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God thus, a man must know also his misery and unworthiness, and the need he has of a mediator, by whom he may draw near to God, and be again united to him. These two branches of knowledge must not be separated, for when separate, they are not only useless, but injurious. The knowledge of our ruin, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, is despair. But the knowledge of Jesus Christ delivers us both from pride and despair, because in him we discern, at once, our God, our own guilt, and the only way of recovery.
We may know God without knowing our wretchedness, or our wretchedness without knowing God; or both, without knowing the way of deliverance from those miseries by which we are overwhelmed. But we cannot know Jesus Christ, without knowing, at once, our God, our ruin, and our remedy, because Jesus Christ is not merely God; but God our Saviour from misery.
Hence, therefore, they who seek God without the Saviour, will discover no satisfactory or truly beneficial light. For either they never discover that there is a God; or, if they do, it is to little purpose ; because they devise to themselves some mode of approaching without mediation, that God, whom, without the aid of a mediator, they have discovered : and thus they fall either into Atheism or Deism, two evils equally abhorrent to the Christian system.
We should aim then, exclusively, to know Jesus Christ, since, by him only, we can expect ever to obtain a beneficial knowledge of God.
He is the true God of mankind ; that is, of miserable sinners. He is the centre of all, and to him every thing points: and he who knows him not, knows nothing of the economy of this world, or of himself. For not only can
we not know God, but by Jesus Christ, but we cannot: know ourselves except by him.
Without Jesus Christ, man must remain in sin and misery. In Jesus Christ, man is delivered from sin and misery. In him is treasured up all our happiness, our virtue, our very life, and light, and hope; and out of him there is nothing for us but sin, misery, darkness, and de. spair ; without him, we see nothing but obscurity and confusion in the nature of both God and man.
THOUGHTS ON MIRACLES.
WE must judge of doctrine by miracles, and of miracles by doctrine. The doctrine attests the miracles, and the miracles attest the doctrine. Both sides of the assertion are true, and yet there is no discrepancy between them.
2. There are miracles which are indubitable evidences of truth, and there are some which are not. We should have a mark to distinguish those which are, or they would be useless. But they are not useless; they are of the nature of a foundation. The test then which is given to us, should be such as not to destroy that proof which true miracles give to the truth, and which is the chief end of miracles.
If no miracles had ever been adduced in support of falsehood, they would have been a certain criterion. If there were no rule for discrimination, miracles would have been useless; there would have been no just ground to credit them. Moses has given us one test, which is, when the miracle
leads to idolatry. If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof hè spake to thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams : for thc Lord your God proveth you. Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3. Jesus Christ also has given us one in Mark ix. 39. There is no man who shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. Whence it follows, that whoever declares himself openly against Jesus Christ, cannot do a miracle in his name. So that, if he works miracles, it is not in the name of Jesus Christ, and he should not be listened to. We see then the limits marked out to our faith in miracles, to which we must add no others. In the Old Testament, when they turn away from God. In the New, when they turn men from Jesus Christ.
So that if we see a miracle, we must at once receive it, or discover some plain reason to the contrary. We must examine if he who does it, denies God or Jesus Christ.
3. Every religion is false, which does not in its belief worship one God as the author of all things; and in its morals, love one God as the end of all things. Every religion now which does not recognize Jesus Christ is notoriously false, and miracles can avail it nothing.
The Jews had a doctrine from God, as we have from Jesus Christ, and confirmed similarly by miracles. They were forbidden to believe in any worker of miracles, who should teach a contrary doctrine; and, moreover, they were required to have recourse to their priests, and to adhere to them strictly. So that, apparently, all the reasons which we have for rejecting workers of miracles, they had with respect to Jesus Christ and his apostles.
Yet, it is certain, that they were very highly blamable for refusing to believe them on the testimony of their miracles; for Jesus Christ said, That they would not have been blamable if they had not seen his miracles. John XV. 22-24.
It follows, then, that he regarded his miracles as an infallible proof of his doctrine, and that the Jews were bound by them to believe him. And, in fact, it was these miracles especially which made their unbelief criminal. For the proofs that they might have adduced from Scripture, during the life of Christ, were not alone conclusive. They might see there that Moses had said, Another prophet should come ; but that would not have proved Jesus Christ to be that prophet, which was the whole matter in question. Such passages of Scripture, however, would have shewn them that Jesus Christ might be that prophet; and this, taken together with his miracles, should haye determined their belief that he really was so.
4. Prophecy alone was not a sufficient testimony to Jesus Christ, during his life; and hence the Jews would not have been criminal in not believing him before his death, if his miracles had not decided the point. Miracles, then, are sufficient when we detect no contrariety in doctrine, and they should be received.
Jesus Christ had proved himself to be the Messiah, by confirming his doctrine more by his own miracles, than by an appeal to the Scriptures and the prophets.
It was by his miracles that Nicodemus knew his doctrine to be from God. We know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do the things that thou doest, except God be with him. John iii. 2. He did not judge of the miracles by the doctrine, but of the doctrine by the miracles.
So that even though the doctrine was suspected, as that of Jesus Christ might be by Nicodemus, because it seemed to threaten with destruction the traditions of the Pharisees, yet if there were clear and evident miracles on its side, the evidence for the miracle ought to carry it against any apparent difficulty in respect to the doctrine. This rule has its foundation in the indubitable principle, that God cannot lead into error.
There is something reciprocally due between God and man. God says in Isaiah i. 18. Come now and let us reason together. And in another place, What could I have done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? v. 4.
Men owe it to God, to receive the religion which he sends; God owes it to men not to lead them into error. Now, they would be led into error, if any workers of miracles set forth a false doctrine, which did not manifestly appear false to the apprehensions of common sense, and if a greater worker of miracles had not already enjoined upon them not to believe it. So that, if the church were divided, and the Arians, for instance, who affirm that they are founded upon the Scripture, equally with the orthodox, had wrought miracles, and the orthodox had not, men would have been led into error. For, as a man who professes to make known the secret things of God, is not worthy of credit on his own private authority, so a man, who, in proof of the communication that he has from God, raises the dead, predicts future events, removes mountains, and heals diseases, is worthy of credit; and we are impious to refuse it, so long as he is not contradicted by some other teacher who works still greater wonders.
But is not God said to prove us ? And may he not prove us by miracles which seem to uphold error?