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Mark ix. 14.

When John the Baptist had heard of the works which (a) "Christ did, he sent two From Matth. of his disciples with this message to him, Art thou he that should come, (i, e. the pro- . 1. Mark i. mised Messiah) or look we for another?" To whom our Lord returned this answer, John v. 1. to "Go and shew John again these things which ye do hear and see; the blind receive Matth. xvii. 14. their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead Luke ix. 37. are raised up." The answer is in a great measure taken from the prophet Isaiah (b), John vii. 1. describing the great operations of the Messiah; and by remitting the Baptist to them, our Saviour intended to shew, that he must of necessity be the person he sent to enquire after, because he had not only the power of doing miracles, but even of doing the self-same miracles that the evangelical prophet had predicted of the Messiah.

(c) Now, of all the great attributes of God, there is none that shine brighter and more amiable in our eyes than truth and goodness: The former cannot attest a lie, nor the latter seduce men into dangerous and destructive mistakes. And yet if God should communicate any part of his power to an impostor to enable him to work miracles, and such miracles, in kind, as were foretold of the true Massiah, in confirmation of his pretences, what would become of these two sacred attibutes? To suspect, I say, that Almighty God is capable of employing his infinite power, with a design to mislead and delude mankind, in what relates to their eternal concerns, is to destroy and subvert his very nature, and to leave ourselves no notion at all of such a being. Nay, for him to permit the same evidences to be produced for errors as for truth, is in effect to cancel his own credentials, and to make miracles of no significance at all. And therefore how artfully soever some impostors may contrive their delusions, yet we are not to doubt but that, if we examine, 1st, The works themselves, and their manner of being done, and, 2dly, The persons themselves, and the ends for which they do them, we shall be able to discern the difference between real miracles and lying wonders.

(d) 1st, Then, in relation to the works themselves, it is required that they be possible, since no power whatever can effect that which is strictly impossible; that they be probable, since the Divine power will hardly concern itself in what savours of fable and romance; that they be not below the majesty of God, as he is the ruler and governor of the world; nor inconsistent with his character, as he is a good and gracious being; that they be done openly before a sufficient number of witnesses; readily without any previous forms or ceremonies, which may make them look like incantation; and upon all proper and important occasions to denote the permanency of that Divine power by which they are effected.

2dly, In relation to the person pretending to a Divine mission, it is required that he be a man of good report for his unblamable conversation; that he be in the perfect exercise of his reason and senses, and constant and uniform in the message he delivers; that the doctrine which he endeavours to establish by his miracles be consistent with the principles of true reason and natural religion, consistent with right notions and worship of God, and consistent with the former Revelations he hath made of his will; of a tendecy to destroy the devil's power in the world, to recover men from their ignorance, to reform them from their vices, to lead them into the practice of virtue and true godliness, by proper motives and arguments, and, in short, to advance the general welfare of societies, as well as every man's particular happiness in this life, and in his preparation for a better. And now to observe a little how all these characters meet in the blessed Jesus.

That Jesus of Nazareth was a person of great virtue and goodness, in full possession of his reason and senses, and constant and uniform in the message he delivered to mankind, not only the whole tenor of his conduct, as it is recorded by the evangelists, but

(b) Chap. xxxv. 5.

(a) Matth. xi. 2, &c. (d) Chandler on Miracles.

(c) Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii.

A. M. 4035, the nature of his doctrine, and excellency of his precepts, the manner of his discourses

&c. or 5441. Ann. Dom. 31, &c. Vulg. Er. 30.

to the people, and the wisdom of his replies to the insidious questions of his adversaries, are a plain demonstration: And that (a) "this Jesus was a man approved of God by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of all the people," is manifest, not only from the testimony of his friends and disciples, but (b) from the concession of heathen historians, as well as the traditions of the Jewish Talmud, wherein the memory of them is preserved.

These miracles indeed were above the skill of men or angels to effect; but they were not therefore impossible, because subject to the power of Almighty God; for the same agent who formed the eye, could restore the blind to sight; he, who wrought the whole frame of our bodies, could as easily cure the maimed, or heal the diseased; and he, who causes the rain to descend, and to water the earth, that it may minister bread to the eater, and seed to the sower, could be at no loss to change water into wine, or to multiply the loaves and fishes for the relief of the hungry.

