Miracles, with a correspondence on the subject by Mr. Hume, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Blair, now first published, to which are added Sermons and Tracts. The third edition, with additions and corrections. Edinburgh, 1797. Volume 1 of 2, 465pp.; Volume 2 of 2, 375 pp.
"CHRISTIANITY," it hath been said, "is not founded in argument." If it were only meant by these words, that the religion of Jesus could not, by the single aid of reasoning, produce its full effect upon the heart; every true Christian would cheerfully subscribe to them. No arguments unaccompanied by the influence of the Holy Spirit, can convert the soul from sin to God; though even to such conversion, arguments are, by the agency of the Spirit, render'd subservient. Again, if we were to understand by this aphorism, that the principles of our religion could never have been discover'd, by the natural and unassisted faculties of man; this position, I presume, would be as little disputed as the former. But if, on the contrary, under the cover of an ambiguous expression, it is intended to insinuate, that those principles, from their very nature, can admit no rational evidence of their truth, (and this, by the way, is the only meaning which can avail our antagonists) the gospel, as well as common sense, loudly reclaims against it.
The Lord JESUS CHRIST, the author of our religion, often argu'd, both with his disciples and with his adversaries, as with reasonable men, on the principles of reason. Without this faculty, he well knew, they could not be susceptible either of religion or of law. He argu'd from prophecy, and the conformity of the event to the prediction1. He argu'd from the testimony of John the Baptist, who was generally acknowledged to be a prophet2. He argu'd from the miracles which he himself perform'd3, as uncontrovertible evidences, that GOD Almighty operated by him, and had sent him. He expostulates with his enemies, that they did not use their reason on this subject. Why, says he, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?4 In like manner we are called upon by the apostles of our Lord, to act the part of wise men, and judge impartially of what they say.5 Those who do so, are highly commended, for the candour and prudence they discover, in an affair of so great consequence.6 We are even commanded, to be always ready to give an answer to every man, that asketh us a reason of our hope;7in meekness to instruct them that oppose themselves;8 and earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.9 God has neither in natural nor reveal'd religion, left himself without a witness; but has in both given moral and external evidence, sufficient to convince the impartial, to silence the gainsayer, and to render the atheist and the unbeliever without excuse. This evidence it is our duty to attend to, and candidly to examine. We must prove all things, as we are expressly enjoin'd in holy writ, if we would ever hope to hold fast that which is good.10
1 Luke xxiv. 25. &c. John v. 39. & 46. 2 John v. 32. & 33. 3 John v. 36. x. 25. 37. 38. xiv. 10. 11. 4 Luke xii. 57. 5 I Cor. x. 15. 6 Acts xvii. 11. 7 I Peter iii. 15. 8 2 Tim. ii. 25. 9 Jude 3. 10 I Thess. v. 21.
(TM): Campbell's book is perhaps the best-known of the replies to Hume's attack on miracles to be issued in Hume's lifetime, and it is historically important since Campbell and Hume actually corresponded briefly, through a mutual friend, regarding a manuscript of Campbell's work.
While scholars have tended to stress Campbell's view of testimony as an autonomous source of knowledge, there is much else in the book worthy of at least as much notice, including a thorough discussion of Hume's attempt to draw a parallel between pagan and popular miracle accounts and the gospel miracles. (Part II, sections IV and V)
The works of Adams, Campbell, and John Douglas, taken together, provide a thorough response to Hume's essay; but it was Campbell to whom Hume was referring when he remarked to a friend that 'the Scotch theologue' had beaten him. [See also here.]
Campbell was not only a theologian but also an authority on rhetoric, so it is no surprise that his Dissertation contains many memorable passages, such as this one from the Introduction (p. 12):
God has neither in natural nor in revealed religion left himself without witness; but has in both given moral and external evidence, sufficient to convince the impartial, to silence the gainsayer, and to render inexcusable the atheist and the unbeliever. This evidence it is our duty to attend to, and candidly to examine. We must prove all things, as we are expressly enjoined in holy writ, if we would ever hope to hold fast that which is good.
