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 26 of 31)
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their Enthufiafm made them miftake for r

Facts. But now, that diflruft and incredulity,
which to others is a proof of their inexcufe-
ablc obftinacy, muft be reckon'd by you an
argument of their good-fen fe. And it cer-
tainly adds the greateft weight to their tefti-
mony. They continued in their Unbelief as
long as they poffibly cou'd. And when they
had the utmoft conviction and certainty of
Jefus's being rifen, they yielded at laft, and
acknowledged the Truth.

T*. Matthew tells us that when the eleven CH.
Difciples met Jefus at a mountain in Galilee* l6 '
where he had appointed them to come, they
worfhip't him ; but fome doubted: which mows
they were not all fully fatisfy'd that it was Jefus
whom they faw.

N. By the fome who doubted, the Evange-
lift cou'd not mean any of the eleven Apoftles :
for he fays that they worlhip't Jefus when they
faw him j which was the ftrongeft proof they
cou'd give of their being fully convinced that
he was truly rifen from the dead. Hence we
may reafonably collect that this appearance of
Jefus to his Apoftles was not the/r/?, which
the other Evangelifts fpeak of, that happen'd
on the very day of his refurrection ; ("when the
Apoftles behaved themfelves in a quite differ-
ent manner :) but rather his laft appearing to
them juft before his Afcenfion. Now fince the
eleven worfhip't Jefus on this occafion (as St.
Luke likewife aflures us) thofe who
muft be fome of the many other Difciples that
probably went with the Apoftles into Galilee. The
number of thofe other Difciples was very great.
When, after the Afcenfion of Jefus, the Apoftles
chofe one to fill up the room of Judas, there


348 d Conference upon

SECT. VI. were upwards of a hundred of thefe Difciples
VX-/N*/ afiembled together with the Apoftles at Jeru-
' iy> fakm. But befides thefe, there muft have been
many other Difciples, who joyned them on their
i cor *v wa y to Galilee. St. Paul tells us that Jefus was
feen of above five hundred at once ; of whom
the greateft part were alive when he wrote his
firft Letter to the Corinthians. And it is very
probable that it was in Galilee that Jefus ap-
pear'd to this great number ; and at that very
time when the Apoftles met him there. Now
it is not to be wonder'd if fame few of thole
Difciples who perhaps faw Jefus but once after
his refurreclion, doubted whether it was he or
not. His terrible fufferings, and great lofs of
blood, (under his Agony in the Garden, his be-
ingfeourged, and crown'd with Thorns ; and by
the wounds that the large nails made in his bands
and feet, befides the gafh in his Side with the
fouldier's Spear,) might affect, and alter, both
his Voice, and his Features. And perhaps fome
aire of Dignity and Glory upon his Countenance
after his refurreclion, might caufe fuch a vifible
alteration in his Afped, that fome of thofe Dif-
ciples who knew him intirely well before, might
doubt at firft (as the Apoftles themfelves did)
whether he was the very fame Perfon.

T. St. Paul mentions feveral appearances of
Jefus after his refurreclion, that the Evangelifts
fay nothing of. It is to me furprizing, that he
fhou'd know more of thefe things than thofe
who were Eye-witnefies : or that they fhou'd All
happen to forget fuch a memorable Fact, as
Cbrifc's appearing to five hundred Difciples at

N. This is not more furprizing than that
three of the Evangelifts fhou'd forget the re-
furrection of Lazarus : and that St. Matthew