These miracles, again, being acts of mercy as well as power, were not consistent with the character of an impostor, or the agency of any wicked spirit; but that God should have compassion on his creatures, and exercise his tender mercies over the works of his own hands; that he should give bread to the hungry, limbs to the maimed, and release to such as were under the captivity of Satan, is no improbable thing at all. These were actions suitable to his majesty, and highly comporting with his wisdom and goodness, since they naturally tended both to beget reverence in the minds of men towards his messenger, and to reconcile them to the belief and obedience of his heavenly will.

Now these miracles our Saviour did openly, in the temple, in the synagogues, and on the festivals, when the concourse of people was greatest, and when the doctors of the law, who came on purpose to ensnare him, were sitting by, and beholding what was done. These he did readily, and with a word's speaking: For (c) Peace be still, quelled the raging of the winds and waves; (d) Young man arise, revived the widow's son; (e) Ephphatha be opened, gave the deaf man hearing; and (ƒ) Lazarus come forth, raised him from the grave who had been four days dead. This he did frequently, and upon all proper occasions; for, from the time that he entered upon his ministry, scarce a day passed without some fresh instance of his power and goodness, insomuch, that if all his actions of this kind had been particularly recorded, (g) "the world itself (as St John by an elegant hyperbole declares) would not contain the books which should be written: And (what crowns all) these he did with a design to establish a religion, whose business it is to give men the most exalted thoughts of God and his Providence, and the greatest certainty of future rewards and punishments; to oblige them, by the strongest motives, to observe and practise whatsoever things are true, and honest, and just, and pure, and lovely, and of good report; to persuade them to mortify every inordinate affection, and to attain those excellent dispositions of mind, which will make them resemble God, and best prepare them for future happiness; in a word, to esta blish the practice of the two great virtues, the love of God, and the love of our neigh bour, upon these two excellent principles, of faith in God, as the rewarder of those that seek him, and faith in Jesus Christ, as the Saviour and Judge of mankind.

And if such be the end and design of the Christian religion, there is little reason to suppose (as the Jews are very willing to object) that the devil could have any hand in assisting our Saviour to effect such miracles as gave credit to the first appearance, and strength and success to the propagation of those doctrines, which were calculated on purpose to destroy his dominion in the world, and upon its ruins to erect the kingdom

(a) Acts ii. 22.
(b) See Bishop Chandler's
tions of the Talmud, by several instances, p. 429.
(e) Mark vii. 34, 35.
(ƒ) John xi, 43, 44.

Defence, where he proves this, as well as the tradi-
(c) Mark iv. 39.
(d) Luke vii. 14.
(g) Ibid. 21. 25.

23. Luke vi. 1.

of God and his Christ. The devil is not so silly a being as to join forces with his a- From Matth.
vowed enemy, in order to ruin and depose himself: And if our Saviour could hope for xii. 1. Mark ti.
no assistance from that quarter, the pretence of his doing his miracles, † by virtue of John v. 1. to
the name Jehovah, stolen out of the sanctuary, and used as a charm, is a fiction too Matth. xvii. 14.
gross and palpable to stand in need of any confutation.
Philostratus indeed, in his history of the life of Apollonius +2, sets him up for a great John vii. 1.

Mark ix. 14.
Luke ix. 37.

The account which some later Jews give us of this transaction is thus related,-That in the time of Helena the queen, Jesus of Nazareth came into Jerusalem, and in the temple found a stone (on which the ark of God was wont to rest), whereon was written the Tetragrammaton, or more peculiar name of God ; that whosoever should get the name into his possession, and be skilled in it, would be able to do what he pleased; that therefore their wise men, fearing lest any of the Israelites should get that name, and destroy the world, made two dogs of brass, and placed them at the door of the sanctuary; that whenever any had gone in, and learned that name, these dogs were wont, at their coming out, to bark so terribly, that they forgot the name and the letters they had newly learned. But when Jesus of Nazareth, say they, went in, he not only learned the letters of this name, but wrote them in a parchment, and hid it, as he came out, in an incision which he had made in his flesh; and though through the barking of the dogs he had forgot the name, yet he learned it afterwards from his parchment: And it was by virtue of this, say they, that Jesus restored the lame, healed the leprous, raised the dead, walked upon the sea, and did all his other miraculous works. Pug. Fidei, part ii. cap. viii. sect. 6. as quoted in Kidder's Demonstration, part i. p. 40.

