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These words, signs, wonders, and mighty deeds, (oneids και τέρατα, και δυναμεις), are the specifick appropriate terms throughout the New Testament, employed when publick sensible miracles are intended to be expressed. This will appear by consulting, amongst other places, the texts referred to in the note*; and it cannot be shown that they are ever employed to express any thing else.
Secondly, these words not only denote miracles as opposed to natural effects, but they denote visible, and what may be called external, miracles, as distinguished,
First, from inspiration. If St. Paul had meant to refer only to secret illuminations of his understanding, or secret influences upon his will or affections, he could not, with truth, have represented them as "signs and wonders wrought by him," of "signs and wonders and mighty deeds wrought amongst them."
Secondly, from visions. These would not, by any means, satisfy the force of the terms, "signs, wonders, and mighty
writings, they might have been accounted dubious; yet, when considered in conjunction with the passages already cited, can hardly receive any other interpretation than that which we give them.
"My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of men's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but of the power of God.” 1 Cor. chap. ii. 4, 5.
"The gospel, whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me, by the effectual working of his power." Eph. ch. iii. 7.
"For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles." Gal. ch. ii. 8.
"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance.” 1 Thes. ch. i. 5.
• Mark, xvi. 20. Luke, xxiii. 8. John, ii. 11, 23; iii. 2; iv. 48, 54; xi. 49. Acts, ii. 22; iv. 30; v. 12; vi. 8; vii. 16; xiv. 3; xv. 12. Heb. ii. 4.
deeds;" still less could they be said to be "wrought by him," or wrought amongst them :" nor are these terms and expressions any where applied to visions. When our author alludes to the supernatural communications which he had received, either by vision or otherwise, he uses expressions suited to the nature of the subject, but very different from the words which we have quoted. He calls them revelations, but never signs, wonders, or mighty deeds. "I will come," says he, "to visions and revelations of the Lord;" and then proceeds to describe a particular instance, and afterwards adds, "lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh."
Upon the whole, the matter admits of no softening qualification, or ambiguity whatever. If St. Paul did not work actual, sensible, publick miracles, he has knowingly, in these letters, borne his testimony to a falsehood. I need not add, that, in two also of the quotations, he has advanced his assertion in the face of those persons amongst whom he declares the miracles to have been wrought.
Let it be remembered that the Acts of the Apostles describe various particular miracles wrought by St. Paul, which in their nature answer to the terms and expressions which we have seen to be used by St. Paul himself.
Here then we have a man of liberal attainments, and in other points of sound judgment, who had addicted his life to the service of the gospel. We see him, in the prosecution of his purpose, travelling from country to country, enduring every species of hardship, encountering every extremity of danger, assaulted by the populace, punished by the magistrates, scourged, beat, stoned, left for dead;
expecting, wherever he came, a renewal of the same treatment, and the same dangers, yet, when driven from one city, preaching in the next; spending his whole time in the employment, sacrificing to it his pleasures, his ease, his safety; persisting in this course to old age, unaltered by the experience of perverseness, ingratitude, prejudice, desertion; unsubdued by anxiety, want, labour, persecutions; unwearied by long confinement, undismayed by the prospect of death. Such was St. Paul. We have his letters in our hands; we have also a history purporting to be written by one of his fellow-travellers, and appearing, by a comparison with these letters, certainly to have been written by some person well acquainted with the transactions of his life. From the letters, as well as from the history, we gather not only the account which we have stated of him, but that he was one out of many who acted and suffered in the same manner; and that, of those who did so, several had been the companions of Christ's ministry, the ocular witnesses, or pretending to be such, of his miracles, and of his resurrection. We moreover find this same person referring in his letters to his supernatural conversion, the particulars and accompanying circumstances of which are related in the history, and which accompanying circumstances, if all or any of them be true, render it impossible to have been a delusion. We also find him positively, and in appropriated terms, asserting, that he himself worked miracles, strictly and properly so called, in support of the mission which he executed; the history, meanwhile, recording various passages of his ministry, which come up to the extent of this assertion. The question is, whether falsehood was ever attested by evidence like this. Falsehoods, we know, have found their way into reports, into tradition, into books; but is an example to be met with,
of a man voluntarily undertaking a life of want and pain, of incessant fatigue, of continual peril; submitting to the loss of his home and country, to stripes and stoning, to tedious imprisonment, and the constant expectation of a violent death, for the sake of carrying about a story of what was false, and of what, if false, he must have known to be so?