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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tortion, andlnjuftice they ufed in their Dealings.
It appears now that the great Multitude in the
Temple, confi.ft.ed chiefly of the Difciples and
Followers of Jefus ; who look'd upon him as a
great Prophet, and the Son of David, which was ver. 1 1.
one Title of the MeJJiah. So that there cou'd be
no need of his exerting a Divine Power to drive
the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple.
The vaft. Regard and Authority he had now ac-
quired, was fuffi cient to over-aw them into Sub-

M. If he had attempted to drive out the Difc . t p>
Buyers and Sellers, the People would have re- n-
fifted him, and executed their Revenge upon
him. . Or if he had effected it, the Merchants
of the Temple might have reproach'd him with
damage done to their Wares , and would have


* See, The Miracles of Jcfus vintKcatttl, Part z- p. 14.

14 A Conference upon

SECT. I. juftly accufed him of a Riot againft Law and

N. This is arguing from mere Conjecture a-
gainft plain Fact, and pofitive Evidence. The
Evangelifts unanimoufly declare that Jefas caft
out the Buyers and Sellers , and fay nothing of
the People's refitting him. Indeed there is not
the leaft Reafon to fuppofe they would. The
Action was not only right in itfelf, but popular
too. The Traders in the Temple were guilty
of profaning it: And the driving them out
mull have been agreeable to all fuch, as had a
due regard to that facred Place. But fuppofing
a part 'of the multitude had been indifferent
Spectators of this Action ; the Buyers and Sel-
lers dared not to refift the awful Prefence, and
eftablifh't Authority of fo great a Prophet as
yefus was acknowledged to be. His miraculous
Power muii have been known among them :
And if the dread of that had not been fufficient
to over-aw them , the Fear of being facrificed
by the zealous Multitude that attended and ap-
plauded him, muft have reftrained them from
Refiflance. In Fact, he drove them out without
the leaft Tumult, or Oppofition : and if they
fuffer'd any Damage, or Lofs of their Goods, or
their Money, (which does not appear,) it was
but a gentle Puniihment for their Offence, in-
flicted by one who was invefted with divine
Authority, and vindicated the Sacrednefs of
God's Temple, and their Law.

M.. By his Death he abolilh'd the whole train
of Sacrifices, and other ritual Acts of Worlhip,
that were offer'd in the Temple : And fince it
was fo foon to become ufelefs, and within a few
Years to be deftroy'd , why was he fo zealous
againfl the Profanation of it ?

A: Tho'

Our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. i 5

N. Tho' he defign'd, and exprefly foretold SHCT. T.
the Deftruction of the Temple, which in due {/~\"
time was punctually accomplim'd ; he had Rea-
fon to cenfure and punim the Profanation of it ;
feeing it was ftill the proper Place for Publick
Worlhip, that God himfelf had chofen and ap-
pointed. Andzs Jefus always fulfill'd all Rigbte- Matt.iu. i;
otifnefs-t and comply'd with every Divine Inftitu-
tion : So the Zeal he had for the Honour of God,
'and a becoming Regard to that Temple, which
was not only dedicated to his Service, but diilin-
guifh'd from all other Places of publick Wor-
lhip, by a vifible Glory that was the Symbol i Kings viii
of his more immediate Prefence there, led Je- J
fus to drive out thofe Traders (who are repre-
fented as Thieves and Cheats) that profaned the
Houfe of Prayer, by making it a Houfe of Mer-

M. Hilary fays there was no Market kept in Dim- p.i
the Temple of Jerusalem. And if any Hifto-
rians, befides the Evangeli/ls, had afferted it ; I
know of none who would have been fo foolifh
as to believe, that Oxen and Sheep were fold

N. This is a tedious way of telling us that
you think it a Fiction. Had any other Hifto-
rian aflerted this Fact, Infidels would never
have queftion'd it : But fince it is related by
an Evangelift, they think it incredible. I never
took the pains to confult Hilary : but the
Words that Mr. W. quotes from him, feem
to be wrefted and mifapplied. It is very un-
likely that he mould directly contradict the
Evangelift. But if he did , no regard could be
had to his Teftimony, concerning a Fact that
St. John mult certainly have known better than

