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 29 of 31)
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neceflarily follows, that Popifh Miracles whe-
ther they be lying Wonders, or real ones, are
only a confirmation and accomplimment of
the Prophecys made by our blefled Saviour
and St. Pauly concerning Antichrift and falfe
Prophets: and confequently that the Miracles
of the Romijh Church (fuppofmg them to be
real] are a proof only of the Doctrine, and
divine Authority of thrift and his Apoftles.
But, (3.) Tho the Romijb writers urge the pre-
tended Miracles wrought in their Church, as
a. proof of her being the true Church, and
her teaching the true doctrine of Chrift ; this
is not fuch an appeal as one commiflion'd by
God to eftablifh a new doctrine, or to confirm
the truth of Doctrine already received, ought
to make. Popifh Miffionarys, ought to work their
Miracles in Proteftant Countrys, (where the truth
of them may be freely and fafely examin'd,)
if they mean to convince Proteftants : and not
put us off with jefuitical Storys of what Xavier
did in Japan. And, before they work fome
undoubted Miracle, they fhou'd appeal to it
as a proof of their divine Authority. Thus
Jefus did when he cured the Paralytick ; and
when he raifed Lazarus. Mofes did fo too,


our SAV IOVRS Miracles. 389

not only in the Cafe of Pharaoh ; but whenSEcr.VT.
he wrought the moft * aftonifhing of all his*^vv
Miracles: and fo did Elijah. If Papifts wou'drKin.xviii
give the world a convincing proof, by Mira- 35 " -I '
cles, that their Doctrine is the very fame that
Jefus taught ; we will not require of them to
raife fome dead heretick to life : let them
only work fome undoubted Miracle upon a
Proteftant ; fuch as curing the dropfy, palfy,
or obftinate lamenefs, in a moment ; before a
fufficient number of unfufpected witnefles : and
before they begin, let them appeal to the Mi-
racle they are going to work as a proof of
their acting by the power and authority of
God, to confirm the truth of the Rormjh Doc-
trine. And when they work fuch a Miracle
fo circumftanced, and previou/ly appeal'd to ;
they may then pretend to have proved the
truth of their doftrine by Miracles. But fmce
it is impoffible that Almighty God fhou'd fee
the Seal of true Miracles to pernicious Er-
rors j or fufFer an undoubted Miracle to be
wrought, after fuch an appeal, made to it, for
confirming any falfhood, or impofture , we
are fure that the Romijh Church will never
pretend to work fuch Miracles ; nor previoufly
appeal to them for the truth of her Doctrine :
and therefore her Doctrine never can be proved
by Miracles.

M. The power of doing Miracles is no jj fc< *' r *
certain nor rational Seal of the Commifiion
and Authority of a divine Law-giver. There
are various Gifts of the Spirit, as St. Paul tells
us: " for to one is given by the Spirit, the J
Word of Wifdom : to another the Word

* $eeNumb, vi, 2835- ch. xvii. 5.

C c of

39 ^ Conference upon

SECT. VI. of Knowledge : to another the Gifts of
Healing : to another, the working of Mi-
" racles : to another, Prophecy : to another,
' the difcerning of Spirits i to another di-
f c verfe kind of Tongues ; to another, the
" interpretation of Tongues. " Now fince thefe
Gifts may be given feparatcly ; it is very in-
conclufive and falfe reasoning, to argue that a
man who has one of thefe Gifts mud have
the other , that is, that becaufe he has the
gift of Healing, and of working Miracles ;
therefore he muft have the Gift of Wifdom, or
of Prophecy, or of difcerning of Spirits. And
yet this is the reafoning of your modern Wri-
ters who wou'd prove Jcfus's authority to found
a Religion, from his Miracles.

