6. and lastly, Let us consider the intrinsick absurdities, and incredibilities of the several stories of these three miracles, p.36. -- As to Jairus's daughter, and her resurrection from the dead, St. Hilary hints, that there was no such person as Jairus; -- and he gives this reason, and a good reason it is, why he thought so, because it is elsewhere intimated in the gospel that none of the rulers of the synagogues confessedly believ'd on Jesus, John vii.48. and xii.42.
St. John's words in the last quoted text are these: Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. This text is no ways to our author's purpose. The rulers here mention'd by St. John probably were the members of their great council at Jerusalem, or of the lesser councils in some other cities: But Jairus was the ruler of a synagogue. But supposing Jairus to have been one of that same sort of rulers which St. John speaks of, here is no inconsistence. Jairus might believe in Jesus and come to him to heal his daughter, and yet not publickly confess him to be the Christ.
But why did Jesus say, this girl was but in a sleep? p.36. Mr. W. had before affirmed this: Jesus. himself says, she was but asleep. And it is true that our Lord, when he came into the ruler's house, and saw the minstrels. -- He said unto then, Give place, for the maid is not dead but sleepeth. But by this our Lord did not intend to deny that she was expired, but to assure them in a modest way, that she would be raised up as it were out of sleep. That this is our Saviour's meaning, is most evident from his use of these same expressions in St. John concerning Lazarus. See John xi.4, &c. Lazarus's sisters sent to Jesus to inform him that their brother was sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, [to his disciples] This sickness is not unto death, that is, to his final death, to a killing death. (So the words must be understood, because, according to St. John, Lazarus did actually expire and die of that sickness.) But for the glory of God. Afterwards St. John says: These things said he, and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said the disciples, Lord, if he sleep he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death. -- Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. Where in formal express terms St. John assures us, that by sleep our Lord meant death. No critical reader will doubt, that this is the meaning of Christ's words, which he spoke of Jairus's daughter. Nor will any lover of virtue endure to be robbed of so singular an instance of such charming virtues as humility and modesty. Instead of these modest expressions, Give place, for the maid is not dead but sleepeth: hadJesus been a jugler and impostor, as is pretended; or had this history been a forgery, we had had some such silly boasting speech as this: Ay! The young woman is really dead, and your lamentations are well grounded: but let me only look upon her, and say a few words over her, and depend upon it, you will see her alive again, and as well as ever.
If he was going to work a miracle in her resuscitation, he should not have call'd death, SLEEP; but if others had been of a contrary opinion, he should ,first have convinc'd them of the certainty of her death, p.36, 37. That is, Jesus should have spent time, and taken pains to convince them of what they were convinced of before, and were so positive in, that when they understood him to say the maid was not expired, but only sleeping in a natural sleep, they laugh'd him to scorn.
It follows in our author: And why did he charge the parents of the girl, not to speak of the miracle? There might be many reasons for this, and those founded not upon the falshood or uncertainty of the miracle, but on the certainty and greatness of it. This prohibition then was partly owing to the humility and modesty of Jesus, who, instead of ordering men to proclaim his works, often desir'd them to be silent about them. It was partly owing to prudence, that he might have opportunity, during the short time his ministry was to last, for teaching men the will of God, and for instructing his disciples; that he might avoid the suspicion of setting up for a ruler and governour, or attempting any disturbance; which suspicion might have arose in mens minds, if the concourse of men to him had been too numerous.
These prohibitions therefore may be understood also to be only temporal, or for the present. Thus our Saviour forbid his disciples to speak of the transfiguration on the mount, until the Son of man be risen from the dead, Matth. xvii.9. It was not long before he was to be taken out of this world: And then they on whom he wrought any miracles might speak freely of them, without giving any occasion to suspect his designing a temporal kingdom, to the prejudice of the civil government then in being.
Besides, though the parents of this maid were to be silent of this miracle, here were many others that might speak of it. All her friends, who knew the was dead, were witnesses of her resurrection, when they saw her alive again.
