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rally instantaneous—but the effects were lasting, and men might for years afterwards see them, and receive the report of those who had been fed, or healed, or raised from the dead. All were welcome to partake of the benefit of them; and no distinction was made between the rich and the poor. The only exception was, they would not work miracles to gratify curio sity, nor sanction unbelief. They were performed in the most public manner_multitudes were present. If on some occasions most of the persons were attached to Christ, others were done before the most inveterate enemies of the gospel, and extorted their belief and attestation. There was a peculiar authority in Christ's manners but it was entirely free from ostentation ; and there was a remarkable sobriety, decorum, and dignity in his miracles, and in the attending circumstances. They display something above the ordinary character of man.
The Design of the Miracles recorded in the New Testament.
Christ and his apostles did not seek fame by their miracles; not one was performed to procure admiration. They all arose naturally out of occasions which presented themselves in the course of their ministry; and were acts of evident utility. The heathen miracles are so detached from the history, that they may be taken out, and it remains entire. But the miracles of Christ spring naturally out of the narrative of his life, and form an essential part of it, and
cannot be taken away without rending in pieces the whole. They are likewise highly beneficial; but not to the persons who performed them; for they had not in view either their advantage or their ease. Christ and his apostles did no miracles to satisfy their own hunger, or to avert any danger to which they were exposed. In subordination to the honour of God, the benefit of others was the great object in view.
The miracles of the gospel give a bright display of power, sanctity, and goodness; and the design was to establish the belief of the divine government, by dispensing acts of beneficence to men; to teach them what kind of being their Creator is; and by sealing their commission from him, to introduce with proper evidence a system of divine truth, calculated in the highest degree to advance the honour of God, and the improvement and happiness of the human race. To give power to
work miracles for trifling ends, may well be considered as unbecoming the divine character; but to do so, in order to intro duce a religion which is to promote the happiness of the universe through eternity, is nodus Deo vindice dignus.
In speaking of the design of the miracles of the New Testament, it is of importance to mention, that they were the subjects of prophecy long before, Isaiah xxxv. 5, 6; and the Messiah was described by this particular mark, “ that by him the eyes of the blind should be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” Christ appeals to his miracles as the seal of his commission, and as an incontestible proof that he came forth from God. John v. 36, 37.4" But I have greater witness than that of John; for the works which the Father hath given me to perform, the same works that I do bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me." John xiv. 11.4" Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works' sake.”
The Time and Place of the Miracles of the New Testament
considered as furnishing Evidence in favour of Christianity.
If there were miracles in every age, they would, in a great measure, lose their nature, and cease to be evidence. We may, therefore, naturally expect that a particular season will be chosen for the display of them: and, on examination, we may perceive the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the choice.
When the system of the universe was framed, a multitude of miracles, or extraordinary exertions of almighty power, was necessary before these laws of nature which now exist could begin to run their course. In like manner, at the commencement of a divine revelation, miracles are necessary, or at least expedient, to set the moral machine in motion, and to give it an impulse sufficient to continue its motion by the aid of ordinary means, which, in the moral world, answer the same purposes as the laws established in the natural world.
On a minute investigation, other reasons appear which display more fully the fitness both of the time and place of miracles. There was a nation, or rather one great family, that God selected for the purpose of preserving those divine truths which were preparatory to that grand revelation which was to lay the foundation of the future felicity of the world. To miracles they were not strangers. Moses wrought them, and other eminent prophets too; and it was predicted by them that the Messiah would, in still greater abundance. Among this people Jesus arose, and performed his wonderful works, and gave them the fullest opportunity of examining his character. Among them, too, the apostles first began their ministry, accompanied with many notable miracles. From thence they went to the Gentiles, and presented the same evidence to them, confirming their doctrine by these supernatural acts, which manifested the hand of God to be with them.
It will be difficult to conceive a state of things, in which miracles could be wrought, that was more favourable for the investigation of them. There appears a fitness that the evidence should be first presented to this great family of the Jews whilst they dwelt together. By their freedom from gross superstition, and their superior acquaintance with divine principles, they were best qualified to judge. At the same time, as the manner of Christ's appearance shocked their prejudices, and destroyed all their hopes of worldly domination and national superiority, they would examine their reality with eagles' eyes. As they were afterwards to be dispersed over the face of the earth, they would carry the confutation of Christianity with them, if in their power. By this arrangement, the Gentiles had miracles wrought among them also, in the most enlightened age of antiquity, and every country where the apostles preached the gospel. The enemies of Christianity had hereby an opportunity of combining their inquiries with men in other parts of the Roman empire, and of the civilized world; and Gentiles might call in the aid of the Jews dispersed among them. So evident are the advantages which result from the time and place where miracles in support of Christianity were performed.
