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⚫ together, who in compliance with the orders of a king or emperor have decreed, that he [Jesus] should be made a God; but the Creator of the world himself,' &c. It is much more for the honour of Jesus, for the credit of his miracles and religion, and for the satisfaction of men in all times, that his miracles and doctrine obtained belief and esteem without the power and authority of magistrates, by the force of their own internal excellence and evidence.
'But now I am speaking,' says Mr. W. of the fitness and unfitness of deceased persons, to have this grand miracle wrought on them: it comes into my head to ask, why Jesus raised not John the Baptist to life again? A 'person of greater merits, and more worthy of the favour of • Jesus, and of this miracle, could not be. This is a very 'reasonable question,' p. 25. A very silly one, most people will think. John the Baptist had performed his work, and finished his course. If he had been soon raised to life again, the value and merit of his testimony given to Jesus had been much weakened. If it had been related in the history of Jesus, that John the Baptist had been raised again to life by him; Mr. W. might have said, it gave ground for suspicion of collusion between the Principal and fore
ANSWER TO MR. WOOLSTON'S FOURTH OBJECTION.
PAGE 26, he says, 'That none of these raised persons ⚫ had been long enough dead to amputate all doubt of Jesus's miraculous power in their resurrection.' They have been long enough dead to assure us of a miracle, if they are raised, who have been so long dead that their nearest and most affectionate friends bury them, or carry them out to be buried: as have they also, who have on them such evident tokens of their being expired, that their friends hope no longer for help from those, on whose assistance they before depended, so long as there were any signs of life. The former is the case of the widow of Nain's son, and of Lazarus the latter of Jairus's daughter. When Jairus came to Christ his daughter was expiring, for he says in Matthew, "My daughter is even now dead;" in Mark, "lieth at the point of death." Still he had hopes of help from Jesus, for he says: "But come and lay thy hand upon her and she shall live." But before Jesus got to the house she expired, and
all hopes were gone. "And there came (says St. Mark) from the ruler of the synagogue's house, certain which said, Thy daughter is dead, why troublest thou the Master any further?" ch. v. 25. This is good reason to suppose she was really dead. These messengers doubtless were despatched away to Jairus, to acquaint him with the death of his daughter, by those persons that attended her during her sickness, and were convinced of her being expired.
Mr. W. says a good deal more about the time these persons ought to have been dead. Speaking of Jairus's daughter, he says, p. 27, Supposing she was really dead, yet for the sake of an indisputable miracle in her resurrection, it 'must be granted, that she ought to have been much longer, some days, if not weeks, dead and buried.' And of the event at Nain, he says, p. 29, All I have to say here, is, 'that if Jesus had a mind to raise the son of this widow, in ' testimony of his divine power, he should have suffered him 'to have been buried two or three weeks first.'
Mr. W.'s first proposition here appears to me very strange, That supposing she was really dead, yet for the sake of an 'indisputable miracle-she ought to have been dead much 'longer.' If she was really dead (as she certainly was) and was restored again to life, it is with all men of sense and reason an indisputable miracle.
As for the time which Mr. W. requires, that a person must be some days, if not weeks, dead and buried; buried 'two or three weeks first:' this is not needful. If we could not be certainly assured of the death of persons, by evident tokens appearing in their bodies, in less time than Mr. W. prescribes here, we should not be justified in committing to the grave any man in less time. Much less could we endure to bury our dearest friends and relations under two or three weeks or more after they seem to have expired. We cannot justify burying men, but on a well-grounded supposal that they are really dead. We cannot justify the laying out of men's bodies, as we do very soon after visible tokens of death, if those tokens were not sufficient.
And since they buried their deceased friends much sooner in those warm countries, than we do here, this must doubtless have been, because dead bodies became also much sooner offensive there, than in our cold climate. This circumstance strengthens my argument: for how can we imagine that persons should, by burying their deceased friends so early, put them absolutely and entirely beyond any manner of possibility of reviving, unless they might well and safely depend
upon some certain, experienced, and uncontestable proofs and evidences of their being already deprived of any remaining life?
There may have been mistakes made sometimes, though but very rarely; and even those accidents have chiefly happened in cases of sudden death. Where any dangerous distemper precedes, the possibility of mistake is very small, and can seldom happen. This was the case, we know, of Jairus's daughter, and of Lazarus: and this confirms us still more in the belief, that their friends were not mistaken in the persuasion of their death; upon which persuasion the one had been buried, and for the other the public mourners were come to make lamentations. And as for the young man at Nain; though we do not know how he died, whether suddenly, or of a gradual illness, we may rely upon the fondness of a mother, a widow too, that she would not have carried forth to burial her only son without knowing he was become a dead corpse.