Af, The

1 6 A Conference -ufon

SECT. I. M. The beft way of explaining this ftrartge
Onro Story, is, with Mr. 'W. and the Fathers, to
Difc. i. p. ma k e j t a prophelick and parabolical Narrative of
what will be myflerioufly and more wonderful-
ly done by Jefus. The Fathers are unanimous
in this Point : And you cannot reject their Au-
thority, without fapping the Foundations of your
Faith. They were holy and venerable Preachers
ibid. p. f. of the Gofpel ; who receiv'd it from the Hands
of the Apoftles and of Apoftolical Men. Some
of them fuffer'd for the Doctrine they taught ;
and therefore cannot be fuppofed to have had
wrong Notions of Jefas's Miracles.

N. Mr. W. can bring none of thofe very Pri-
mitive Fathers, to vouch for the allegorical Sence
of Cbrift's Miracles. Origen (one of the earlier!
he quotes) never converfed with Apoftolical
Men. But as to the ufe that your Friend
makes of the Fathers in general, I need fay but
little. Every-one knows what be and Mr. C<
mean by the Myftical and Allegorical Sence of
Prophecies and Miracles. When Mr. C.
afierts, that the Jewijh Prophecies are true only
in a myftical or typical Sence , he means that they
are really mifapply'd, and do not in a true and
proper Sence relate to Jefus , or the Meffiah. And
when Mr. W. talks of the Spiritual and Allego-
rical Meaning of Cbrift's Miracles, and rejects
the obvious and literal Sence of the Gofpels ;
p" '37. *' m ' s P* a * n Meaning is, that Jefus never wrought
true Miracles -, and that the Gofpel is really an
abfurd and incredible Romance. As for the Fa*
tbers^ I know no Authority they had to explain
the Scripture, more than other Chriftians.
Their Teftimony, concerning fuch Facts as they
certainly knew, is highly credible. But when
they give us their Explications of Scripture, or
their Sentiments about any particular Point of

Doctrine *

Our SAVIOUR V Miracles. t

Doctrine ; we fhould approve, or reject them, SECT. I.
as Truth and Evidence direct us. How far
they were from queftioning the literal Senfe (or
real Truth) of drift's Miracles, every-one
knows. Tho* feveral of them ftrain'd their In-
vention to apply the Facts in the Gofpels alle-
gorically ; and to mow that befides their literal
and obvious meaning, they were likewife ca-
pable of a more fublime and myftical Sence ;
and pointed out fome farther Ihftruction, or
hidden Truths, which thefe Fathers endeavoured
to explain ; yet they never deny'd the literal
Sence of Jefus's Miracles ; nor doubted whether
the Facts, or Things related in the Gofpels, as
done by him, were really transacted. Mr. IV.
cou'd not but know this. And I believe he
wou'd not have it thought that it was either Ig-
norance, or Miftake, that led him to mifreprefent
the true Sentiments of the Fathers, in the man-
gled Citations, and falfe Tranilations he often
gives of them. Numerous Inftances of this kind
might be produced j if it were of anyufe* But
this Task is already in proper Hands.

C T. If you have no farther Objections to the
Fact before us, we will proceed to the next.
I think there is room enough for doubting whe-
ther the driving the Traders from the Temple
was a miraculous Act. But feeing there is no
Abfurdity in the literal Sence of the Story ; you
ought by your own Conceffion to admit the 1
Teftimony of the Evangetifts on this Point.
Let us hear then what you have to fay againil
the literal Stbry of Cbrift's cafting the 'Devils .

out of the Maamen ; and permitting them to Luk^u'i Is.
enter into the Herd of Swine.

M. I grant that to exorcile or cart De- on c . t. f ,
vils out of the pofiefs't, (without confiderihg J4 '
the Nature of fuch a PolTeflion ; or the Nature
C and

i 8 A Conference upon

SKCT.I. and Power of the Devil,) is not only a benefi-
cent Act, b ut a great Miracle. But ftill it is
no more than what falfe Teachers, workers of
Iniquity, and even fome Artifts among the Jews
have done before. So that this can be no Proof
of Jefus's divine Authority.

