Page images

miracle the test of the doctrine, you argue in a circle. If you judge of the miracle by the doctrine, you set the thing to be ultimately proved above the proof itself. If you make the miracle the proof of the doctrine, you must obtain the proof through the authority of the teacher; and this is the constant and solid language of the Scriptures. Did our Lord work miracles to prove immediately and specifically any one of his moral precepts, as that you should love your neighbour,-or any of his sublime doctrines, as that the dead should rise? No; their intention was to prove that he was the promised Messiah,—that he had a commission from Heaven; and this being once admitted, the consequence evidently follows, that what he reveals is true,—that what he commands is right,—that what he threatens must be feared,--that what he promises ought to be most ardently desired, and most diligently pursued.

What then must we say is the peculiar efficacy of miracles? To establish the authority of a Divine instructor. What are the instructions laid down by those, by whom the history of our holy religion states miracles to have been accomplished? To the Jews, I answer, that great doctrine, which is the true basis of all pure morality, all vital piety, all rational belief, all sound philosophy,—the being, not of a deity, but of one deity alone, with perfections infinite, and power undivided, uncontrolable, and supreme. To the Christian, not merely the existence and providence of God is asserted, but such an extensive and righteous scheme of moral government as shall correct all the irregularities of this

your God.

imperfect and transient state—such a glorious and exalted scheme of voluntary mercy as will not only convey to us the reward of our personal merits in another and a better life, but exalt us to that felicity which, being the free gift of God announced to us by Christ, is to continue without the slightest interruption, perhaps with progressive increase, for ever and for ever. Here then you have views entirely worthy of extraordinary interposition ; and he that, pretending to the interpretation of dreams, or the foresight of futurity, would call you away from

your reverence to God, or your faith in Jesus, is a deceiver, unto whom you ought not to hearken, if you love the truth—to whom you will not hearken, if

you really love the Lord

In order to secure your faith, and through faith your obedience, miracles and prophecy have been appointed. If you say that your understandings would be perplexed by the words of a prophet, whose words should come to pass, oppose to this single event, which may be the effect of chance, the numerous instances, and, let me add, the connected system of Scriptural prophecies. If not only one or two had occurred-if several had occurred, and yet had avoided all detail; nay, if a greater number had been found, and those applicable to single independent events, dispersed promiscuously through the world, and effected by natural causes for temporal ends, then, I grant, the argument from predictions might have been dubious and unsatisfactory. But if the predictions be numerous,- if delivered with great minuteness, -and particularly if they all

more or less respect one common subject,-if they profess to have their completion in one person,-if the history of that person corresponds to those predictions, delivered by different speakers, and at different times, and with different degrees of obscurity or perspicuity,—then most assuredly we have an illustrious evidence in favour of our redemption by Jesus Christ. The first case, says a most learned prelate, in which miracles, and of course prophecies are to be expected, is when God employs any upon an extraordinary message, to be credentials to confirm their Divine commission. Now many are the prophecies pointing to Christ, many the miracles ascribed to him; and if it be said that, because he taught no moral duty which reason could not have discovered and approved, there is little worthy of attention in his religion, even granting it to be true, let us hear how a wise and eloquent man addresses such objectors : “If Jesus Christ had delivered no other declaration than this the hour is. coming in which all that are in the grave shall come forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation,-still he had pronounced a message of inestimable importance—a message worthy of that splendid apparatus of miracles and prophecies with which his mission was introduced and attested—a message in which all honest men would rejoice to find an answer to their doubts and rest to their inquiries.” And who among you will oppose to the Gospel of Christ the paltry artifices of selfish jugglers, or the fantastic chimeras of pre

tended prophets? If the Jew, after the miracles in Egypt, in the Wilderness, and on Mount Sinai, was not to follow other gods and renounce Jehovah, shall the Christian be estranged from his belief of a resurrection, not only as taught by the authority of Jesus, but as accomplished in his person, when, by a miracle so generally consistent with the scheme of our redemption, and so peculiarly apposite to its ultimate design, Christ himself became the first fruits of them that slept ?

It remains for me just to state an objection, which the Jews have grounded on the words of the text, and which it becomes me more especially to refute, as I contend so firmly for the authority of religion once established. The Jews


very words of my text in opposition to the truth of Christianity. Christ, they say, worked, as you contend, miracles, or delivered prophecies ;—but he was a false teacher, because he came to overset the law, and Moses, in the text, warns us against such teachers, and pronounces them worthy of death. But the cases are in no respect parallel. In the text we have a mere dreamer of dreams, who tells only one or more events which come to pass. Jesus did many wonderful works; he uttered many prophecies ; in healing the sick, he directed them all to the glory of God; he did not call the people away from the worship of Jehovah ; he bade them, in the very words of Moses, love the Lord their God with all their heart and all their soul; he not only admits the prophetic office of Moses, but even appeals to it; he not only obeyed the authority of

[ocr errors][merged small]

Moses, but confirms it. He worked, indeed, more miracles, he taught more truths, but addition is not subversion, difference is not contradiction, enlargement is not contamination. What, then, did he repeal? The ceremonial part. True; and had not the prophets gradually shaken it, and taught the Jews to set less and less value upon it, in opposition to moral works? Is not the word olam, for ever, more or less extensive in its signification, which must be determined by the occasion ? and is not this confessed even by Maimonides himself? (p. 21.) Was there not a gradual progress in Divine revelation from the beginning of the world; and has not the Deity attempered it to the age and growth of his creatures ? Though man, mere man, was forbidden to add thereto, or diminish from it, by the guidance of his own wisdom, did the prohibition extend to all such as God might appoint for that purpose? Is it not confessed that many of the original precepts had a respect to the superstitions of the Sabians; and can they be binding or efficacious when that superstition has ceased to exist ?

Though sophistry weave its subtleties, though fanaticism broods over its chimeras, though bigotry clings to its prejudices, though dogmatism fulminates its decisions, common sense will sometimes, in matters of opinion, in a still small voice, assert its rights, just as in matters of practice conscience is roused from its slumbers, and vindicates the unwritten law of the heart in a louder and sterner tone. David ate the shew-bread: was he punished according to the law? No; hunger procured his

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »