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All this is easily said, and it is a very convenient way of getting out of a difficulty, and shunning question which one dares not face.
But, if no miracles had been wrought, to prove religion true, how differently would infidels have argued! They would then have said something like what follows; for I shall, perhaps, put the argument in a stronger light than they would have placed it in themselves.
They would have said "If God speaks to us in religion, and is giving us a revelation in the Bible, could he not do something to show that it is he who is speaking there? Any body can say that he is addressing us in God's name; but he only who really is commissioned to bring a revelation from heaven, could alter the course of nature, and work wonders beyond the power of man. This would
strike attention, and rouse men to examine, and force them to weigh the contents of a book on which was set the broad seal of heaven. thinks it worth while to stoop to address us, he might go a little further, and show that he cares so much about us as to give us a revelation of his mind, by doing something supernatural, and giving us a striking display of the power of his arm.” Thus, when Mahomet pretended to bring a new revelation from heaven, the Arabs bade him give some miraculous proofs of its divinity. He was driven to a subterfuge; and therefore said the Koran is the greatest of miracles: but they who read it in the original know that it is no miracle.
But Infidels would say, "The same God that made
our souls made our bodies too; and if he addresses our minds by a book, why does he not speak to our senses by something that shall compel us to say, 'this is the finger of God?' If we are called to put our souls under the guidance of this book, why does he not show that our bodies are under the control of him that gave it? It is said, that this Bible is the voice of him that made the world:' why does he not show it, by putting the world under some special control, that we may know that the God of the Bible is he who established the laws of nature, and can alter or suspend them at his pleasure?"
Something like this, Infidels would have been sure to say, if no miracles had been wrought to prove religion divine. And would they not have boasted that the argument was unanswerable? In vain, we should have said, miracles are unnecessary or unsatisfactory. For infidels would have said, miracles are necessary; and surely God could work such wonders as should satisfy every man that they were Divine. Could we have hoped to persuade them, that there was no occasion for miracles? "No, no," they would have said, “we have proved miracles to be the appropriate evidence of revelation, and without them we have a right to reject it." Well then, we may take it as upon their own showing, that whenever God introduces a new revelation which demands our belief, we may ask, "What sign showest thou?"
But what shall be the kind of miracles wrought? Shall they be works of judgment? Should God strike some men dead, in order to prove to others,
that it is at the peril of their lives they reject his message? I see you shrink at this. With a significant shrug, you reply, "That is too much of a homethrust; for it makes us think of being struck dead ourselves for our Infidelity." "But softly! softly!" you exclaim," religion is a message of mercy; it speaks of pardon to us sinners, and grace to make us saints. If so; miracles of judgment would not be quite in keeping with the message; the seals would not suit the parchment; this would be like bidding the herald fire grape shot down the streets, when he goes to proclaim peace at Charing Cross. Miracles of mercy would be rather better; and we should prefer seeing some mightily good things done. It would be rather more amusing, to see men healed in a moment, than to see them smitten with disease; to see them, not put to death, but rise from the dead; to behold storms laid, rather than raised. This would be better fitted to make us believe that God sent this religion to save us from moral disease and eternal death."
Well, we are glad we can suit you. The miracles which religion says she has to produce, to prove her message true, are just of that kind that you would like best, and that you think most suited to her professed errand. The miracles wrought, to introduce the Old Testament to the Jews, effected their deliverance from cruel slavery. The plagues that smote Egypt were not sent, till the slave holders had, for a long time, refused to give liberty to their slaves; and Jehovah sent minor strokes, before the death of the first-born in every house compelled the enemy
to let Israel go free. When Pharaoh, afterwards, changed his mind, and pursued the fugitives, the drowning of the tyrant and all his soldiers in the Red Sea, was such a judgment as many an Infidel would say, a tyrant and his standing army deserved. But the grand miracle was making a way through the sea, for an oppressed people to go forth into a good land, where they might live at liberty.
Their being supported in the desert by manna, for forty years, was a miracle of mercy. The giving of the law on mount Sinai, amidst thunders and lightnings and the voice of Deity, heard by millions at once, was also a miracle of mercy; for the whole law was included in one word, "love."
But the miracles which Christianity produces, to prove her claims on our belief, were all acts of mercy, except one, wrought upon a tree, to wither it in a moment, as a warning sign to those who, under special culture from heaven, bring forth no good fruits. All the other miracles which sealed the truth of the Gospel, are such as healing the sick, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind, and raising the dead.
Now these are such things as appeal to common sense. Here are no refined speculations of which none but learned and scientific men can judge. Any one that has eyes and ears, and a sound understanding, though he were a labourer, or a mechanic, can tell whether he sees a dead man raised from the grave or not; and it requires nothing but common sense to enable the subjects of the miracle to say,
as one whom Christ healed did, "one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." Now this makes Christianity a matter of fact. Its truth or falsehood is a common sense question, which should make honest men, of good common sense, say, "I will fairly face this thing and examine it thoroughly, and see whether it is true or not."
These things were not done in a corner. not told of what happened, nobody knows where, or when. But the miracles that religion appeals to were wrought before thousands of witnesses, in the open face of day. They are said to have been performed in different places, usually amidst vast crowds, often in the capital city, at the public festivals, whither witnesses of all characters were attracted from all parts of the country, and even from foreign lands.
Infidels cannot say, that the wondrous works were performed in the presence of none but friends, who being partial, would be disposed to give them credit, and spread their report. For the leaders of the Jewish nation were bitter enemies to Jesus; they watched him narrowly, to find every plausible pretext for opposing him, and every opportunity to destroy his credit, and, if possible, to find out how they might put him to death. His Apostles were watched and opposed in the same way, so that if there were any deceitful tricks they would have been sure to be found out. There was no want of power, or of wealth, to procure exposure of the imposture, if there had been any; for the priests and