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 21 of 31)
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but a fhort time, they rebell'd again, and fell
into Idolatry ; and forced Aaron to make Gods
for them, who Jhou'd go (or be carry'd) before
them ; as the neighbouring nations had. And
when Aaron made them a molten Calf of their Ex.xu t
Ear-rings ; they faid, tbefe bs thy Gods^ O Ifrael,
which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt !
When Korab, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled a-
gainft Mofes and Aaron , the earth open'd and
fwallowed them up ; as Mofes foretold itwou'd rNum.xvi,
the people were aitonifh't, and fled at that dread- * 8 sv
ful Sight i being afraid left the Earth fhou'd
fwallow them up too. Yet the very next day,
all the people mutiny 'd againft Mofes and Aaron
again and charg'd them with murdering the
people of the Lord. Upon this a Plague came
$nd deflroy^d 14000 of them, gut foon after

280 A Conference upon

SECT. V. they fpake again/I God, and againft Mofes ; and
^VT^ complain'd that they were brought out of Egypt
to die in the wildernefs. In fhort, the Qld-Te-
fiament every-where reprefents to us the many
fur-prizing Miracles and wonderful Works that
the Almighty impower'd Mofes, and other Pro-
phets, to do for the deliverance,the protection,
or the punimment of the Ifraelites: and on the
pther hand it gives us one continued Hiftory of.
the difobedrence, ingratitude, murmurings, I-
clolatry and Wickednefs of that ftubborn and
rebellious people , and of the repeated Punim-
ments they fuffer'd for their heinous Sins. I
wou'd not have you conclude however, that I
think the Jews of old were capable of more un-
juft, barbarous, and wicked actions than other
people. There is no inftance of malice, un-
fighteoufnefs, and inhumanity, in which fome
pretended Chriftians have not only equall'd, but
far exceeded them. The Inquifition among the
Papifc, their perfections, their maffacring ma-
ny thousands of men, women and children $
their barbarous way of torturing good and up-
right people for their opinions -, and for being fo
fincere and honeft as not to fpeak or act againft
their Confcience , I fay thefe unrighteous, un-
chriftian,~ inhuman practices, fhew fufficiently
that there is no kind of wickednefs or Mifchief ;
ho inftance of cruelty and barbarity to which
t>lind zeal and bigotry will not carry men.

M. I readily grant that fome of the princi-
ples and practices of the Papifts are more wick-
ed than thofe of the Jews: but the Parallel be-
tween them fails in this, that the Papifts never
refifted the evidence of fuch an unqueftionable
iniracle as railing the dead : which muft have
pifc.j-.p. Juch a convincing force, that I don't think it
4 6 poffible for any people to be fo bigotted, bi-


our S AV i o u R'J Miracles. 1 8 1

afs't, and prejudiced, as not to be wrought on SECT. V.
by it. ^^T

N. How little do you feem to know of hu-
man-nature ! There is no thing fo abfurd and
contradictory that Bigotry and Prejudice will
not lead men to believe it: no thing can be more
wicked and barbarous than what cruel Zealots
have practifed : And there is no degree of Evi-
dence fo great that Bigots and Scepticks cannot
reject it. The Papifts have not refilled the -
vidence of Miracles indeed ; becaufe it is im-
pofiible they mou'd ever be put to that tryal.
Divine Wifdom will not permit that a miracu-
lous Power fhou'd be imployed to convince men
that a bit of bread cannot be truly and fabftan-
tially the body of Chnft : that divine adoration
cannot be due to a crucifix, nor to a confecrated
wafer : that worshipping and bowing down to the
Image or likenefs of any thing in Heaven, is a di-
rect breach of the fecond Commandment : that
a voluntary humility in worjhipping of dngels orcoi.u.if,
the Virgin Mary, with prayer, praifes, and in- '*
cenfe, &c. is a forfaking, (or not holding to)
Chrift the head of the Church, and the only Me-
diator betwixt God and man: that praying in
unknown Tongue is condemn' d by St. Paul:
and that People cannot joyn in publickworihip
when they don't underftand what they hear :
and to add no more, that the burning honeft
people alive for not believing nonfence, or pro-
fefiing felf-evident Errors, is not the way tq
do God fervice. Miracles cannot be wrought tq
prove fuch evident truths. Reafon, Scripture^
and Common-fenfe, plainly demonftrate them.
Nor is it likely, that thofe who maintain the
oppofite Errors wou'd be convinc'd of their
abfurdity, tho one that had been buryed four
flays among them, ihpu ? d be raifed from the


