« VorigeDoorgaan »
"out on the dry land; and the water which thou "takest out of the river shall become blood upon
the dry land."-" And Moses and Aaron went " and gathered together all the elders of the chil"dren of Israel. And Aaron spake all the words "which the Lord had spoken unto Moses, and did "the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed." It must now be clearly ascertainable, whether the token, or the miracles, were the ground on which the people were required to believe Moses.
The sign to Moses, that " God would certainly "be with him," was a private and personal token: but his public miracles proved that JEHOVAH had sent him, and established him as a prophet, both to Israel and to Pharaoh. Indeed Pharaoh and the Egyptians were destroyed, and a most important part of Moses's commission, as a prophet, was accomplished, before Israel came to Horeb. The same kind of reasoning which Mr. C. adopted concerning Jesus, may lead us to ask, Of what use then were the miracles of Moses to Pharaoh and the Egyptians? or the establishment of Moses as a prophet, or his subsequent miracles, to the rebels who afterwards perished by thousands? or to that whole generation which fell in the wilderness? Yet these miracles answered great and important purposes, both to Israel, to the surrounding nations, and to all subsequent generations, even to this day. P. 44. 1. 2. 'Established Moses,' &c :-1. 24. 'All the miracles,' &c.-Notwithstanding Moses's establishment as a prophet at Horeb, the people,
Ex. iv. 1-9, 29-31.
it seems, were so little satisfied respecting it, and so prone to murmur, if their desires were not immediately granted; that nothing but miracles of wrath could prevent their open rebellion against both the prophet, and God who sent him! This also shews, that the conduct of the Jews in rejecting Jesus is no proof that he was not the true Messiah: for, by exactly the same kind of evidence, it may be proved that Moses was not a true. prophet? and this is at least a valid argumentum ad hominem.
P. 45. 1. 4. Now to make them all fit,' &c.The people after all confessed, that they were not able to hear the word of God.'
P. 45, 1. 6. Became a whole nation, in one 'moment, prophets,' &c.-When the Lord appointed to Moses seventy assistants, he said "I "will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and "will put it upon them." "And he took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave unto the seventy elders." "And Eldad and Medad pro"phesied in the camp." " And Moses said, Would "God that all the Lord's people were prophets, "and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon "them!" 2 In this place alone do we read of God's pouring out of his Spirit on Israel," to make any of them prophets; and this only on seventy out of the whole nation. Moses's wish, according to Mr. C.'s account, would have been superfluous and absurd.
P. 45. 1. 9. 'We find that afterward,' &c.— Nothing is recorded in scripture of this kind,
1 Ex. xx. 19. Deut. v. 23-27. - * Num. xi. 17, 24-29.
concerning prophets in general; nor what entirely accords to it, respecting any particular prophet: but, as it does not affect the general argument, it does not require further notice. The same may be said of the rest of this page.
Let it here be distinctly observed, that Mr. C. admits the authenticity of the history, contained in the New Testament, concerning the ministry and miracles of Jesus, and of his apostles: at least he says nothing to the contrary, and he frequently appeals to it. Indeed, this is the only original history, extant in the world, of the introduction and establishment of Christianity. Neither friends nor enemies gave any other which has been preserved, and which can be referred to as authority. This is a most extraordinary, though little noticed, fact! The revolution, in itself the greatest, and productive of by far the most extensive, important, and permanent effects, in the history of the human race; occupies scarcely any pages in the writings of original historians, except those of the New Testament: all else is tradition or report. These books were written by Christians; and no contemporary opposer ventured to publish a counter narrative: though the credit of the Jewish rulers, priests, and scribes, and even that of pagan persecutors and philosophers, loudly demanded it of them! This is a testimony to the fidelity of the sacred historians of the New Testament, which is altogether without parallel. Even modern enemies to Christianity, are compelled to derive all their information from the evangelists themselves!
Let it be also observed, that Mr. C. does not
attempt to deny the reality of the miracles, recorded as wrought by Jesus and his apostles; but ascribes them unreservedly to witchcraft and enchantment: All by enchantment.' (P. 42. 1. 6.) This is exactly the ancient solution of the difficulty given by the Pharisees; and our Lord's answer to it is worthy the consideration of moderns also who retain it.'
Having premised these things, we proceed more directly to the question,
HOW FAR, AND IN WHAT CASES, MIRACLES ARE A PROOF OF A DIVINE MISSION.
It is readily allowed, that bad and wicked men ' have wrought miracles;' (p. 46. 1. 16;) yea, real miracles, by the power of God: for to be a prophet, and to be a saint, or holy person, are quite distinct things. No doubt, Judas wrought miracles, as well as the other apostles and our Lord assures us that many instances will be made known at the day of judgment of miracles wrought in his name by " the workers of iniquity." 2
It is also conceded, that wicked men, by various artifices of legerdemain imposing on the senses of the ignorant, may perform many things which appear to be miraculous; and the history of the church abounds with such " lying miracles," in which some knowledge of chemistry, or mechanics, or optics, and other sciences, combining with the tricks of a juggler, among illiterate people, and
1 Matt. xii. 23-32.
Matt. vii. 21-23.
those, who were not permitted closely to investigate what they saw, gave reputation to appearances which passed for miracles; but in which neither divine power, nor diabolical operation, were at all concerned. This was clearly ascertained at the reformation from popery.-It appears also to me undeniable, that, by witchcraft and enchantment, the actual operation of evil spirits has been, in many instances, obtained: and thus supernatural effects have been produced; and the magicians of Egypt seem to have wrought their miracles, at least some of them, in this way: nor is it easy to say, which of the lying miracles of the antichristian church have been wrought by human imposture, and which by Satanical influence.
In this view, however, it is worthy of notice, that the only formidable rival of Christianity on earth, Mohammedism, was established without any public miracles; and that Mohammed employs no small portion of the Koran in framing excuses for not giving signs and miracles in proof of his mission, and in intimidating those who demanded them. The only religions in the whole world, which so much as profess to have been at first introduced, and established by miracles, wrought in the presence of powerful opposers, and demanding investigation from the most learned, potent and sagacious of them, are that of Israel as contained in the Old Testament, and that of Jesus in the New. There never, in any age or place, was another religion introduced with this avowed claim. Miracles, said to have been wrought in support of a system already established, and possessed of authority; or by those, whose