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 28 of 31)
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they ftrictly practis'd, Sincerity, Candour, and
every thing that is juft, or true, or lovely, or
of good report. And the undoubted Mira-
cles that they wrought every-where gave fuch
an additional force and confirmation to their
teftimony concerning the refurrection of Je-
fus ; that nothing but the utmoft obftinacy,
and moil unaccountable prejudices can lead men
to disbelieve it.

M. Had Jefus after his refurrection ap-
pear'd publickly to his Crucifyers, it wou'd
have been a more fatisfactory and convincing
proof of that important event, than all the Mi-
racles that his Apoftles wrought.

N. Suppofmg that after his Afcenfion he had
appear'd to Caiaphas the High-prieft alone,
when he was going to hold a Council about
puniming the Apoftles ; and had upbraided
him for his infidelity, and for perfecuting his
Difciples, wou'd not you have thought this a
convincing proof of his refurrection ?

M. Yes :

eur SA v i o u RS Miracles. 377

M. Yes: but then the Rulers and PharifeesSEcr. VI.
muft have depended upon the teftimony of<*xYN/
Caiapbas ; which cou'd not have been fo fa-
tisfactory as if they themfelves had feen

N. I cannot think that any-one cou'd have
queftion'd the teftimony of the High-prieft
concerning Jefus's appearing to him ; even tho'
he himfelf had been convinc'd by it, of the
refurrcction of Jefus ; and had become his

M. No doubt the teftimony of the High-
prieft, fuch an implacable enemy ; who firftjoh. &
advys'd the Council to put Jefus to death, and 45 ~~ J? -
was fo active in getting him crucify'd, wou'd
have gone a great way towards convincing the
Pbanfees and Rulers ; and have been more
readily believ'd than the joynt-tcftimony of
the Apoftles, and other Difciples of Jcfus.
But what fignifys talking of what might poffi-
bly have been done ?

N. I cannot but think that Jcfus's miracu-
lous appearing to Saul, while he was perfe-
cuting the Difciples, and his teftimony concern-
ing this Fact, is an additional proof of Jefus's
refurrection, as ftrong and convincing as if he
had appear'd to Caiapbas himfelf. For we have
here a teftimony given to it, by the moft im-
placable reftlefs Enemy that Jefus and his Doc-
trine ever had ; I will not except Caiapbas,
Celfus, Porphyry, Julian, nor the greateft bigot
among our modern Infidels.

M. That Converfion of Paul is one of the
moft furprizing Storys in all the New-Tcfta-
ment. And the worft of it is, that one does
not know either how to believe, or how to re-
ject it.

Bb4 N. What

3 7 <? A Conference upon

SECT. VI. N. What pretence can there be for disbe*
v-^OTW lieving it ? There is no antient Fact more cer-
tain. We have a Narrative of feveral of the
moft remarkable actions of his life, both be-
fore, and after, his converfion, written by St.
Luke his companion and fellow-traveller ; and
confirm'd by numerous pafiages of his own
Epiftles. He was a Jew of Tarfus, in Cilicia ;
educated at Jerufalem, under Gamaliel ; and be-
Gai.i. 14. jng exceedingly zealous for the tradition of his
Forefathers he became a rigid Pbarifee ; and
the bittereft Enemy to the Difciples of Jefus.
Afls xxii. When the blood of Stephen was med, he Hood
ch. viii. 3. by, and confcnted to his death. He made ha-
vock of the Church : and binding both men and
women he deliver'd them into prifon, and per-
ch. xx. ^.fecuted them to death. While engag'd in this
courfe of wickednefs, he thought he was dif-
charging his duty -, and doing God the grcateit
Service. And he was as truly fincere as any-
one cou'd be that laboured under the ilrongeil
CH. xxvi. 9, prejudices. He verily thought that he ought to
Ia * clo many things contrary to the name of Jefus.

