« VorigeDoorgaan »
of truth at that time. And indeed it could be owing to nothing else but to those methods, supported by holy lives and patient sufferings.
Our own time also affords a convincing instance to all that will open their eyes to observe. The protestant states and kingdoms of Europe, as they enjoy greater liberty than others, proportionably exceed their neighbours in the justness of their sentiments, and the goodness of their lives. Indeed there is among us protestants a great deal of vice and irreligion, which all good men observe with grief and concern, and some very bad and selfish men delight to aggravate and magnify with a view to their own evil designs; but still without vanity, if we be barely just to our circumstances, sure we have some reason to glory over some of our neighbours in this respect. Which advantage can be ascribed to no other cause so much as the liberty we enjoy. For introduce among us the tyranny they are under, and we shall be as ignorant, as superstitious, and corrupt, as they.
If then men should be permitted among us, to go on in delivering their sentiments freely in matters of religion, and to propose their objections against Christianity itself; I apprehend, we have no reason to be in pain for the event. On the side of Christianity, I expect to see, as hitherto, the greatest share of learning, good sense, true wit, and fairness of disputation: which things, I hope, will be superior to low ridicule, false argument, and misrepresentation.
For ought I can see, in an age so rational as this we live in, the victory over our enemies may be speedily obtained. They will be driven to those manifest absurdities, which they must be ashamed to own; and be silent in dread of universal censure. But suppose the contest should last for some time, we shall all better understand our Bibles: we shall upon a fresh examination better understand the principles, and the grounds of our religion. Possibly some errors may be mixed with our faith, which by this means may be separated, and our faith become more pure. Being more confirmed in the truths of our religion, we shall be more perfect in the duties of it. Instead of being unthinking and nominal, we shall become more generally serious and real Christians: each one of which advantages will be a large step toward a complete and final victory.
This victory obtained upon the ground of argument and persuasion alone, by writing and discourse, will be honourable to us and our religion; and we shall be able to reflect upon it with pleasure. We shall not only keep that good thing we have received, but shall deliver it down to others with advantage. But a victory secured by mere authority is no less to be dreaded than a defeat. It may appear a benefit for the present, but it really undermines the cause; and strikes at the root of our holy profession. Will any serious and sensible Christian, in the view of a future judgment, undertake to answer for the damage thereby brought to the doctrine of his Saviour, the meek and patient Jesus? as meek in his principles, as in the example he has bequeathed us.
I might now address myself to our adversaries, and tell them, that it is a very desirable thing, that all authors should write as scholars and gentlemen, at least like civilised people: that it is a point long since determined, that in controversial writings, authors should confine themselves to things, that is, the merits of the cause, without annoying persons: that it is grievous to all sorts of men, to have those things which they respect, treated with indecency. I might tell them, that other men's reputation is as sacred as their own. I might remind them, that Christians at this time, generally speaking, are in as good temper as they were ever known to be: that some, being of opinion that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and that it is his pleasure, that men should not be compelled to receive his law by the punishments of this life, or the fear of them, leave men to propose their doubts and objections in their own way: that others have openly declared, that they ought to be invited; and others that they ought to be permitted to propose their objections, provided it be done in a grave and serious manner. Christians have also lately shewn an instance of their moderation towards some books published in opposition to their principles. These are things, which, one would think, should have some effect on ingenuous minds; and draw them off from the design of any rudeness or indecency in their attacks on the sentiments commonly received among Christians. I might also remind our adversaries of some examples of an admirable decorum observed by the disciples of Jesus in their arguings with the Jews and Gentiles. But really one has little encouragement from some late performances to enlarge upon these particulars. And perhaps it would be judged ridiculous, to
imagine that any men should oppose the gospel with the same spirit, with which it was at first taught and propagated.
Besides, as all men are more concerned for the good conduct of their friends, than of others; so have I been chiefly solicitous on this occasion about the conduct of those who are engaged in the same cause with myself; that it may be such as is best suited to the nature of those sublime principles they profess, and most for the lasting honour and interest of our religion. And though the things here said may be at first disagreeable to some who are, or have been in part of a different sentiment, it is not impossible, but that upon calm and cool reflection they may obtain their approbation.
A passage of Origen out of his Books against Celsus, concerning these three miracles.