i8z A Conference upon

SECT.V. dead for their conviction. We have our Savi-
our's Authority for this conclufion : and all the
forceof Reafonto fupport it. For feeing all Papifts
refift the plaineft Evidence of their Senfes, and
all the Power of demonftration : feeing their
perfecuting Priefts oppofc and counter-ad the
ftrongeft Inftincts and Inclinations of Nature
(which powerfully lead men to Companion, Hu-
mility, benevolence, and every focial affection ;)
afid wilfully difregard and tranfgrefs the plaineft
precepts of that Gofpel which was eftablifh'd
by Miracles : feeing they refift and oppofe all
the evidence and light of Reafon, and Senfe,
Nature, and Revelation ; and will not hearken
to Cbrift arid his Apoftles : we cannot but con-
clude that they wou'd not be perfuaded of the
Truth, tho they mou*d ice one rife from the
dead to convince them.

. M. Such a man ifeft Miracle, whatever were
the defign of it, muft ftrike Men with awe and
reverence. And none cou'd hate or perfecute
the Author of it ; left he who cou'd raife the
dead, mou'd exert his Power againft them-
felres : and either wound or fmite them dead
with it. There muft therefore have been fome
Fraud in the refurrection of Lazarus :. elfe the
Jews wou*d have reverenced and adored the
Power of him that did it.

N. Moft of thofe who faw this Miracle, and
fuch others as candidly inquired into the truth
of it, did juftly reverence and adore the Power
of Jefos. The common people generally judg-
ed right. They were not fo ftrongly influenced
by prejudice as their fpiritual pride : nor cou } d
they refift the evidence of Senfe and Reafon ;
but readily acknowledg'd and revered the divine
Power that Jefus difplayed in the aftonilhing
Miracles he wrought. Thofe who hated and


our SAV i o u R'J Miracles. 28$

perfecuted him to the laft, were chiefly the [SECT. V.
Priefts and Rulers, and their Dependents. And **^r**/
among them no doubt there were many SW^#-SeeAasv.
fees and Seep ticks: Men who doubted of whatch'. wiii.!.'
they did not fee, or feel: who believed that there
is no Spirit ; and that there can be no refurretti-
on from the dead. Such men may be as apt as
you to fufpeft fraud or miftake in Miracles:
and therefore wou'd not fcruple to hate and per-
fecute the author of them. I mewed you be-
fore that the dread of the moft miraculous and
terrible power did not hinder Pharaoh and Jeze-
bel from threatning and attempting to deftroy
Mofes and Elijah : nor reftrain the Israelites of
old from murmuring and rebelling againft Mo-
fes and Aaron ; tho the very day before they had
feen the Earth open and fwallow up Korah 9
Datban, and Abiram ; and fire from Heaven
confume their accomplices ; which were far
more dreadful and ftupendous Events, than if
one had rifen from the dead to pacify them.

M. If Jefus according to the Evangelifts was f
arraign'd for a Deceiver and Blafphemer in pre- ' c> r '*' 5 *'
fending to the Sonfhip and Power of God by
his Miracles ; in all probability this piece of
Fraud in raifing Lazarus was one article of the
Indictment againft him. And what makes it
the more probable is, that the Chief-priefts and
jPhariiees. from the date of his pretended Mi-
racle took Council together to put him to

JV. I grant that if there had been any fraud
difcover'd, or fo much as fufpected in the re-
fur rection of Lazarus, this wou'd undoubtedly
have been one article of the Indictment againfl
Jefus. But fince no fuch thing appears to have
been laid to his charge ; this is an evident proof
that nothing of that kind cou'd be pretended.