our S AV i o u R'$ Miracles. 3 49>

ihou*d not mention the Afcenfion of Jefus , SECT. VI.
which was of far greater importance than his VXVV/^
appearing to a great number of his Difciples
after his refurredion. I accounted fufficiently
forallthefe omiflions before, when we difcourfed
of Lazarus's Cafe : and I need not repeat here
what I then faid. From St. Luke's faying that Afls 1.3.
Jefus after his riling from the dead was feen of
his Difciples forty Days > and that he fpake to
them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of
God, we may conclude that he appear'd to them
oftener than is mentioned either in the Gofpels,
or by St. Paul. He mentions fome appearances
of Jefus that the Evangelifts take no notice of;
and has omitted others that they relate. It wai
not neceflary that they fhou'd record all the
remarkable Actions or Incidents of Jefus's life.
They ftudy'd brevity fo much in their Gofpels,
that, comparatively fpeaking, they mention
but a few of his Miracles ; and fewer of his
Difcourfes : and the account of his Appearan-
ces after his refurre&ion is as full as cou'd be
expected in fuch fhort Narratives as the Evan-
gelifts wrote. However St. Paul's teftimony is
in all refpecls as credible as theirs. He might
cither have had an immediate revelation from seeGaU.i%
Cbrift of thofe few particulars that the Evange-
lifts omitted : or he might have been inform'd
of them by the Apoftles themfelves, and by
many of thofe 500 Difciples that he knew t Co r.*r..
were alive when he wrote to the Corinthians,

M. Whoever blends together the various D ,fc.<. p.
hiftory of the four Evangelifts, as to Jefus's 2 *
appearances after his refurrection , will find
himfelf not only perplex't how to make an in-
telligible, confiftent, and fenfible ftory of it $
but muft think it like fome of the confufed
and incredible womanifh fables of the appariti-

jo A Conference upon

SICT.VI. ons of the ghofts of deceafed perfons ; which
^ the chriftian world ufed to abound with. There
has been fo much clear proof of fraud in many
of thofe ftorys, that the wife and confiderate
part of mankind has rejected them all, except-
ing this of JefttSi which to admiration has flood
its ground. It is a fweet morfel of Faith : and
they readily fwallow and digeft it, becaufe they
live by it : otherwife this ftory of Jefus's ap-
pearances after his death had hardly efcaped the
fate of other Apparitions.

N. Were we to judge of the account that
the Evangelifts give us of Jefus's appearances
by what the Rabbi calls a parallel Cafe that he
tells, or fuppofes, of the late Dr. Emms and
his fraternity 5 I fhou'd agree with him that
we fhou'd find ourfelves much perpletft how to
make an intelligible -, confiftent ', and fenfiblc ftory of
it. Seeing the Jew pretended to relate a ftory
that was parallel to the appearances of Jefus af-
ter his refurrection, he fhou'd have fairly re-
prefented one at leaft of the fix inftances he
mentions. But inftead of that, he has through-
out given us a fencelefs incoherent jumble of
different Facts. Of one appearance he has
made three : And inftead of telling a parallel
ftory, he has mifreprefented the cafe in every
p. fingle inftance. He fays (or infinuates) that the
"Women did not know Jefus by bis countenance*,
"but by bis talk on Scripture-prophecy. This is di-
rectly falfe. He faid nothing to them of pro-
phecy, or of the Scripture : but bade them tell
viii. his Difciples that they fhou'd go and meet him

* ** in Galilee. As Jjjfen as he fpake to them, they
knew him 5 andheld him by the feet (a mark of
the greateft refpect in Eaftern Countrys,) and
him. Yet the Rabbi tells us that their

eyes were balden > an expreflion that St. Luke


our SAV i o u R'J Miracles. 351

ufes of the two Difciples going to Emmaus : SECT. VI.
which fad your Friend confounds with that of N-^V~ > ->
Cbrift's appearing to the Women. Mary Magda-
lene indeed did not know him at firft when he
appear'dto her alone: becaufe her Modefty and
Grief might hinder her from looking direct-
ly in his face : nor did ihe then expect to fee
him alive. But when He called her by her
name, in the fame familiar way he formerly
ufed, Ihe immediately knew him ; and feems
to have held him by the feet, worfhipping him,
as the other women did when he appear'd to
them afterward. The Rabbi next reprefents * Mark
the two Difciples that were going to Emmaus,' *'
as knowing Jefus not by the features of his
face, but by an habitual motion and action of
his hand in breaking of bread. St. Luke fays,
their eyes were holden fo that they did not know
him : the plain meaning of which expreffion is,
that they did not at firft difcern who he was.
They had not the leaft thought of feeing Jefus
then. He was probably in the habit of a Tra-
veller, or in fome Drefs different from what he
ufed to wear : which is all that St. Mark might
mean by his appearing to them in another form :
unlels he alluded to fome fuch remarkable al-
teration in his afpect as I mentioned before. * But
considering that it was about the dusk of the
evening when he overtook them, we cannot
wonder that they fhou'd not know him, till
they went into the houfe, and had a direct and
full view of his Face -, which they had not had
till he came to break bread, or eat with them.
But then their eyes were open'd: that is, they
clearly perceived the truth ; and knew that it
was Jefus ; who foon after withdrew-, and left
them. " At another time he was corporally Dif c .vi. p.
" prefent, but they thought they faw a Spirit. " 34 '

