William Stevenson.

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

. (page 27 of 31)
Online LibraryWilliam StevensonA conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... → online text (page 27 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

tnk.wiT. of this they tarry'd at Jerufalem: they met
fs '' publickly , and out of a great number of
other difcipks, they chofe One to be an Apo-
flle in the room of Judas. And on the day
of Pentecoft, the Holy-Ghoft came upon them.
Then they wrought aftoniihing miracles : they
fpoke languages they had never learnt. Their
minds were enlighten'd, comforted, animat-
ed. They were fill'd with the wonderful Gifts
of prophecy, and difcerning of Spirits ; with
wifdom, knowledge, a prudent Zeal, an un-
daunted Courage, and an utter neglect and
difregard of this world and its enjoyments.
They now preach the rcfurrection and doc-

our S AV i o u R'S Miracles. 3 6 r

trine of 7<?/ztf publickly in Jerufalem. When SECT.
called to account for their behaviour, they
own the Truth : they upbraid the High-prieft
and Rulers with crucifying the holy One, the
righteous Jefus. They declare that they are
witnefles of God's having rais'd him from the
dead : and exalted him to his right hand in
Glory. They defpife threatnings : and perle-
vere refolutely in doing their duty, and preach-
ing the doctrine of Jefus daily, in the very
-Temple. And when imprifon'd, beaten, and
perfecuted, they rejoyce that they are counted A8 v.
'worthy to fufferfor his name. Cou'd there now
be any pretence for disbelieving their Tefti-
mony concerning the refurrection of Jefus* when
they were impower'd by him to confirm it, and
the truth of his doctrine, by Miracles as afto-
niming as the refurrection itfelf ? One wou'd
think fuch Evidence muft have been irre-

M. I have not yet had occafion to examin
the credentials of the apoftolical Amba/adors.
All I fhall fay of them at prefent is, that they
had lived long enough with their Prince to
learn the art of working fuch miracles as he
did. As for the wonderful Gifts of the Holy-
Ghoft, tho* they amufed the common-people,
and perhaps converted thoufands of them ; the
men of Senfe at Jerufalem faw the miftake, and
ridiculed the enthufiaftick pretence of fpeaking
unknown Tongues. They told the Apoftles
to their face, that they were fuddled : and
that the fumes of new wine had got up into
their heads, and made them prate in a kind
of gibberifh that might well pafs for unknown

A Conference upon

SICT. VI. N. To Ihow how ridiculoufly falfe this
charge is, I need only appeal to the nature of
the miraculous Gift of fpeaking unknown
Tongues, which the Apoilles were endued
with: and the wonderful Circumftances that
attended the conveyance of it. When they
were all affembled on the day of Pentecoft,
fuddenly there came a Sound from Heaven as
of a naming mighty wind, that fill'd all the
Houfe where they were fitting. And there
appear'd to them cloven Tongues as cf Fire (a
lively emblem of the wonderful Gift now be-
ftow'd on the Apoftles,) and fat (or hover'd)
upon each of them. So they were all filled with
the Holy-Ghoft, and began to fpeak with other
Tongues [than they underftood before,] as the
Sprit gave them utterance. At this time there
were devout Jews of every nation at Jerufa-
lem ; who had come thither to celebrate the
great feaft of Pentecoft. And when the mi-
raculous Qift beftowed on the Apoftles was
noifed abroad, the multitude came together,
and were aftonifh't, becaufe every Man, what-
ever Country he was of, heard one or other of
the Apoftles fpeak in his own language : and
they faid one to another, are not all thefe which
fpeak Galileans ? How then hear we them
fpeaking, each of us in our-own Tongue ?
Partbiqns and Medes, and Elamites, and the
dwellers in Mefopotamia^ and . Cappadocia? in
Pontus and Afia minor, IPhrygja and Pampbylia,
in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia, about
Cyrene and ftrangers from Rome ; Jews and
Profelytes, Cretans and Arabians , all equally
heard the Apoftles preach and publim, in their
feveral Tongues, the wonderful works of God'.
How amazing muft it have been to hear poor
ignorant Fifhermen, who had never travelled


