Evidence of Christianity eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 396 pages of information about Evidence of Christianity.

CHAPTER V.

That the Christian miracles are not recited, or appealed to, by early Christian writers themselves so fully or frequently as might have been expected.

I shall consider this objection, first, as it applies to the letters of the apostles preserved in the New Testament; and secondly, as it applies to the remaining writings of other early Christians.

The epistles of the apostles are either hortatory or argumentative.  So far as they were occupied in delivering lessons of duty, rules of public order, admonitions against certain prevailing corruptions, against vice, or any particular species of it, or in fortifying and encouraging the constancy of the disciples under the trials to which they were exposed, there appears to be no place or occasion for more of these references than we actually find.

So far as these epistles are argumentative, the nature of the argument which they handle accounts for the infrequency of these allusions.  These epistles were not written to prove the truth of Christianity.  The subject under consideration was not that which the miracles decided, the reality of our Lord’s mission; but it was that which the miracles did not decide, the nature of his person or power, the design of his advent, its effects, and of those effects the value, kind, and extent.  Still I maintain that miraculous evidence lies at the bottom of the argument.  For nothing could be so preposterous as for the disciples of Jesus to dispute amongst themselves, or with others, concerning his office or character; unless they believed that he had shown, by supernatural proofs, that there was something extraordinary in both.  Miraculous evidence, therefore, forming not the texture of these arguments, but the ground and substratum, if it be occasionally discerned, if it be incidentally appealed to, it is exactly so much as ought take place, supposing the history to be true.

As a further answer to the objection, that the apostolic epistles do not contain so frequent, or such direct and circumstantial recitals of miracles as might be expected, I would add, that the apostolic epistles resemble in this respect the apostolic speeches, which speeches are given by a writer who distinctly records numerous miracles wrought by these apostles themselves, and by the Founder of the institution in their presence; that it is unwarrantable to contend that the omission, or infrequency, of such recitals in the speeches of the apostles negatives the existence of the miracles, when the speeches are given in immediate conjunction with the history of those miracles:  and that a conclusion which cannot be inferred from the speeches without contradicting the whole tenour of the book which contains them cannot be inferred from letters, which in this respect are similar only to the speeches.

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Evidence of Christianity from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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