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bid him stretch forth his hand, in the presence of the assembly, and it was “ restored whole like the other*.” There was nothing tentative in these cures ; nothing that can be explained by the power of accident.
We may observe also, that many of the cures which Christ wrought, such as that of a person blind from his birth, also many miracles beside cures, as raising the dead, walking upon the sea, feeding a great multitude with a few loaves and fishes, are of a nature which does not in anywise admit of the supposition of a fortunate experiment.
III. We may dismiss from the question all accounts in which, allowing the phenomenon to be real, the fact to be true, it still remains doubtful whether a miracle were wrought. This is the case with the ancient history of what is called the thundering legion, of the extraordinary circumstances which obstructed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem by Julian, the circling of the flames and fragrant smell at the martyrdom of Polycarp, the sudden
* Matt. xii, 10
shower that extinguished the fire into which the Scriptures were thrown in the Diocles tian persecution ; Constantine's dream, his inscribing in consequence of it the cross upon his standard and the shields of his . soldiers ; his victory, and the escape of the standard-bearer; perhaps also the imagined appearance of the cross in the heavens, though this last circumstance is very deficient in historical evidence. It is also. the case with the modern annual exhibition of the liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius at Naples. It is a doubt likewise, which ought to be excluded by very special circumstances, from these narratives which relate to the supernatural cure of hypochondriacal and nervous complaints, and of all diseases which are much affected by. the imagination. The miracles of the second and third century are, usually, healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits, miracles in which there is room for some error and deception. We hear nothing of causing the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleanşed*: There are also instances in Christian writers,
* Jortin’s Remarks, vof. ii. p. 51.
of reputed miracles, which were natural operations, though not known to be such at the time, as that of articulate speech after the loss of a great part of the tongue.
IV. To the same head of objection nearly, may also be referred accounts, in which the variation of a small circumstance may have transformed some extraordinary appearance, or some critical coincidence of events, into a miracle; stories, in a word, which may be resolved into exaggeration. The miracles of the Gospel can by no possibility be explained away in this manner. Total fiction will account for any thing ; but no stretch of exaggeration that has any parallel in other histories, no force of fancy upon real circumstances could produce the narratives, which we now have. The feed, ing of the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes surpasses all bounds of exaggeration. The raising of Lazarus, of the widow's son at Nain, as well as many of the cures which Christ wrought, come not within the compass of misrepresentation,
I mean, that it is impossible to assign any position of circumstances however peculiar, any ac
cidental effects however extraordinary, any natural singularity, which could supply an origin or foundation to these accounts.
Having thus enumerated several exceptions, which may justly be taken to relations of miracles, it is necessary when we read the Scriptures, to bear in our minds this general remark, that, although there be miracles recorded in the New Testament, which fall within some or other of the exceptions here assigned, yet that they are united with others, to which none of the same exceptions extend, and that their credibility stands upon this union, Thus the visions and revelations, which Saint Paul asserts to have been imparted to him, may not in their separate evidence, be distinguishable from the visions and revelations which many others have alleged. But here is the difference. Saint Paul's pretensions were attested by external miracles wrought by himself, and by miracles wrought in the cause to which these visions relate ; or, to speak more properly, the same historical authority, which informs us of one, informs us of the other. This is not ordinarily true of the visions of enthusiasts, or even of the accounts in which they are contained. Again, some of Christ's own miracles were momentary; as the transfiguration, the appearance and voice from Heaven at his baptism, a voice from the clouds on one occasion afterwards (John, xii. 28.), and some others. It is not denied, that the distinction which we have proposed concerning miracles of this species, applies in diminution of the force of the evidence, as much to these instances as to others. But this is the case, not with all the miracles ascribed to Christ, nor with the greatest part, nor with many. Whatever force therefore there may be in the objection, we have numerous miracles which are free from it; and even these to which it is applicable, are little affected by it in their credit, because there are few, who, admitting the rest, will reject them. If there be miracles of the new Testament, which come within any of the other heads into which we have distributed the objections, the same remark must be repeated. And this is one way, in which the unexampled number and variety of the miracles ascribed