* See, The frfo/pf the Wtne/es of CM)Tsrefurre3ign,p.68.


jji A Conference upon

SECT. VI. The Rabbi is very concife in his account of this
^*VN/ memorable appearance of Jefus to his Difciples ;
and flips over it carelefsly, as if there had been
nothing in it, but that they fancy'd they faw a
fpirit, or apparition. The truth of the cafs
Luk. xxiv. was this. " Jefus came and flood in the midft
3*- " of the Apoftles, and faid to them, peace be
" unto you. Upon which they were terri-
" fy'd, and fuppofed that they faw a Ghoft.
" But he faid unto them why are ye troubled ?
" And why do thoughts [chaAoy^o}, doubts,]
*' arife in your hearts ? Behold my hands and
" my feet, that it is I my felf : handle me,
" and fee: for a Ghoft hath not flefh and
" bones as ye fee me have. When he had faid
" this, he mewed them his hands and his feet.
* And while they yet believed not for joy,
" but wonder'd, he faid to them, have ye here
" any meat? So they gave him a piece of broil-
" ed fifh, and of an honey comb : and he took
" it, and did eat before them. " About eight
days after that (as the Rabbi tells us) Jefus ap-
pear'd among more of his old Friends : but for
all their former intimacy with him , fame of
them doubled whether it was he or not. Here
again he confounds two different appearances ;
CH. xxviii. one recorded by St. Matthew, when the Eleven
* 7 ' (and other Difciples) faw and worlhip't Jefus

in Galilee ; tko'fome doubted: (which I explain'd
before :) this, I fay, he blends with another ap-
pearance of Jefus related by St. John. " At
" another time he came to them in another
" form and fhape\ but they were fure it was
" he by his expofition of the Scripture. " Here
again the Rabbi alludes to the fame appearance
of Jefus to the two Difciples, which was men-
tioned twice before. But St. Luke fays nothing
of their being fure it was be, by bis expojition of


fttr SAVIOU R'J Miracles. 35-3

the Scripture : he tells us they did not know SECT. VI.
him till they came into the houfe. The Rabbi
goes on thus. 4< At another time when they
" were afiembled together and the doors were
* lock*t ... he Hipt unexpectedly into their
" Company, either from behind a Curtain, of
" miraculoufly entered at the key-hole. '* This
is the fame appearance with that mentioned be-
fore, when they thought they faw a Ghoft-, or
it muft be what the Rabbi next fpeaks of. But
as to the fact, which he ridicules ; there is no
difficulty in it. If the door was lock't,
feems very probable ;) it muft have been mi- 1 *; '
raculoufly open'd, before Jefus cou'd come in. '*"'"
But this is no more than what happened to his
Apoftlei afterward. An Angel open'd thepri-
Jon-doors in the night ; and fet two of them at
liberty. When Peter was miraculoufly brought
out of prifon an iron-gate open*d for him, of
its own accord. And the like happenM in fa-
vour of Paul and Silas. The laft time thatoh.xti. t&
Jefus appear'd (as the Rabbi tells us in his
parallel ftory,) " there was one of his intimate.
" friends had not known him but by a fore ill
" his breaft, which the power of God in his
" refurreclion did not heal. *' This referrs to
the fecond appearance of Jefus to the eleven,
when he condescended to give Thomas that proof
of his being really rifen from the dead, which
he required. When the reft told him they had
feen the Lord, he declared he wou'd not be-
lieve that he was rifen, unlefs he fhou*d fee in.
bis hands the print (or mark) of the nails he was
faften'd with to the crofs j and * $ut his band