And rather than suspect any bad design in this prohibition, which is so contrary to the whole character of Jesus; I would conceive that he might have some regard to the character of Jairus, as a ruler of the synagogue; and since he was an honest man, who had entertain'd a faith in Jesus for working so great a miracle, he by this advice of silence dispensed with his speaking publickly of the miracle, which might have been much to his prejudice, and was not at present absolutely necessary. This I am sure is more consonant to the meekness and goodness of Jesus, upon many other occasions, than any suspicion of fraud or imposture.
And why, -- did he turn the people out of the house, before he would raise her! p.37. Why, perhaps, partly for the reasons of silence just mentioned. If many had been actually present at the raising her up, they might have been more excited to spread abroad the miracle, and thereby make too great a concourse; which might have given umbrage, and been a handle to his enemies to charge him with innovations in the state. Another reason is this; that no more might thrust into the room where the young woman lay dead, than those he took with him; that there might be no disturbance in the house; that the persons, he took along with him, might have no interruption of any kind; that they might be sedate, and composed, and attend only to the work he was about to perform before them;: and that they might have a near, clear, distinct and full view of it; and that they might afterwards, (his disciples especially) report it to others, upon the fullest assurance and conviction.
There were the parents of the young woman, and three of our Saviour's disciples, which are witnesses enough of any action; and being with our Lord six in number might be as many as could have in the room where she lay a clear sight without interrupting each other. Five close witnesses, at full ease, are better than forty witnesses in a crowd and confusion. This action of our Blessed Lord in clearing the house of hired musicians and other people is no exception in the lest to this miracle.
There is still a reflexion of Mr. W's relating to this miracle to be consider'd, which he places under one of his former observations; which I pass'd by then, only that it might be consider'd here in its proper place. And it is not, says he, p.27. impossible, but the passionate screams 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? If Mr. W. by the feminine by-standers means any persons different from the minstrels and the people making a noise , which Jesus saw, when he came into the house; and, would insinuate, that these persons by passionate screams might fright her into fits; this is mere fiction, and contrary to the history of this event. This young woman was near expiring when her father left her, and when he came to Jesus he says she was then at the point of death. This supposition of the father must have been owing to the nature of her case, which he had seen before he left her, and not to any passionate screams which he could know nothing of. Besides, Who make passionate screams when people are well, and in no danger? And if made, when persons are desperate, would rather be of service than otherwise. These screams then to fright her into fits and an appearance of death are mere fiction and an invention of the author against this history.
If by passionate screams Mr. W. intends the lamentation of the minstrels and other people making a noise, whom Jesus found in the house: I should have thought Mr. W. might know very well, that it was not possible they should hurt the young woman; unless they could fright her after she was dead. If her friends had not known she was dead, they would not have suffer'd these musicians to enter their house, and make lamentations, and put them to charge without any occasion. The music of these minstrels is alone is sufficient proof she was dead. But there had before come some from Jairus's house, which said, Thy daughter is dead, why troublest thou the Master any farther? Mark v.35.
I think I have now consider'd all the objections against the history of raising Jairus's daughter.
As for the story of the widow of Naim's son, says Mr. W. p.37, 38. excepting what is before observ'd of the shortness of the time, in which he lay dead, and of the unfitness of his person to be raised -- I have here no more fault to find in the letter of it. These objections I have spoke to already. But under one of them Mr. W. plac'd some objections to the circumstances of this story, which I will now consider. He then says, p.28: 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 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 raised, 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.
To all this I answer: That the character of Jesus, and his doctrine prevents all suspicion of so vile a thing as that of contrivance. His doctrine is as holy and excellent, to say no more, as that which the best men ever taught. He is in his whole behaviour innocent, meek, and undesigning. It is not possible, that such a person should form or countenance a contrivance to deceive and impose upon men.
