Chapter 5: The miracles of Jesus not counterfeited by his enemies, and superior to those under the Old Testament §1. IT ADDS to the evidence which is given to the truth of Christianity by the multitude of miracles wrought by Christ, his apostles and followers in the first century, that there were no pretences of inspiration, or miracles, among the Jews (at least none worth notice) in Judea, or any other part of the world. If all that multitude, and that long-continued series of miracles, recorded to be wrought in confirmation of Christianity, were fictions, vain pretences, or enthusiastic imaginations; why were there no pretences or imaginations of the same sort, on the other side, among the Jews, in opposition to these? Those of the Jews that were opposed to Christianity, were vastly the greater part of the nation. -- And they had as high an opinion of the honourableness of those gifts of prophecy and miracles, as Christians. They had as much in their notions and tempers, to lead them to a fondness of the claim of such an honour to their party. They were exceedingly proud of their special relation to God, and of their high privilege as the peculiar favourites of heaven; and, in this respect, were exalted far above all the world: which is a temper of mind, (as we see abundantly,) above all others, leading men to pretences of this nature.
§ 2. There could be nothing peculiar in the constitution of the first Christians, tending to enthusiasm, beyond the rest of the Jews: for they were of the same blood, the same race and nation. Nor could it be because they wanted zeal against Christianity, and a desire to oppose and destroy it; or wanted envy and virulent opposition of mind to any pretences in the Christians to excel them in the favour of God, or excellency of any gifts or privileges whatsoever. They had such zeal and such envy, even to madness and fury.
§ 3. The true reason, therefore, why so vast a multitude of miracles were said, and believed, to be openly wrought among Christians for so long a time, even for a whole age, and none among the Jews, must be, that such was the state of things in that age, that it was not possible to palm false pretences of such a kind upon the world; and that those who were most elated with pride, and most ambitious of such an honour, could see no hope of succeeding in any such pretences; and because the Christians indeed were inspired, and were enabled to work miracles, and did work them, as was pretended and believed, in great multitudes, and this continually for so long a time. But God never favoured their adversaries with such a privilege.
§ 4. When Moses objected (Exod. iv.) that perhaps the people would not believe his mission, God directed him to work two miracles to convince them: first, the transmutation of his rod to and from a serpent; and, secondly, the making his hand leprous, and healing the leprosy. And it is to be noted, that the preference is given to the last miracle, as being especially what might well be regarded as a good evidence of Moses's divine mission; ver. 8. "And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the later sign." By which it is manifest, that such a sort of miracles as Christ wrought, and which he most abounded, in viz. his healing the bodies of men when diseased, were a proper and good evidence of a divine mission.
§ 5. Moses tells pharaoh, Exodus viii. 10. "The frogs shall be removed, that thou mayest know that there is none like the Lord our God." The magicians could bring up frogs, but not remove them. They brought plagues, but took away none. But if the driving out the frogs was such an evidence of the distinguishing power of the Almighty; how much more the driving out devils from the bodies and souls of men, silencing their oracles, turning them out of their temples, and out of those who used curious arts, as at Ephesus, and afterwards abolishing their worship through the Roman empire! For the gods that were worshipped in the heathen world, were devils, Psal. cvi. 37 Deut. xxxii.17. Lev. xvii. 7. Christ, by the prevailing of the Christian religion, cast out those devils out of the very land of Egypt. And which was the greatest work, to drive the frogs out of Egypt, or to drive out the impure spirits that were the gods of Egypt? It is spoken of, Isa. xix. 1. As a glorious manifestation of the majesty of God, that he should ride on a swift cloud, and should come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt should be moved at his presence. See also Jeremiah xliii. 12. But when Christ came into Egypt, in the preaching of his gospel, he moved, dispossessed, and banished the idols of Egypt, and abolished them out of the world. And not only did Christ thus drive away the devils, the false gods, out of Egypt, but out of all the nations round about Canaan, that were known by the Israelites, even to the utmost extent of the then known heathen world. These gods were by Christ dispossessed of their ancient tenements, which they had holden age after age, time out of mind. They were utterly abolished; so that they have had no worshippers now for a great many ages, no temples, no sacrifices, no honours done them. They are old, obsolete things now, utterly disregarded in the world. It is abundantly spoken of in the Old Testament as a future glorious work of God, greatly manifesting his power and majesty, and that he should prevail against and destroy the gods of the heathens, and abolish their worship. But our Jesus has the honour of this glorious work.
