Page images
PDF
EPUB

tion of every difficulty, unless we were well acquainted with many points of which it has pleased God to keep us in ignorance, till the last day shall open and unfold them. Nay, in some instances, it is impossible, unless we could see and know, as God himself sees and knows.

But it is an axiom in science, that difficulties are of no weight against demonstrations. The existence of God once proved, we are not, in reason, to set that proof aside, because we cannot at present account for all his proceedings. The divine legation of Moses, and that of Jesus Christ, stand upon their proper evidence, which cannot be superseded and nullified by any pretended or real difficulties occurring in the Jewish and Christian dispensations. If we can solve the difficulties, so much the better; but if we cannot, the evidence is exactly where it was. Upon that evidence is our faith founded, and not upon the ability of any man, or set of men, to explain particular portions of Scripture, and to answer the objections which may be made to them. Otherwise, our faith, instead of resting on the power of God, would rest on the weakness of man, and might be subverted every day. Now the evidence that may be produced

for the divine missions of Moses and of Jesus Christ, is such as never was produced in favour of any others laying claim to divine missions, since the world began; and it is such as no person can reject, without being obliged to believe a series of absurdities and impossibilities, that, in any other case, would choke the faith of the greatest bigot in Christendom: which is bringing the matter as near to

demonstration as a matter of this kind is capable of being brought, or as any reasonable being would desire it to be brought.

Thus much being premised, to prevent mistakes, I shall proceed in the next Letter to the consideration of the first section, the subject of which is that of Miracles.

LETTER IX.

THE substance of this section, thrown into an argumentative form, stands thus: "Miracles are not "wrought now; therefore they never were wrought "" at all."

One would wonder how the premises and the conclusion could be brought together. No man would in earnest assert the necessity of miracles being repeated, for the confirmation of a revelation, to every new generation, and to each individual of which it is composed. Certainly not. If they were once wrought, and duly entered on record, the record is evidence ever after. This reasoning holds good, respecting them, as well as other facts; and to reason otherwise, would be to introduce universal confusion.

It is said, "They are things in their own nature "far removed from common belief."

[ocr errors]

They are things which do not happen every day, to be sure. It were absurd, from the very nature of them, to expect that they should. But what reason can there be for concluding from thence, that none ever were wrought? Why should it be thought a thing more incredible, that the Ruler of the world should interpose, upon proper occasions, to control the operations of nature, than that he should direct them in ordinary? It is not impossible that a teacher

should be sent from God. It may be necessary that one should be sent. If one be sent, he must bring credentials, to show that he is so sent; and what can those credentials be, but miracles, or acts of almighty power, such as God only can perform? In the case of Jesus, common sense spake by the mouth of the Jewish ruler, and all the sophistry in the world cannot invalidate or perplex the argument: "Master, "thou art a teacher come from God; for no man "can do the miracles which thou doest, except God "be with him."

"They (miracles) require something more than "the usual testimony of history for their support."

Why so? If they may be wrought, and good reasons are assigned for their having been wrought, upon any particular occasion," the usual testimony "of history" is sufficient to evince that they were wrought. But the truth is, that they have "some"thing more than the usual testimony of history;" they have much more; for no facts in the world ever were attested by such an accumulated weight of evidence, as we can produce on behalf of the miracles recorded of Moses and Christ; insomuch, that the mind of any person tolerably well informed concerning them, till steeled against conviction by the prejudices of infidelity, revolts at the very idea of their being accounted forgeries.

Page 3. "When Livy speaks of shields sweating

blood, of its raining hot stones, and the like, we justly reject and disbelieve the improbable asser"tions."

Doubtless. But what comparison can be pro

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

perly instituted between these hearsay stories concerning pagan prodigies, and a series of miracles, like those openly and publicly wrought, for years together, in the face of the world, by Moses and by Christ? The historical facts related by Livy may be true, whatever becomes of his prodigies; but, in the other case, the miracles are interwoven with, and indeed constitute, the body of the history. No separation can possibly be made; the whole must be received, or the whole must be rejected.

Ibid. "Neither is any credit given to the won"derful account of curing diseases by the touch, "said to be possessed by Mr. Greatrix, though we "find it in the Philosophical Transactions."

[ocr errors]

Mr. Greatrix's general method of curing diseases. was not, as I remember, simply and instantaneously by the touch, but by the operation of stroking the part affected, and that long continued, or frequently repeated. Sometimes, it is said, this stroking succeeded, and sometimes it failed. If (as we are informed in a note) Boyle, Wilkins, Cudworth, and other great men, attested the fact, that there were persons who found themselves relieved by this new device, undoubtedly there were such persons. But whether this relief were temporary; whether it were owing in any, or what degree, to the working of the imagination, or to a real physical change effected by the application of a warm hand, or any particular temperament in the constitution of the stroker; these are points, which the reader may find discussed in Mr. Boyle's letter to Henry Stubbe, written upon the occasion, in which he reproves Stubbe, as he well

« EelmineJätka »