It is not cafy to iawgin why our Tratiflaton, in Jab.
3tt. 25. rcndcr'd /3Pi tbrujt. In the very fame verfe they
rightly tnnflate it> tut and it fhou'd have, been tender '4

354 ^ Conference upon

SECT. VI. into (or rather, upon} his Side? to feel the mark
^**V"V O f the gafh that was made there with a fpear.
So when Jefus appear'd to the eleven next time,
" he faid to Thomas, reach hither thy finger,
" and behold my hands : and reach hither thy
** hand, and put it into [or, upon] my fide 5 and
'be not faithlefs, but believing. " Thomas
was refolved to have the fame fatisfaction and
affurance of Jefus's being rifen that the other
Difciples had, when he was not with them.
They had feen his hands and his feet : and be
wou'd fee the mark not only of the nails in his
hands -, but of the wound in his fide. Does
this imply that the wide wound he received with
a fpear was K\\\fore ; and fo open, that Thomas
cou'd put his hand into it, even after his re-
furrection? All that Thomas cou'd dcfire, or
Jefus offer him, was, that he might put his
hand upon his fide (or into his bojbm) and feel the
mark of the wound that the fpear made there.
If the wound had not been clofed up, Jefus
cou'd not pofiibly have been brought to life.
But tho' there cou'd be no Sore in his fide, the
mark of the wound might remain, and be ea-
fily felt by Thomas, when he put his hand into
Jefus's bofom. When the Rabbi fpeaks of the
Afcenfion, he fays, be vani/b't away, and was
&*** f-taken up into Heaven. St. Luke gives us the
following account of it. " Jefus led them out
" (and therefore muft have walk't with them) as
" far as [from Jerufalem] to Bethany. And he
< lift up his ha'hds and bleffed them. And

the fame way In both expreffions ; thus, " except t put
" my finger upon the print of the nails ; and pat my hand
" upon his fide, I will not believe. " here fhou'd rather
be rcndcr'd upon, than Into. It is ufed by the fame Evange-
lift to fignify, upsn, in ch, viii. 6. Sc aifo Mat, xxvi. 10,
.Luk. YV. 22.

" while

ouf SA v t o u R'J Miracles. 3 y 5

while he blefled them, he was parted from SECT. VI*
" them, and carry'd up into. Heaven : fo tne y ^aTi""^
*' worfhip't him. And while they look't fted*-
" faftly towards heaven, as he went up, be^
" hold two men ftood by them in white
*< Apparel ; and faid, ye men of Galilee ,
<c why ftand ye gazing up into Heaven ?
" This fame Jefus who is taken up from yoii
6 into Heaven mail fo come [again] in like
" manner as ye have feen him go into HeaVen.
" So the Difciples returned to Jerufalem withLuk.xxm
" great joy." Thefe, Sir, zrejome of the ap- J *'
pearances of Jefus to his Difciples that the
Evangelifts have recorded. Now what greater
aflurances cou'd he pofiibly have given them
of his being rifen than he did actually give
them ? He often and plainly foretold his re-
furrection. And fmce they found that his
other prophecys were punctually fulfilled x,
when his body was gone from the fepulchre,
they ought to have believed that he was rifeii
to life ; and that his prediction of this great
event too was certainly accomplifli't. So that
really they wou'd have had fufficieht reafon to
believe his refurrection, even tho' he had ne-
ver appeared to them at all. But it being a
Fact of the greateft importance, concerning
which it was proper to give them the fulleft
Satisfaction ; becaufe they were to teftify it to
the World, and even to feal their Teftimony
with their blood , he aflured them of his re-
furrection, firft by the appearance of two An-
gels, who declared to the Women that he was
rifen from the dead. He confirm*d this evi-
dence by appearing to the Women himfelf. He
appeared afterwards to Peter : then to the Ele-
ven affembled together. They faw him i and
heard him. He fhewed them his hands and
A * 2 hb

