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 22 of 31)
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of Integrity and Candour that are in the other :
and we have the teftimony of plain, honeft, il-
literate Filhermen confirmed by a polite, impar-
tial learned Phyfician; who was himfelf an
Eye-witnes of as aftonifhing Miracles wrought
by St. Paul, to prove the truth of Chrift's doc-
trine, as any that he relates in his Gofpel. And
tho he as well as Matthew and Mark forgot to
record the refurrection of Lazarus, and feveral


our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 293

other Miracles ofjefus: yet Matthew and Mark SECT. V-
mention his raifing the Ruler's daughter : and V^VX>
Luke relates the raifing of the Widow's fori to
life , and many other Miracles equally great :
which fufficiently prove that Jefus was endued
with divine power -, and confirm the truth and
credibility of his having raifed Lazarus like-
wife from the dead.

M. Mr. W. rightly obferves that there is noDifc.j-. p.
need to argue againft the truth of the two re- **
furrection-ftorys mention'd by Matthew and
Luke: you know omne majus continet minus:
and if the greateft of the three miracles be an
impofture, the two lefs ones, of confequence, are
artifice and fraud.

N. The three Miracles that Jefus wrought in
raifing the dead, equally confirm and fupport
one another. Since there can be no pretence
for queftioning the truth of the two firft ; they
plainly confirm the credibility of the laft. And
fmce I have mown that the Circumflances of
Lazarus^ refurrection are all probable and con-
fident , by your own maxim, this laft and
greateft Miracle fully eftablifhes the truth of the
two former. There is a perfect confiftency and
harmony among the Gofpels as to the Miracles
and other Faffs they contain : and each tends to
afcertain and fupport the authority ancj truth of
the reft.

M. Tho I have no farther objections to urge
at prefent againft the Story of Lazarus, you'll
remember that Mr. W. is refolved to have theoifc.r. y,
other bout at it from fome other Circumftan- 38 *
ces ; the confideration of which will make it ap-
pear to be fuch a contexture of folly and fraud
in its contrivance, execution, and relation, as
js not to be ecjualFd in all rornantick Hiftory t

V 3 JV. He

194 A Conference upon

BECT. V. W He threatens fo terribly, that I'm fure he
h as already done and faid all that he can. He
blufter'd at the fame extravagant rate in the in-
troduction to his objections againfl the cure of
the Paralytick ; and when they came to be ex-
amin'd, they appeared but weak and trifling.
Chriftianity has hitherto flood its ground againfl
all attempts to difcredit it ; and in its infancy,
triumph't over the combined efforts not only
of Wit, and Malice, but of fubtlety, and Learn-
ing, Bigotry, and Perfecution. So that we need
not call in the aid of the Civil Magiftrate to
fupprefs, or punifh, the late attacks that have
been made upon it, (or may be renewed) by flu-
dious Soflbifts, or blundering Buffoons. The
more it is oppofed, it will ftill be the more
firmly eftablim't: and every objection that is
made againfl it will, in the end, become an Evi-
dence of its truth. Tho in fo much difcourfe
as we have had to-day, it is likely I may have
ufed fuch warm and unguarded expreffions as
may lead you to fufpect me of entertaining ill
will or revenge againfl Mr. W^ I affure you,
Gentlemen, I always retain a fmcere and hearty
benevolence towards all mankind. And the
worft that I wifh to him, is, that he may live
long enough in health and happinefs to fee, that
he, and his late Friend Mr. C, have by their
Writings undefignedly contributed very much
towards diflinguifhing and pointing-out the-ge-
nuine proofs and doctrines of Chriftianity ; and
demonftrating the truth of them. Without
pretending to prophefy, I may venture to fore-
tel that this will foon appear to be the effect of
their Labours : and I heartily wifh that it may
rather be a pleafure, than a mortification, to
him to perceive it.

r. Be

our S A v i o u R'J Miracles. 1 9 y

7*. Be pleafed to fit down, Gentlemen. I SECT. VI-
know you will both prefer this plain friendly
Collation, to a Feaft. Sir