Evidence of the Reality of the Miracles of the New
“But I give no credit to miracles,” says a deist. This may be an act of reason, or it may not. God never requires us to believe without evidence; but where sufficient evidence is
given, he is highly and justly displeased at men's unbelief. Miracles are capable of proof just as well as other events which take place in the ordinary course of nature. An eastern king, when a Dutch ambassador told him that water congealed in Holland, and bore men and horses and waggons, replied in anger, “ It is false and impossible, for no such thing was ever seen in Siam.". But the congealing of water in Holland can be proved just in the same way, and with as much force, as its remaining in a liquid state in Siam. Like many opposers of Christianity, the monarch in the torrid zone forgot that the experience of one man, in one country, or in one age, is not the experience of every man, in every country, and in every age; and what one has not seen and accounts impossible, another may have seen, and can testify to be certain. The idea of the proof of miracles being impossible, is absurd. All that is required is evidence-sufficient evidence; and where the thing testified is of an extraordinary nature, the greater degree of evidence may be necessary; and in a revelation from God may be required.' The expectation is reasonable—let the rule be applied to miracles. Demand sufficient evidence to satisfy a reasonable man—it will be found, for God is not only just but good.
A miracle, to those who see it, is an object of sense. To those who have not seen it, the evidence must arise from testimony—the testimony of the person who performed the miracle -the testimony of those on whom it was performed—or the testimony of the people who were eye-witnesses of it. All these be combined with such force in the confirmation of a miracle, that if their united testimony be rejected, we can have no certainty of any thing whatever. There are no ancient events which have such a weight of evidence in their favour, as the miracles of Christ and his apostles. We have the union of all the three kinds of proof which have been just mentioned. The apostles who wrought miracles bear testimony, both by solemn declarations before their enemies, and by written documents—and what credit is due to their testimony an investigation of their character will show. There is also the evidence of the persons on whom the miracles were wrought, as in the instance of the man born blind, who was restored to sight by Christ himself, John ix., and of the lame man who was healed by Peter and John, Acts iii. But the testimony of the eyewitnesses is perhaps the most remarkable of all. Thousands who saw the miracles embraced the gospel, and exposed themselves to the hatred of the world and persecution; and many
of them endured a cruel death. Would they suffer all these on purpose to support a falsehood? It is contrary to the moral order of the universe. In short, here is a miracle at any rate. He who denies the miracles of the New Testament must allow one which is equally great-namely, that some invisible agent so deranged the minds of thousands, and so confounded and perverted their operations, that men who in all other matters conducted themselves with reason and judgment, acted here in direct opposition to all the governing principles of human nature—to duty, to integrity, to interest, to honour, to happiness and all this merely to support a falsehood. The testimony thus given was not contradicted by the enemies of the gospel who lived at the time; reason must therefore conclude they had nothing to say against it.
A Review of some particular Miracles of the New
More fully to establish, or rather to display, the certainty of the miracles of the New Testament, a particular consideration of them is earnestly recommended. I instance in the three following by way of specimen.
The ninth chapter of John's gospel records the history of a man born blind, whom Jesus restored to sight. He is brought before the Pharisees, the mortal enemies of Christ and of his cause, He is interrogated, threatened, cast out of the synagogue. But after you have attentively surveyed every particular, observe the result of the whole. They cannot adduce one circumstance in the way of confutation.
There is another instance in the case of a man lame from his birth, whom the apostles healed, Acts iii. They are dragged to the tribunal of the ecclesiastical rulers. They are closely questioned respecting the matter. They assert the reality of the miracle. They declared that it was in the name of Jesus of Nazareth that the man was made whole—that Jesus whom they had crucified. What discoveries do the chief priests make? The apostles are in their hands. The man who had been lame is standing by. They are vested with full power as magistrates to take cognizance of the matter. If there is deceit, it must be detected. But no discovery is made