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Miracles are supernatural infractions of those general laws and changes in that order; and since no creature can justly be deemed to possess any inherent independent power of controverting the designs, and of interrupting the harmonious arrangements of an omnipotent God, miracles are, when real and ascertained, to be regarded as the especial work of God himself.
Now, we have already had occasion to notice, that the miracles of Christ and his apostles were of a plain and palpable description. Let it, however, be yet more particularly remarked, that they were conspicuous and very great ; performed in the presence of many witnesses, and often in the midst of large public assemblies; exceedingly numerous, and in their character and nature greatly diversified; sudden and immediate in their operation; and, in general, totally incapable of being accounted for by any subordinate or secondary cause. When Jesus Christ made the storm a calm—when the boisterous winds and long agitated waves obeyed him in an instant-when he walked on the surface of the deep—when he restored sudden health and strength to the withered, the crippled, and the impotent, and even limbs to the maimed -when he bestowed on the man who was born blind a perfect power of vision—when he multiplied the five barley loaves, so that they became the sufficient food of many thousands of persons—when he raised to life, Lazarus who had been buried four days, and was then putrifying in the grave—when he burst asunderthe bands of his own mortality, and presented himself to his followers alive from the dead—when, through the instrumentality of Peter and John, the lame man in the temple suddenly and publicly walked, and leaped
ARGUMENT FROM MIRACLES.
for joy—when the prayers of the former apostle were the means of restoring life to the deceased Tabithathe most cautious and scrutinizing observer must have been compelled to allow, that these were no conjuror's contrivances, but real miracles, actual and indubitable infractions of the established laws of nature.
Such a conclusion respecting the miracles of Jesus Christ and his followers, derives a farther confirmation from the comparison of them with those signs and wonders, so idly pleaded by Hume and other infidel writers, in opposition to Christianity. While the evidences, which prove that the Christian miracles really took place, are both numerous and clear, and while those miracles were of so plain and decisive a character as to preclude the possibility of delusion, the prodigies advanced on the other side of the question are either such as might readily be accounted for by secondary causes, or such as are not to be believed, because we are in possession of no solid or sufficient evidence that they ever happened. The former of these characteristics attaches to the cures said to be wrought at the tomb of the Abbé de Paris; the latter, to the wonders of Pythagoras, Vespasian, and Appollonius : see Paley's Ev., vol. i, p. 349.
To the conclusion, however, that the miracles recorded in the New Testament could be the work of God only, an objection is sometimes urged, which it may be desirable concisely to notice. It is remarked that the Egyptian magicians, who were employed by Pharaoh in opposition to Moses, and who were therefore on the side of the Lord's enemies, were enabled, by the power of evil spirits, to work miracles.
Now, for my own part, I have no great difficulty in acceding to the judgment of many able biblical critics,
who explain the wonders of these magicians, as the mere contrivances of expert jugglers. If, however, it be allowed that, on some peculiar occasions, and under especial controul and limitation, God permits evil spirits to exercise a certain degree of miraculous power over the order of nature, such an admission will, by no means, affect the divine origin and authority of the Christian miracles. When we consider the benevolence of those miracles, as well as their number, variety, and greatness, it seems impossible for us to refuse to attribute them to a merciful and omnipotent
That they were not produced by the power of evil spirits, we may moreover rest satisfied, for two additional reasons—first, because they were wrought in direct attestation of that which professed to be a revelation of the divine will, for the guidance and instruction of mankind; for it is morally impossible that the God of all truth should permit his enemies to affix to a fictitious revelation of his will, the seal of miracles-of numerous, stupendous, undoubted miracles—and thus consign his reasonable creatures to inevitable and irremediable error: secondly, because they were wrought in support of a religious system which was directed in all its parts to righteous ends ; which was therefore entirely opposed, on the one hand, to the dominion of the powers of darkness, and perfectly conformed, on the other, to the moral attributes of God.
Thus, then, there appears to be nothing which can interrupt our conclusion, that God alone was the author of the Christian miracles. And since God alone was their author, Christianity, which was attested by them, is the religion of God.
ON THE EVIDENCE OF PROPHECY. The evidence of the divine origin of Christianity, afforded by the miracles of Jesus Christ and his apostles, although substantial and satisfactory, is not to be considered as standing alone; for it forms only one division of a cumulative proof. Such has been the providential care exercised by our heavenly Father over the spiritual interests of men, that he has been pleased to furnish them with a variety of correspondent and harmonious signs, that the religion, by means of which their salvation is to be effected, proceeds from himself.
In the present essay, I propose to take a concise yet comprehensive view of the sign of Prophecy.
Of those future events which are connected with the established order of nature—such as the rising and setting of the sun on the morrow; the growth of a plant from the seed sown in the earth; the death of mortal creatures now living-analogical reasoning enables us to form a correct apprehension. Sometimes also the intelligent observers of moral and political causes, are enabled by a somewhat more difficult application of the same species of reasoning, to form successful conjectures respecting future circum
GOD ONLY FOREKNOWS.
stances, appertaining not so much to the order of nature, as to the scheme of Providence. But, ready as we may be to allow these positions, we cannot conceal from ourselves that an actual knowledge of the future is one of the characteristic and peculiar attributes of the Supreme Being. Every one who believes in the existence, unity, and omniscience of God, will probably be willing to confess that He has no counsellor—that it is He alone who conducts the operations of nature, and regulates the course of events —that a knowledge of the future is the knowledge of his secret designs,—and therefore, that, such a knowledge can be communicated to mankind only by divine revelation.
From these premises it follows, that all prophecies which, by the exactness of their fulfilment, as well as by the complex or singular nature of the circumstances to which they relate, are proved to have proceeded, not from mere human conjecture, but from a real foreknowledge, must have been dictated by the Almighty himself; and further, that a religion which is attested by such prophecies, is a divinely authorized religion.
That any system of religion, except that of the Scriptures, has ever been thus attested, no enlightened inquirer will presume to assert. The folly and vanity, mixed up as they were with art and delusion, which distinguished the omens, the auspices, and the oracles, of the ancient Greeks and Romans, are now universally acknowledged. And with respect to Mahometanism, it does not even pretend to establish its authority, either by miracles or by prophecy. Mahomet could direct his hearers to no existing prophecies of which he was the subject, and he was far too prudent,