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

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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 18 of 31)
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^^V^- 7 was lying. Thofe, therefore, who were

Eut out of the Chamber where the Corpfe
.y, wou'd no doubt (lay in the outer-room ,
Luk.viii.j4. and might hear Jefus bid the Maid arife.
And if they cou'd all have flayed in the
Room, only a very few of them cou'd
have feen Jefus take her by the Hand.
Without feeing this, they were ftill Witnefles
to the Miracle. They faw her dead be-
fore they left the Room : and they faw
her alive and well, when they came in a-
gain. Now this was fufficient to convince
them of her . being raifed from the dead ;
whether they heard Jefus bid 'her arife,
or not. The Circumftance of his taking
her by the Hand, and bidding her arife,
was of no importance. Her being brought
from Death, to Life, was the miraculous
Event ; which they were as fure of as their
Senfes cou'd make them.

Af. They were no more Eye-witnefTes
to the Miracle, than if they had not been
in the Houfe. It wou'd certainly have
been a greater Satisfaction to them to have
feen Jefus take her by the Hand -, and pro-
nounce thofe 'wonderful Words, 'Talitha cu^
mi ! The Miracle wou'd have been the more
publick and unexceptionable : and it is im-
poflible to give any good Realbn for put-
ting them out.

N. Since they faw her both dead, and after
Jefus* 's being with her, alive again, they were
truly Witnefles to the Miracle ; tho' not to
every little Circumftance that attended it;
nor in fuch a ftricl: Senfe as the Father
nnd Mother were, and the three Difciples


Our SAVIOUR'/ Miracles. 237

who were with Jefiis. As for the putting SECT. v.
the Croud out of the Room, it is eafy
to account for it. Common decency
feem'd to require it ; and the Refpect that
was due to Jefits. However that might
not be all. He wou'd probably have dif-
penfed with Ceremony, if it cou'd have
been done. But the Chamber might be fo
crouded, that there was no Room for Jefets
and thofe who were with him. Therefore
when he came in, and faw the Croud and
Tumult of People, he faid, give Place ; and
order'd them all to be put out. The
Room probably was but fmall ; or at leaft
fo crouded, that till the People came out,
Jefus, and the other five that were with
him cou'd not eafily go in. And if only
fome of the People had been defired to
remove ; they wou'd never have agreed
which of them Ihou'd flay. Befides, as I
obferved before, the Room might be fo
clofe, that the very breath of a Croud, who
had been there fome time, might help to
make the Air in the Chamber too grofs
to breathe freely in i as I myfelf have fome-
times experienced in vifiting the Sick: fo
that for his own eafe, as well as the fafety
of the Girl whom he was going to bring
to Life (and who muft at firft need the
pureft and fremeft Air -,; he chofe to
clear the Room of the noify Croud that
filPd it. And if he open'd the Window to
let in frelh Air, when he order'd her Pa-
rents to give her Food ; he only fhow'd
a prudent concern for her fafety: and
let them know that the Life he had
miraculoufly reftored, was now to be


238 A Conference upon

SECT. V. preferred by the proper ufe of natural

^OTv-' means.

M. Jefus feems to. have been afraid left
this Miracle fhou'd be known : for he
charged the Parents not to fpeak of it.

r>ifc. f. p. if h e meant it as a Teftimony of his di-
vine Power, he fhou'd rather have exhorted
them in Juftice to himfelf to publiih it,
and make it well known.

7V. A thing may be faid, or done,
with feveral views : (as it feems to have
happen'd in the prefent Cafe:) but the
various motives of acting depend fo much
upon the variety of concurring Circum-
ftances the Agent may be placed in j
that without an exact Knowledge of all
thofe different Circumftances ; it is im-
poflible to determin what was the chief
Motive, or principal View of any fingular
Action, or Expremon. ' However, feveral
Reafons may be afiign'd for Jefufs char-
ging Jairus and his Wife not to publifh the
Miracle. He might do it to fet his Difciples
an Example of Humility ; and to caution
them againft Vain-glory, and making an
oftentatious mow of their Power, or good

joh. viii. Works. He fought not bis-own Glory ,

S. vii. i8< but the Glory of the Almighty who Cent
him into the World. And feeing this Mi-
racle happen'd to be private, he was defi-
rous it might not be publim't too foon,
nor too eagerly. He cou'd not poifibly
expect nor defire that this Miracle (nor
others, in which he enjoy n'd Silence to the
Partys, or the Witnefifes concern'd) fhou'd
be kept intirely fccret, and never be fpoken


Our SAVIOUR'/ Miracles. 239

of: (for this wou'd have defeated the chief SECT.V.
Defign of his Miracles : and in moft Cafes V^W>
fuch Secrecy was impracticable :) he only
defired that the report of them mould not
be indujlrioufly fpread abroad for a while :
he wou'd not have had People fo eager,
zealous, and active as he often found them
in publifhing his good and wonderful Works.
Many Inconveniencys had happen'd to attend
this officious Zeal. When the Leper ^ con- Mark i. v .
trary to Cbrift's order, publifh't his Cure,
and blazed it abroad every-where, Jefus
cou'd no longer openly enter into any
Town ; but lived retired for a while in de-
fert Places. For he was fo continually
harafs't and befet by the Multitudes who
followed him, that He and his Difciples
had not leifure fometimes to eat. But this ch. iii.a*
was not all. His Life was likewife en- cht vi> 3'-
danger'd, by having his Miracles too much
talk't of; and by his doing them too publick-
ly. Thus when in the Synagogue, on a Sab-
bath-Day he cured a Man that had a wither J d
Hand, the enraged Pharifees went out and
confulted how they might deftroy him. Upon this Luk. yj. n,
he withdrew from that place : and when he "' 1 1 ' *'
heal' d many fick Perfons, he ftraitly chargd ver. 10,
them not to make him known. By thus or-
dering fome of his Miracles to be conceal'd
for a while, he avoided exafperating his
implacable Enemys till the proper time for
his Death drew near. His Miracles gene-
rally were fo publick, that he was fure
they cou'd not poffibly be long kept fe-
cret. No ill Confequences cou'd attend
the concealing fome of them for a while :


240 A Conference upon

SECT. V, and it was likely to produce feveral good
Effects. This was a fufficient Reafon for his
ordering fome of the Miracles he wrought
in the beginning of his Mimftry to be con-
ceal'd as much as they cou'd be. In the
laft Year of his Life he ufed none of this
Caution. He preach't his Doctrine, and
wrought his Miracles, in the moft publick
manner ; in Jemfalem itfelf, and other noted
Citys ; before great Multitudes ; and fome-'
times in the Prefence of the Pharifees and
Rulers, his watchful inveterate Enemys:
which fhow'd that it was not the fear of
Death, but neceflary Prudence, that made
him fo cautious before.

M. His raifmg the Widow's Son was
a greater Miracle, than this, more publick,
and more likely to, exafperate the Pharifees:
fo that the Apprehenfion of that, cou'd
not be the Reafon why Jefus defired to
have the raifmg of Jairus's Daughter con-
ceal'd. .

N. When Jefus rais'd her to Life, no
doubt he took that favourable Opportuni-
ty to make his Character and Office known
to Jairus ; who muft already have enter-
tain'd a good Opinion of him. He muft
have let the Ruler know that- He was the
MeJJiah foretold by the Prophets ; and
that, thro' Faith in him, fmcere Perfons
of all Nations were now admitted to the
Benefit of Repentance, and the Forgivenefs
of Sins. Whether Jairus became a Dif*
ciple of Jejus, does not certainly appear:
but it is moft probable that he did. Now
fmce he was Ruler of a Synagogue ; and


Our S A v I o u R'-T Miracles. 241

might have a Correfpondence with the Chief- SECT. V.
Priefts and Rulers in Jerufalem ; Jefus per- ^OfN4
haps caution'd him againft publifhing the
Miracle of his Daughter's being rais'd, to
prevent his fending any account of it to
Jerufalem ; left that Ihou'd have enraged
the chief Rulers and Pharifees there ;
and raifed a Storm of Perfecution, not
againft Jefus only, but againft Jairus him-
felf ; who, becaufe of his applying himfelf
to Jefus in the very humble, earneft, and
publick manner he did, to have his Daughter
cured, wou'd have been fufpecled of be-
ing a Difciple of Jefus j and perhaps have
fallen a Sacrifice to the Malice of the
Pbarifees. If Jairus was really convert-
ed (as feems moft likely) Jefus might
eafily forefee that his Faith and Courage
cou'd not have been ftrong enough to
(land out againft fuch a fevere Tryal :
and therefore to prevent it, he charged
Jairus to conceal the Miracle as much as
might be. In few Words, this Caution
was an example of great Humility : and
it might be not only an Act of Prudence
with regard to his-own Prefervation , but
an Inftance of Friendfhip and Kindnefs to
Jairus, and his Family.

M. It is plain that neither Jairus's Daugh- J>ifc. y. p.
ter, nor the Widow's Son had been long *
enough dead, to give People a Sufficient
Aflfurance that there was no miftake in the
Cafe. Hiftory, and common Fame, afford
Inftances of Perfons who fometimes have
been unfortunately bury'd alive ; and at
other times happily by one means or other
. reftored

242 A Conference upon

SECT. V. reftored to Life : and who knows but
v *^\ r> -^ Jtfus upon fome Information or other
might fufpeft the Widow's Son to be in
a lethargick State, and had a mind to
try if by chafing, &c,^ he cou'd not bring
him to his Senfes again.

N. Tho* once in an Age or two, a Per-
fon may happen to be bury'd too foon, by
fome unaccountable Miftake, or the inde-
cent hafte of interefted Relations -, yet the
certain Tokens of Death are as plain and
evident as any thing elfe. And we may be
fure that a fond Mother wou'd delay the Fu-
neral of her only Son as long as ihe cou'd ;
fo as to prevent all Pofllbility of his being
bury'd alive. But fuppofing that, notwith-
ftanding all her Fondnefs and Caution, there
was ftill a Pqffibility of a Miftake as to his
Death; this cannot be a fufficient Reafon
for queftioning the Truth of the Miracle
that Jefus wrought in bringing him to Life.
He was certainly believed to be Dead, both
by his Mother, and all her Friends : and
all the fure and common Tokens of Death
muft have been perceived, before they car-
ry'd him forth to be bury'd. Jefus, coming
from a neighbouring City, happen'd to
meet the Corpfe near the Gate of the Town.
He cou'd have no manner of Reafon to fuf-
pe<5b there was any Miftake as to the Lad's
Death : but muft have fuppofed it to be as
certain, as others did. And yet he ventured
to flop the Funeral ; and pretended to raife
the dead Body to Life, by only bidding him
rife. Can you think now that one who had
obtain'd the Reputation of being a great


Our S A v I o u fCs Miracles. 2 4 > '

Prophet, by working Miracles, wou'd rim SECT. V-

the hazard of lofmg it at once by attempt- V -'"VN-*

ing to raife a dead Perfon to Life, if he

had not been able to do it ; but muft

have depended upon a mere Conjecture,

or Sufpickm, that the Perfon was only in

a lethargick State, out of which he might

foffibly be roufed ? A deceiver cou'd not

but know that the odds againft fuch an

Accident was at leafl ten Millions to one.

Nothing therefore but the utmoft certainty,

(I mean, the Confcioufnefs) of his being

endued with a divine Power, cou'd have

made Jefus attempt to raife the dead Lad.

And he did it in fuch a manner as Ihowed

that he was Lord of Life and Death. He

only touch't the Bier, (as he ufed to touch

any fick or diftrefs't Perfon he miracu-

loufly heal'd,) and faid, Toting Man, I fay

unto thee, arife : and immediately he that was

dead fat up and began to fpeak.

M. Since fome who were actually bury'd,
have yet afterwards come to Life without
any Miracle ; how do we know but that this
might have been the Cafe of the Widow's
Son. Tho' Jefus was fo lucky as to meet
the Funeral juft at the critical Time when
the Lad was coming to the ufe of his Senfes ;
this does not prove that Jefus brought him
to Life. When he touch't the Bier he might
at the fame time take the Boy by the Hand,
and feel his Pulfe : and perceiving him to be
alive, he might without any fear of a Dif-
appointment bid the young Man arife ;
and fo pretend to raife him to Life miracu-

R 2 N. While

244 d. Conference upon

SECT.V. A T . While we are inquiring whether ths
Action was miraculous ; the Fact it felf, and
the Circumftances with which it is related,
muft, at prefent, be fuppofed to be true.
The Credibility of the Evangelift's Teftimo-
ny mall afterwards be proved. And if the
Truth of the Fact be admitted ; I think
there can be no doubt of its bemg an imme-
diate Effect of the divine Power. For,
Jefus ufed no fort of Means whatever. He
was fo far from chafing the Corpfe, that he
did not fo much as touch it. He only
touch't the Bier ; and bade the dead Youth
arife : upon which he immediately fat up,
and began to fpeak. This ftruck all the
Spectators with Fear and Aftonifhment : fo
that they glorify* d God ; and faid, a great Pro-
phet is rifen up among us. The Influence that
this Action had upon the numerous Wit-
nefles of it, fhows that it was undoubtedly
miraculous : and that Jefus ufed no kind of
Means in reviving the Boy , but did juft
what the Evangelift has related, and no
more. Before he touch' t the Bier, he firft
comforted the forrowful Mother, forbidding
her to weep : which plainly intimated that
he was already determin'd to remove the
Caufe of her Grief, by reviving her dead
Son. Then, in a moment, he called him
into Life. There is no way of accounting
for the Truth of this Fact, without allow-
ing it to be effected by a fupernatural Pow-
er. To fuppofe that it was attended with
Circumftances different from thofe St. Luke
has mention'd, is not accounting for the
Fact, but denying the Truth of it. The


Our SAVIOUR'/ Miracles.

Addition or Alteration of one important SKCT.V.
Circumftance quite change's the Nature,
and Appearance of an Action. You cannot
therefore think it a fair way of Reafoning
againft the Credibility of the Facts recorded
in the'Gofpels, to argue, not from the Na-
ture and Circumftances of fuch Facts, as
they are there reprefented, but from other
fojfible Circumftances, and arbitrary Suppofi-
fions, that have no Shadow of Reafon or
Evidence to fupport them. However let us
view the Cafe before us according to your
way of folving it ; and fee whether it has
the leaft fhew of Probability. Suppofmg
then the Lad had been only in a Swoon, or
Lethargy , is it credible that he fliou'd not
be roufed out of it by all the Noife of the
Minftrels, and Mourning that the Jews ufed
over their dead ; and the loud Lamentations
of his Mother, and other Friends : nor by
the various Motions of his whole Body,
while it was wafh't, fwath'd, and wrapt up
in burying Cloaths, and put into the Coffin ?
Cou'd he be in fo deep a Lethargy as not to
be roufed into Senfe and Motion by all thefe
Things ; and yet be inftantly revived, in a
natural Way, only by Jefus's bidding him
arije ? If he was alive before Jefus met him,
why did he not fit-up too and fpeak ; or at
leaft ftruggle, and give fome plain Signs of
Life, before the Moment that Jefus fpake
to him. If he had moved before ; fome or
other of the Bearers, or of the numerous At-
tendants, muft have perceived, or heard
it : and then they wou'd have carry 'd him
home again. Befides ; what cou'd poffibly

24<5 A Conference upon

SKCT.'V. lead Jefus to fufpect that the Lad was only
in a lethargick State ? Or to imagin that
fuch an obftinate Lethargy as intirely re-
fembled Death, in all its Appearances,
jfhou'd happen to be juft over, at that criti-
cal Moment when he met the Corpfe ?
Cou'd he have any manner of Reafon to
think that the Lad was not only beginning
to revive ; but, at that very inftant, had
the free ufe of his Senfes , and was able not
only tofpeaky but to rife up, as foon as he
was called on ? Such ilrange incredible Sup-
pofitions as thefe cou'd never enter into the
Mind of a cautious and confiderate Perfon ,
who muft be fuppofed to have a due regard
to his Credit ; and not to hazard it unne-
cefTarily, by a voluntary Experiment, in
which a Deceiver cou'd not have the leaft
hope of Succefs. Without doubt, raifing the
Dead is one of the laft things he wou'd at-
tempt. I need not argue this Point any farther.
In whatever Light we view this wonderful
Fact, it muft at laft be refolved into the Di-
vine Power. For, if we fhou'd fuppofe that
this Boy, and the Ruler's Daughter had been
only in a lethargick State (which there is not
the leaft Reafon to imagin,) there wou'd ftill
have been an unqueftionable Miracle in their
Cure ; tho* it won'd not have been quite fo a-
ftonilhing as raifing them from the dead. For
fuch a lethargick State as had all the ap-
pearances of Death attending it, muft have
been the effect of fome dangerous Diftemper.
And fince Jefus muft not only have rais'd
them out of that State, but in a mo-
ment have intirely freed them from the


