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even our full experience, that all the Wisdom of Greece and Rome comes extremely short of the Wisdom of the GOSPEL, can support us in concluding, with certainty, that this Gospel was sent immediately from God. We can but very doubtfully guess, what excellence may be produced by a well-formed and well-cultivated Mind, further blessed with a vigorous temperament, and a happy organization of the Body. The amazement into which Sir Isaac Newton's Discoveries in Nature, threw the learned World, as soon as men became able to comprehend their Truth and Utility, sufficiently shews, what little conception it had, that the human faculties could ever rise so high or spread so wide,
On the whole, therefore, we conclude, that, strictly speaking, there is no ground of conviction solid and strong enough to bear the weight of so great an interest, but that which rises on MIRACLES, worked by the first Messengers of a new Religion, in support and confirmation of their NIISSION.
That is, MIRACLES, and MIRACLES ONLY, deinonstrate that the Doctrine, which is seen to be worthy of God, did, indeed, COME IMMEDIATELY from him.
To be plain, there is a glaring absurdity in the novel fancy here exposed; of which we can find no instance in the affairs of civil life--And civil and religious Policies are conducted on the same principles of Reason, while administered in their integrity. For what public Person ever imagined, or expected to have it believed, that the true and proper CREDENTIAL of a Minister of State was the fairness of his Character, or the equity of his demands? Nothing but the BROAD-SEAL of his Master, he knows, will satisfy those to whom he is sent, that he has a right to the Personage which he assumes. Doth not common sense tell us, that a Messenger from God must come recommended to Mankind in the same manner? Neither his personal accomplishments, nor the excellence of his Doctrine, nor, in a word, any thing short of the BROADSEAL. Of Heaven, éxemplified in MIRACLES, will be sufficicnt to establish his assumed Character.
But the Doctors of this new School seem to have fallen into the absurdity here exposed, by another as ridiculous; namely, that THE GOSPEL ITSELF IS NO MORE, NOR
OTHER, THAN A HÉPUBLICATION OF THE RELIGION OF NATURE:-(an extravagance, amongst the first of those, which, } presume, this Work of the Divine Legation hath totally discredited.).
Now (şay these men) if the light of Reason bath instructed, us in what, NATURAL RELIGIOy teacheth, it seems most.çonsonant to common sense, that the REPUBLICATION of this Religion should be established in the same manner that it was first PUBLISHED to the world. Not so, (I reply) even on their false principle of a mere REPUBLICATION. For since it was found, by experience, that, the first publication of God's will, by natural light alone, hath proved insufficient to perpetuate the knowledge of it; we shall think it most adequate to Reason, that the REPUBLICATION should be better guarded ; to secure it from the like mischance.
But the truth is, this idea of Christianity's being merely such a REPUBLICATION arose from the grossest ignorance of the GOSPEL; which reveals more, infinitely more important Truths than NATURAL LIGHT did or could discover. It reveals the whole scheme of human Redemption; which, till this Revelation took place, was a MYSTERY, kept bid amongst the Arcana of the Godhead.
However, the same Nen have another objection to the belief of these miraculous Credentials. And the objection arises, it seems, from our sỌPHISTICAL reasoning in support of thein: for. thus (they say) we argue
“ So little being known of the powers of created spirits, superior to purselves, (some of which we are taught to believe are beneficent to iman, and some averse) all that we can conclude of MIRACLES, considered only in themselves, is, that they are the work of agents, able, in some instances, to control Nature, and divert her from her established course. - But whether this control be performed immediately by the God of Nature, or by Agents acting under his direction, (which amounts to the same thing) or, on the contrary, by malignant agents, at enmity with Man, and, for a time, permitted to indulge their perverse and hurtful purposes, cannot be known but by the nature of that Doctrine, in support of wbich, the pretended Miracles are performed. The conclusion
from this is, that TUE MIRACLES ARE TO BE VÉRIFIED BY THE DOCTRINÉ.
But then, (say they again) sińce we know so little of the extent of the human understanding, we cannot determine of the true Original of the Doctrine, proposed to our belief, till it be supported by MIRACLES; now the conclusion from this is, that the DOCTRINE IS TO BE VERIFIED BY MIRẢCLES.
Such is the vicious Circle (say our adversàries) round which we run, when we first PROVE THE MIRACLES BY THE DOCTRINE, AND THEN PROVĖ THE DOCTRÍNÉ BY THE MIRACLES.