N. This Objection fuppofes that all the Gifts
of the Spirit are as ncceffary as the Power of
Miracles, to qualify a Perfon to be the revealer
of God's will to mankind. But this fuppofi-
tion is quite groundlefs. Mofes had not half of
thofe fupernatural Gifts St. Paul fpeaks of :
yet he gave the Jews fufficient proofs of his
acting by divine Authority. All that cou'd
be abfolutely neceffary to prove this, was his
working many publick unqueftionable Mira-
cles. When befides this, Almighty God thinks
fit to diftinguilh any perfon by other wonder-
ful endowments , fuch as the Gift of Prophecy ;
of difcerning of Spirits, or the like , thefe other
Gifts make the truth of his divine Miflion ap-
pear the more evident and indifpu table : but
they do not render the power of Miracles an
uncertain or infufficient proof of a perfon's
acting by divine Authority. The tetlimony
of twelve Witnefies adds a greater degree of
Evidence to any Fact that they certainly know,


our SAV i o u R'J Miracles. 391

and folemnly teflify, than the teftimony of only SECT. VI.
one credible witnefs, or two. But frill the <^"VN^
greater Evidence, tho' preferable when it can
be had, does not render the other inefficient,
or unfatisfactory. The cafe is the fame as to
a Prophet's being endued with other fuperna-
tural Gifts, befides the power of Miracles.
Other Gifts add ftill a higher degree of Evi-
dence as to his Million ; as fifty Miracles prove
it more convincingly than ten: but ftill Ten
(or even fewer) unqueftionable Miracles wou'd
be a fufficient proof of his acting by divine
Authority. Befides ; they who prove from the
Miracles of Jefus that he had Authority from
God, to found a new Religion ; do not infer
from this one fupcrnatural Gift of working
Miracles, that he had all others : but from his
fhowing manifeftly that he poffefs't all the
Gifts of the Spirit in a fuperlative degree, (as
Mr. W. himfelf acknowledges,) they rightly Difc.x. p.
conclude that he had all the qualifications that' 3 '
cou'd be required to fit him for the exalted
Offices he was called to. In the paffage you
quote, St. Paul fpeaks of the different Gifts
that were beftowed upon many of the primitive
Chriftians : of whom Mr. fl^s leafoning holds
true, that there was no neceffity that any two
or more of thefe Gifts fhou'd meet in one man.
But neither is it neceffary that they mould always
be feparatcly conveyed. The Apoftles feem to
have had all thofe Gifts. Jefus evidently prov-
ed that he poffefs't them in the higheft degree.
Tho' there were diver fitys of Gifts, the fame \ ov x ;-,. ^
Spirit was the author of them all. And that J ^ '"
Spirit was the Spirit of the Lord. It was not *
given unto him by meafure, or in a djterminatej oh . ili . 34 ,
degree and proportion only, as it was to others :
C C 4 ft

39* <A Conference upon influenced and * animated him always. He

W*y*V gave the moft convincing proofs of his being
endued with all the divine Gifts of the Spirit :
not only the Gift of healing all manner of Dif-
eafes, and working all other Miracles > but the
Gifts of divine Wifdom, and Prophecy, and fu-
pernatural Knowledge ; and difcerning the Spirits,
of other men, and difcovering their fecret
thoughts and intentions. Nay Jefus not only
poflefs't all thefe Gifts ; but had the power of
conveying them to his Difciples. And after

Aasii. 33. his Afcenfion, he made good his promife to
them ; and beftow'd on them the wonderful
Gifts of the Holy-Ghoft: which was a demon-
ftration that he was commiflion'd by Almighty
God, to be the Revealer of his Will, and the
Author of a Religion.

p;fc. i. p. M. You might as well fay that the ftrongeft
man is the wifeft \ or that a good phyfician
muft needs be a good cafuift -, as that Jefus*
fcecaufe he was a worker of Miracles, fuch as
his are, and a healer of all manner of difeafes,
pught to be received as the guide of our Gon-
fciences, the director of our Underftandings,
and the Author of a Religion.

N., The fame fallacy runs through all your
Friend's reafoning on this point. If Jtfus had
been endued only with the Gifts of healing all
difeafes, and working other Miracles ; this alone
wmi'd have been a fufficient proof of his di-
vine Million. But befides thefe he had the

sseft.v. Gifts of Prophecy, of fupernatural Knowledge?

