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A VINDICATION, &c.
Mr. W. begins his Fifth Discourse, p. 1, 2, with saying, that he is now to take into examination the three miracles ' of Jesus's raising the dead, viz. of Jairus's daughter, Matt. 'ix. Mark v. Luke viii. of the widow of Nain's son, Luke 'vii. and of Lazarus, John xi.; the literal stories of which, he says, he shall show to consist of absurdities, improba'bilities, and incredibilities, in order to the mystical inter'pretation of them.'
I have read over his examination of these miracles, and am still of opinion, that the histories of them are credible. I. I will therefore first consider all his objections against these literal stories.
II. I will consider the Jewish Rabbi's letter inserted in this discourse.
III. I will show, that the histories of these three miracles are well circumstanced, and have in them the marks and tokens of credibility.
ANSWER TO MR. WOOLSTON's first objection.
I WILL first consider all Mr. W's objections to these literal stories.'
Mr. W. says in his preamble, before he comes to propose his objections in form: that these three miracles are not equally great, but differ in degree, is visible enough to every one that but cursorily reads, and compares their stories one with another; the greatest of the three, and in'deed the greatest miracle that Jesus is supposed to have 'wrought, is that of Lazarus's resurrection; which, in truth, was a most prodigious miracle, if his corpse was putrefied and stank; and if there were no just exceptions to be made 'to the credibility of the story. Next to that, in magnitude, 'is Jesus's raising of the widow's son, as they were carrying him to his burial. The least of the three is that of his 'raising Jairus's daughter, p. 4, 5.'
For my own part, I will not pretend to affirm, that these three miracles are equally great, though the difference is small: but I should think it highly probable, that the being which can give life to a person really dead, though but for a quarter of an hour, or even a minute, is able also to raise to life another that has been dead many days. The length of time in which a person has lain dead from the time he expired does indeed somewhat increase the certainty of his death. But the difficulty of the work of a resurrection from real death is so very great, that length of time from the decease can add but little to it. This alone (if it be true) ruins Mr. W.'s first observation, however plausible it may have appeared to some. And he himself says, p. 3. He believes, it will be granted on all hands, that the restoring a person, indis'putably dead, to life again, is a stupendous miracle.'
If then it shall be made appear, that the three persons here mentioned were indisputably dead, and raised to life again; or that there are no just exceptions against the credibility of these stories; we have in the gospels three stupendous miracles, which were wrought by Jesus Christ; and we have no occasion to have recourse to any mystical interpretations.
1. Observe,' says he, p. 6, that the unnatural and preposterous order of time, in which these miracles are related "justly brings them under suspicion of fable and forgery. 'The greatest of the three is indisputably that of Lazarus's ' resurrection; but since this is only mentioned by St. John, who wrote his gospel after the other evangelists; here is too 'much room for cavil and question, whether this story be 'not entirely his invention: again, if Matthew, the first wri'ter, had recorded only the story of Lazarus, whose resur'rection was the greatest miracle, and if Luke had added 'that of the widow of Nain's son; and John, lastly, had re'membered us of Jairus's daughter-then all had been well; and no objection had hence lain against the credit of any ' of these miracles, or against the authority of the evangelists: but this unnatural and preposterous order of time, in ⚫ which these miracles are recorded (the greatest being post'poned to the last) administers just occasion of suspicion of ⚫ the truth and credibility of all their stories,' p. 9, 16.
On the contrary I maintain, that St. John the last evangelist's recording a miracle omitted by the former, even supposing it to be greater then any related by them, does not administer any just occasion of suspicion of the truth and credibility of all their three stories, or of any one of them.
If there be any force in this argument of Mr. W. it must lie in some one or more of these following suppositions:
1. That some of the three former evangelists have expressly declared, they have related all the miracles, or all the greatest miracles, which Jesus ever wrought, or which they knew of.
2. Or, if they have not expressly declared this, that however they have in their way of writing shown an affectation of mightily increasing the number of our Saviour's miracles, or of setting down all, and especially the greatest which they knew of.
3. Or else, that the latter evangelists have betrayed a fondness in their gospels, to record more in number, or greater in degree, than those who went before them; and thereby give ground for suspicion of forgery and invention.
4. Or lastly, that the omission of a miracle recorded by the last evangelist, if it had been really done, is absolutely unaccountable.
1. That some of the three former evangelists have ex'pressly declared, they have related all the miracles, or all the greatest miracles that Jesus ever did, or that they knew 'of.' This they have none of them said. Nor is it so much as pretended, they have said so. Indeed they have often declared the contrary.
2. Or, If they have not expressly declared this; that the former evangelists have however by their way and manner of writing shown an affectation of mightily increasing the number of our Saviour's miracles, or of setting down 'all, and especially the greatest which they knew of. This Mr. W. charges them with: To aggrandize the fame of their Master, as a worker of miracles,' he says, 6 was the design of all the evangelists, especially of the three first,' p. 7. This does not appear from their histories, but quite the contrary. Having related two or three miracles wrought by Jesus, in any place, they content themselves therewith, though they knew of many others. St. Matthew, in his eighth chapter, having set down the miraculous cure of a leper, of the centurion's servant, and of Peter's wife's mother, relates no more miracles particularly, but only says in general: "When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick," Matt. viii. 16. And in divers other places he affirms many to have been healed, and many other mighty works to have been done, beside those he puts down. Mark has taken the same summary method upon many occasions. "And
at even," says he, "when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils," Mark i. 32, 34. St. Luke has followed the same compendious way of writing. Having related a cure, in a synagogue, of a man which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and of Simon's wife's mother, he adds: "Now when the sun was setting, all they which had any sick with divers diseases, brought them unto him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God," Luke iv. 40, 41.
As they do not multiply their particular relations of miracles, but omit great numbers which they knew of, so neither do they affect always to take the greatest in degree, or those that seem so. I do not pretend to understand all the various degrees of miracles. But it appears to me a more showy and affecting work to cure a demoniac, than to heal a person with a fever. But yet Matthew, in the chapter just quoted, at the same time that he relates the cure of Simon's wife's mother, omits all particular accounts of those which were that same day delivered from evil spirits, though there were many such instances. There is in all the gospels but one particular account of any person cured by only touching the hem of Christ's garment, namely, the woman with the bloody issue. And yet there were many other such cases. St. Matthew says, that in the land of Gennesaret, they "besought him, that they might only touch the HEM of his garment, and as many as touched were made perfectly whole," Matt. xiv. 35, 36. St. Mark assures us of the same thing. "For he had healed many, insomuch that they pressed upon him for to TOUCH him, as many as had plagues," Mark iii. 10. And in another place he says: "Whithersoever he entered,-they laid their sick in the streets, and besought him that they might touch, if it were but the BORDER of his garment: and as many as touched him were made whole," ch. vi. 56. St. Luke also confirms this account: "And the whole multitude sought to TOUCH him for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all," Luke vi. 19.
Nay, there is a great deal of reason to think, that the evangelists did know of more persons raised to life by Jesus, than those they have particularly mentioned. St. Luke, having given the history of raising up the young man, says immediately: “ And the disciples of John showed him of
all these things. And John calling unto him two of his disciples, sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another? Then Jesus answering, said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard, how that the blind see, the lame walk, the DEAD are raised," Luke vii. 18, 19, 22. In St. Matthew our Lord says the same thing in his answer to John's inquiry: "The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk the DEAD are raised up," Matt. xi. 5. He says, "The dead are raised," in the plural number. St. Matthew therefore must have known of more than one, though he has given the particular history of the ruler of the synagogue's daughter only.
Farther, in answer to this assertion, that the design of all the evangelists was to aggrandize the fame of their Master, as a worker of miracles; I would observe, that the gospels, though but short histories, are not filled with accounts of miracles. There are whole chapters together containing nothing but an account of our Saviour's pure and heavenly doctrine. Other chapters contain nothing but parables, which are also interspersed here and there in other parts of the narration. Other chapters are taken up with the cavils of the Pharisees and others, and our Saviour's answers to them, with discourses to the disciples, and divers other mat ters. So that the miracles alone, separate from the discourses and arguings which they occasioned, make but a moderate part of the gospels. Many miracles undoubtedly the evangelists have related. Nor had Jesus proved himself to be the Messiah, if many miracles had not been per formed by him. Such things were expected of the Messiah, when he came, by every body. Therefore it was, that, as St. John observes, " Many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did," John ii. 23. And in another place," Many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" ch. vii. 31. Nor is there any ostentation in the working of any of these miracles, or in the manner in which they are related: but they are done for the confirmation of that excellent doctrine which Christ taught, and that all men might know that the Father had sent him, and that the word he taught was not his own but the Father's. "If I do not the works of my Father," says he to the Jews, "believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him," John x. 37, 38. And to the disciples: "The words that I speak unto