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“ Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of
Ajalon.”. In such a period of society, it is natural to think, that the proofs necessary for establishing the truth of a Revelation, would not be exactly the same with those which we should look for in the present age. When our Saviour appeared, no regular exposition of moral and religious duty, however clear and convincing, and no discoveries of the order of the universe, however magnificent and sublime, would have greatly affected the minds of his hearers ; and sensible demonstrations of his power were no less suited to gain their belief, than the simplicity and artlessness of his doctrines were accommodated to their untutored understandings.
While Miracles were thus the only species of evidence, by which the assent of a rude and unscientific age could be won, and are, therefore, to be
viewed with a particular reference to the period of the world in which they were performed—we are yet not to imagine, that the belief of them is a matter of indifference, in an age of knowledge and philosophical observation. It
may, on the contrary, be shewn, that credible accounts of such events, independently of the evidence which they afford of any revelation which is founded upon them, are of the greatest moment in counteracting a prejudice which the inquiries of science sometimes produce. When it is believed, that the laws of nature have ever been constant and invariable, without suffering the slightest suspension, the prejudice is apt to insinuate itself into our minds, that their operation depends not upon the will of the Creator, but upon some inherent necessity; and the very circumstances upon
which the proofs of design in nature are founded, are thus,
by some minds, interpreted into proofs of the total absence of design. Now, it affords an important remedy against this prejudice, to have good grounds for believing, that, in certain periods of the world, when occasional suspensions of natural laws were of peculiar importance, such suspensions did, in fact, take place.
I proceed, secondly, to remark, that while in the evidences which he brought of his divine authority, our Saviour condescended to accommodate himself to the habits of thought in the age in which he lived, there is yet, in the character of his miracles, no trace of that wildness and extravagance which is so striking in most miraculous histories that have come down to us from ancient times. His miracles partake of the general simplicity of his character. There is nothing in them that we can refer to vanity or the love of display. On the contrary, we commonly find him desirous that they should be much less known than the gratitude of those upon whom they were performed, could easily admit. In the end of the chapter before uswe meet with an instance of this humility.
« There came a leper to “ him," says the Evangelist, “ beseeching
him, and kneeling down to him, and
saying unto him, If thou wilt thou canst 66 make me clean. And Jesus, moved “ with compassion, put forth his hand 6 and touched him, and saith unto him, “ I will, be thou clean. And as soon as “ he had spoken, immediately his le
prosy departed from him, and he was « cleansed. And he straitly charged him, 6 and forthwith sent him away ; 6 saith unto him, See thou say nothing “ to any man: but go thy way, shew
thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses
« commanded for a testimony unto or them.”
These events are narrated, too, with the same unimposing plainness with the other parts of our Lord's history. This, I repeat, is quite unexampled in the common accounts of miraculous incidents. We shall invariably find the narrators of them to be influenced by national or religious vanity, and eager to set off, to the best advantage, the fancied exploits, of their hero or their saint—they for ever excite ridicule instead of admiration ! How different that uniform tenor of simple majesty which runs through every page of the Gospel history; and how beautifully do all the incidents, both natural and miraculous, correspond with each other !
I remark, in the third place, that the miracles of our Lord have a perfect agreement with the character of his life and