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satisfying, and leaves no doubt in our minds, either of the power or of the moral character of that Being from whom they proceed. In like manner, although, in stating the argument from miracles in support of the Gospel, we have reasoned fairly upon this simple principle, that they are interruptions of the course of nature, yet, when we come to consider those particular interruptions upon which the Gospel founds its claim, we perceive that their nature furnishes a very strong confirmation of the general argument, and that, like the other works of God, they proclaim their Author.
In Him who ruled the raging of the sea, and stilled the tempest, we recognise the Lord of the universe. In that command which gave life to the dead, we recognise the Author of life. In the works of Him who, by a word of his mouth, cured the most inveterate diseases, unstopped the ears which had never admitted a sound, opened the eyes which had never seen the light, conferred upon the most distracted mind the exercise of reason, and restored the withered, maimed, distorted limb, we recognise the Former of our bodies and the Father of our spirits. This is the very power by which all things consist, the energy of Him" in whom we live, and move, and have our being."* The miracles of the Gospel were performed without preparation or concert; they were instantaneous in the manner of being produced, yet their effects were permanent; and, like the works of nature, although they came without effort from the hands of the workman, they bore to be examined by the nicest eye. There does not appear in them that poverty which marks all human exertions; neither the strength nor the skill of Him who did them seemed to be exhausted; but there was a fulness of power, a multiplicity, a diversity, a readiness in the exercise of it, by which they resemble the riches of God that replenish the earth. Yet they were free from parade and ostentation. There were no attempts to dazzle, no anxiety to set off every work to the best advantage, no waste of exertion, no frivolous accompaniments; but a sobriety, a decorum, all the dignified simplicity of nature. The extraordinary power which appeared in the miracles of the
*Acts xvii. 28.
Gospel was employed not to hurt or to terrify, but to heal, to comfort, and to bless. The gracious purpose to which they ministered declared their divine origin; and they who beheld a man who had the command of nature, and “who went about doing good,"* dispensing with a bountiful hand the gifts of heaven, lightening the burdens of human life, and accompanying every exercise of his power with a display of tenderness, condescension, and love, were taught to venerate the messenger, and the "express image" of that Almighty Lord, whose kingdom excels at once in majesty and in grace.
As the religion which these miracles were wrought to attest is in every respect worthy of God, so they were selected with divine wisdom to illustrate the peculiar doctrines of that religion; and in the admirable fitness with which the nature of the proof is accommodated to the nature of the thing to be proved, we have an instance of the same kind with many which the creation affords of the perfection of the divine workmanship. Jesus came preaching forgiveness of sins; and he brought with him a sensible sign of his having received a commission to bestow this invisible gift. Disease was introduced into the world by sin. Jesus therefore cured all manner of disease, that we might know that he had power to forgive sins also. His being able to remove, not by the slow uncertain applications of human art, but instantly, by a word of his mouth spoken at any distance, those temporal maladies which are the present visible fruits of sin, was an assurance to the world of his being able to remove the spiritual evils which flow from the same source. It was a specimen, a symbolical representation of his character as physician of souls. Jesus was that seed of the woman who was to bruise the head of the serpent, and he gave in his miracles a sensible sign of the fall of Satan. The influence, which this adversary of mankind in every age exercises over the minds of men, was in that age connected with a degree of power over their bodies. It was the general belief in Judea, that certain diseases proceeded from the possession which his emissaries took of the human body. To the Jews therefore, the casting out devils was an ocular de
* Acts x. 38.
