Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Ess. 11.]
Argument from Miracles..

39 thors, the unquestionable marks of truth-because the accounts given in the New Testament, of a multitude of civil and historical circumstances, are confirmed by the testimony of Josephus, and of heathen writers because the miraculous part of its history was (probably) stated by Josephus, was recorded in the Acta Pilati, and was even allowed to be true by the Jewish heathen enemies of our religion-because the many original witnesses of the Christian miracles (particularly the apostles) were no enthusiasts, and could not be deceived respecting such plain and palpable facts-because their known sentiments on the subject of lying, their established moral character, and their disinterested devotion to the cause of righteousness, (evinced by their willing sufferings, and sealed by their deaths) plainly show that they could not be deceivers-because, while they bore testimony to the miracles of Christ, the apostles were enabled to work miracles themselves, as is evinced by the appeal of Paul to the Corinthians -and because, lastly, unless we admit the truth of the Gospel history, we cannot account for the very extensive diffusion (in the face of powerful obstructions, and in opposition to all prevalent systems and habits) of early Christianity.

Having thus offered to the reader a slight sketch of the evidences on which Christians build their confidence, that the miraculous history recorded in the New Testament is true, I shall detain him but a very short time longer, while I consider our second proposition, viz., that Christianity is, THEREFORE, to be received as a religion of divine origin, : We acknowledge that God created all things, and that he established those general laws, by which the order of nature is regulated and maintained.

Miracles are supernatural infractions of those general laws and changes in that order; and, since no crea

[ocr errors]

40

Argument from Miracles. [Ess. II. ture can justly be deemed to possess any inherent independent power of controverting the design, and of interrupting the harmonious arrangements, of an omnipotent God, miracles are, when real and ascertained, to be regarded as the especial work of God himself.

Now, we have already had occasion to notice that the miracles of Christ and his apostles were of a plain and palpable description. Let it, however, be yet more particularly remarked, that they were conspicuous and very great; performed in the presence of many witnesses, and often in the midst of large public assemblies; exceedingly numerous, and, in their character and nature, greatly diversified; sudden and immediate in their operation; and, in general, totally incapable of being accounted for by any subordinate or secondary cause. When Jesus Christ made the storm a calm—when the boisterous winds and long agitated waves obeyed him in an instant-when he walked on the surface of the deep-when he restored sudden health and strength to the withered, the crippled, and the impotent, and even limbs to the maimed when he bestowed on the man who was born blind a perfect power of vision—when he multiplied the five barley loaves, so that they became the sufficient food of many thousands of persons-when he raised to life Lazarus, who had been buried four days, and was then putrifying in the grave—when he burst asunder the bands of his own mortality, and presented himself to his followers alive from the dead when, through the instrumentality of Peter and John, the lame man in the temple suddenly and publicly walked and leaped for joy-when the prayers of the former apostle were the means of restoring life to the deceased Tabitha—the most cautious and scrutinizing observer must have been compelled to allow, that these were

Ess. 11.]
Objections Answered.

41 no conjuror's contrivances, but real miracles, actual and indubitable infractions of the established laws of nature,

Such a conclusion respecting the miracles of Jesus Christ and his followers derives a further confirmation from the comparison of them with those signs and wonders so idly pleaded by Hume and other infidel writers, in opposition to Christianity. While the evidences which prove that the Christian miracles really took place are both numerous and clear, and while those miracles were of so plain and decisive a character as to preclude the possibility of delusion, the prodigies advanced on the other side of the question are either such as might readily be accounted for by secondary causes, or such as are not to be believed, because we are in possession of no solid or sufficient evidence that they ever happened. The former of these characteristics attaches to the cures said to be wrought at the tomb of the Abbé de Paris; the latter, to the wonders of Pythagoras, Vespasian, and Appollonius : see Paley's Ev., vol. i, p. 349.

To the conclusion, however, that the miracles recorded in the New Testament could be the work of God only, an objection is sometimes urged, which it may be desirable concisely to notice. It is remarked that the Egyptian magicians, who were employed by Pharoah in opposition to Moses, and who were therefore on the side of the Lord's enemies, were enabled, by the power of evil spirits, to work miracles.

Many able biblical critics explain the wonders of these magicians as the mere contrivance of expert jugglers. If, however, it be allowed that, on some peculiar occasions, and under especial control and limitation, God permits evil spirits to exercise a certain degree of miraculous power over the order of nature, such an admission will by no means affect the divine

42

Objections Answered. [Ess, II. origin and authority of the Christian miracles. When we consider the benevolence of those miracles, as well as their number, variety, and greatness, it seems impossible for us to refuse to attribute them to a merciful and omnipotent Being.

That they were not produced by the power of evil spirits, we may moreover rest satisfied, for two additional reasons—first, because they were wrought in direct attestation of that which professed to be a revelation of the divine will, for the guidance and instruction of mankind; for it is morally impossible that the God of all truth should permit his enemies to affix to a fictitious revelation of his will the seal of miracles-of numerous, stupendous, undoubted miracles—and thus consign his reasonable creatures to inevitable and irremediable error; secondly, because they were wrought in support of a religious system, which was directed in all its parts to righteous ends; which was therefore entirely opposed, on the one hand, to the dominion of the powers of darkness, and perfectly. conformed, on the other, to the moral attributes of God.

Thus, then, there appears to be nothing which can interrupt our conclusion, that God alone was the author of the Christian miracles. And, since God alone was the author, Christianity, which was attested by them, is the religion of God.

.

ESSAY III.

ON THE EVIDENCE OF PROPHECY.

THE evidence of the divine origin of Christianity afforded by the miracles of Jesus Christ and his apostles, although substantial and satisfactory, is not to be considered as standing alone; for it forms only one division of a cumulative proof. Such has been the providential care exercised by our heavenly Father over the spiritual interests of men, that he has been pleased to furnish them with a rariety of correspondent and harmonious signs, that the religion, by means of which their salvation is to be effected, proceeds from himself.

In the present essay, I propose to take a concise, yet comprehensive, view of the sign of Prophecy.

Of those future events which are connected with the established order of nature-such as the rising and setting of the sun on the morrow; the growth of a plant from the seed sown in the earth ; the death of mortal creatures now living—analogical reasoning enables us to form a correct apprehension. Sometimes also the intelligent observers of moral and political causes are enabled, by a somewhat more difficult application of the same species of reasoning, to form successful conjectures respecting future circumstances, appertaining not so much to the order of nature as to the scheme of Providence. But, ready as we may be to allow these positions, we cannot con

« AnteriorContinuar »