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He haih born our griefs, and carried our sorrows, liij. 4.
I will feed my sheep-und will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick and zoill set one shepherd over them, even my servant David, Ezekiel xxxiv.
To these must be added all the prophecies which speak of the afflictions and death, and of the triumphant success and everlasting dominion of the Mes. sias, and were fulfilled in his resurrection, ascension, &c.
17. They were acknowledged by adversaries. Besides the confessions of that kind recorded in the gospel, and the conversion of enemies, the Jewish objection, that they were wrought by evil spirits, and the Gentile objection, that they were effected by magic arts, were a kind of confession that there was in them something preternatural,
18. The same persons whose miracles stand recorded in the gospel, foretold also many events, some of which did not come to pass till a considerable time after the books of the New Testament were written, and the writers were dead. This confirms the miracles related in those books. We have predictions there of the dispersion of the Jews, of their continu. ance as a distinct people, of the calling of the Gentiles, of the perpetual duration of Christ's kingdom, of the fall of its enemies, of the particular corruptions which should find entrance into the Christian church, of the spiritual tyranny that should be erected, &c. See Two Previous Questions, p. 59, &c.
19. If we reflect upon the end and purpose for which these miracles were wrought, we find it grand and noble, full of dignity and majesty. It was to
carry on one vast and consistent plan of providence, extending itself from the creation to the consummation of all things, to establish a system of belief, hope, and practice, plain and useful; being no other than the religion of nature improved and inforced, revealed in part to the Jews, promised by the prophets, and tending to destroy four great moral evils, so prevalent and so pernicious, atheism, scepticism, superstitious idolatry, and vice,
Compare with these evangelical miracles, the Pagan miracles, as delivered to us by report, or the ecclesiastical miracles, after the church was supported by the state : but there is no comparison ; the latter were usually such as would make fools stare, and wise men suspect ; and as they began, so they ended in vain, establishing nothing, or what was worse than nothing ; if false, the tricks of deceitful men; if true, the frolics of fantastical dæmons.
20. Lastly, the supposition that no miracles were wrought in confirmation of the gospel is not to be reconciled with the character, behaviour, and patient sufferings of Christ, of his apostles, and of the apostolical Christians, or with the propagation of our religion, or with those prophetic parts of the New Testament which have been fulfilled.
Thus far we have given the sum and substance of those arguments which are usually nrged in defence of the miracles recorded in the New Testament. They are the plainest and the most obvious arguments, and consequently the most useful and satisfactory. To these I shall add some proofs which are more remote from common observation, and which perhaps have not been sufficiently considered.
Avia jam solus peragro loca, nullius ante
Trita solo. In few words, the observation which I would offer is this: The miracles of Christ were prophecies at the same time ; they were such miracles as in a particular manner suited his character, they were significant emblems of his designs, and figures aptly representing the benefits to be conferred by him upon mankind, and they had in them, if we may so speak, a spiritual sense. So much may be urged in behalf of this interpretation of them, as shall probably secure it from being ranked amongst those funciful expositions which are generally slighted by wise men: for many Cabbalistic notions have made their appearance in this, as well as in other centuries and countries, which are even beneath censure or mention, and neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dung-hill,
Our Saviour's miracles were then of a beneficent nature, and such as might be expected from one who came to be an universal blessing.
He cast out evil spirits, who by the divine providence were permitted to exert themselves at that time, and to possess many persons. By this he shewed that he came to destroy the empire of Satan, and seemed to foretell, that wheresoever his doctrine should prevail, idolatry and vice should be put to flight.
He foresaw that the great and popular objection to him would be that he was a magician, and therefore he confuted it before hand, and ejected evil spirits, to shew that he was in no confederacy with them.
The miracle which he first wronght, and which on that account was remarkable, was his turning water into wine at a marriage feast,
There arose in the church, from ancient tiines, sccts of heretics, who condemned wine, and the use of animali food, and marriage; and not only hereties, but the orthodox also ran into extravagant notions of the same kind, crying up celibacy and a solitary life bevond measure, together with rigid and uncommanded austerities and macerations of the body. Christ therefore, as we may conjecture, was present at this feast, and honoured it with this miracle, that it should stand in the gospel as a confutation of these foolish errors, and a warning to those who had ears to hear, not to be deluded by such fanatics. St John, who records this miracle, lived to see these false doctrines adopted and propagated.
- He gave sight to the blind, a miracle well suiting him who brought immortality to light, and tanght truth to an ignorant world. Lucem caliganti reddalit mundo, applied by Q. Curtius to a Roman emperor, can be strictly applied to Christ, and to him alone. No prophet ever did this miracle before him; as none ever made the religious discoveries which he made. Our Saviour himself leads us to this observation, and sets liis miracle in the same view, saying upon that occasion, I am the light of the world; I am come into this world, thut they which see not, might see.
He cured the deaf and the dumb, and the lame, and the infirm, and cleansed the lepers, and healed all manner of sicknesses, to shew at the same time that lie was the physician of souls, which have their diseases corresponding in some manner to those of the body, and are deaf, and dumb, and impotent, and paralytic, and leprous in the spiritual sense.
He fed the hungry multitudes by a miracle, which aptly represented his heavenly doctrine, and the gos
pel preached to the poor, and which he himself so explains, saying, I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.
The fig-tree, which with all its fair appearance was destitute of fruit, and died away at his rebuke, was plainly a figure of the Pharisaical religion, which was only outside shew ; and of the rejection and fall of the Jewish nation.
At his direction the disciples twice cast the net, and had an astonishing draught of fishes, when without him they had long toiled in vain, and caught nothing ; an image of the success which they should have when they became fishers of men, as he himself explained it.
In the miraculous draught related in John xxi. the number of fishes was one hundred and tifty-three, which, says Sam. Basnage, is the number of the sorts of fishes then known, for Oppian reckons up just so inany, and this, adds he, was an indication that persons of all nations and conditions should enter into the church. Ann. Eccl. i. p. 415. What he observes from Oppian is true. See the Miscell. Observ. ii. p. 361. *
His rebuking the winds and waves into silence and peace, may be considered as an emblem of his spiritual victories over the mad rage of Jews and Gentiles,
* The notes on Oppian, referred to here, were written by Jos. Wasse,
τα δ' εκ επιλήσοιιαι, όφρ' άν έγωγε Ζώοισιν μελέω. . That learned man, with two or three others, offered his assistance very kindly to the author of the Miscell. Observations, who had not many friends to advise him and to countenance him; no small discoutagements to a young writer, and no bad excuse for the defects in that work.