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both because so much Condefcenfion and Indulgence would be ill beftow'd upon those who have fo little deferv'd it; and because it would have no better effect than Prophecies and Miracles have had towards the Converfion of Men; but a very ill one, in affording Pretences to all forts of Impostures: And where two feveral Means are alike fuitable to any End, no Man, furely, will prefume to prescribe to Almighty God, and say, that he ought to have used one rather than the other; much lefs when one is inconvenient, and the other the only proper Means to be used.
II. I proceed therefore to fhew, That Prophecies and Miracles are the most fitting and proper Means for God to discover and reveal dimself to the World by. It is evident, that they are not accompany'd with those Inconveniences, with which immediate Revelations would have been; there is no Prophecy, nor Miracle, but it has the defign'd effect upon many Perfons; the Majefty and Honour of God is not expofed to the fcorn of every profane and obftinate Offender; and there is as effectual Care taken to prevent Impoftures, as poffibly could have been. And as Prophecies and Miracles have none of the Inconveniences which immediate Revelations would have had; fo I fhall fhew, that they have all the Advantage and Usefulness which it can be fuppos'd that immediate Revelations would have had, if they had been granted to every Perfon in particular. All that any immediate Revelation could do, is to afford Men the Means of Conviction, and Affurance that the Revelation proceeds from God, as certainly as that God himself is: And this Prophecies and Miracles do.
1. Concerning Prophecies, it is obfervable, That the Oracles and Lying Divinations with which the Devil has impos'd upon the World, fhew, That it is natural for Men to expect that God should reveal
himself by Prophecies: Which made them fo prone to receive falfe Prophecies from their false Gods. And this may teach us, that True Prophecies are to be expected from the True God. Many Prophecies are of that nature, that none but God Omniscient could be the Author of them; and these, in their Accomplishment, muft carry an indifputable Evidence of Divine Revelation along with them. Such are the Predictions of Things to be fulfilled many Ages afterwards, which, in the fulfilling, depend up¬ on the Counfels and Determinations of free Agents; and Predictions of the Sins of Men, which they could not be determin'd to, but by their own choice. It is above the Capacity of Human Understanding, to conceive how it is poffible, that Things fhould be foreseen fo long before either the Actions or the Agents themselves have any Exiftence, or how Contingencies can be the Object of Infallible Prefcience And therefore, for God to foretel Things of this nature by his Prophets, is a moft proper and certain way of Revelation; because it is above the Power of any Finite Being to do the like. It is the Prerogative of him that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, to declare unto man what is his thought: The Lord, the God of Hofts is his name, Amos iv. 13. For which reafon, the Falfe Gods are challeng'd to foretel these Things; Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that je are Gods, Ifa. xlii. 23,
But because Things foretold may fometimes come to pass by Chance, or it may be in the Power of Evil Spirits to foretel them when they are in Design and Agitation, and juft ready for Action; or to difcern Things done at diftant Places, and to makę probable Gueffes, which may prove true, from the various Circumftances of Affairs which they observe in the World: We may therefore be affured, from the Confideration of the Divine Attributes of Good
nefs and Truth, that God will not fuffer falfe Religions to be impofed upon the World, under his own Name, by Diabolical Predictions, without affording Means to discover them to be fuch. When a Prophet Speaketh in the Name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pafs, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the Prophet hath Spoken it prefumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him, Deut. xviii. 22. This is the Mark of Diftin&tion between a Falfe and a True Prophet, That whatever the latter foretold in the Name of the Lord, fhould come to pafs; but whatever the first foretold in his Name, fhould not come to pass: which implies, that God will difappoint fuch Predictions, as he threatens, Ezek. xiv. 9. and not fuffer them to come to pafs; otherwife, the coming to pafs of Things foretold, could be no certain Mark of a true Prophet, because they might come to pass by Chance.
The Prophet which prophefieth of peace, when the word of the Prophet fhall come to pass, then shall the Prophet be known that the Lord hath truly fent him, Jer. xxviii. 9. k Maimonides delivers it, not only as his own Opinion, but as the receiv'd Doctrine of the Rabbins, that if a Prophet foretold profperous Events, and they did not come to pafs, it was a convincing Argument of a Falfe Prophet: But if he threaten'd Judgments, tho' they were not inflicted, he might be a True Prophet. Which Doctrine they advanc'd from a Mifinterpretation of the Words of Jeremiah now mention'd. For the Falfe Prophet Hananiah, having declar'd in the Name of the Lord, that econiah and all the Captives of Judah, with the Veffels of the Temple, fhould within two Years be brought back from Babylon to Jerufalem; Jeremiah
Maim. de Fundamentis Legis. c. 10. §. 6, 7. Pref. in Seder Zeraim. p. 8.
tells him, that he heartily pray'd, that it might please
! Maim. de Fund, Leg. c. 10. $7.
&tion of the firft Temple. But if no vifible Alteration be made in the cafe, either by Repentance on the one hand, or by Difobedience on the other; the Fulfilling of Prophecies, whether they contain Threatnings or Promises, is a certain Sign of a True Prophet, and when the Event doth not answer the Prediction, this is as fure a Sign, that it was deliver'd by a falfe Prophet. But if the Prophecy were not pretended to be in the Name of the True God, but were given out with a profefs'd Defign to entice Men to the Worship of Falfe Gods; then God might fuffer it to be fulfill'd, to prove his People, Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3. For this was confiftent with God's Truth and Goodnefs, efpecially after Warning given, and after fo clear a Revelation both by Prophecies and Miracles: if any Man, in this cafe, would be feduced by any Wonder, or Prophecy, to follow other Gods, it must be great Perverseness in him. But when Prophecies are deliver'd by many Prophets, in divers Ages, and different Places, all teaching the fame Doctrine, and tending to the fame End and Design in their several Revelations, and that End is the Difcouragement of all Wickedness, and the Maintenance of all Virtue and true Religion, these Prophecies have all that can be requifite to affure us that they are from God; and God, by fuffering them to be fulfill'd, and to pass so long in the World, under his own Name, and with all the Characters of his Authority upon them, has given us all poffible Affurance that they are his, and engag'd us, in Honour to his Divine Attributes, to believe that they really are by his Authority.
And the Certainty of Prophecies being thus grounded upon the Divine Attributes, befides the direct Evidence which they afford to whatever is deliver'd by them, they add an undeniable Confirmation to thofe Miracles which have been foretold, and are wrought at the Time, and in the Manner, and by