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A Vindication Of Three Of Our Blessed Saviours Miracles by Nathaniel Lardner

Section IV. Answer to Mr. W's fourth objection.

Mr. W. asserts, p.26. That none of these raised persons had been long enough dead to amputate all doubt of Jesus's miraculous power in their resurrection. They have been long enough dead, to assure us of a miracle, if they are raised, who have been so long dead, that their nearest and most affectionate friends bury them, or carry them out to be buried: as have they also, who have on them such evident tokens of their being expired, that their friends dispair any longer for help from those, on whose assistance they before depended, so long as there were any signs of life. The former is the case of the widow of Naim's son, and of Lazarus; the latter, of Jairus's daughter. When Jairus came to Christ, his daughter was expiring, for he says in Matthew, My daughter is even now dead; in Mark, lieth at the point of death. Still he had hopes of help from Jesus, for he says: But come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live. But before Jesus got to the house, she expired, and all hopes were gone. And there came (says St. Mark) from the ruler of the synagogue's house, certain which said, Thy daughter is dead, why troublest thou the Master any farther? Chap. v.25. This is good reason to suppose the was really dead. These messengers doubtless were dispatched away to Jairus, to acquaint him with the death of his daughter, by those persons that attended her during her sickness, and were convinced of her being expired.

Mr. W. says a good deal more about the time these persons ought to have been dead. Speaking of Jairus's daughter, he says: p.27. 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. And of the event at Naim he says, p.29: All that I have to say here, 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.

Mr. W's first proposition here appears to me very strange, That supposing she was really dead, yet for the sake of an indisputable miracle -- she ought to have been dead much longer. If she was really dead, (as she certainly was) and was restored again to life, it is with all men of sense and reason an indisputable miracle.

As for the time which Mr. W. requires, that a person must be some days if not weeks dead and buried; buried two or three weeks first: This is not needful. If we could not be certainly assured of the death of persons, by evident tokens appearing in their bodies, in less time than Mr. W. prescribes here, we should not be justified in committing to the grave any man in less time, Much less could we endure to bury our dearest friends and relations under two or three weeks or more after they seem to have expired. We cannot justify burying men, but on a well grounded supposal that they are really dead. We cannot justify the laying out of mens bodies, as we do very soon after visible tokens of death, if those tokens were not sufficient.

And since they buried their deceased friends much sooner in those warm countries than we do here, this must doubtless have been, because dead bodies became also much sooner offensive there, than in our cold climate. This circumstance strengthens my argument: For how can we imagine that persons should, by burying their deceased friends so early, put them absolutely, and entirely beyond any manner of possibility of reviving, unless they might well and safely depend upon some certain, experienced, and uncontestable proofs and evidences of their being already deprived of any remaining life.

There may have been mistakes made some times, though but very rarely; and even those accidents have chiefly happen'd in cases of sudden death. Where any dangerous distemper precedes, the possibility of mistake is very small, and can seldom happen. This was the case, we know, of Jairus's daughter, and of Lazarus: And this confirms us still more in the belief, that their friends were not mistaken in the perswasion of their death; upon which perswasion the one had been buried, and for the other the public mourners were come to make lamentations. And as for the young man at Naim; though we do not know how he died, whether suddenly, or of a gradual illness, we may rely upon the fondness of a mother, a widow too, that she would not have carried forth to burial her only son without knowing he was become a dead corpse.

It is so natural and even unavoidable for men that argue against plain truth to contradict themselves; that it is hardly worth while to take any notice of Mr. W's self-contradictions. I shall only just observe, that this story of Lazarus's resurrection, which before was represented by him as the miracle of miracles, superlatively great, and monstrously huge, as if nothing greater and more prodigious could be devised or thought of, is here pretended not to be big enough to assure us it was any miracle at all. For he says, p.31. 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.

Mr. W. says, p.28, 29. 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 the jugler and pretended worker of miracles has been detected in some of his other tricks. Perhaps there are few or no cases where there is an absolute impossibility of fraud. It is sufficient that fraud be improbable, unlikely, and next to impossible. In such a case (which is ours) it is not nonsense, and mere credulity, but the highest reason to admit the truth of a relation; and to assert a real, certain, and great, or if you choose, stupendous miracle. A fraud is as easy to happen in a person who has been dead and buried many weeks, as in one publickly carried out to burial.

Herein however I readily agree with Mr. W that it is mere credulity to talk of such a thing, where a jugler has been detected in any other tricks. But where was he who is said to have raised the widow's son at Naim detected of any tricks? When Mr. W. has detected such a thing in any one case, I will allow it in this also. But till then, as this story is credibly related, I shall continue to pay a regard to it.

Our author has several other things under this observation; but as they do not properly belong to this, of the length of time these persons are said to have been dead, but rather to his sixth observation, of the circumstances of the narrations, I shall take no notice of them here; I have already spoke to some things here, which might have been let alone till we come to that observation.

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