ACcording to Promiſe in my laſt Diſcourſe, I am in this to take into Examination the three Miracles of Jeſus's raiſing the dead, viz. Of Iairus's Daughter 1; of the Widow of Naim's Son 2; and of Lazarus 3: The literal Stories of which [Page 2] I ſhall ſhow to conſiſt of Abſurdities, Improbabilities and Incredibilities, in Order to the myſtical Interpretation of them: And becauſe ſome of our Biſhops and Clergy were a little diſguſted at the ludicrous Treatment of the Letter of ſome foregoing Miracles, I will handle theſe with the more Caution; being as unwilling, as any Man of my primitive Faith can be, to offend weak Brethren.
Whether Jeſus rais'd any more from the dead, beſides the foreſaid three Perſons is uncertain from the Evangelical Hiſtory. St. Auguſtin 4 thinks, he rais'd many others; and he founds his Opinion on the modeſt Hyperbole of St. John, who ſuppoſes 5 the World it ſelf could not contain the Books that might be Written of Jeſus. And Euſebius Gallicanus, of whoſe Mind entirely I am, ſays 6 the Reaſon lies in the Myſtery, why theſe three, and no more than theſe three Miracles of this [Page 3] Kind are recorded by the Evangeliſts. But ſince our Divines are averſe to Myſteries on Miracles, I would gladly know their Opinion, whether Jeſus rais'd any others from the dead, or not: I have made ſome ſearch into modern Writers for their Opinion in this Caſe, but can't find it: And unleſs I knew their Opinion, it would be loſt Labour to argue againſt either Side of the Queſtion, and much more againſt both Sides of it: But I can aſſure our Divines, that, which Side of the Queſtion ſoever they ſhould hold, the Conſequence upon the Argument would be neither better nor worſe, than that they muſt of neceſſity eſpouſe the myſtical and allegorical Interpretation of theſe Miracles, or grant that Jeſus literally rais'd none from the dead at all.
But waving that ſort of Argument for the preſent againſt the Letter; theſe three Miracles are reputed the greateſt that Jeſus wrought: And I believe, it will be granted on all hands, that the reſtoring a Perſon, indiſputably dead, to Life again, is a ſtupendous Miracle; and that two or three ſuch Miracles well circumſtanced, and credibly reported, are enough to conciliate the Belief of Mankind, that the Author of them was a divine Agent, and inveſted with the Power of God, or he [Page 4] could not do them. But God knows, (and for the ſake of the Myſtery, I am not ſorry to ſay it) this is far from being the Caſe of theſe three Miracles before us, or of any one them.
That theſe three Miracles are not equally great, but differ in Degree, is viſible enough to any one, that but curſorily reads, and compares theirs Stories one with another. The Fathers of the Church 7 have taken Notice of ſuch a Difference amongſt them. The greateſt of the three, and indeed, the 8 greateſt Miracle, that Jeſus is ſuppos'd to have wrought, is that of Lazarus's Reſurrection; which, in Truth, was a moſt prodigious Miracle, if his Corps was putrified and ſtank; or if there were no juſt Exceptions to be made to the Credibility of the Story. Next to that, in magnitude, is Jeſus's raiſing of [Page 5] the Widow's Son, as they were carrying him to his Burial: And a great Miracle it was to bring him to Life again; if none before or ſince had been miſtaken for dead, and carried to their Graves alive; or if no Impoſtor and his Confederates could frame ſuch a ſeemingly miraculous Scene, as is that whole Story, to his own Glory. The leaſt of the three is that of his raiſing Jairus's Daughter, which in Appearance is ſo far from a Miracle, that according to the Story itſelf, ſhe was but aſleep, or by the Shrieks of By-ſtanders frighted out of her Senſes for the preſent.
But however it really might be with theſe three ſuppoſed dead and revived Perſons; the Caſe of none of them was well enough circumſtanced to ſerve the Purpoſe of our Divines. I am apt to believe with the Fathers, that Jeſus actually did raiſe the dead; but then, as theſe Miracles are only recorded for the ſake of the Myſtery, I affirm that none of them, as to the Letter, will abide the Teſt of a critcal Examination, nor ſtand its Ground againſt ſuch Exceptions as may be made to them. If Jeſus was to raiſe any dead Bodies to Life, for a Teſtimony of his divine Power and Authority, he would and ſhould have made Choice of other dead Perſons, under other Circumſtances of Death; and [Page 6] the Hiſtory of their Reſurrection ſhould have been more credibly and carefully tranſmitted to Poſterity, ſo as there ſhould have been no Room left to make a reaſonable Doubt of the Truth of it. But this, I ſay, is not the Caſe in the Reſuſcitation of any of theſe Perſons, as will appear from the following Remarks and Obſervations upon them. And
1. Obſerve, that the unnatural and prepoſterous Order of Time, in which theſe Miracles are related, juſtly brings them all under ſuſpicion of Fable and Forgery. The greateſt of the three is indiſputably that of Lazarus's Reſurrection; but ſince this is only mention'd by St. John, who wrote his Goſpel after the other Evangeliſts, and above ſixty Years, according to the beſt Computation, after our Lord's Aſcenſion; here is too much Room for Cavil and Queſtion, whether this Story be not entirely his Invention. What could be the Reaſon that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who all wrote their Goſpels before John, and many Years nearer to the Death of our Saviour, ſhould omit to record this remarkable and moſt illuſtrious Miracle of Lazarus? They could not forget it, nor be ignorant of it, if the Story had been really true: and to aſſign any [Page 7] other Reaſon than Ignorance or Forgetfulneſs, is hard and impoſſible. To aggrandize the Fame of their Maſter, for a Worker of Miracles, was the Deſign of all the Evangeliſts, eſpecially of the three firſt, who may be preſumed to make a Report of the greateſt, if not of all, that Jeſus wrought: But that there ſhould come after them an Evangeliſt with an huge and ſuperlatively great Miracle, and meet with Credit for it, is againſt all Senſe and Reaſon; neither is there any Story, ſo diſorderly told, in all Hiſtory, that Critics will admit of the Belief of. The firſt Writer of the Life of an Hero, to be ſure makes mention of all the grand Occurrences of it, and leaves no Room for Biographers afterwards, but to enlarge and paraphraſe upon what he has written, with ſome other Circumſtances and Additions of leſs Moment. If a third or a fourth Biographer after him ſhall preſume to add a more illuſtrious Tranſaction of the Hero's Life, it will be rejected as Fable and Romance, tho' for no other Reaſon than this, that the firſt Writer muſt have been appris'd of it, and would have inſerted its Story, if there had been any Truth in it. And whether St. John's Story of Lazarus's Reſurrection, that Miracle of Miracles, ought not to be ſubjected to the like Criticiſm upon it, [Page 8] Chriſtians may conſider, and Infidels will judge.
What then was the Reaſon, I ask again, that the three firſt Evangeliſts neglected to record this renown'd Miracle of Lazarus? And why too (may I enquire here) did not Matthew and Mark mention the Story of the Widow of Naim's Son, as they could not but know of it, if true, more certainly than Luke, the Companion of Paul, who alone has made a Report of it? Grotius ſays, 9 it may ſeem ſtrange that this illuſtrious Miracle of the Widow's Son was omitted by Matthew and Mark: And what is the Reaſon that Grotius gives for this ſtrange Omiſſion? Why, he tells us 10 that theſe two Evangeliſts were content with one miraculous Inſtance of this Kind, by which Chriſtians might judge of Jeſus's Power in others alſo. And is this Reaſon ſufficient? True it is, they were content with one Inſtance; but if they had made a Report of two or three more of the ſame ſort, no body would have thought their Hiſtory of Chriſt overcharg'd with impertinent and tautological Repetitions. [Page 9] But one Inſtance of a Perſon rais'd from the dead, they were, ſays Grotius, content with: And I'll grant one to be ſufficient: But which then ſhould they, as wiſe and conſiderate Hiſtorians have made Choice of, the greateſt or the leaſt Miracle? The greateſt, to be ſure, and that was of Lazarus, or of the Widow's Son, if they knew of either. But inſtead of either of theſe, they tell us the Story of Jairus's Daughter, that is 11 an imperfect and diſputable Miracle, in Compariſon of the other two, which conſequently they knew nothing at all of, or they would have preferr'd the Report of them.
If Matthew, the firſt Writer, had recorded only the Story of Lazarus, whoſe Reſurrection was the greateſt Miracle; and if Luke had added that of the Widow of Naim's Son; and John laſtly had remember'd us of Jairus's Daughter, which the other Evangeliſts, not through Ignorance or Forgetfulneſs, but ſtudying Brevity, had omitted, then all had been well; and no Objection had hence lain againſt the Credit of any of theſe Miracles, or againſt the Authority of the Evangeliſts: But this unnatural and prepoſterous [Page 10] Order of Time, in which theſe Miracles are recorded (the greateſt being poſtponed to the leaſt) adminiſters juſt Occaſion of ſuſpicion of the Truth and Credibility of all their Stories. And it is lucky for Chriſtianity, that Jews and Infidels have not hitherto hit upon the Abſurdity of this prepoſterous Narration, or they might have form'd a cogent Objection againſt theſe Miracles thus, ſaying;
"Jeſus, it is manifeſt, rais'd not the dead at all. The only Perſon, that Chriſtians can reaſonably pretend, he did raiſe, was Jairus's Daughter, whom Matthew writes of; and ſhe, according to the Story was only in a Sleep, or an Extacy, when Jeſus revived her. But the Galileans, who were after a Time call'd Chriſtians, finding their Account in a Reſurrection-Miracle; Luke, for the former Advantage of the Cauſe, deviſed another Story of better Circumſtances, in the Widow of Naim's Son: But this not being ſo great a Miracle, as the Church ſtill wanted; John, when no body was alive to contradict and expoſtulate with him for it, trumps up a long Story of a thumping Miracle, in Jeſus's raiſing of Lazarus, who had been not only dead, but buried ſo long [Page 11] that he ſtank again. But to prove the Story of this Miracle to be falſe and fabulous, we need ſay no more than that it was laſt recorded. If there had been any Truth in it, the firſt Evangeliſt would have remember'd us of it.