§ 6. Again, when Korah and his company charged Moses and Aaron with taking too much upon them, Moses says, Numbers xvi. 5. "To-morrow, the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto him; even him who he hath chosen, will he cause to come near unto him." And again, ver. 28, 29, 30. "Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind: if these men die the common death of all men," &c. If the miraculous taking away of men's lives be so great an evidence of Moses and Aaron's divine mission, and of their being holy, and chosen and appointed of God, how much more is raising men from the dead an evidence of the same work! Which is the greatest work, to take away men's lives, or to restore them to life after they are dead; or, indeed, miraculously to save them from death, when they are sick with mortal diseases? Again; God's causing the earth to open and swallow those wicked men, is no more an evidence of a divine hand, that Christ's preventing the sea from swallowing up those that were in the ship by immediately quieting the winds and sea by a word speaking, when the ship was even covered with waves, through the violence of the tempest: at another time, upholding Peter from sinking and being swallowed up by the tempestuous sea, when walking on the water. Elisha's causing iron to swim, is mentioned in the Old Testament as a great miracle. But this was not greater then Christ's walking on the water, and causing Peter to walk upon it. -- When Elijah had restored to life the widow's son, she says, 1 Kings xvii. 24. "By this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth." But this sort of miracles Christ wrought, besides rising from the dead himself.
§ 7. Moses speaks of God's stilling the tempest in Egypt, and causing the thunder and hail to cease, as that which will convince Pharaoh, that the earth was the Lord's, Exod. ix. 29. Then, by parity of reason, Christ's stilling the tempest, and causing the winds and seas to obey him, is an evidence, that the seas and earth were his. Moses, to convince the people of his divine mission, took some of the water of the river, and poured it out on the dry land, and it was turned to blood; Exod. vii. 17-20. But this was not a greater work, nor so glorious, as Christ's turning water into wine.
§ 8. Abraham's conquering the four kings and their armies, with his armed servants and confederates, greatly affected Melchisedek, king of Salem, and convinced him, that Abraham was God's chosen friend; chosen, that he and his posterity might be blessed as God's people. But what is this to Jesus's conquering the world in its greatest strength; and, when united under that, which by the prophet Daniel is represented, as the greatest, and by far the strongest monarchy, by his handful of poor, weak, illiterate disciples?
§ 9. Christ's victory over the false gods of the nations, in this conquest, was far more conspicuous, as the opposition was to them; the strife was more directly with them; the thing professedly sought and aimed at by Christ in the conflict, was the utter destruction of these false gods, the entire rooting of them out, and the abolition of their worship out of the world: and such a victory was obtained; those false gods were forsaken, their oracles silenced, their temples destroyed, their images every where burnt, and their remembrance made to cease; so that now, for many ages, they have not been remembered, any otherwise, than as instances of great blindness and folly of their votaries.
§ 10. How often are the miracles wrought in Egypt spoken of as clear evidences, that he that wrought them, was the Supreme God, and the only true God; Exod. vii. 3, 4, 5; chap. viii. 10, 19, 22.
§ 11. The work of Gideon in conquering the Midianites and the multitudes that were joined with them, by three hundred men, with the light of lamps and sound of trumpets, is celebrated as a great work of God's power, Judges vi. 14. and vii. 2, 7. But this is but a mere type of Christ's conquering the world by the preaching of the gospel. This victory over Midian is spoken of in the Scripture, as representing the conquests of the Messiah, Isaiah ix. 4.
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