A Conference upon

SECT, V: Had there been the leaft colour of fufpicion
^W">againft him on this Score, the witnefles who
faw Lazarus rais'd, and every Perfon in his Fa-
mily, wou'd have been ftriclly examin'd: and
the truth have been brought to light. It was
certainly the Intereft of the Pharifees and Chief-
priefts to have fearch'd the matter to the bot-
tom. And if any Fraud, or juft fufpicion of
it cou'd have been proved , we may be fure
they wou'd have done it. There wou'd then
have been no need of feeking about for falfe
witnefles ; no occafion to charge him with of-
fences that were neither true, nor capital. They
needed not then to have charg'd him with ftir-
Luke xx'iii. ring up the People ; perverting the Nation ; and
forbidding to give tribute to Casfar: or with a De-
fign to deftroy the Temple and rebuild "it in three
da\s. If they cou'd have prov'd him guilty of
fuch an impofture as you fufpeft him of, doubt-
pb. xi, js Ids they wou'd have done it. St. John tells us,
that from. that day in which Caiaphas fhew'd
them the Expediency of one man's dying for
the People that the whole Nation might not
perifh -, they took Council together to put Je-
fus to death. But this was no new refolution.
All that St. John cou'd mean by their taking it,
from that day, is, that feeing their High-prieft
had convinc'd them that the death of Jefus
wou'd tend to the Safety of the Nation , they
were now more unanimous, foearty, and zealous
than they had been before; and were cfeter-
min'd to execute their former purpofe without
Mat.xii. 14. delay. Before this Refolution, the Pbarifees had
tukevliy', feveral times taken Counfelhow they might de T
t 1 - ftroy Jefus. With this view they often watch't

him : and propofed captious Queftions to him j
as about the lawfulness of paying tribute to
and of healing on the Sabbath-dayj


our SAV i o u R'J Miracles*

that they might enfnare him in his Difcourfe ; SECT. V:
and find fome handle for an accufation againft VXYN^
him. The refurrection of Lazarus having pro-
cured Jefus many Difciples, the Chief-priefts
and Pharifees were enrag'd to the higheft de-
gree. They cou'd neither deny that he did
many miracles ; nor bear to fee the world gone
after him. And therefore they now refolved to
put him to death as foon as they cou'd conveni-
ently do it. But here they met with great diffi-
culty. When he came to Bethany juft before
the Paflbver, they confulted how they might Mat. xxvi. $;
take him by fubtilty and kill him : and agreed 4* *
that it was not fare for them to do it on the
Feaft day^ left there jhould be an uproar among
the -people. This mews that the multitude was
on Jefus 3 Side , anctavere fully convinc'd of his
Integrity. Had there been the leaft reafon to
fufpect any Fraud in the railing of Lazarus ;
much more if there had been witnefTes to prove
it, the Chief-Priefts and Pharifees needed not to
have ufed fo much precaution in feizing of Je-
fus. The people were certainly prejudiced in
their favour ; and vvou'd never have fided with
Jefus againft their Rulers and fpiritual Guides,
if the irrefiftible evidence of his Miracles and the
integrity of his Conduct had not convinced them
of his acting by a divine Authority. The Priefts
were fo afraid of the multitude's taking pare
with Jejus 9 that they did not venture to feize him
in a publick manner -, nor in the open day, tho
be taught dayly in the ^Temple: but having bribed Lukxi.47
Judas to let them know when they might appre-
hend him in a private place ; they fent out a
great number of their officers and dependents,
whom Judas led to a retired Garden that Jefus
ufed to frequent ; and towards night they wenc
with torches^ and lanterns, and laid hold of him.


i85 A Conference upon

SECT. V. They led him away directly to the High-priefl^s
VxVN-' houfe where the Council was affembled. Thence
they carrie^i him to Pilate ; and by threatning,
tuk. xxiii. tumult, and mobbing, they at laft prevail'd with
war. xxvii. ^ m > againft his confcience, to condemn Jefus,
, 14. ' and to deliver him up to be crucifyM. So much
were they afraid of the people, and in hafte to
compafs their defign, that betwixt Thurfday
evening, and Friday noon (in the fpace of about
fixteen hours) they got him feized, examin'd a-
gain, and again ; hurry'd about from Annas, to'
Caiaphas the High-Prieft ; from him to Pilate ;
thence to Herod ; then back to Pilate again :
who gave him up to their rage and importunity:
and after his being fcourg'd, mock't, crown'd
with thorns, and infulted , they led him away
with a guard of Souldiers the very fame day be-
fore noon to be crucifyed.