Mr. N. the debate between Dif c ,*.p, 4,
us has hitherto been of a diffufive na-
ture : let us now reduce the Controverfy into a
narrow compafs : and let it turn intirely upon
the Refurreftion of Jefus ; which is the grand
Miracle, and Article of the chriftian Faith. If
you can defend the truth of it againft the Rab-
bi's objections ; Jews and Infidels muft acknow-
ledge Jefus to be the Meffiah ; fent from Hea-
ven to declare the will of God to mankind : O-
therwife he muft pafs for an Impoftor, or falfe

JV. The refurrection of Jefus is a fundamen-
tal Article of the chriftian Faith ; a grand Mi-
racle ; and the accomplimment of a plain un-
queftionable Prophecy. With this miracle the
truth of Chriftianity muft Hand or fall. So
that too great ftrefs can fcarce be laid upon it.
If Jefus truly rofe from the dead, according to
his own exprefs Prediction i this muft have
been the fulleft atteftation that cou'd poflibly be
given to the integrity of his Conduct, ana the
truth of his Doctrine. For it is not only hard^
but even impqffible^ to imagin that God wou'd 6 -
voucbfafe the favour of a miraculous refurreftion
to Jefus, if for any crime (as the Jews pretend)
he deferuedly fuffered death. I cannot however
but obferve, that if the Almighty had not ap-
pointed the Refurrection and Afcenfion of Jefus
U 4 as

^ Conference upon

as a f reward for his fufferings,and as a peculiar
Honour, and mark of the divine Favour, be-
'yond what any other Perfpn ever received 5
there wou'd have been no neceflity of his rifmg
again from the dead, as a tejlimony that was.
wanted to the truth of his Doctrine. Mofes
gave the Jews moftunqueftionable, Proofs of his
divine Million, jho he was not rais'd from the
dead. So did Elijah. And if the refurrection
pfjefus had not been e^prefly foretold, and ap-
pointed of Gqd, it cou'd not have been necef-
fary in order to confirm the truth of his Mif-
fion. This was fufficiently proved before by the
many public^: undoubted Miracles he wrought
in his life-time : fome of which were at leaft as
great, evident, and unqueftionable Proofs of
his being fent from God, as his being raifcd to
life on the third day after his crucifixion. I
grant that his Refurrection was an additional te-
{limpny to his Doctrine : and fo was every Mi-
racle he wrought j and particularly his Afcen-
fion into Heaven. But in cafe Almighty God
had thought fit not |tb raife Jefus from the dead ,
but only to have accomplim't the prophetick
Promife that he made of enduing his Difciples
lyitb fower from on high, to qualify them for
propagating the Gofpe] throughout the world ;
J cannot but think that we fhou'd ftill have had
fufficient and undeniable Evidence of Cbrift's
divine Miflion : and that every unprejudiced
JPerfon rnuft have received his Doctrine with the
fame firm afTent, and full, conviction of, mind,
|;hat we dp now.

. ^ This is fuch Doctrine as I never heard

jl4'f/- before. St. Paul fays that //Chrift be not rifen y
then is your f reaching vain : and your Faith is al-
fi vain.

N. Sq

our SAVIOUR'* Miracles.