He fliut up many of the Difciples in prifon,
and gave his vote againft them when they were
v. ii. put to death. He fwnffit them often in every
Synagogue j and compelled them to blafpheme. And
being exceedingly mud againft them* be perfected
Cb.ix. i, them into foreign Citys. While he thus breath* d
out threatnings andjlaughter againft the Difciples
of the Lord ; and was travelling on the road to
Damafcas with a Commiffion from the High-
prieft to feize any of them he might find there,
and bring them bound to Jsrufalem to be pu-
nifh't j at midday he was ftruck blind by a
light from Heaven, that did no harm to thofe
who were walking with him. And when he
and they fell on ;he ground, he heard a voice


our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 377

fpeaking to him, and faying in the Hebrew SECT. VI.

tongue, Saul, Saul, why pcrfecutcft thou me ? V^VN/

And when Saul faid, who art thou Lord ? he

anfwer'd, / am Jefus whom thou perfeeuteft . Al* ix. 6;

Saul trembling and aftonilh't faid, Lord what

wilt thou have me to do ? And the Lord faid

" to him, arife and go into the City, and it

* c mall be told thee what thou muft do. I

*' have appeared unto thee for this purpofe to CH. xxvi.

" make thee a Minifter and a Witnefs both 1 *" 18 *

of thefe things which thou haft feen, and

c of thofe things in which I will appear [far-

" ther] unto thee -, delivering thee from the

people, and from the G 'entiles , to whom I now

* fend thee j to open their eyes , and to turn

them from darknefs to light , and from the

" power of Satan, unto God. " When Saul

open'd his eyes he cou'd not fee ; but was led

by the hand to Damafcus ; and continued blind

till Andnia^ who was diredlcd by a Vifion to Afl s ix.

go and enquire for him, came to him, and 10 "" 1 **

faid, " Brother Saul* the Lord (even Jefus T - J 7. i

<c that appear'd to thee in the way as thou

< c cameft,) hath fent me that thou might re-

(< ceive thy Sight, and be filled with the Holy-

M Ghoft. Then immediately there fell from

*' his eyes, as it had been fcales : and he re-

f ccived fight forthwith \ and arofe, and was

f< baptized. Then he ftraight-way preach't

<* Cbrift in the Synagogues, that he is the Son

' of God. But all that heard him were ama-

* zed, and faid, is not this he that deftroyed

" them which called on this Name in Jerufa-

* lem > and came hither with that intent that

' he might bring them bound unto the Chicf-

* i priefts ? " When he return'd to Jerufalem

fome time after this, he endeavour'd to joyn Aas ix

Jiimfclf to the Pifciples : but they were all

nfruid of him j and believ'd not that he was a

378 A Conference upon

Stct.VlDifetpI*'', till Barnabas brought him to the
<XW> Apoftlcs, and declared unto them that he had
feen the Lord in the way to Damafats ; that Je~
fus had fyoken to him : and that he had boldly
preacfh't there in the name of Jefus. You fee
this furprizing converfion of Saul was attended
with a train of miraculous Events. He was
ftruck blind by the fame light from Heaven
that did no harm to thofe who were clofs by
him , tho' they faw it as well as he. Jefus ap-
Aas be. 7. pear'd and fpake to him. The reft heard the
v.u, ia. voice, but faw noperfon. A divine Vifion fecn
both by Saul and Ananias at the fame time,
tho' in different places, brought them together.
* 8- Scales fell from Saul's eyes as foon as Ananias
laid his hands on him ; and he immediately
received his fight. So that there were federal
miracles wrought on this occafion. How con-
vincing was the teftimony that fuch an invete-
rate Enemy as Saul, now gave to the refur-
rection of Jefus. Here cou'd be no poflible
fufpicion of fraud, or miftake : nor the leaft
pretence for disbelieving Saul's unqueftionable
Evidence. It confirm'd the teftimony of the
of the other Apoftles ; and gave the moft
powerful atteftation to the truth of the Go-

M. I own there is fomething very unac-
countable in this ftory. But if we were to
cxamin all the circumftances, and differing ac-
counts of it that we find in the Atts\ it wou'd
not appear quite fo wonderful as you reprefent
it. I am not prepared at prefent, to fearch
this matter to the bottom ; having never heard
fo much ftrefs laid upon it before. But if you
confider that Paul was a Vifionary, you cannot
think it ftrange that he fhould on his Journey
to Damafcus fee, and hear, Jefus in fuch a vijion


our SAV i o u R'$ Miracles. 3 7 p

or dream as he had afterwards in the Temple , SECT. VI.
and fancy it to be a reality : and, upon this Vi-
lion, change his Views and Conduct ; and bc-
corne a difciple of Jefus.