This Apollonius is, by the enemies of Christianity, set up as a rival to our blessed Saviour, in point of his life, miracles, and predictions; and therefore it may not be improper, in this place, to give our readers a short sketch of some of the principal incidents of his life and transactions. About three or four years before the vulgar Christian Ara he was born at Tyana, a town of Cappadocia, (from whence he was named Tyaneus) of an ancient family, and rich parents; but to make his birth more resemble our Saviour's it is said, that Proteus, under the form of a sea god, acquainted his mother, that he himself was to be born of her, and that, at the same time, she was surrounded with swans, which assisted at her la bour, and, by her singing and gaiety, seemed to presage the infant's future glory. However this be, while he was a youth, he was observed to have a great natural genius, an excellent memory, and was in his person so very beautiful, that he drew the eyes of all men upon him. When he was fourteen years of age, his father sent him to Tarsus in Cilicia, in order to study rhetoric; but he chose rather to apply himself to philosophy, and in a few years professed himself of the Pythagorean sect. Pursuant to this, he abstained from the flesh of all animals, as reputed impure, lived upon nothing but fruits and vegetables, and though he did not condemn the use of wine, yet

he chose rather to abstain from it, as being apt to disturb the serenity of the mind. He was a person of great mortification and abstinence, renounced marriage, professed continence, and affected to live in the temple of Esculapius, to make it be believed that he was his peculiar favourite, and by his assistance was enabled to perform cures. Before he appeared in a public character, he kept silence for the space of five years; but, as he did not totally refrain from company, he usually spoke by signs, or, when there was a necessity for it, wrote some words. After this five years silence he came to Antioch, and there endeavoured to improve upon the pagan religion. The doctrines which he taught were delivered in a plain, preceptive manner, and with a better grace and authority than the philosophers at that time were accustomed


After some stay at Antioch, he undertook a long journey, in order to converse with the brachmans of India, and in his way to visit the Persian magi. At Nineveh he contracted an acquaintance with one Damis, who attended him ever after, and wrote an account of his life, sayings, and actions, which have been transmitted to us in the history of Philostratus the sophist. Upon his return from the Indies he went to Ephesus, where he was received with all the tokens of respect imaginable, was followed and admired by people of all ranks and conditions, and by making his observations upon the chirping of a bird, which came to call its companions to pick up some corn which happened to be spilt, gained himself the reputation of a very great prophet. From Ephesus he removed to Athens, where he instructed the people in the ceremonies of their religion; in the manner and time and place of their offering up sacrifices, libations, and prayers, with other superstitious rites; and where, by com manding a devil to go out of a young man, and in token of his being dispossessed, to overturn a statue which stood by, he obtained the character of a mighty worker of miracles. In the twelfth year of Nero he came to Rome, where, having spoken some disrespectful words against the emperor, he was prosecuted by his favourite Tigellinus; but to his great surprise, when his prosecutor opened the bill of accusation against him, he found nothing but a fair piece of paper, without one word written in it; and not long after, upon his restoring a young woman, who seemed to fall down dead as she was going to be married, to life again, he was accounted by all a great magician at least, if not a person sent from heaven. When Nero ordered all philosophers to depart from Rome, he left the place, and (to pass by other cir cumstances of his itinerant life) he was in Asia Minor, when Domitian ordered him to be apprehended for speaking with some freedom against his tyranny,

A. M. 4035, worker of miracles; and some, of late times, have been bold enough to name him in &c. or 5441. competition with our Blessed Saviour. But, besides that, this history of Apollonius has no other voucher than his servant Damis, (who was confessedly a weak and ignoVulg. Er. 30. rant person, and consequently very capable of being imposed upon by the artful jug

Ann. Dom.

