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Gentiles, but the Jews. It was a high probability to them also, and so it was designed also, in a secondary intention : but it could not be an argument to them so certain, because it was destitute of two great supporters. For they neither believed the prophets, foretelling the Messias to be such, nor yet saw the miracles done; so that they had no testimony of God beforehand, and were to rely upon human testimony for the matter of fact; which, because it was fallible, could not infer a necessary conclusion, alone and of itself, but it put on degrees of persuasion, as the testimony had degrees of certainty or universality; that they also “ which see not, and yet have believed,” might “ be blessed.” And, therefore, Christ sent his apostles to convert the Gentiles, and supplied, in their case, what in his own could not be applicable, or so concerning them. For he sent them to do miracles in the sight of the nations, that they might not doubt the matter of fact; and prepared them also with a prophecy, foretelling that they should do the same, and greater miracles than he did. They had greater prejudices to contest against, and a more unequal distance from belief, and aptnesses to credit such things; therefore it was necessary that the apostles should do greater miracles, to remove the greater mountains of objection. And they did so; and by doing it in pursuance and testimony of the ends of Christ and Christianity, verified the fame and celebrity of their Master's miracles, and represented to all the world his power, and his veracity, and his Divinity.
7. Fourthly : For when the holy Jesus appeared upon the stage of Palestine, all things were quiet, and at rest from prodigy and wonder; nay, John the Baptist, who, by his excellent sanctity and austerities, had got great reputation to his person and doctrines, yet “ did no miracle;" and no man else did any, save some few exorcists among the Jews cured some demoniacs and distracted people. So that, in this silence, a prophet, appearing with signs and wonders, had nothing to lessen the arguments, no opposite of like power, or appearances of a contradictory design. And, therefore, it persuaded infinitely, and was certainly operative upon all persons, whose interest and love of the world did not destroy the piety of their wills, and put their understanding into fetters. And Nicodemus, a doctor of the law, being con
vinced, said, “ We know that thou art a doctor sent from God; for no man can do those things which thou doest, unless God be with him f.” But when the devil saw what great affections and confidences these miracles of Christ had produced in all persons, he too late strives to lessen the argument, by playing an after-game; and weakly endeavours to abuse vicious persons, (whose love to their sensual pleasures was of power to make them take any thing for argument to retain them,) by such low, few, inconsiderable, uncertain, and suspicious instances, that it grew to be the greatest confirmation and extrinsical argument in behalf of religion, that either friend or foe, upon his own industry, could have represented. Such as were the making an image speak, or fetching fire from the clouds; and that the images of Diana, Cyndias, and Vesta, among the Jasiæans, would admit no rain to wet them, or cloud to darken them; and that the bodies of them who entered into the temple of Jupiter, in Arcadia, would cast no shadow: which things Polybius himself, one of their own superstition, laughs at, as impostures, and says they were no way to be excused, unless the pious purpose of the inventors did take off from the malice of the lie. But the miracles of Jesus were confessed, and wondered at, by Josephus; were published to all the world by his own disciples, who never were accused, much less convicted, of forgery; and they were acknowledged by Celsusb and Julian', the greatest enemies of Christ.
8. But farther yet, themselves gave it out, that one Caius was cured of his blindness by Æsculapius, and so was Valerius Aper; and at Alexandria, Vespasian cured a man of the gout by treading upon his toes, and a blind man with spittle. And when Adrian, the emperor, was sick of a fever, and would have killed himself, it is said, two blind persons were cured by touching him, whereof one of them told him that he also should recoverk. But although Vespasian, by the help of Apollonius Tyaneus, who was his familiar, who also had the
| John, iii. 2.
& Lib. xvi. Hist. h 'Ενομίσατε αυτόν έιναι υιον Θεού, επεί χωλούς και τυφλούς εθεράπευσε; dixit Celsus apud Origen.
1 Ει μη τις οιεται τους κυλλούς και τυφλούς ιάσασθαι, και δαιμονιώντας εξορκίζειν, Tär pszictwv ég your lovas, &c.— Julian. apud Cyril. lib. vi.
Spartianus in Adriano ; qui addit, Marium Maximum dixisse hæc facta fuisse per simulationem.
devil to be his, might do any thing within the power of nature, or by permission might do much more ; yet, besides that this was of an uncertain and less credible report, if it had been true, it was also infinitely short of what Christ did, and was a weak, silly imitation, and usurping of the argument, which had already prevailed upon the persuasions of men, beyond all possibility of confutation. And for that of Adrian, to have reported it is enough to make it ridiculous; and it had been a strange power to have cured two blind persons, and yet be so unable to help himself, as to attempt to kill himself, by reason of anguish, impatience, and despair.
