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his encomiums, but by their own perceptions, that great numbers discovered the features of divinity in his discourses.
He exhibited the proof of his mission, arising from miracles, with equal fimplicity; those miracles were of the most various and stupendous kinds ; having performed them, he entered into no laboured detail of the circumstances which shewed their reality, he left them to speak for themselves, and to support both their reality and their force by their internal characters of divine power. Thus alfo, he did not, at the time of working every particular miracle, alledge it as a proof of the truth of his doctrines, he laid claim to a divine mission, and constanttly delivered his doctrines as from God; but a general declaration of the intention of his miracles, with an appeal to them on some particular occasions, was fufficient for rendering them vouchers of his mission, and with this he was content.
Our Lord directed his disciples to use the very fame method. When he sent forth the twelve, his instructons were—“ preach, saying, the kingdom of 6 heaven is at hand; heal the sick, cleanse the 45 lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils-freely ye « have received, freely give.”-To the seventy disciples he also gave similar instructions ; instead of teach
9 Matt. x. 8.
ing ing them arguments, he commanded them to work miracles; this was the evidence he directed them to produce; and during the whole course of their ministry, the apostles were contented with simply exhibiting the evidences of Christianity whenever some very immediate and particular opposition did not require their doing otherwise ;—they alledge the miracles of their Lord—they insist particularly on his resurrectionthey relate occasionally the circumstances which attended these facts, and which put their reality beyond doubt; but they do not argue on those circumstances, they speak of them as what they knew to be true, and what all fincere enquirers would certainly find to be true, and they seem to reckon this enough ; they often appeal to the prophecies of the Old Testament, and barely appealed to them without any laboured application; they also themselves worked many miracles, they healed diseases, cast out devils, raised the dead, exercised various gifts of the Spirit ; they gave their miracles a connection with the gospel, by working them with a professed design to confirm the doctrine which they preached, and by declaring, as often as it was necessary, that they wrought them in the name of Jesus Christ; but they do this with the greatest fimplicity, without any laboured arguments to support, or any strong assertions of the importance of these miracles.
Such was the original manner in which the evidences of the gospel were proposed to the impartial G 2
and unprejudiced obferver ; and it was certainly a mode which sobernefs only could dictate, and truth only render effectual. Our Saviour and his apostles wrought their miracles in such circumstances, as rendered men attentive to them, and forced them to perceive their reality by their own senses; and this was exactly the mode which the foundeft reason would prescribe; without the evidence of fenfe the most peremptory affertion that a miracle was wrought, will not satisfy those who must have feen it if it had been wrought; and if it was certainly perceived by the fenses, all assertions of its reality were fuperfluous.'
The topics of doubt and difficulty, which occur to us in 'reasoning on the miracles now, could not subsist at the time they were performed. We are under the necessity of proving they were, in fact, performed by our Saviour and his apostles; but the spectators saw this. We are prone to suspect that we may be ignorant of some circumstances of these 'facts necessary for determining their real nature;
but to those who were eye-witnesses of all these circum'stances, if they rendered them plainly miraculous, this must be perceived by their senses--if they left the miracle equivocal, scarce any arguments would prove they did not, at least the necessity of using arguments would indicate strongly, that the miracles were of an equivocal kind.
Hence we account for circumstances which have been adduced to prove that Christianity was not founded on rational argument, but on blind enthusiasm; even the immediate assent which was demanded, without, as it is said, “' allowing time for so doubt or deliberation,” and the “approbation with “ which a ready acquiescence in the gospel was re“ ceived,” as well as the severity with which its “ rejection, was sometimes menaced.”—The evidence offered was not intricate reasoning in proof of each doctrine separately, whịch would have required long examination; miracles were wrought, and led men to conclude at once the divine mission of those who wrought them, and consequently the truth of all the doctrines which they delivered in the name of God; if such evidence was fit to work immediate conviction, it was really commendable to attend to it without prejudice, and yield to it readily, since its force might be perceived in an instant. Inattention or rejection could scarcely arise from any thing but an impious indifference to the will of God, or some perversion of understanding, the effect of a depraved and vicious heart. But this plain and artless mode of proposing the proofs of Christianity, would have had no success if their evidence had not been folid.-Slender evidence will not succeed, except it is set off by specious reasonings, except some method is used for giving the appearance of evidence where there is none, or of greater than there really is, by artificially diverting the attention of the mind from the want or the defects of the proofs; but in the proposal of the gospel nothing of this kind took place, its proofs were presented naked and unadorned ;-now, is it possible this method could have fucceeded, if there had been no real evidence ?-must not the defect have been quickly perceived when no means were employed to conceal it ?-Never was a falsehood successfully inculcated by a bare exhibition of pretended evidence, without any art or pains employed for concealing the defe&, and imposing on the understanding. On the contrary, fupposing the reality of the proofs adduced, this simple method of proposing them was not only sufficient to induce men to believe the gospel, it was alfo the fittest for this purpose ; the more simply evidence can be in any case proposed, consistently with clearness, the more readily it will produce conviction ; subtle reafonings, if they are not absolutely necessary, only burden the proof and perplex the understanding. The fimple manner of proposing the evidence of Christianity was the best adapted to the generality of mankind, and therefore' speaks itself, not obscurely, to be the offspring of that wisdom which fixed the human constitution.
r Vid. Christianity not founded on argument, p. 35 to 39.