"We don't ſuppoſe, that you Chriſtians, becauſe of your Prejudices, will ſubſcribe to this Account, that we thus give of the Riſe of theſe Miracles: But this is certain, that if theſe three Miracles had not been reported of Jeſus, but of Mahomet, in the ſame diſorder of Time, by three different Hiſtorians, you would preſently have ſcented the Forgery and Impoſture: You would juſtly have affirm'd that the three Stories were apparently three Fables and Falſhoods; and that the three Hiſtorians viſibly ſtrove to outſtretch each other: That the firſt was ſparing and modeſt in his Romance; and the ſecond, being ſenſible of the Inſufficiency of the former's Tale, deviſes a Miracle of a bigger Size; which ſtill not proving ſufficient to the End propoſed; the third Writer, rather than his Prophet's Honour ſhould ſink for want of a Reſurrection-Miracle, forges a Story of a monſtrouſly huge one; againſt which it is, and always will be Objection enough, that it was not [Page 12] related by the firſt Hiſtorian. So would you Chriſtians argue againſt theſe three Miracles in another Impoſtor's Caſe; and there is not a judicious Critic in the Univerſe, that would not approve of the Argument, and applaud the Force of it, tho' you will not endure the Thoughts of it in the Caſe of your Jeſus.
"But to come nearer home to you; ſuppoſing John (who was then above a Hundred, and in his Dotage) had not reported this Miracle of Lazarus; but that Clement (joining it with his 12 incredible Story of the Reſurrection of a Phaenix) or Ignatius, or Polycarp, or the Author of the Apoſtolical Conſtitutions had related it; would not your Chriſtian Critics have been at work to explode it? There is not an antient extraevangelical Tradition of any Note about Jeſus, that ſome or other of your Critics have not boggled at; but ſuch a Story as this of Lazarus would have been received by none. I queſtion, whether Mr. Whiſton would not have rejected the Conſtitutions upon ſuch a Story in them; or if his Fancy for ſome other Things in them had overcome his [Page 13] Reaſon againſt this; yet Biſhop Small-broke, who has written againſt the Canonicalneſs of the Conſtitutions, with his judicious Animadverſions upon this Story, would abſolutely have overthrown their Authority. And what would he have ſaid here? Not only that the Miracle ſmells rankly of Forgery and Fraud, or the Evangeliſts, eſpecicially Matthew, had never forgotten to record it; but he would have reminded us of intrinſic Notes (hereafter to be mention'd) of Abſurdity, and Incredibility, that would for ever have caſhier'd the Belief of it. And whether we Infidels ought not to take the ſame Liberty to criticize on John's Goſpel, which you do on your Apoſtolical Fathers, who wrote before him, let the impartial and unprejudiced judge: If in juſtice we ought to take it; we are ſure we could give two or three notable Reaſons (but that We will not now put Chriſtians out of Temper with them) why John may be ſuſpected of a Miſtake or Fraud in this Miracle, rather than any other Chriſtian Writer of the firſt or ſecond Century."
To ſuch an unhappy Objection, ariſing from the unnatural and prepoſterous Order of Time, in which they are recorded, [Page 14] are theſe three Miracles before us obnoxious. And I am thinking how Miniſters of the Letter will be able to get over it. As for my ſelf, who am for the myſtical Interpretation of theſe Miracles, I have a ſolid and ſubſtantial Anſwer at hand to the foreſaid Objection, an Anſwer that curiouſly accounts for the Order of Time in which theſe Miracles are related; but my Anſwer will not pleaſe our Divines, nor ſtand them in any ſtead; therefore they muſt look up another good one of their own, that will comport with the Letter; or the ſaid Objection, improved with another preſently againſt Lazarus's Reſurrection, will be too hard, not for Chriſtianity it ſelf, but for their Miniſtry.
Grotius, being aware of the foreſaid Objection, has given us ſuch a 13 Solution of it as then occurr'd to his Thoughts. Dr. Whitby, not being ſatisfied with Grotius's [Page 15] Solution, has given us 14 another: But how weak and inſufficient both their Solutions are, I will not ſpare Time to conſider, till ſome Writer ſhall appear in Defence of the Sufficiency and Strength of one or other of them. And ſo I paſs to a
2. Second Obſervation, by Way of Objection to the Letter of theſe Miracles, and that is, by enquiring, what became of theſe three Perſons after their Reſurrection? How long did they live afterwards? And of what Uſe and Advantage were their reſtored [...]ives to the Church or to Mankind? The Evangelical and Eccleſiaſtical Hiſtory is entirely ſilent as to theſe Queſtions, which is enough to make us ſuſpect their Stories to be merely romantick or parabolical; and that there were no ſuch Perſons rais'd from the dead; or we muſt have heard ſomewhat of their Station and [Page 16] Converſation in the World afterwards. It's true, that Ephiphanius 15 ſays, what he found among Traditions, that Lazarus lived thirty Years after his Reſurrection: But how did he ſpend his Time all that while? Was it to the Honour of Jeſus, to the Service of the Church, and Progagation of the Goſpel? Of that we know nothing; tho in Reaſon and Gratitude to Jeſus, his Benefactor, it ought to have been ſo ſpent; and if it had been ſo employ'd, Hiſtory ſurely would have inform'd us of it. According to the Opinion of Grotius, in a Citation above, Lazarus for the reſt of his reſtored Life abſconded, and skull'd about the Country for Fear of the Jews, who lay in Wait for him; which is a Suggeſtion, not only diſhonourable to Jeſus, as if the ſame Power, that rais'd him from the dead, could not protect him againſt his Enemies; but reproachful to Lazarus himſelf, who ſhould have choſen to ſuffer Death again, rather than not bear an open Teſtimony to Jeſus, the Author of his Reſurrection. However it was, we hear no more of Lazarus, than that he lived thirty Years afterwards, which Tradition, [Page 17] without other Memorials of his Life, brings the Miracle more under ſuſpicion of Fable, than if he had dy'd ſoon after it. And of Jairus's Daughter, and of the Widow of Naim's Son, which is aſtoniſhing, we read nothing at all. Does not this Silence in Hiſtory about them, make their Miracles queſtionable, and but like Gulliverian Tales of Perſons and Things, that out of the Romance, never had any Being.
Jeſus did but 16 call a little Child, and ſet him in the midſt of his Diſciples; and that Act was remember'd in the Piety and Zeal 17 of Ignatius, who made a renown'd Biſhop. But the Favour and Bleſſing conferr'd on theſe three rais'd Perſons was exceedingly greater; and one might have expected, that Lazarus and the Widow's Son would have been eminent Miniſters of the Goſpel. But inſtead of that, their Lives afterwards were paſs'd in Obſcurity, or, what's as bad, Eccleſiaſtical Hiſtory has neglected a Report of them. What can any one hereupon think leſs, than that the Favour of the Miracles was loſt on undeſerving Perſons, which I abhor the Thoughts of; or that their Stories [Page 18] are but Parables, which I rather incline to.
Miniſters of the Letter may here ſay, "That the Eccleſiaſtical Hiſtory of the Apoſtolical Age is very ſcanty; and that many Memorials of other Perſons and Tranſactions are loſt and buried in Oblivion: Which unhappy Fate has attended the after-Lives and Actions of theſe rais'd Perſons, or undoubtedly we ſhould have had a famous Record of them." This is not impoſſible; tho' in the Wiſdom of Providence it is hardly probable, but that ſome more Remembrance muſt have been left of one or other, if not of all the three Perſons; in as much as ſuch a Remembrance of them would now-a-days have no leſs gain'd a Belief of the Miracles, than this Hiſtorical Silence tends to the Diſcredit of them.
It's ſomewhat ſtrange, that we hear no more of the after-Fame and Life of any of the diſeaſed Perſons, whom Jeſus miraculouſly cured; excepting of the Woman, heal'd of an Iſſue of Blood; who, tho' ſhe ſpent ALL ſhe had, even ALL her Living upon Phyſicians; yet out of the Remains of it erected, ſays 18 Euſebius, at Caeſarea Philippi, two moſt coſtly Statues of Braſs, to the Memory of [Page 19] Jeſus and of herſelf, and of the Miracle wrought by him; which Dr. Whitby 19 as if he was tainted with Infidelity, endeavours to make an idle Tale of. But excepting, I ſay this Story of this Woman, we hear nothing of any other heal'd Perſon; which is Matter of ſome Speculation: But that the Perſons rais'd from the dead ſhould not at all be mention'd in Hiſtory for their Labours and Lives afterwards to the Honour of Jeſus, is abſolutely unaccountable. Whether ſuch a profound Silence in Hiſtory about them be not ſhocking of the Credit of the Miracles, let our Divines conſider. I am of Opinion that if Jeſus really rais'd theſe Perſons from the dead; this and no other Reaſon, in the Providence of God, can be given for the Silence of Eccleſiaſtical Hiſtory about them afterwards, than to make dead-letter'd Stories of their Miracles, in order to turn our Heads entirely to the Conſideration of their myſtical Signification, without which the Letter, for the Argument before us, is deſerving of no Regard nor Credit. But
3. By way of Objection to the Letter of theſe three Miracles, let us conſider the [Page 20] Condition of the Perſons rais'd from the dead; and whether they were at all proper Perſons for Jeſus to work ſuch a Miracle upon, in Teſtimony of his divine Power. If they were improper Perſons according to the Letter, it's not credible that He, who was the Wiſdom of God, would raiſe them; or if he did, it was becauſe they were the propereſt to make myſtical Emblems of their Stories.