31, &c.

gles of his master), the very miracles related therein, are, for the most part, ridiculous, unworthy the character of a prophet, and (as the learned Photius speaks) full of follies and monstrous tales. Nay, in the highest instance of his miraculous power, viz. " his raising a dead woman to life again," (a) Philostratus himself suspects (as he says the company did) that there was some confederacy and collusion in the matter; but if even it were not so, the doctrines which Apollonius taught, and the zeal he professed for the Pagan idolatry, together with his excessive pride, ambition, and vain affectation of di

and sent to Rome; where, notwithstanding the empe-
ror's cruel usage of him, he behaved with incredible
magnanimity; and upon his trial being honourably ac-
quitted, immediately vanished out of the court, and
was that very day seen at Puteoli, which is very near
fifty leagues from Rome. When Domitian was slain,
he resided at Ephesus; and as he was then discour-
sing to the people, he gave them to understand, that
the fatal stab was that moment given him, which
accordingly proved true; for not long after an ex-
press arrived, that Domitian was dispatched in the
manner he had mentioned, and Nerva unanimously
declared emperor. Nerva, upon his accession to the
throne, is said to have sent Apollonius a letter, de-
siring him to come and assist at his councils; to which
he returned an answer by his servant Damis; but be
fore Damis came back his master was dead; though
as to the place and manner of his death we have no
certain account. After his death, however, he had
statues erected, and divine worship paid to him; but
as he left few or no disciples behind him, his memory,
which for a little while was greatly honoured, dwin-
dled away by degrees, and upon the downfal of idola-
try utterly ceased.

This account we have from Philostratus, who, from the commentaries of Damis, and a book of one Maximus, which he happened to light on, wrote the life of Apollonius above an hundred and twenty years after his death; but whoever looks into it, will see how much his fabulous history falls short of the gravity and simplicity of the Gospel. The truth is, Julia, the wife of the emperor Severus, affected to be thought a learned woman, and therefore she set up for a wit, which was attended with an immoderate desire and thirst after novelty. She was continually surrounded with poets, sophists, grammarians, &c. Philostratus made one of the number, and from her he had the memoirs of Damis, to which he added, either from cominon fame, or his own fancy, whatever he thought would hit the taste of the empress, or work himself into the favour of Caracalla, who had Apollonius in high esteem, and were both great admirers of the mar vellous. So that, wherever the subject came not up to the magnificence which the author desired, he u sually added all the ornaments which his imagination could invent, and, without any regard to truth, or even probability itself, (witness the conversation be

tween Apollonius and the ghost of Achilles, and the long disgressions on the panthers of Armenia, the elephants, the phoenix, the satyrs, the pygmies, &c.) made it not so much an history as a wild romance; in which light all the great men, not only Christians, but Pagans, and ancients as well as moderns, that have had occasion to mention it, look upon it. Philostratus, however, might have a farther design in writing the life of Apollonius: For as the Christian religion, by the strength of its miracles, had now made its way in the world, those who endeavoured to oppose it, and yet could not deny the reality of its facts, were at length reduced to this expedient, viz. to produce miracles in paganism, and every other argument that they thought Christianity could boast of, by way of contraposition. As therefore the actions of Jesus were handed down to us by the four evangelists, who wrote an account of the principal occurrences of his life; so they, in like manner, set about writing the lives of their philosophers, in hopes of finding their account in thus opposing miracles to miracles, and magic to the power of God: And for this reason they have been more especially careful to accommodate the transactions of their great men to the more remarkable passages in our Saviour's life, as the learned Huetius shews in many instances relating to Apollonius; and thereupon concludes in these words " Id præterea spectâsse videtur Philostratus, ut invalescentem jam Christi fidem et doctrinam deprimeret, opposito hoc omnis doctrinæ sanctitatis, et mirifica virtutis fictitio simulacro. Itaque ad Christi exemplar hanc expressit effigiem, et pleraque ex Jesu Christi historia Apollonio accommodavit, ne quid ethnici Christianis invidere possent." Vid. Huet. Demonst. Evang. pag. 566. Fleury's Eccles. Hist. Tellemont's Hist. des Empereurs, vol. ii. and a Dissert. at the end of the Translat. of Houtteville's Crit. et Hist. Discourse; [and Mosheim's translation of Cudworth's Intellectual System, ed. 2. vol. i. p. 397, &c. and vol. ii. p. 778, &c.; where it is completely proved that Apollonius was a fanatical Pythagorean, and his biographer a virulent though absurd enemy of Christ and his religion. I call him absurd, because, though he says that Apollonius was endowed with the Spirit of God-nay, was a god himself, he yet sends him to India to learn wisdom of the Brahmins!] (a) Vid. Vit. Apoll. lib. iv. c. 16.