TV. So fay I. Tea and the Apoftles muft have SECT. VI.
leen found falfe witneffes for God \ lecaufe they
ttjtiffd of God, that he ralfed up Chrift. So they
frettcb't, and fo we believe. Without difpute
the Refurrection of Jefus is now become an ef-
fential and neceflfary part of the chriftian Faith :
becaufe his rifing again was foretold by himfejf ;
and the accomplifhment pf his prophecy was
teftify'd by his Apoftles i who faw him alive af-
ter his Refurrection, and had fuch infallible
proofs of it, as they cou'd not pofiibly queftion
nor refift. All I pretend is, that Cbrift's rifing
again, which we fo firmly believe, was origi-
nally defignM more as a Reward to himfelf for
his fufferings, and a token of the fingular Ho-
nour and Glory that was beftow'd upon him as
being Heir of #// things ; Lord of the Creation,
and the Son of God ; than as a Proof that was " 1 -
ftill wanted of his divine Miflion and Authority.
Jiis own refurrecl:ion cou'd not prove this more
evidently, than his raifing others from the dead ;
and working many other Miracles no lefs afto T
niming: and afterwards enduing his Apoftles
with the Power of fpeaking Languages they
had never learn't; and fuch other miraculous
Gifts as were neceffary to fit them for difchar-
ging the office in which he employed them. His
foretelling his Refurrection, made it abfolutely
neceflary for him to rife again : becaufe if his
prediction had not been accomplinYt, he muft
Jiave paft for a falfe Prophet. By this Prophe-
cy he appeal'd to his refurre&ion as a farther
proof of his divine Mifllon : but this appeal is
what no Imppftor wou'd have made. If Jefus
had not been endued with fupernatural Know-
ledge, as well as divine Power ; if he had not
had the utmoft certainty that he ihou'd be rai-
led to life on the third day, he wou'd never
4 ^ hayp

198 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. have put his credit upon an Event that it was
VOT\^ not in his power to accomplifh. He had alrea-
dy acquired all the honour and veneration that
was due to a true Prophet. And if he had been
an Impoftor who only deluded his Difciples and
followers into the belief of his having wrought
true Miracles ; he wou'd have been content
with patting for fuch a great Prophet as Mofes,
or Elijah-, and not have risk't all his Reputa-
tion upon his rifing again : which, if he had
been a Deceiver, he muft be fure wou'd never
happen. Mahomet was not fuch a Fool as to
talk of his rifing from the dead , or to appeal
to any miraculous event that fhou'd happen af-
ter his death, for proving the truth of his mif-
fion and doctrine. No Impoftor that has com-
mon-fenfe, can be fuppofed capable of fuch con-
fummate folly. So that Jefus's foretelling his
refurrection was a proof that he not only ex-
pected it himfelfj bu t was fare it wou'd happen.
M. It is likely that in the latter part of his
.life he had initiated his Apoflles into the myfterys
of his practice, as well as of his doRrine ; and
let them into the fecret of his Miracles : and
he might perhaps depend upon their faithfulnefsr
and good conduct in conveying away his body,
and telling the world that he was rifen from the

JV. You fuppofe then, that he deflred this fa-
vour of them before he dyed : that they all rea-
dily agreed to it ; and that they promifed him
faithfully to hazard their life in executing this
unaccountable piece of Fraud ; and to employ
the remaining part of their days in propagating
an ufelefs, unprofitable, wicked lye.

M.. Yes, I think he muft have communicated
this Project to them before he dyed ; or at Icaft
to his three favourite Difciples, Peter, James,
; and

our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 199

and John ; and left them to bring the reft into it SECT. VI.
by degrees. <*^s**J

N. But wou'd he who (as you fuppofej had
already obtain'd the reputation of a true Pro-
phet by fraud, and tricks, and matchlefs fub-
tlety ; and was fure of enjoying that Fame he
had fo dextroufly acquired ; wou'd he, I fay,
part with it all at once, by imparting the fecret
of his Frauds and Impoftures to thofe very men
who valued and followed him, only as the trufc
Me/iah, that had it in his Power to raife them
to Honour and worldly greatnefs ? Wou'd a fub-
tle Impoftor chufe the moft ignorant, dull, and
fimple fort of people to be confederates with
him in executing the moft difficult and ha-
zardous Impoflure ? Cou'd fuch poor, timorous
well-meaning Men hear of fuch a Propofal
without feeling the utmoft horror and indigna-
tion at the Author of it? Whatmuft they think
of their Mafter, and his Conduct ? How vilely
wicked and contemptible muft he have appear'd
to them ? How amazed muft they have been at
their folly, and ftupidity, in being fo long de-
luded, and impofed on by him ? What cou'd
they now love and value him for ? You fuppofe
that he whom they believed to be the Mejfiab,
and the Son of God, appear'd now by his own
Confeflion and Propofal, to be a Deceiver, and
a falfe Prophet. They cou'd now have no hopes
of Honour or Advantage by following him.
All their ambitious views muft end at once.
You fuppofe that they were defired to under-
take and carry on fuch a fcheme of fraud, fol-
ly, and wickednefs, as no mortal cou'd ever
devyfe, or think practicable. They were to
hazard their lives every day ; and to renounce
all profpeft of Honour, Advantage, and Plea-
fure, merely to promote the reputation of one


