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John ii. 11.
This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee,
and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
THE services of our Church from advent till this time, naturally direct our minds to the consideration of the various prophecies, which had not only taught the Jews, but through them other surrounding nations also, to expect the appearance in the world of a very extraordinary person, who should effect a great change in human affairs, and particularly with regard to religion. Accordingly, I have lately dwelt
various topics, whose object has been to shew, that the argument in favour of Christianity from prophecy, is valid and conclusive: and is not liable to those objections, which have been sometimes urged against it. We have since commemorated the birth of him, by whom we believe the predictions of the Old Testament were accomplished. And the Gospel for this day, from which I have taken my text, contains the ground upon which, and upon
very much upon
which only, we can be justified in retaining that belief. For it would not have been sufficient, that the time and place and circumstances of his birth should have corresponded with the general expectation, had he not been himself able to give further and decisive proof of his Messiahship. For as the mission of our Saviour was foretold by numerous prophecies, so was it established by numerous miraclesnay more, some of those very predictions could not without miracles have been completed. How otherwise could he have opened the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf ; and made the dumb to sing, and the lame to leap as an hart? If we ourselves were witnesses of such things as these, we must inevitably confess their Author to have superhuman power, and if they were done for a good purpose, we must also acknowledge that power to be divine, or at the least divinely commissioned. The only question therefore will be, whether in point of fact, they were or were not performed ? Now the Bible professes to contain two Revelations of religious truths to the world from the Almighty, or perhaps we should say, one Revelation consisting of two parts, the one preparatory, the other final, and both of them attested by the performance of miracles. If we assume the miracles to be true, it will follow that the religion founded upon
them was true also. If we believe the religion to have been a Divine Revelation, we cannot doubt that the miracles were really performed. If therefore either of those propositions can be proved, it will establish every thing of which it concerns us to be convinced, upon those most momentous subjects. But I conceive that both of them admit of such proof as we may rely upon with perfect confidence.
With respect to miracles, every thing we see and do, is to us in one sense really miraculous. We can no more trace or comprehend the mode of their operation, than we can penetrate that of the first great Cause of all things. But by a miracle we mean only what is not according to common experience in any part of the globe, so far as we can ascertain it, but directly contrary to it: such as raising the dead to life, controlling the elements, and many others. Certainly we cannot be expected to believe these to have been done upon light grounds or for trivial purposes. But if an adequate motive can be assigned for them, and strong grounds can be alleged in their support : there is no reason why we should refuse them our belief. Now this applies completely both to the miracles of Moses and of Christ. If to be informed of the nature and attributes of God, of the
purposes of our own being, and whether that being is to end here or to be renewed hereafter ; if these be objects of great moment to us, yet not discoverable but by Divine Revelation : and if Divine Revelation can only be manifested by the performance of miracles, surely we have assigned a sufficient motive for them. And if the fact of their performance be certified by the senses of very numerous witnesses, and were indeed matter of the greatest publicity, and corroborated by national monuments and commemorative institutions, commencing at the time, and continued to the present hour, we cannot reasonably entertain any doubts upon that point'. But that true religion is of the highest moment to us, yet that it never has existed any where, nor does yet exist, if not in the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations, cannot be disputed : nor has any one yet been able to conceive any
mode not miraculous, by which a communication from heaven can be made to mankind. And since the miracles of Moses were submitted to the senses of great multitudes of people, in fact to the whole of the then generation of the Jews; and were commemorated by the whole body of their civil laws, and religious rites and ceremonies, their yearly passover, their weekly sabbath, their new moons, and all their feasts, fasts, and ordinances; which have continued down to the present day; and since the very same things may be affirmed of the miracles of Christ, that they were not done in a corner, but in the presence of multitudes, reported by eye-witnesses, and confirmed by contemporaneous institutions; such as Baptism and the Lord's Supper; in short—by the whole Christian religion, which then commenced, and
See Leslie on Deism for this argument at length.