III. The Period of Growth and Organization. CHAPTER IV. The Great Revival of 1800. The Deplorable Conditions of the Country -- Low State of Morals -- Terrible Practices -- Deistical Opinions of the French and Indian Wars -- Alliance of America and France -- The Effects of French Infidelity -- Thomas Paine -- Infidel Clubs -- Illuminism -- Want of Religious Instruction -- Baptist and Presbyterian Ministers -- Dull Preaching -- Conditions in the Colleges -- Kentucky and Tennessee -- Logan County -- The Great Revival -- James McGready -- His Sermons -- The Camp Meeting at Casper River -- The Account of McGready -- The Meeting Described -- Barton W. Stone -- Other Meetings -- Extravagance -- Lorenzo Dow -- The Jerks and Other Violent Exercises -- Disorders -- Such Meetings Continued for Years -- The Revival Did Great Good -- Testimonies -- Results Among the Baptists -- Effects Felt Throughout the United States.
English philosopher and divine. Read more about Clarke here and here.
A Letter to Mr. Dodwell; wherein all the arguments in his Epistolary discourse against the immortality of the soul are particularly answered, and the judgment of the fathers concerning that matter truly represented. Together with a Defense of an argument made use of in the above-mentioned Letter to Mr Dodwell, to prove the immateriality and natural immortality of the soul. In Four Letters to the Author of Some Remarks on a pretended Demonstration of the Immareriality and Natural Immortality of the Soul, in Dr Clark's Answer to Mr Dodwell's late Epistolary Discourse, &c. To which is added, some reflections on that Part of a book called Amyntor, or the defense of Milton's life, which relates to the Writings of the Primitive Fathers, and the Canon of the New Testament. By Samuel Clarke, D. D. Rector of St James's Westminster. The fifth edition. London: Printed by Will. Botham; for James Knapton, at the Crown in St. Paul's Church-Yard, 1718. 277 pp. Clarke's response to Toland's Amyntor.
The sixth edition. London, MDCCXXXI.  471 pp.
The Criterion: or, Miracles examined, with a view to expose the pretensions of pagans and Papists, to compare the miraculous powers recorded in the New Testament, with those said to subsist in later times, and to shew the great and material difference between them in point of evidence. From whence it will appear that the former must be true, and the latter may be false. / By the Rev. John Douglas. London: Printed for A. Millar, in the Strand, 1757. , 402,  pp. (last p. blank); 21 cm.
18. The being of God is evident by the scriptures, and the scriptures themselves are an evidence of their own divine authority, after the same manner as the existence of a human thinking being is evident by the motions, behavior, and speech of a body animated by a rational mind. For we know this no otherwise, than by the consistency, harmony, and concurrence of the train of actions and sounds, and their agreement to all that we can suppose to be in a rational mind. These are a clear evidence of understanding and design, which are the original of these actions. There is that universal harmony, consent, and concurrence in the drift, such an universal appearance of a wonderful and glorious design, such stamps every where of exalted wisdom, majesty, and holiness, in matter, manner, contexture, and aim; that the evidence is the same, that the scriptures are the word and work of a divine mind--to one that is thoroughly acquainted with them--as that the words and actions of an understanding man are from a rational mind. An infant, when it first comes into the world, sees persons act, and hears their voice, before it has so much comprehension as to see something of their consistency, harmony, and concurrence. It makes no distinction between their bodies, and other things; their motions and sounds, and the motions and sounds of inanimate things. But as its comprehension increases, the understanding and design begin to appear. So it is with men that are as little acquainted with the scriptures, as infants with the actions of human bodies. They cannot see any evidence of a divine mind, as the original of it; because they have not comprehension enough to apprehend the harmony, wisdom, etc.
American Founding Father. Read more about Henry here.
Samuel Greene Arnold. The Life of Patrick Henry of Virginia. Auburn [N.Y.]: Miller, Orton and Mulligan, 1854, [c1845]. 269 pp. Henry's letter to his daughter Betsy on August 20, 1796, p. 250. Also here.
"The view which the rising greatness of our country presents to my eyes, is greatly tarnished by the general prevalence of deism, which, with me, is but another name for vice and depravity. I am, however, much consoled by reflecting that the religion of Christ has, from its first appearance in the world been attacked in vain by all the wits, philosophers and wise ones, aided by every power of man, and its triumph has been complete. What is there in the wit or wisdom of the present deistical writers or professors that can compare them with Hume, Shaftsbury, Bolingbroke and others; and yet these have been confuted, and their fame is decaying, insomuch that at the puny efforts of Paine are thrown in to prop their tottering fabric, whose foundations cannot stand the test of time.