P, a;78>s>a n d. heavenly Wtfdom. So that he had all the
qualifications that were requisite to render him

* Compare Luk. i. 35. xiivp* vyw a holy Spirit with
ch. iv. i. and with Rom. i. 3, 4. Afts ii. 33. Gal. iv. 6.
Phil. i. 19. Hcb. ix. 14. i Pet. i. 1 1, &c.


our SAVIOUR'S Miracles.

an Author and Inftitutor of Religion : and he SECT. VI.
gave the world the moft convincing proofs
his being appointed of God to reveal his will
to mankind. You will grant, I hope, that
God ought to be received as the Guide of our
Conferences^ and the Direftor of our Underfland-
ings : and that he can not only impart to an-
other perfon fuch a meafure of his divine Pow-
er, Wifdom, and other Perfe&ions as may ef-
fectually qualify him for the fame office ; but
inable him to give fufficient proofs to the
world, by the Gifts of Prophecy, and Mira-
cles, and fupernatural Knowledge, that he is
called and appointed of God to be the revealer
of his Will, and the dire ft or of Our Undcrjland-
ings. Either then you muft affirm that God
cannot reveal his Will to Mankind ; or furnifli
another perfon with fuch Gifts and Powers as
may qualify him for that Office ; and inable
him to give convincing proofs of it to the
world : or if you grant this to be poflible,
you muft allow that Jefus was appointed of
God to be the Revealer of his Will , becaufe
he gave all the proofs of it that cou*d be given,
fuppofing he had been divinely called to that
office. Having occafionally mention'd moft
of thofe proofs already, I need only add here,
that no Impoftor cou'd ever mow, or pretend,
that all the Titles, Marks, and Characters, of
the Mejfiahi foretold by the antient Prophets,
were truly fulfilPd in him. They concenter'd
in Jefus alone : and were punctually accom-
pliih't by his Incarnation, his Birth, and Life,
his Doctrine and Miracles, his Death, Refur-
region, and Afcenfion ; the Calling of the
Qcntiles-) and the fuccefsful propagation of the
Gofpel among them. The Prophecyi point
to One P-erfon* the Me/iak y whom the Jew

394 ^ Conference upon

SECT. VI. expelled about the time when Jefus was born*
To him alone did all thefe Prophecys agree :
nor can any Deceiver pretend to fulfil them.
And I cannot but add, that no Impoflor can
renounce all worldly Advantages and Enjoy-
ments ; practife every Virtue-, and fet others a
perfect: example of Jufticc, Candour, Humi-
lity, Benevolence, and every thing that is
good and praife- worthy, as Jefus did, through-
out the whole courfe of his life.- Far lefs will
an Impoflor not only chufe to live under po-
verty, perfecutions, difgrace, and contempt ;
but refblutely feal and confirm his feeming In-
tegrity, and the truth of his pretenfions, by
voluntarily fubmitting himfelf to a feries of
forefeen, 'inconceiveable fufterings, and all the
anguifh of a publick, lingering, ignominious
death. You fee, Sir, that befides the many
publick, charitable, undoubted Miracles that
Jefus wrought ; we have other convincing
proofs of his divine Miffion and Authority :
namely the excellence, reafonablenefs and per-
fection of his Doctrine > his upright, difm-
terefled , generous Conduct , and boundlefs
Goodnefs towards Mankind ; the accom-
plifhment of all the antient Prophecys concern-
ing the Meffiab in his peribn ; his giving
the mofl evident proofs of his being endued

with fupernatural knowledge; his plain, ex-

prefs, circumflantial predictions concerning ma-
ny contingent improbable Events, which were
duely accomplish' t ; and particularly as to his
Refurrection, Afcenfion, and beftowing the
wonderful Gifts of the Holy-Spirit upon his
Apoftles ; and the fpeedy fuccefsful propa-
gation of his Gofpel, by the mofl unprornifmg
Inftruments, in fpite of the greatefi oppoiition
from the Power, and Learning, the Bigotry

our SAVIOUR'S Miracles. 59 j

and Superftition, the Wit and Malice, the Per- SECT. VI<
fecutions and inveterate prejudices both of the **oo*
Jews, and Heathen. Each of thefe proofs will
have its due weight and influence upon every
attentive unprejudiced Mind. Some of them,
even confider'd feparately, muft be own'd to
be conclufive and fatisfactory. But when they
are view'd together, (as they Ihou'd always be,)
I think the concurring Evidence of Jefus's di-
vine Authority, arifing from thefe various proofs,
is fo irrefiftibly ftrong, that it cannot be re-
jected, or doubted of, by any but thofe who
arc byafs't and blinded by the grofieft, and
moft unaccountable prejudices.

