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the fallacy which we possess; suppose that they should believe all this ; and devoutly praise God every day for confirming the doctrines of his servants Lee and Whitaker, 66 with signs following.” How should we pity their delusion, and what should we think of the unlucky authors of it?
From all this, I think my reader must be sensible how extremely fallacious are all proofs of doctrines, pretended to be from God, derived from miracles said to have been wrought in proof of their Divine authority.
Miracles are related to have been performed in support of all religions without exception : even the followers of Mahomet, though he did not claim the power of working miracles, have said that he did. And they will tell you, that in proof of his mission, he in the presence of hundreds divided the moon with his finger, and put half of it in his pocket!*
* I will here lay before the reader, the arguments advanced by the Mahometans in behalf of the miracles of their Prophet, extracted from the learned Reland's account of Mehometanism. They say that
"the miraeles of Mahomet and his followers have been recorded in innumerable volumes of the most fàinous, learned, pious, and subtle Doctors of the Mahometan Faith, who let nothing pass without the strictest and severest examination, and whose tradition therefore is unexceptionable among them; that thuy were known throughout all the Regions of Arabia, and transmitted by common, and universal Tradi. tion from Father to Son, from generation to generation : 'That the books of Interpreters, and Cominentators on the Koran, the books of Historians, especially such as give an account of Mahomet's Life, and actions, the books of Annalists, and Lawyers : the books of Mathema. ticians and Philosophers : and last of all, the books of both Jews and Christians concerning Mahomet, are full of his miracles. That if the authority of so many great and wise Doctors be denied, then, for their part, they cannot see but that a universal scepticism as to all other ac. counts of miracles must obtain among people of all persuasions. For authority being the only proof of facts done out of our time, or out of our sight, if that be denied, there is no way to come to the certainty of any such, without immediate inspiration ; and all accounts of matters recorded in History must be doubtful, and precarious.”
" And these witnesses would not have dared to assert these miracles unless they were true ; for such as forged any miracles for bis, which he really did not, lay under a hearty curse from the Prophet. For it was a received Tradition among the Faithful, that Mahomet denounced Hell and Damnation to all those who should tell any lies of him. So that none who believed in Mahomet durst attribute miracles to him which he was not concerned in ; and those who believed not in him, would certainly never have given him the honour of working any unless he had done so." Christian Reader! thou seest how much can be said, and how many respectable witnesses and authorities can be adduced to
Speaking of the gift of healing diseases, which the Primitive Christians claimed, Dr. Middleton in his free inquiry observes" But be that as it will, the pretence of curing diseases by a miraculous power, was so successfully maintained in the Heathen world by fraud, and craft, that when it came to be challenged by the Christians it was not capable of exciting any attention to it among those who themselves pretended to the same power ; which, though the certain effect of imposture, was yet managed with so much art, that the Christians could neither deny nor detect it; but insisted always that it was performed by Demons, or evil spirits, deluding mankind to their ruin ; and from the supposed reality of the fact, they inferred the reasonableness of believing what was more credibly affirmed by the Christians to be performed by the power of the true God. « We do not deny," says Athena goras, “ that, in different places, cities, and countries, there are some extraordinary works performed in the name of Idols, from which
prore that Mahomet wrought miracles : canst thou adduce more, or better authorities in behalf of the miracles of the New Testament? Art thou not rather satisfied how fallacious the evidence of Testimony is in all such cases ?
This is not all that the Mahometan might urge in behalf of his Prophet. For he might tell the Christian, boasting that Jesus and his Apostles converted the Roman World from Idolatry,--that they overthrew one system of Idolatry, only to build up another; since the worship of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and their images, was established in a few hundred years after Jesus, and continues to this day; an Idolatry as rank, and much more inexcusable than the worship of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Whereas, Mahomet cut up, root and branch, both Christian and Pagan Idolatry, and proclaimed one only God as the object of adoration. And if the Christian should urge the rapid propagation of Christianity, the Mahometan might reply, that Mahomet was a poor camel-driver, but that Islamism made more progress in one hundred years, than Christianity did in a thousand; that it was embraced by the noble, the great, the wise, and the learned, almost as soon as it appeared : whereas, Christianity was skulking and creeping among the mob of the Roman Empire for some hundred years before it dared to raise its head in publiek view. If the Christian should reply to this, by ascribing the success of Mahometanism to the sword, the Mahometan might reply, with truth, that it was a vulgar error; for that vastly more nations embraced Islamism voluntarily, than there were who freely received Christianity ; and he might remind him, how much Christianity owed to the accession of Constantine; to Charlemagne ; and the Teutonick Knights; and bid him recollect that the monks were assisted by soldiers to donvert to Christianity almost every nation in Modern Europe,
