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certain prevailing corruptions, against vice, or any particular species of it, or in fortifying and encouraging the constancy of the disciples under the trials to which they were exposed, there appears to be no place or occasion for more of these references than we actually find.
So far as the epistles are argumentative, the nature of the argument which they handle, accounts for the infrequency of these allusions. These epistles were not written to prove the truth of Christianity. The subject under consideration was not that which the miracles decided, the reality of our Lord's mission; but it was that which the miracles did not decide, the nature of his person or power, the design of his advent, its effects, and of those effects the value, kind, and extent. Still I maintain, that miraculous evidence lies at the bottom of the argument. For nothing could be so preposterous, as for the disciples of Jesus to dispute amongst themselves, or with others, concerning his office or character, unless they believed that he had shown, by supernatural proofs, that there was something extraordinary in both. Miraculous evidence, therefore, forming not the texture of these arguments, but the ground and substratum, if it be occasionally discerned, if it be incidentally appealed to, it is exactly so much as ought to take place, supposing the history to be true.
As a further answer to the objection, that the apostolic epistles do not contain so frequent or such direct and circumstantial recitals of miracles as might be expected, I would add, that the apostolic epistles resemble in this respect the apostolic speeches, which speeches are given by a writer, who distinctly records numerous miracles, wrought by these apostles themselves, and by the founder of the institution in their presence; that it is unwarrantable to contend, that the omission or infrequency of such recitals in the speeches of the apostles, negatives the existence of the miracles, when the speeches are given in immediate conjunction with the history of those miracles; and that a conclusion which cannot be inferred from the speeches, without contradicting the whole tenor of the book which contains them, cannot be inferred from letters, which, in this respect, are similar only to the speeches.
To prove the similitude which we allege, it may be remarked, that although in St. Luke's gospel, the apostle Peter is represented to have been present at many decisive miracles wrought by Christ; and although the second part of the same history ascribes other decisive miracles to
Peter himself, particularly the cure of the lame man at the gate of the temple, (Acts iii. 1.)—the death of Ananias and Sapphira, (Acts v. 1.)-the cure of Eneas, (Acts ix. 40.)—the resurrection of Dorcas: (Acts ix. 34.)—yet out of six speeches of Peter, preserved in the Acts, I know but two, in which reference is made to the miracles wrought by Christ, and only one in which he refers to miraculous powers possessed by himself. In his speech upon the day of Pentecost, Peter addresses his audience with great solemnity thus: "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know," ,"* &c. In his speech upon the conversion of Cornelius, he delivers his testimony to the miracles performed by Christ in these words: "We are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem." But in this latter speech no allusion appears to the miracles wrought by himself, notwithstanding that the miracles above enumerated, all preceded the time in which it was delivered. In his speech upon the election of Matthias, no distinct reference is made to any of the miracles of Christ's history, except his resurrection. The same also may be observed of his speech upon the cure of the lame man at the gate of the temple;§ the same in his speech before the Sanhedrim;|| the same in his second apology in the presence of that assembly. Stephen's long speech contains no reference whatever to miracles, though it be expressly related of him, in the book which preserves the speech, and almost immediately before the speech, "that he did great wonders and miracles among the people."** Again, although miracles be expressly attributed to St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, first generally, as at Iconium (Acts xiv. 3.)-during the whole tour through the Upper Asia-(xiv. 27. xv. 1.) at Ephesus:-(xix. 11, 12.)-secondly, in specific instances, as the blindness of Elymas at Paphos,ff the cure of the cripple at Lystra,‡‡ of the Pythoness at Philippi,§§ the miraculous liberation from prison in the same city, the restoration of Eutychus,*** the predictions of his shipwreck,tft the viper at Melita,‡‡‡ the cure of Publius's father;§§§ at all which miracles, except the two first, the historian himself was present; not
withstanding, I say, this positive ascription of miracles to St. Paul, yet in the speeches delivered by him, and given as delivered by him, in the same book in which the miracles are related, and the miraculous powers asserted, the appeals to his own miracles, or indeed to any miracles at all, are rare and incidental. In his speech at Antioch in Pisidia, there is is no allusion, but to the resurrection. In his discourse at Miletus,† none to any miracle: none in his speech before Felix ; none in his speech before Festus;§ except to Christ's resurrection and his own conversion.
Agreeably hereunto, in thirteen letters ascribed to St. Paul, we have incessant references to Christ's resurrection, frequent references to his own conversion, three indubitable references to the miracles which he wrought,|| four other references to the same, less direct, yet, highly probable ;** but more copious or circumstantial recitals we have not. The consent therefore, between St. Paul's speeches and letters, is in this respect sufficiently exact; and the reason in both is the same; namely, that the miraculous history was all along presupposed, and that the question, which occupied the speaker's and the writer's thoughts was this whether allowing the history of Jesus to be true, he was upon the strength of it to be received as the promised Messiah; and if he was, what were the consequences, what was the object and benefit of his mission?
The general observation which has been made upon the apostolic writings, namely, that the subject, of which they treated, did not lead them to any direct recital of the Christian history, belongs also to the writings of the apostolic fathers. The espistle of Barnabas is, in its subject and general composition, much like the epistle to the Hebrews; an allegorical application of divers passages of the Jewish history, of their law and ritual, to those parts of the Christian dispensation, in which the author perceived a resemblance. The epistle of Clement was written for the sole purpose of quieting certain dissensions that had arisen amongst the members of the church of Corinth; and of reviving in their minds, that temper and spirit which their predecessors in the gospel had left them an example. The work of Hermas is a vision; quotes neither the Old Testament nor the New; and merely falls now and then into the language, and the mode of speech, which the author had read in our gospels. The epistles of Polycarp and Ignatius
⚫ xiii. 16. + xx. 17.
2 Cor. xii. 12.
+ xxiv. 10.
Gal. iii. 5. Rom. xv. 18, 19.
had, for their principal object, the order and discipline of the churches which they addressed. Yet, under all these circumstances of disadvantage, the great points of the Christian history are fully recognized. This hath been shown in its proper place.*
There is however, another class of writers, to whom the answer above given, viz. the unsuitableness of any such appeals or references, as the objection demands: to the subjects of which the writings treated, does not apply; and that is the class of ancient apologists, whose declared design it was, to defend Christianity, and to give the reasons of their own adherence to it. It is necessary, therefore, to inquire how the matter of the objection stands in these.
The most ancient apologist, of whose works we have the smallest knowledge, is Quadratus, who lived about seventy years after the ascension, and presented his apology to the emperor Adrian. From a passage of this work, preserved in Eusebius, it appears that the author did directly and formally appeal to the miracles of Christ, and in terms as express and confident as we could desire. The passage (which has been once already stated) is as follows: The works of our Saviour were always conspicuous, for they were real: both they that were healed, and they that were raised from the dead, were seen, not only when they were healed or raised, but for a long time afterwards: not only whilst he dwelt on this earth, but also after his departure, and for a good while after it; insomuch as that some of them have reached to our times." Nothing can be more rational or satisfactory than this.
Justin Martyr, the next of the Christian apologists whose work is not lost, and who followed Quadratus at the distance of about thirty years, has touched upon passages of Christ's history in so many places, that a tolerably complete account of Christ's life might be collected out of his works. In the following quotation, he asserts the performance of miracles by Christ, in words as strong and positive as the language possesses: "Christ healed those who from their birth were blind, and deaf, and lame; causing, by his word, one to leap, another to hear, and a third to see; and having raised the dead, and caused them to live, he by his works excited attention, and induced the men of that age to know him. Who, however, seeing these things done, said that it was a magical appearance; and dared to call him a magician, and a deceiver of the people."
† Eus. Hist. 1. iv. c. 3.
Just. Dial. p. 258. ed. Thirlby,
In his first apology,* Justin expressly assigns the reason for his having recourse to the argument from prophecy, rather than alleging the miracles of the Christian history: which reason was, that the persons with whom he contended would ascribe these miracles to magic; "lest any of our opponents should say, what hinders, but that he who is called Christ by us, being a man sprung from men, performed the miracles which we attributed to him by magical art." The suggesting of this reason meets, as I apprehend, the very point of the present objection; more especially when we find Justin followed in it by other writers of that age. Irenæus, who came about forty years after him, notices the same evasion in the adversaries of Christianity, and replies to it by the same argument: "But, if they shall say that the Lord performed these things by an illusory appearance, (phantosi odos) leading these objectors to the prophecies, we will show from them that all things were thus predicted concerning him, and strictly came to pass."† Lactantius, who lived a century lower, delivers the same sentiment upon the same occasion. "He performed miracles-we might have supposed him to have been a magician, as ye say, and as the Jews then supposed, if all the prophets had not with one spirit foretold, that Christ would perform these very things."
But to return to the Christian apologists in their order; Tertullian-"That person, whom the Jews had vainly imagined, from the meanness of his appearance, to be a mere man, they afterwards, in consequence of the power he exerted, considered as a magician, when he, with one word, ejected devils out of the bodies of men, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the leprous, strengthened the nerves of those who had the palsy, and lastly, with one command, restored the dead to life; when he, I say, made the very elements obey him, assuaged the storms, walked upon the seas, demonstrating himself to be the word of God."§
Next in the catalogue of professed apologists we may place Origen, who, it is well known, published a formal defence of Christianity, in answer to Celsus, a heathen, who had written a discourse against it. I know no expressions, by which a plainer or more positive appeal to the Christian miracles could be made, than the expressions used by Origen: "Undoubtedly we do think him to be the Christ, and the son of God, because he healed the lame and the blind;
Ap. Prim. p. 48. ib.
Lact. v. 3.