monstration that Jesus was able to destroy the works of the devil. It was the beginning of the triumphs of this mighty prince, a trophy which he brought from the land of the enemy, to assure his followers of a complete victory. I have bound the strong man. Do you ask a proof? See, I enter his house and spoil his goods. I set free the mind and conscience which he had enslaved. My people will feel their freedom, and will need no foreign proof. But does the world require one? See, by the finger of God, I set free those bodies which Satan torments. His raising the dead was a practical confirmation of that new doctrine of his religion, that the hour is coming when they who are in their graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth to the resurrection. You cannot say that the thing is impossible; for you see in his miracles a sample of that almighty power which shall quicken them that sleep in the dust, a sensible sign that Jesus "hath abolished death," and is able to "ransom his people from the power of the grave." ."*
Other miracles of Jesus may be accommodated to the doctrines of religion, and much spiritual instruction may be derived from them. But these three, the cure of diseases, the casting out devils, and the raising the dead, are applied by himself in the manner which I have stated. They are not only a confirmation of his divine mission, by being a display of the same kind of power which appears in creation and providence, but, from their nature, they are a proof of the characteristical doctrines of the Gospel; and we are led by considering works so great in themselves, and at the same time so apposite to the purpose for which they were wrought, to transfer to the miracles of Jesus that devout exclamation which an enlarged view of the creation dictated to the Psalmist: "How manifold are thy works, O Lord; in wisdom hast thou made them all."+
I have thus stated the force of that argument which arises from the miracles of Jesus, as they are recorded in the New Testament. They who beheld them said, "When Messias cometh, will he do more miracles than those which this man doth? This is the prophet." They spoke what
*2 Tim. i. 10; Hos. xiii. 14. + Ps. civ. 24. John vii. 31-40.
they felt, and the deductions of the most enlightened reason upon this subject accord with the feelings of every unbiassed spectator. But we are not the spectators of the miracles of Jesus: the report only has reached our ears; and some farther principles are necessary in our situation to enable us to apply the argument from miracles in support of the truth of Christianity.
It appeared more consistent with the simplicity of nature and the character of man, that one or more persons should be ordained the instruments of conveying an extraordinary revelation to the rest of the world, than that it should be imparted to every individual mind. The commission of these messengers of heaven may be attested by changes upon the order of nature, which the Almighty accomplishes through their agency. But the works which they do are objects of sense only to their contemporaries with whom they converse. Without a perpetual miracle exhibited in their preservation, those facts which are the proof of the divine revelation must be transmitted to succeeding ages by oral or written tradition, and, like all other facts in the history of former times, they must constitute part of that information which is received upon the credit of testimony. Accordingly we say, that Jesus Christ, for a few years, did signs and wonders in the presence of his disciples, and before all the people: the report of them was carried through the world after his departure from it by chosen witnesses, to whom he had imparted the power of working miracles ; and many of the miracles done both by him and his apostles are now written in authentic genuine records which have reached our days, that we also may believe that he is the Son of God. Supposing then we admit, that the eye-witnesses of the miracles of Jesus reasoned justly when they considered them as proofs of a divine commission; still it remains to be inquired, whether
the evidence which has transmitted these miracles to us, is sufficient to warrant us in drawing the same inference which we should have drawn if we ourselves had seen them.
There are three questions which require to be discussed upon this subject. Whether miracles are capable of proof? Whether the testimony borne to the miracles of Jesus was credible at the time it was given? And whether the distance at which we live from that time destroys, or in any material degree impairs, its original credibility?
1. It was said by one of the subtlest reasoners of modern times, that a miracle is incapable of being proved by testimony. His argument was this: "Our belief of any fact attested by eye-witnesses rests upon our experience of the usual conformity of facts to the reports of witnesses. But a firm and unalterable experience hath established the laws of nature. When, therefore, witnesses attest any fact which is a violation of the laws of nature, here is a contest of two opposite experiences. The proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can be imagined; and if so, it cannot be surmounted by a proof from testimony, because testimony rests upon experience." Mr. Hume boasted of this reasoning as unanswerable, and he holds it forth in his Essay on Miracles as an everlasting check to superstition. The principles upon which the reasoning proceeds have been closely sifted, and their fallacy completely exposed, in Campbell's Dissertation on Miracles; one of the best polemical treatises that ever was written. Mr. Hume meets here with an antagonist who is not inferior to himself in acuteness, and who, supported by the goodness of his cause, has gained a triumphant victory. I consider this dissertation as a standard book for students of divinity. You will find in it accurate reasoning, and much information upon the whole subject of miracles, and, in particular, a thorough investigation of the question which I have now stated.
It is not true that our belief in testimony rests wholly upon experience; for, as every man has a principle of veracity which leads him to speak truth, unless his mind be under some particular wrong bias, so we are led, by the