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left to examine the doctrines, and less danger of being
But God will not permit evil spirits to delude men. Say—to delude wise and good men to their hurt; and it is true. He permits evil men to impose upon some persons by false wonders and impostures, and then, Homo homini Dæmon; as to the consequences, the effect is the same, and the believer is deluded, though no devil over-reaches him.
The miracles recorded in the New Testament recommend themselves to our belief upon the following accounts:
1. They were wrought by persons who gave other proofs of their mission, and who rest not the whole of their cause upon miracles, but insist also upon the reasonableness of their doctrines, and offer them to examination.
2. By persons who appealed to God, and declared that they would perform them. By acting in the name of the God and Father of all, they gave the best kind of proof that they were supported by him, and thereby prevented objections that the wonder might happen by chance, or be effected by a secret fatal power of which themselves knew nothing, or by evil dæmons, or for other ends and purposes ; and they laid themselves under a necessity of fulfilling their proinises, of of passing for impostors.
3. By persons known to be poor, unlearned, of a low condition, and destitute of great friends and powerful patrons.
4. They were performed in a public manner, which is a circumstance necessary to establish their credit; for though miracles may be wrought in secret, and cannot be disproved, only because they were seen by few, yet they often afford motives for suspicion, and a wise enquirer would perhaps suspend his assent in such cases, and pass no judgment about them.
5. The writers of the New Testament, when they relate the miracles, often name the time, the place, the occasion, the circumstances, the diseases that were removed, the persons healed or raised, the persons who were present, and the things that were said and done by friends and foes on the occasion, giving men an opportunity to enquire into the facts, and to disprove them if they were able.
Quadratus, who wrote his Apology for Christianity about A. D. 124. says, that there were persons alive even in his days, upon whom Christ had wrought miracles ; and it is very probable that some of those who were cured of their infirmities, and raised from the dead by our Saviour, were preserved by Providence to an extreme old age, to be living witnesses of his power and goodness. Apud. Euseb. iv. 3.
6. They were performed before enemies, or unbelievers, or doubters and persons not yet convinced ; as indeed it was highly fit that they should ; for miracles, in the main, are not so much designed for those who believe, as for those who believe not, and who are as yet undetermined, and want proper motives of persuasion.
7. They were wrought in a learned age and civilized countries, and in the politest and best inhabited parts of the world, where persons are not easily deluded, and are rather disposed to hesitate upon strange and unexpected appearances, and to examine, than to be ductile and over credulous.
8. They were accompanied with no appearance of pride, vanity, and ostentation. When a man preaches
up himself, and assumes haughty airs of importance and superiority, he gives cause for suspicion. Such was the case of Simon the magician, as St Luke represents him, who seems to have had for his principal view to pass for a very great person amongst the Samaritans. But the behaviour of the apostles, in this respect, was unexceptionable, and our Saviour during his ministry acted as a servant and a prophet sent from God, ascribing all his miracles to his father.
9. They were wrought for no worldly advantage. As nothing of that kind was sought, so nothing was obtained by our Lord and by his disciples. Obscure indeed they could not be who were endued with such powers, and despised they could not be by their friends and followers; but these were small temporal advantages set against the obloquy, the opposition, the injuries, the afflictions, and the sufferings which they underwent. To do good and to receive evil was their portion, and poverty was their lot and their choice. Quæ tamen passos Apostolus scimus, manifesta doctrina est; hanc intelligo solam Acta decurrens; nihil quæro; carceres illic, et vincula, et flagella, et sara, et gladii, et impetus Judæorum, et catus nationum, et tribunorum elogia, et regum auditoria, et proconsulm tribunulia, et Cæsaris nomen, interpreten von habent. Tertullian, Scorpiac. p. 633. where instead of solam, it should be sola, or solum; and for habent-interpretem non acent, or hatent : want not, stand not in need of an interpreter.
10. They were wrought in confirmation of doctrines good and useful to mankind. The excellence of Christian morality will not be contested by fair and eandid adversaries, and the few objections which may
be made to it, are grounded on passages not rightly understood, nor justly interpreted.
11. They were performed at a time when men wanted neither power nor inclination to expose them if they were impostures, and were in no danger of being called atheists and heretics, and of being insulted by the populace, and persecuted by the civil magistrate for deriding them.
12. They were various and numerous, and of a permanent nature, and might be reviewed and reexamined. When our Saviour was risen from the dead, it could not be said of him, that he appeared only like a phantom for a moment ;
Ostendunt terris hunc tantum Fata, neque ultra
Esse sinunt : for he shewed himself alive to his apostles by many repeated infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days.
13. They had nothing fantastical and cruel, but were acts of kindness and beneficence, calculated to excite gratitude more than fear, and to persuade sather than to terrify. Our Saviour performed no miracles of the severe kind, and the apostles very few, and no more than were necessary for wise and good purposes.
14. They prevailed upon many persons to quit the religion in which they had been educated, and with it ease and pleasure and worldly conveniences, to give up ample fortunes, to disoblige their dearest friends and relations, to offend rulers and magistrates, to leave their country, and to suffer all kinds of temporal evils, and the loss of life.
15. They were attested by proper witnesses. The disciples of Christ saw the miracles of their master,
and died in confirmation of them, particularly of his resurrection. St Paul appeals to the church of the Corinthians, that he had wrought miracles amongst them, and that they had miraculous gifts conferred upon them by the Holy Spirit. See Disc. ii, on the Christ. Relig.
16. They were foretold by the prophets, and such as the Jews expected, and had reason to expect from the Messias, Isaias speaks of times when miracles should be performed, and of a person who should open the eyes of the blind, and cause the lame to walk, and heal the diseased, which when Christ performed, he might justly affirm that he was the person promised by the prophet,
Jesus said, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see : the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, &c. Mat. xi. 4.
In that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah xxix. 18, 19.
Behold your God will come — Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. xxxv. 4, 5, 6.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek, &c. Ixi. 1.
I the Lord—will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles : to open the blind
eyes, &c. xlii. 6, 7.