joo A Conference upon

SECT. VI. who had grofly deceived them ; and whom they
\s*T**J cou'd not but heartily defpife, and abhor. This
project (which you reckon fo plaufible, that you
build your whole fcheme of infidelity upon it)
is fo full of inconfiftencys and contradictions,
that I neither know where to begin, nor how to
proceed, in order to lay them fully open. They
are fo glaring, and in every view, croud in fo
faft upon us, that we are quite loft and bewil-
der'd in aftonifhment at the number and variety
of thofe grofs abfurditys that continually rife to
our thoughts. This is the real ftate of my
mind, every time I think of your incredible
fuppofition of Fraud in the Refurrection of

M. Hold, Sir, you are not now in you/ pul^
pit : and muft not think to harangue us with jour
noije and. nonfenfe. Mere aflertions prove no-
thing one way or other. Let us proceed to ar-r
gumentand proof. And fince the Jewifh Rabbi
is not here, to vindicate his objections , I'll do
pifc. 6.v\6. it for him as well as I can : and from the very
.circumftances of the evangelical Story of Jefus' s Re-
furrettion, I'll prove it to have been the moft
barefaced impofture that ever was fut upon the

N. Seeing your objections are founded on the
circumftances of the evangelical Story ; before
you enter upon them, give me leave to point
out fome Circumftances that I think are necef-
fary to fet the Evidence we have for the truth of
Cbrift's refurrection in a clear and full light.

M. You may fpare all that trouble. Every-
one knows the Storys that the Evangelifts tell us
pf Apparitions and Angels, and the idle tales
which the frighten'd women told the Apoftles.
You need not be at the pains to prove that they
cou'd not be deceived themfelves, To Ihorten


our SAV i o u R'$ Miracles* 301

out* difpute, I'll grant this: and fhallinfift only SECT. VI.
upon one fhort plain argument to prove that they *
deliberately confpired to deceive the world into
the belief of Jefufs refurrection.

N. I did not defign to explain at large, the
nature and fufficiency of the Evidence we have
for that important article of the chriftian Faith.
The Circumftances that I now infift upon, are
the conduct of Jefus before his death ; and the
behaviour of his Apoftles after he wascrucify'd.

M. Be fhort then ; and don't preach : for it
grows late : and I mail be apt to fall afleep.

N. I'll be as brief as I can. I obferved be-
fore, that Jefas's foretelling his Refurrection was
alone a fufficient proof that he himfelf believM,
and was aflbred, it wou'd happen : otherwife he
wou'd not have risk't the reputation he had ac-
quired, upon an Event that it cou'd not be in
his power to fecure. I mewed you that to ima-
gin he wou'd propofe to his Apoftles the vile
impofture which you charge them with, is at-
tended with infuperable difficultys, and endlefs
abfurditys : and that if fuch a propofal had been
made to them, it is morally impofiible that all
(or indeed any) of them fhou'd have refolved to
comply with it ; or attempt the execution of it.
Befides -, if Jefus had rely'd on their fubtlety,
fteddynefs and conduct in carrying on the Fraud
you fufpect ; he wou'd never have talk't to them
of his riftng again the third day ; as he often
did: nor of his coming again to them. Such
declarations are altogether inconfiftent with any i>,
fcheme of Fraud.

M. His talking of thefe things was neceffary
to deceive the world ; and to make the Jews be-
lieve that he wou'd really rife again from the
dead : but to his difciples he explain'd all his Pa-
rables and Myfterys in private.

