The Miracles of JesusMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.
131. Christian Religion. Concerning Christ’s Miracles and Judaism. I think it certain that seeing the miracles of Christ were done, for three years and a half so publicly all over Judea, and seeing there was such violent opposition there, so soon after, against the Christians, [then] if the matters of fact had been false, they would have been denied by the Jews generally, and if this had been the case, we should have known it. The Jews afterwards would much more have denied them, which it is evident they did not. If they had, they would have been also denied by the heathens who wrote against the Christians. But they were not denied. It is impossible that the whole world should have turned Christian, in three hundred years after the facts were so publicly done, if they had been generally false. If the Jews had denied the matters of fact at first, they would undoubtedly have denied them at this day, seeing they are so tenacious of the traditions of their fathers. Christ’s resurrection was openly published within a few days after his death, on the day of Pentecost. It is undoubted that the number of the Christians increased everywhere exceedingly from that time, so that a considerable alteration was speedily made by it in the face of the world. Whether the matters of fact were written or no, they were universally talked of. The conversion of the Roman empire to the Christian religion was the most remarkable thing that ever happened among the nations of the world. It would be unaccountable that it should have happened upon the story of a few obscure men, without inquiring into the matters related. And it would be a very strange thing, if the Old Testament was true, that there should be no prophecies of such a change, especially when almost all the great and general changes of the nations thereabouts (though far less remarkable) were foretold. It is no wonder that there should be prophecies of so great a change among the heathen.
140. Christian Religion. Christ’s Uncommon Insight. It is certain that Jesus Christ had none of the advantages of education, to get learning and knowledge, and it is also certain that everywhere in his speeches, he showed an uncommon insight into things (a great knowledge of the true nature of virtue, morality, and what was most acceptable to God), vastly beyond the rest of the nation — take scribes and Pharisees and all. And how did he come by it? How did he get it at Nazareth? Those who have not an education in these days, may get much by books, which are so common. But books of learning were not to be had then. Yea, it is evident that he knew vastly more than any of the philosophers and wise men in the whole world, by those rational descriptions which he gave of God and his attributes, of his government and providence, of man’s nature, business, end, and happiness, of what is pleasing to God, of the immortality of the soul, and a future state. How knew he, so exactly, truths perhaps demonstrable by reason, but never found out before? Hence was it, that his peculiar doctrines were perfectly consistent with reason, such as the day of judgment, God’s absolute decrees and predestination, original sin, reconciliation by his death, salvation by faith [by] mere grace, regeneration, etc.
236. Christian Religion. Miracles. Such kind of miracles as healing the sick, the blind, the deaf, dumb, lame, etc., and creating bread and flesh, and turning water into wine, are greater than those that are so much more pompous: as causing universal darkness, dividing the sea, the shaking and burning of mount Sinai, etc. It is a greater work to give exactly that disposition of parts to air and earth, that shall cause bread or fish, than to cause such great motions that are merely the exercise of strength. The healing of the sick and distracted, do more especially manifest divine power, for this cause that we have reason to conclude mankind especially are subject to God’s providence, and that their health and the exercise of their reason are alone in his hands, and that it is not in the power of any evil spirit to give them and take them at his pleasure, however great power he may be supposed to have over the inanimate creatures.
When a person appears that has evidently the whole course of nature at all times subject to his command, so that he can alter it how and when he pleases, we have the greatest reason to think that person has divine authority, and that the author and upholder of nature favors him, and gives approbation to what he pretends thereby. For we know that the course of nature is God’s established course of acting upon creatures. And we cannot think that he would give power to any evil spirit to alter it when he pleases, for evil purposes. But Christ manifestly had the course of nature so subject to his will and command.
321a. Christian Religion. Miracles. Raising the dead to life is given in the Old Testament, as a certain proof of the authority and mission of a prophet, and that what he says is the truth. 1 Kin. 17:24 “And the woman said to Elijah, By this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” So that if the Old Testament is the Word of God, Jesus was a true prophet.
g Lazarus from the dead (John 11:41): that he called upon God before he did it, to do it for him, and thanked him that he had heard him and told him that he knew that he heard him always. When he spoke to him he called him Father and told him that he spoke to him for this end: that others that stood by, when they should see that what he asked of him was granted in such an extraordinary thing, might believe that he sent him. Now can it be imagined that God would thus hear an impostor? Or so order or suffer it that so extraordinary a thing should be done immediately, in consequence of the request and act of an impostor, who was so impudent when he asked it as to call him Father, told him that he always heard him, and told him that he spoke thus that others might see that he did indeed give a testimony to his mission and authority, by doing it at his request, in such a manner?
