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OUR last lecture was on the credibility of the gospel history. In a previous one, we ascertained the authenticity of the books in which it is contained. If the evidence adduced in proof of both these fundamental articles appeared as satisfactory to the hearers as to the speaker, we are then prepared to open the New Testament with the assurance that the books it contains were written by those original disciples whose names they bear, and that we may confidently depend on the historical correctness of their statements. The seals therefore of the volume are now unloosed. Immediately on inspecting the contents, it appears that the grand and continual reference is to Jesus Christ, as a Teacher and Saviour sent from God, to communicate personally and by his apostles a revelation of truth and duty to man. This revelation the New Testament professes to contain. Now, the grand question is, WHAT ARE THE EVIDENCES THAT THE RELIGION CONTAINED IN the New Testament is a DIVINE REVELATION?
When an ambassador from a foreign power presents himself at our seat of government, charged with certain communications from his sovereign, he first exhibits his credentials of appointment. These being
satisfactory, whatever he may communicate in his official character is received with as much reliance as if it were heard from the lips of his sovereign himself. It is treated as a revelation of the mind or will of that sovereign. In the New Testament we read that our Lord Jesus Christ appeared among men as an ambassador from God, charged with certain important communications to mankind. Before we can be justified in receiving those communications as a divine revelation, we must know the credentials of the ambassador-we must have sufficient evidence that he was sent of God. Furnish this, and we are bound to receive his communications as confidently as if they should be heard directly from the throne of the Most High. Thus the Jews said to him, "What sign showest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work?" The Saviour, admitting the propriety of the demand, appealed to his works as his credentials. "The works that I do, they bear witness of me."* On another occasion he called up his miracles. "The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up."+ As if he had said, "Such works can only be done by the direct and supernatural interposition of the power of God. They are done at my word and will. They are therefore a perfect attestation that God is with me, and that my claim to your confidence as his ambassador is true." Nicodemus understood this, and expressed no other than the plain dictate of common-sense, when he said to
* John 6:30; 10: 25.
† Matt. 11:5.
Jesus, "We know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." The credentials of the apostles, as subordinate agents of divine revelation, are expressed in like manner. "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost." None can question the absolute certainty of such credentials. This has been acknowledged even by the most famous advocates of infidelity. Woolston says, “I believe it will be granted on all hands, that the restoring a person indisputably dead to life is a stupendous miracle, and that two or three such miracles, well attested and credibly reported, are enough to conciliate the belief that the author of them was a divine agent, and invested with the power of God.”‡ Make good therefore the evidence, that the Saviour and his apostles wrought miracles in attestation of their divine mission, and the Christian religion, as contained in the New Testament and taught by them, must be a divine revelation.
Our way, therefore, is plain. We must inquire into the evidence on which it can be established, THAT THE SAVIOUR AND HIS APOSTLES DID WORK MIRACLES. To this inquiry we should proceed immediately, were it not for the peculiar circumstances which meet us in the way. The adversaries of the gospel have had wit enough to see that either the evidence of miracles must be overthrown, or they must surrender the
* John 3:2.
+ Scheme of Literal Prophecy, pp. 321, 322.
↑ Heb. 2:4.
contest. Unable to meet the direct and abounding testimony by which the wonderful works of Christ and his apostles are proved, they have taken position and entrenched themselves upon the advanced and desperate ground of the insufficiency of any testimony to prove a miracle. Thus have we a redoubt in our way, commanding the whole field of controversy, which, though easily carried when properly assailed, would be of great damage if left in our rear. The present lecture will be occupied, therefore, with the discussion of certain preliminary subjects, anticipating a direct application to the evidence of miracles in our next. We commence with the following proposition:
1. There is nothing unreasonable or improbable in the idea of a miracle being wrought in proof of a divine revelation. I know not but that all persons of ordinary information have a sufficiently correct idea of what is meant by a miracle, without the aid of a definition. No one would mistake the restoration of sight to the blind by the use of human skill, however wonderful it might be considered, for a miracle. No one could mistake the sudden communication of sight to one born blind, at the mere word of another without any intervening cause, for any thing else than a miracle. The former result, though astonishing, would be according to the common course of nature, or to what are called the laws of nature. The latter would be beyond, or different from those laws. One would be a natural, the other a supernatural event, or a miracle.*
* See Gregory's Letters, 1, p. 167.
Now the idea of a revelation from God, and the idea of a miracle to attest the divine commission of those who make it, are essentially connected. If one or more individuals be sent to communicate the revelation, they must prove their mission by some credentials. What can their credentials be but miracles? The necessity of these will be evident from a little consideration. They can appeal to but three sorts of proof: the internal excellence and fitness of their communications, their own integrity and judgment, and the miraculous works attendant on their ministry. With regard to the two former, it is manifest that in the most favorable circumstances, they would need too much time and evidence and discrimination for their establishment; and that they would always remain of a character too uncertain to permit their being used with any effect in proof of a divine revelation. They would answer well as auxiliaries, but it would require something of a much more positive nature to sustain the chief burden of proof. The claim to be received as a messenger of God, for the purpose of making a revelation to the world, could never be substantiated on such grounds. Evidence is needed which all minds may appreciate. It must be something that has only to be seen to be understood and acknowledged. When a plenipotentiary presents himself at the seat of government, intrusted with certain communications from a foreign power of great importance on both sides, and requiring to be immediately acted upon, it would not answer for him to plead in evi