"Among other strange things said of me, I hear it is said by the deists that I am one of their number; and, indeed, that some good people think I am no Christian. This thought gives me much more pain than the appellation of tory, because I think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics, and I find much cause to reproach myself that I have lived so long and have given no decided and public proofs of my being a Christian. But, indeed, my dear child, this is a character which I prize far above all this world has, or can boast. And among all the handsome things I hear said of you, what gives me the greatest pleasure is, to be told of your piety and steady virtue. Be assured there is not one tittle, as to disposition or character, in which my parental affection for you would suffer a wish for your changing, and it flatters my pride to have you spoken of as you are.
"Perhaps Mr. Roane and Anne may have heard (he reports you mention. If it will be any object with them to see what I write you, show them this. But my wish is to pass the rest of my days, as much as may be, unobserved by the critics of the world, who would show but little sympathy for the deficiencies to which old age is liable. May God bless you, my dear Betsy, and your children.""
Bishop in succession of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury, and Winchester. Read about Hoadly here.
(TM): John Leland, an English dissenting (Presbyterian) minister who settled in Dublin, well deserves Hunt's description as 'the indefatigable opponent of the whole generation of the deists.' Near the end of his life he began writing a series of letters to a friend regarding the history of the controversy, and the result was this massive work, the only tolerably complete contemporary survey of the vast literature on both sides. Read more about Leland here.
A View of the principal deistical writers that have appeared in England in the last and present century: with observations upon them, and some account of the answers that have been published against them; in several letters to a friend. The Fifth edition. London: Printed by W. Richardson and S. Clark, for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, and T. Longman in Pater-oster-Row. 1766. Volume 1 of 2. 443 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 463 pp.
A View of the principal deistical writers that have appeared in England in the last and present century: with observations upon them, and some account of the answers that have been published against them; in several letters to a friend. London: Published by W. Baynes, Bookseller, 54, Paternoster Row, 1808. Volume 1 of 2. 508 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 508 pp.
Critique of Henry Dodwell, Jr.'s book Christianity not Founded on Argument, from the 1837 edition.
Another argument with which he makes a mighty parade is to this purpose, that no religion can be rational that is not founded on a free and impartial examination. And such examination supposes a perfect neutrality to the principles which are examined, and even a temporal disbelief of them, which is what the gospel condemneth. But this proceeds upon a wrong account of the nature of free examination and inquiry. It is not necessary to a just inquiry into doctrines or facts, that a man should be absolutely indifferent to them before he begins that inquiry, much less that he should actually disbelieve them; as if he must necessarily commence atheist, before he can fairly examine into the proofs of the existence of God. It is sufficient to a candid examination, that a man applieth himself to it with a mind open to conviction, and a disposition to embrace truth on which side soever it shall appear, and to receive the evidence that shall arise in the course of the trial. And if the inquiry relateth to principles in which we have been instructed, then, supposing those principles to be in themselves rational and well founded, it may well happen, that, in inquiring into the grounds of them, a fair examination may be carried on without seeing cause to disbelieve, or doubt of them through the whole course of the enquiry; which in that case will end in a fuller conviction of them than before.
(TM): The casual origin of Leland's View still shows in the disproportionate space given to the work of Lord Bolingbroke, who is no longer considered to be a major figure. But as Leland's survey runs to over 900 pages, there is no lack of material on other deists such as Blount, Toland, Collins, Morgan, Tindal, Annet, Chubb, and Hume, in each case citing copiously from the responses given to them. Students of the history of apologetics will want to supplement their reading of Leland with other works, such as the second volume of John Hunt's Religious Thought in England and Sir Leslie Stephen's unsympathetic but extensive discussion of the deist controversy in his History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. But no one interested in 18th century apologetics can afford to be without Leland's work.