That Jeſus ought to have rais'd all that dy'd, where-ever he came, during the Time of his Miniſtry, none, I preſume, can hold. Two or three Inſtances of his almighty and miraculous Power of this Kind will be allow'd to be ſufficient: But then they muſt be wiſely and judiciouſly made Choice of, out of a vaſt Number of Perſons, that muſt needs die in that Time. Where then was his Wiſdom and Prudence to chuſe theſe three Perſons above others to that Honour? Why were all of them, or indeed any one of them preferr'd to other Perſons of a different Age and Condition in the World? Nay, if the Letter of their Stories is only to be regarded, were not all theſe three Perſons almoſt the impropereſt and moſt unfit of any for Jeſus to exerciſe that Power on?
[Page 21] Jairus's Daughter was an inſignificant Girl of twelve Years old: And there could be no Reaſon for raiſing her, but to wipe Sorrow from the Hearts, and Tears from the Eyes of her Parents, who ought to have been better Philoſophers, than immoderately to grieve for her. And was here a good Reaſon for Jeſus to interpoſe with his Almighty Powe? No certainly; a Lecture of Patience and Reſignation in this Caſe had been enough. And tho Jeſus could raiſe her from the dead; yet for as much as that Favour was to be conferr'd but on a few; and his Miracles ought to be uſeful as well as conſpicuous, ſhe ſhould have been paſs'd by, as an improper Object of his Power, in Compariſon of many others, preſently to be named. If therefore a better Reaſon, than what's diſcernible in the Letter, is not to be fetch'd from the Myſtery; I can't ſuppoſe that Jeſus, the Wiſdom of God would raiſe this Girl; but that the modern Beleif of her Reſuſcitation, excluſive of the myſtical Signification, is, as ſhall be by and by argued, altogether groundleſs.
The Widow of Naim's Son too was but a [...] Youth, and whether any thing older than the Girl above is doubtful; but his Life certainly was of no more Importance to the World after, than [Page 22] before his Reſurrection. And why was he then one of the three to be rais'd from the dead? Why had he this Honour done him, before others of greater Age, Worth, and Uſe to MankInd? Some will ſay, for the Comfort of his ſorrowful Mother. And is this Reaſon ſufficient? A Diſcourſe on the Pleaſures of Abraham's Boſom, where ſhe would e'er long meet her Son, had been enough to chear her Heart. If therefore the Fathers don't help me to a ſolid myſtical Reaſon, why the Son and only Son of a Widow was to be rais'd by Jeſus, as they were carrying him to his Burial, I'll not believe, He would raiſe this dead Boy rather than many others, for the Manifeſtation of his Power; but that the Story of his Reſurrection, as ſhall ſoon be reaſonably proved, was all Sham and Cheat.
Lazarus indeed was Jeſus's Friend, whom he Loved; and as I will not queſtion but Jeſus's Affection was wiſely and deſervedly placed on him; ſo here, to Appearance, was a better Reaſon for the raiſing of him, than of either of the other Two. But even this Reaſon, ſuppoſing Jeſus was to raiſe but three Perſons, is not ſufficient againſt the Caſes of many others, that may be put for the Manifeſtation of his Power, for the Illuſtration of his Wiſdom and Goodneſs, and for the [Page 23] Converſion of Unbelievers: Conſequently, if this Story of Lazarus be not parabolical, the litteral Fact is diſputable, and obnoxious to ſuch Exceptions preſently to be obſerved againſt it, as will not be eaſily got over.
Jeſus rais'd the dead, and wrought other Miracles, ſay our Divines often, not only to manifeſt his own Power and Glory, but his Love to Mankind, and his Inclination to do them good: For which Reaſon his Miracles are uſeful and beneficial as well as ſtupendous and ſupernatural Acts, on purpoſe to conciliate Men's Affections as well as their Faith to him. On this Topick our Divines are copious and rhetorical, when they write on Jeſus's Miracles, as if no more uſeful and wonderful Works could be done, than what he did. And I do agree with them, that (what Reaſon beſpeaks) the Miracles of a pretended Author of Religion ought to be both as uſeful and great as well as could be. But ſuch were not Jeſus's Miracles according to Letter, and leaſt of all his Acts of raiſing the dead. For if we conſider the Perſons rais'd by him, we ſhall find, he could hardly have exerted his Power on any of leſs Importance to the World, both before and after their Reſurrection. A young Girl indeed is fitter to be rais'd [Page 24] than a decripid old Woman, who by the Courſe of Nature was to return to Corruption again, as ſoon as reſtored to Life: And a Boy rather than an infirm old Man for the ſame Reaſon: And Lazarus the Friend of Jeſus, perhaps, and but perhaps, rather than his profeſs'd Enemy. But what are theſe three Perſons in Compariſon of many others of other Circumſtances? Inſtead of a Boy, and a Girl and even of Lazarus, who were all of no Conſequence to the Publick, either before or ſince; I ſhould think, Jeſus ought to have rais'd an uſeful Magiſtrate, whoſe Life had beed a common Bleſſing; an induſtrious Merchant, whoſe Death was a publick Loſs; a Father of a numerous Family, which for a comfortable Subſiſtance depended on him. Such dead Objects of Jeſus's Power and Compaſſion could not but offer themſelves, during the Time of his Miniſtry, and if he meant to be as uſeful as he could, in his Miracles, he would have laid hold on them. If a few Perſons only were to be rais'd from the dead, the foreſaid were the propereſt, whoſe Reſurrection and Return to Life would have begotten the Applauſe as well as the Wonder of the World; would moſt extenſively have ſpread Jeſus's Fame; and would have gain'd him the Love and [Page 25] Diſcipleſhip of all that heard of his being ſo great a Benefactor to Mankind. Such Inſtances of his Power would have demonſtrated him to be a moſt benign as well as a mighty Agent; and none in Intereſt or Prejudice could have open'd their Mouths againſt him, eſpecially if the Perſons rais'd from the dead were ſelected upon the Recommendation of the People of this or that City. But that an inſignificant Boy and a Girl, (forſooth!) and the obſcure Lazarus, are preferr'd by Jeſus, to ſuch publick and more deſerving Perſons is unaccountable. Their Story therefore, upon this Argument, ſavours of Romance and Fraud; and unleſs the Myſtery help us to, what the Letter can't, a good Reaſon for Jeſus's Conduct here, the Miracles may be hence juſtly queſtion'd, and the Credibility of their Report diſputed.
But now I am ſpeaking of the Fitneſs and Unfitneſs of deceaſed Perſons to have this grand Miracle wrought on them; it comes into my Head to ask, why Jeſus rais'd not John the Baptiſt to Life again? A Perſon of greater Merits, and more worthy of the Favour of Jeſus and of this Miracle, could not be. If Jeſus could raiſe any from the dead he would ſurely have raiſed him; and why did he not? This is a reaſonable Queſtion, and an [Page 26] Anſwer ſhould be thought on for it. Was it a Thing out of Jeſus's Power? Not ſo; He was Omnipotent, and could by Force or Perſuaſion have reſcued John's Head out of the Hands of his Enemies; and the tacking it again to his Body, and the infuſing new Life into him was no more difficult to Jeſus, than the Reſuſcitation of a ſtinking Carcaſs. If Jeſus had here exerted his Power, and rais'd his deareſt Friend and choiceſt Miniſter for the Preparation, if not Propagation of the Goſpel, none could queſtion his Ability to raiſe any others, tho he had rais'd no more. But in as much as John the Baptiſt, one of his ſingular Merits and Services to Chriſt, was overlook'd and neglected by him; and three uſeleſs and inſignificant Perſons had this Honour done them, the Facts may reaſonably be called into queſtion, and, if the Myſteries don't ſolve the Difficulty, their litteral Stories may hence be accounted fooliſh, fictitious and fabulous; eſpecially if we conſider,
4. That none of theſe three rais'd Perſons had been long enough dead to amputate all Doubt of Jeſus's miraculous Power in their Reſurrection. As to Jairus's Daughter, ſhe was but newly expired, if at all dead, when Jeſus brought her to [Page 27] Life again. Jeſus himſelf ſays, ſhe was but aſleep. And according to Theophanes Cerameus 20, and Theophilact 21 there is Room to ſuſpect that this Girl was only [...] beſide herſelf. And it is not impoſſible, but the paſſionate Skreams of the Feminine By-ſtanders might fright her into Fits, that bore the Appearance of Death; otherwiſe why did Jeſus turn theſe inordinate Weepers out of the Houſe, before he could bring her to her Senſes again? And why did he tell her Parents, that ſhe was only in aſleep, but to Comfort them with the Poſſibility of his awakening her out of it? Is not this deſtructive of the Miracle, and making no more of it, than what another Man might do? And is there not ſome Probability, that here's all of this Story? But ſuppoſing ſhe was really dead, yet for the ſake of an indiſputable Miracle in her Reſurrection, it muſt be granted, that ſhe ought to have been much longer, ſome Days if not Weeks, dead and buried.
