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true, it still remains doubtful whether a miracle were wrought. This is the case with the ancient history of what is called the thundering legion, of the extraordinary circumstances which obstructed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem by Julian, the circling of the flames and fragrant smell at the martyrdom of Polycarp, the sudden shower that extinguished the fire into which the scriptures were thrown in the Diocletian persecution; Constantine's dream, his inscribing in consequence of it the cross upon his standard and the shields of his soldiers; his victory, and the escape of the standard-bearer; perhaps also the imagined appearance of the cross in the heavens, though this last circumstance is very deficient in historical evidence. It is also the case with the modern annual exhibition of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. It is a doubt likewise, which ought to be excluded by very special circumstances, from these narratives which relate to the supernatural cure of hypochondriacal and nervous complaints, and of all diseases which are much affected by the imagination. The miracles of the second and third century are, usually, healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits, miracles in which there is room for some errour and deception. We hear nothing of causing the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed*. There are also instances in Christian writers of reputed miracles, which were natural operations, though not known to be such at the time, as that of articulate speech after the loss of a great part of the tongue.
IV. To the same head of objection nearly, may also be referred accounts, in which the variation of a small circumstance may have transformed some extraordinary appearance, or some critical coincidence of events, into a miracle;
* Jortin's Remarks, vol. ii. p. 51.
stories, in a word, which may be resolved into exaggeration. The miracles of the gospel can by no possibility be explained away in this manner. Total fiction will account
for any thing; but no stretch of exaggeration that has any parallel in other histories, no force of fancy upon real circumstances, could produce the narratives which we now have. The feeding of the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes surpasses all bounds of exaggeration. The raising of Lazarus, of the widow's son at Nain, as well as of the cures which Christ wrought, come not within the compass of misrepresentation. I mean, that it is impossible to assign any position of circumstances however peculiar, any accidental effects however extraordinary, any natural singularity, which could supply an origin or foundation to these accounts.
Having thus enumerated several exceptions, which may justly be taken to relations of miracles, it is necessary, when we read the scriptures, to bear in our minds this general remark, that, although there be miracles recorded in the New Testament, which fall within some or other of the exceptions here assigned, yet that they are united with others, to which none of the same exceptions extend, and that their credibility stands upon this union. Thus the visions and revelations, which St. Paul asserts to have been imparted to him, may not in their separate evidence, be distinguishable from the visions and revelations which many others have alleged. But here is the difference. St. Paul's pretensions were attested by external miracles wrought by himself, and by miracles wrought in the cause to which these visions relate; or, to speak more properly, the same historical authority, which informs us of one, informs us of the other. This is not ordinarily true of the visions of enthusiasts, or even of the accounts in which they are contained. Again, some of Christ's own miracles
were momentary; as the transfiguration, the appearance and voice from heaven at his baptism, a voice from the clouds on one occasion afterwards, (John xii. 30.) and some others. It is not denied, that the distinction which we have proposed concerning miracles of this species, applies, in diminution of the force of the evidence, as much to these instances as to others. But this is the case, not with all the miracles ascribed to Christ, nor with the greatest part, nor with many. Whatever force therefore there may be in the objection, we have numerous miracles which are free from it; and even these to which it is applicable, are little affected by it in their credit, because there are few, who, admitting the rest, will reject them. If there be miracles of the New Testament, which come within any of the other heads into which we have distributed the objections, the same remark must be repeated, And this is one way, in which the unexampled number and variety of the miracles ascribed to Christ, strengthens the credibility of Christianity. For it precludes any solution, or conjecture about a solution, which imagination, or even which experience might suggest concerning some particular miracles, if considered independently of others. The miracles of Christ were of various kinds*, and performed in great varieties of situation, form and manner; at Jerusalem, the metropolis of the Jewish nation and religion; in different parts of Judea and Galilee; in cities and villages; in syna
*Not only healing every species of disease, but turning water into wine (John ii.); feeding multitudes with a few loaves and fishes (Matt. xiv. 14. Mark vi. 35. Luke ix. 12. John vi. 5.); walking on the sea (Matt. xiv. 23.); calming a storm (Matt. viii. 26, Luke viii. 23.); a celestial voice at his baptism, and miraculous appearance (Matt. iii. 17. afterwards John xii. 28.); his transfiguration (Matt. xvii. 1-8. Mark ix. 2. Luke ix. 28. 2. Ep. Peter i. 16, 17.); raising the dead in three distinct instances (Matt. ix. 18. Mark v. 22. Luke viii. 41. Luke vii. 14. John xi.)
gogues, in private houses; in the street, in highways; with preparation, as in the case of Lazarus; by accident, as in the case of the widow's son of Nain; when attended by multitudes, and when alone with the patient; in the midst of his disciples, and in the presence of his enemies; with the common people around him, and before Scribes and Pharisees, and rulers of the synagogues.
I apprehend that, when we remove from the comparison the cases which are fairly disposed of by the observations that have been stated, many cases will not remain. To those which do remain, we apply this final distinction; "that there is not satisfactory evidence, that persons, pretending to be original witnesses of the miracles, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undertaken and undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and properly in consequence of their belief of the truth of those accounts."
UT they, with whom we argue, have undoubtedly a right to select their own examples. The instances with which Mr. Hume has chosen to confront the miracles of the New Testament, and which, therefore, we are entitled to regard as the strongest which the history of the world could supply to the inquiries of a very acute and learned adversary, are the three following:
I. The cure of a blind and of a lame man at Alexandria, by the Emperour Vespasian, as related by Tacitus ;
II. The restoration of the limb of an attendant in a Spanish church, as told by Cardinal de Retz; and,
III. The cures said to be performed at the tomb of the Abbé Paris, in the early part of the present century.
1. The narrative of Tacitus is delivered in these terms: "One of the common people of Alexandria, known to be diseased in his eyes, by the admonition of the god Serapis, whom that superstitious nation worship above all other gods, prostrated himself before the emperour, earnestly imploring from him a remedy for his blindness, and intreating that he would deign to anoint with his spittle his cheeks and the balls of his eyes. Another, diseased in his hand, requested, by the admonition of the same god, that he might be touched by the foot of the emperour. Vespasian at first derided and despised their application; afterwards, when they continued to urge their petitions, he sometimes appeared to dread the imputation of vanity; at other times, by the earnest supplication of the patients, and the persuasion of his flatterers, to be induced to hope for suc
At length he commanded an inquiry to be made by the physicians, whether such a blindness and debility were vincible by human aid. The report of the physicians contained various points; that in the one the power of vision was not destroyed, but would return if the obstacles were removed; that, in the other, the diseased joints might be restored, if a healing power were applied; that it was, perhaps, agreeable to the gods to do this; that the emperour was elected by divine assistance; lastly, that the credit of the success would be the emperour's, the ridicule of the disappointment would fall upon the patients. Vespasian, believing that every thing was in the power of his fortune, and that nothing was any longer incredible, whilst the multitude, which stood by, eagerly expected the event, with a countenance expressive of joy, executed what he was desired to do. Immediately the hand was restored to its use and light returned to the blind man. They who