7VT Such divine vifions as that which Paul
had in the Temple were truly miraculous
fupernatural ; and in one fence, real: I mean * 7 ' l8 *
that thofe who faw fuch vifions had fome fure
criterion or other, by which they eafily diftin-
guim't them from dreams^ or ftrong efforts of
imagination. And when thefe vifions relate'd to
fubfequentFads, their truth was then confirm'd
even to Others. Of this kind were the vifions
of Cornelius, and Peter : that too of * Ananias^ AS* *. 3.
and Saul's during his blindnefs. In fuch cafes
the Appearances fpoken of are exprefly called v -
vifions: the perfons that have them are faid to
be in a trance, or afleep : their eyes are fhut :
and the circumftances they are placed in, rea-
dily diftinguifh fuch divine Vifions, from real
Fads. There cou'd not pofiibly be any fuch
vijion in the cafe of Saul's converfion. He
was travelling to Damafcus ; and faw the daz-
zling Splendour that blinded him, at noon day.
Thofe who were walking with him faw it as
well as he. And they beard the voice too, that
fpake to Saul ; tho' they might not * under-
ftand (or diftinftly hear) every thing that was
faid. A mere vifion cou'd neither itrike Saul
blind ; nor reftore his Sight three days after.
The reality of Jcfus's appearing to him is con-

* In ARs xxii. 9. rv /I Qm>w OUK %*tnvm fhould be render'd
but they did not underftand the Speech. . . They certainly
beard the voice : as appears from Ati ix. 7. ctxeotu fig-
^fys fometimes to underftand ; as in i Cor. xiv. 2. Gal. tr.
2 1 Jcfus fpake to Saul in the Hebrew Tongue, which his
fellow-travellers might net under/land.


380 'A Conference upon

Seer. VI. firm'd by the glorious circumftances, and mi-
V'Y"^ raculous events that attended it : and thefe again
are farther attefted by thofe who were with
him ; and the concurring teftimony of Ananias.
Nothing lefs than the moft irrefiftible convic-
tion cou'd have produced fuch a wonderful
change. Saul's prejudices againft Jefus and his
Doctrine feem to have been fo inveterate, that
nothing but a miracle wrought upon bimfelf
cou'd convert him. Seeing he was brought up
at Jemfalem* he had probably heard Jefus ;
and muft either hare feen fome of his Mira-
cles, or have been credibly inform'd of them ;
and of thofe which the A poftles wrought. Yet
thefe had no influence upon him. But when
Jefus himfelf appeared, to him in Glory, and
ipake to him in the manner He did -, he cou'd
no longer refift that divine power which he
now felt. He is convinced, and converted. His
Thoughts, and Views, and Temper are intirely
changed : and inftead of breathing out threat-
nings. and (laughter againft others -, he now
breathes only love, mildnefs, patience, con-
defcenfion, and a fmcerc benevolence towards
ail mankind. His excellent fenfe, and confci-
oufnefs itfelf, (which gives the utmoft certainty)
fecured him from being deceived in the mira-
culous events that attended his Converfion.
His behaviour even bffore, was a proof of his
acting according to the dictates of his Confci-
ence, then biafs't, and fatally mifguided, by
prejudices almoft invincible. And every ftep
of his life after his converfion, fhows how up-
right and fincere he was in fpreading the know-
ledge of the Gofpel, throughout the world.
The wonderful manner of his being called <f>
the Apoftldhip by Jefus himfelf, fct him upon


