William Stevenson.

A conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... online

. (page 16 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam StevensonA conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... → online text (page 16 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

this Afternoon. Mr. M. has a mind to
take a view of the Country from the
top of the Hill.

N. 1 chufe rather to go home, Sir, and
will wait on you in the Evening.

7*. We will expeft you then precifely at


204 ^ Conference upon


SECT. V. M.^iTOU feem impatient Mr. JV. to


renew our Debate : I fancy you
have fome Hopes of converting me.

N. No, Sir : I fhou'd as foon hope to
convert Mr. W. I doubt whether the raifmg
one from the dead cou'd convince you.

M. I own it wou'd not, unlefs I were

very fure that the raifed Perfon had been

really dead. But yoti are fuch a thorow-

paced Believer that I reckon you are as

watt. i*. fully perfwaded that Jefus raifed the Ruler's

win v. ai. Daughter, the Widow's Son, and Lazarus

Lnk.vii.ix. to Life, as if you had teen thefe Mira-

J 01 "*" do.

N. Since they are attefted by credible
Witnefies who cou'd not be miltaken in
what they relate, and in their Writings
have given undoubted Proofs of their Sin-
cerity : fuch unqueftionable Evidence is not
to be invalidated by mere Sufpicions, Con-
jeftures, and fuch little Difficultys as your
Friend ufes to call Incredibility. You can-
not juftify your disbelief of thefe Facts,
without proving that there are real Ab-


Our SAVIOUR*^ Miracles. 2 ^

furditys, or fuch inconfiftent and contra- SECT. v.
dictory Circumftances in the account we VXV\>
have of them in the Gofpels, as manifeftly
ihow them to be falfe and incredible.

M. Without doubt the reftoring a Per- rife, y.pj
fon truly dead to Life again, is a flupen- 3%
dous Miracle. And I agree with Mr. /F.
that two or three fuch Miracles well cir-
cumftanced, and credibly reported, are e-
nough to convince Mankind that the Au-
thor of them was a divine Agent, and in-
veiled with the Power of God : elfe he
cou'd not have done them. But none of
the three Miracles that Jefus wrought in
railing the dead will ftand its Ground a-
gainft fuch Exceptions as may be made
to them.

N. The Evangetifts have recorded up-
wards of twenty ftupendous Miracles well
circumftanced, and credibly reported : fuch
as his feeding thoufands of People with a
few Loaves and Fifties; and curing the
Blind, the Lame, the Dropfical, the Le-
prous, the Paralytick, and others, in a Mo-
ment ; without the ufe of any means.
Thefe are as undoubted and as ftupendous
Miracles as railing the dead. And he who
cou'd do fuch aftoniftiing things, fhowed
that he acted by a divine Power : and
that therefore he was able to raife the dead.
Now fmce Chrift's having affually done this
is better attefted than any antient Fact
that you firmly believe ; you ought either
to acknowledge that Jefus raifed thofe three
Perfons who are mention'd in the Gofpels ;
or you ftiou'd reject all human Teftimony,


fio6 A Conference upon

SECT.V. under the pretence of a Po/ibility of Fraud,
VX "Y^*' or Miftake, and the danger of Delufion.
Dire. f. p. 1 JVf. The prepofterous order of time in
which thefe three Miracles are related, brings
them all under Sufpicion of Fable and
Forgery, The Refurrection of Lazarus is
certainly the greateft of the three: but
fince this is mention'd only by St. John,
who wrote his Gofpel long after the other
Evangelifts, and about fixty Years after
Chrift's Afcenfion ; here is too much room
for cavil, and doubting whether this Story
be not intirely his-own Invention. For,
what cou'd be the Reafon that the other
Evangelifts fhou'd omit this remarkable
Miracle of Lazarus ? They cou'd not for-
get it i nor be ignorant of it, if the Story had
been really true. And to affign any other
Reafon than Ignorance or Forgetfulnefs is
hard, and perhaps impoflible.