It is so natural, and even unavoidable for men that argue against plain truth, to contradict themselves; that it is hardly worth while to take any notice of Mr. W.'s self-contradictions. I shall only just observe, that this story of Lazarus's resurrection, which before was represented by him as the miracle of miracles, superlatively great, and monstrously huge, as if nothing greater and more prodigious could be devised or thought of, is here pretended not to be big enough to assure us it was any miracle at all. For he says, p. 31: It is plain that Lazarus was not so 'long dead and buried, as that there is no room to doubt .' of the miracle of his resurrection.'
Mr. W. says, p. 28, 29: And where there is a possibi'lity of fraud, it is nonsense, and mere credulity to talk of a real, certain, and stupendous miracle, especially where 'the juggler and pretended worker of miracles has been 'detected in some of his other tricks.' Perhaps there are few or no cases where there is an absolute impossibility of fraud. It is sufficient that fraud be improbable, unlikely, and next to impossible. In such a case (which is ours) it is not nonsense and mere credulity, but the highest reason to admit the truth of a relation; and to assert a real, certain, and great, or if you choose, stupendous miracle. A fraud is as easy to happen in a person who has been dead and buried many weeks, as in one publicly carried out to burial.
Herein however I readily agree with Mr. W. that it is mere credulity to talk of such a thing, where a juggler has
been detected in any other tricks. But where was he, who is said to have raised the widow's son at Nain, detected of any tricks? When Mr. W. has detected such a thing in any one case, I will allow it in this also. But till then, as this story is credibly related, I shall continue to pay a regard
Our author has several other things under this observation; but as they do not properly belong to this, of the length of time these persons are said to have been dead, but rather to his sixth observation, of the circumstances of the narrations, I shall take no notice of them here: I have already spoken to some things here, which might have been let alone till we come to that observation.
ANSWER TO MR. WOOLSTON'S FIFTH OBJECTION.
5. THE consideration that none of these raised persons ' did or could after their return to their bodies, tell any tales ' of their separate existence; otherwise the evangelists had not been silent in their main point,' &c. p. 32.
None of these persons,' Mr. W. says, told any tales of 'their separate existence.' So I suppose with him. As for the two first: how should they? being only, as Mr. W. says,
an insignificant boy and girl,' of twelve years of age, or thereabouts. Or if they did, the evangelists were wiser than to take any notice of their tales. As for Lazarus, I would suppose he was a wiser man than to indulge a vain inclination of amusing people with idle stories of no use. Besides, I presume he had been a follower of Jesus before he died. And when he had been raised from the grave, it is likely he was yet further confirmed by that wonderful work wrought upon himself in the belief that Jesus was the Messias: and that instead of pretending to be wise about what Jesus taught, he would exhort men and especially his neighbours, to attend him, and hear him, who had the words of eternal life.
The evangelists have recorded no tales told by any of these three raised persons. I much admire this objection. I am very glad they have not mentioned any such things. Jesus himself, who was from above, who was in the bosom of the Father, has not delivered any profound unintelligible theory of the separate state of existence. The great apostle Paul, who was an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from
the dead," Gal. i. 1: who had been " caught up into the third heaven," and "into paradise;" who had " abundance of revelations," has not attempted any such thing: but declares that the things he heard were "unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter," 2 Cor xii. 2-7. He treats with the utmost contempt every thing that has a show of wisdom without real advantage: exhorts his dear son Timothy to refuse" profane and old wives' fables, and exercise himself rather unto godliness," 1 Tim. iv. 7: to "shun profane and vain babblings," 2 Tim. ii. 16: and requires him to "charge [men] before the Lord, that they strive not about words to no profit," v. 14.
Jesus and his apostles have made known the certainty of a resurrection of the just and unjust; a general judgment, wherein men shall be judged in righteousness; when the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal. What they say of the different recompenses of good and bad is great and awful, sufficient to affect the minds of all; but they have not entered into a detail of needless particulars, above the capacity of men in the present state.
Religion is the concern of all. This is the most perfect religion, which is suited to all. This is the christian doctrine, which, as it was preached to the poor, and to every creature under heaven, is wonderfully suited to all capacities.
To the immortal honour then of the evangelists be it said, that when they wrote the history of the preaching and miracles of Jesus, who knew all things, they have not recorded dreams and visions, or abstruse theories of a separate state, for the amusement of mankind, but important, certain truths, taught by Jesus for their edification.
Was any person, in this age, to be raised to life, that had been any time dead; the first thing that his friends ⚫ and acquaintance would enquire of him, would be to know 'where his soul had been, in what company,' &c. p. 32. Not impossible: vulgar minds might show such weakness even now. And the greatest minds, while in an uncertainty about another life, might have acted in this manner. Thus some of the greatest men of antiquity, justly admired by all the world, have actually told dreams, or accounts of departed men, and doubtless with a good intention. But he who has the sun needs not the light of a candle. The evangelists, keeping close to their Master, are vastly superior to the greatest men that were before them.
Our author is pleased to trifle so much, as to put ques