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is it indifferent whether he was showing him. self to be a being beyond delusion and above imposture ?-Let us make the case our own. Suppose that we were witnesses of the miraculous works of a personage of pretensions like our Lord's, should we think it necessary or reasonable to resort to long courses of argument, or indeed to any process of the understanding, except what was requisite to establish the matter of fact of the miracles? Should we, while he was opening the eyes of the blind and raising the dead from their graves, feel it necessary to be decyphering prophecies, and weighing their difficulties ? Now we may transfer this case to that of christianity. The miracles of our Lord are either true or false. The infidel, if he maintain the latter, must prove
and if the former can be made to appear, then they are beyond all comparison the most direct and convincing testimony to the truth of him, who wrought them, that can be devised ; and it is only a waste of zeal to pursue the inquiry into the evidence of the christian religion, without taking them into the account. But to do the argument justice, let us take the opposite statement, as it is forcibly made by Mr. English. “Suppose that the prophecies, which foretel, or describe a Messiah, had affirmed, that he should be born at Athens, and should be learned in all the philosophy of Greece. A man born at Bethlehem in Judea, and entirely ignorant of Grecian philosophy and letters, arises and
proclaims himself the promised Messiah. But he not only calls himself this Messiah foretold by the prophets, he performs miracles to prove the truth of what he teaches. Now according to our “ irrefragable argument his miracles prove his doctrine true. And what is the doctrine taught? Why unquestionably this, that the prophet had foretold a Messiah, that this Messiah should be born at Athens, &c. and that this prophecy is true. But his mir. acles prove too the truth of his assertion, viz. that he who was born at Bethlehem, &c. is the Messiah promised! That is, the miracles prove the prophecy to be false, which is af. firmed to be true !"* Now this, however plausible, is clearly only the supposition of an impossible case. As prophecy and miracle are equally divine works, it is impossible that they should contradict each other. They are equally the works of the God of truth, and whatever contradiction there appear to be be. tween them, must be but apparent. If a person of whatever pretensions professes to work miracles in support of those pretensions, in which nevertheless he is contradicted by express prophecy-one of three things is certain, that the prophecy is a forged one, or that we have mistaken the meaning of it, or that the miracles are not real. To reply however to the case, which is put by Mr. English, suppose that one of the prophecies which foretel or describe the Messiah, had affirmed that he should be born at Athens, and should be
English's Letter to Mr. Cary, p. 45, 46.
learned in all the philosophy of Greece; and that another prophecy should affirm that he should be born in Judea, and be entirely ignorant of the Grecian philosophy. Now if a person appeared, who was born in Athens, and claimed the character of Messiah, he would be proved an impostor by the second prophecy. And if he were born in Judea, and claimed this character, he would be proved an impostor by the first; and, in whatever event, the words of scripture would be entangled in inextricable contradiction. Now can any thing be argued from this supposition against the validity and value of prophetical testimony? Is any reply to be made to the supposition but this, that it is the supposition of an impossible case, and that it never can be that two prophecies, both inspired by God, should speak a language mutually contradictory. And it is precisely this remark which must be applied to Mr. English's supposition. Prophecy and miracles are each and equally the works of God, To suppose a case, in which as sources of ev. idence they contradict each other, is to suppose an impossibility. The correctness of this reasoning is tacitly acknowledged by those writers, who have attempted to destroy the historical credit of the christian miracles, and among others therefore, by Mr. English him. self. It is obviously unphilosophical, allow. ing them to be real, to leave them out in the estimate of the truth of any pretension made by their author; because in no case whatever,
even imaginary, can it be of no consequence to the truth and justice of a claim, that it is sanctioned and enforced by works, which denote the immediate intercourse and countenance of the Supreme. On the contrary, no evidence can be devised more satisfactory, than the evidence, which such works afford to the veracity of their author. The idea of de. nying their value, on the ground which Mr. English assumes, appears to have been a wantonness of Collins, of whose paradoxes it was not the least ingenious, that allowing the christian miracles to be real, they could not prove the truth of christianity.
But Mr. English has strengthened the demand he makes, that the evidence of prophecy be alone adduced, by attesting that most ingenious and judicious theologian, Dr. Sykes. In his first work he says, " he, [Mr. English,] fears that he shall see an answer precisely resembling the many others, that he has seen upon the subject : except two, those of Sykes and Jeffreys, who acknowledge that miracles have nothing to do with the question of the Messiahship, which can be decided by the Old Testament only, all that he has met with evade this question, and slide over to the ground of miracles."'* This is repeated in the letter to Mr. Cary,t with the mention that the author's anticipations have come to pass. If the preceding reasonings are correct, it would
• Grounds of Christianity examined, p. 173. # Letter to Mr. Cary, p. 19.
be of small consequence that Dr. Sykes and Jeffreys had advanced the sentiment thus attributed to them-it would only show them not beyond error.
But the error here is en. tirely on the part of Mr. English, and as the supposed authority of Dr. Sykes appears to have confirmed him in his unphilosophical views of miraculous evidence, I particularly point it out. Dr. Sykes, in his Essay on the truth of the Christian Religion, the work to which Mr. English alludes, says, that “the Christian religion-being manifestly founded upon the Scriptures of the Old Testament, there cannot be a more natural method than to compare what was foretold with the consequences and following events, and then to consider the arguments, which Christ himself and his imme. diate disciples urged in proof of their assertions."* He then proceeds to contradict the opinion of those, who think the truth of Christianity established merely by proving the truth of the accounts of the miracles and the resurrection, and says, much in the language of Collins, whom he is answering, and which Mr.English has adopted, thatósupposing miracles to be true, yet no miracles can prove that which is false in itself, to be true; and if therefore the Messiah be not foretold in the Old Testament, no miracles can prove Jesus to be the Messiah foretold, &c.” Now though the Dr. here seems to have overlooked the contradiction in terms, which exists in the propo
Essay on the Truth of the Christian Religion, p. 1.