some have received benefit, others harm." And then he goes 'on to prove that they were not performed by God, but by Demons ! Doctor Middleton then proceeds, (p. 77.) “ whatever proof, then, the primitive Church had among themselves, yet it could have but little effect towards making proselytes among those who pretended to the same gift ; possessed more largely, and exerted more openly, than in the private assemblies of the Christians. For in the Temple of Esculapius, all kinds of diseases were believed to be publickly cured by the pretended help of that Deity : in proof of which, there were erected in each Temple columns, or tables of brass, and marble, on which a distinct narrative of each particular cure was inscribed.” He also observes that“ Pausanias writes, ó that in the temple at Epidaurus there were many columns anciently of this kind, and six of them remaining in his time, inscribed with the napies of men and women cured by the God, with an ac. count of their several cases, and the method of their cure; and that there was an old pillar besides, which stood apart, dedicated to the memory of Hippolytus, who had been raised from the dead." "Strabo, also, another grave writer, informs us, that these temples were constantly filled with the sick, imploring the help of the God; and that they had tables hanging around them, in which all the miraculous cures were described.” Dr. Middleton then proceeds thus-66 There is a remarkable fragment of one of these tables still extant, and exhibited by Gruter in his collection, as it was found in the ruins of Æsculapius' Temple, in the island of the Tyber at Rome, which gives an account of two blind men restored to sight by Esculapius in the open view, and with loud acclamations of the people, acknowledging the manifest power of the God!!" Upon which he remarks, that “ the learned Montfaucon makes this reflection, - that in this are seen either the wiles of the Devil, or the tricks of Pagan Priests, suborning men to counterfeit diseases, and miraculous cures." He then proceeds, (p. 79.) “ Now, though nothing can support the belief, or credit of miracles more authentically than publick monuments erected in proof, and memory of thein at the time they were performed, yet, in defiance of that authority, it is certain all thesc Heathen miracles were pure forgeries, contrived to delude the multitude; and in truth, this particular claim of curing diseases mirac. ulously, affords great room for such a delusion, and a wide field for the exercise of craft.”
I need not observe, that by far the greater part of the miracles recorded in the New Testament, are casting out Devils, and healing diseases, Powers claimed by the Heathens as well as these Christians : and these miracles, (undoubtedly false.) are as well, if not far better authenticated than those of the New Testament: for books may be forged, but publick monuments of brass and marble are not so capable of being so: and these are always considered as better evidence for facts than books. What then will the Christian say to this ? for since these miracles, recorded on brass and marble, inscribed with the narratives of them almost immediately after the occurrence of them, are unquestionably Lies ; what can he pretend to say of those recorded in books certainly written many years after the events they record, and, as will be proved hereafter, more than suspected to be apocryphal ? And what would become of truth ? and who would be able to distinguish truth from falsehood, in matters of Religion, if attested miracles, such as these, are sufficient to establish the divine authority of Doctrines said to be confirmed by them? Miraclcs are as numerous, and better authenticated on the part of Jupiter, Apollo, and Æsculapius, than on the part of Christianity. They are strong on the part of Popery against Protestantism: For the Roman Catholick Churches in Europe are full of monumental records of miracles wrought by the Virgin Mary and the Saints, in favour of their worshippers. Nay, there never were miracles better proved, as far as human testimony could prove them, than the famous miracle mentioned by Gibbon in his History of the Roman Empire, where he relates the story of the Arian Vandals cutting out the tongues of a great number of orthodox Athanasians, who, strange to tell! preached as much to the purpose, in favour of the Trinity, without their tongues, as they did with them !! Never was there a miraele better authenticated by testimony, than this! It is mentioned by
all the Christian writers of that age. It is mentioned by two contemporary Roman historians, one of whom lived in Constantinople, and who says he looked into the mouths of some of these confessors, who had in fact their tongues entirely cut out by the roots; and it is re. corded in the archives of the Eastern Empire.
Is not this testimony enough; and yet, is it sufficient to prove the doctrine of the Trinity. Is it adequate to prove, that " the ancient of days” became a little child; was born of a woman, suckled, &c. &c.; and that “ He who liveth for ever and ever," was whipped, was hanged, and died upon the cross, and was buried? Can this miracle, well attested as it is, prove for truths, such strange, such shocking things as these ?
The miracles of the Abbe Paris too, are proved to be true, as far as testimony can prove any thing of the kind. For they happened within a hundred years, were geen by many, and were sworn to before the magistrates, by some of the most respectable iphabitants of the city of Paris. How can men, who pretend to believe the miracles of the New Testament upon such meagre evi. dence as they have in their favour, consistently reject the miracles of the Abbe Paris ! attested by evidence recent, respectable, and so strong, that to this day, the juggle, and the means by which so many respectable people were imposed upon, have never yet been thoa roughly developed, and explained.
In the 18th chapter of Deuteronomy God says, “ The Prophet which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other Gods, even that Prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, how shali we know sor distinguish,] the word which the Lord hath not spoken ?”. Here is the criterion. “ When a Prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor came to pass ; that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken. That Prophet hath spoken, presumptuously : thou shalt not be afraid of him."