M. Gentlemen, I muft take my leave of
you. Mr. TV, It is pity you had not a good
Caufe to defend. You have faid more in de-
fence of Jefus's Miracles than I expected from
any one. But notwithftanding the plaufible
Anfwers you have made to fmaller Difficulty* ;
Mr. Ws main Objections are ftill invinci-
ble ; and will ever be fo. I wifh you good

N. I fhou'd reckon the converfion of Mr.
M. as wonderful as St. Paul's. I verily be-
lieve that a Miracle wrought upon himfelf cou'd
not convince him. If Jefus were to appear to
him, as he did to the Apoftle, in a train of
wonders, he wou'd diftruft his Senfes ; cavil at
the moft undoubted Miracles ; and continue an
unbelieving Bigot to the laft. With what an
air of fcorn and triumph did he go-off, as if
he thought Mr. /Ps objections ftill unanfwer-
able ! Indeed it was not with any hopes of con-
vincing him that I enter'd into fuch a tedious
examination of the Difficultys and Cavils they
infift on : but to ihow you, Sir, that there is
I nothing

A Conference upon

S*CT. VI. nothing in Mr. Ws Difeourfes of fuch weight
as you feem'd to imagin.

7*. I am much obliged to you, Sir, for the
pains you have taken : but tho* I have a more
favourable opinion of Jefus's Miracles than I
had, I cannot but own that you have rather
confuted Mr. W, than fully convinced me of
the truth of the Gofpel.

N. Do you think that the Miracles which
Jeftts wrought, do not fufftciently prove the
truth of his Doctrine ?

7". If I cou'd fee fufficient reafon to believe
the Fafis related in the Gofpels, I ihou'd not
fcruplc to receive the doftrinc of Jcfus ; efpe-
cially the moral and practical parts of it. But
throughout your Debate with Mr. M 9 you
have only fuppofed the truth and genuine Au-
thority of the Gofpels , that they were really
written by the perfons whofe names they bear ;
and that they contain a faithful account of the
Life, Doctrine, and Miracles of Jefus.

N. I was unavoidably led to fappofe this ;
becaufe moft of his objections were founded
upon fome circumftances of the Miracles re -
corded in the Gofpels : and by arguing thence
againft the miraculoufnefs , or the credibility
of fuch Facts, he himfelf was ftippofed to grant
that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really
wrote the Gofpels : and that they contain the
very fame account of Cbrift*s Miracles and
Doctrine, which Chriftians of all ages have
believed to be genuine. You may remember,
Sir, that before we began our debate, he agreed
to allow as much credit to the teftimony of
the Evangelifts, as to other credible Hiftorians,
in all things that are not abfurd and contra-
dictory, Nor cou'd he reafonably refufe this,
Befides, I had occafion throughout our debate


our S AV i o u R*5 Miracles. 397

briefly to fugged feveral proofs of the integrity SECT. VI.
of the Apollles and Evangelifts, and the ere-
dibility .of the Gofpels : fo that I have not
merely fuppofed, but really proved the truth of
them ; tho' in a much concifer way than fuch
an important point deferves to be treated of.
But have you any more reafon to queftion
whether the four Gofpels were written by
Matthew, Mark, Luke-, and John ; than you
have to doubt whether Suetonius, Tatitus, and
Pliny, wrote the Books that pafs under their
names ?

T. No : I cannot fay that I have any par-
ticular reafon to queftion the genuinenefs of
the Gofpels, more than the works of thofe
other Authors* But I want fuch a Ihort and
fatisfactory proof of this important Truth
(which indeed is the foundation of Chriftianity)
as Infidels cannot reafonably contradict.

