« PreviousContinue »
Christ's Miracles recorded, that Men might believe.
JOHN, XX. 30, 31.
And many other signs truly did Jesus, in the presence of his disci
ples, which are not written in this book ; bul these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
S God has made us rational crea
tures, the religion which he reA
quires of us must be a rational service. Faith, which is the great principle of religion, must be founded in evidence. Reason, in the fallen state of our nature,
could never discover all the things necessary for us to know. It could never investigate the way in which, and the terms on which, sinners may regain the lost favour of God. For our knowledge of these things we must be indebted to revelation.
To judge of the evidence, by which the truth of revelation is proved, must be the province of reason. God never requires us to believe any thing proposed Vol. II.
to us, without competent evidence of its trutt: Whenever he sends to men a revelation of his will, he sends it accompanied with demonstration of its divine original.
The gospel revelation came to the world in this manner :-It began to be spoken by the Son of God himself, and was confirmed by them who heard him. The disciples, whom he chose for his attend. ants were witnesses of his doctrines and works : And they not only related them to others in that age, but have left a written narrative for the benefit of succeeding ages; and this narrative is handed down to us.
The Apostle John, having given a summary history of Christ's works, subjoins this general observation ; " Many other signs did Jesus, which are not written in this book, but these are written that ye might believe him to be the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
I. It is here supposed, that the miracles performed by Jesus Christ, were a sufficient evidence of his divine authority.
Miracles, which are effects produced above the common powers of nature, and in a way and manner different from its ordinary and stated course, plainly discover God's immediate interposition. And from the goodness and faithfulness of God we may certainly conclude, that he never will immediately and supernaturally interpose to give such credibility to a falsehood, that men, judging rationally, must receive it as a truth. It was therefore a just conclusion of Nicodemus, that Jesus must be a teacher come from God, because no man could do the miracles which he did, except God were with him.
The miracles of Christ were great and numerous. He constantly appealed to them as divine seals of his mission, and on them he placed the credit of all
his doctrines. To suppose that God, in such a case, should enable an impostor to perform these stupendous works, or should perform them for him, is contrary to all our ideas of his moral character. All moral evidence depends on the veracity of God. They who saw Christ cast out devils, heal the sick, raise the dead, still the tempests, only by a single word; and afterward yield himself to death ; and then, exactly according to his prediction, rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and shed down on. his disciples the promised gifts of the spirit ; could not rationally doubt, that he was, what he declared himself to be, the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world ; and that, consequently, all his doctrines were true, his precepts pure, and his whole religion a heavenly institution.
II. As these signs were evidence to those who saw them, so the record given of them is evidence to succeeding ages. This the evangelist teaches us, when he says, “ These signs are written that ye
For if they could be evidence only to those who saw them, there was no reason why they should be written ; nor would the writing of them be a mean of faith.
The apostle observes, that Christ performed them in the presence of his disciples. Most of them indeed, were wrought in the presence of multitudes : But as the disciples were to be witnesses of them to the world, the evangelist particularly mentions, this circumstance, to give credibility to their testimony. That which they saw and heard, they declared to others. They did not relate Christ's miracles on fame or report, but from their own immediate knowledge. They testified that which they saw, and their testimony is worthy of belief.
The disciples of Jesus were credible witnesses of the facts which they related ; because it was not possible that they should be deceived; they could
be under no possible temptation to deceive others; nor was it in their power to have deceived mankind, even if they had formed such a design.
1. They could not be mistaken themselves in the matters, which they relate, but must infallibly know svhether they were true or not.
The miracles, which they have recorded, were matters which fell under their own observation, and were subject to their own senses.
Whether they saw the dead rise; the sick and lame healed; storms composed ; thousands fed with a few loaves; and, besure, whether they were themselves able to work miracles and speak with divers tongues; whether Jesus, who was crucified, actually rose and appeared to them ; whether they conversed with him, saw his wounds, and heard him communicate his instructions to them ; were facts in which they could not possibly be mistaken. If their senses, in such plain, obvious matters, could deceive them, we cannot trust our senses in any case.
If their relation of facts is not true, they must have aimed to deceive mankind. But,
2. They could be under no temptation to relate these things, if they had not known them to be true, because, by their testimony, they exposed themselves to the loss of every thing that is desirable, and to the suffering of every thing that is terrible, in this world. Poverty, reproach, persecu. tion and death, were the consequences of their per. severance in their testimony, and consequences which they foresaw, and which Christ had warned them to expect. And it can never be imagined that a number of men, in cool blood, should combine together to sacrifice every thing that is dear in life, for the sake of imposing a falsehood on the world should all steadily persevere in this design, after they began to feel the consequences of it, and should even persist in it till death, and none among them