As to the Widow of Naim's Son, there was ſomewhat more of the Appearance of Death in him, than in Jairus's Daughter. He was carried forth to his Burial, and ſo may be preſumed to be really a dead [Page 28] Corpſe. But might not here be Fraud or Miſtake in the Caſe? Hiſtory and common Fame affords Inſtances of the miſtaken Deaths of Perſons, who ſometimes have been unfortunately buried alive, and at other Times happily, by one Means or other, reſtored to Life: And who knows but Jeſus, upon ſome Information or other, might ſuſpect this Youth to be in a lethargick State, and had a Mind to try, if by chafeing, &c. he could not do, what ſucceſsfully he did, bring him to his Senſes again: Or might not a Piece of Fraud be here concerted between Jeſus, a ſubtil Youth, and his Mother and others; and all the Formalities of a Death and Burial contrived, that Jeſus, whoſe Fame for a Worker of Miracles was to be rais'd, might here have an Opportunity to make a ſhew of a grand one. The Mourning of the Widow, who had her Tears at Command and Jeſus's caſual meeting of the Corpſe upon the Road, looks like Contrivance to put the better Face upon the Matter. God forbid, that I ſhould ſuſpect, there was any Fraud of this Kind here; but of the Poſſibility of it, none can doubt. And where there is a Poſſibility of Fraud, it is Nonſenſe, and mere Credulity to talk of a real, certain and ſtupendous Miracle, eſpecially where [Page 29] the Juggler and pretended Worker of Miracles has been detected in ſome of his other Tricks. All that I have to ſay here to this Matter, is, that if Jeſus had a Mind to raiſe the Son of this Widow, in Teſtimony of his divine Power, he ſhould have ſuffer'd him to have been buried two or three Weeks firſt; otherwiſe, if the Myſtery don't account for Jeſus's ſtopping the Bearers of the Corpſe upon the Road, here is too much Room for ſuſpicion of Cheat in the Letter of the Story.
Lazarus's Caſe ſeems to be the leſs exceptionable of the three. He had been buried four Days, and ſuppoſed to be putrified in the Opinion of his Siſter Mary, and of modern Chriſtians: And if ſo, his Reſuſcitation was a moſt grand and indiſputable Miracle. And I could have wiſh'd, if I had not loved the Myſtery rather than the Letter, that no Cavil and Exception could have been made to it. Whether Lazarus, who was Jeſus's Friend and beloved Diſciple, would not come into Meaſures with his Lord, for the Defence of his Honour, and Propagation of his Fame, Infidels, who take Chriſtianity for an Impoſture, will not queſtion: And whether he would not conſent to be interr'd alive, in a hollow Cave, where there was only a Stone laid at the Mouth of it, as long as [Page 30] a Man could faſt, none of them will doubt. Four Days was almoſt too long for a Man to faſt without danger of Health; but if thoſe four Days are number'd according to the Arithmetick of Jeſus's three Days in his Grave, they are reducible to two Days and three Nights, which Time, if no Victuals were ſecretly convey'd with him, a Man might faſt in Lazarus's Cave. As to the ſtinking of Lazarus's Carcaſs: that, Infidels will ſay, was but the Aſſertion of his Siſter beforehand, like a Prologue to a Farce. None of the Spectators at his Reſurrection ſay one Word of his ſtinking. And as to the Weepings and Lamentations of Jeſus and of Lazarus's Siſters, they will ſay that was all Sham and Counterfeit, the better to carry on the Juggle of a feign'd Reſurrection. And what's worſt of all, they will ſay, that tho Jeſus did call Lazarus forth with a loud Voice, as if he had been as deaf as a dead Man; yet his Face was bound about with a Napkin, ſo that the Spectators could not diſcern what was of the Eſſence of the Miracle, the Change of his Countenance from a dead to a live one, which is a plain Sign, that it was all Fraud and Impoſture.
God forbid, that I ſhould have the ſame ſenſe with Infidels, of this Matter; but to be juſt to their Suggeſtions and Imaginations [Page 31] here, I muſt needs ſay, there are ſome other unhappy Circumſtances, preſently to be conſider'd, in this Story, which, if they are not emblematical, make it the moſt notorious Cheat and Impoſture that ever was put upon Mankind. In the mean Time, from what is here argued, it is plain, that Lazarus was not ſo long dead and buried, as that there is no Room to doubt of the Miracle of his Reſurrection.
Now whether theſe Arguments againſt theſe three Miracles, drawn from the Shortneſs of the Time, in which theſe Perſons lay for dead, have any Force in them, let our Divines conſider. If nothing of all this is in their Opinion affecting of the Credit of the Miracles; yet they muſt allow, that Jeſus, if he could raiſe the dead, might have made Choice of other Inſtances of Perſons, more unqueſtionably dead, who had lain longer in their Graves, and were in a viſible State of Putrefaction. And if this grand Miracle of raiſing the dead was to be wrought by Jeſus for the Manifeſtation of his Glory, and in Teſtimony of his Authority; he ſhould have exerciſed his Power on ſome ſuch Perſons, nominated by the Magiſtrates of this or that City, who with the People ſhould be preſent at the miraculous Operation, beholding the putrified Bodies, [Page 32] (without a Napkin before their Faces) and how they were ſuddenly enliven'd and invigorated with new Fleſh, after the Similitude of their priſtine Form, when in Health and full Strength. Becauſe that Jeſus rais'd not ſome ſuch Perſons to Life, I muſt take the Stories of the three Miracles before us to be but typical of more myſterious Works; or believe them for the Arguments above to be downright Cheats and Fables. And what is enough to induce a modern Divine to this Opinion. Is
5. The Conſideration, that none of theſe rais'd Perſons did or could, after the Return of their Souls to their Bodies, tell any Tales of their ſeparate Exiſtence otherwiſe the Evangeliſts had not been ſilent in this main Point, which is of the Eſſence of Chriſtianity. Are not our Divines here reduced to an unhappy Dilemma, either to deny the ſeparate Exiſtence of the Soul, or the precedent Deaths of theſe rais'd Perſons? As Chriſtians, we profeſs to believe both, which ſeemingly are incompatiable; or the Evangeliſts had made ſuch a Relation, as their return'd Souls had given of the other World. Was any Perſon, in this Age, to be rais'd to Life, that had been any time dead; the firſt Thing [Page 33] that his Friends and Acquaintance would enquire of him, would be to know, where his Soul had been; in what Company; and how it had fared with him; and Hiſtorians would certainly record his Narrative. The ſame Curioſity could not but poſſeſs People of old, when theſe Miracles were wrought; and if the rais'd Perſons had told any Stories of their ſeparate Exiſtance, the Evangeliſts no leſs unqueſtionally would have reported them, in as much as ſuch a Report would have been, not only a Confirmation of that Doctrine, which is of the Eſſence of our Religion; but an abſolute Confutation of the Sadducees and Sceptiſts of that Age, and of the Materialiſts of this. But this their Silence in this Caſe is of bad Conſequence, either to the Doctrine of the Soul's Exiſtence in Separation from the Body, or to theſe Miracles themſelves, ſince we muſt hereupon almoſt neceſſarily hold, that theſe rais'd Perſons were not at all dead, or that their Souls dy'd with them.
The Author of a Sermon, aſcrib'd to St. Auguſtin tells us 22 that Lazarus after [Page 34] his Reſurrection made a large Report of Hell, where he had been: But as this is a mere Fiction of that Author, without the leaſt Authority from Scripture; ſo I preſume it will be accounted a Blunder in him, to ſuppoſe the Soul of Lazarus, the Friend and beloved of Jeſus, was in Hell. The Soul of Jeſus indeed, for Reaſons beſt known to himſelf, upon his Death, deſcended into Hell, when ſome think he ſhould rather have gone, with the penitent Thief, into Paradiſe. But the Thoughts, that any of Jeſus's Friends ſhould go to Hell, I ſuppoſe will not be born with; or what will become of the Preachers of this Age, who would be accounted Men of that Denomination. And if Lazarus's Soul had been in Paradiſe, it was hardly a good Work in Jeſus to recall it, for thirty Years afterwards, to the Miſeries and Troubles of this wicked World. I wiſh therefore our Divines could determine, where Lazarus's Soul was for the four Days of his Burial; becauſe I can't poſſibly conceive any thing elſe, than that he was not really dead, or that his Soul dy'd with him, or went to a bad place, otherwiſe after his Reſurrection he had never [Page 35] abſconded for fear of the Jews, as if he was unwilling to die again, and return to the Place from whence he came.
But however it was with the Souls of theſe rais'd Perſons before their Re-union to their Bodies, here is another Difficulty and Objection againſt theſe Miracles; and how will our Divines get over it? Perhaps they may ſay, that tho' theſe rais'd Perſons were before really dead; yet their Souls were not as yet gone to their Places prepared of God for them, but continued hovering about their Bodies, like the Flame about the Snuff of a Candle, with deſires
to be again rejoin'd to them. And withall my Heart let this Anſwer paſs, if our Divines and Infidels can ſo agree upon it. As for my own Opinion, it is this, that theſe Miracles of Jeſus are Parables, and that it was beſide the Purpoſe of the Parable, and of the Evangeliſts to ſay any thing of the Place and State of the Soul upon its Separation from the Body; otherwiſe the Letter of their Stories is manifeſtly obnoxious to the Objection above, or the Deaths of theſe pretended rais'd Perſons, upon Chriſtian Principles, are queſtionable. But—iterum que revertiCorpora—
[Page 36] 6. And laſtly, Let us conſider the intrinſick Abſurdities and Incredibilities of the ſeveral Stories of theſe three Miracles. And ſuch Abſurdities ſhall we find in them, that, if they had been intended as Teſtimonies of Jeſus's divine Power, had never been inſerted in their Narratives.