N. Tho* this is a plaufible Objection,
it is far from being of fuch force as to
overthrow St. John's Teftimony. To folve
this difficulty, I muft premife the following
Obfervations. ( i .) It will be readily granted
that it was fitter the Doctrine and chief Acti-
ons ofjefus fhou'd be recorded by fever alPer-
fons than by one : becaufe the Teftimony of
different Perfons equally credible, is more fa-
tisfactory than the Evidence of one only. (2.)
Since Jefus wrought many and various Mira-
cles -, and that a few of them were a fufficient
Proof of his divine Authority, it cou'd not be
expected that each Evangelijl fhou'd relate
all the wonderful Actions of Jefus, but
onlyfome of the moft remarkable. If each had
recorded all his moft ftupendous Mira-

Our S A v I o u R V Miracles. 207

cles, Infidels wou*d have faid that the E- SECT.V.
vangelifts had concerted Meafures together ^-^V^
beforehand ; or copy'd one from the other :
and their Teftimony wou'd have appearM
fo intirely the fame, that you wou'd then
have told us their feveral Narratives were
but one Gofpel : and that the Teftimony of
the four Evangelifts cou'd amount to no
more than the Evidence of that one Per-
fon who wrote firft. The three other Gof-
pcls wou'd then have been only a tedious
Repetition of the fame Things, without that
variety of Facts, Narration, and Style,
which now diftinguifhes the one from the
other , and makes the perufal of them all
equally pleafant and inftructive. (3.) See-
ing the Evangelifts determin'd to confine
their Narratives within a very Ihort Com-
pafs ; and that it was necelfary the par-
ticular Accounts they refolved to give of
Cbrijt's Doctrine, Miracles, Sufferings, and
RefurrecTrion, fhou'd bear fome reafonable
Proportion one to the other, and to the
general Plan of their Work ; they were
obliged to chufe out only nfew (in Com-
parifon) of the numerous Miracles that Jefus
wrought, to be concifely recorded in their
Gofpels. And in their choice they might
be influenced by various Views -, as I had
occafion to obferve before. Perhaps Mat-
thew chofe fuch Miracles chiefly as he him-
felf faw Jefus do ; becaufe they muft have
made a deeper Impreffion on his mind ;
and be more circumftantially remember'd
than fuch as he had been infornVd of by
the other Apoftles. And if he happen'd not


A Conference ufon

SECT.V. to be prefent when Lazarus was raifed,
VXYS^ that might be one Reafon for his leaving
it to be recorded by fome other of the
Apoftles who did fee it. Mark and
Luke too might chufe to record thofe Mi-
racles only which they were affured of
See Luk. i. by fuch of the Apoftles as were EyewitneJJes.
And perhaps all the three Evangelifts fome-
times preferr'd fuch Miracles as they fe-
verally thought moft important, or afto-
nilhing ; about which they might differ
as much in their Opinions as others do
now. Hence muft neceffarily arife a plea-
fmg and ufeful variety in their Gofpels.
And from this variety joyn'd with a mani-
feft Unity and Agreement as to the Truth,
Defign, and the Teftimony of each Evan-
gelift, there refults fuch a beautiful Harmo-
ny, and fuch a convincing Evidence of
their Candour, and of the Credibility of
their feveral Gofpels as is almoft irrefifti-
ble. And feeing the different Circumftan-
ces with which they relate the fame Facts
are not contradictory, but truly confiflent
one with another ; that difference is fo
far from leffening the Credibility of their
Teftimony, that it ftrengthens it much :
becaufe it evidently mows, that they did
not confult together ; but, at different
times, recorded the fame Truths, and
Facts, with no greater variety of Circum-
ftances and Expreflion, than muft have been
expected in the concurring Teftimonys of
four different Perfons, whofe Talents, Ca-
pacitys, and Style, were various

M. Tho'

Our S A v I o u KS Miracle?. 209

M. Tho' it cou'd not be expected that each SFCT. V.
of the Evangelifts fhou'd relate all the moil
furprizing Miracles that Jefus wrought i
yet one wou'd think they ihou'd all have
taken Notice of fuch a itupendous one as
the Refurrection of Lazarus. They have all
mention'd Chrift's feeding five thoufand Peo-
ple with five Loaves, and two Fifties : and
there was at leail as much reafon for their
recording the other, which was certainly a.
more afloniming Miracle.