If he had entertain'd a thought of contrivance, yet it was not possible he should succeed therein. How was it possible, that a piece of fraud might be here concerted between Jesus, a subtil youth, and his mother, and others; and all the formalities of a death and burial contrived? Such a scene could not be acted, without a great many persons being in the intrigue, (as is apparent from the objection itself) who must have known the fraud. Jesus, who had so many enemies, and those men of power, was the most unlikely of any to succeed herein. Besides, when men form contrivances, they are not of such public open. scenes as this was, but are attended with some circumstances of secrecy. When was there ever such a contrivance as this scene is? so public, so open? Jesus entring into a city, many of his disciples with him, and much other people; a public funeral, in day time, attended with much people of the city!
Moreover, none could be under any temptations to enter into a contrivance with him. For Jesus was poor, and subsisted on the voluntary .contributions of his friends; and therefore could give no bribes. Men must be some way or other tempted to such an action, because they thereby would incur the censure of the civil magistrate, and expose themselves to some very heavy punishment. If you say here, that Jesus did at last suffer death, and therefore he must certainly have been convicted of some such fault as this: I answer, that it appears from the history of his condemnation, that he was innocent; that there was no crime prov'd against him; and that Pilate himself saw clearly, that it was only out of envy and malice that the chief priests and Pharisses accused him. But not to insist now on this: There were no persons punish'd, or taken up, as accomplices with Jesus; not his disciples, nor any other persons whatever; which is a demonstration, that no imposture was proved upon Jesus, nor suspected concerning him.
As to what is urg'd in the first place: 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: This likewise contains an intimation of a fraud, which, as I said, is absolutely inconsistent with Jesus's character. It also supposes vile and selfish people to be in a combination or correspondence with him, which is entirely inconsistent with the mean and poor circumstances of our Blessed Lord in this world. Lastly, all the circumstances of the relation, the tears of the mother, (who was the most likely of any to know whether her son was in a Lethargie or not) the great number of the people at this funeral; the great company with Jesus (who, if the meeting of the corpse was not casual, must have known it) our Lord's coming up to the bier and touching it, without asking beforehand any questions, concur together to induce us to believe, that it was a real miracle. To which might be added, that the company present were fully convinc'd, it was neither a contrivance, nor a cure perform'd by a successfull and fortunate chafeing, but a great and awful miracle: For there came a fear on all, and they glorified God, saying, that a great Prophet is risen up among us, and that God hath visited his people, Mark v.16.
We may now proceed to the story of Lazarus which the author calls long, and says, is brimfull of absurdities. He will single out only 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. p.38.
Let us however examine the three or four pretended absurdities. First then, says Mr. W. Observe that Jesus is said to have wept and groaned for the death of Lazarus. -- 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. -- A stoical apathy had better became him than such childish and effeminate grief. p.38.
It does not appear from St. John, that Jesus did weep and groan for the death of Lazarus. He says indeed that Jesus wept: Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him. But it does not follow, that in this they judg'd right, any more than in some other reflexions. pass'd on Jesus at other times; which though the Evangelists knew to be false, they do not concern themselves to refute them. But supposing, he did out of love for Lazarus weep for his death; there is nothing in this inconsistent with patience and resignation to God . Nor is there any thing therein weak and effeminate. The ancients, who by many are thought best to have understood human nature, did not think tears unmanful, or disgraceful to a man of true fortitude; as might be amply shewn, if needful. For my own part, I never loved stoical principles or dispositions; and I believe Jesus had as tender sentiments as any man. Supposing then the death of Lazarus, and the affection Jesus had for him to have been, the cause of these tears, I see no absurdity in them. But there were other things before Jesus of an affecting kind, which might have drawn forth these tears of compassion. He might at that time be affected with the thought of the many afflictions, to which human nature is liable in this state: or he might be affected with the excess of sorrow, which the sisters of Lazarus and other persons then present seem to have shewed on this occasion.