I HAVE in the Vindication prolixly shewn, that the literal histories of these miracles are rational, consistent, and credible: so that we may be safe and easy in understanding them in their literal sense, whatever any fathers or other people may say to the contrary. I shall however here set before the reader a passage of Origen written about A. D. 245, which passage I have chosen, not only as containing a testimony to the real performance of these miracles in their literal sense, and shewing, that Origen argued the messiahship of Jesus from miracles; but also as containing an excellent observation concerning the credibility of the evangelists. The reader will likewise perceive that in Celsus's time, who flourished about the middle of the second eentury, the miracles of Jesus were much talked of, and well known to the heathens: and that the Christians in the time of Celsus, or before, believed the miracles of Jesus, and argued his divine mission from them.
• But this,' says Origen, is no new thing with Celsus, when he is not able directly to oppose ⚫ the miracles which Jesus is recorded to have done, to asperse them as juggling tricks. To which I have already often replied according to my ability. And here he makes us answer ◄ him; that we therefore believe him to be the Son of God, because he healed the lame and the blind. He adds; and, as you say, raised the dead. For certain we do believe him to be the • Christ and the Son of God, because he healed the lame and the blind. And we are confirmed in it, because that in the prophets it is written: "Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear, and the lame man leap as an hart." And that he raised the dead, and that this is not a fiction of those that wrote the gospels, is evident hence; that if it ⚫ had been a fiction of theirs, they would have related, many persons to have been raised up, and ⚫ those who had lain a long time in their graves. But it not being a fiction, there are few of ⚫ whom this is related: for instance, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (of whom I do not know why he said, she is not dead, but sleepeth, expressing somewhat peculiar to her, 'not common to all dead persons) and the only son of a widow, on whom he had compassion, ' and raised him up, after he had bid the bearers of the corpse stop; and the third, Lazarus, who had been buried four days.'
• Και νυν δε φησιν οἷονει ἡμᾶς ἀποκρίνασθαι, ὅτι δια τότ' ενομίσαμεν αυτόν είναι Υίον Θε8, επει χωλος και τυφλες εθεραπεύσε. Προςίθησι δε και το, ὡς ὑμεῖς φαλε, ανιση venges. ότι μεν εν χωλες και τυφλες εθεράπευσε, διόπερ Χριςον αυτόν και Υίον Θέα νομιζομεν· δῆλον ἡμῖν εστιν εκ τ8 και εν πρυφητείαις γεγραφθαι· Τότε· Ότι δε και νεκρός ανίση, και εκ εςι πλασμα των τα ευαγγελια γραψαντών παρίσαται εκ τ8, ει μεν πλασμα ην, πολλές αναγεγραφθαι της αναστανίας, και τις ηδη χρον8ς εχοντας πλειονάς εν τοις μνημείοις. επει δ' εκεί
πλασμα, πανυ ευαρίθμητες λελέχθαι, την τε το αρχισυναγώ θυγατερα (περι ἧς εκ οιδ' όπως είπεν, εκ απέθανεν, αλλά και Θεύδει· λέγων τι περί αυτής, ὁ ο πασι τοις αποθανεσι προσην) και τον μονογενη της χήρας υἱον. εφ ̓ ᾧ σπλαίχνισθεις ανεζησεν, ζησας της φερονίας τον νεκρον και τρίτον Λάζαρον. τεία την ήμεραν εν τω μνημείῳ, εχονία. Cont. Cels. 1. 2. p. 87.
Origen, it seems, did not then think of the reason of this, I have assigned the plain reason of it, p. 352. See also, p. 368.
A VINDICATION, &c.
Mr.W. begins his fifth Discourse, p. 1, 2, with saying, that he is now to take into examination 'the three miracles of Jesus's raising the dead, viz. of Jairus's daughter, Matt. ix. Mark v. • Luke viii. of the widow of Nain's son, Luke vii. and of Lazarus, John xi.; the literal stories ' of which, he says, he shall shew to consist of absurdities, improbabilities, and incredibilities, in order to the mystical interpretation of them.'
I have read over his examination of these miracles, and am still of opinion, that the histories of them are credible.
1. I will therefore first consider all his objections against these literal stories.
II. I will consider the Jewish Rabbi's letter inserted in this discourse.
III. I will shew, that the histories of these three miracles are well circumstanced, and have in them the marks and tokens of credibility.