our S AV i o u R*5 Miracles. j 6 *

beyond Judcea and Galilee^ in one moment SECT. VI,
enabled to fpeak the feveral languages of fo ^%^*/
many different nations ! How powerfully muft
they have preach't the Gofpel, when every
Sentence they utter'd was a proof of their
Doctrine, and proclaimed the wonderful power
of God ! Their fpeaking languages that they
underftood not before was as aftonifhing a
proof of their being endued with a divine pow-
er, as their railing the dead. How inexcufc-
able then were thofe fcoffers who imputed the
miraculous gift of fpeaking unknown Tongues,
to drunkennejs ? Cou'd the fumes of new Wine
endue men with new knowledge ; and make
them fuddenly underftand and fpeak languages
that others acquire with much pains and ftudy ?
The mixt multitude of people from all nations
were the moft proper Judges of this miracu-
lous gift : and they own'd that they heard and
underftood the Apoftles preaching the wonder-
ful works of God, in their feveral tongues.
Befides, this wonderful Gift was not confined
to the Apoftles ; but afterwards conveyed to
others. When Peter converted Cornelius^ and
preach't to him, and many other Gentiles, theASs x. #
gift of the Holy-Ghoft was beftowed upon
them all : and they /pake with tongues and mag- v .^
nif-fd God. And when Paul had baptized
twelve PJfciples whoin he found at Ephefus^- *
and laid his hands, on them, the Holy-Ghoft I ~"" 6 '
came upon them ; and theyjpake with 'Tongues
und propbefyed. The fame Gift was imparted
to feveral in the Church of Corinth : and the
Apoftle, in his firft epiftle to the Corinthians, ch. jpv
gave them particular directions concerning the
orderly and edifying life of that wonderful gift.
There cou'd be no poffibility of miftakc or
fraud, in the ufe or conveyance of it. Every-

3 #4 ^ Conference upon

S*CT. VI. one who had it muft have been confcious that
this Gift was miraculous. And thofe who
heard it ufed by perfons whom they knew,
might bs morally certain that it was not acquir-
ed,, but truly fupernatural. When you come to
confider thefe things coolly ; and to confult
with Mr. W. or his Rabbi-, about a reply to
them, I hope you will remember, that they
were not done in a corner, nor among igno-
rant credulous people, who might eafily be
impofed on ; but in the populous flouriming
Citys of Jerufalem^ Ephefus and Corinth ; where,
both among the priefts, and people, there muft
have been men of parts and penetration, who
were not only able, but forward and watchful,
to detect any deceit or collufion in the Gift of
Tongues. Nor was it a cafual tranfient thing *
but a ftanding Miracle ; not ingrofs't by the
Apoftles, but imparted to many of their Con-
verts ; among whom, it was impoffible that any
trick or fraud fhou-d be concealed. It was a
Miracle abfolutely neceffary to the fpeedy and
effectual propagation of the Gofpel : for, with-
out it, and the power of working other Mira-
cles too, the Apoftles cou'd no more have con-
verted a great part of the World, than they
cou'd have conquer'd it.

% ST. By the Gift of freaking with Tongues, St.
Luke might mean no more than a Talent, or
faculty of fpeaking foreign languages, that had
been acquired before : and which the Difciples
of Jejus then found themfelves particularly in-
clined to exert before the numerous ftrangers
they faw at Jerufalem. Divines generally fup-
pofe that none but the Apoftles were endued
with this Gift (or rather exerted it) on the day
of Pentecoft. But what St. Luke fays may very
well be apply'd to feveral of :he other pifci-

our S AV 10 u R'J Miracles. j 6 f

pies that were, mentioned in the foregoing SCT. VI.
chapter: among 'whom there might be fome^^^O^
that had travelled, and learn't one or other o f Aasi<IJ1 -
the languages fpoken by the various Sorts of
ftrangers who were then at Jerufalem. It can-
not be fuppofed that all the Difciples underftood
each of thefe different Tongues: but the firft
perfon that fpake to the people might ufe one
ftrange language ; and the next, another. And
this they might do, partly out of oftentation, to
Ihow their skill in foreign Tongues; (as ic
feems to have been done among the Corinthi-
ans ;) and partly from a defirc to invite Stran-
gers of all forts to come and hear their doc-
trine. Accordingly it happen'd that their
fpeaking in different languages drew a greaC
number of Strangers together; who were a-
mazed to hear Galileans (whom they fuppofed
never to have travelled) fpeaking in various

