« PreviousContinue »
his wife instructions, not with reverence but with indig nation, because their proud and worldly minds were offended with the apparent meannefs of his origin, in confequence of which, they would not conde fcend to apply to our Lord for his interference, notwithstanding his long experienced power.-In all thefe cafes the Son of God would not gratify the vain and unreasonable expectations of fome, or wafte his miracles on others, who despised both him and them, for he could not do this confiftently with the dignity of his office, and the object of his miffion, which was calculated to try and to exalt the moral character of men, by supplying abundant evidence to the fair and humble enquirer, without "extorting the affent of the wilfully blind and obftinately negligent, or violently fubduing to a reluctant fubmiffion the incorrigibly vicious and perverse.
Thus it was that the want of faith prevented our Lord from difpenfing his miraculous favours; but never did the benign Jefus, when implored, refuse to exercise his fupernatural power in relieving mifery; and in no inftance did he ever attempt to exercise it without full fuccefs; while in the objects and the manner of the operation he conftantly displayed a juft felection and calm dignity, utterly inconfiftent with the extravagance of fanaticism.
h Vid. John iii. 1-21. Alfo v. 41, and efpecially John vii.. 17. Alfo Luke viii. 4-18.
Our Lord's fometimes appearing to conceal his miracles, has alfo induced a fufpicion that they could not stand the test of rational enquiry; but it is easy to account for this circumstance, so as totally to repel the fufpicion. It cannot surely be denied, that our Lord exhibited multiplied proofs of his divine miffion even to his enemies, from whom however he was obliged frequently to fhade the full fplendor of these proofs, and to avoid disclosing the full extent of thofe objects which he came to accomplish, and the high majefty of that character which he was entitled to affume, because thus only could he fecure the credibility, the reputation, and the fuccefs, of that religion which he laboured to establish. In order to secure these infinitely important objects, it was neceffary" that he should compleat the time foretold "of his ministry, and after a life illuftrious in mira"cles and good works, attended with humility, "meekness, patience and fufferings, and every way "conformable to the prophecies of him, fhould be "led as a sheep to the flaughter, and with all quiet "and fubmiffion fhould be brought to the cross, "though there were no guilt or fault in him; this " could not have been, if as foon as he appeared in "public, and began to preach, he had prefently "profeffed himself to have been the Meffiah, the "king who owned that kingdom he published to be
i Vid. Locke's Reasonablenefs of Chriftianity. Watfon's Tracts, vol. iv. p. 23.
at hand, for the Sanhedrin would have then taken "hold on it to have got him in their power, and "thereby have taken away his life-at leaft they "would have difturbed his miniftry, and hindred "the work he was about" obliging him perhaps to fubmit prematurely to their violence, or to use fuch fupernatural methods of escape or refiftance, and to inflict fuch fupernatural, punishments, as would be inconfiftent with the humble, merciful, and unrefifting character which it became him to fupport, and such as might prevent those final fufferings it was neceffary he should undergo.
Another purpofe equally important to which this referve was neceffary, was, that he "fhould not be "feized for any thing that might make him a crimi"nal to the government, and therefore he avoided "giving those, who, in the divifion that was about "him, inclined towards him, occafion of tumult for "his fake; or to the Jews, his enemies, matter of
just accufation out of his own mouth, by profef-,
fing himself to be the Meffiah, the king of 'Ifrael, "in direct words."-Hence alfo he was obliged frequently to conceal his miracles, which would have roufed the impetuous multitude, full of their ideas of a temporal Meffiah, to repeat their efforts, to "take him by force and make him a king"-an.
John vi. 15.
* Locke's Reasonablenefs of Chriftianity. Watson's Tracts, vol. iv. p. 58. 1 Locke, ibid, p. 47. C 2
event, which had it taken place, and been with any fhadow of reafon chargeable on our Lord's conduct, would have totally defeated the facred purpose of his miffion, fince he would thus have appeared to have been justly punished for abusing religion to gratify ambition, instead of appearing the founder of a religion whose scheme was totally free from every mixture of temporal and narrow views, and every way worthy of the Son of God.
Had our Lord been impelled by the violence of enthusiasm, it is not conceivable that fuch would not have been his fate; but the confummate prudence which regulated his every action, enabled him to fteer his way through all the dangers that furrounded him. In conformity, to fuch prudence it was, that he so often commanded those on whom he wrought his miracles" Go, and tell no man who has made "thee whole;" but his apoftles he was ever careful fhould be eye witneffes of all his wondrous works, and conftant hearers of his words; to them he explained every difficulty, and condefcended gradually to enlighten their understandings and dispel their prejudices. A felect number of them attended his most private miracles-they beheld the awful anticipation of his divine glory at the "transfiguration on the mount, which they were commanded not to declare till after his refurrection, because then only
Matt. xvii. Luke ix. Mark ix.
they could declare it without any danger of being understood to defcribe a temporal Meffiah. Thus even the concealment of our Lord's divine works, which in some instances took place, so far from justifying any fufpicion of their being founded on fanatic delufion, clearly fhews they were under the direction of the most perfect wisdom, and performed, as well as related, with every mark of foberness.
The nature of the miracles wrought by our Lord during his public miniftry, and the circumstances which attended them, prove they cannot be ascribed to the power of enthusiasm.
THE leaft attention to the evangelic history will fatisfy us, that the fubjects of our Lord's miracles were most generally fuch as no power of imagination, no delufion of enthufiafm, could poffibly influence. To turn water into wine- to feed 5000 perfons at one time on five loaves and two fishes, and 4000 at another, on feven loaves and a few small fishes to restore a withered limb-to give fight to a man forty years old, who had been born blind
John ii. 1-12.
4 Matt. xv. 32-38.
$ John ix.
P Luke ix. 14.
John vi. 10. Luke vi. 6-1I,