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Founding multitude ; Jesus bid him walk, and he did so. A man with a withered hand is in the synagogue ; Jesus bid him stretch forth his hand, in the presence of the assembly, and it
“ restored whole like the other.” There was nothing tentative in these cures ; nothing that can be explained by the power
of accident. We may observe also that many of the cures which Christ wrought, such as that of a person blind from his birth, also ma. ny miracles beside cures, as raising the dead, walking upon the sea, feeding a great multitude with a few loaves and fishes, are of a nature which does not in any wise adnit of the supposition: of a fortunate experiment.
III. We may dismiss from the question all accounts in which, allowing the phenomenon to be real, the fact to be true, it stille remains doubtful whether a miracle were wrought. This is the case with the ancient history of what is called the thundering legion, of the extraordinary circumstances which obstructed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem by Julian, the circling of the flames and fragrant smell at the martyrdom of Polycarp, the sudden shower that extinguished the fire into which the scriptures were thrown in the Diocletian persecution ; Constantine's dream, lis inferibing in consequence of it the cross upon his standard and the fields of his soldiers ; his victory, and the escape of the standard bearer ; perhaps also the imagined appearance of the cross in the heavens, though this last ciracumstance is
deficient in historical evidence. It is also the cafe with the modern annual exhibition of liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. It is a doubt likewise, which ought to be-excluded by very special circunstances, from these narratives which relate to the supernatural cure of hypochondriacal and nervous complaints, and of all diseases which are niuch affected. by the imagination. The miracles of the second and third century are, usually, healing the fick, and casting out evil spirits, miracles in which there is room for some error and deception, We hear nothing of causing the blind to fee, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed. There are also instances in Christian writers of reputed miracles, which were. natural operations though not known to be such at the time, as that of articulate fpeech after the loss of a great part of the tongue..
2 Mark ii. 3.
b Mat. xii. 1o.
Jortin's Rem; vol. 11. P: 5.1.
IV. To the fame head of objection nearly, may also be referred accounts, in which the variation of a small circumstance may have transformed fome extraordinary appearance, or some critical coincidence of events, into a miracle ; Itories, in a word, which may be resolved into exaggeration. The miracles of the gospel can by no possibility be explained away in this manner. Total fiction will account for any thing ; but no stretch of ex. aggeration that has any parallel in other histories, no force of fancy upon real circumstances, could produce the narrative which we now have. The feeding of the five thousand with a few toaves and fishes furpaffes all bounds of exaggeration. The rain sing of Lazarus, of the widow's fon at Nain, as well as many of the cures which Christ wrought, come not within the compass. of mifrepresentation. I mean, that it is impofáble to allign any position of circumstances, however peculiar, any accidental efs fects, however extraordinary, any natural fingularity, which could supply an origin or foundation to these accounts.
Having thus enumerated several exceptions, which may juste lý be taken to relations of miracles, it is necessary, when we read the fcriptures to bear in our mind this general remark, that although there be niracles recorded in the New Testament, which fall within some or other of the exceptions here afligned, yet that they are united with others, to which none of the same exceptions extend, and that their credibility ftands upon this union. Thus the visions and revelations, which St. Paul afferts, to have been imparted to him, may not, in their feparate evidence, be diftinguishable from the visions and revelations which many others have alleged. But here is the difference. Ste Paul's pretensions were attested by external miracles wrought by himself, and by miracles wrought in the cause to which these visions relate; or, to lpeak more properly, the fame historical authority which informs us of one, informs us of the other. This is not ordinarily true of the visions of enthusias?s, or even of the ác. founts in which they are contained. Again, some of Christ's own miracles were mowientary; as the transfiguration, the appearance and voice from heaven at Christ's baptifin, a voice fromthe clouds upon one occafionafterwards, ( John xii. 3- ) and fonie others. It is not denied, that the killinction which we have proposed concerning miracles of ibis fpecies, applies in diminution of the force of the cridence, as much to these instances, as to others. But this is the case, not with all the miracles ascribed to Christ, per with the greatest part, nor with many. Whatever force
therefore there may be in the objection, we have numerous miracles which are free from it; and even thofe to which it is applicable, are little affected by it in their credit, because there are few, who, admittisg the reit, will reject them. If there be miracles of the New Testament, which come within any of the other beads into which we have diftributed the objections, the fame remark must be repeated. And this is one way, in which the unexampled number and variety of the miracles af cribed to Chrift, strengthens the credibility of Christianity. For it precludes any folution, or conjecture about a solution, which imagination, or even wbich experience might fuggest concerning some particular miracles, if considered independently of others. The miracles of Christ were of various kinds, a and performed in great varieties of situation, form and manner; at Jerufalem, the metropolis of the Jewish nation and religion, in different parts of Judea and Galilee ; in cities, in villages ; in lynagogaes, in private houses; in the street, in highways ; with preparation, as in the cafe of Lazarus, by accident, as in the case of the widow's son at Nain; when attended by multitudes, and when alone with the patient; in the midft of his difciples, and in the presence of his enemies ; with the common people around him, and before fcribes and pharifees. and rulers of the fyragogues.