N. There is no reafon to think that th*
Gift of Tongues was beftowed at firft upon
any befides the Apoftles. Fbey only are fpo-
ken of in the clofe of the firft Chapter of th
Afts : and of them only it can be meant that
they were all with one accord in one place: for, in
the 14 th verfe, it is faid that Peter flood up tvitb AO. j ?
. the Eleven^ when in a calm, modeft, pertinent,
rational, affecting Difcourfe he vindicated him-
felf, and them, from the malicious charge of
their being///^ with new Wine *. And it was
.only by the Apoftles that the Gifts of the Holy- ch. rin,

Sec r. 37. where only the Apoftles are mention'd : an4
t. 32. where ALL tbofe on whom the Holy-Ghoft fell,
are called WITNESSES of CbriJTi refarrettion ; which
is one diftinguiftiing part of the Apoftolick character. Se
MISCELLANEA SACRA. Yol, II, fiffay H. pag.


3 6 6 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. Ghoft was conveyed to others. The furpriz^
ing appearances that attended the defcent of*
the Holy -Spirit upon the Apoftles, fhowcd evi-
dently that their jptaking with tongues cou'd not
mean their exerting a common Gift or Talent
that they had acquired before* A Sound from
Heaven filled all the Houfe where they were
aflembied : and there appeared cloven fiery
Tongues that fat upon each of them, or ho-
vered upon their heads. This was a miracu-
lous proof of the reality of that fupernatural
Gift the Apoftles were now endued with. And
they were all filled with the Holy-Ghoft, and be-
gan [immediately] to fpeak with other Tongues as
the Spirit gave them utterance. Thefe laft words
Ihow that the power of uttering or expreffing
their thoughts in unknown Tongues, was an
immediate Gift of the Spirit they were now
filed with.

y. St. Luke does not fpeak of unknown
Tongues : He fays they began to fpeak with
ether Tongues, as the Spirit gave them utter-
ance : that is, one or other of them fpake in
other languages than they commonly ufed*
Each of them difplay'd his refpeclive Gift ;
and took this particular occafion to mow his
skill in fpeaking fome foreign language ; as
his fpiritj or mind, enabled him to utter his

N. You cannot but know, Sir, that St.^
Luke's words will not bear the Senfe you
wou'd force upon them. No thing can be
more evident than that the Spirit which gave
the Apoftles utterance^ is the very fame Holy-
Spirit with which they were now filled. The
wonderful manner of conveying the Gift of
Tongues manifeftly proves that the Gift itfelf
was truly miraculous : and that fpeaking in

our S AV i o u R'S Miracles. 3 67

Tongues muft necefiarily mean their SECT. VL
fpeaking fuch foreign languages as they un-V^TO*/
derftood not before. What need cou'd there
be of fuch wonderful appearances as attended
the conveying this gift of Tongues, if it was
really no Gift at all , and that the Apoftles only
exprefs't themfelves in Tongues they under-
ftood, (but feldom ufed,) before ? This fup-
pofes that in their Speech or utterance they had
no affiftance at all from that Holy-Spirit with
which they were filled. But the other fuper-
natural Gifts with which the Apoftles were
likewife furnifh't (particularly the power of
working the fame kind of Miracles that jefui
himfelf did,) prove the truth and reality of
the wonderful Gift they now had of fpeaking
foreign languages. Each of their Gifts con-
firm'd the truth of the other : and mowed
that they both fpake and acted by a divine
Power and Authority. And fince the Gift
of Tongues was not confined to the Apoftles,
but imparted to many others, both Jews, and AS$ xi*.
Gentiles , betwixt whom there was the greateft
variance and oppofition as to fome of their
Notions, View*, and Ufages, even after their
converfion to Chriftianity ; this mows evi-
dently that any collufion, or fraud in the Gift
of Tongues was utterly impracticable.