512. Christ’s Miracles. Christ joined pardoning sins with his healing the sick. When one came to be healed, he first told him that his sins were forgiven. When the Jews found fault that he should pretend to forgive sins, then, immediately, he heals the person’s disease that they might believe that he had the power to forgive sins and tells them that he does it for this end. Mat. 9:2; Mark 2:3; Luke 5:18. Now if Christ were an impostor, can it be believed that God would so countenance such horrid blasphemy as this would be, to enable him to cure the disease by a word of speaking, a work which God appropriates to himself as his own, Psa. 103:3. Would God give an impostor this attestation to a blasphemous lie, when he pretended to do it as an attestation to his divine mission?
518. Christ’s Miracles. Christ, by the works which he wrought, showed that he had an absolute and sovereign power over the course of nature, over the spiritual and invisible world, and over the bodies and souls of men, as Dr. Sharp observes. It was not so with other prophets. They could not work what miracles they pleased and when they pleased. They could work miracles only when they were excited and directed to it by a special command or impulse from heaven. But Christ wrought miracles in a constant mouse from the time of his beginning his public ministry. They sought to him for this end, and he wrought them as of his own power at all times. They came to him for it, under the notion that he was able, and Christ required that they should believe in order to it, to which never any prophet pretended. Moses was shut out of the land of Canaan, partly for working a miracle in his own name, and not sanctifying the Lord God. “Must we fetch water out of this rock?” said he. The prophets never pretended that they themselves had properly any power to work miracles, but disclaimed it. God never subjected the course of nature to them, to work miracles by their own word and command upon all occasions. Care was taken in all the miracles that God wrought using the prophets, that it should be visible that what was done was only by God, and that what they said or did, upon which the miracle was wrought, was by particular revelation from heaven. They who came to Christ [so] that he might work miracles for them, did it in the faith, that by his own power and holiness he was able to do it for them. The leper said, Mat. 8:2, “Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean.” He believed that Christ could work miracles when he would. This Christ approved of. Mat. 8:8, “But speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.” Mat. 9:18, “My daughter is even now dead; but come and lay thine hand on her, and she shall live.” Mat. 9:21, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Mat. 9:28, “Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.” In Mat. 16:9, Christ reproves his disciples, because they were afraid of wanting bread, not remembering how he had fed multitudes in the wilderness. This implies that he was able to do the like again when he pleased. He cast out devils as of his own power and authority, Mark 1:27, “With authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.” And Christ, as having power of his own to work miracles, gave power to his disciples, as Mat. 10; Mark 3:14, and Mark 6:7; Luke 9 and 10, and so miracles were wrought in Christ’s name by the apostles and many other disciples. Moses did not work those miracles that were wrought in his time. Nor did he in the least pretend to any such thing. But Christ did pretend to work his miracles. They are often spoken of, and he himself speaks of them, as works that he did. Yea, he declares himself fellow with God in working, John 5:17, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
584. Christ’s Miracles. What can be more reasonable than to believe a man when he comes and tells us that he is sent from God to heal the diseases of our souls, and in order that we may believe him, he heals all sorts of men, at all times, of all manner of diseases, by a touch or a word. He plainly shows that he can do it when he will, let the disease be what it will? He tells us that he will dispossess Satan of our souls and free us from his power and dominion. To prove that he has power to do this, he, before our eyes, dispossesses him of the bodies of men that he has possessed. [He] does it very often and for a long time together, so as plainly to show that he has power over those unclean spirits, can conquer them and eject them at pleasure, and do what he will with them. He tells us that will deliver us from spiritual and eternal death (and also from temporal death), that he will raise us from the dead and give us eternal life, so that we shall live forever and not die. And to prove this he gives us sensible evidence that he has power over men’s lives by not only prolonging their lives but even restoring them after they are dead, and besides, he rises from the dead himself. He tells us that he will bestow heavenly glory upon us and will translate us to heaven. And to confirm us in this belief, he tells us that we shall see himself after his death ascend into heaven. What more could we desire from a man, who pretends to come from God and to have power to do these things for us, than to give us such evidences of his power as these? He tells us that he will undertake for us and appear for us before God, and that he will ask mercy for us of him, and tell us that we need not doubt but that if he appears and pleads for us, he shall procure acceptance for us. For God so loves him that he always hears him and grants what he asks of him. So that we may see that it is true, he does, in our hearing, ask of God strange things concerning a man who had been dead four days, that he may come to life again. And he tells God that he asks it for this end that we may see that he always hears him and grants what he requests. And accordingly, at his request, the dead man comes to life.
