« AnteriorContinuar »
of eternal torments? Where then could be the probability or the temptation of supporting an imposture, which, if their own principles were true, they were sure to die for here, and to be damned for hereafter ?
But, suppose that Christ and his apostles had conspired with some fallacious impostors to de ceive the world; yet the winds and elements could not be in the secret, when they obeyed the voice of their heavenly Master. Had the herd of swine, into whom the unclean spirits entered, conspired together to deceive the world, when, contrary to the principle of self-preservation, which operates in every creature, they ran violently down a steep place, and perished in the waters? Did men counterfeit themselves blind from their mother's womb, lame or paralytic befure Christ was born, that they might afterwards countenance an imposture by seeming to be healed by his assistance?
Were not, again, these miracles performed in a manner the most remote from suspicion of imposture, --in the face of the sun, and in sight of great multitudes ? Was it a fit time to act an imposture, in raising the widow's son to life, when the bier was followed by a great company, and much people of the city was with her? Was not that city too a noted and populous one, where the fact might easily have been contradicted, if it had been false?
But, for a decisive argument that there was no imposture in the case, we need only to appeal to the testimony of the Jews themselves, who cannot be suspected of favouring the cause of Christianity. Christ and his apostles, we well know, made it their constant business to overturn the superstitious customs of the Jews, and to abolish the legal rites and ceremonies, which had their final accomplishment in him. The Jews, therefore, of course, would not be wanting, and, in fact, we know, were not wanting, in their endeavours to sift his authority to the utmost, and to fix upon him some brand of imposture, to vilify him, and to justify their own infidelity. And surely we cannot pretend, that they wanted the means of detecting the imposture, if any had really been.—The testimony of the shepherds, who heard a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and celebrating the birth of the new-born Saviour ;--the coming of the wise men from the East, to adore him ;-the iniraculous birth of John the Baptist, his forerunner; —the punishment of Zacharias for his want of faith ;-the descent of a dove in a bodily shape, the heavens opened and a voice declaring from
heaven, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased ;-these are all circumstances, surely, which could neither escape their notice, nor elude their enquiry'; since the time and place of their happening are expressly mentioned. It was surely easy for them to inform themselves of what passed at Gennezaret, Capernaum, Jericho or Bethany, places not remote, and from whence numbers came every year, as was the custom of the Jews, to celebrate the feast of the Passover. They could not be ignorant upon what mountain, or in what year, Christ taught, or who were the witnesses of the many miracles performed by him, which filled all Judæa with his fame. They must know who Jairus was, as being a great man, and one of the rulers of the synagogue. They could not but know the country of the Gergesenes, and, therefore, might scrutiaize the truth of the miraculous destruction of the herd of swine. They might easily be informed of the synagogue and of the sabbath day, when he healed the woman who “ had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and
was bowed together, and could in no wise “ lift up herself.” They might find out the Pharisee, in whose house Christ healed the man that had the dropsy.--Could none of those multitudes be found, whose sick Jesus healed, when they followed him into a desert place apart ?
Could he drive the buyers and sellers out of the temple without their knowing it? Did not the children in the temple proclaim his power, by crying out, Hosanna to the Son of David? Was not the multitude so great at Capernaum, that they were forced to uncover the roof of the house where he was, to let down a man sick of the palsy? Did not he, even in Jerusalem itself, perform so many signal miracles, that many of the people believed on him, and said, “When “ Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than " these, which this man hath done?” Did he not, even to the last, shew this miraculous power in the sight of thousands, by healing the ear of Malchus, when they came with-swords and staves to seize him as a thief and a malefactor ? -But the time would fail me, should I repeat all the miracles, which Jesus is recorded to have done within the reach of the knowledge of the Jews : and yet even these are but a small part of his miraculous works; for one of the evangelists expressly tells us, “ There are also many “ other things which Jesus did, the which if they should be written every one,
suppose, " that even the world itself could not contain on the books that should be written.'
Amidst this glaring multiplicity of facts, then, it cannot be pretended, that the Jews were igno
rant of our Saviour's miracles, or wanted the necessary means and opportunities of examining the truth of them. And as little can it be
pretended, that they wanted inclination to have detected the fraud and fallacy of them, had there been any room for them to do so.
For surely they, who were so forward to slay the Lord of life, would not have been backward to justify their cruelty, by murdering his reputation too. They would have painted in glowing colours the artifices of him and his followers, and with pleasure have transmitted them down to the latest posterity. And yet we do not find any traces of such information, in any of the Jewish writings. -What then can be the reason of this?
The truth is, they could not, they dared not, deny the miraculous operations of Christ and his followers: they were wrought in the sight of thousands, and, therefore, were not to be denied. They might with equal modesty have questioned the shining of the sun at noon-day. What, therefore, could not be denied, they foolishly atteinpted to disparage. In order, therefore, to lessen the credit and weight of our Saviour's miracles, we find the Jewish writers ridiculously ascribing them to the power of magic, or to the art of pronouncing the name of God in a mys