vine honours, are a plain indication that his miracles were false, and his most surprising From Matth. performances, either the effects of magic, or downright cheat and imposture.

xii. 1. Mark ii. 23. Luke vi. 1.

Mark ix. 14.

Tacitus (a) indeed tells us of two cures, one of a blind, and the other of a lame John v. 1. to person, which Vespasian pretended to work at Alexandria; but whoever reflects on Matth. xvii. 14. the situation of his affairs at that time, will perceive some reason to suspect a collu- Luke ix. 37. sion. He was now in a dispute with himself what to do, whether to assume the Ro- John vii. 1. man empire, or restore the ancient form of government, a commonwealth. The restoration of the latter was what Dion and Euphrates, two eminent philosophers, advised; but Apollonius (whom he likewise consulted upon this occasion) with great vehemence persuaded the contrary, and (being himself accustomed to such artifices) might, not improbably, suggest to Vespasian the necessity of some miracle or other, in order to recommend him to the people as a person highly favoured by the gods.

And indeed, if we consider what an obscure person, and of what mean original Vespasian was, there seems to be the greater reason why Apollonius, and others of that party, should think of some expedient or other to raise him a reputation in the world, answerable to the new station of life they had advised him to accept: And whoever considers farther (b) what various artifices were at that time made use of to procure an opinion of Divinity in the emperors, will not much wonder that such reports should be spread of them, or that certain persons should be suborned to feign such distempers, and then to give it out that the touch of the emperor's hand had cured them; though it must be confessed, (c) some are of opinion, that what is reported by Vespasian to this purpose cannot fairly be denied, and might perhaps be providentially intended, to give some dignity and superior character to a person who (in conjunction with his son Titus) was appointed by God to be a signal instrument of the Divine vengeance on the Jewish nation.

Allowing then that God, for wise ends of his Providence, might now and then permit some eminent person to do a real miracle; yet what is this to that vast number and great variety recorded of our Saviour, who, in the small space of his ministry, did more wonderful works of this kind than what Moses and all the prophets put together, from the earliest account of time that we read of, are known to have done?

(d) The Jews indeed, to swell the account of Moses's miracles, reckon each of those that he did in Egypt double; one as a miracle of justice, in punishing Pharaoh and his people, and the other as a miracle of mercy, in preserving the Israelites from the like destruction. But after all their pains and contrivance, the sum amounts to very little in comparison to the many that are recorded of our Blessed Saviour. The miracles of all the prophets put together, by the Jews own computation, do not equal those of Moses; and yet we must remember that Moses lived an hundred and twenty years, forty of which were one continued scene of action; and that the compass of the prophets, from the creation of the world to the destruction of the second temple, includes three thousand and some hundreds. Lay this together, and it evidently follows, that such extraordinary demonstrations of the Divine presence and power were very thin and sparingly exhibited, when set against the innumerable instances of them in the three or (at most) four years preaching of the Blessed Jesus. And if the wonders related by the evangelists, as done by himself in so short a time, do far exceed what both Moses and all the prophets did, what shall we say to those many more that are not related? What to the infinitely more still that were done by the apostles and disciples, in confirmation of the doctrine he had taught? Doubtless the miraculous power which he communicated to them was infinitely great, when, in order to obtain cures, (e) " the


(a) Hist. lib. iv. monstration of the Messiah, part (e) Acts v. 15, 16.

(b) Stilling fleet's Orig. Sac. pag. 171.
page 62.


(c) Vid. Kidder's De(d) Stanhope's Sermons at Boyle's Lectures.

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