981. Evidence Concerning Christ’s Miracles and Resurrection. Before the coming of Christ, there was a general expectation spread over all the eastern nations that out of Judea should arise a person who should be governor of the world. [This] is expressly affirmed by the Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus The star that appeared at Christ’s birth and the journey of the Chaldean wise men is mentioned by Chalcidius the Platonist. Herod’s causing all the children in Bethlehem, under two years old, to be slain, and the reflection made upon him on that occasion by the emperor Augustus, is related by Macrobius (Macrob. lib. ii. cap. 4.) Many of the miracles that Jesus wrought in his lifetime are, as to the matter of fact, particularly his healing the lame and the blind, and casting out devils, expressedly owned by the most implacable enemies of Christianity: by Celsus, Julian and the authors of the Jewish Talmud. And that the power of the heathen gods ceased after the coming of Christ is acknowledged by Porphyry, who attributes it to their being angry at the setting up of the Christian religion, which he styles impious and profane. Many particulars of the collateral history, concerning John the Baptist, Herod and Pilate, are largely recorded by Josephus. The crucifixion of Christ under Pontius Pilate is related by Tacitus. And divers of the most remarkable circumstances attending it, such as the earthquake and miraculous darkness, were recorded in the public Roman registers, commonly appealed to by the first Christian writers, as what could not be denied by the adversaries themselves and are, in a very particular manner, attested by Phlegon. That extraordinary Sybilline prophecy, referred to by Virgil (so much like Isaiah’s prophecies of Christ), shows the expectation of the heathen world at that time:
“It was usual for the Roman deputies, or governors of provinces, to give an account of the chief things during their administrations, to the emperor. Accordingly, Pilate gave an account to Tiberius of what had happened in his time concerning Jesus of Nazareth: an account of his miracles, death, crucifixion and resurrection, upon which it is said that the emperor proposed it to the senate that he should be admitted into the number of their gods and decreed that none should be accused for being a Christian during his reign. Two things I may remark with reference to this matter, namely that Pilate’s account was enrolled in the public records at Rome, and that the fathers, Justin Martyr and Tertullian, afterwards appealed to the emperor and senate upon his head, in their apologies for the Christian religion Bennet’s Inspiration of the Scriptures, pp. 103-105.
The words of Phlegon concerning the eclipse at the time of Christ’s passion, book xiii of his Chronicon on Olympiads, are these: “In the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, there happened the greatest eclipse of the sun that ever was known. There was such a dark night at the sixth hour of the day, that the stars were seen in the heavens, and there was an earthquake in Bithynia, which overturned a great part of Nicea.” These words are to be seen in Eusebius’s and Hieronymus’s Chronicon, and Origen mentions it, tract 34 upon Matthew. And Chalcidius the Platonist, speaking of the star which happened at Christ’s birth, in his commentary on Timaeus, has these words: “There is another more holy and venerable history, which relates the appearance of a new star, not to foretell disease and death, but the descent of a venerable God, to preserve mankind and to show favor to the affairs of mortals; which star the wise men of Chaldea observing, as they traveled in the night, and being very well skilled in viewing the heavenly bodies, they are said to have sought after the new birth of this God. Having found that majesty in a child, they paid him worship and made such vows as were agreeable to so great a God.” Grotius De Verit. lib. iii. Sect. 14.
1026. Christ’s Miracles. If in the times of Christ and his disciples there had been any such magical art anywhere, either in Egypt or in other places, whereby those things related of Christ could be done, such as dumb men’s being suddenly healed, the lame walking, sight given to the blind, etc., then the emperors Tiberius, Nero and others, who would not have spared any cost in inquiring after such things, would undoubtedly have found it out.