M. Whatever was the reafon of all this hafte
and hurry, it cou'd not be any dread the Chief-
fcifc. j. p. p r i e fi- s h ac l of the -people ', for there was an uni-
verfal and vehement outcry, and demand at Je-
Mat. xxvii. fa* tryal, for his crucifixion. All the people
faid, His Blood be upon us and upon our children :
Lukexxii. they were inftant with loud voices: .and it was
Mwkxv.j.^ content the people ', that Pilate released Bar abb as
unto them, and deliver'd up JefuS to be cruci-
fy'd. Now if, as you pretend, the people were
fo much prepofles*t in favour of Jefus before,
that the Priefts were afraid to feize him pub-
lickly, or in the open day ; one wou'd think
that fome fecret Crime of Jefus was then detect-
ed ; perhaps his fraud in railing Lazarus ; which
made the multitude forfake his Intereft, and in-
fill with fo much violence to have him crucify'd*
N. When I faid that the multitude favour'd
Jefus, I cou'd not mean that all the people were
(Oprely on his fide: but that a eonfiderable


our SAV i o u R 9 5 Miracles. 287

Number, (probably the far greateft part) were SECT. V.
convinced of his Innocence. It is not to be won- v -~v^->
der'd that the Chief-Priefts and Rulers, with the
Scribes and Pharifees, fhou'd have a Party among
the multitude-, and upon fuch an urgent occa-
fion, be able to draw together a great number
of their dependents, whom they might perfuade
to do what they pleafed. Of * tbefe a fufficient
party were fent out to apprehend Jefus: and the
fame trufty band no doubt was employ *d to cry joh.xyiii. j.
out for his crucifixion. They were headed and
led on" by the Chief-Priefts and Rulers; who Lukexxviii.
Inftigated, &ndmov*d them to demand that Pi- Mat. xx ii.
late wou'd releafe Barabbas to them, and deftroy " .
Jefus. The Judgment-hall where Pilate fat cou'd
not contain a vaft multitude. The Priefts,.
Pharifees and Rulers themfelves rnuft have been
a confiderable number t and their officers, fer-
vants, and other dependents whom they cou'd
perfwade and over-awe, were the People who
cry'd out to have Jefus crucify'd. Lefs than a;
hundred voices were enough to deafen Pilate.
He declared that he found no fault in y^/w.johnxix.!*.
But when they told him that if he releafed Je- 1 *-
Jus, he cou'd not be a Friend to Ccsfar^ he was
afraid of their -\ reprefenting his Crimes to the
Emperor; and was foon prevail'd on to give Luke nl ^
fuch a fentence againft Jefus as they required :*.
tho at the fame time he wafli't his hands before
the multitude ; and faid, / am innocent of /<?Mac.xxvi.
blood of this juft Perfon: fee ye to it. It does**'
not appear that there were any other people
there befides thofe whom the Chief-Prieft and
Rulers over-aw'd, and influenc'd. And if there

* See Mat. xxvi. 47, Mark xiv. 43. John xviii. 3. Ch.
tii. Lukexxvii. 50.

f See the Credibility of tktGefftJ Hi/if ry. p, 116. ad Edit.
I had

i88 A Conference upon

SECT.V. had been a multitude prefent who condemn'd
b*V*~* their proceedings, and wou'd have juftify'd Je-
fus, as Pilate did ; it cou'd not be fuppofed that
in the Judgment-hall, guarded by Souldiers,
the people who favour'd Jefus would have had
courage enough to appear openly in his behalf
againft their Priefts and Rulers, whom they faw
fo eager and active to have him deftroyed. All
that cou'd be expected from them was that they
wou'd not join with his malicious Enemys -, but
be filent fpectators of that injuftice and vio-
lence which they fecretly condemn'd, but were
not able to oppofe. This they did at his cru-
Lukexxiii, cifixion. All the people that came together to that
* 8 ' fight, beholding the things which were done,

fmote their breafts (as a teftimony of their grief
and indignation) and returned. Here is an evi-
dent proof that they did not look upon Jefus as
an Impoftor, or Malefactor, (nor in the leaft
fufpect him of any fraud in the raifing of La-
zarus ;) but as a righteous Perfon, and a great
Prophet, put to death moft unjuftly by the

< T. You feem to forget Gentlemen that you
were upon the refurredion of Lazarus.
fcifc. f. p. -W' h was ratner a feeming, than a real di-
i. v.ja. greffion we had fallen into. But I think we
have almoft finifh't this Subjed.