As for the groans of Jesus; they were not owing to the death of Lazarus, but to somewhat else, as is very plain from the account; which is this: Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. Here are two just grounds of grief and concern, namely, the excess of sorrow and mourning of Mary and her friends for the loss of Lazarus; and secondly, the tokens which she and the rest gave of want of faith in his power to raise him up after his death. For Mary says to him; If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. Which implies her doubting his power to raise him up. Which was a great fault in her, considering the proofs he had before given of his power; considering all the appearances from heaven in his favour, and all the other evidences that had been given that he was the Christ. It was also just matter of concern, that the faith of the people with her was so far from answering the proofs he had given of his power.
The occasion of his last groaning was thus: And some of them said, Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the. grave. Here also was another sign of want of faith in his power to raise dead Lazarus; which shewed, they did not fully believe him to be the Christ, though he had. given more than sufficient proofs of it . It is also highly probable, that our Blessed Lord was now touch'd with the thought of their continued future unbelief, and the miseries it would bring upon them. As they had not admitted a full conviction of his character from the works they had already seen him do, so he foresaw they would not be convinc'd neither by the great work he was now going to do in raising Lazarus to life, but would after all persist in their obstinate malice and unbelief. And supposing Jesus to have really done those things which we are told of him in the gospels, I think no one can deny, but that the hardness of heart which was in that people was matter of just grief to any wise and good man.
Secondly, Observe, says the author, p.40. that John says it was with a loud voice, that Jesus call'd Lazarus forth out of his grave. -- Was dead Lazarus deafer than Jairus's daughter, or the widow's son? &c.
It is necessary, when a miracle is wrought for the proof of the character or divine mission of any person, that it appear to be done by him, and not to be a casual thing. It has been common therefore for all the prophets and extraordinary messengers of God to make use of some external action at the same time that they perform'd a miracle, though that external action was in itself of no real virtue. When the red sea was to be opened to give a passage for the children of Israel, God said to Moses: Lift up thy rod, and stretch thine hand over the sea, and divide it, Exod. xiv.16. And when they had passed through, God said unto Moses, stretch out thine hand, over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, ver.26. The stretching the hand did not divide the sea, but the divine power that accompanied that action. Nevertheless the action was of great use, to convince the people, that the dividing or returning of the waters, which immediately followed thereupon, was not a casual natural event, but that God was with Moses, their leader. The same thing may be said of any other external actions, made use of by Moses, or. other ancient prophets. Jesus in like manner, when he intended a miracle, sometimes laid his hands on the person to be cured; or else said, Be thou clean, Be thou healed, or used some such other words; that the people might be assured, that the cure was wrought by him, and might believe that God had sent him. For this reason, when he raised Jairus's daughter, he took her by the hand, and said unto her, Damsel arise. And when he raised the widow's son at Naim, he said; young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And when he raised Lazarus, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus come forth. There is no absurdity in the loudness of the voice. It well became so solemn and awful an event. When he raised Jairus's daughter, there was no occasion for a loud voice; the being raised to life in the Chamber, where she lay, where there were no more than five persons present. But at Lazarus's grave a loud voice was not at all improper, when there was by a great multitude of people, that all might know Lazarus was raised to life by Jesus. Whether Jesus spoke with a loud voice, when he raised the widow of Naim's son, is not related, and we are under no obligation to conjecture. I think, Jesus might speak in what voice he pleased, upon such great occasions as these. There can be no cavils formed, but what are at first sight unreasonable.
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 raised 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, p.41. This wise objection is repeated again in the Jew's letter. But however this was, They [the spectators] 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 ordered to be taken off; that his mortified countenance might be viewed, before the miraculous change of it to life was wrought, p.51, 52.
The napkin over Lazarus's face is one proof, that he was supposed by his friends to be dead, when they buried him. Do not all civiliz'd people out of decency cover the face of a corps with a napkin, or some such other thing, as well as the other parts of it? If any one had been sent into the sepulchre by Jesus, before he commanded Lazarus forth, it might have given ground of suspicion, that the person had been order'd in to see whether Lazarus was alive, and capable to come out of himself, and concur with the command pronounced to come forth. Or it might have been pretended, that he went in to daub his face with some juices that might make him look like a mortified corps. Any meddling with the body beforehand might have caused some suspicion, but now there was none at all. And the napkin is a circumstance, I am very glad St. John did not forget. It very much corroborates other proofs of Lazarus's real death.