N. That may be queflion'd. But you
ftopt me when I was going to obferve, (4.)
That the railing of Lazarus and the Widow's
Son, are not the only fignal Miracles that
St. Matthew has omitted to relate. If they
were, there wou'd have been greater force in
the Objection. He does not mention the
miraculous Cures of the ten Lepers ; of the Luk.
Man that had a Dropfy ; the Woman that o. x
was bowed-together ; and of Malchus : all ch'.
which are recorded by St. Luke alone i and
are, in my Opinion, as ftupendous Wonders
as raifing the dead. Nay, which is more 1
ftrange itill, St. Matthew fays nothing of
Cbrift's Afcenfion into Heaven ; whicii is
certainly a more fignal Miracle, and what
tended more to the Honour of Jefus^ than his
raifing Lazarus from the dead. But can you
think it reafonable to queftion the Truth of
all thefe Facts merely becaufe St. Matthew
has not mentioned them ? Tho' the Afcenjion
of Jefus was a neceffary Confequence of his
Refurrection, and what he himfelfas plain-
ly foretold as his rifing again ; yet it is pro-
bable that St. Matthew wou'd have menti*
P oned

210 A Conference upon

SECT.V. oned it, if it had occurr'd to his Thoughts
at the time when he finijh't his Gofpel. His
omitting this, and the Refurreftion of Laza-
rus^ and foine other fignal Miracles, cou'd
neither proceed from Ignorance, nor a total
Forgetfulnefs of them. And it will be dif-
ficult to aflign any other Reafon of this o-
miflion, -than an accidental Inattention^ or

M. It is highly improbable that St. Mat-
thew Ihou'd forget tome of the moil aftonim-
ing Miracles of Jefus ; ..efpecially feeing "he
was fo exact and punctual in relating many
others that are confeffedly ef lefs impor-

N. There is a great difference betwixt
his quite forgetting fuch ftupendous Miracles
as the Afcenfion of Cbrift, and the raifing
of Lazarus, (which a proper hint wou'd at
any time have brought fully to his mind;)
and his not aftually calling them to remem-
brance, when he was thinking of Jefus's o-
ther Miracles. The very Number and Variety
of them might help to divert his Attention
from feveral of the moil diftinguifh't. If ei-
ther of Us were to write the chief Occurren-
ces of our-own Life for the laft ten Years
only, it is great odds but we fhou'd omit
feveral remarkable Particulars that we fuf-
ficiently know. For, tho' we may now have
a clear and habitual remembrance of them
(or a Power of calling them to mind) when
any accident, or train of Ideas, happens to
turn our Thoughts that way ; yet we might
not happen to recolleft them juft at the time
when we came to corjnpofe our Memoirs. We


Our S A v I o u R^ Miracles. z\\

daylyfind that we forget remarkable Things SECT. v.
that both our Inclination, and our Intereft,
fhou'd put us in mind of. This is true not
only of moral Truths, and religious Con-
federations, (which being of an abftracted
Nature, are not fo eafily recollected ;) but
of the common Incidents and Concerns of

T*J When St. Matthew related the Story
of raifing Jairus's Daughter, one wou'd
think that fuch refembling Miracles as
the Refurrection of Lazarus^ and of the
Widow's Son, wou'd, by a natural Connec-
tion of Ideas, arife to his view.

N. They probably did fo: but he might
eafily forget them afterwards, when the
proper order of time required them to be
mention'd. I myfelf have often forgot
things of a prefllng Nature, at the pro-
per time when I fhou'd-have remember'd
them : and they were things too that I
thought of earneftly, but a few Minutes
before ; and took all the care I poffibly
cou'd to keep them in my mind, till the
proper opportunity came to do, or
mention them. We are continually fur-
rounded with an infinite Variety of Objects
that affect us more or lefs, according to
the imprefllon they make on our Senfes or
Imagination , and the Attention with which
we view and confider them. We fometimes
fee many Millions of Objects, (or. read,
hear, and think of ten thoufahd different
things) in one Day: and many of them
we can remember for a long time, tho'
we forget fome of the Circumftances that
P 2 attended!