Pliny, book xxx, chap. xi, in his history of magic says concerning Nero, “He had a greater desire after music and tragical singing.” And afterwards, “No man favored any art with greater cost, for these things he wanted neither riches, abilities, nor disposition to learn.” Presently after, he relates how he was initiated into the magical suppers of King Tiridates. Grotius De Verit. book v, sect. 3.
1190. Christ’s Miracles Greater than Old Testament Miracles. When Moses objected (Exo. 4) that perhaps the people would not believe his mission, God directed him to work two miracles to convince them: first, the transmutation of his rod to and from a serpent, and secondly, the making his hand leprous and healing the leprosy. And it is to be noted that the preference is given to the last miracle, as being especially what might well be regarded as a good evidence of Moses’s divine mission, Exo. 4:8, “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the latter sign.” By which it is manifest, that such a sort of miracles as Christ wrought, and which he most abounded in, viz. his healing the bodies of men when diseased, were a proper and good evidence of a divine mission. [Kidder’s Demonstration, part ii. P.5.]
Moses tells Pharaoh, Exo. 8:10-11, “The frogs shall be removed, that thou mayest know that there is none like the Lord our God.” The magicians could bring up frogs, but not remove them. They brought plagues, but took away none. But if the driving out the frogs was such an evidence of the distinguishing power of the Almighty; how much more the driving out devils from the bodies and souls of men, silencing their oracles, turning them out of their temples, and out of those who used curious arts, as at Ephesus, and afterwards, abolishing their worship through the Roman empire?
For the gods that were worshipped in the heathen world, were devils, Psa. 106:37; Deu. 32:17; Lev. 17:7. Christ, by the prevailing of the Christian religion, cast out those devils out of the very land of Egypt. And which was the greatest work: to drive the frogs out of Egypt, or to drive out the impure spirits that were the gods of Egypt? It is spoken of, Isa. 19:1, as a glorious manifestation of the majesty of God, that he should ride on a swift cloud, and should come into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt should be moved at his presence. See also Jer. 43:12. But when Christ came into Egypt, in the preaching of his gospel, he moved, dispossessed, and banished the idols of Egypt, and abolished them out of the world. And not only did Christ thus drive away the devils, the false gods, out of Egypt, but out of all the nations round about Canaan that were known by the Israelites, even to the utmost extend of the then known heathen world. These gods were by Christ dispossessed of their ancient tenements, which they had holden age after age, time out of mind. They were utterly abolished, so that they have had no worshipers now for a great many ages, no temples, no sacrifices, no honors done them. They are old, obsolete things now, utterly disregarded in the world.
It is abundantly spoken of in the Old Testament as a future glorious work of God, greatly manifesting his power and majesty, and that he should prevail against and destroy the gods of the heathens, and abolish their worship. But our Jesus has the honor of this glorious work.
Again, when Korah and his company charged Moses and Aaron with taking too much upon them, Moses says, Num. 16:5, “To-morrow, the Lord will show who are his, and who is holy, and will cause him to come near unto him; even him whom he hath chosen, will he cause to come near unto him.” And again, Num. 16:28-30, “Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own mind: if these men die the common death of all men,” etc. If the miraculous taking away of men’s lives be so great an evidence of Moses and Aaron’s divine mission, and of their being holy, and chosen and appointed of God, how much more is raising men from the dead and evidence of the same work! Which is the greatest work, to take away men’s lives, or to restore them to life after they are dead; or, indeed, miraculously to save them from death, when they are sick with mortal diseases? Again, God’s causing the earth to open and swallow up those wicked men, is no more an evidence of a divine hand, than Christ’s preventing the sea from swallowing up those that were in the ship, by immediately quieting the winds and sea by a word speaking, when the ship was even covered with waves, through the violence of the tempest, and at another time, upholding Peter from sinking and being swallowed up by the tempestuous sea, when walking on the water. Elisha’s causing iron to swim, is mentioned in the Old Testament as a great miracle. But this was not greater than Christ’s walking on the water, and causing Peter to walk upon it.
When Elijah had restored to life the widow’s son, she says, 1 Kin. 17:24, “By this I know that thou art a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in thy mouth is truth.” But this sort of miracles Christ wrought, besides rising from the dead himself.
Let Christ’s feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes, be compared with Elisha’s miracle in 2 Kin. 4:42-44, and also that miracle recorded in the same chapter, verse 1-7. Curing the leprosy of Naaman is one of the most celebrated of Elisha’s miracles. The king of Israel speaks of healing the leprosy, as a peculiar work of God, 2 Kin. 5:7. Naaman himself was convicted by it, that the God of Israel was the only true God.