N. What proof can you expect of fuch a
Fact ? You have the fame Evidence for it that
you have for other things of the like nature.
You have the conftant and general confent of
Chriftians of all Ages, Nations, and Party ; and
even of Jews and Heathens too : who tho' they
violently oppofed the progrefs of Chriftianity,
both by realbning, and ridicule, and all the
methods that Wit, and Rage, Malice and
Subtlety cou'd devyfe ; yet they never quefti-
on'd whether the Gofpels were written by thole
perfons whofe names they bear. Nor did they
ever deny the truth of the principal Fads con-
tain'd in the Gojfels and Atts : namely, thac
Jefus lived in Galilee: that he taught his doc-
trine not only there, but in Judaa, and feveral
other places : that he wrought Miracles where-
ever he went : and was crucify'd at Jerufalem i
and that his Apoftles and oth<y DiTcipk* de-

398 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. clared they converfed with him after his refur-
W^ re&ion, and faw him afcend into Heaven : that
they believed and preach't the Doctrines and
Facts related in the Gofpels ; and againft all
oppofition, firmly propagated the belief of
them throughout the world. Matthew^ Mark
and Luke, publifh't their Gofpels while feveral
of the Apoftles were alive. And John laft
of all wrote his Gofpel as a Supplement to
the other three ; and thereby added his fanc-
tion to their truth and authority. As foon
as the Gofpels were compofed, many Copys of
them muft have been made and difperfed for
the ufe not only of the publick afiemblys of
Chriftians, but of private perfons : who cou'd
not but fet the higheft value upon thefe facred
Writings ; and read, tranfcribe, and prefervc
them with the utmoft care and exactnefs. We
find that the Attempts of fuch as endeavoured
to corrupt them, were immediately and fuc-
cefsfully oppofed: fo that we cannot reafon-
ably doubt of their being handed down to us,
without any material alteration. It was one
good effect of the divifions and different opi-
nions among the feveral Seels and Partys that
arofe early in the Chriftian Church, that they
were equally jealous and watchful, one of the
other. They all agreed in appealing to the
Scriptures as the fole Standard of Truth : and
fhowed their mutual vigilance and zeal for
preferving them uncorrupted. And tho* in
fome important Texts there are various Read-
ings in different MSS, occafioned at firft either
by miftake, or defign ; yet the genuine Texts
may ftill be difcover'd, by comparing the moft
antient Manufcripts and Verfions together ;
which every judicious Critick will prefer be-
fore more modern ones, when he judges of
any fufpe&ed or fpurio us Paffage, ?< We

our SAVIOUR'S Miracles.

T. We find that fpurious Gofpels, Affs and SECT. VI.
Epiflles were publifh't in the names of the
Apoftles, almoft as ibon as thofe you reckon
genuine. And it is not eafy to imagin how
the true Gofpels were diftinguifli't from the

N. Since three of the Gofpels, and the Book
of the Afts were publifh't, while feveral of the
Apoftles, and other immediate Difciples of Jc-
fus, were alive ; they cou'd not have been re-
ceived as genuine, if they had not been ap-
proved and recommended by the Apoftles :
who at the fame time muft have condemned
and rejected the fpurious Gofpels, as foon as
they appear'd. Nor have we only their Ap-
probation and Judgment to rely upon ; but
the undoubted teftimony of many Thoufands
of chriftian Converts ; who having heard the
doctrine of Jefus and his Apoftles, from their
own mouth ; and feen their Miracles , cou'd
not but know whether the three firft Gofpels
were approved by the Apoftles ; and contain'd
the very fame account of Cbrift's life and mi-
racles, and the fame doctrine which they had
often heard either Jefus, or his Apoftles, teach
and explain. And if we add to all this, that
not only the Apoftles, but great numbers of
their Converts, who knew and teftify'd the
truths contain'd in the Gofpels, fcaled their
teftimony with their blood , it cannot be de-
ny'd that we have all the evidence for the truth
of Chriftianity, and the genuine authority of
the Gofpels, that can reafonably be defired.