The View is of much more than merely historical value; because it gives a minute account of numerous responses to the deists, it contains a comprehensive defense of Christianity against all of the objections that its most determined adversaries in the Enlightenment could raise. Leland's own summary of the controversy shows that he understood both the magnitude of the issues and the nature of the achievement of the defenders of Christianity:
They [the deists] have appealed to the bar of reason; the advocates for Christianity have followed them to that bar, and have fairly shewn, that the evidences of revealed religion are such as approve themselves to impartial reason, and, if taken together, are fully sufficient to satisfy an honest and unprejudiced mind. (Letter 35)
A Defence of Christianity. In two parts. Part I. The law of nature considered. Part II. The authority and usefulness of revelation and the sacred writings. The second edition, corrected. London: printed for John Ward, 1753. 2 volumes.
Part 1; Part 2
The Divine Authority of the Old and New Testament asserted: with a particular vindication of the characters of Moses, and the prophets, our saviour Jesus Christ, and his apostles, against the unjust aspersions and false reasonings of a book, entitled, The moral philosopher. London: printed for Richard Hett: and sold by Mr. George Risk in Dublin, 1739-1740. 2 volumes.
A Supplement to the first and second volumes of the View of the deistical writers: Containing additions and illustrations relating to those volumes. In several letters to a friend: To which is added, Reflections on the late Lord Bolingbroke's Letters on the study and use of history, as far as relates to the Holy Scriptures. The third edition, corrected and enlarged. With a large index to the three volumes. London: Printed for B. Dod ..., 1756. xvi, 155, , clxii-clxxvi, , 177-368,  pp.; 22 cm. (8vo)
Anglican divine. Read more about Leslie here.
(TM): "Charles Leslie (1650-1722) was a nonjuror'an Anglican clergyman who refused to take the oath of allegiance to William and Mary after the revolution in 1688 and, in consequence, lost his benefice. In this brief and vigorous work, Leslie proposes four tests for determining whether a reported event is an actual miracle:
1. That the matter of fact be such, that men's outward senses, their eyes and ears may be judges of it.
2. That it be done publicly in the face of the world.
3. That not only public monuments be kept up in memory of it, but some outward actions be performed.
4. That such monuments, and such actions or observances be instituted, and do commence from the time, that the matter of fact was done.
The first two rules, Leslie explains, 'make it impossible for any such matter of fact to be imposed upon men at the time, when such fact was said to be done, because every man's eyes and senses would contradict it.' The latter two rules assure those of us who come after that the account was not invented subsequent to the time of the purported event. In a later work, Deism Refuted, Leslie supplemented these with four more marks in order to show how high a standard the evidence for the gospels met.
A Short and Easy Method with the Deists:
Wherein the certainty of the Christian religion is demonstrated. In a letter to a friend. By Mr Charles Leslie. To which is annexed, a letter from the author, to a deist. Edinburgh: printed by Sands, Murray, and Cochran. Sold by W. Gordon, and other booksellers, 1753. viii, 76 pp. 1846 edition.
Preface: It was the fortune of Mr. Leslie to be acquainted with the Duke of Leeds of that time; who observed to him that, although he was a believer of the Christian religion, he was not satisfied with the common methods of proving it; that the argument was long and complicated; so that some had neither leisure, nor patience to follow it, and others were not able to comprehend it; that, as it was the nature of all truth to be plain and simple, if Christianity were a truth, there must be some short way of showing it to be so; and he wished Mr. Leslie would think of it. Such a hint to such a man, in the space of three days, furnished a rough draught of the Short and Easy Method with the Deists; which he presented to the Duke; who looked it over, and then said, 'I thought I was a Christian before, but I am sure of it now; and, as I am indebted to you for converting me, I shall henceforth look upon you, as my spiritual father.' And he acted accordingly; for he never came into his company afterward without asking his blessing. (TM): "Leslie's Short and Easy Method produced a powerful effect and was instrumental in the conversion of the well-known deist Charles Gildon."
A Course of Lectures, containing a description and systematic arrangement of the several branches of divinity accompanied with an account of the progress, which has been made at different periods in theological learning by Herbert Marsh. Part 6. On the Credibility of the New Testament. Cambridge: J. Smith, 1822. 104 pp.
Anglican clergyman who served as Bishop of St David's from 1766 to 1774 and Bishop of Bath and Wells from 1774 to 1802. Read about Moss here.
Antidote to Deism; The Deist Unmasked; or An ample refutation of all the objections of Thomas Paine, against the Christian religion; as contained in a pamphlet, intitled, the age of reason; addressed to the citizens of these states. Newark [N.J.]: Printed by John Woods. 1795. 2 volumes; 17 cm. (12mo). Volume 1 of 2; Volume 2 of 2. Response to Paine's Age of Reason.
