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to judge of plain matters of fact, of things which passed before their eyes, and could certainly tell, without the least possibility of being mistaken, whether a person whom they knew to be blind was actually restored to sight, and a person whom they knew to be dead was raised to life again, by a few words spoken by their master. They were men, who, from the simplicity of their manners, were not at all likely to invent and publish falsehoods of so extraordinary a nature; much less falsehoods by which they could gain nothing, and did in fact lose every thing. There is not therefore, from the peculiar character of these persons, the least ground for disbelieving the reality of any thing they relate. Nor is there any reason to doubt whether the writings we now have under their names are those which they actually wrote. They have been received as such ever since they were published; nor has any one argument been yet produced against their authen
ticity, which has not been repeatedly and effectually confuted.
2. It is a very strong circumstance in favour of our Saviour's miracles, that they were related by contemporary historians, by those who were eye-witnesses of them, and were afterwards acknowledged to be true by those who lived nearest to the times in which they were wrought; and what is still more to the point, by many who were hostile to the Christian religion. Even the emperor Julian himself, that most bitter adversary of Christianity, who had openly apostatized from it, who professed the most implacable hatred to it, who
employed all his ingenuity, all his acuteness and learning, which were considerable, in combating the truth of it, in displaying in the strongest colours every objection he could raise up against it; even he did not deny the reality of our Lord's miracles*. He
* Julian apud Cyrillum, L. vi. viii. x. Celsus also acknowledged the truth of the gospel-miracles in general,
He admitted that Jesus wrote them, but contended that he wrote them by the power of magic.
3. Unless we admit that the Founder of our religion did actually work the miracles ascribed to him by his historians, it is utterly impossible to account for the success and establishment of his religion. It could not, in short, to all appearance, have been established by any other means. Consider only for a moment what the apparent condition of our Lord was, when he first announced his mission among the Jews, what his pretensions and what his doctrines were, and then judge what kind of a reception he must have met with among the Jews, had his preaching been accompanied by no miracles. A young man of no education, born in an obscure village, of obscure parents, withOut
general, but ascribed them to the assistance of demons, “The Christians, says he, seem to prevail, Baluewan riwy ovouaqi na karananasal, by virtue of the names and the invocations of certain demons.” Orig. contra Celsum, ed. Cantab. l. i. p. 7.
out any of those very brilliant talents or exterior accomplishments which usually captivate the hearts of men: without having previously written or done any thing that should excite the expectation, or attract the attention and admiration of the world, offers himself at once to the Jewish nation, not merely as a preacher of morality, but as a teacher sent from heaven; nay, what is more, as the Son of God himself, and as that great deliverer, the Messiah, who had been so long predicted by the prophets, and was then so anxiously expected and so eagerly looked for by the whole Jewish people. He called upon this people to renounce at once a great part of the religion of their forefathers, and to adopt that which he proposed to them; to relinquish all their fond ideas of a splendid, a victorious, a triumphant Messiah, and to accept in his room a despised, a persecuted, and a crucified master: he required them to give up all their former prejudices, superstitions, and traditions, all their favourite rites and cere
monies, and, what was perhaps still dearer to them, their favourite vices and propensities, their hypocrisy, their rapaciousness, their voluptuousness. Instead of exterior forms, he prescribed sanctity of manners; instead of washing their hands, and making clean their platters, he commanded them to purify their hearts, and reform their lives. Instead of indulging in ease and luxury, he called upon them to take up their cross and follow him through sorrows and sufferings; to pluck out a right eye, and to cut off a right arm; to leave father, mother, brethren, and sisters,
for his name's sake and the Gospel. What now shall we say to doctrines such as these, delivered by such a person as our Lord appeared to be? Is it probable, is it possible, that the reputed son of a poor mechanic could, by the mereforce of argument or persuasion, induce vast numbers of his countrymen to embrace opinions and practices so directly opposite to every propensity of their hearts, to every sentiment they had imbibed, every principle