« 前へ次へ »
instances, if he be tolerably acquainted with the transactions of human life. How many improbabilities antecedently lay against the undoubted actions of most of the extraordinary persons who have distinguished themselves on the theatre of the world, which all vanish away before the light of competent testimony ?
Now, with respect to the Gospel facts, we submit evidence that has never been invalidated, and cannot be resisted but on principles which open a door for universal scepticism as to things past. And we adduce testimony, such as unprejudiced minds must deem credible and worthy of their acceptation. For that the Author of Christianity appeared in the world at the time asserted ; and wrought the miracles record. ed in the Gospels; and spake the sayings handed down to us, and died in the manner set forth in the New Testament; and having risen again from the dead, appeared to his disciples, and gave them a charge to preach the Gospel to every creature; and that they did preach and confirm their doctrine by miraculous signs, to the full conviction of many, even of such as had the best means for informing themselves with respect to the matters appealed to as facts,
and who could have detected at once whatever was mistated or suppositious; and yet were not only silent as to any such imposture, but themselves became converts to Christianity, at the expense of every temporal interest, and at the hazard of their lives, and sometimes sealing their testimony for the truth of the Gospel with their blood: For these, and other leading facts of Christianity, we have every kind of evidence that the nature of the case admits, or that we might suppose attainable in the given circumstances; while there is nothing of such insuperable improbability as may not be overcome by credible testimony, either in the things themselves, or in the manner in which they are said to have happened; nor is there any contrary testimony to prove that they happened not at all, or not in the way we affirm, which might weigh against the claims of the Gospel, and render questionable the statements of its first propagators. On these views we maintain, that if the argument of improbability be pointed at the Gospel facts, it will recoil,—it being infinitely improbable that such things so attested should be less than true.
But the Gospel facts, it is again objected, pretend to much miraculous agency? That,
too, is granted, and its necessity vindicated, on the ground that nothing short of miracle was required to prove the truth of the doctrinal principles. If a teacher came from God to introduce a new dispensation of revealed truth to mankind, suspending their salvation on its reception; we see not in what way the minds of men could be adequately assured of his authority, without accompaniments of miraculous power. Take away miracles, and no claims to a divine revelation are tenable. Suppose Jesus Christ had wrought no miracles, would that have added credibility to his system ? Or rather, would not the want of miracles have been constantly urged, and with much reason too, as an insurmountable objection ? With: out miracles, both Jews and Gentiles would have had a cloak for their unbelief, which, now, they have not.
And that cannot be an objection to the Gospel, which, if it had been wanting, would have left it exposed to unanswerable objections.
And if we admit miracles as necessary, none can be less liable to exception than those of the New Testament, which were never exhibited without a moral intention, and a beneficent effect. There was no waste of power in them,--no idle display, no
signs from heaven to gratify curiosity,-no self-projection from the lofty battlements of the Temple, to amuse and confound the spectators with mere unmeaning marvel. And in this respect, the Gospel miracles are most unlike to those which the projectors of other religions have feigned, to justify their pretensions; and which, if supernatural, would not be divine, for they are generally exhibitions of mere power, performing feats of great extravagance, without wisdom, and without end; being not only departures from the ordinary course of nature, but inverting and confounding all natural relations. It shows, however, a universal conviction of the human mind, that miracles are necessary to authenticate a divine revelation; that all pretenders to one, have, in some shape, had recourse to them, though there commonly was as much absurdity in the machinery and application of them, as in the matters they were produced to confirm. The Gospel miracles, however, lavish no power unnecessarily. Like the operations of God in the economy of nature, they are vast without disproportion, and magnificent without any superfluous ex
power; sometimes suspending the statute laws of nature, and sometimes dis
pensing with its provisions; but never offering violence or distortion ; and never putting forth power without a just occasion, nor exceeding what the necessity of the occasion appears strictly to have required. Christ appears in the world, as its Maker, altering a part, retarding or accelerating a motion, with perfect freedom, and without disturbing the general order. If the heathen miracles were admitted, it would be introducing a strange power that knew not the established course of things, and by meddling with them, disturbed and confounded the whole; like one tampering with a complicated piece of mechanism, who knew not how to modify the action of one part, without doing violence to others.
As for those who, on their principles of philosophy, would have the Creator impose on himself a condition of non-interference with his works, after he hath once placed them in certain relations, and subjected them to general laws; we think such fancies hardly merit a serious argument. There is plainly no necessity for such a condition in the nature of things, nor is there a shadow of proof that it exists; while all authentic revelation, with one voice, testifies against it. It is a monstrous assumption of