Fourthly and Observe St. John says, ver.45. that many of the Jews, who had seen the things that Jesus did here, believed on him; and some of them, ver.46. who did not believe, went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done in this pretended miracle, and how the business was transacted, p.41.
It is true, that some went to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. But it does not follow, that they were persons, who did not believe. They did not indeed believe Jesus to be the Christ, as many other Jews did hereupon; but they believed the miracle, and knew it, and went and told the Pharisees. of it. That these persons told the Pharisees of a miracle done by Jesus, is evident from the speeches of the Pharisees upon occasion of the report brought them, v.47, Then gathered the chief priefis and the Pharisees a council, and said, what do we? for this Man doth many miracles.
Mr. W. goes on, p.42: Whereupon the chief priests and Pharisees were so far incensed as, ver.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) ver.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 must take leave to observe, that it is no where said, that Lazarus absconded or fled for it. Nor is there any account of the Pharisees having at this time any design against Lazarus. Afterwards, whenJesus came again to Bethanie, we find that Lazarus was then at home. And many of the Jews came thither, not for Jesus sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted, that they might put Lazarus to death. Because that by reason of him, many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus, John xii.9, 10, 11. Lazarus therefore did not abscond, but was at Bethanie; and the miracle wrought on him was so certain, that many for that reason believ'd on Jesus. And the reason, why the Pharisees consulted that they might put Lazarus to death, was not because any imposture was detected, but because the miracle was too clear to be denied, and induced great numbers of the Jews, even followers of the Pharisees, to go away from them, and believe in Jesus.
But this retirement of Jesus with his disciples into a country near the wilderness is judged so mighty an objection, that it is repeated again in the Jew's letter. Why did Jesus and his disciples, with Lazarus, run away and abscond upon it? -- is there not here a plain sign of guilt and fraud? Men that have God's cause, truth and power on their side, never want courage and resolution to stand to it, p.44.
The judgments of men are surely very unfair and unequal. When any of the first Christians are observ'd to have been too forward in exposing themselves, they are represented as a company of mad men, and hot headed enthusiasts. Jesus now for avoiding a danger is taxed with want of courage and resolution; nay his retirement for only a very short time is term'd, a plain sign of guilt and fraud. Thus the desire of serving a present low purpose prevails over all the regards of justice and equity. |So hard is it, (as Socrates, observed) tho' you are free from all fault to escape unfair judges|. But wisdom is justified of her children.
It might be sufficient here to remind men pf Christ's returning in a short time to Bethanie again, and appearing publickly at Jerusalem, and teaching in the temple. But let us at present observe only this history of his raising Lazarus from the grave. When Jesus heard of the sickness of Lazarus, he was in the country beyond Jordan, John x.40. and when he proposed to his disciples to go unto Judea again; they, remembring the attempts of, the Jews against him, endeavour all they can to divert him from the journey. His: disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee, and goest thou thither again Chap. xi.8. Jesus then argues with them, that they need not apprehend any danger to him as yet. These things said he, and after that saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep, ver.11. They from thence take occasion to argue again, that then their journey to Bethame was not needful: Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. After that he tells them, that Lazarus was dead, and declares his resolution to go to Bethanie: Nevertheless let us go unto him. Whereupon Thomas filled with a kind of indignation that Jesus should have no more concern for himself nor them, than to expose them all to certain death, but at the same time sensible of his duty to follow him, says to his fellow disciples; Let us also go that we may die with him, ver.16.
So that our Blessed Lord, when he was in a place of safety, resolv'd to come to Bethanie near Jerusalem for the sake of Lazarus: and herein shewed great courage and resolution. And what is there, I pray, blameable in his retiring again to some distance from Jerusalem, when he had performed the business for which he came into its neighbourhood?