M. If the Gift of fpeaking unknown Tongues,
and the other Miracles faid to have been
wrought by the Apoftles had been real, and
free from all fufpicion of fraud ; the Jews muft
have been converted by it : and the Chief-
priefts and Pharifecs, inftead of perfecuting
and punifhing the Apoftles, wou'd have treated
them with all the regard and veneration due to
infpired Prophet,

N. I

A Conference upon

SECT. VI. JV. I accounted for the obftinate incredulity
VW/ f t he Chief-priefts before. As for the com-
mon people, great numbers of them were con-
verted to the faith of Chrift. When Ananiai
and Sapphira were fuddenly ftruck dead (as St.
Aa s Y. Peter foretold they wou'd be) for attempting to
*~~ ll ' deceive the Apoftles ; and other Miracles were
v. 14- wrought by them ; Multitudes both of men and
g. vi. 7. women were added to the Lord. 'The word of
God increafed, and fpread dayly. The number
of Difciples multiply* d in Jerufalem greatly : and
a great Company of the PRIESTS themfelves
became obedient to the Faith. I think it is very
remarkable that the Saddttcees were the men
seech.iv.i.who now chiefly jovned with the High-prieft
dch.V. 7- in oppofmg and persecuting the Apoftles. The
rage and bigotry of the Pharifees began to
abate. The advice that one of their Lead-
4 y. 4. ing-men gave to the Council oijerufalem fhows
what favourable thoughts he had of the Apo-
ftles and their Doctrine. The convcrfion of
Saul, the greateft bigot among them, quite
aftonifh't them, and confounded all their mea-
i.{xr.y. fares. Afterward feveral other Pharifees be-
lieved in Jefus. Soon after the Apoftles were
v filled with the Gifts of the Holy-Ghoft, the

chriftian Converts in Jensfalem grew very nu-
merous; and the Common-people revered the
Apoftles fo much, that the Captain of the
Guards and the Officers of the Chief-priefts
ch, ?. ifi. were afraid of being ftoned, when they carry'd
Y. ia, i before the Council. After working many
Miracles and converting multitudes of people
? i* to the Faith, they were imprifoned. But an
angel of the Lord by night open'd the prifon-
doors, and brought them forth ; faying, go
ftand and preach in the Temple to alj the peo-
ple. Accprdingly they enter'd into the temple


etir SAVIOUR** Miracles. 369

early in the morning, and taught. When the SECT. VI-
Council met, and fent for the prifoners ; the ^*V V
officers returned and told them that they found
the ^irifonjhut with all fafety, and the Guards
Handing without, before the doors; but that
they found no perfon within. When the Coun-
cil heard this, they began to doubt whereunto
this wou'd grow. Then one came and told
them, that the men they had imprifon'd were in
the Temple, teaching the people. So when
they had fent for them, without violence, the
High-prieft faid, " did not we ftridly com-
" mand you that ye Ihou'd not teach in the
cC name of Jefus ? Yet behold ye have filled
** Jerufalem with your doftrine^ and intend to
" bring this Man's blood upon US. " This fliows
a very furprizing change in the fentiments of
the High-prieft himfelf and his Council. They
now began to doubt what might be the iiTue
of this matter , and to fear that they had gone
too far when they put Jefas to death. 'Then
they cryed out with the people to have him Mat. xxvii.
crucify'd, and faid, his blood be upon us and upon*S- xM .
our children ! Now they fpeak in another flrain ; 13, is* "3*
and expoftulate with the Apoftles for intending
to bring the bkod of Jefas upon THEM ; as if
they had been afhamcd of the Fact, and dif-
own'd tbtir being guilty of it. Cou'd they pof-
fibly have talkt in this manner to the Apoftles,
if they had thought that Jefus was juftly put
to death, or had queftion'd the truth of his
Refurrection ? In eflecl: they vindicated his in-
tegrity, and condemned themfelves, when they
difown'd their being guilty of his blood. Buc
Peter told them plainly that THETJJew Jcfus,
and hanged him on a tree ; but that God had
raifed him /(/>, and exalted him to his right hand j to
fa a Saviour, to give repentance to Jfrael, and
B b remifficn