M. For the conclufion of the whole matter,
I mail only obferve, that Matthew, Mark, and
Luke, who knew as much of this mam miracle
as John, had not the Confidence to report it:
becaufe when they wrote many Eye-witnefTes of
the Fraud were alive to, difprove and contradict
them. Therefore they confin'd their Narratives
to Jefus 9 lefs juggling tricks that had pafs'd
more current. But after the Jewilh State was
diflblv'd, their judicial records were deftroyed,


our S A v i o u nV Miracles. i $ 9

and every-body dead that cou'd confute him, SECT. V
John ventures abroad the ftofy of this miracle. ^OP^
And if the good Providence of God had not
infatuated him in the ihfertion of the Circum-
ftances here obferved, it might have pafs'd
through all generations to come, as well as it
had done for many paft, for a grand miracle.

N. Error is always various, inconfiftent,contra-
dictory,and therefore indefenfible : while Truth is
fteddy, uniform and confiitent; and, being
viewed in every light, appears unchangeably thd
fame. This never failing obfervation is particu-
larly verify'd by Mr. W. 's late attacks upon thef
literal Senfa or real truth, of the Gofpel ; in
which he has fallen into the grofleft Contradi-
ctions and inconfiftencies. At firft he told us,'
that the flory of Lazarus's rcfurreclion feemst
to be intirely John's, own Invention. Afterwards Difc. f. p. tj
his Rabbi fays, that Matthew, Mark zndLtike 81 *-
knew as much of this Sham-miracle as John:
only they had not the confidence to report it,
for fear of having the Fraud disproved by Eye-
witnefTes. He charge's John with relating Stores'
that are derogatory to the honour of Jefus, and Difc. 3. p;
fpoil his fame for a worker of Miracles : and 3 *'
feems to fancy he did it out of Spite; and toib. P .;a,
Haft ChriftV reputation. And yet he elfewhere p. #.
affirms that John as well as the other Evange-
Jifts defegrfd to aggrandize the fame of Jefus^or au\fc.j.^.fi
worker of miracles. He rails with a peculiar
bitternefs againfl the beloved Difciple j and fecms
to think well of the other Evangelifts. At o-
ther times he charges them all with romancing Di f c 3< ^
for the honour of their Mafler: and infinuates, **
that even Luke invented the Story of Jefu/s rai-
fing the widow's fon. But how abfurd are fuch
Sufpicions ! The other three Evangelifts were .
the Difciples (tho Mark was not an Apoftle) of
U Jefus.

A Conference upon

SECT. V. Jejus. They had a perfect knowledge of what
they relate : and in their Gofpels they fhow all
the marks of candour and honefty that can be
defired. They were fo fcrupuloufly fmcere as
to record not only their own fmaller Failings,
but their groffer Faults, in the moll candid man-
ner : tho they needed not always to have done it.
And feeing they fully'd their own reputation
out of a flricl: regard to Truth and Integrity ;
is it not abfurd to fuppofe that they wou'd fa-
crifice the Truth itfelf to the honour of their
Mailer ; whom you reprefent as a wicked Im-
poftor that cou'd have no good or valuable Qua-
lity to recommend him to their Efleem ? Cou'd
they poflibly love one of fuch a worthlefs defpi-
cable Character better than themfelves ? or mow
a greater concern for his reputation, than their
own ? Is not their recording all the vile reproa-
ches that the Jews charged him with ; and o-
ther things that feem to leflen his character, and
to tend to his difparagement, an evident proof,
that they cou'd not devyfe lyes to raife or fup-
port his Credit ? Can you poflibly believe that
twelve poor artlefs, ignorant men eou'd lay a
deep plot to deceive all the world ; and hope to
fucceed in it ? Cou'd they who were bigotted to
the Religion, and worlhip in which they were
brought up, take the utmofl pains to overturn
and deftroy it ? and beftow all the labours of
their life to eftablilh an unprofitable impofture
in its ftead ? Cou'd they unanimoufly agree to
forfake their Home, their Relations, and their
Country, and wander through the world, amidfl
dayly hazards and hardfhips; in hopes that
they Ihou'd perfwade people of all nations to
believe and practife tlie doctrine of an obfcure
perfon, who was crucify'd at Jerufalem ? Cou'd
they dayly preach, and feemingly practife, fin-
4 cerity,