Moses speaks of God’s stilling the tempest in Egypt, and causing the thunder and hail to cease, as that which will convince Pharaoh that the earth was the Lord’s, Exo. 9:29. Then by parity of reason, Christ’s stilling the tempest and causing the winds and seas to obey him, is an evidence that the seas and earth were his. Moses, to convince the people of his divine mission, took some of the water of the river, and poured it out on the dry land, and it was turned to blood, Exo. 7:17-20. But this was not a greater work, not so glorious, as Christ’s turning water into wine.
It greatly affected Melchizedek, king of Salem, and convinced him that Abraham was God’s chosen friend: chosen that he and his posterity might be blessed as God’s people. But what is this to Jesus’s conquering the world in its…(?)
Abraham’s conquering the four kings and their armies, with his armed servants and confederates, greatly affected Melchisedek, king of Salem, and convinced him that Abraham was God’s chosen friend: chosen that he and his posterity might be blessed as God’s people. But what is this to Jesus’ conquering the world in its greatest strength, and when united under that which by the prophet Daniel is represented as the greatest, and by far the strongest monarchy, by his handful of poor, weak, illiterate disciples?
Christ’s victory over the false gods of the nations, in this conquest, was far more conspicuous, as the opposition was to them. The strife was more directly with them. The thing professedly sought and aimed at by Christ in the conflict, was the utter destruction of these false gods, the entire rooting of them out, and the abolition of their worship out of the world. And such a victory was obtained: those false gods were forsaken, their oracles silenced, their temples destroyed, their images every where burnt, and their remembrance made to cease. So that now, for many ages, they have not been remembered any otherwise, than as instances of the great blindness and folly of their votaries.
And it is further to be observed that in the 41st chapter of Isaiah, this very victory of Abraham is spoken of as a representation of this great victory of the Messiah over the idols of the nations.
Elisha’s smiting the army of the Syrians with blindness is mentioned as a great miracle, 2 Kin. 6:18, etc. But opening the eyes of the blind, as Christ did, is a much greater miracle.
Moses and other prophets wrought many miracles, whereby they brought great judgments on men. But miracles of the beneficent kind were ever noted in the church of God, as greater, and more distinguishing of a divine hand, than of the contrary kind. See Pool’s Synopsis on Exodus 7:12.
How often are the miracles wrought in Egypt spoken of as clear evidences that he that wrought them, was the Supreme God, and the only true God; Exo. 7:3-5; chap. 8:10, 19, 22; chap. 9:14, 29; Exo. 10:2; chap. 12:12; chap. 14:18.
The work of Gideon in conquering the Midianites and the multitudes that were joined with them, by three hundred men, with the light of lamps and sound of trumpets, is celebrated as a great work of God’s power, Jdg. 6:14, and Jdg. 7:2, 7. But this is but a mere type of Christ’s conquering the world by the preaching of the gospel. This victory over Midian is spoken of in the Scripture, as representing the conquests of the Messiah, Isa. 9:4.
1285. Healing Leprosy. The curing the leprosy was a special manifestation of the power of God. The leprosy which appeared among the Jews seems not to have been a disease that came by natural means, but a special plague sent by God, as was the leprosy of a garment and of an house. Therefore it was not to be removed but by the same hand that sent it.
1286. Christ’s Miracles. God was very jealous for his own honor with respect to the miracles that were wrought by the prophets in his name: that his power should be acknowledged in the miracle and all the glory ascribed to him and none assumed by the instrument. Therefore, God was so provoked with Moses and Aaron because they sanctified him not as they ought to have done, in bringing water out of the rock, that he refused, in his account, to suffer them to enter into the promised land, Num. 20:11-12. Therefore, if Jesus had been an impostor, as the Jews charged him with being, John 5:17-23, it is altogether incredible that God would have so countenanced and in such a degree winked at Jesus’s working miracles in his own name and by his own power, claiming the power to work the same works that the Father wrought, and so making himself equal with God.
