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ed, excluded all farther debate upon the subject; but founded their opinion upon a kind of comparative reasoning: "When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than those which this man hath done?"
Another passage in the same evangelist, and observable for the same purpose, is that in which he relates the resurrection of Lazarus: "Jesus," he tells us, (xi. 43, 44.) "when he had thus spoken, cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth; and he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go." One might have expected, that at least all those who stood by the sepulchre, when Lazarus was raised, would have believed in Jesus. Yet the evangelist does not so represent it :-" Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him; but some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.” We cannot suppose that the evangelist meant, by this account, to leave his readers to imagine that any of the spectators doubted about the truth of the miracle. Far from it. Unquestionably, he states the miracle to have been fully allowed: yet the persons who allowed it, were, according to his representation, capable of retaining hostile sentiments towards Jesus. "Believing in Jesus" was not only to believe that he wrought miracles, but that he was the Messiah. With us, there is no difference between these two things; with them, there was the greatest: and the difference is apparent in this transaction. If St. John has represented the conduct of the Jews upon this occasion truly (and why he should not I cannot tell, for it rather makes against him than for him), it shows clearly the principles upon which their judgment proceeded. Whether he has related the matter truly or not, the relation it
self discovers the writer's own opinion of those principles; and that alone possesses considerable authority. In the next chapter, we have a reflection of the evangelist, entirely suited to this state of the case: "but though he had done so many miracles before them, yet believed they not on him." The evangelist does not mean to impute the defect of their belief to any doubt about the miracles, but to their not perceiving, what all now sufficiently perceive, and what they would have perceived, had not their understandings been governed by strong prejudices, the infallible attestation which the works of Jesus bore to the truth of his pretensions.
The ninth chapter of St. John's Gospel contains a very circumstantial account of the cure of a blind man ; a miracle submitted to all the scrutiny and examination which a sceptick could propose. If a modern unbeliever had drawn up the interrogatories, they could hardly have been more critical or searching. The account contains also a very curious conference between the Jewish rulers and the patient, in which the point for our present notice is their resistance of the force of the miracle, and of the conclusion to which it led, after they had failed in discrediting its evidence. "We know that God spake unto Moses; but as for this fellow, we know not whence he is." That was the answer which set their minds at rest, And by the help of much prejudice, and great unwillingness to yield, it might do so. In the mind of the poor man restored to sight, which was under no such bias, and felt no such reluctance, the miracle had its natural operation. "Herein," says he, "is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, yet he hath opened mine eyes. Now we know, that God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of
* Chap. xii. 37.
God, and doeth his will, him he heareth. Since the world began, was it not heard, that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing." We do not find, that the Jewish rulers had any other reply to make to this defence, than that which authority is sometimes apt to make to argument: "Dost thou teach us?"
If it shall be inquired, how a turn of thought, so different from what prevails at present, should obtain currency with the ancient Jews, the answer is found in two opinions, which are proved to have subsisted in that age and country. The one was, their expectation of a Messiah of a kind totally contrary to what the appearance of Jesus bespoke him to be; the other, their persuasion of the agency of demons in the production of supernatural effects. These opinions are not supposed by us for the purpose of argument, but are evidently recognized in the Jewish writings, as well as in ours. And it ought moreover to be considered, that in these opinions the Jews of that age had been from their infancy brought up; that they were opinions, the grounds of which they had probably few of them inquired into, and of the truth of which they entertained no doubt. And I think that these two opinions conjointly afford an explanation of their conduct. The first put them upon seeking out some excuse to themselves for not receiving Jesus in the character in which he claimed to be received; and the second supplied them with just such an excuse as they wanted. Let Jesus work what miracles he would, still the answer was in readiness: "that he wrought them by the assistance of Beelzebub." And to this answer no reply could be made, but that which our Saviour did make, by showing that the tendency of his mission was so adverse to the views with which this being was, by the objectors themselves, supposed to act, that it could not rea
sonably be supposed that he would assist in carrying it on. The power displayed in the miracles did not alone refute the Jewish solution, because, the interposition of invisible agents being once admitted, it is impossible to ascertain the limits by which their efficiency is circumscribed. We of this day may be disposed, possibly, to think such opinions too absurd to have been ever seriously entertained. I am not bound to contend for the credibility of the opinions. They were at least as reasonable as the belief in witchcraft. They were opinions in which the Jews of that age had from their infancy been instructed; and those who cannot see enough in the force of this reason, to account for their conduct towards our Saviour, do not sufficiently consider how such opinions may sometimes become very general in a country, and with what pertinacity, when once become so, they are, for that reason alone, adhered to. In the suspense which these notions, and the prejudices resulting from them, might occasion, the candid and docile and humble-minded would probably decide in Christ's favour; the proud and obstinate, together with the giddy and the thoughtless, almost universally against him.
This state of opinion discovers to us also the reason of what some choose to wonder at, why the Jews should reject miracles when they saw them, yet rely so much upon the tradition of them in their own history. It does not appear, that it had ever entered into the minds of those who lived in the time of Moses and the prophets, to ascribe their miracles to the supernatural agency of evil beings. The solution was not then invented. And the authority of Moses and the prophets being established, and become the foundation of the national polity and religion, it was not probable that the later Jews, brought up in a reverence for that religion, and the subjects of that polity, should apply to
their history a reasoning which tended to overthrow the foundation of both.
II. The infidelity of the gentile world, and that more especially of men of rank and learning in it, is resolvable into a principle, which, in my judgment, will account for the inefficacy of any argument or any evidence whatever, viz. contempt prior to examination. The state of religion amongst the Greeks and Romans had a natural tendency to induce this disposition. Dionysius Halicarnassensis remarks, that there were six hundred different kinds of religions or sacred rites exercised at Rome.* The superiour classes of the community treated them all as fables. Can we wonder then, that Christianity was included in the number, without inquiry into its separate merits, or the particular grounds of its pretentions? It might be either true or false for any thing they knew about it. The religion had nothing in its character which immediately engaged their notice. It mixed with no politicks. It produced no fine writers. It contained no curious speculations. When it did reach their knowledge, I doubt not but that it appeared to them a very strange system, so unphilosophical,-dealing so little in argument and discussion, in such arguments however and discussions as they were accustomed to entertain. What is said of Jesus Christ, of his nature, office, and ministry, would be, in the highest degree, alien from the conceptions of their theology. The Redeemer, and the destined Judge of the human race, a poor young man, executed at Jerusalem with two thieves upon a cross! Still more would the language, in which the Christian doctrine was delivered, be dissonant and barbarous to their ears. What knew they of grace, of redemption, of justification, of the blood of Christ shed for the sins of men, of re
* Jortin's remarks on Ecclesiastical History, vol. i. p.