A Conference ufon

attended them. But ftill the later Accidents
of Life, when they are important, or in-
terefting, are apt to efface or weaken the
impreffion of former Occurrences : and thofe
very Objects, or Facts, that we now often
reflect on with Attention and Pleafure,
will in a very few Years (and perhaps a few
Months,) be either quite forgot ; or very
feldoni and coldly thought of. Now if
we apply thefe general Remarks to St.
Matthew's Cafe (who wrote his Gofpel feveral
Years after the lateft Fact he recorded ;) we
may reafonably conclude that he did not
happen to think of the Refurrection of
Lazarus, and feveral other remarkable
Miracles, at the exact and critical time
when it was proper to relate them.

7". If the Evangelifts wrote their Gofpels
under the Direction and Influence of the
Holy-Spirit, they cou'd never have been
fuffer'd to forget fuch Facts as were
the very befl Proofs .of Chrift's divine
Million. The loweft degree of Infpiration
that any-one can think of, is, that the
Memory of the Evangelifts was refrem't
whenever they happen'd to forget any thing
of importance. And fince this was not done,
we have Reafon to conclude that they were
not infpired at all : but that they were
as fubject to Inattention^ and Forgetfulnefs ;
and confequently to Error and Miftake,
as other Hiftorians.

N. I thought we had agreed before that
it was not necefTary, nor expedient, that each
Evangeliil Ihou'd relate all the Miracles
of Jefus ; nor all the mo ft flufendotts ones.


Our S A v I o u R'J Miracles. 2 1 3

It was fufficient that they were to be re- S*cr.V.
corded by one or other of Them. The
Holy-Spirit fo far over-ruled and influenced
their minds as to preferve them from Error ;
and from -omitting any necejjary Point of
Chriflian Doctrine : fo that in each Gofpel
we have all that is abfolutely neceflary to
be believed-, and as many of the Miracles
of Jefus, and other important Facts re-
corded, as are neceflary to confirm the
Truth of what we believe. According to
your Friend's way of Reafoning, no Mi-
racle can be credible that the firft Evangelift
did not record. For, this is the neceflary
Confequence of his Objection, if it proves
any thing at all. But this is in effect to
aflert that there ought not to have been more
than one Gofpel compofed : nay that js impof-
fible there Ihou'd be more than one credible
Gofpel. For, if all theDifcourfes and Miracles
of Jefus ought to have been related by the
firft Evangelift, there cou'd be no room
nor pretence for a fecond, or fubfequent
Evangelift to compofe any other Gofpels.
They cou'd only copy after the firft ; and
repeat the fame Things that he had wrir.-

M. The firft Evangelift needed not to
have recorded all the Miracles, or Dif-
courfes of Jefus: it wou'd have been fuf- Di
ficient to have related the moft remarkable 9 '
of each kind. For inftance, if Matthew
had recorded only the Story of Lazarus^
whofe Refurretfion was the greateft Mi-
racle: and Luke had added that of the
Widow of Nairn's Son: and John laftly
P 3 had

214 A Conference upon

SECT.V. had reminded us of Jairus's Daughter,
S-xYV which the other Evangelifts^ not thro' Ig-
norance or Forgetfulnefs, but ftudying
Brevity, had omitted , then all had been
well : and no Objection had hence lain a-
gainft the Credit of any of thefe Miracles j
or againft the Teftimony of the Evan-

N. If this had been the Cafe, you wou'd
have told us, that each Evangelift's being 'con-
pifc.j.p.8. tent with recording one inftance of railing
the dead, was not a Reafonfufficient for their
neglecting the other two: and that " If
*' each had made a report of all the three
*' Inftances, no Body wou'd have thought
* e their Hiftory of Chrift overcharged with
" impertinent, and tautological Repetiti-
" ons". Then the raifing of the Widow's
Son, or the Ruler's Daughter, wou'd have
been magnify'd as a more undoubted, and
unexceptionable Miracle, than the Refur-
rection of Lazarus : and you wou'd have
urged, that if St. Matthew had known any
thing of fuch aftonifhing unqueftionable Mi-
racles, he cou'd not have forgot them. In-
deed your Friend 's Objection (if it be
of any force) holds equally good againft
the Credibility of any Fact, Miracle, or
Point of Doctrine, that St. Matthew has not
mentioned. But you fhou'd confider that if
he had not been permitted to forget fome
important Facts, there cou'd have been no
occafion for St. Mark and St. Luke to
fupply his Omiflions. And if They too had
not been fuffer'd to omit fome fignal Mi-
racles, and Points of Inftruction, there