ANSWER TO MR. WOOLSTON'S FIRST OBJECTION,
WILL first consider all Mr. W's objections to these literal stories.'
Mr. W. says in his preamble, before he comes to propose his objections in form: that these 'three miracles are not equally great, but differ in degree, is visible enough to every one that but cursorily reads, and compares their stories one with another;-the greatest of the three, and indeed the greatest miracle, that Jesus is supposed to have wrought, is that of Lazarus's resurrection; which, in truth, was a most prodigious miracle, if his corpse was putrefied and 'stank; and if there were no just exceptions to be made to the credibility of the story. Next to that, in magnitude, is Jesus's raising of the widow's son, as they were carrying him to his burial. The least of the three is that of his raising Jairus's daughter, p. 4, 5.'
For my own part, I will not pretend to affirm, that these three miracles are equally great, though the difference is small: but I should think it highly probable, that the being which can give life to a person really dead, though but for a quarter of an hour, or even a minute, is able also to raise to life another that has been dead many days. The length of time in which a person has lain dead from the time he expired does indeed somewhat increase the certainty of his death. But the difficulty of the work of a resurrection from real death is so very great, that length of time from the decease can add but little to it. This alone (if it be true) ruins Mr. W's first observation, however plausible it may have appeared to some. And he himself says, p. 3. He believes, it will be granted on all hands, that the restoring a person, indisputably dead, to life again, is a stupendous miracle.'
If then it shall be made appear, that the three persons here mentioned were indisputably dead, and raised to life again; or that there are no just exceptions against the credibility of these stories; we have in the gospels three stupendous miracles, which were wrought by Jesus Christ; and we have no occasion to have recourse to any mystical interpretations.
1. 'Observe,' says he, p. 6, that the unnatural and preposterous order of time, in which these miracles are related, justly brings them under suspicion of fable and forgery. The greatest ⚫ of the three is indisputably that of Lazarus's resurrection; but since this is only mentioned by
St. John, who wrote his gospel after the other evangelists; here is too much room for cavil and question, whether this story be not entirely his invention: again, if Matthew, the first writer, had recorded only the story of Lazarus, whose resurrection was the greatest miracle, and if Luke had added that of the widow of Nain's son; and John, lastly, had remembered us ' of Jairus's daughter-then all had been well; and no objection had hence lain against the credit of any of these miracles, or against the authority of the evangelists: but this unnatural and preposterous order of time, in which these miracles are recorded (the greatest being postponed to the last) administers just occasion of suspicion of the truth and credibility of all their 'stories,' p. 9. 16.
On the contrary I maintain, that St. John the last evangelist's recording a miracle omitted by the former, even supposing it to be greater than any related by them, does not administer any just occasion of suspicion of the truth and credibility of all their three stories, or of of them.
any one If there be any force in this argument of Mr. W. it must lie in some one or more of these following suppositions :
1. That some of the three former evangelists have expressly declared, they have related all the miracles, or all the greatest miracles, which Jesus ever wrought, or which they knew of.
2. Or, if they have not expressly declared this, that however they have in their way of writing shewn an affectation of mightily increasing the number of our Saviour's miracles, or of setting down all, and especially the greatest which they knew of.
3. Or else, that the later evangelists have betrayed a fondness in their gospels, to record more in number, or greater in degree, than those who went before them; and thereby give ground for suspicion of forgery and invention.
4. Or lastly, that the omission of a miracle recorded by the last evangelist, if it had been really done, is absolutely unaccountable.
1. That some of the three former evangelists have expressly declared, they have related ' all the miracles, or all the greatest miracles that Jesus ever did, or that they knew of.' This they have none of them said. Nor is it so much as pretended, they have said so. Indeed they have often declared the contrary.
2. Or, If they have not expressly declared this; that the former evangelists have however by their way and manner of writing shewn an affectation of mightily increasing the number of our Saviour's miracles, or of setting down all, and especially the greatest which they knew of.' This Mr. W. charges them with: To aggrandize the fame of their Master, as a worker of 'miracles,' he says, was the design of all the evangelists, especially of the three first,' p. 7. This does not appear from their histories, but quite the contrary. Having related two or three miracles wrought by Jesus, in any place, they content themselves therewith, though they knew of many others. St. Matthew, in his eighth chapter, having set down the miraculous cures of a leper, of the centurion's servant, and of Peter's wife's mother, relates no more miracles particularly, but only says in general: "When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick," Matt. viii. 16. And in divers other places he affirms many to have been healed, and many other mighty works to have been done, beside those he puts down. Mark has taken the same summary method upon many occasions." And at even," says he, "when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils," Mark i. 32, 34. St. Luke has followed the same compendious way of writing. Having related a cure, in a synagogue, of a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and of Simon's wife's mother, he adds: "Now when the sun was setting, all they which had any sick with divers diseases, brought them unto him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God," Luke iv. 40, 41.
As they do not multiply their particular relations of miracles, but omit great numbers which they knew of, so neither do they affect always to take the greatest in degree, or those that seem So. I do not pretend to understand all the various degrees of miracles. But it appears to me a more showy and affecting work to cure a demoniac, than to heal a person with a fever. yet Matthew, in the chapter just quoted, at the same time that he relates the cure of Simon's
wife's mother, omits all particular accounts of those which were that same day delivered from evil spirits, though there were many such instances. There is in all the gospels but one particular account of any person cured by only touching the hem of Christ's garment, namely, the woman with the bloody issue. And yet there were many other such cases. St. Matthew says, that in the land of Genneserat, they "besought him, that they might only touch the HEM of his garment, and as many as touched were made perfectly whole," Matt. xiv. 35, 36. St. Mark assures us of the same thing." For he had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon him for to TOUCH him, as many as had plagues," Mark iii. 10. And in another place he says: "Whithersoever he entered,--they laid their sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch, if it were but the BORDER of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole,' ch. vi. 56. St. Luke also confirms this account: " And the whole multitude sought to TOUCH him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all," Luke vi. 19.
Nay, there is a great deal of reason to think, that the evangelists did know of more persons raised to life by Jesus, than those they have particularly mentioned. St. Luke, having given the history of raising up the young man, says immediately: "And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?-Then Jesus answering, said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard, how that the blind see, the lame walk,-the DEAD are raised," Luke vii. 18, 19, 22. In St. Matthew our Lord says the same thing in his answer to John's inquiry: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk-the dead are raised up," Matt. xi. 5. He says, "The dead are raised," in the plural number. St. Matthew therefore must have known of more than one, though he has given the particular history of the ruler of the synagogue's daughter only.
Farther, in answer to this assertion, that the design of all the evangelists was to aggrandize the fame of their master, as a worker of miracles; I would observe, that the gospels, though but short histories, are not filled with accounts of miracles. There are whole chapters together containing nothing but an account of our Saviour's pure and heavenly doctrine. Other chapters contain nothing but parables, which are also interspersed here and there in other parts of the narration. Other chapters are taken up with the cavils of the Pharisees and others, and our Saviour's answers to them, with discourses to the disciples, and divers other matters. So that the miracles alone, separate from the discourses and arguings which they occasioned, make but a moderate part of the gospels. Many miracles undoubtedly the evangelists have related. Nor had Jesus proved himself to be the Messiah, if many miracles had not been performed by him. Such things were expected of the Messiah, when he came, by every body. Therefore it was, that, as St. John observes, "Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did," John ii. 23. And in another place, "Many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" ch. vii. 31. Nor is there any ostentation in the working of any of these miracles, or in the manner in which they are related: but they are done for the confirmation of that excellent doctrine which Christ taught, and that all men might know that the Father had sent him, and that the word he taught was not his own but the Father's. "If I do not the works of my Father," says he to the Jews, "believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him," John x. 37, 38. And to the disciples: "The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he doth the works. Believe me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very work's sake,” ch. xiv. 10, 11.
Since then the first three evangelists appear not to have given an account of all the miracles of Jesus which they knew of, nor of all his greatest miracles, nor of all those which he had raised from the dead: since they have not filled up their gospels with accounts of miracles or other wonderful appearances, and have written all without any marks of affectation or ostentation; it can be no prejudice to the credit of another later historian of Jesus, though he relate some few particular miracles not expressly mentioned by the foregoing.
3. Or else, that the latter evangelists have in their gospels betrayed a fondness to record more in number, or greater in degree, than those that went before: and thereby give ground 'for suspicion of forgery and invention.' Here St. John, the last evangelist, in point of number, is perfectly innocent; he not having related half so many miracles, as any one of the