our S AV i o u R'J Miracles. 3 8 r

the level with the other Apoftles. And his SECT. VI.
being endued with the fame power of Mira-
cles, and other Gifts of the_Spirit that they had,
inabled him fuccefsfully to propagate that Doc-
trine which he had formerly oppofed, with fb
much bitter zeal, and outragious violence. The
Conclufion we muft now draw from the vari-
ous and undoubted Facts I have laid before
you, is, that the Refurrection and Afcenfion of
Jefus are as unqueftionably true as the Miracles
that were wrought by the Apoftles ; and the
wonderful Cowverfion of Paul: that is, they
are as credible and certain as any thing record-
ed in Hiftory can be. For, fince Jefus after
his death, not only endued his Apoftles with a
miraculous power, and other fupcrnatural Gifts,
according to his promife ; but afterwards ap-
pear'd perfonally and fpake to Paul at his Con-
verfion ; we are thence infallibly affurcd, thac
Jefus rofe from the dead, and afcended into
Heaven j and that the teftimony of the Apo-
ftles concerning thefe Facts, and the doctrine
of the Gofpel, is undoubtedly true. We are
therefore fure that Jefus is the Meffiab, or the
Son of God: and that he was fent from Hea-
ven to reveal the Almighty's will to man-

M. You have almoft preach't me aficep. I
muft bid you good night.

7*. Let us have your Company one half
hour more, Sir: there is a point of import-
ance ftill to be cxamin'd ; viz. how far the
Miracles of Jefus are a proof of his divine

M. In his firft Difcourfe, Mr. W has clearly P
fliown that the miracles of healing all manner
of bodily difeafes which Jefus was fo juftrjr
famed fgr are. no^a fufficicm proof of his di-

3 8 1 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. vine Authority to found and introduce a religion

WYX> into the world.

N. When we appeal to the Miracles of Je-
fus as a proof of his divine Million ; we do not
mean thole Miracles only which he wrought in
healing all manner of bodily difeafes (as Mr. /F's
afferdon feems'to fuppofe,)noryet his caftingout
Devils ; or doing any other particular Sort of Mi-
racles: but his doing all forts, on all occafionsi
L the moft publick, beneficial, undoubted Mira-
cles i fuch as raifing the dead ; feeding thou-
fands with a few loaves and fifhes , and the like :
which cou'd not pofiibly be effected without
the immediate interpofition of th' Almighty's

Difc.jr.p.j.power. Mr. /F. grants that " the reftoring a
" perfon indifputably dead to life, is a ftupen-
" dous Miracle : and that two or three fuch
" Miracles well circumftanced, and credibly
'< reported , are enough to perfwade mankind
" that the Author of them was a divine A-
" gent, and inverted with the power [and con-
"fequextly, with the Authority] of God."
Now fince I have mown you that Jefus wrought
many fuch Miracles, well circumftanced, and
credibly attefred ; it follows, that he was a
divine Agent, and truly inverted with the power
of God : and that therefore he had Authority
to declare and reveal the Almighty's Will to
mankind ; or to introduce a Religion into the

Difc. i. p. M. He himfelf foretold that falfe Chrifts

" and falfe Prophets would arife, and work Mi-

racles. St. Paul fays the fame of dnticbrift, or
the Man of Sin. How then can we diftinguifh
the true Prophet from the falfe ; or the true
Cbrift, from Antichrift, by Miracles ?

our SAV i o u R'J Miracles. 383

JV". The true Chrift, and true Prophets, may SECT. VI.
"be known and diftinguifht from falje ones, not v
merely by their wonderful works ; but by the
reafonablenefs and good tendency of their Doc-
trine ; the integrity of their Life and conduct ;
the nature, defign, and circumftances of their
Miracles ; and their appealing to them as a
proof and teftimony of their divine Million,
(i.) If falfe Prophets teach abfurd or immoral
Doctrine, Reafon and Common-fenfe (how that
it cannot come from God : and that therefore
their works (however wonderful they may feem)
cannot be wrought by the divine power. Rea-
fon is the original and univerfal Revelation that
God makes of his Will to mankind : and we are
fure, that Doctrine, which plainly contradicts
Reafon, cannot poflibly come from God ; nor
be proved by any fort of Miracles : becaufe all
the manifeftations of his Will whether by Rea-
fon, or Revelation, muft be uniform, and con-
fiftent one with the other. Without inquiring
therefore whether the works that the Teachers
of abfurd or immoral Doftrine do, be really
miraculous -, we reject their Authority and
Doctrine ; and know them to be falfe Pro-
phets. (2.) Tho* the Dodrine fhou'd appear
rational, or not manifeftly abfurd ; yet if the
Prophet be vicious, and infmcere : if he be
enflaved to Luft, Ambition, or other wicked
habits, and docs not live up to the rules of Vir-
tue and Probity that the light of Reafon re-
commends to all men ; there is good ground
to fufpect his being a falfe Prophet ; to reject
his Dodirine, and queftion the truth of his pre-
tenfions. (3.) Falfe Prophets may be readily
diftinguifht by their falfe and counterfeit Mi-
racles ; by their tricks and artifices : their lying
(or deceiving) wonders as St. Paul calls them,
2 and

