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one unchanged essence and form, though the particles which compose it are partly dissipated every moment, and renewed by those which take their place. A man is the same man, whatever imperceptible changes take place in the substance of his body, because his consciousness, his mind, his identity remains. Thus the Christian society continues still the same depositary of truth. Consciousness is diffused, as it were, throughout the community. The passage from one generation of Christians to another is imperceptible. The society is always the same body, preserving the memory of certain events, and celebrating actions in commemoration of them. The church in her first and in her eighteenth century, only differs as a man at seventy years of age differs from what he was at twenty. His consciousness, his memory of certain prominent facts, and his testimony to them continue as fresh and decisive as ever.8
So utterly futile are the objections against the history of the gospel-objections, however, which being sown in the fertile soil of fallen nature, and favouring the pride and sensuality of the heart, require continually to be exposed. Let it be remembered, then, that if men attempt to shake our belief in the testimony to the miraculous facts of the gospel, they resist
the common sentiments and most approved practice of mankind; nay, the very sentiments and practice by which they themselves are governed in similar cases. In short, all historical truth, all philosophy, all jurisprudence, all society, depends on the evidence borne by credible witnesses. A reliance on well-authenticated and well-circumstanced testimony is as much a law of our moral nature, as the belief of the ordinary laws by which the universe is governed, is of our understanding.
But we proceed, in the next place, to consider
II. WHETHER THESE FACTS WERE, PROPERLY SPEAKING, MIRACULOUS.
That the facts took place is proved: it is admitted also that they were extraordinary. A few considerations will show that they were in the strictest sense miracles.
For what is a miracle? Is it not such an operation as suspends some of those laws of nature, on the general constancy of which the order and preservation of the whole universe rest? These laws God alone, as the author of nature, fixed : and these laws God alone, as the governor and preserver of nature, can alter or suspend. A miracle supposes an established and generally unaltered course of things.
9 Franks's Hulsean Lectures.
Effects that are produced in the regular order of that course we call natural, and those which clearly and palpably depart from that order we call miraculous. Both are equally easy to God; and equally incomprehensible, in the mode of them, to us. That grains of corn sown in the earth should turn into abundant harvests which nourish whole nations, is an astonishing act of that goodness which continually supplies our wants. But it is constantly exerted, and therefore creates little surprise. It is common. That five barley loaves and a few small fishes should be multiplied instantaneously so as to feed five thousand men, and that twelve baskets of fragments should be collected from them, is an astonishing act effected by divine goodness, communicating a revelation to mankind. But it is rare and unexpected. It therefore strikes us with admiration. It excites enquiry into the cause of the extraordinary occurrence. The usual acts of God's power prove his being and providence; the unusual and miraculous prove the divine commission of the person at whose word they are performed. The extraordinary phenomena which we call miracles, are fitted, therefore, from their infrequency, to awaken the attention of mankind; and at the same time they afford, by their evident connexion with supernatural
agency, the best conceivable proof of an immediate indication of the divine will.
1. The facts then of the gospel were plain and palpable miracles—such suspensions of the order of nature as men's outward senses, their eyes and ears, might judge of. They were not facts of the nature of which any doubt could be entertained whether they were in the ordinary course of things or not; but plainly contrary to that course. Such as raising a body that had been dead four days; restoring instant and perfect sight to the blind; healing by a word or at a distance all the diseases incident to our nature; casting out unclean spirits; walking on the sea; calming in a moment the raging of a storm. These works were evidently miracles-suspensions of the laws of naturebold, sensible, and level to every man's comprehension.
2. They were done by Christ and his apostles professedly as divine acts, and were accompanied with that open and undisguised publicity which would have led to their detection had they been impositions. They were performed in the face of the world, or before a sufficient number of competent and intelligent witnesses. They were not fabricated among a few interested persons in a corner. They were done openly in the midst of the assembled
multitudes, and before the most bitter adversaries. The man born blind, Lazarus, the paralytic, were seen by their families and neighbours and all the Jews. The few loaves and fishes were multiplied publicly, and partaken of by five thousand men. The entire Jewish pation, assembled at the feast of Pentecost, heard the apostles address them in new tongues. These things were done at noon-day, and were subjected to the examination of every beholder. Lest, however, it should be said that a crowd are bad judges of a miraculous work, others were performed before individual, competent witnesses, and then submitted to the public eye. Peter and James and John, and the father and the mother of the damsel (the persons best able to discern the truth of the restoration to life) were present at the raising of Jairus' daughter: whilst all the people weeping and wailing at her death, and the scoffers who derided our Lord's attempt to restore her, were so many witnesses of the truth of the miracle, and, had there been any imposition, would have been so many accusers of the fraud. The circumstances of the damsel's walking, and being capable of receiving her ordinary food, are further proofs of the perfection of the work and its miraculous character.
3. Then the first Christian miracles were