As to Jairus's Daughter, and her Reſurrection from the dead, St. Hilary 23 hints, that there was no ſuch Perſon as Jairus whoſe Name was fictitious, and coin'd with a ſpiritual Signification for the Uſe of the Parable; and he gives this Reaſon, and a good Reaſon it is, why he thought ſo, becauſe it is elſewhere 24 intimated in the Goſpel, that none of the Rulers of the Synagogues confeſſedly believed on Jeſus. Is not here then a ſtumbling-Block at the Threſhold of the Letter of this Story? But why did Jeſus ſay, this Girl was but in a Sleep? If he was going to work a Miracle in her Reſuſcitation, he ſhould not have call'd Death, [Page 37] Sleep; but if others had been of a contrary Opinion, he ſhould firſt have convinced them of the Certainty of her Death, before he did the great Work on her. And why did he charge the Parents of the Girl not to ſpeak of the Miracle? If he meant it as a Teſtimony of his divine Power, he ſhould rather have exhorted them, in juſtice to himſelf to publiſh it, and make it well known. And why, as St. Ambroſe 25 puts the Queſtion, did he turn the People out of the Houſe, before he would raiſe her? The more Witneſſes are preſent at a Miracle, the better it is atteſted, and the more readily believed by others; and who ſhould be preſent at the Miracle rather than thoſe who were incredulous of Jeſus's divine Power? Are not all theſe Circumſtances, ſo many Abſurdities, which, if they are not to be accounted for in the Myſtery, are ſo far deſtructive of the Letter, as that it is Nonſenſe and Folly in our Divines to talk of a Miracle here, againſt Jeſus's expreſs Word and Prohibition to the contrary.
As to the Story of the Widow of Naim's Son, excepting what is before obſerved of [Page 38] the ſhortneſs of the Time, in which he lay dead, and of the Unfitneſs of his Perſon to be rais'd before an Husband and Father of a Family, to the Comfort of his Wife and Children, (which are enough to overthrow the Credility of the Miracle) I have here no more Fault to find in the Letter of it.
But the long Story of Lazarus is ſo brimful of Abſurdities, that, if the Letter alone is to be regarded; St. John, who was then above a hundred, when he wrote it, had lived beyond his Reaſon and Senſes, or he could not have committed them.
I have not Room here to make Remarks on all theſe Abſurdities, which would be the Work of a Volume; but ſhall ſingle out three or four of them at preſent, reſerving the reſt for another Opportunity, when the whole Story of this Miracle will appear to be ſuch a Contexture of Folly and Fraud in its Contrivance, Execution, and Relation, as is not to be equall'd in all Romantick Hiſtory; and our Divines will find themſelves ſo diſtreſs'd upon the Diſſection and Diſplay of it, as that they muſt of Neceſſity allow this Story to be but a Parable; or, what's moſt grievous to think on, give up their Religion upon it.
[Page 39] Firſt then, obſerve that Jeſus is ſaid to have wept. and groan'd for the Death of Lazarus: But why ſo, ſays 26 St. Baſil? Was not this an Abſurdity to weep at all for the Death of him, whom he could, and was about to recover to Life again? Another Man may as reaſonably grieve for the Abſence of his Friend, whoſe Company and Preſence he can retrieve in an Inſtant, as that Jeſus ſhould ſhed Tears for Lazarus in this Caſe. If Jeſus could not or would not raiſe him from the dead, he ought not, as a Philoſopher, who knows Man is born to die, to betray ſo much Weakneſs as to weep for him. Patience and Reſignation unto God upon the Death of our deareſt Friends and Relations is what all Philoſophers have rightly taught; and Jeſus, one would think, ſhould have been the moſt Heroical Example of theſe Graces; and how came he to fail of it here? A Stoical Apathy had better became him than ſuch childiſh and effeminate Grief, which not only makes him a mean and poor-ſpirited Mortal; but is a groſs Abſurdity and Incredibility upon Conſideration of his Will and Power to fetch [Page 40] Lazarus to Life again. If there be not, according to the Fathers, Myſtery in theſe Tears of Jeſus, they are a fooliſh and unnatural Prelude to a Farce, he was acting in the pretended Reſuſcitation of Lazarus.
Some antient Catholicks, not being appriſed of the Myſtery; were ſo offended at theſe Words, Jeſus wept, that, as Epiphanius 27 ſays, they expung'd them out of their Bibles; and I wonder, they have not, before now, diſturb'd the Faith of Miniſters of the Letter, to the utter Rejection of the Miracle.
Secondly, Obſerve that John ſays, it was with a loud Voice, that Jeſus call'd Lazarus forth out of his Cave. And why, I pray, a louder Voice than ordinary? Was dead Lazarus deafer than Jairus's Daughter, or the Widow's Son? Or was his Soul at ſo great a Diſtance from his Body, as he could not hear a ſtill and low Voice? Some ſuch ſilly Reaſon as this muſt be given for this loud Voice here; but how abſurd it is according to the Letter, Infidels will judge, till Chriſtians can aſſign a better. The dead can hear the Whiſper of the Almighty, if Power go along with it, [Page 41] as ſoon as the Sound of a Trumpet. St. John then ſhould not have written of a loud Voice, unleſs he meant to adapt his Story to the Capacities and Conceptions of the Vulgar, who have no Apprehenſions of God's Power, out of ſenſible and human Repreſentations of it.
Thirdly, Becauſe that a Miracle ſhould be well guarded againſt all Suſpicion of Fraud, I was thinking to make it an Abſurdity, that the Napkin, before Jeſus rais'd Lazarus, was not taken from his Face, that the Spectators might behold his mortified Looks, and the miraculous Change of his Countenance from Death unto Life. What Infidels think of this Circumſtance I know not: I hope it is not with them a Token of Fraud and Impoſture; tho I muſt needs ſay, that if the Fathers did not let me into the Myſtery of the Napkin about Lazarus's Face when Jeſus call'd him forth, I ſhould not my ſelf like it.
Fourthly, and laſtly, Obſerve, St. John ſays, v. 45. that many of the Jews, who had ſeen the Things that Jeſus did here; believed on him; and ſome of them, v. 46. who did not believe, went their Ways to the Phariſees and told them what Things Jeſus had done in this pretended Miracle, [Page 42] and how the Buſineſs was tranſacted: Whereupon the Chief Prieſts and Phariſees were ſo far incens'd as v. 53. from that Day forth they took Council together to put him to Death; and Ch. xii. 10. conſulted, that they might put Lazarus alſo to Death. Jeſus therefore (and his Diſciples and Lazarus fled for it, for they) v. 54. walk'd no more openly among the Jews, but went thence into a Country near to the Wilderneſs (a convenient hiding Place) and there continued with his Diſciples; otherwiſe in all Probability they had been all ſacrificed.
I dare not argue upon theſe Circumſtances, neither would I, for the Honour of Jeſus have mention'd them; but that my old Friend, the Jewiſh Rabbi, who help'd me to the Satirical Invective againſt Jeſus's Miracle of turning Water into Wine, has hence form'd an Objection againſt Lazarus's Reſurrection, and ſent me a Letter upon it, deſiring me to publiſh it, and exhort the Clergy to anſwer it; otherwiſe he would clandeſtinely hand it about to the Prejudice of our Religion: Whereupon I, rather than Chriſtianity ſhould ſo ſuffer, do here publiſh it, and it is as follows.
Sr. When we laſt diſcours'd on Jeſus's Miracles, I promiſed to ſend you my Thoughts on Lazarus's Reſurrection, which I look upon as a notorious Impoſture, [Page 43] and for the Proof of it, need go no farther, than to the Circumſtances of its Story, which your Evangeliſt has related.
If there had been an indiſputable Miracle wrought in Lazarus's Reſurrection; why were the Chief-Prieſts and Phariſees ſo incens'd upon it, as to take Council to put both Jeſus and Lazarus to Death for it? Where was the Provocation? I can conceive none. Tho' the Jews were ever ſo canker'd with Malice and Hatred to Jeſus before; yet ſuch a moſt ſtupendous Miracle was enough to ſtop their Mouths, and turn their Hearts: Or if their Prejudices againſt Jeſus were inſuperable, and they hated him but the more for the Number and Greatneſs of his Miracles; yet why is poor Lazarus, inoffenſive Lazarus, upon whom this good and great Work was wrought, an Object of their Hatred too? Your Divines are to give a credible and probable Account of this Matter, ſuch a one as will comport with Reaſon and Senſe; or we ſhall conclude, that it was Fraud, detected in this pretended Miracle, which juſtly provok'd the Indignation of our Anceſtors.
To ſay, what is all you can ſay, that it was downright inhumanity, Barbarity and Brutality in the Jews to hate Lazarus [Page 44] as well as Jeſus, will not do here. Tho' this may paſs with many Chriſtians, who are ready to ſwallow, without chewing, any evil Reports of our Nation; yet it can't go down with reaſonable and unprejudic'd Men, who muſt have other Conceptions of human Nature in all Ages and Nations, than to think it poſſible, that a Man, in Lazarus's Caſe, can be hated and perſecuted for having had ſuch a good and wonderful Work done on him. And why then was he hated and perſecuted? I ſay, for this, and no other Reaſon, than becauſe he was a Confederate with Jeſus in the wicked Impoſture, he was putting upon Mankind.
But ſuppoſing, what is never to be granted, that the Jews of old were ſo inhuman, brutiſh, and barbarous as to hate and perſecute Lazarus as well as Jeſus for this Miracle; yet why did Jeſus and his Diſciples, with Lazarus, run away and abſcond upon it? for they v. 54. walk'd no more openly among the Jews, but went thence into a Country near to the Wilderneſs, and there Jeſus continued with his Diſciples. Is not here a plain Sign of Guilt and of Fraud? Men, that have God's Cauſe, Truth and Power on their Side, never want Courage and Reſolution [Page 45] to ſtand to it. And however your Chriſtian Prieſts may palliate the cowardly and timerous Conduct of Jeſus and his Confederates in this Caſe; yet with me, it's like Demonſtration, that there was a diſcover'd Cheat in the Miracle, or they would undauntedly have faced their Enemies, without Fears And Apprehenſions of Danger from them.
Our Anceſtors then, who unqueſtionably detected the Fraud, were in the right on't to proſecute with Severity, the whole Party concern'd in it: And if they had aveng'd the Wickedneſs of it upon Lazarus as well as they did upon Jeſus, I ſhould have commended them for it. Whether ſuch a monſtrous Impoſture, as was this pretended Miracle, happily diſcover'd does not call aloud for Vengeance and moſt exemplary Puniſhment; and whether any Nation of the World would ſuffer the like with Impunity, let any Man judge.
For all the Reports of your Goſpels, it is unnatural to hate a miraculous Healer of Diſeaſes; and there muſt be ſomewhat ſuppreſt about the Inveteracy of the Jews to Jeſus, or his healing Power, if it was ſo great as is imagined, muſt have reconciled them to him: But that they ſhould hate not only Jeſus for [Page 46] raiſing the dead, but the Perſon rais'd by him, is improbable, incredible, and impoſſible.
If Hiſtorians can parrallel this Story of the Malignity of the Jews towards Jeſus and Lazarus upon ſuch a real Miracle, with any Thing equally barbarous and inhuman, in any other Sect or Nation; we will acknowledge the Truth of it againſt our ancient Nation: Or if ſuch Inhumanity, abſtractedly conſider'd, be at all agreeable to the Conceptions any one can form of Human Nature in the moſt uncivilis'd and brutiſh People, we will allow our Anceſtors, in this Caſe, to have been that People.
Was ſuch a real and indiſputable Miracle, as this of Lazarus is ſuppoſed, to be wrought at this day in Confirmation of Chriſtianity, I dare ſay, it would bring all us Jews, to a Man, into the Belief of it: And I don't think it poſſible, for any People to be ſo begotten, byaſs'd, and prejudiced, as not to be wrought on by it. Or if they would not part with their Intereſts and Prejudices upon it, they would have more Wit and Temper, than to break forth into a Rage againſt all or any of the Perſons concern'd in it. And, for my Life, I can entertain no worſe Thoughts of our old Nation.
[Page 47] Suppoſing God ſhould ſend an Ambaſſador at this day, who, to convince Chriſtians of the Miſchiefs and Inconvenience of an Hireling Prieſthood, ſhould work ſuch a Miracle as was this of Lazarus's Reſurrection, in the Preſence of a multitude of Spectators; how would your Biſhops and Clergy behave themſelves upon it? Why, they would be as mute as Fiſhes; or if they did fret and grieve inwardly for the Loſs of their Intereſts; yet they would have more Prudence (ask them elſe,) than to ſhow their Anger openly, and perſecute both Agent and Patient for it. Wherefore then are they ſo cenſorious and uncharitable as to preach and believe another Notion and Doctrine of our Anceſtors?
But if a falſe Prophet, for the ſubverſion of an Hireling Prieſthood, ſhould, in ſpite to the Clergy, counterfeit ſuch a Miracle, and be detected in the Operation; how then would Prieſts and People, Magiſtrates and Subjects behave upon it? Why, they would be full of Indignation, and from that day forth would take Council to put the Impoſtor and his Confederate to Death, of which they would be moſt deſerving; and if they did not abſcond and fly for it, like Jeſus [Page 48] and his Diſciples to a Wilderneſs in the Country to hide themſelves, the Rage of the Populace would hardly wait the Leiſure of Juſtice to diſpatch and make terrible Examples of them. Was not this exactly the Caſe of Jeſus's Impoſture in the Reſurrection of Lazarus, and of the Puniſhment he was threaten'd with, and afterwards moſt juſtly underwent for it?
Mankind may be in ſome Caſes very obdurate, and ſo hard of Belief, as to ſtand it out againſt Senſe, Reaſon and Demonſtration: But I will not think worſe of our Anceſtors than of the reſt of Mankind; or that they any more than others would have withſtood a clear and indiſputable Miracle in Lazarus's Reſuſcitation. Such a manifeſt Miracle, let it be wrought for what End and Purpoſe, we can poſſibly imagine, would ſtrike Men with Awe and Reverence; and none could hate and perſecute the Author of the Miracle; leaſt He who could raiſe the dead, ſhould exert his Power againſt themſelves, and either wound or ſinite them dead with it. For which Reaſon, the Reſurrection of Lazarus, on the certain Knowledge of our Anceſtors, was all Fraud, or they would have reverenc'd and adored the Power of him, that did it.
[Page 49] It may be true, what John ſays, that many of the Jews, who had ſeen the Things that Jeſus did, believed on him, that is, believed that he had wrought here a great Miraale: But who were theſe? the ignorant and credulous, whom a much leſs juggler than Mr. Fawkes could eaſily impos'd on. But on the other hand, it is certain, according to Chriſtian Commentators, that ſome of them did not believe the Miracle, but went their ways to the Phariſees and told them what Things Jeſus had done, that is, told them, after what manner the Intrigue was managed; and complain'd of the Fraud in it. How they came to ſuſpect and diſcover the Fraud, was not John' Buſineſs to relate; and for want [...] other ancient Memorials, we can only gueſs at it. Perhaps they diſcern'd ſome motion in Lazarus [...]s Body, before the Word of Command, to come forth, was given; perhaps they diſcover'd ſome Fragments of the Food, that for four days in the Cave, he had ſubſiſted on: But however this was, they could not but take Notice of the Napkin about his Face all the while; which Jeſus, to prevent all ſuſpicion of Cheat, ſhould have firſt order'd to be taken off, that his mortify'd Countenance might be view'd, [Page 50] before the miraculous Change of it to Life was wrought. This neglect in Jeſus (which I wonder John had no more Wit than to hint at) will be a laſting Objection to the Miracle. Jeſus was wiſer, than not to be aware of the Objection, which he would have obviated, if he durſt, by a Removal of the Napkin, to the ſatisfaction of all Spectators there preſent. Becauſe this was not done, we Jews now deny, there was any Miracle wrought; and, whether our Unbelief upon this Circumſtance be not well grounded, we appeal to Chriſtian Prieſts themſelves, who muſt own, that if there was a Miracle here, the Matter was ill conducted by Jeſus, or fooliſhly related by his Evangeliſt.
It is a ſad Misfortune, that attends our modern enquiry after Truth, that there are no other Memorials extant of the Life and Miracles of Jeſus, than what are written by his own Diſciples. Not only old Time has devour'd, but Chriſtians themſelves, (which in the Opinion of the impartial makes for us) when they got Power into their Hands, wilfully deſtroy'd many Writings of our Anceſtors, as well as of Celſus and Porphiry and others, which they could not anſwer; [Page 51] otherwiſe I doubt not but they would have given us clear Light into the Impoſture of Lazarus's Reſurrection: But if Jeſus, according to his own Evangeliſts, was arraign'd for a Deceiver and Blaſphemer, in pretending to the Sonſhip and Power of God by his Miracles; in all Probability this Piece of Fraud in Lazarus was one Article of the Indictment againſt him; and what makes it very likely, is that the Chief Prieſts and Phariſees, from the Date of this pretended Miracle, took Council together to put him to Death, not clandeſtinely or tumultuouſly to murder him, but judicially to puniſh him with Death, which, if they proved their Indictment by credible and ſufficient Witneſſes, he was moſt worthy of.
As it is plain from the Story in John, that there was a Diſpute among the Byſtanders at Lazarus's Reſurrection, whether it was a real Miracle or not; ſo it is the Opinion of us Jews, which is of the Nature of a Tradition, that the Chief-Prieſts and civil Magiſtrates of Bethany, for the better Determination of the Diſpute and quieting of the Minds of the People, requir'd that Jeſus ſhould re-act the Miracle upon another Perſon, there lately dead and buried. But Jeſus [Page 50] [...] [Page 51] [...] [Page 52] declining this Teſt of his Power, the whole Multitude of Believers as well as of Unbelievers before, queſtion'd the Reſurrection of Lazarus; and were highly incens'd againſt both him and Jeſus for the Deceit in it. And this was one Reaſon among others of that vehement and univerſal Outcry and Demand, at Jeſus's Tryal, for his Crucifixion. I'll not anſwer for the Certainty of this Tradition or Opinion, but as the Expedient was obvious, ſo it has the Face of Truth and Credibility; and for the Proof of it, I need only appeal to Chriſtain Prieſts and Magiſtrates; whether, under a Diſpute of a Miracle of that Conſequence, they would not require, for full Satisfaction, it ſhould be acted over again; and, if the Juggler refuſed, whether there would not be a general Clamour of People of all Ranks for his Execution.
