pose their objections, provided it be done in a grave and serious manner.

Christians have also lately shown 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, con

cerning these three miracles. I HAVE in the Vindication prolixly shown, 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 showing, that Origen argued the messiahship of Jesus from miracles; beat 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 century, 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 1 makes us answer him ; • that we therefore believe him to be the Son of God, be• cause 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 liart.” 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 b • know why he said, she is not dead, but s'eepeth, 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.'


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

2 –Και νυν δε φησιν οιονει ημας αποκρινασθαι, ότι δια τετ' ενομισαμεν αυτον ειναι Υιον θεό, επει χωλας και τυφλος εθεραπευσε. Προσθησι δε και το, ώς υμεις φατε, ανιση νεκρες. Οτι μεν εν χωλας και τυφλος εθεραπευσε, διοπερ Χριςον αυτον και Υιον θεα νομιζομεν δηλον ημιν εστιν εκ τ8 και εν προφητειαις γεγραφθαι Τοτε.-Οτι δε και νεκρους ανιση, και εκ έσι πλασμα των τα ευαγγελια γραψαντων" παριταται εκ τε, ει μεν πλασμα ην, πολλές αναγεγραφθαι της ανασταντας, και τας ηδη χρονες εχοντας πλειονας εν τοις μνημειoις. Επει δ' εκ εσι πλασμα, πανυ ευαριθμητες λελεχθαι, την τε τα αρχισυναγωγα θυγατερα (περι ης οιδ' οπως ειπεν, εκ απεθανεν, αλλα κατευξειλεγων τι περι αυτης ο και πασι τοις αποθνοσι προσην) και τον μονογενη της χηρας υιον. Εφ' ω σπλαγχνισθεις ανεσησεν, σησας τας φεροντας τον νεκρων και τριτον Λαζαρον τεταρτην

ημεραν εν τω μνημειφ εχοντα. 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. 3) See also, p. 44



[ocr errors]

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 show 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 show, that the histories of these three miracles are well circumstanced, and have in them the marks and tokens of credibility.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

I WILL first consider all Mr. W's objections to these o 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 sto‘ries 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, indis* putably 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 wri

ter, had recorded only the story of Lazarus, whose resur. rection 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 post• poned 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 then any related by them, does not administer any just occasion of suspicion of the truth and credibility of all their three stories, or of any one of them.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

6 of.'

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 shown 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 latter 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 ex. pressly declared, they have related all the miracles, or all • the greatest miracles that Jesus ever did, or that they knew

This they have none of the said. Nor is it so much as pretended, they have said so. Indeed they have ofter declared the contrary.

2. Or, . If they have not expressly declared this; that • the former evangelists have however by their way and man

ner of writing shown 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 cure 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 le puts down. Mark has taken the same summary method upon many occasions.

6 And

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »