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and slain, both Lord and Christ; had exalted him to be a Prince and a Saviour, to grant remission of sins unto Israel, and repentance unto life to the Gentiles; and had also appointed him to be the judge of quick and dead. So that, however authentic the writings handed down to us under the names of the apostles may be, and whatever share of credit they may be allowed to have as historians; yet, if they bad been possessed of no other knowledge, than what they could have acquired by the aid of their NATURAL ABILITIES, so far from Christianity remaining the true religion at this day, it must have remained as utterly unknown, as it was before the descent of the Holy Ghost. The doctrines of Christianity were a mystery expressly hidden from ages and generations, and purposely kept secret from the beginning of the world, till miraculously revealed by God himself to the apostles, and made known by them in consequence of his positive command) to all nations, for the obedience of faith, that is, for the promotion and establishment of moral conduct upon the principles of Christianity. Even the miracles, by which Christianity is now confirmed to be a divine revelation, could not have demonstrated the truth of it, till that truth was openly and clearly declared; for God confirmed the word of his grace, which was first spoken by the mouths of his holy apostles, by signs, and wonders, and mighty works. The extraordinary powers of the Holy Spirit were therefore vouchsafed to the apostles, to enable them to bear their testimony, not to the reality of facts, which were objects of sense, but to the truth of the gospel doctrines, which were not; viz. that these doctrines were really revealed to them. And here lies the difference between the extraordinary and the ordinary gifts of the spirit: both the apostles and their hearers knew when they possessed these extraordinary gifts, for both knew when they exercised miraculous powers; but the ordinary gifts being conveyed through, and discoverable only by, the operation of men's natural powers, they can no more tell what particular effects are to be ascribed to the divine, and what to the human powers, than they can tell how much of their knowledge is to be ascribed to their own application and industry, and how much to the strength of those powers, which were originally bestowed upon them by their Creator.
But miracles are not only manifest marks of the interposition of some being possessed of powers superior to
Vol. VII. Churchm. Mag. March 1803. Bb those those of men, and therefore confirmations of the attention due, and the authority belonging to those, who appear to be entrusted with such extraordinary, powers : they may be made equivalent to the most positive declarations of God himself. Whenever he is appealed to for the confirmation of a particular truth, by the requisition of a miracle, and the requisition is complied with, and the miracle wrought, such compliance carries with it a force equal to that of the clearest and strongest assertion. Thus, when the prophet put the test of God's divinity upon an answer by fire, and Jehovah vindicated his claim to worship, in opposition to Baal, by the miracle requested, the people perfectly understood the force of the argument, and cried out, “The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.” The import of the miracle was as clear, and as decisive of the truth, as God's own word from mount Sinai. In the same manner, our Saviour, before he restored Lazarus to life, thus addresses his father, “ Father, I thank thee, that thou hast heard me, and I know, that thou hearest me always; but, because of the people, which stand by, I said it, that they may know, that thou hast sent me." The design of the miracle is professed openly, and the performance of it is as full a declaration, that Jesus Christ came from God, as those express words from Heaven, “ This is my beloved son, hear ye him."
But, if the professor very little understood the nature of that knowledge, which the apostles possessed, he understoo:) as little the nature of that evidence, which they bore to the truth of Christianity; and so he goes on to affirm, with the same confusion of ideas, that “the miracles, by wbieh it (that is, the reality of the gospel doctrines) is confirmed, would equally demonstrate its truth," namely that truth, which (if the apostles had been left to the aid of their own abilities, as the professor supposes) they never could have discovered. The professor could not see the difference between the evidence necessary to prove the reality of the miracles, and the evidence nccessary to prove the reality of the doctrines. The reality of the miracles may be proved by the testimony of uninspired witnesses, the reality of the doctrines by the testimony of INSPIRED witnesses ONLY. For miracles are mere matters of fact, and as such are objects of sense, and of course require only the testimony of competent witnesses, that is, of such witnesses as possess the full and fair use of their senses (by the full, I understand the perfect, and by the fair, the unprejudiced use of their senses) who have sufficient integrity to deelare the truth, and who are sufficiently numerous to preclude all suspicion of deceit, in order to their being sufficiently established. Bat the design of a miracle, and the only design we can conceive, is plainly to ascertain a messenger from God.
Under similar confusion of ideas, Mr. Jesse (p. 16, of kis Dissertation upon the powers and learning of the Apostles) affirms, that “miracles were evidences of the veracity of the apostles, to confirm their testimony when they declare the truth of facts, which had fallen under their own observation.” Fle quite mistakes the matter. Miracles, worked by the apostles, were evidences of the veracity of the apostles to confirm their testimony, when they declare the certainty of such truths, or of such facts, as could not fall under any human observation, and of which they were the only relaters. Their credit, when they relate such facts, as could, and did, fall under any human observation, stands upon no better, nor any other ground, than the credit of undeniable, but uninspired witnesses. For, to use Mr. Jesse's own words, “ there was no need of a special revelation, nor of any inspiration, to enlighten them with a more perfect knowledge of these facts, as facts. It is impossible, that any direct revelation or inspirator should make these things, as fucts, more true and certain to the apostles, than the testimony of their own senses. They were eye-witnesses of every one of them.” And, as to their integrity, we have the highest authority for affirming, that the possession of the miraculous powers liad no influence upon the moral characters of those, who possessed them. “ It is,” says Mr. Jesse, p. 18," an acknowledged principle, that we are not to suppose a direct or immediate interposition of divine power in any case whatever, whether there are means or secondary causes sufficient to account for the effect,” The truth of the apostles' evidence, as to common matters of fact, for which they had the testimony of their own senses, has ever been established upon the same grounds, as the truth of all other human evidence.
It is strange, that Mr. J. could not see, that there was no more necessity for a special revelation, or inspi, ration, to acquaint the apostles with the importance of the Bb
Christian doctrines, than with the knowledge of gospel facts. Salvation from hell, and admittance into heaven, are surely not such obscure subjects, as to make miracuJous light necessary to render their importance visible to those, who know what is meant by the words. If this importance be unnoticed, it can be only by such, as the God (i. e. the power) of this world hath blinded, such as love darkness rather than light, ignorance than information, for the reason assigned by our Lord.
The apostles were undoubtedly chosen to be the witnesses to our Lord, with respect both to his actions and his doctrine, Luke xxiv. 48; Acts i. 8, and more especially with respect to his resurrection, Acts ii. 92. x. 40. 41. and also his ascension ; but, had the gospel evidence been restrained to Christ's immediate followers, we could not with propriety have called them a cloud of witnesses, nor would their testimony bave carried with it that invincible force it now does. All, who are named as being present at the working of a miracle, may be considered as witnesses to the reality of it, and as appealed to in behalf of the truth. For, though the original witnesses to such matters as are not objects of sense, must be in possession of supernatural evidence, to prove supernatural events, yet the proof, that they are really in possession of this supernatural evidence (i. e. the power of working miracles) must depend upon the testimony of uninspired witnesses. We can no inore take their own word, that they are in possession of this supernatural power, than we can take it for the truths, which they assert, and are desirous to have believed.
Opinions of Mr. Evanson stated.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN's
AVING been lately a little surprised at seeing Mr.
Evanson's reply to Mr. P. admitted into your Magazine, (for surely such an admission looked rather like a dereliction of your title *) I conceived the idea that á short statement of his religious opinions might be useful, and
prove that he is by no means entitled to such an attention, nor to those compliments which his learned antagonist, in the excess of his candour, has thought proper to pay him.
Vice to be hated, needs but to be seen,' says the poet, and some opinions are in themselves so glaringly false and absurd as to require no refutation; or so wicked and abominable, and leading to consequences so evidently pernicious, as to excite abhorrence, in every christian breast, if they are but named. One, or both of these remarks will apply to many of the opinions advanced by Mr. Evanson, specimens of wliich I shall now proceed to lay before yout.
I pass by his notions with respect to the Holy Trinity, the satisfaction of Christ, and the fall of man as not peeuliar to himself, and shall notice those opinions only by which, to use his own expression (Disson. p. 150), he out herods Herod, and bears away the palm from all the Socinians of the present age. I begin with those that are contained in his Letter to the Bishop of Worcester, for this he seems to regard as his opus palmare, and in it has laid the foundations upon which he builds what he boasts of as an inexpugnable fortress of Heterodoxy. (Vid. Letter Address to the Reader.)
He opens this work by laying down, as fundamental, a principle calculated to sap the credit of the scriptures, and in its consequences destructive of christianity itself: namely—" That in these days we have no satisfactory evidence of the truth of christianity, the authenticity of the scriptures, or the legitimacy of any doctrine which they contain, but what is to be derived from the completion of Prophecies I.” (Letter p.5--12, 83, 84. Disson. p. 5.) In
*In giving an insertion to Mr. Evanson's letter, we conceive that we only acted on the principles of candour and justice, as it was merely a reply to our review of his recent publication.
Ep. + I have made my extracts from Mr. Evanson's three principal works, viz. his Letter to the Bishop of Worcester, 2d. Edit. His Arguments against and for the sabbatical observance of Sunday, and his Dissonance of the four generally received Evangelists.
Anthony Collins, the Deist, in his work entitled The Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, appears to have been the inventor of the kind of argument which Mr. Evanson has here adopted, for he asserts that our Saviour and his Apostles put the whole proof of christianity