N. But.

30 z A Conference upon

. VI. N. But if he had been an Impoftor, and con-
V^W^ fequently fure that he cou'd not poflibly rife a-
gain, he wou'd never have fpoken of any fuch
thing ; not even to his Difciples ; and far lefs to
the Jews. He cou'd not but know that his
foretelling his refurrection, as he did, in the
plainneft manner, muft alarm his Enemys ; put
the Chief-priefts and Pharifees upon their guard ;
and oblige them to take the meafures they did to
prevent that impofture of a falfe refurrection,
which you fuppofe he had in view, and they
were apprehenfive of. Hence it appears, that
his foretelling he fhou'd rife again, was the
greateft proof he cou'd poflibly give of his In-
tegrity. It was plainly bidding the Priefts and
Pharifees defyance; and telling them that all
their fpite, fubtlety and watchfulnefs, wou'd
not be able to hinder the accomplilhment of his
Prophecy. It is incredible that an Impoftor
fhou'd act thus : becaufe it was the plain and
fure way to fruflrate his own defign. Had Je-
fus been a Deceiver who depended intirely on the
folly and wickednefs of his Difciples for carry-
ing on a cheat in his pretended refurrection -, he
wou'd never have given the leaft intimation to
the Jews beforehand, that he was to rife from
the dead : nor even to his Difciples. Inftead of
telling them that he wou'd rife again, he muft
have told them that he had not the leaft hopes
of it ; but depended intirely upon their ftealing
away his body ; and deceiving the world with a
falfe report of his being rifen to life. It is evi-
dent therefore, that the fuppofition of an im-
fofture can never account for Jefus's foretelling
his Refurrection.

M. But Enthufiafm will. Perhaps his ima-
gination was over-heated : and by talking ftrange
things of his being the MeJJiab and the fin of


our SAV i o u R'$ Miracles. 305

God, come from Heaven -, he might work him- SECT. VI.
felf into feme fort of belief, or expectation, '
that he fhou'd really rife again. Enthufiafts of-
ten fancy that they have divine communications
and inward lights : and their dreams and vifions
pafs with them for realitys.

N. Your Schemes are ever attended with in-
confiftencys and felf-contradiction. Enthufiafm,
and Impofture, are incompatible in the lame
Perfon. The Enthufiaft is fmcere : he is only de-
ceived -, and miftake's the extravagant flights and
whims of his diforder'd Brain, or warm Imagi-
nation, for divine lights and impulfes: while
the Impoftor cannot but be confcious of his De-
ceit and wickednefs. He is not miftaken him-
felf ; but intends to deceive others: and he cer-
tainly knows that he is faife and wicked. You
fuppofe that Jefus was not really endued with a
divine power ; but by fubtlety and fraud delu-
ded the world into the belief of his doing the
greatelt Miracles. And if this had been the
cafe, he mufl have been an Impoftor. An En-
thufiaft cou'd neither work real miracles ; nor
falfe ones. And if you think him an Impoftor,
confcious of fraud, and the vileft practices, he
cou'd not at the fame time be an Enthufiaft j
nor entertain any hopes of being rais'd from the
dead, by that divine power to which you fup-
pofe he falfely pretended. Befides your fancy-
ing him to be an Enthufiaft as to the hopes of
a real Refurrection, cou'd account only for his
foretelling it ; but not for the accomplijhment of
that furprizing prophecy.

M. That was owing to the conduct and good
management of his Difciples. Enthufiafm led
Jefus into that prediction : and his Apoftles took
care to fulfil it : I mean to make the world be-
lieve that it was truly fulfill'd.