I apprehend that, when we remove from the comparison the cases which are fairly disposed of by the obfervations that have been stated, many cases will not remain. To thofe which do remain, we apply this final distinction ; “ that there is not fatisfactory evidence, that perfons pretending to be original wit.. neffes of the miracles, palled their lives in labours, dangers and fufferings, voluntarily undertaken and undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered; and properly in consequence of their belief of the truth of thofe accounts.”
a Not only healing every fpecies of disease, but turning water into wine (John ii. ;) te ding multitudes with a few loaves and fiftz. (Mat xiv. 14. Mark vi. 35. Luke iz. 12. John iv..ş.;)walking, lea (Mat. xix, 23 :) calming, a storm (Mat, viii. 26. Luke viii. 23.;) a. celestial voice at his baptism, and miraculous appearance (Mat. iji. 17. afterward: John xii. 28. ;) his transfiguration (Mat. xvii, 1-8. Mark ix. 2. Luke ix. 28. Ep. Peter i. 16, 17.;) raising the dead in three distinct instances (Mat. 1 18. Mark v. 22. Luke viii. 41. Lyke vij. 14: Joh xi)
CHAP. II. BUT they, with whom we argue, have undoubtedly a right to elect their.own examples. The instances, with which Mr. Hume hath chosen to confront the miracles of the New Tes. tament, and which, therefore, we are entitled to regard, as the strongest which the history of the world could fupply to the in. quiries of a very acute and learned adversary, are the three fole lowing:
1. The cure of the blind and of a lame man at Alexandria, by the emperor Vespasian, as related by Tacitus.
2. The restoration of a limb to an attendant in a Spanish: church, as told by Cardinal de Retz ;. and
3. The cures said to be performed at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, in the early part of the present century:
1. The narrative of Tacitus is delivered in these terms :: “ One of the common people of Alexandria, known to be diseased in his eyes, by the admonition of the god Serapis, whom that superititious nation worship above all other gods, prostrated himself before the emperor, earnestly imploring from him a remedy for his blindness, and entreating, that he would deign to anoint with his spittle · his cheeks and the balls of his eyes. Another, diseased in his hand, requested, by the admonition of the same god, that he might be touched by the foot of the emperor. Vefpafian at first derided and despised their application ; afterwards, when they continued to urge their petitions, he, sometimes, appeared to dread the imputation of vanity ; at other times, by the earnest fupplication of the patients, and the persuasion of his flatterers, to be induced to hope for success. At length he commanded an inquiry to be made by physicians, whether such blindness and debility were vincible by buman : aid. The report of the physicians contained various points ;. that in the one, the power of vision was not destroyed, but: would return, if the obstacles were removed'; that in the other, the diseased joints might be restored, if a healing power were applied ; that it was, perhaps, agreeable to the gods to do this ; that the emperor was elected by divine, asistance ; lastly, that the credit of the success would be the emperor's, the ridicale of the difappointment would fall upon the patients. Vespa. fran, believing that every thing was in the power cf his fortune,, and that nothing was any longer incrudible, whilit the multitude: which stood by, eagerly expected the event, with a countenance expressive of joy executed what he was he desired to do. Immediately the hand was restored to its use, and light returned to the blind man. They who were prefent, relate both thefe cures, even at this time, when there is nothing to be gained by lying.".
Now, although Tacitus wrote this account twenty-feven years after the miracle is said to have been performed, and wrote at Rome of what passed at Alexandria, and wrote also from report; and although it does not appear that he had examined the story, or that he believed it (but railier the contrary) yet I think his testimony fufficient to prove, that such a rranfaction took place ; by which I mean, that the two meh in question did apply 10 Vefpafian, that Vefpafian did touch the diseased in the manner related, and that a cure was reported to have followed the operation. But the affair labours under a strong and just fufpicion, that the whole of it was a concerted imposture brought about by conclufion, between the patients, the physician, and the emperor. This solution is probable, because there was every thing to suggest, and every thing to facilitate such a scheme. The miracle was calculated to coufer honour upon the emperot, and upon the god Serapis. It was achieved in the midst of the emperor's Aatterers and followers ; in a city, and amongst a populace beforehand devoted to his interest, and to the worship of the god; where it would have been treason and blasphemy together to have contradicted the fame of the cure, or even to have questioned it. And what is very obfervable in the account is, that the report of the physicians is just such a report as would have been made of a case, in which no external marks of the disease existed, and which, consequently, was capable of being easily counterfeited, viz. that, in the first of the patients the organs of vision were not destroyed, that the weakness of the fecond was in his joints. The strongest circumstance in Tacitus's narration is that the first patient was « notus tabe oculorum, remarked or notorious for the diseafe in his eyes. But this was a circumstance which might have found its way into the sto. ry in iis progress from a distant country, and during an interval of thirty years ; or it might be true that the malady of the eyes was notorious, yet that the nature and degree of the disease had beter been ascertained. A cafe by no means incommon. The
a Tac. Ant. p. 89.