31 6

A Conference

SICT.VI. his feet. He ate with them *, and gave
VVVall poilible proofs that it was J^himfelf, and
not a Phantom, or ghoft, that appear'd and
fpake to them. He converfed often and fa-
miliarly with him, during the forty days be-
twixt his refurretion, and afcenfion. And at
his laft appearance and difcourfe with them,
they faw him afcend into Heaven. If all this
evidence that they had for the truth of his re-
furredion might be deceitful or illufive; w
an be fure of nothing whatever;

M. If the ftorys that the Evangelifts tell
us could be rely'd on, there wou'd be no
room for doubting of Jefus's refurrection, or
queftioning the reality of his appearing. But
his not appearing openly to the Chief-priefts to
upbraid them with their unbelief, and ill treat-
ment of him is an invincible objection ; and
gives us juft reafon to fufpect the teftimony of
the Apoftles, and the truth of Jefus's rifing
from the dead.

*jfc.6. P . jy i flawed you before that according to the
laws of reafon (or the rules of wifdom and pru-
dence) he ought not to have appear'd to the
Chief-priefts. It was fufficient that, accord-
ing to his promife, he endued his Apoftles with
power from on high , and by the miraculous
Gifts of the Holy Spirit, which he beftowed
upon them, enabled and commifiion*d them in
his name to upbraid bis Crucify ers and injulters,
with their infidelity, and ill treatment of him*
This they did with fuch conftancy of mind, and
with fuch an undaunted refolution, as amazed
the Chief-priefts. And the indifputable mira-
cles they^ wrought publickly at Jerufalem, to-
gether with the other wonderful Gifts they wer^
AasVi. 4, y, endued with, efpecially their preaching in fe-
t-i. vera ] Xongues that they had never heard, or


our SA v i o u RS Miracles. 357

karn't, converted Thoufands of Jews at
time. When Peter cured a Man who was
from his birth, bidding him in the name
Jefus of Nazareth, rife up and walk : as foon
as he took him by the hand to lift him up,
immediately his feet and ancle bones received
ftrength ; and he leapt #/>, and enter'd with
Peter and John into the temple walking* and
leaping, and praifing God. And when die peo-
ple who knew him, and crouded about him
and the Apoftles, were fill'd with wonder and
amazement, Peter faid, " ye men of Ifraelwhy
" marvel yc at this ? or why look ye fo car-
" neftly upon us, as tho' by our-own power or
" holinefs we had .made this man to walk.
<c The God of our Fathers hath glorify'd his
" Son Jefus whom ye delivcr'd up, and'de-
*' ny'd [or rejected'} him in the prefence of
" Pilate, when he was determin'd to let him
" go: but yc refufcd the Holy-One and the
" Juft , and defired a murderer to be granted
" unto you. And yc kilkd the Prince of life ;
" whom God hath raifcd from the dead ;
" whereof we are witnefles. And his name
" [or * power] through [our] Faith in his name* *?ech.;
*' hath made this man ftrong whom ye f^e
' and know. Yea the faith which is by \Je-
*' fus] hath given him this perfect Soundncfs in
' the prefence of you all. " I cannot but ob-
fervc here that there was not the leaft room for
cavilling againft this miracle. It was wrought
in open day ; in the moft publick place of Je~
rufalem ; before numerous witnefles , upon one
that was a cripple from his birth 5 and was
well known to the people, by his being car-
ry'd and laid every day at the chief gate of
the Temple. He was cured in a moment ;
without the ufe of any means : awJ in the name
A a? of

3 j 8 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. of Jefus of Nazareth. So that there was no
the lead room for fufpefting any fraud or col-
lufion in the Miracle . . ,

M. But what is all this to the purpofe ? you
talk't of the Apoftles' being commij/ion'd to up-
Iraid the Cbief-priefts with their ill treatment of
Jefus: and inftead of (bowing this, you tell us
a long Story of Peter's curing a cripple ; and
making a Speech upon it to the mob.