Matthev, Mark and Luke, who knew as much of this Sham Miracle as John, had not the Confidence to report it; becauſe, when they wrote, many Eye-Witneſſes of the Fraud were alive to diſprove and contradict them; therefore they confined their Narratives to Jeſus's leſs juggling Tricks, that had paſs'd more current: But after the Jewiſh State [Page 53] was diſſolved, their judicial Records were deſtroy'd, and every Body dead that could confute him, John ventures abroad the Story of this Miracle; and if the good Providence of God had not infatuated him, in the Inſertion of the Circumſtances here obſerved, it might have paſs'd through all Generations to come, as well as it has done for many paſt, for a grand Miracle.
Thus, Sir, have you a few of my Thoughts on the pretended Miracle of Lazarus's Reſurrection. I have more to beſtow on it, but that I would not be tedious. There's no need to argue againſt the other two Reſurrection-Stories. You know omne majus includit minus, and if the greateſt of the three Miracles be an Impoſture, the two leſs ones of Conſequence are Artifice and Fraud. And rather than the Miracle of Lazarus ſhall ſtand its Ground, I'll have t'other Bout at it from ſome other Circumſtances; the Conſideration of which will make it as fooliſh and wicked an Impoſture, as ever was contrived and tranſacted in the World; ſuch a wicked Impoſture of moſt pernicious Conſequence to the Welfare of the Publick, that it is no Wonder, the People, by an unanimous Voice, call'd for the Releaſement [Page 54] of Barabbas, a Robber and Murderer, before Jeſus. I don't ſuppoſe theſe Arguments againſt this Miracle will be convincing of your Chriſtian Clergy, who are hired to the Belief of it. But however, a Biſhop of many thouſands a Year to believe, can't in Conſcience deny, that the Arguments above are a ſufficient Juſtification of our Jewiſh Disbelief of it.
If you, Sir, ſhould write a Diſcourſe gainſt the Letter of the Story of Jeſus's Reſurrection, I beg of you to accept of a few of my Conceptions on that Head, which, I promiſe you, ſhall be out of the common Road of thinking. Your Divines think they have exhauſted that Subject, and abſolutely confuted all Objections that can be made againſt it, but are much miſtaken. Sometimes we Jews dip into their Writings on this Head, and always ſmile with Indignation at their fooliſh Invectives againſt the Blindneſs of the Eyes, and Hardneſs of the Hearts of our Anceſtors. If they would but favour us with a Liberty to write for our ſelves, a reaſonable Liberty, which in this Philoſophical Age we don't deſpair of, eſpecially under ſo wiſe juſt and good a Civil Adminiſtration, as this Nation is happily bleſs'd with, we [Page 55] would cut them out ſome more Work, which they are not aware of. In the mean Time I am your aſſured Friend,
So ends the Letter of my Friend, the Jewiſh Rabbi, which conſiſts of calm and ſedate Reaſoning, or I would not have publiſh'd it; for I am reſolv'd he ſhall no more impoſe upon me with his ludicrous and bantering Stuff, like his Satirical Invective againſt Jeſus's Miracle of turning Water into Wine, ſo offenſive to our Godly Biſhops. And becauſe it conſiſts of calm and ſedate Reaſoning, which Biſhop Smalbroke allows of, I hope his Lordſhip will take it into Conſideration, and write an Anſwer to it, which I, without the Help of the Myſtery, can't do.
If the foreſaid Letter be offenſive to our Clergy, who don't judge it meet that the Jews ſhould take this Liberty to write againſt the Miracles of our Saviour, and in Vindication of their own disbelief of Chriſtianity, I beg of them, for the Love of Jeſus, not to let their Diſpleaſure be viſibly ſeen; becauſe the Jews will then laugh in their Sleeves, and perhaps openly inſult and triumph upon it: But if they will privately acquaint me with their Diſpleaſure [Page 56] at it, I'll promiſe them to hold no more Correſpondence with ſuch Jewiſh Rabbies; neither will I ever hereafter publiſh any other Objections againſt Chriſt's Religion and Miracles, than what come from the Hotentots and Pawawers: and then it will be ſtrange, if our dignified Clergy, of moſt grave and demure Looks, can't ſolidly confute the worſt, that ſuch ignorant and illiterate People can urge againſt them.
And thus have I done with my Objections againſt the Letter of theſe three Miracles. If our Divines ſhall think there is little or nothing of Force in them; then an Anſwer, which I ſhould be glad to ſee, may the more eaſily be made to them. As for my part, without being conceited of the Acuteneſs and Strength of any of the Objections, I think it impoſſible ſatisfactorily to reply to them, without having Recourſe to the Opinions of the Fathers, that theſe three Miracles, whether they were ever litterally tranſacted or not, are now but emblematical Repreſentations of myſterious and more wonderful Operations to be perform'd by Jeſus.
To the Fathers then let us go for their myſtical Interpretation of theſe Miracles. St. Auguſtin, in his Introduction to a Sermon on the Widow of Naim's Son, ſays [Page 57] 29 thus, "There are ſome ſo ſilly as to ſtand amazed at the corporal Miracles of Jeſus, and have no Conſideration of his greater and ſpiritual Miracles, ſignified by them: but others who are wiſer can hear of the Things that Jeſus did on Men's Bodys, without being aſtoniſh'd at them, chuſing rather to contemplate with Admiration his more wonderful Works on Men's Souls, after the ſimilitude of bodily Miracles. And theſe are the Chriſtians that conform their Studies to the Will of our Lord; who would have his corporal Miracles, ſpiritually interpreted: For He wrought not Micles in the Fleſh, for the ſake of ſuch Miracles abſtractedly conſider'd; but [Page 58] that, if they were ſurpriſing to ſome Mens Senſes, they ſhould be more aſtoniſhing to the Underſtanding of others, who apprehend the ſpiritual Meaning of them. And they who by Contemplation can attain to the myſtical Signification of Jeſus's Miracles, are the beſt Scholars and moſt learn'd Diſciples in his Church and School. And, (ſpeaking of the Abſurdity of Jeſus's curſing the Figtree according to the Letter) preſently after ſays, that this he obſerv'd, that he might perſuade his Hearers to think, that our Lord Jeſus therefore wrought Miracles, that he might ſignify ſomewhat by them, which he would have his Diſciples to learn and conſider of. Come now, ſays he, and let us ſee what we are miſtically and ſpiritually to underſtand by the Stories of the three Perſons rais'd from the dead."
There are two Ways, that the Fathers took in the moral and myſtical Interpretation of theſe Miracles: One was from the Number three, and their Difference in Magnitude. According to which they ſaid with St. Auguſtin 30 that theſe three [Page 59] ſorts of dead Perſons, ſo rais'd to Life, are Figures of three ſorts of Sinners, whom Jeſus raiſeth from the death of Sin to the Life of Righteouſneſs. They who have conceiv'd Sin in their Hearts, and have not brought it forth into Act; are figured by Jairus's Daughter, who lay dead in the Houſe of her Father, and was not taken forth to her Burial. Others, who after Cogitation and Conſent, paſs into actual Sin are figured by the Young Man, carried towards his Grave. But thoſe Sinners, who are habituated and long accuſtom'd to Sin, are like Lazarus bury'd, and in a ſtinking Condition under the Corruption [Page 60] of it; whom Jeſus, for all that, with the loud Voice of the Praedication of his Goſpel, will call forth out of the Death and Grave of their Sins to a new Life. So does St. Auguſtin make theſe three dead Perſons and their Reſurrections, Emblems of the ſaid three Sorts of Sinners, who are dead in Treſpaſſes and Sins, and by the Power of Jeſus quicken'd to a Life of Righteouſneſs. And to this Opinion of St. Auguſtin, do St. Ambroſe, Euſebius Gallicanus, and Venerable Bede agree. And according to this Notion of theſe Miracles they deſcend to a particular Explication of the ſeveral Parts of their Stories. As to give you two or three Inſtances.
The People who were turn'd out of the Houſe, upon the raiſing of Jarius's Daughter, which is an Abſurdity according to the Letter are, ſays 31 Bede, a Multitude of wordly and wicked Thoughts, which, except they are excluded from the Secrets of the Heart, are a Hindrance of the Reſurrection of a Sinner to a new Life.
[Page 61] The Bearers of the Young Man 32 to his Burial are Vices, evil Spirits, Haereticks, and Seducers; and the Widow, his Mother, to whom he was reſtored, is the Church, who mourns for the Death of ſuch Sinners, as are typified by that Young Man.
Jeſus's weeping for dead Lazarus, which is an Abſurdity according to the Letter, is a Sign 33 of the deplorable State, that habitual Sinners are in, enough to excite the Sorrows and Mournings of good Chriſtians, who have the Spirit of Chriſt, for them. And the Stone that lay at the Grave of Lazarus, is 34 a figure of the Hardneſs of the Heart of ſuch a Sinner [Page 62] which muſt be taken away before Jeſus will call him to a new Life. So do the Fathers moraliſe and allegoriſe every Minute Circumſtance of theſe three Miracles, as any one, who will conſult them, may find, and ſave me the Trouble of a tedious Recital of their Authorities.
But the other myſtical Way of interpreting theſe three Miracles is by making them Types of three great Events at the Time of Chriſt's ſpiritual Advent. Accordingly the raiſing of Jairus's Daughter is a Type of the Converſion of the Jews at that Day, as Euſebius Gallicanus 35 and venerable Bede 36 and others expound it. By Jairus, the Ruler of a Synagogue; is meant Moſes 37; and by his Daughter is to be underſtood the Jewiſh Church, which, being at preſent in a State of Spiritual Death, will be revived and converted in the Perfection of Time. And to the myſtical Reſurrection or Reſtitution of the Jewiſh Synagogue, call'd Jairus's [Page 63] Daughter, will Jeſus come 38 at the ſame Time he heals the Woman of the Church of her Iſſue of Blood. And this is the Reaſon that the Stories of theſe two Miracles are blended together by the Evangeliſts, with their ſynchronical Numbers of the Age of the Girl and of the Diſeaſe of the Woman; becauſe they are Types of that bleſſed Scene of Affairs at the Converſion of the Jews, when the Fulneſs of the Gentiles is come in. Concerning which bleſſed ſtate of the Church, Origen 39 ſays, Jeſus wrought many Miracles, by Way of Type and Figure.
Among all the Miracles that Jeſus wrought, and are recorded by the Evangeliſts, I think, as far as I have had Occaſion to obſerve, the Fathers are moſt ſcanty in their Interpretations of that of the [Page 64] Widow of Naim's Son: Excepting what is before noted of his being a figure of a Sinner dead in actual, tho not habitual Sin, I find very little. But if Origen's Comments on this Miracle had been extant, I dare ſay he would have given us this following Interpretation of it. This Widow, he would have call'd the Church; and her only Son or maſculine Offspring, he would have call'd the Spiritual Senſe of the Scriptures, which is now dead, and that the Miniſters of the Letter, who are his Bearers, are for interring him within the Earth of the Letter: But Jeſus, upon his Spiritual Advent will put a ſtop to the Intention of ſuch Bearers, by reviving the Spiritual Senſe of the Scriptures; and by reſtoring it, like a quicken'd Son, to the Comfort of his Mother, the Church; who has been in a ſorrowful and lamentable Condition upon the Death and Want of it. This, I am ſure, would be Origen's Interpretation of this Miracle, which, if I had Room here, by a little Circumlocution, I could prove.
As to Lazarus's Reſurrection, it is in the Opinion of the Fathers 40 a Type of the [Page 65] general and myſtical Reſurrection of Mankind in the Perfection of Time. But this is a moſt copious Subject; and unleſs I could here throughly handle it, I had much better ſay nothing.
And thus have I done with the three Reſurrection Stories. If the Convocation, next Seſſion, would determine by an Orthodox Vote, whether Jeſus rais'd any more, than the ſaid three Perſons, from the dead or not; I would preſent them with a new and more entertaining Chain of Thoughts againſt theſe Miracles; ſuch a Chain of Thoughts, as, upon the Concluſion, let them hold which Side of the Queſtion they pleaſe, will neceſſarily induce us to hold the myſtical Meaning of theſe Miracles, or to grant that Jeſus rais'd none from the dead at all.
My next and laſt Diſcourſe on Jeſus's Miracles ſhall be againſt the Letter of the Story of his own Reſurrection, in which, if our Biſhops will keep their Temper and Patience, till I publiſh it, I'll cut out ſuch a Piece of Work for our Boylean [Page 66] Lectures, as ſhall hold them tug, ſo long as the Miniſtry of the Letter and an Hireling Prieſthood ſhall laſt. If Chriſt be not riſen, then, according to the Inference of St. Paul, is their Preaching vain; and why ſhould the People be any longer charg'd with the Maintenance of an ignorant and idle Order of Men, to no Uſe and Purpoſe?
If I had not had Experience of it, I could never have believed that, for all the ludicrous Nature of theſe Diſcourſes, our dignified Clergy could have been ſo fooliſh or malicious as to proſecute me for an Infidel and Blaſphemer upon them. How a Man may be miſtaken in himſelf! I took my ſelf for a real Advocate for the Truth of Chriſtianity; and was ſo vain as to imagine theſe Diſcourſes tended to a Demonſtration of Jeſus's Meſſiahſhip: And tho the Biſhop of London may be of a contrary Opinion, yet I am ſtill ſo conceited of my Ability to defend our Religion, that I'll ſtake my Life againſt his Biſhoprick, which I'll not be troubled with, if I win it, that he can't form an Objection againſt Chriſtianity, which I can't ſolidly confute, and make our Readers merry too, with his Weakneſs and Impertinence in it. But perhaps it may be unbecoming of his Lordſhip's Character, and againſt the [Page 67] Grain, to make an Objection to that Religion, which he finds much temporal, as well as ſome ſpiritual Comfort in the Profeſſion of; I will therefore deſcend to another Propoſal, viz. If he'll but publiſh an Anſwer to the Jewiſh Rabbi's Letter in this Diſcourſe, and vouchſafe me the pleaſure of a Reply to him; then (to ſave the Civil Magiſtrate's Trouble) I will ſuffer any Puniſhment that in his Clemency he ſhall think fit to inflict on me, for what's paſt. Oh, what a Hazard do I here run of Life or Liberty!
Some Chriſtians, in my Caſe, would think it a ſad Misfortune to be odiouſly repreſented as an Infidel and Blaſphemer; but I, in Temper and Principle, deſpiſe ſuch Obloquies, Slanders and Defamations; and would not give a Ruſh to remove them, ſo long as I had the Anſwer of a good Conſcience that I was undeſerving of them: But conſidering, that it is the Duty of a Chriſtian to ſeek the Peace and Friendſhip of all about him, and eſpecially of our good Biſhops, who, in Compaſſion to the Danger they think my Soul is in, have taken zealous and laudable Pains with the Civil Magiſtrate for my Conviction and Converſion; I do here, for the ſake of a Reconciliation with their Lordſhips and other good People, make a formal [Page 68] and ſolemn Confeſſion of my Chriſtian Faith, which tho' I don't expreſs in the Words of the Apoſtical, Nicene or Athanaſian Creeds; yet will do it in ſuch Terms as will be a Demonſtration that at the Bottom I am ſound as a Roch. Be it known then to all Chriſtian People, that
- Imprimis, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the Miniſtry of the Letter of the Old and New Teſtament is downright Antichriſtianiſm.
- Item, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the Miracles of Jeſus, as they are recorded by the Evangeliſts, litterally underſtood, are the lying Wonders of Antichriſt.
- Item, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that all oppoſition and Contradiction to ſpiritual and allegorical Interpretations of the Scripture, is the Sin of Blaſphemy againſt the Holy Ghoſt.
- Item, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the Miniſtry of the Spirits or allegorical Interpretations of the Law and the Prophets will be the Converſion of Jews and Gentiles.
- [Page 69] Item, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the Miniſtry of the Letter, and an Hireling-Prieſthood have been the Cauſe of the Infidelity and Apoſtacy of theſe latter Times.
- Item, I believe upon the Authority of the Fathers, that the Spirit and Power of Jeſus will ſoon enter the Church and expel Hireling-Prieſts, who make Merchandiſe of the Goſpel, out of her, after the manner he is ſuppos'd to have driven the Buyers and Sellers out of the Temple.
Theſe are a few Articles of that Faith, once deliver'd to the Saints of the primitive Church, which I firmly believe, and will earneſtly contend for. Now I appeal to the Chriſtian World, whether a Man of ſuch a Faith, like Heart of Oak, can be an Infidel or Blaſphemer. Upon this ingenuous Confeſſion of my Faith, which I make by way of Atonement for my paſt ſuppoſed Errors and Offences, I hope the Biſhops and all good Chriſtian People will be reconciled to me.
St. Jame's ſays, that Faith without Works is dead, and how a Man ought to how his Faith by his Works, without [Page 70] which Faith is an empty and airy Nothing. Accordingly I am making what haſte I can to ſhow the Sincerity of my Faith by theſe my Works and Diſcourſes of this Kind. And by the Grace of God, I hope our Biſhops will find me as unmoveable as a Rock in the ſaid Faith.
According to the foreſaid Articles of this my Faith, I am ſo fully convinced, not only of the Error of the Miniſtry of the Letter, but of the Miſchiefs and Inconveniences of an Hireling-Prieſthood, that, having ſet my Shoulders to the Work, I am reſolv'd, by the Help of God, to endeavour to give both a Lift out of this World. This is fair and generous Warning to our Clergy to ſit faſt, and look to their own Safety, or they may find me a ſtronger Man than they may be aware of. And tho I don't expect long to ſurvive the Accompliſhment of ſo great and glorious a Work; yet I am delightfully raviſh'd and tranſported with the Forethought and Contemplation of the Happineſs of Mankind, upon the Extinction of Eccleſiaſtical Vermin, out of God's Houſe; when the World will return to its Primogenial and Paradiſaical State of Nature, Religion and Liberty; in which we ſhall be all taught of God, and have no need of fooliſh and contentious Prieſt, hired to harangue [Page 71] us with his Noiſe and Nonſenſe. Which bleſſed State of the World God of his infinite Mercy haſten, for the ſake of our Spiritual Meſſiah, Mediator and Redeemer Jeſus Chriſt. To whom be Glory for ever, Amen.FINIS.