3 70 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. remiffion of Sins. When they heard this-, they
^VN-' were cut to the heart, and (in their rage) took
counfel to flay them. But Gamaliel* a Pharifee
and Doctor of the Law, who was in great re-
putation among the people, advyfed the Coun-
ASs v. 34, cil to refrain from the Apoftles : tC let them
38, 37.' ' alone (faid he) leil haply ye fhou'd be found
" even to fight againft God, For if this
Work [or, Dffigri] be of Men, it will come to
" naught : But if it be from God, ye cannot
" overthrow it. " To this prudent advice they
agreed. And when they had called- in the
Apoftles, and beaten them, they charged them,
not to preach in the name of Jefus. But they
Afliv. 41, rejoyced in their fufferings : and continued ftill
42 ' to teach dayly in the Temple. If you cou'd

but calmly confider the character and conduct
of the Apoftles, the nature of their wonderful
Gifts, and of the aftonifhing Miracles they
wrought, you cou'd not queftion their tefti-
mony concerning the Refurrection and Afcen-
iion of Jefus : which are not to be look't upon
merely as miraculous Faffs, but as points of
Belief, as important in themfelves as his incar-
nation, birth, life, and death. If Jefus actu-
ally rofe from the dead, and afcended into Hea-
ven, it was certainly pofllble to give fufficienc
proofs of it to the world, without his appear-
ing to the Chief-priefts, and Rulers. I ask
then what better (or other) proofs the moft
obftinate Sceptick can require, than the Apo-
ftles actually gave of the refurreftion and
afcenfion or Jefus. For the certainty of thefe
Facts, they, and hundreds of other perfons,
had all the evidence of their Senfes : and they
attefted the truth of them amidft continual ha-
zards, perfections, ftripes, imprifonment ; all
the hardships of life, and the terrors of death


our SA v i o u R'J Miracles. 371

itfelf. Throughout their conduct there appears SECT. VI.
the ftricleft Integrity and Virtue ; Candour, V -"V>-'
Goodnefs, Temperance, Meeknefs, Content-
ment, Submifllon to the divine Will, Patience,
and even Joy under their Sufferings ; Forgive-
nefs fhown to their worft Enemys j a heavenly
temper ; an unfeign'd Contempt of the world,
its Honours, Riches, and fenfu'al Delights ; a
boundlefs Charity towards mankind ; and an
unweary'd Zeal in promoting their welfare and
happinefs. Such was the Character and beha-
viour of the Apoftles. All that cou'd pofllbly
be defired farther to render their Doctrine and
their Teftimony credible, was, that they fhou'd
be inabled to confirm the truth of both, by
undoubted Miracles. This they did dayly.
They were likewife endued with other wonder-
ful Gifts ; fuch as the power of Prophecy , of
difcerning the Spirits and thoughts of Men ;
and above all, a fufficient knowledge of Lan-
guages they had never heard or learnt. Jejits
promifed thus to furnifh and qualify them for
preaching and propagating the Gofpel among
all nations : and he punctually fulfill'd this pro-
fhetick promife. This alone was the moil con-
vincing proof of his Refurrection and Afcen-
fion. And we have feen too that the preaching
of the Apoftles was attended with fuitable
fuccefs. They wrought the moft amazing
Miracles, and converted many thoufands at
Jerufakm in a few days. Neither threats, nor
ilripcs, nor the fear of Death difcou raged them
from doing their duty. They refolutely obeyd AQ v. a?:
God rather than Men ; and conquer '4 all op-
pofition. At length they travell'd into the
moft diftant Regions : and in a few years they
converted a great part of the World to the
Faith of Cbrift. , Now fmce it was certainl
B b 2