N. I thought it proper to give you one un-
queftionable proof of Cbrift's having endued
his Apoftles with a miraculous power, ancl
other Gifts, to qualify them for their weighty
Office, And I was going to add, that when the
High-prieft with the Rulers were aflembled in
Council next day, and had the Man who had
been lame, as well as the Apoftles, brought
before them ', the Council cou'd not deny that
a notable Miracle had been done by them, as was
manifeft to all them that dwelt in Jerufalem. On
this occafion the behaviour and language of the
8. Apoftles is very remarkable. Peter being fill'd
and animated by the Holy-Spirit, faid unto
them, Ye Rulers of the people and Elders of
" Ifrael, feeing we are this day examin'd con-
" cerning the good deed done to the impotent
tc man, by what means he is made whole ; be
*' it known to you, and to all the people of
" Ifrael, that by the name of Jefus Chrift of
Nazarefh> whom TE (rucify d^ and whom
" God rais'd from the dead, even by Him
"doth this man ftand here before you
whole. " When the Council faw the bold-
nefs of Peter and John^ and perceiv'd that;
they were unlearned and ignorant Men ,
they marvell'd ; and found that they had
been always with Jefus. Then after cqnfult-


our SA v IOURS Miracles.

*ng together in the abfence of the Apoftles, SECT. VI-
they called them in, and commanded them not VXYV^
to preach at all, or teach in the name of Jefus.
But Peter and John anfwer'd them, < whether v. 19.
" it be right in the fight of God to hearken
* c unto you rather than unto God, judge ye :
<* we cannot but fpeak the things that we have
" feen and heard. " So when the Council had
farther threatned them, they let them go j find-
ing no way how they might punifh them, be-
caufe of the people : for all men glorify'd God
for that which was done. You fee, Sir, that
the Apoftles fpoke and acted like Ambaffadors
from the King of Kings , and Lord of all, with Jg;*' 1 *
dignity and authority j and fuch an inflexible
refolution and courage as no threats nor fuffer-r
ings cou'd (hake. They faid to their Judges,
the High-prieft, and his Council, thofe impla-
cable wicked men who had fo lately murder'd
their Mafter, " the God of our Fathers raifedAa$vii,j?:
* up Jefus whom YE flew and hanged on a tree,
" Him hath God exajted with [or, to] his right
" hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour to give re-
6t pentance unto Ifrael, and forgivenefs of Sins f
*< We are his Witnefles of thefe things : and
" fo alfo is the Holy-Ghoft, whom God hath
c given to them that obey him. " With the
fame freedom and boldnefs did Stephen fpeak to
them, when his doing great wonders and mira-
cles among the people enraged the Chief-priefts,
and led them to fuborn witnefies againft him,
to put him to death. " Ye ftiffnecked and
uncircumcifed in heart and ears, (faid he)
" ye do always refift the Holy-Ghoil. As
c your Fathers did, fo do ye. Which of the
" Prophets have not your Fathers perfecuted?
nay they flew them who foretold the coming
*' of the Juft One of whom YEhavenQw been
A a 4 tk*

3 6o A Conference upon

SECT. VI. the Betrayers and Murderers." Dared any
VXYX^ criminal talk at this rate to his exafperated
Judges ? Doth this look like the language of
Impoftors ? Such fedatencfs of mind, fuch in-
trepidity and fleddynefs in the conduct of Je-
fus's Difciples, was the cleareft proof of their
Integrity. No thing can be more furprizing
than the fudden change that we find in the
temper, Views, and conduct of the Apoftles. At
the Tryal and Death of Jefus how cowardly,
timorous, and dejected were they ! They all
forfook him the moment he was feized. The
boldeft of them, when qucftion'd only by a
woman, deny'd that he knew Jefus. They
were afraid of the Jews ; and of every thing.
They met fecretly ; and mourn'd and wept.
Nothing cou'd comfort them, till Jefus ap-
pear'd to them after his refurrection. This
gave them Joy, and raifed their Spirits.
When they had convers*d often, and much,
with him , and faw him afcend into Heaven,
they" firmly believed and expected that he wou'd
perform his promife, and beftow upon them
the Gift of the Holy-Ghoft. In expectation

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 26 of 31)