« הקודםהמשך »
What good the following observations may do I cannot say, that depending, next to the blessing of God, upon the pious disposition of those that shall please to peruse them ; but my intention being right, and the subject in itself so truly noble, and mightily affecting, I may hope they will not be altogether unsuccessful; especially if furthered by your Lordship's prayers and episcopal benediction. Which, as they were always of great value in the purest times of the Church, so are now justly esteemed, and desired with all due respect, by,
and obedient Servant,
THAT our Saviour's wondrous works were truly miracles, that is, not only out of the usual course of nature, but far above the powers of it, and such as no created being could effect, unless assisted by the great power of God, I shall take for granted : it having been often undeniably proved by many excellent persons, particularly by the late learned Bishop Stillingfieet in his Origines Sacræ, book ii. ch. 10, and in the latter part of the last discourse, in the fourth volume of his Sermons lately published; to whose arguments, I think, nothing can be added.
As for the nature of them, they were all full of mercy and goodness : and their great end was to convince the Jews and all the world that he was the promised Messias sent by God to be the Redeemer of sinful mankind; and to confirm the divinity of the doctrine he taught, and incline men to embrace it; and to overthrow the kingdom of the Devil
And accordingly he always made a wise choice of such times and places to work them in, and upon such persons, , in such a manner, and with such circumstances, as were most apt to inform the world both who he was and what he came for.
And indeed, when one of so mean birth and condition in all outward appearance as Jesus was, and withal so young, shall take upon him to teach a new religion so widely different from that both of Jews and Gentiles; to the Jews a stumblingblock, in that it took away the ceremonial part of the law of Moses, which they were most of all fond of; and to the Greeks foolishness, upon account of its spiritual heavenly doctrines, so contrary to their former notions and usages, and the corrupt inclinations of flesh and blood: it is but necessary that he should give sufficient proof of his authority so to do, and that he is no vain and arrogant pretender.
Now nothing more convincing than the exercise of such a power as all men must own to be divine. As Nicodemus said to Jesus, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God : for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him a. And when this mi. raculous power is made use of in conferring many and great benefits and blessings upon mankind, removing their calamities, relieving their necessities, healing their diseases, restoring their dead friends to life again, &c. it is still more engaging, and must needs in all reason very much endear the person and the doctrine of so extraordinary a Benefactor, who not only speaks so as never man spake, but does such beneficial miracles too, as no man ever did.
And therefore to these supernatural works of his does our Lord appeal, as the letters credential of his divine mission; The works which my Father hath given me to finish, says he, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me b. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works : that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. And these signs are written, says St. John, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name d.
And accordingly we read, that by his first miracle Jesus manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him, John ii. 11; and ver. 23, many believed on his name, when they saw the miracles that he did. And when many
a John iii. 2.
b John v. 36.
c Joho x. 37, 38,
d John xx. 31.
continued obstinate in their infidelity, it is mentioned as a thing very strange and unaccountable, that though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him e.
For our Saviour's miracles were not wrought sparingly, and seldom, as the counterfeit wonders of impostors use to be, (who being sensible of the narrow limits of their power, and the poorness of their stock of juggles, always take care to husband them out to the best advantage, for fear they should become bankrupt, and no longer able to deceive the world :) but he shewed his divine power very often, upon all just occasions, and in great variety of instances; and some of them so amazing, that they stopped the mouths of his greatest enemies, or else forced from them such acknowledgments as they were very unwilling to make.
He was so well assured of the fulness of his unbounded power, which could never be exhausted, nor any thing too great for it to effect ; that without any other preparation or forethought than secret prayer to God, he immediately undertook the most difficult performances with admirable success; and chose to do his miracles in such a manner as made them still the more miraculous. Curing the most chronical and desperate diseases, supplying the defects of nature, restoring life to the dead, with his word only, or his touch; and sometimes at a distance speaking wondrous cures, and sometimes doing them by the bare touch of his garment. Or if at any time any thing was done by him, or applied, which looked like outward means, it was what could not be supposed to have any efficiency to cause what followed : as when he cured dumbness by touching the tongue with spittle, blindness by covering the eyes with clay, and deafness by putting his fingers into the persons' ears, and the like, which in those cases could not in a natural way signify any thing at all.
e John xii. 37.
And the effects of all his miracles were real, substantial, and lasting ; all his cures were perfect, and restored a durable life and health and soundness to the happy patients.
Nothing was airy and fantastic, like the delusions of evil spirits and those that are assisted by them; but as all was done openly and before great numbers of spectators, many of which were very nice and prying, in hopes to discover some trick or cheat in what he did, so every thing answered, and even exceeded men's utmost expectations ; and left no room to question the reality of any of his mighty works.
The utmost that could be said by the most malicious was, that he cast out devils by the help of the prince of the devilsf; but Jesus soon made them sensible of the ridiculousness of that objection.
Nor were his miracles designed only as proofs of his divine mission, and confirmations of his doctrine, and motives to faith in him as the Messias ; but I observed in my perusal of them, that they were so contrived as to be very instructive too in many excellent truths, relating to religious practice, to those that would consider them with due seriousness and attention.
And this it was that first put me upon employing my thoughts upon them in a practical way, and drawing such observations from them as might conduce to the interests of piety and holy life; and I soon found it an employment equally beneficial and delightful ; and hope the pious reader of what follows will do so too.
The most and greatest of those miracles that are recorded in the gospel, he will find considered in the order wherein I suppose they were wrought, and which include what is of chiefest remark in those that are past by; and it has been my great care all along, not to force or strain
f Matt. xii. 24.