Our SAVIOUR'.*" Miracles. 247

Difeafe that occafion'd it, without the ufeSKcr.v.
of any means ; this I fay muft have been ^y^
a Miracle as real, though not fo afton-
iming, as his raifmg them from the dead ;
and equally a proof of his acting by a di-
vine Power and Commiflion.

M. If there was no miltake in the Cafe, Dire. ;. P .
might not a piece of Fraud be here con- at '
certed between Je/us, a fubtle Youth and
his Mother, and others -, and all the Formali-
tys of a Death and Burial be contrived ;
that Jefus whofe fame for a worker of
Miracles was to be fpread, might here have
an opportunity of working a grand one.
The mourning of the Widow who had
her Tears at command, and Jefus's cafual
meeting of the Corpfe upon the Road,
looks like a contrivance to put the bet-
ter face upon the Matter.

N. There does not feem to have been
fo much as the poffibility of any Fraud in this
Cafe. Jefus was coming from Capernaum^
which was feveral Miles diftant from Nain.
We find he was at Capernaum the Day be-
fore ; where he heaPd the Centurion's Ser-
vant at the Point of Death, without fo vcr. *.
much as feeing him. It does not appear
that Jefus was ever at Nain before. As
he drew near to the Gate of the City, he
accidentally met a Corpfe that was carryed
out to be bury'd ; and was mov*d with
Companion towards a forrowful Widow
bewailing the Death of her only Son.
What cou'd poflibly be more natural than
this? Or what opportunity more proper
for Jefus to mow his Goodnefs, Companion,
R 4 and

248 A Conference upon

SECT. V. and divine Power, than before fuch Mul-
^W^ titudes of People ? With a word he ac-
tually raifed the dead Boy to Life ; and
Luk.vii.if. delivered him to his Mother : by which
perhaps her Life too was preferved. But
rather than believe fuch an unqueftionable
Miracle, you will believe the moft incre-
dible Things that can be devyfed. If you
fuppofe any Fraud in the Miracles of Jefas,
you meet with raz/Abfurditys, Incredibilitys
and Inconfiftencys in every light you can
view your Scheme of Impofture. For, you
muft not only fuppofe that an illiterate
Carpenter devyfed a rational, confiftent,
perfect Scheme of Religion and Morality,
far preferable to any that the wifeft hea-
then Philofophers ever taught : but likewife
that without being endued with a divine
Power, he yet made his Followers believe
that he really wrought the moft aftonifh-
ing Miracles , and perfwaded the Sick, the
Lame, the Dropfical, and Paralytick, that
he made them in a moment healthy, found,
and ftrong : that tho' he cou'd not work
one real Miracle, or give any convincing
proof of his acting by divine Authority ;
he yet prevailed with fuperftitious Bi-
gots (who were inveterately prejudiced
againft him and his Doctrine, and tena-
cioufly fond of the Notions and Practi-
ces in which they were educated,) to
embrace a Syftem of very fublime Truths,
and moral Precepts ; which, in feveral In-
ftances, were as contrary to their for-
mer Notions and Ufages, as Light is to
Parknefs, You muft fuppofe, that while