1288. Healing the Gadarene. What was wrought with respect to Nebuchadnezzar, when he was driven from men, becoming like a wild beast so that no man could confine or tame him and afterwards in restoring him to his right mind, is represented as a very great miracle, a divine work, remarkably demonstrating the infinite and uncontrollable power of God and the supreme and most absolute dominion of Him whose work this was. It was wrought for that end as is manifested by Dan. 4:2, 3, “I thought fit to shew the signs and wonders that the Most High hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs, and how mighty are his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.” See also Dan. 4:17, 25-26, 34-35, 37.
But if this work wrought on Nebuchadnezzar was so great a miracle, so evidently divine, and so clearly demonstrating the divinity of the author of it, his infinite power and superior dominion, then this is a clear proof that the miracle of Christ wrought on the poor Gadarene, was a divine work and a sufficient evidence of the divinity and the infinite, supreme and most absolute power of Jesus, who wrought it. He was no less wild and untamable than Nebuchadnezzar, Mat. 8. “He was exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” See also Mark 5:3-5; Luke 8:27. This man Christ restored perfectly and of his own power and authority. The devils that possessed him by their behavior appeared to be sensible that they were under his power. They spoke to him as one that had power to expel them, to confine, punish and torment them.
They fell down before him as before the Son of God Most High, beseeching him not to torment them and not to command them to go into the deep, but to suffer them to enter into the herd of swine. And Christ “commanded the devil, saying ‘Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit,” Mark 5:8; Luke 3:29. But the man who had been possessed of the devils was perfectly delivered and sat at Jesus’ feet, clothed and in his right mind.
1306. Miracles of Jesus. It adds to the evidence which is given to the truth of Christianity by the multitude of miracles wrought by Christ, his apostles and followers in the first century, that there were no pretenses of inspiration, or miracles, among the Jews (at least none worth notice) in Judea, or any other part of the world. If all that multitude, and that long-continued series of miracles, recorded to be wrought in confirmation of Christianity, were fictions, vain pretenses, or enthusiastic imaginations, why were there no pretenses or imaginations of the same sort, on the other side, among the Jews, in opposition to these? Those of the Jews that were opposed to Christianity, were vastly the greater part of the nation. — And they had as high an opinion of the honorableness of those gifts of prophecy and miracles, as Christians. They had as much in their notions and tempers, to lead them to a fondness for the claim of such an honor to their party. They were exceedingly proud of their special relation to God, and of their high privilege as the peculiar favorites of heaven, and, in this respect, were exalted far above all the world: which is a temper of mind (as we see abundantly), above all others, leading men to pretenses of this nature.
There could be nothing peculiar in the constitution of the first Christians, tending to enthusiasm, beyond the rest of the Jews: for they were of the same blood, the same race and nation. Nor could it be because they wanted zeal against Christianity, and a desire to oppose and destroy it, or wanted envy and virulent opposition of mind to any pretenses in the Christians to excel them in the favor of God, or excellency of any gifts or privileges whatsoever. They had such zeal and such envy, even to madness and fury.
The true reason, therefore, why so vast a multitude of miracles were said, and believed, to be openly wrought among Christians for so long a time, even for a whole age, and none among the Jews, must be that such was the state of things in that age, that it was not possible to palm false pretenses of such a kind upon the world, and that those who were most elated with pride, and most ambitious of such an honor, could see no hope of succeeding in any such pretenses. And because the Christians indeed were inspired, and were enabled to work miracles, and did work them, as was pretended and believed in great multitudes, and this continued for so long a time. But God never favored their adversaries with such a privilege.
1342 Evidence for True Miracles. “The miracles reported to have been done in the heathen world are unworthy of God, either in themselves or the end proposed by them. For let it be observed that God never works miracles merely to astonish and surprise people but always to serve some great end of providence. And though he has, in favor of his people and sometimes even of particular persons, wrought miracles, yet when he published the law and the gospel, he did not rest the authority upon one or more single miracles but upon a long series of miracles exhibited from day to day, for years together. And if miracles are properly applied as a proof of the purposes and will of God, miracles wrought without being attended with any declaration of God’s will, in which we have any concern, are very improper instances to be set up in opposition to those of Moses and Christ, upon which the happiness of mankind depends in this life, and in that light which is to come. This consideration gives weight and authority to the miracles of the gospel. For it was a design worthy of God to restore mankind to that happiness worthy they had forfeited, and it was a work, in every view, of equal dignity and benevolence with the creation.