This is, without doubt, ä Paralogism. But we deny that any such faulty reasoning is here employed. The term DOCTŘINE, in the first proposition, is used to signify a Doctrine agreeable to the truth of things, and demonstrated to be so by natural light. In the second proposition, the term, DOCTRINE, is used to sīơnify a Doctrine immediately, and in an extraordinary manner, revealed by God. So that these different significations, in the declared use of the word DocTŘINE, in the tivo propositions, sets the whole reasoning free from that cicious Circle within which our Philosophic Conjurer's would confine it. In this, there is no fruitless return of an unprogressive argument; but a regular procession of two distinct and different Truths, till the whole reasoning becomes complete. In truth, they afford mutual assistance to one another; yet not by taking back, after the turn has been served; what they had given; but by continuing to hold what each had imparted to the support of the other.
On the whole, we conclude, that if any Messenger's ever wanted the CREDENTIALS OF MIRACLES, they were of the GOSPEL:
ESSENGER ? Indeed, divine Providence háth so strictly appropriated AIIRACLES for these CREDENTIALS, that JOHN THE BAPTIST, the Precursor of those Messengers, destined only to announce the approaching Gospel, worked no MIRACLES: yet, had Aliracles been of no other use than what this new-fangled Doctrine assigns to them, namely, to make the hearers attentive to the excellence of the
morals of the new Religion, none had more need of them than John and his Penitents.- St. CHRYSOSTOJI seems to have understood the GOSPEL better than these modern Divines, when he supposed that even Jesus himself workeď no Miracle till after his baptisın, i. e. till the time of his addressing himself to his Mission, when CREDENTIALS to his Character were naturally required; which Credentials had he not given, the unbelieving Jews, as he himself acknowledges, had been free from blame. IF I HAD NOT DONE AMONGST THEM (says he) THE WORKS WHICH NONE OTHER MAN DID, THEY HAD NOT HAD SIN *.
II. We come next to that second Species of Miracles, mentioned above, whose subject makes só essential a part in the Economy of the GOSPEL, that, without it
, the whole would be vain and fruitless. The first and principal of the species is the MIRACLE of Christ's RESURRECTION from the Dead--If Christ be not RAISED, (saith St.-Paul) your faith is vain ; you are yet in your sins to And St. Peter. uses the same argument to shew the NECESSITY of his Master's resurrection—God says he) raised him up, having loosed the pains of death ; (BE: CAUSE IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE THAT HE SHOULD BE HOLDEN OF IT I.
Now from whence does the impossibility arise, if not from the force of St. Paul's argument concerning the nature of Christ's Resurrection
So important a circumstance, therefore, required that the highest evidence should be given of its truth.
CHRISTIANITY reveals the restoration of lapsed and forfeited Man to life and immortality from the power and dominion of the Grave.
But the course of human nature continuing the same after this restoration which it held before, and the GRAVE still boasting its power, though foolishly, indeed, and in vain, since Death had lost its Sting ; there seemed to be need of some extraordinary evidence of the reality of this change in the order of things, which being procured at the price of Christ's death on the Cross, and then visibly paid, the nature of the compact required that the * John xv, 24. t 1 Cor. XV. 18. 1 Acts ii. 24. § 1 Cor. xv. 55.
benefit obtained should be as visibly put into our possession; and both one and the other openly exemplified in the same Person, the Author of our Salvation. For, if he himself was not seen to enjoy the fruits of that Redemption, which was of his own procuring, what hopes could be entertained for the rest of mankind? Would it not have been too plausibly concluded, that this expedient of Redemption had proved ineffectual by Christ's not rising ? So necessarily connected in the Apostle's opinion) was the MIRACLE of our Saviour's visible resurrection with the very essence of the Christian Faith. And this Resurrection being the first fruits of them that slept, was the very thing which both assured and sanctified all the benefits that were to follow: For the Jewish first fruits (to which the expression alludes) were of the nature, and a security to the plenty, of the approaching Harvest.
Thus, we see, the Miracle of the Resurrection made a necessary part of the integrity of the Gospel.
But it had other uses and expediencies besides; which, (in concluding this head) I shall, in as few words as possible, endeavour to point out. The heathen World had, in general, some notion of another life. But a resurrection of this material body, after death, to accompany the soul in its future existence, never once entered into their imaginations; though some modern Writers have been misled to think otherwise, partly bý what they had learnt of the fables of the vulgar, full of shadows of a bodily shape, Inhabitants of the Tombs, or Attendants on the Soul, in the sequestered abode of Spirits; and partly of the more soleinn dreams of the Philosophers, particularly the famous SrotCAL RÉNOVATION, which; however, is so far from bearing any resemblance, or yielding any credit to the CHRISTIAN resurrection, though mistaken for it, that it is absolutely inconsistent with it.
The Sages of Antiquity had discovered many qualities in the human Soul, which disposed them to think that it might survive the Body. But every property they knew of Matter led them to conclude, that, at the separation and dissolution of the union between these two constituent parts of Man, the Body would be resolved into the