our S AV i o u R'J Miracles. 291

cerity, Goodnefs, and every Virtue: and yet Sic-r.V.
underhand carry on the vileft impofture ? Cou'd < * I ^V>/
they renounce all profpect of Advantage, Ho-
nour and Pleafure in this Life ; and yet be fo
thorowly fatfe, deceitful, and wicked, that they
cou'd have no poflible hopes of any happineis
in the next ? Cou*d they chufe to undergo the
greateft toils, reproaches, perfccutions, impri-
fonment, and Death itfelf, in order to propa-
gate the belief of fuch things as were their own
Fictions and wicked Contrivances ? Tho they had
no liberal Education nor Learning, and knew
only their mother-tongue ; cou'd they yet tra-
vel thro' the world, and fuccefsfully preach the
Gofpel to all nations ; without having the power
of Miracles, or the Gift of Tongues ? Cou'd
they combine to propagate a cheat ; and confulc
together about the narratives they wrote of the
Doctrine, Miracles, and Actions of Jefus and
yet differ from one another in feveral points and
circumftances of what they relate? Cou'd they
be mailers of fo much fubtlety, and refined po-
licy, as to impofe upon the moft wife and confi-
derate perfons of all ages and nations : and yet
fo extremely weak and fooliih as to record Mi-
racles in the Gofpels with fuch abfurd and mere- Difc.4.
dible Circumftances as are grofely and notorioujly {J' f
contradictory to fenfe and Reafon ? No thing can 38.
be more inconfiftent and impoffible than thefe
Suppofitions. They contain fuch manifeft ab-
furditys, and in cr edibility s> as none can fwal-
low but the moft weak and credulous of man-
kind. But concerning the Integrity of thofe
three Evangeliits who were the immediate Dif-
ciples of Jefus I have faid enough. As for
Luke, he cou'd not be biafs't or prejudiced in
favour of Chriftianity. He never faw Jefus:
but being educated an Infidel, he muit have
U 2 been

ipt A Conference upon

SECT. V. been converted by feeing the Miracles that Were
V*V^ wrought by St. Paul, and the other Apoftles.
Luke was a Man of Parts and Learning ; as ap-
pears by the politenefs of his Style, and his cre-
ditable Profeffion. So that there can be no
room for fufpccting him to have been either
fuperftitious, or credulous. After his converfion
he became St. Paul's companion and fellow-
traveller, and compofed his Gofpel, and the
Atts of the Apoftles : both of which muft have
been revifed and approved by St. Paul. He
Luk.i.a. tells us that he had a -perfeft undemanding (or,
had diligently fcarcb't into the truth) of all things
from the very firfl ; and had his intelligence
from the Apoftles themfelves, who were Eye-
witnejfes and Minifters of the Word. Now what
pretence can there be for fufpecting the veracity
of fuch a reputable unbiafs't Author? Having
his information from Eye-witnejfcs whofe Credit
was unqueftionable, he cou'd not be miftaken in
what he relates. And tho he became a Chri-
ftian upon the ftrongeft conviction, he does not
fhow the leaft favour, or partiality, either towards
Jefus, or his Apoftles : but agrees with the o-
ther Evangelifts in mentioning the falfe reproa-
ches that the Jews caft upon Jefus (without of-
fering any vindication of him -,) and in recording
the grofs follys and Faults of his Apoftles. In
Ihort, in his Gofpel we find all the fame marks

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 21 of 31)