N. After we have confider'd all the Obje-
ctions you have to offer againft the Truth and
Reality of Cbrift's Miracles ; we will then in-
quire how far they are a Proof of his di-
vine Authority. We need not inquire at pre-
fent whether a Prophet's cafting out Devils be
a convincing Proof of his acting by divine Au-
thority : This is a Point not fo eafily deter-
min'd as fome may imagine : becaufe it is fome-
times hard to know when People are really
poffefs't by Devils ; and whether fuch Devils
are willingly, or unwillingly, caft out. But
there is no Occafion to enter into fuch difficult
Inquirys : becaufe when we afiert that Jefus's
working of Miracles is an evident Proof of his
divine Mifllon, we do not mean his working
only one fort of Miracles ; fuch as his healing
Difeafes ; cafting outDevils i or the like ; but his
working all forts of Miracles, as occafion offer'd ;
the molt publick, charitable, amazing, undoubt-
ed Miracles ; even fuch as no Power but that
of the Almighty himfelf cou'd poflibly effect.
So that if it cou'd be proved that Exorcifts a-
mong the Jews, or Pajjifts 9 have really caft
out Devils ; or that others have miraculoufly
healed Difeafes -, that cou''d not weaken the
Proof of Jefus's divine Miffion, drawn from his
having wrought all forts of Miracles ; and even
impower'd his Apoftles to do the fame. Be-
lides j no other worker of Miracles fince Jefus
and his Apoftles, ever pretended to be fent
from God to reveal his Will to Mankind : and


Our SAVIOUR'* Miracles > 19

appeal'd to Miracles as a Proof of his Autho- SECT, I:
, rity, as Jefus did : without which Appeal, the V^ofN/
mere working of Miracles can only prove that
there are Spirits, or invifible Agents, whofe
Power far exceeds that of Men. But I need
not enter farther into this Point now. Let us
hear your Objections againfl the literal Sence or
Truth of Cbrift's calling the Devils out of the

M. There are many Circumftances in the wfc. * P.
Story, that wou'd induce us to call the Truth 3 "
of the whole into Queftion. How came thofe
Madmen to have their Dwelling among die
Tombs of a Burying-ground ? Where

N. Ifyoupleafe, Sir, I'll anfwer your Que-
flions feparately. But let me firft premife,
that if a fatisfactory Anfwer cou'd not be given
to them that wou'd not lefTen the Credibility of
the Fact. There are fo many Circumftances
relating to the Perfons, the Time, Place,
Witnefles, Occafion, and Effects of every
Tranfaction recorded in Hiftory , that it is the
eafiefl Thing imaginable to ask fuch Queftions
about any thing whatever, as no Man can fully
anfwer ; and thence to form Objections againft
the moft certain Facts. The beft Hiftorians a-
mong the Antients are often concife in their Ac-
count of Things ; and mention only a few of the
chief Circumftances of anyFact they relate. The
Evangelifts do the fame. And tho' this ftudy'd
Brevity makes it fometimes difficult to anfwer
every Queftion that may be ask't about fome
things recorded in the Gofpels ; this can be no
real Objection to the Truth of them. But to your
Queftion You ask how the Madmen camt
to have their Dwelling among the Tombs of a
Burying-ground. It is not eafy to account for
the Actions of Madmen ; but it is likely they
C 2 were

,0 A Conference upon

ecT.I. were at firft confined, and taken care of, in
fome proper place of the Town they belong'd
to. And when they broke their Fetters, and
got their Liberty, Experience might teach
them that it was fafer to pafs their time chief-
ly in the Tombs, and to live upon fuch vege-
table Food as they cou'd get in the Defert and
among the Mountains ; than to come near any
Town, where they were fure to be chain'd
down, and feverely beaten by thofe whom in
their raging Fits they might happen to Attack.
Difc. i. p. M. But where was the Humanity of the Peo-
ple that did not take care of them, in pity to
them, as well as for the fafety of others ?