Our S A v I o u R 9 s Miracles. 242

he was fpreading his Fame and his Docl:rine, SECT. V.
by endeavouring to pafs for a divine Pro-
phet, and a true worker of Miracles j he
freely difcover'd his fecret Frauds and
wicked Contrivances, not only to his chofen
Difciples, but to many others too, who
mufl have had the ftrongeft Prejudices a-
gainft him and his Doctrine ; and cou'd
not regard or value him on any account,
but as a true Prophet, and a real worker
of Miracles. You muft fuppofe that a fub-
tle deceiver who had watchful Enemys
in every place, communicated his wicked
defigns to grangers-, and cou'd perfwade
them to joyn with him in notorious Frauds
to impofe upon the World; tho* he and
his Confederates were fure they muft, ac-
cording to the Jewijh Law, have been
put to Death, or feverely punifh't, if any of
their Plots were detected: and that many
fuch Confederates were fo foolifhly wicked
as to hazard their Life and Reputation, a-
gainft their Intereft, and their Inclinations ;
without any profpect of Advantage, Safety
or Pleafure ; merely to favour an infamous
contemptible Cheat ; and to promote the
belief of what they knew to be falfe. Nay,
in the prefent Cafe you muft fuppofe that
he who was fo fubtle and artful as to de-
ceive and infatuate all he converfed with ;
was at the fame time fo very weak and
foolifh as to truft fome of his chief Secrets
with Women and Children : that he found
means to prevail with the Widow of Nain's
Son, (who feems to have been but an art-
Jefs, fimple, unexperienced Boy, ) to coun-

250 A Conference upon

SECT. V. terfeit Sicknefs and Death, (tho> it was
impoffible to be done without a difcovcry ;)
and to hazard his Life by the moft dif-
ficult and dangerous Experiment in the
World : and all this for nothing : merely
to promote fuch Falfhood and Wickednefs
as all Men naturally abhor. If fuch a mock-
ing Propofal had actually been made to the
Woman and her poor Boy ; with what di-
ftruft and dread mufl it have been offer'd !
with what Amazement and Horror wou'd it
have been received ! You cannot ferioufly be-
lieve that any Project fo thorowly foolim,
wicked, and impracticable ever enter'd in-
to the mind of any Mortal. The whole
Scheme appears monflroufly abfurd at firft
view : and no Man in his Senfes cou'd
either contrive if, or think it poflible to
be effected. And yet fagacious penetrating
Infidels can think fuch an abfurd Scheme
as this more credible than any Miracle
recorded in the Gofpels. What I have
faid on this head is equally applicable to
your Suppofition of Fraud in the Refur-
rection of Lazarus.

M. His cafe feems to be the leaft ex-
ceptionable of the three. He had been
bury'd four Days, and was fuppofed by
his Sifter to be putrify'd : and if fo ; the
railing him to Life was an indifputable
Miracle. But whether he who was Je-
fus's Friend, and beloved Difciple, wou'd
not come into Meafures with his Lord,
for the defence of his Honour, and pro-
pagating his Fame, Infidels, who take
Cbrijlianity for an Impofture, will not que-

N. This

Our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 251

N. This is your Tr^wrov YeucFo? ; which SECT.V.
your Friend fhou'd not have blab'd out
fo rafhly. Infidels fake Cbriftianity to be
an Impofture : fo that it is impoflible they
fhou'd inquire impartially into the Truth
and Merits of the Caufe. Without a candid
and previous Examination, they rafhly con-
clude that all Cbrift's Miracles were jug-
gling Tricks and Frauds : and that his
Difciples were Cheats. Thefe are fome, of
the firft Principles, or Poftulata, of Unbe-
lievers. And upon this Foundation they
form their Plan of Infidelity. You cavil
at the Circumftances of Fafts : You raife
Difftcultys and Objections : and inftead of
Unking out any new Light; or yielding
to the force of the utmoft Evidence ;
you ftudy only how to perplex, and darken
the plaineft Truths. But if you really had
that regard to Truth and juft reafoning
which you pretend to, you fhou'd firft
prove that Jefus and his Apoftles were
guilty of fome plain Fraud, in one Inftance
at leaft : and thence infer that they might
poflibly deceive the World in other Cafes.
But inftead of this fair procedure, you
think (or take it for granted,) that an Im-
pofture was foffible in fome Cafes: and
theuce you gravely conclude that there

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 18 of 31)