384 d Conference upon

SECT. VI. and all * manner of unrighteous deceit. His de-
'fcription c Anticbrift and his Miracles, agree
ib exactly to the ambitious arrogant claims of
the Pope, and the grofs cheats and pious frauds
of the Romijh Church , that we cannot help
thinking the Apoftle had them in his view,
when he wrote that remarkable paflage of his
Epiftle to the Tbefalomans. Now as the im-
poftures of Simon Magus? Mahomet, and all
other falfe Prophets might eafily be difcover'd
by the falfhood either of their Doftrine, their
Conduct or their Miracles -, and generally by
all thefe three marks, 'abfurd Doctrine, un-
righteous Conduct, and falfe Wonders : So on
the other hand, a true Prophet is known and
ciiftinguifh't by the reafonablenefs and good
tendency of his Doctrine ; the integrity of his
Character ; and the unqueftionable truth of his
Miracles. By thefe three Marks of Troth and
Credibility the Miracles of Jeftis were mani-
feftly diftinguifh't from the works of falfe
Prophets. His Doctrine was intirely rational,
wife and confiftent -, worthy of God to reveal ;
and fit for men to receive and practife. His
Conduct was righteous, prudent, exemplary,
and irreproachable. His Miracles were nu-
merous, publick, charitable, various, occafi-
onal, and moft aftonifhing. And he not only
declared that he was fent from Heaven to re-
veal the will of God -to mankind ; but on the
moft publick and folemn occafions, he -j- ap-
peal'd to his wonderful Works as an evidence
and teftimony of his divine Million.

* This feems to be the meaning of that be&raifm of
St. Paul's, x<i<ry ttitotry rij JWa?. zThef.u. IO.

t See Luk. v. 24. Joh. xi. 40. 43. ch. ix. 3, 4. ch-. z.
24i 2 5i 3*> 37 38. ch. xiv. 10, u.

M. Hiftory

our SAVIOU R*J Mir&cle$. 387

M. Hiftory affords us inftarices of Men fuch SECT.VI.
as Apollonius Tyanaus, Fefpafian^ and Greatrex
the Irifh Stroaker^ who havemiraculoufly cured 11,
Difeafes to the admiration of mankind j as Well
as Jefus. But if any of them, or any other
greater worker of Miracles than they were
fhou'd withall afliime to himfelf the tide of a
Prophet, and Author of a new Religion , I
humbly conceive we ought not to give heed to

N. Neither Apollonms^ Vefpafian^ nor Great*
rex, ever pretended to be fent from God to de-
liver any fcheme of Religion, or important
Truths to the World. So that we need not in-
quire whether their Works were truly miracu-
lous. For,- if they were $ nothing cou'd be
inferr'd from it, to render the Miracles of Je-
fus lefs credible ; or a lefs valid proof of his di-
vine Authority. When Miracles are wrought
by thofe who do not pretend to come from
God, or to act in his name , all that fuch Mi-
racles can prove, is, that there are invifible
Agents who are able ta do fuch furprizing
things as far exceed the natural powers and abi-
litys of Men. And in fuch cafes, it is the fame
thing to us whether fuch wonderful Works arc
wrought by good Spirits, or by Evil ones : for
in either cafe, they are done by the divine per-
miflion : and, betides the unknown ends of
providence that may be ferved by them, one
defign of them may be to alarm wicked and
fceptical men ; and to convince them that there
are Spirits, or invifible Agents, whofe power,
defigns, and actions are limited, and reftrain'd
by the infinitely fuperior power, and wife pro-
vidence of God. If either A$olloriws* or Vefpa-
fian had taught any fcheme of Doctrine or
Duty, as the will of God ; and had appcal'd
C c t