N. It was an Act of Humanity to fetter them,
and try to keep them from doing Mifchief to
themfelves, or others. Wherever they were fet>
ter'd, whether in the Town, or among the
Tombs ; they were then certainly taken care
of; elfe 'they mull have perifh't. And when
they broke their Fetters ; they went into the
Wildernefs, and fhifted for themfelves. But
according to Mr. /^"s Morality, the People
mowed their Humanity, by not killing them ;
which he fays they might have lawfully done.
This is but loofe Cafuiftry -, and a more dange-
rous kind of Doctrine than he feems to be aware
of. The Gadarenes probably had fomcfcrufles a-
bout theLawfulnefs of killing the poorMadmen ;
and thought it inhuman to deflroy them, while
there was any hopes of their coming to their
Senfes again. However, if it was lawful and
human to kill them, left their Neighbours
fhou'd be in danger from them , it cou'd not
be inhuman to let them live among the Tombs,
or in the Defert ; where they were likely to do
leaft harm : efpecially feeing the People took


Our SAVIOUR'.* Miracles. 21

what care they cou'd to confine them, and to
fupply them with neceffarys.

M. I think it is hardly credible that no Chains DICC.
cou'd hold them. 33 '

N. The Evangelift does not fay that no Chains
could be made fo ftrong as to hold them : but that
they broke the Chains and Fetters they were
bound with. It is likely the Chains were made
no ftronger than was thought neceflary to fe-
cure the Madmen ; and that the People's Hu-
manity led them to fatten the Chains or Fetters
fo (for the Cafe of the poor Wretches) as might
occafion them to be the more eafily broken.
Now confidering that a furious Madman, or
one in a raging Fever, may have at leaft thrice
as much Strength, as he wou'd have in a fober
healthy State ; it cannot feem improbable, that
the Demoniacks by the ftrength of Nature alone,
(without fuppofing them to have any additional
force fupply'd by the Devils that poffefs't them,)
fhou'd break fuch fmall Chains as might be
reckon'd ilrong enough to fetter them.

'/. There is nothing in this Story that fhocks
me fo much as that feveral thoufand Devils mou'4
enter into the poor Demoniack. It is amazingly
abfurd ; and what I can never believe.

N. I know no Obligation you are under to
believe it.

T. Is it not one of the Facts recorded in the

N. I think not.

C T. The Evangelift fays the Man was pofTefs't
by a Legion of Devils. And we know that a
Legion among the Romans contain'd generally
three or four thoufand ; and fometimes more.

N. The Evangelift does not fay there was a
Legion of Devils in the Man. He only fays
't him his Name j and that he an-
C 3 fwer'd

Conference up on

SFCT. I. fwer'd my Name is Legion , for we are many. If

J^^ this Anfwer came from the Madman, there is
little Credit to be given to it ; and lefs flill if
it came from the Devil. I have fometimes
wonder'd what cou'd be the Reafon of Jefus's
asking the Man's Name ; (for it was plainly the
Manhe fpake to, when he faid, " What is thy
Name " ?) and I think it is not improbable he
might do it to convince thofe that were prefent,
by the Extravagance and Faljhood of the An-
fwer the Man wou'd probably make, that he
was not only befide himfelf, but really pojfeft
by a lying Evil-fpirit." And this appeared mani-
feilly from his faying, " my Name is Legion " ;
as if the Number of Devils in him amounted
to fome thoufands ! As to the Truth of the Mat-
ter, we are at Liberty to believe whatfeemsmoft
reafonable. For, the Anfwer tojefus's Queftion,
was made either by a Madman, who knew not
what he faid ; or by a Devil, whom we cannot

Ch.viii.3o. cf m B ut does not St. Luke confirm the Truth
of that Anfwer, by adding the Reafon of the
name, [Legion'] ; '* becaufe many Devils were en-
tred into him ".

ch. v. 9. JV", It appears from St. Mark that this toq
was a part of the Demoniack's Anfwer ; which
St. Luke only exprefles in another way , as if
he himfelf explain'd the Reafon of the Name,
Legion, and defign*d to give it a rational and
fiber Sence. We cannot think that by [many]
St. Luke meant, fome thoufands. He ufes fuch
Words as many, and a Multitude, in a very
reltrain'd Sence fometimes. Thus he calls the
xxviii. $ un dig ( or perhaps handful) of Sticks that St.
P^^/pick't up in Melit a, TsKybos,& Multitude. We
. vuL 2 ; never rea ^ o f above feven Devils, caft out of any
Perfon, And if there were fix or feven in the


Our S AV i o u RV Miracles. ^ 3

mad Demoniack, it might be truly faid that SKCT.I.
many (indeed too many) Devils were entred into
frim. This reducing the Number of Devils
does not affect the Miracle in difpoflefling them.
For it was as real an Inilance and Proof of
Cbrift's divine Power to call out fix Devils out
of the Demoniack 9 as fix thoufand.

