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announce the mercies he had received from the Lord. lle was a native of Decapolis, a country, as we have seen, very much disposed to credulity. Accordingly, as soon as the man had there recounted his adven, ture, every body was transported with adıniration. We are, however, astonished at the difference of dis. position between these folks, so remarkable for a da. cile faith, and the Gerasenes :--the inhabitants of De. capolis believe all without seeing any thing, whilst the Gerasenes, eye witnesses of the prodigy, are not moved by it, and uncivilly refuse Jesus admittance into their city. We commonly find in the Gospel, that to wit, ness a miracle is a very strong reason for not believing it. *
The hardness of heart and unbelief of the Gerasenes, and particularly the request they made the Messiah not to enter among them, obliged bim to re-embark with his disciples, and return to Galilee, where he was very kindly received. It is not, however, related whether
If the Christians ciie Jerusalem, and the testimony of all Galilee, to prove the miracles of Christ, I see them attested only by an ignorant populace ; or I demand, how it could be possible that an entire people, who had been witnesses to the miracles of Christ, should consent to his death, and even earnestly demand it? Would the people of London or of Paris suffer a man who had raised the dead, restored the blind to sight, and healed the Jame and paralytic, to be put to death before their eyes? If the Jews demanded the death of Jesus, all his miracles are at once
annihilated in the mind of every unprejudiced person.Boulanger.
Let it not be said that the miracles of Christ are as well attes. ted as any fact in profane history, and that to doubt them is as ridiculous as to doubt the existence of Scipio or of Cæsar, which we believe only on the report of the historians by whom they are mentioned. The existence of a man, of the general of an he preached and performed miracles ; even the time he continued there is not accurately known.--The friends of Jesus, and the relations of his disciples and mother, received, as it appears, from time to time, in. telligence of his 'wonders, which they took care to circulate : and, on learning that they wanted him, he returned to Capernaum. Scarcely was his arrival known, when the people, always fond of sermons and miracles, resorted to him in crowds. Neither his house for the space before the door could contain the multitude; he required the voice of a Stentor to make himselt heard at the extremities of the crowd'; but perhaps the idlers, content with following him without knowing why, were but very little troubled about understand. ing his orations.
The pharisees, to whom Jesus' success began to give umbrage, resolved to satisfy themselves, if there was any reality in what was reported of him. "To clear up the matter, some doctors of Galilee, who were not of the number of our missionary's admirers, repaired to him, They heard him preach, and came from his sermons more prepossessed against him ; even bis miracles could not convert them. Yet, according to St. Luke, the power of the Lord was displayed in their presence in the cure of the sick. But, as has been remarked, the miracles of the Messiah were calculated to convince those only who did not see them. Thus it is, that these miracles are believed at present by people who would not credit those performed in their presence.
army, or an hero, is not improbable ; neither is this a miracle. We believe the probable facts, while we reject wità contempt the iniracles recounted by Titus Livius. The most stupid credulity is often joined to the most distinguished talents. Of this the Christian religion furnishes innumerable examples. In inatters of religion, all testimony is liable to suspicion. The most enlightened men see but ill when they are intoxicated with enthusiasm, and dazzled by the chimeras of a wild imagination. A miracle is a thing impossible in the order of uature. If this ba changed by Goi!, he is not inmutable.--bid.
Four men who carried a paralytic on his bed, unable to penetrate through the crowd to Jesus, were advised to mount up with the burden to the roof of the house, and making an opening there, to let down the sick man in his bed, and lay hini at the physician's feet.The idea appeared ingenious and new to the latter ; accordingly, addressing the sick man, “ My son,” said he, “ be of good courage, thy sins are forgiven thee."* This absolution or remission was, no doubt, pronounced so as to be heard by the emissary doctors, who were
* It is upon passages in the Bible similar to this, that the Catholic clergy have founded the practice of absolution. To maintain, says Boulanger, the abject and fanatic ideas, with wbich the priest has filled his pupils in their childhood, he commands them to come frequently, and deposit in his bosom their hidden faults ; their most secret actions and thoughts. He obliges then to hu miliate themselves at his feet, and render homage to his power ; he frightens the criminals, and afterwards, if they are judged worthy, he reconciles them to God, who, on the command of his ministers, remits their sins. The Christian sects that admit this practice, boast of it as extremely useful in regulating the manners, and restraining the passions of men; but experience proves, that the countries in which this usage is most faithfully observed, are distinguished rather for their dissolute lives than the purity of their marners. By such .easy expiations they are only emboldened in vice. The lives of Christians are circles of successive offences and confessions. The priesthood reap the proa fit of this practice, by means of which they exercise an absolute dominion over the consciences of mankind. How great must be the power of an order of men, who possess all the secrets of fimilies ; who can kindle at pleasure the destructive fiaine of fana. Kcism; and open or shut the gates of heaven at will !
very much offended at it. Jesus, sagaciously divining their dispositions, addressed his discourse to them— " Why do you suffer wicked thoughts to enter into your hearts? which is easier to say to this paralytic, thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say to him, Arise, take up thy bed and walk ?” This question, boldly proposed, in the midst of a fanatical people, the sport of prejudice, enibarrassed the doctors, who did not think proper to answer it. Jesus, profiting by their embarrassment, said to the paralytic, informed of the part he had to play, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thine house. This prodigy impressed their minds with terror: it especially made our doctors, the spies, tremble, while the people exclaimed, “Never have we seen bea. fore any thing so wonderful.”
But if the doctors were afraid, they were not converted; and notwithstanding the cure of the paralytic, they had no faith in the absolution granted by Jesus: . It may therefore be supposed, that this miracle was attended with circumstances which rendered it suspi. cious; perhaps the gospel itself will enable us to discover them.
We shall first observe, that wben the same fact is dif: ferently related by different historians equal in autho: rity, we are constrained to doubt it; or, at least, are entitled to deny that it has happened in the manner supposed. This principle of criticism must apply to the narratives of our inspired writers, as well'as to those of others.--Now, St. Matthew tells us merely, that a paralytic was presented to Jesus, who cured him, without relating the wonderful circumstance of the roof being perforated, and the other ornaments with which St. Mark and St. Luke have embellished their narra. tive. Thus, either we are in the right in suspending
our belief as to this fact, or we may believe at least, that it has not occurred in the manner related by the two last evangelists.*
In the second place, Mark and Luke, who say that the sick man was elevated on his bed to the top of the house in which Christ was, having previously inform. ed us the crowd was so great that the bearers of the diseased were unable to force their way through it, suppose, without expressing it in words, another very great miracle. This operation presupposes, that the carriers penetrated through the crowd. Arrived, we know not how, at the foot of the wall, they could not singly, and far less loaded with the sick man, clamber up to the roof of the house. Luke says, they made an opening through the tiles. In that case the people must have perceived them; and particularly those in the inside of the house. During the silent attention they no doubt lent to the discourse of Jesus, they must of necessity have heard the noise made by the men in rais. ing up a bed to the roof, and afterwards uncovering this roof and making a hole in it, through which to convey the sick man.- This operation became more difficult still, if the roof, instead of being covered with tiles, was flat.-Now, all the houses of the Jews and orien. tals were, and still are, covered in this manner. All these difficulties furnish sufficient motives for doubting this grand miracle. It will become more probable, if we suppose that the sick man was already in the house with Jesus ; that things were previously arranger, and that they let down, by a trap-door made on purpose, a paralytic most certain of being cured on command of the Messiah. This transaction might appear marvel
* Compare as to this history, St. Matthew ix. St. Mark v, and St, Luke .