With what color of reason can the pretended miracles of the heathen world be brought into this question, which were done upon trifling occasions, unworthy the interposition of God? Look into all the ancient oracles. See to what mean purposes they are applied, and how often they prove destructive to those who relied on them. And then tell what marks you see of divine wisdom and goodness in them, that should set them upon an equal foot with the miracles of Christ Jesus. — Shall I undertake to prove that it exceeds the power of man to raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, and cure all diseases by the word of his mouth? No, never was any such attempt set up.
But must they, you will say, of necessity, proceed from God, because they could not be wrought by men, especially considering that no effects, neither the miracles of the gospel, nor the works of nature, can prove directly an infinite power or wisdom? For who will be bold to say that the wisdom and power of God were exhausted in the visible works of the creation, so that there is nothing either wiser or greater, that infinite wisdom and power can contrive or execute?
Let this matter be rightly stated. — The first and most natural notion of God is that he is the Maker of the world, and all things in it. This is the notion the Jews had of God, and when they distinguished the true God from the heathen gods, they defined him to be the Maker of the world and of mankind. Look then into the miracles of the gospel, and you will see this attribute of God as clearly demonstrated by them, as by the works of nature. For there you will find that the author of the Christian miracles is the Maker of mankind. For by Him men were made, that is, dead bodies were made into living men. For to raise a dead man and to make a new man, are much the same thing. If we believe that we received our senses, our reason, our natural strength and vigor from the true God at first, look into the gospel, and you will find the miracles of Christ are from the same hand. For to the blind he gave sight; to the deaf, hearing; to the lame and sick, strength and soundness; to the demoniacs and lunatics, he gave reason and a right mind. Or if you choose rather to look into a material world for a proof of a God, if you think the beauty, order, and regularity of the world speak God to be both the author and governor of nature, then search the gospel and you will find the miracles of Christ derive themselves from the Governor of the world, and speak the same language with the works of nature. For at his word the stormy winds were laid, the sea obeyed his voice. When he suffered, all nature trembled, the earth shook, the veil of the temple was rent, and the sun and the moon were darkened.
If you appeal to the natural sense and notions of mankind for the idea of the true God, and thence collect his essential attributes, justice, righteousness, holiness and goodness, let the voice of nature be still, and the gospel shall speak more plainly how just, how righteous, how holy and good God is, who is the Author of the salvation and redemption which is by Christ Jesus. Take what way you will to prove the being or the attributes of God, and in the same way, with equal advantage, you will prove the God of the world to be the Author of Christianity, which all who believe the being of a God are bound to admit as a proof of the truth of Christianity. And when our Savior styled the wonders that he performed, the works that the Father had given him to finish, he plainly appealed to the power of the Creator, as manifested in the works that bare witness to him.
There is a question commonly asked upon this occasion, to which it may be proper to give an answer: That is, how shall we know that these miracles did not proceed from an evil power, since we have instances, as some think, of miracles wrought?
The answer is that we know this the same way that any man knows the works of nature to proceed from a good being. For how do you know the Creator of the world was a good being? If you answer that the Maker of mankind, the Author of nature must of necessity be a good and holy Being, because he has woven into the nature of man the love of virtue and hatred of vice (it might more properly have been said, a conscience approving virtue and disapproving vice), and given him distinct notions of good and evil, by which reason unerringly concludes the author of this nature, and these principles to be himself good and holy, — I answer the same for the gospel of Christ. The love of virtue and hatred of vice is as inseparable from the gospel of Christ, as from the reason of man. And the gospel of Christ more distinctly teaches to know and acknowledge the holiness and goodness of God, than reason or the works of nature can do. And therefore, those who acknowledge the Author of nature to be a good Being, have much more reason to acknowledge the Author of the Christian miracles as to be a good Being.
But then we are told this is arguing in a circle, proving the doctrines first by miracles, and then the miracles again by the doctrines. But this is a great mistake, and it lies in this: Men do not distinguish between the doctrines we prove by miracles, and the doctrines by which we try miracles, for they are not the same doctrines.
The doctrines which are to be proved by miracles are the new revealed doctrines of Christianity, which were neither known nor knowable to the reason of man. Such are the doctrines of salvation and redemption by Jesus Christ, of sanctification and regeneration by the Spirit of God. And whoever brought these doctrines to prove the truth or divine original of miracles?” From Dr. Sherlock’s Disc. Preached at the Temple Church.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.