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nal cvidence, that deception was practised, then we must also conclude that those miracles were really wrought.
Edward. And therefore we must examine as to the probability of the apostles having been deceivers.
Maria. There can be little chance for any one who now attempts this, since their first enemies could not overthrow those statements in which fraud was most open to detection.
Edward. We do not know that the miracles were so open to detection.
The leading facts of the life of Christ might be true, exclusively of the miracles; and the miracles may have been appended to it, to give authority to his precepts.
Maria. They may; but from my recollection of them, I do not think it probable; for, though some of them were private, the greater part were public.
Edward. But if it was believed that miracles could be performed by the power of magic, they might have been less examined than they ought to have been at the time: the accounts were not published till after his death, and then probably with exaggerations, supposing that pretensions were really made to this power from the very beginning, which is by no means certain.
Mr. B. We will examine, then, into the probability that the apostles added these miracles, to give authority to the precepts of their Master.
If it be supposed that our Lord Jesus Christ was only a very superior character, who vainly attempted the reformation of the Jewish nation, and was, in
consequence, put to death; and this is the only supposition that can be formed by those who admit historical testimony, but are unwilling to acknowledge the performance of miracles; then we must inquire, of what nature was his doctrine and manner of life-how far it would be consistent with
48 What does Maria say as to the apostles having been deceivers?–49 What relation does Edward think there may have been between the leading facts in the life of our Lord, and the miracles?-50 Why does he think the miracles might have been examined less carefully than they should have been?–51 What does Mr. B. propose doing, touching the miracles? --52 What does he say is the only supposition to be made by those who doubt their truth, while they admit historical testimony?-53 If so, what then must be the inquiry?
the allowance of an attempt to deceive for the purposes of general good—and how far it was acted upon by his apostles.
Edward. Upon this hypothesis, then, our Lord would be a sort of Jewish Socrates; and his disciples, seeing the bad result of their Master's attempt to reform his nation, without the assumption of miraculous powers, after his death gave him that to which he himself made no pretension.
Mr. B. Now I think it is quite certain, that, if this had been the case, they would, at least, have made as free with his doctrines, as with his life; for with regard to his precepts, few could detect any false statements; with respect to miracles, they were at the mercy of every enemy:
Maria. It certainly seems probable that they would somewhat soften and accommodate their statements to public prejudice.
Mr. B. Now what are their doctrines? what are the precepts put into the mouth of their Lord? The world has never seen a stronger expression of detestation of hypocrisy and insincerity, than the whole of these writings manifest. With regard to the nature of God, as a Spirit, and with respect to his worshippers, who are to "worship him in spirit and in truth," the language is uniform and decisive, to so great a degree, as utterly to exclude all idea of the men, who spent their lives in promulgating such opinions, entertaining any hope that by deception they could recommend this religion. Of those "who do evil that good may come,” they teach that “their damnation is just;" they threaten eternal vengeance against "all liars ;” and the most terrible miracle recorded in the volume, is connected with “ lying unto the Holy Ghost." If any fact be certain, this is most surely so, that their professed doctrine did not admit of any thing like deception, even for the most beneficial end.
54 What does Edward say results from this hypothesis?-55 Had this been the case, what does Mr. B. think quite certain?--56 What do they way of the nature of God, and of the worship due him?-57 Against what sins do they denounce vengeance-58 What fact relating to their doctrine does Mr. B. think certain?
a single miracle were disproved, by their own uniform doctrine they were accursed. Maria. And in those times it was in the
any one to ascertain the truth, so that they never would have run so great a risk.
Mr. B. Now before we consider the miracles related of our Lord, let us refer to those connected with St. Paul. Among the common historical facts which are generally admitted, I think we must admit St. Paul's defences before the sanhedrim, to Felix, and Agrippa. They were public acts, and can no more be denied, than the trials of Archbishop Laud, or Lord William Russell. Now would St. Paul, upon such an occasion, solemnly state the fact of a miraculous interposition from heaven, in the presence of those who undoubtedly could have produced witnesses to prove the contrary, had his statement been false? St. Paul's previous life was known, as he asserts, to all the Jews; the fact of his conversion was equally notorious. By his change of religion, he made the heaviest charge against the rulers of Judea which could be made against men; and, from the nature of the case, their rage against him must have been excited to the very utmost. Now under these circumstances, I
say, that mere madness alone could have prompted his conduct in the first instance in joining the Christians, or, in the second, in adopting such a method of defence, unless the miracle was real.
