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own unexampled power solely in communicating kindness to those around him.
In both these great particulars the miracles of Christ invest him with greatness and glory, to which there has been nothing parallel in the present world.
4. The miracles of Christ' are of vast importance, as proofs of the divinity of his mission.
A miracle is an act of infinite power only, and is, therefore, a proof of the immediate agency of God. None but he can withhold, suspend, or counteract his agency exerted according to the laws of nature.
A miracle becomes a proof of the character or doctrine of him by whom it was wrought, by being professedly wrought for the confirmation of either. A miracle is the testimony of God. From the perfect veracity of God it irresistibly results, that he can never give, nor rationally be supposed to give, his testimony to any thing but truth. When, therefore, a miracle is wrought in confirmation of any thing, or as evidence of any thing, we know that that thing is true, because God has given to it his testimony. The miracles of Christ were wrought to prove that the mission and doctrine of Christ were from God. They were, therefore, certainly from God.
To this it may be objected, that miracles are asserted by the Scriptures themselves to have been wrought in confirmation of falsehood ; as, for example, by the magicians—the witch of Endor—and by Satan in the time of Christ's temptation.
If the magicians of Egypt wrought miracles, God wrought them, with a view to make the final triumph of his own cause in the hands of Moses more the object of public attention, and more striking to the view of mankind. This was done when the magicians themselves were put to silence, and forced to confess, that the works of Moses were accomplished by the finger of God.' But the truth is, the magicians wrought no miracles. All that they did was to busy themselves with their enchantments,' by which every man now knows that, although the weak and credulous may be deceived, miracles cannot possibly be accomplished. That this is the real amount of the history given by Moses, any sober man may, I thik, be completely satisfied by reading Farmer's Treatise on Miracles.
The witch of Endor neither wrought, nor expected to work, any miracle. This is clearly evident from her astonishment and alarm at the appearance of Samuel. Saul, who expected a miracle, beheld Samuel without any peculiar surprise ; she, who expected none, with amazement and terror.
Satan is said by the Evangelists to have taken our Saviour up into ' a very high mountain, and to have shown him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The Greek word oixelsons, here translated 'world,' very frequently signifies land, or country, and ought to have been thus rendered here; the meaning being no other, than that Satan showed our Saviour the four tetrarchies, or kingdoms, comprised in the land of Judea. In this transaction it will not be preteuded that there was any thing miraculous.
The doctrine, that miracles have been, or may be wrought in support of falsehood, has been incautiously adopted by several respectable divines, and they have taught us, that we are to try the evidence furnished by the miracle, by the nature of the doctrine which it was wrought to prove. This, I apprehend, is infinitely dishonourable to the character of Jehovah; for it supposes, that he may not only countenance but establish falsehood. At the same time, it is arguing in a circle. It is employing the doctrine to prove the miracle, and, then, the miracle to prove the doctrine. That the miracles of Christ were complete proof of bis doctrine, is clearly evident from the words of Christ himself, when he declares concerning the Jews, that if he had not done among them such works, as no other man did, they had not had sin: but that now they had no cloak for their sin.'
RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
AND KILLED THE PRINCE OF LIFE, WHOM GOD HATH RAISED FROM THE DEAD: WHEREOF WE ARE WITNESSES.
ACTS III, 15.
In the preceding Discourse, I made a number of general observations concerning the miracles of Christ. The subject which next offers itself to our view concerning this glorious person, is his resurrection. This interesting subject I propose now to examine with particular attention. Its importance in a System of Theology can scarcely need to be illustrated.
If Christ was raised from the dead, he was certainly the Messiah ; or, in other words, whatever he declared himself to be. His doctrines, precepts, and life were all approved by God, possess divine authority, and demand, with the obligation of that authority, the faith and obedience of mankind. To prove this fact, therefore, is to prove beyond a reasonable debate the truth of the Christian system.
At the same time, the arguments which prove the reality of this miracle, lend their whole force to the other miracles recorded in the Gospel. For this reason, I have reserved most of the direct arguments in behalf of miracles for the present occasion.
In the context we are informed, tható a certain man, lame from his mother's womb, who was now more than forty years old, and who had been carried and laid daily at the gate of the temple, called Beautiful, to receive alms of them that en
tered into the temple,' was cured of his lameness by the command of St. Peter. So extraordinary an event astonished the Jews assembled to worship in the temple, and collected them in great numbers around Peter and Jobp. Peter, observing their astonishment, addressed to them a pertinent and very pungent discourse, in which he informed them, that the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they had killed, and whom God had raised to life, had restored this lame man to soundness and strength. This proof of Christ's Messiahship he made the foundation of an earnest and persuasive exhortation to them to repent of their sins, and turn to God. The efficacy of this discourse on those who heard it was wonderful. About five thousand men received it with the faith of the Gospel, and were added unto the Lord.
In the text (the hinge, on which all this discourse of St. Peter turns,) he declares to the Jews the three following things :
1. That they had killed the Prince of life :
3. That the apostle himself and his companions were witnesses of this wonderful event.
The first of these assertions bas very rarely been doubted. I know of but a single instance in which it has been denied in form. Volney has made a number of silly observations, intended to persuade the world that Christ never existed; and that the history of him contained in the Gospel is a fiction, compiled, with some variations and improvements, from the Hindoo tales concerning the god Creshnoo. I will not attempt a serious answer to such nonsense. Infidelity must be pitied, when it is driven to such fetches as this in order to support itself, and maintain its contest with Christianity.
The second assertion has been often disputed; as, indeed, it must always be by every man who denies the revelation of the Scriptures, or the mission of Christ. It is the design of this Discourse to state the evidence concerning the great fact here declared with candour and fairness. It demands no other manner of statement; as will, I trust be sufficiently evinced in the prosecution of this design. As the proof of this fact is almost all furnished by the apostles and their companions, the witnesses appointed by Christ himself, the evidence alleged here will of course be principally derived from them. It will be unnecessary, therefore, to make the two last assertions of St. Peter the subject of distinct heads of discourse.
If the apostles have not given us a true account concerning the resurrection of Christ, it must be,
I. Because they were themselves deceived : or,
For if they were not themselves deceived, but knew the truth, and have faithfully declared it in their writings, the plainest and most ignorant man cannot fail to discern that Christ was certainly raised from the dead. That neither of these suppositions is just, I shall now attempt to prove.
1. The apostles were not themselves deceived with regard to this fact.
In support of this assertion I observe,
1. The fact is of such a nature, that they were competent judges whether it existed or not.
In the nature of the case, it is just as easy to determine whether a person once dead is afterwards alive, as to determine whether any man is living who has not been dead. A familiar instance will prove the justice of this assertion. Suppose a person, who was an entire stranger to us, should come into the family in which we live. Suppose he should reside in this family, eat and drink, sleep and wake, converse and act, with them exactly in the manner in which these things are dove by us, and the rest of mankind. Suppose him, farther, to enter into business in the manner of other men; to cultivate a farm, or manage causes at the bar, or practise medicine, or assume the office of a minister, and preach, visit, advise, and comfort, as is usually done in discharging the duties of this function. Every one of us who witnessed these things would, beyond a doubt, know this stranger to be a living man, in the same manner and with the same certainty with which we know each other to be alive.
The proofs of life in this and every other case are the colour, the motions, the actions, and the speech of a living man. These we discern perfectly by our senses, under the general regulation of common sense. The proofs thus furnished are complete ; and when united, as in a living man they always are, they have never deceived, they can never deceive, any man who has the customary use of his senses.