M. The worft of the Story is, it is not cre-
dible that there was any Herd of Swine in that
Country, for the Devils to enter into. The
Jews were forbidden to eat Swine's Flefh ; or
fo much as to keep Swine in their Country.

N. If the Owners of the Swine were fuppofed
to be Jews, (as your Objection implys) it can-
not be thought incredible that they fhou'd aft
contrary to a Law that was not of divine au-
thority. By the Law of Mofes they were for-
bidden indeed to eat Swine's Flefh : but it was
only a political Law, or human Inftitution
that prohibited their keeping Swine. Indeed
that very Law fuppofes that the Practice of
feeding Swine for neighbouring Markets was
already begun among fome of the Jews. But
perhaps the Owners of the Swine were Apoflate
Jews who lived among the Gadarene-Gcntiles
in the Neighbourhood tfjudcea.

M. I'll fuppofe what you fay to be true :
but then it is unlikely (without better Reafon
than we are appriz'd of) that Jefus wou'd per-
mit the Devils to enter into a Herd of Swine to
their Deftruction. Where was the Goodnefs, and
the Juftice of his doing fo ?

N. There might have been feveral juft and
good Reafons for his permitting this that we are
not apprized of. Perhaps Jefus permitted this
Dammage to be done to the Owners of the Swine
to punilh them for fome particular Wickednefs.
And perhaps the Swine might be fubject to
C 4 fome

4 A Conference ufon

SECT. I. fome fort of Diftemper > as in fuch hot Coun-
V'V'*-' trys it often happens to Cattle and other Qua-
drupeds : fo that eating the Flefh of thefe Swine
might have proved fatal to the People: and
their Deflruftion perhaps faved the Lives of
many Perfons.

M. I have as much right to fuppofe what I
pleafe as you. Now I think it is far more likely
that the Swine were fat and found, and fat for the
Market: and then they cou'd not be worth lefs,
than 2000 Pounds. At this rate of reckoning,
the Proprietors of the Swine were great fufferers ;
pifc. i. p. and we do not read that Jefus made them a-
3 ** mends ; or that they deferved fuch ufage at

his Hands. It is commonly faid of him, (and I
believe it,) that his Life was intirely innocent :
that his Actions were all ufeful and beneficial
to Mankind : and that he did no wrong to any
one. But how can this be rightly faid of him,
if this Story be liter ally true?

N. Since his Life was intirely innocent ; and
his other Miracles were evidently ufeful and
beneficial to Mankind ; we ought to conclude
that his Conduct was uniformly jufl and good.
And therefore we have Reafon to fuppofe that his
permitting the Devils to deflroy the Swine was
either an act of Kindnefs^ as it muft have been
if he knew they were difeafed ; or an acl: of
Juftice> defign'd as a Punifhment to the Owners ;
who, (whether they were Apoflate Jews, or
Native Gentiles of Gadara, fubject to Idolatry,
and perhaps to the other grofs Sins that were
common among the Heathen Nations ;) cou'd
not but deferve a feverer Punifhment than they
now fuffer'd. In the generalCourfe of his Be-
haviour, Jefus acted like a private Perfon : He
fubmitted to human Laws ; 'and mowed a ftrict
regard to the common Rules of Right and Pro-

' perty.