9. Fisthly: When the Jews and Pharisees believed not Christ for his miracles, and yet perpetually called for a sign, he refused to give them a sign, which might be less than their prejudice, or the persuasions of their interest ; but gave them one, which alone is greater than all the miracles which ever were done, or said to be done, by any antichrist, or the enemies of the religion put all together; a miracle which could have no suspicion of imposture; a miracle without instance, or precedent, or imitation : and that is, Jesus's lying in the grave three days and three nights, and then rising again, and appearing to many, and conversing for forty days together; giving probation of his rising, of the verity of his body; making a glorious promise, which at Pentecost was verified, and speaking such things, which became precepts and parts of the law for ever after.
10. Sixthly: I add two things more to this consideration. First, that the apostles did such miracles, which were infinitely greater than the pretensions of any adversary, and inimitable by all the powers of man or darkness. They raised the dead, they cured all diseases by their very shadow passing by, and by the touch of garments; they converted nations, they foretold future events, they themselves spake with tongues, and they gave the Holy Ghost by imposition of hands, which enabled others to speak languages, which immediately before they understood not, and to cure diseases, and to eject devils. Now, supposing miracles to be done by Gentile philosophers and magicians after; yet when they fall short of these in power, and yet teach a contrary doctrine, it is a demonstration that it is a lesser power, and, therefore, the doctrine not of Divine authority and sanction. And it is remarkable, that, among all the Gentiles, none ever reasonably pretended to a power of casting out devils. For the devils could not get so much by it, as things then stood : and besides, in whose name should they do it, who worshipped none but devils and false gods? which is too violent presumption, that the devil was the architect in all such buildings. And when the seven sons of Sceva', who was a Jew, (amongst whom it was sometimes granted to cure demoniacs,) offered to exorcise a possessed person, the devil would by no means endure it, but beat them for their pains. And yet, because it might have been for his purpose to have enervated the reputation of St. Paul, and, by a voluntary cession, equalled St. Paul's enemies to him, either the devil could not go out but at the command of a Christian, or else to have gone out would have been a disservice and ruin to his kingdom: either of which declares, that the power of casting out devils is a testimony of God, and a probation of the divinity of a doctrine, and a proper argument of Christianity.
11. Seventhly : But, besides this, I consider, that the holy Jesus, having first possessed, upon just title, all the reasonableness of human understanding by his demonstration of a miraculous power, in his infinite wisdom knew that the devil would attempt to gain a party by the same instrument, and therefore so ordered it, that the miracles which should be done, or pretended to, by the devil, or any of the enemies of the cross of Christ, should be a confirmation of Christianity, not do it disservice; for he foretold that antichrist and other enemies “should come in prodigies, and lying wonders and signs.” Concerning which, although it may be disputed whether they were truly miracles, or mere deceptions and magical pretences; yet, because they were such which the people could not discern from miracles really such, therefore it is all one, and in this consideration are to be supposed such : but, certainly, he that could foretell such a future contingency, or such a secret of predestination, was able also to know from what principle it came; and we have the same reason to believe that antichrist shall do miracles to evil purposes, as that he shall do any at all; he that foretold
| Acts, xix.
us of the man, foretold us also of the imposture, and commanded us not to trust him. And it had been more likely for antichrist to prevail upon Christians by doing no miracles, than by doing any: for if he had done none, he might have escaped without discovery ; but by doing miracles, as he verified the wisdom and prescience of Jesus, so he declared to all the church that he was the enemy of their Lord, and therefore less likely to deceive : for which reason it is said, that “ he shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect;" that is therefore not possible, because that by which he insinuates himself to others, is by the elect, the church, and chosen of God, understood to be his sign and mark of discovery, and a warning. And, therefore, as the prophecies of Jesus were an infinite verification of his miracles, so also this prophecy of Christ concerning antichrist disgraces the reputation and faith of the miracles he shall act. The old prophets foretold of the Messias, and of his miracles of power and mercy, to prepare for his reception and entertainment: Christ alone, and his apostles from him, foretold of antichrist, and that he should come in all miracles of deception and lying; that is, with true or false miracles to persuade a lie: and this was to prejudice his being accepted, according to the law of Moses. So that, as all that spake of Christ, bade us believe him for the miracles; so all that foretold of antichrist, bade us disbelieve him the rather for his : and the reason of both is the same, because the mighty and “surer word of prophecy,” as St. Peter calls it, being the greatest testimony in the world of a Divine principle, gives authority, or reprobates, with the same power. They who are the predestinate of God, and they that are the presciti, the foreknown and marked people, must needs stand or fall to the Divine sentence;
and such must this be acknowledged : for no enemy of the cross, not the devil himself, ever foretold such a contingency, or so rare, so personal, so voluntary, so unnatural an event, as this of the great antichrist.
12. And thus the holy Jesus, having showed forth the treasures of his Father's wisdom, in revelations and holy precepts, and, upon the stock of his Father's greatness, having dispended and demonstrated great power in miracles,
m Deut. xiii. 1, 2,