Our SAVIOUR'/ Miracles. 2 i 5

wou'd have been no room left for St. SKCT. V.
John to compofe his Gofpel, in order to re- ^"Vv
cord fome material Things tlie reft had for-
got ; and thereby to give a tacit Appro-
bation and Teftimony to all that they re-
lated. If it was expedient that there mou'd
be more Gofpels than one ; and that the
Doctrine and Miracles of Jefus mou'd be
recorded by four different Perfons, as I
proVed fufficiently before ; then it will fol-
low, that for thefe as well as other impor-
tant Reafons, the divine Spirit wifely per-
mitted not only St. Matthew, but St. Mark^
and St. Luke too, to forget the Refurrectii-
on of Lazarus^ and fome other fignal Mi-
racles ; that St. John might have occafion
to record them in his Gofpel ; and there-
by give his additional Evidence and Tef-
timony to all the Facts, and Truths re-
lated by the other Evangelifts.

M. I fee no Reafon why St. John's Story
mou'd not be fubjected to the fame Rules
of Criticifm that other Hiflorys are. The Dire. f . P .
firft Writer of a Hero's Life is fuppofed 7 *
to mention all the grand Occurrences of
it. And if a third or fourth Biographer
after him prefume to add a more illuftri-
ous Tranfaction of the Hero's Life ; it will
be rejected as Fable and Romance ; tho*
for no other Reafon than this, that the
firft Writer muft have been appriz'd of it,
and wou'd have inferted it in his Hif-
tory, had there been any Truth in it.

N. When feveral Hiftorians write the
Life of any diftinguifli't Perfon, at dif- .
fcrent Periods of time, they are fuppofed
P not

2 1 6 A Conference upon

SECT. V. not to be cotemporary , nor to have had
^ - v^' the fume exact Intelligence of the Facts they
relate : and therefore the Authority of the
firft Writer is generally reckon'd preferable
to the Teftimony of thofe who come after :
and his Silence as to any remarkable Acti-
on -or 'Event they relate afterwards, gives
fome Caufe to fufpect, or queftion, the
Truth of it. But this remark is no-way
applicable to the Cafe of the EvangMfts.
For, tho' St. John wrote his Gofpel fe-
veral Years after the reft , he was yet cotem-
porary with them. He was an Eye-witnefs
of the Things he relates : and in his Gof-
pel mentions fuch Things as the firft
Chriftians muft have often heard, both from
him, and the other Apoftles. He (hows the
fame marks of Candour and Veracity that
the other Evangelifts do : and therefore his
Teftimony is in all refpects equally cre-

M. Tho' we fhou'd fuppofe that St.
Matthew might happen to forget the Re-
furrection of Lazarus, when he compofed
his Gofpel ; it is flill more improbable
that both St. -Mark and St. Luke mou'd
omit it too ; if they had ever heard of

N. Since St. Mark and St. Luke were
not Eyewitneffes of the Things they relate ;
but had their Information from the Apoftles ;
it was much eafyer for them to forget
fome of the remarkable Miracles of Jefus*
than for St. Matthew ; who muft be fup-
pofed to have feen moft of them himfelf ;
lor, the .Things we fee done affect us more