English divine and philosopher. Learn more about Paley here and here.
Natural Theology; or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity, collected from the appearances of nature. Sixth edition. Albany, Printed for Daniel & Samuel Whiting, 1803. viii, -368 pp. 18 cm.
Natural Theology, or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity: collected from the appearances of nature, with illustrative notes by Henry, Lord Brougham and Sir C. Bell, and an introductory discourse of natural theology by Lord Brougham. To which are added supplementary dissertations and a treatise on animal mechanics by Sir Charles Bell. With numerous woodcuts. London: C. Knight, 1845. 4 volumes illus. Volume 1 of 4. Volume 2 of 4. Volume 3 of 4. Volume 4 of 4.
Minister of the First Church of Newbury, Mass. He settled there December 6, 1674, where he was a minister for twenty-one years. He preached the Artillery Election Sermon at Boston on June 10, 1675, and again in June, 1681. Read about Richardsonhere.
(TM): Thomas Sherlock was an Anglican Bishop whose apologetic writings, in the tradition of John Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, focus on the evidence for miracles and the use and intent of prophecy.
Learn more about Sherlock here and here.
The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus. Not only Mr. Woolston's objections in his sixth discourse on our Saviour?s miracles, but those also which he and others have published in other books, are here considered. First published about the year 1729. Edinburgh: printed by J. Robertson. For W. Gray, 1769. 116 pp. 1800 edition. A new edition, published by desire of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. London: For F. and C. Rivington. 143 pp.
1729 edition available here. HTML version available here.
(TM): The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection is a charming response to the deist Thomas Woolston, who had attacked the Christian miracles in six pamphlets published in 1727-8. The question at issue is whether the original witnesses of the resurrection were deceivers, and Sherlock frames work as a discussion among some lawyers who find themselves on opposite sides of the question. They decide to have it determined by a mock trial complete with a jury in which the skeptical arguments of Woolston, Anthony Collins, and Matthew Tindal are vigorously advanced by the counsel for the prosecution and rebutted by the counsel for the defense.
The Trial was wildly popular and went through nearly a dozen printings in its first year. The edition linked here also contains Sherlock?s Sequel to the Trial of the Witnesses, a valuable work in its own right, written in response to an attack on the Trial by Peter Annet. The mode of argument adopted in the Trial has been an influence on many subsequent apologetic writers, and it has been conjectured that Hume had the Trial in view when he published his famous attack on the rationality of belief in miracles in 1748.
Charles Moss. The Sequel to The Tryal of the witnesses: wherein the evidence of the resurrection is cleared. In answer to a pamphlet, intitled, The Resurrection of Jesus considered by a moral philosopher. The third edition. London, Printed for J. Whiston and B. White, in Fleet-Street, 1757. 167 pp. Note(s): First published in 1744 under title: The evidence of the resurrection cleared from the exceptions of a late pamphlet, entitled, The resurrection of Jesus considered by a Moral philosopher, in answer to The tryal of witnesses.
The Sceptic's manual, or, Christianity verified: being a new method of appeal to the understandings and consciences of Deists, Jews, sceptics, and formal professors, for the truth, power, and efficacy of the Christian religion, demonstrated in three parts. Philadelphia: J.F. Watson, 1811. 282 pp. Contents: The truth of the Holy Scriptures / by Charles Leslie (1650-1722), demonstrated in his Short and easy method with the Deists, in a letter to a friend -- Six letters on the spiritual manifestation of the Son of God / John Fletcher (1729-1785) -- Exemplification of the influence and power of religion in the contrasted lives and deaths of saints and sinners.
Church of Ireland clergyman.
Deism revealed; Or, the attack on Christianity candidly reviewed in its real merits, as they stand in the celebrated writings of Lord Herbert. London, 1751. Volume 1 of 2. 321 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 322 pp.
English divine. Read more about Stillingfleet here.
Origines Sacre: or a rational account of the grounds of natural and revealed religion To which is added part of another book upon the same subject, left unfinished by the author. Together with A letter to a deist. In two volumes. A new edition. Oxford: at the Clarendon Press, 1797. 2 vol.;
Part 1; Part 2.