3 8 6 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. to their wonderful Works as an evidence of
*or^ their Miflion , it wou'd have been neceflfary to
have examin'd the reafonablenefs and tendency
of their Doctrine ; the integrity of their Cha-
racter ; and the nature and truth of their Mi-
racles: and by thefe three Marks it wou'd have
evidently appear'd whether they were true
Prophets, orfalfe. But fmce they did not pre-
tend to be fent from God to reveal his will to
mankind ; we are under no obligation to in-
quire into the nature of their Miracles, or the
credibility of thofe Hiftorians who have related
them. It does not appear from credible Hi-
ftory that any falfe Prophet who pretended to
come from God, ever appeal'd to Miracles as
a proof of his divine Million ; or was permit-
ted to work true and unqueftionable Miracles.
And we may be fure that no Impoftor who
pretends to divine Authority, and appeals to his
works for the proof of his Doctrine, will ever
be permitted to confirm fuch falfe pretences,
by true Miracles. For by permitting this, the
Almighty wou'd feem to fet his Seal to a lye ;
and to lay men under a moral necefiity of be-
lieving dangerous Errors, and the vileft Im-

T. Doth not the Pope, and the Romijh Clergy
appeal to Miracles wrought in their Church, as
a proof that me is the only true Church ; and
that they teach the true doctrine of Jefus ?

N. I never heard, or read of any of their
Miracles fo well attefted as to deferve credit.
Moft of their wonders are wrought by their
Priefts, in the dark corners of Chappels and
Cloyfters ; before ignorant credulous people :
who if they doubted of fuch pretended Mira-
cles, or detected the cheat in them, dared not
difcover it to others, for fear of being tor-

our SA v i o u R'J Miracles. 3 8 *f

tured, or ftarved, in the Inquifition. The SEC T-Vt
liquefaction of harden'd blood, the fweating o
Statues, an Image's bowing its head, or a voice
from behind an Altar, are fuch grofs filly cheats
as will not now pafs in the world for Mira-
cles ; even among the Papifts themfelves. Nor
is there any thing miraculous in the fur-
prizing Cures that they fo much boaft of*
If fome fick people that have ufed proper
remedys for their recovery, happen to pray be-
fore a particular Crucifix or Image; or to kifs
the Pope's toe , or to hang fome relick, or
holy trinket, about their neck or wrift, up-
on, or near the day that their gradual recovery
(after a natural method of Cure) begins ; this
is enough to make the cure pafs for a Miracle:
the Medicine, or proper "Diet, is forgot ; and
the wonderful Cure is imputed to the fuperfti-
tious practice of the credulous Devotee. But if
real Miracles were wrought by the Pope, or his
Emiffarys, nothing cou'd be inferr'd from it
in favour of their doctrine, or worfhip i be-
caufe, (i.) We are abfolutely certain that the
Romijh Doctrine is contrary to Scripture, and
Rcafon, and Common-Senfe : I fay, we are
more certain of this than we cou'd poffibly
be of any Miracle that the Popifh Priefts might
pretend to work. And therefore we are fure
that their Doctrine is fuch as Almighty God
cannot approve of, nor confirm by Miracles^
(2.) No perfon of the Romijh Communion that
is faid to have wrought Miracles, ever pre-
tended to an immediate Commiflion from God
to reveal his Will, or to teach the world any
new Doctrine, or important Truth. On the
contrary, they aflfure us that they maintain no
other Tenets than what are agreeable to Scrip-
ture 5 and were from the beginning taught by
C g 2 ,

388 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. Cbrift and his Apoftles. But fmce Antichrift
and falfe Prophets may work deceiving Wonder -j,
and perhaps true Miracles ; the Romljh Church
has no other way to convince the world that
her pretended Miracles are really wrought by
the power of God ; but by appealing to the
reafonaUenefs of her Dottfinc ; and to the Scrip"
/#ra, and primitive Antiquity, to mow that me
really teaches the doctrine of Jefus. Now
fmce it manifeftly appears, to every impartial
Inquirer, that her doctrine is contrary to Rea-
fon, and Senfe, Scripture, and Antiquity ; it

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 28 of 31)