3 7 2- ^ Conference upon

icr.VI.pffffible for 7^/; to rife from the dead, and to
aiccnd into Heaven, without appearing to the
Chief-priefls : and that it was equally poflible
for Almighty God to give fufficient proofs and
aflurance to the world of thefe Facts, fo cir-
tumftanced : and fince we affually have all the
Evidence for them that cou'd be given, fup-
pofing they had been true ; it follows, that the
truth of Corift's refurrection, and his Afcenfiont
into Heaven, is unqueftionably eftablim't with
all the Evidence of demonftration.
vi. p. frf. Falfe Miracles have been common things
among Chriftians : and as the refurrection of
Jefus is their grand and fundamental one ; fo
it is not at all difficult to account for the rife,
propagation, and continuance of it. Why it
has been believ'd thro* thefe fatter ages of the
Church is no wonder at all. The Priefts had
their interefl in it. The ignorant and fuperftitioiu
had their comfort in it. And the wife and confide-
rate, for fear of perfection, durft not inquire
into the grounds of it. The only difficulty is
to know upon what principle the project and
ftory ofjefus's refurrection- was at firft devyfed ; .
And whether it was ambition, or revenge upon,
the pharifaical Priefthood of the Jews, which
prompted the Apoflles to it, is all one to us.
Such bad principles too often put men upon the
mofl difficult and defperate attempts-.

N. When you mention Ambition, or Re-
venge upon the Jewiih Priefthood, as motives
that might poffibly influence the Apoftles, and
engage them in iuch a Fraud as you charge
them with concerning the rcfurre&km of Jefus ;
you forget that they were Jews themfelves ;
educated in all the falfe notions and prejudices
about a temporal Meffiah > and ftrongly prc-
poffefs*t in favour of the Jrwijh worjbij), and
fritftkood. You mult fuppofc
4 top

'our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 373

too that the Apoftles devyfed the Fraud ofScr.vI.
yefus's refurrection, before they had fuffer'd any V*"v^
thing from the Chief-priefts -, or cou'd pofilbly
entertain any revenge againft them. When
Jefits dyed, the Apoftles v/ere ftill Jewsboth as
to their principles and practice. If they rec-
kon'd him an Impoftor, or were Cheats them-
felves, they cou'd not believe him to be the
MeJJiah. Nor cou'd they for his fake abandon
the notions and worfhip they had always em-
braced, to propagate the belief of a very dif-
ferent Doctrine , and of Facts that they knew
to be falfe. Revenge therefore cou'd never be
the motive of their Conduct. Neither cou'd
Ambition, or any poflible views of Honour or
Fame, determin them to promote an impofture.
They did not pretend to fet up themfelves as
the Heads of a new Sect, or the Inverters of a
new Religion. They profefs't themfelves to be
only the difcijdts and followers of Jefus of
Nazareth, who was crucify'd at Jentfakm as a
malefactor. What Honour cou'd they hope for
from adhering to fucb a Matter ? What Credit
in the world by teaching his doctrine ? How
cou'd they pofllbly expect to be believed -, or
to meet with the leaft fuccefs ? Jefus had told
them they were to expect perfecution, difgrace,
contempt, and death itfelf, for preaching the
Gofpel. They look't for no other reception in
the world. They actually met with this very
treatment ; and rejoyced that they were ac-
counted worthy to fuffer for their Matter's
fake. This was the only ambition that ani-
mated and influenced them. They fought for
eternal Glory, Honour, and Immortality, by a
patient continuance in well-doing. As for worldly
honour and fame, they cou'd expect none.
They were fet forth (or, expofed) as a fpeftaclc **'*
B b 3 to 9 "' 1 '

374 ^ Conference upon

SECT. VI. to the world ; both to Angels, and to Men : they
s ^v^- > were look't on as fools for Chrift's fake ; and as
weak men : they were defpifed, and treated as
the filth of the world, and the offfccuring for re-
fufe) of all men. They fuffer'd hunger and
thirft ; were naked and buffeted, ferfeeuted,
and defamed. Nor can it be pretended that
they might have fet-out with other views j
and were difappointed of their expectations.
Mat.xxiii. For, Jefus forewarned them of the many tri-
4S'. xxiv. filiations that were to befall them. They were
job. xvi. i. fare of meeting with the greateft oppofition,
reproaches, difhonour, and all fort of afflic-
t cor. xii. tions : and even took fleafure in them. In few
words, their Conduct was quite oppofite to
that of Impoflors. As they always taught, fo

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 27 of 31)