Our S A v I o u R> Miracles. 2 1 7

ftrongly, than thofe we only bear of; SECT. V.
and are therefore better remember'd. Be- v ~'v->>
fides, St. Mark faw St. Peter's Miracles ;
and St. Luke thofe of St. Paul: and both
of them muft have heard of many other
Wonders wrought by the other Apoftles :
which muft have help't, by degrees, to
weaken the impreffion that the account
they had heard of Cbrift's Miracles might
at firft have made upon their Minds. J
do not reject' the plaufible Reafons that
Grotius, Dr. Wbtibfa and * others offer, to
account for the Silence of Matthew,
Mark), and Luke, concerning the railing
of Lazarus. But feeing Forgetfulnefs or
Inattention, even in Things of Importance,
is what the moil cool and confiderate Per-
fons are more or lefs fubject to ; and that
this is the only thing that can account
for all the different Omifllons of impor-
tant Miracles, and other Facts, that we ob-
ferve in the Gofpels of Matthew, Mark,
and Luke \ I think their Inadvertency alone
is a fatisfactory Anfwer to the Objection
or Argument you draw from their omit-
ting to record the Refurrection of Lazarus.
All you can pretend is, that it is not likely
that thefe three Evangelifts fhou'd all for-
get this lignal Miracle. But fuppofmg it
were not likely, (or what one wou'd have
expected-,) you cannot thence conclude that
they cou'd not, (or did not affually) for-

* See Mr. Lardner's Vindication of our Saviour's
Miracles in raifing of fairus's Daughter, the Wi-
dow of Nairn's Son, and Lazarus, p. 4- 31.

S A Conference ufw

SJECT. V. get it : bccaufe, far more unlikely Things
happen dayly. Nay, our-own Experience,
in forgetting Things of Moment that we
have but lately feen, or heard, or defign'd
to do, muft convince us that it is pro-
bable enough the Evangelifts might forget
fome few (of a great many) remarkable
Things, that were done feveral Years be-
fore they compofed their Gofpels ; I mean,
fo far forget them, as not to think of them
juft at the proper time when the order of
the Evangelical Hiftory required they fhou'd
be related. But I need not infift upon the
Probability of this: every part of St. John's
Gofpel is an evident Proof of it. For,
there he has recorded many Things that
the other Evangelifts omitted ; not only
feveral Difcourfes of Jefus, but fome Mi-
racles and other Facts, that they had for-
got. So that we have pofitive, unqueftion-
able Evidence for the Truth of what you
reckon improbable.

M. How little regard is to be had to
the Teftimony of St. John, (or rather to
the Gofpel that paffes under his Name,)
will afterwards appear when we come to
confider the Abfurditys in the account it
gives us of Lazarus's Refurreclion. At
prefent I have fome other Difficultys to
propofe concerning the feveral Story s of
the Perfons that Jefus is faid to have raifed
y. p. from the Dead. It is natural to inquire
what became of them j how long they lived ;
and of what Ufe and Advantage their re-
ftored Lives were to the Church, or to
Mankind. The Evangelical and Ecclefia-


Our S A v I o u R 's Miracle f. 2 1 9

ftical Hiftory is quite filent as to thefe SECT.V,
Points : which is enough to make us fu- V
fpeft thefe Storys to be intirely roman-

JV. Some Objections are fo frivolous
that one fcarce knows how to anfwer them.
No-body but your Friend cou'd imagin
that the Evangelifts, or other antient Wri-
ters, fhou'd have left us an Account of
the After-life or Actions of the three Per-
fons whom Jefus raifed ; fuppofmg they
cou'd have done it. You might with as much
Reafon ask what became of Nathanael,
NicodemuSiJairuSi and Jofeph of Arimatbea - 9
who all feem to have become Difciples
of Jefus. Seeing the Evangelifts have left
us but very fhort Narratives of only fome
of Chrift's own Actions, Difcourfes, and
Miracles ; and have faid almoft nothing
of his Life and Conduct (however ufeful
and edifying it was) before he enter'd up-
on his Miniftry ; it cou'd not be thought
that they wou ? d take any Notice of Things
fo foreign to the defign of their Gof-
pels, as the Lives of thofe Perfons
whom Jefus miraculoufly cured, or rai-
fed from the Dead. The Ecclefiaftical
Hiftory gives us but a very imper-
fect Account of the Lives and Labours
of the Apoftles themfelves. Their Difciples,
and other primitive Paflors, who might
be qualifyed for fuch an undertaking, had
fomething elfe to imploy them, than the
Writing of Lives or Hiflorys, during the
terrible Perfecutions that the Chriftian
Church then endured. The Memoirs of


220 ^ Conference upon

SECT.V. the Ecclefiaflical Writers in thofe times

S -'V^ had the fame fate with the Works of o-

ther Authors, and perim't in the common

Online LibraryWilliam StevensonA conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... → online text (page 16 of 31)