Maria. Festus accused him of madness.
Mr. B. And what followed? “ But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.
59 What does Mr. B. propose doing before considering the miracl60 What important facts in the life of St. Paul are named, and what is şaid of them?–61 What is said of the probability of such a change in St. Paul's religion, if the miracle related, connected with his conversion, were not true?--62 What did St. Paul say in reply, when accused of madness by Festus?
Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds."-Acts, xxvi. 25—29.
Edward. Fest's, in accusing him of madness, imputed it to too much learning.
Mr. B. And the whole of St. Paul's epistles and speeches prove not only his learning, but his “ truth and soberness.” So long as the writings of St. Paul remain, the infidel will have to acknowledge in them a greater mirạcle than the one he seeks to escape, in rejecting the account of St. Paul's conversion. It
appears to me absolutely impossible to account for the difference between St. Paul's writings, and those of the Jews who lived nearest to his time, upon any other principle than that of a real conversion, occasioned by a real miracle. Why should St. Paul have so differed from others who sat at the feet of Gamaliel? Why should he, rather than any other, become a martyr to the faith he had before persecuted? Why should this Jew, rather than any other, from a narrow bigot, become the most active philanthropist the world has yet seen? Why should Paul of Tarsus alone teach truth with a certainty, which no difference of place could alter, no length of time diminish?
Edward. Might not his intercourse with other nations make the difference?
Mr. B. Had he alone intercourse with them? Look at the philosophy of Philo, or compare the apostle with Josephus. It was neither Grecian philosophy nor Grecian patriotism that taught St. Paul; that made him very
gladly spend and be spent, though the more he laboured, the less he was loved;" that made him account himself
a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise.' The more you consider the
63 What do the epistles and speeches of Paul prove?–64 What respecting St. Paul's supposed conversion seems impossible to Mr. B. ?-65 What questions does he ask, showing the improbability of any deception? -66 Edward asks if his intercourse with other nations might not have made the difference—what is the answer?-67 How are we affected upor this subject by protracted consideration of St. Paul's character?
character of St. Paul, the more convinced you must become of the truth of the miracles of the New Testament; for nothing else can account for it. The good Lord Lyttleton wrote an excellent little book on this subject, which you ought by all means to read.
Edward. But might not the excellency of the Christian religion produce those effects on St. Paul, independently of miraculous agency? Might he not have been deceived, and his mind being strongly worked upon, make him thus zealous, in what he deemed a good cause?
Mr. B. St. Paul could not have been deceived. The miracle was wrought at a time when no prejudice of his mind favoured deception; in open day; in the open country; it affected others as well as himself; and its effects on him were permanent, so that no doubt could remain of the reality of “the heavenly vision." His blindness was miraculously inflicted, and miraculously removed.
Maria. His own writings prove, also, that he was a man not easily imposed upon; and from his life, we cannot think he would impose upon others.
Mr. B. We have yet one more test, and that decides the whole matter, proving he neither could have been deceived nor deceive. We have before seen that his epistles were genuine.
Maria. Undoubtedly: the undesigned coincidence observable in them, when compared with each other, and with the Acts of the Apostles, in addition to their universal reception as his, fully establishes it.
Edward. On that there can be no doubt.
Mr. B. But in these epistles St. Paul asserts, that he himself worked miracles, and that he had communicated extraordinary powers to others also. Here no possibility of deception remains. It is not easy to say how far the senses may be imposed upon; but no human power whatsoever can produce on another effects like these. No artifice of the other apostles could enable St. Paul to heal the cripple at Lystra—to recall Eutychus to life; no per
68 Why might not Paul have been deceived ?-69 What does Mr. B. say. of another test?—70 How
does Maria reply to him, touching the genuineness of Paul's epistles?–71 What is this other test?—72 How does Mr. B. speak of the importance of it?