'T. Suppofmg that the Gofpels, as we now
have them, had undergone no material altera-
tion ; how can we be fure that the Evangelifts
themfelves (whoever they were) have left us
a. faithful account of the Difcgurfes and Mi-

4OO ^Conference upon

of Jefus: and that they were not credu-


N. You wou'd fcarce be pleafed with the
common and proper anfwer to this query ; that
the Evangelifts were all divinely infpired ; and
thereby fecurcd from Error or Miftakes.
This Anfwer wou'd unavoidably lead one of
your fceptical humour to farther qXieftions ;
and ingage us in a difpute that we have not
time to go through. Waving therefore that
anfwer at prefent ; I (hall only put you in
mind, that the Gofpels wou'd be intirely cre-
dible, even fuppofing the Authors of them
had not been divinely infpired : feeing Inte-
grity alone, will qualify perfons of common*
fenfe to give a plain and fair account of things
that they certainly know to be true. Two of
the Evangelifts, Matthew^ and John, were the
Apoftles and conftant Companions of Jeftu i
who themfelves faw and heard the things they
relate: fo that they cou'd not be vnftakcn.
Mark was Peter's fellow-traveller ; and Luke
was Paul's : and therefore muft have had in-
formation of what they have recorded in their
Gofpels, from the Apoftles themfelves, and
others who were Eyewitnefies : and in depend-
ing upon their teftimony, Mark and Luke
cou'd neither be ertdulous, nor miftaken. As
to the Aft l s of the Apoftles^ which contains the
noft convincing proofs of the truth of the
Gofpel, Luke who wrote the Afts* was pro
bably an cyewitnefs of moft of the things he
. Yiii.relates. His teftimony is confirm'd * by Sti
Paul himfelf -, who in his Epiftles mentions fc-
vcral of the Fadts recorded in the Afts* and

our SAV I o u RV Miracles. 40 r

7*. But tho* the Evangelifts had been ever sp( ' 1 '*
fo exactly apprized of the truth ; is it likely ***%"*''
that thty who were the Apoftles or Difciples
of Jefus ; who had devoted themfelves, and
their labours, to his fervice and glory, fhou'd
not be byafs't by their affection to their Maf-
ter, and their Zeal for promoting his Intereft
and Honour ? When Men lit themfeJves in a
Party, we di.yly fee to what lengths their zeal
and partiiiity lead them -, in decrying fome ;
and magnifying others ; as their Friend/hip,
Envy, or other Views may fway them. The
moil upright and worthy Perfons are infenfi-
bly byafs't and prejudiced in fuch cafes. And
we cannot doubt but the Evangelifts were
men ef like faffioHS and frailtys with others ;
and were as much influenced by party- views,
and a concern for the honour of Jefus ; as we
find other Authors are, for the reputation of
their Patrons ; or for others whofe adventures
they undertake to record and celebrate.

N. Whatever affection the Evangelifts had
for Jefus, and however great their concern
was for his Honour, their Gofpels plainly
Ihow that they had a greater regard to Truth,
than to any other confideration whatever. We
find in them the molt native fimplicity of nar-
ration, and a plain, artlefs, difpaflionate ac-
count, not only of what makes for the credit
and honour of Jefus ; but of fuch things too
as feemingly tend to his difcredit, and difpa-
rag^aient. The Evangelifts have fo candidly
re iated the many malicious afyerfions that the
Pbarifees, his bittereft Enemys, caft upon
him,; and the other reproaches by which they
endeavour'd to leflen his Character ; that there
is no reafon to fufped they have fupprefs't
any thing that was laid to his charge. The
D d truth

A Conference upon

Sect. VI. truth is they have recorded more of this kind
^-^V^-'than cou'd have been expected from the ut-
moft impartiality. They tell us that he was
Mat. xiii.jj. reproach' t with the meannefs of his extraction
and employment; his want of Letters, and
joh. Yii. u- Education, and having never learn* t. They
Luk.ix. jg. freely own his extreme want and poverty ; and
his being fubject to the common infirmitys
joh.^My. ^ human-nature , to exceflive Tendernefs
Mar. iii. j-. to feeming Anger ; and the fear of Death.
Mat. xxvi. y^y don't conceal his being tempted of the xxii. Pe vil forty days-, \\\&' Agony under the dread-
ful apprehenfion of his fufFerings , and his
Mat. xxvii. complaining, on the Crofs, of God's having

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 29 of 31)