Our SAVIOUR'* Miracles]

perty. But feeing thefe may in fome extraor- SECT. I.
Binary Cafes be warrantably broke thro 1 , as
in War, publick Danger, and Self-defence j
we cannot deny the fame Priviledge to Jefus,
in thofe few Inftances where he acted (and is
to be confider'd) not as a private Perfon -, but
as a Prophet, immediately commiffion'd and
impower'dby God himfelf, the fupreme Proprie-
tor of all Things, to vindicate the Honour of
his Laws i and to punifh a fmful People. Being
appointed Lord of the Creation, he had an un-
doubted Authority over allPerfons. The mi- Heb.m.
racujous Power he daily difplayed was a fuffi- Ch ' *' z;
cient Proof of that Authority. And tho* on
other Occafions he made a kind and merciful
ufe of it : yet in this one cafe, he mowed that
his Power was unlimited : and that he was able
to afflict and punifli the wicked, as well as to
do good to thofe that were better difpofed. In
fine, it were as reafonable to charge Peter with
murdering Ananias and Sappbira, as to tax Je*
fus with Injuflice for inflicting (I mean permit-
ting tfye Devils to inflict) a far lefs Punimment
upon the Gadarenes.

M. You may view this Action in what Light
you pleafe : I can make nothing of it but a ma-
nifeft Injury done to the poor Sufferers.

N. They might fuffer Dammage without ha-
ving any Injury done to them. And if it were
an Injury, itcou'd not be juilly charged upon
Jefus ; but only upon the Devils who devifed
and did it.

M, But Jefus concurr'd in it. They cou'd
not have done it without his Permiflion : and
therefore he was at leail acceffary to it.

N. Is every Perfon anfwerable for all the Evil
he might prevent if he wou'd ?

M. I think fo,

N, Cou'd

i A Conference upon

SECT. I. N. Cou'd not Almighty God prevent many
W^-* of the Injurys, Sins and Miferys that happen
in the World ?

M. I don't know. It is generally fuppofed
that he might.

N. Is he then acceffary to all the Sins, and
Injurys that he does not prevent ?
M. I muft not fay that.
N. You will grant then, that by permitting
the Devils to enter into the Herd of Swine, Jefus
was no more Author of any Injury or Dammage
they did, by deftroying them , than God him-
felf was Author of the Injury that the fame
Devils did to the two Men by entering into
them, and abufing them miferably : which
they cou'd not have done without the divine

2". I think there is great difference between
a tacit Permifiibn, or Connivance, and an
exprefs Leave ; which implys not only a Confent^
but fome degree of Approbation. When the
Devils ask't Jefufs leave to go into the Herd
of Swine, he faid to them, Go. So that they
had his Confent to what they did ; and I think,
his Approbation too : for he wou'd not exprefsly
confent to a Thing he did not approve of.

N. What the Devils beg'd of Jefus was, that
he wou'd permit them to go into the Herd of
Swine : fo that when he faid, Go , he only con-
fented to permit them ; or not to oppofe their
Ch- v - '3- Defign. Accordingly St< Mark fays, that lot gave
Ch.viii. 31. them leave : and St. Luke that he fujfer'd them ;
or confented, not to hinder them. Now fuch
a confent is always fuppos'd in every Permif-
fion, whether tacite 9 or expxefs't : when God
permits any Injury, or Sin, that he forefees,
and cou'd prevent if he wou'd ; he only fuffers
the Agent, or Sinner, to do the injurious Afti-


Our SAVIOUR'.? Miracles. 17

pn : he confents to the Exiftence of that E- SECT. L
vent, by not preventing it : but this confent ^^^^
does not imply his Approbation of it. All the
Difference betwixt fuch a Incite Permiflion, and
fxprefs leave is this ; that a tacite (or filent)
Permiflion always implys the Party's Know-
ledge and prefum'd Confent as to the Exiftence
of the Act, or Event, and his Power to hinder
jt, if he wou'd i (elfe it cou'd be no Permiflion
at all :) and the exprefs Leave, or formal Con-
fent, is the fame aflent of the Mind fignify'd or
exprefs't by Words, There is nothing more
real or pofitive in the one, than in the other ;
and no degree of Approbation neceffarily im-
ply'd in either. The Reafon why fome fancy
there is a greater difference than there really
is betwixt a tacite Permiflion, and an exprefs
Confent, is, becaufe a Confent exprefs't in
Words generally implys an Approbation of the
Action, as well as the permitting it to be done.

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 3 of 31)