« ForrigeFortsett »
DESIGNED TO SHE W
THAT THEY ARE ARGUMENTS OF
ABSOLUTE PROOFS OF
. . A PROPHET.
Believe me for the very works sake. Joun xiv. 11.
BY HUGH FARMER
. AND W. VIDLER, 349, STRAND-----
It is intended shortly to publisis, in one volume, and in the same form, The Essay on the Dæmoniacs of the New Testament, and that on the Temptation of Christ, by the Rev. Hugh FARMER.
The Christian revelation well deserves the esteem of mankind on account of its intrinsic excellence: nevertheless, the proper proof of its divine original is that miraculous testimony, which was borne to those who first published it to the world. But, unhappily for the interests of the Gospel, its most learned advocates have greatly impaired, if not destroyed, the force of this testimony, by asserting the power of invisible beings, of different and opposite characters, to work miracles.
This opinion (than which scarce any has been more generally inculcated) has occasioned much perplexity to many sincere Christians. When they survey the miracles of the Gospel, they can scarce help feeling the force of the argument arising from them in favour of its divinity: but when they recur to their speculative opinions concerning the power of evil spirits, their minds are in the same situation with that of the most learned of all the Jews *, when he confessed a suspicion that all miracles maîle wrougla ly the power of magic or incantation.
* Maimonides, de Fund. Leg. c. viii. sect. 1. Con pare the passage troiu Dr. Clarke, cited ch. ii. sect. vi. p. 82. A 2
What What has served to perplex the friends of revelation has emboldened others to reject it. From the earliest ages of Christianity, down to the present day, unbelievers have treated the argument from miracles (as it is commonly stated) not only as an improper means of conviction, but as an affront to their understandings. Celsus, in a passage we shall have occasion to cite*,) not without an equal mixture of scorn and indige nation, upbraids Christians with their absurdity, in making use of the same works to prove one person to be a divine messenger, and to disgrace another as a magician and impostor. , And a celebrated writer, still living, when arguing against those who allow the devil a power of performing miracles, and who (according to his conception) after proving the doctrine by the miracle are reduced to prove the miracle by the doctrine, asks and resolves the following question: Now, what is to be done in this case ? There is but one step to be taken,--to recur to reason, and leave miracles to themselves : better indeed had it been never to have had recourse to them, nor to have perplexed good sense with such a number of subtle distinctions f.
It may perhaps be said, “ That could deists be
* Ch. ii. sect. vi. p. 80.
persuaded persuaded of the truth of the Scripture miracles, they would not deny their divinity.” But the same opinion concerning the miraculous power of wicked spirits, which furnishes them with an objection against the divinity of the miracles of Scripture, supplies them with their strongest argument against their truth. For they cannot persuade themselves that God, when he sees fit to give proofs of his own extraordinary interpo. sition, will choose such as are deceitful or ambiguous. And whatever their own sentiments may be with respect to the power of evil beings to work miracles, yet as long as they are taught to believe that the Scripture ascribes to them this power, they will think themselves warranted by the Scripture itself to reject or disregard its miracles.
The more I reflect upon this subject, the more fully am I convinced, that it is entirely owing to the natural impression which miracles make upon the human mind, and not to those speculative opinions which have been most commonly entertained concerning them, that Christianity has maintained its ground in the world. And to these natural impressions we might safely trust the cause of reveļation, were they not liable to be effaced by the power of superstition, and the sophistry of science falsely so called. In other instances, as well as in this, the natural sense of