N. No

304 ^ Conference upon

SECT. VI. N- No thing cou'd be more contrary to the'
LXYX-f character of Jefis^ than Enibufiafm. Through-
out his Conduct, and his Difcourfes, there ap-
pears the greateft Wifdom and Difcretion ,
Truth, Confiftency, Sedatenefs, calm and clofs
reafoning, well-govern'd Paflions; and every
thing that is the reverfe of Enthufiafm. All his
behaviour, his Doctrine, and his miracles mew-
ed that he was endued with great Prudence,
perfect Goodnefs ; a fupernatural Knowledge,-
and divine Power. Thefe enabled him to fore-
tel his refuriection: and the punctual accom-
plifhment of his Prophecy mewed that it flowed
from the divine wifdom. The Apoftles cou'd
not poffibly do any thing towards it. They
expected the refurrection of Jefus as little ; and
disbeliev'd it at firft as obftinately, as the Pba-
rifees themfelves. And after having had the ut->
moft affurance that cou'd poffibly be given them
of Cbrift's being rifen from the dead, they de-
clar'd this truth to the world. In this they
cou'd not poffibly be miftaken. You will not
charge them with Enthufiafm too ; and fuppofe
that they only fancied they faw Jefus after his
fifing again i and fometimes dreamt altogether
that they converfed with him, at the fame time.
M. No, no. I verily believe they were not
En thu fiails. They had the ufe of their fenfes
as well as other men ; and never faw their Maf-
ter, after they ftole away his Body, and bury'd it
in the ground : but feign'd all the ftorys in the
Gofpels, of his appearing to them after his pre-
tended refurrection.

N. Never were any Set of men more unlike-
ly to form fuch a wild Project -, nor more unfit
for executing it. Peter feems to have been a
Man of the warmed temper, and the moft ac-
tive enterprizing genius among them ; but he

our SA viou R'J Miracles. 305

was more forward in refolving well, than fteddy SBI-T.VL
in performing his good refolutions. He affu- *-o^-^
red Jefus that he wou'd fooner dye \hsn. forfake
him. And all the reft promifed as far as he. Mat. art.
Yet this bold refclutc Man was frighten'd out 35 '
of his wits by a womatfs asking him a harmlefa
queflion: and dcny'd his Matter again and a-
gain. And the other Difcipies, inftead of flay-
ing with Jefus to bear him teftimony, if there
had been occafion for it, or being ready to dye
with him as they promifed; all forfook him andver./e.
fled, as foon as he was feized. Is it likely now,
is it poftible, that fuch weak, timorous, irre-
folute men as thefe, who after the moft folemn
promifes of fidelity and refolution, forfook
their Matter, at the very firft, and moft diftant
appearance of danger, before he was condem-
ned ; is it likely, I fay, or poflible, that after
they faw him crucify'd, and all their hopes
from him at once cut-off, they mou'd refolve
upon the moil foolifh, hazardous, and defpe-
rate attempt that ever enter'd into the mind of
Man ; to fteal away the body of Jefus while it
was watch 't and defended by a guard of Soul-
diers \ and give-out that he was rifen from the
dead? Cou'd they value him more when he was
dead, than they jiid while he was alive ? Cou'd
his death animate them with refolution and cou-
rage ; and make them unanimous in hazarding
their lives to execute a mad wicked project \ in
which they cou'd have no profpedt either of
fuccefs, fafety, honour, or profit? No thing in
nature can be more improbable, and abfurd,
than fuch fuppofitions.

M. It was the only game they had now to

play. They were refolved perhaps that the

world mou'd not know how much they were

difappointed of their expectations. And fmce

X Jefus

J 06 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. Jefus had given out that he wou'd rife again ;
-/ they might agree to make the world believe that
he really did fo.

N. Such a wicked contrivance is quite incon-
fiftent with their Character, their Views, and
their Conduct, both before and after the women
came to them with the news of CbriJTs being ri-
fen. But when do you think this ft range Fraud
was concerted.

M. As foon as Jefus was bury'd.
N. They cou'd not meet together till the
next day at fooneft. They forlbok Jefus and
fled, as foon as he was taken. And feeing they
were well known at Jerufalem, and ferbaps ful-
pected by fome of the Rulers and Priefts of ha-
ving a defign to fteal away their Matter's body i
they dared not venture to appear openly on the
Feaft-day : but muft have met together in the
molt fecret manner the night after ; when you
fuppofe the fraud was executed. This is the
fooneft that they cou'd have met. But confi-
dering their Fears, Cowardice, and dejection
of Mind on this occafion, it is not probable
that they met together till Peter and John heard
from Mary, that Jefus was rifen. But fuppo-

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 22 of 31)