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both because so much Condescension and Indulgence would be ill bestow'd upon those who have so little deserv'd it ; and because it would have no better effe& than Prophecies and Miracles have had towards the Conversion of Men; but a very ill one, in affording Pretences to all sorts of Impostures : And where two several Means are alike suitable to any End, no Man, surely, will presume to prescribe to Almighty God, and say, that he ought to have used one rather than the other ; much less when one is inconvenient, and the other the only proper Means to be used.
II. I proceed therefore to shew, 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 design’d effect upon many Perfons ; the Majesty and Honour of God is not exposed to the scorn of every profane and obstinate Offender; and there is as effectual Care taken to prevent Impostures, as possibly could have been. And as Prophecies and Miracles have none of the Inconveniences which immediate Revelations would have had ; so I fhall Thew, that they have all the Advantage and Usefulness which it can be suppos'd that immediate Revelations would have had, if they had been granted to every Person in particular. All that any immediate Revelation could do, is to afford Men the Means of Conviction, and Assurance that the Revelation proceeds from God, as certainly as that God himself is: And this Prophecies and Miracles do.
1. Concerning Prophecies, it is observable, That the Oracles and Lying Divinations with which the Devil has impos’d upon the World, shew, That it is natural for Men to expe&t that God should reveal
himself by Prophecies : Which made them so 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, must carry an indisputable Evidence of Divine Revelation along with them. Such are the Predictions of Things to be fulfilled many Ages afterwards, which, in the fulfilling, depend upon the Counsels 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 possible, that Things should be foreseen so long before either the Actions or the Agents themselves have any Existence, or how Contingencies can be the Object of Infallible Prescience : And therefore, for God to foretel Things of this naturę by his Prophets, is a most proper and certain way of Revelation ; because it is above the Power of any Finite Being to do the like. It is thę Prerogative of him that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, to declare unto man what is bis thought : The Lord, the God of Hofts is his name, Amos iv. 13. For which reason, the False Gods are challeng’d to foretel these Things; Sheių the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that je are Gods, Isa. xlii. 23,
But because Things foretold inay sometimes 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 just ready for Action ; or to discern Things done at distant Places, and to make probable Guesses, which may prove true, from the various Circumstances of Affairs which they observe in the World : We may therefore be assured, from the Confideration of the Divine Attributes of Good
ness and Truth, that God will not suffer false Religions to be imposed upon the World, under his own Name, by Diabolical Predictions, without affording Means to discover them to be such. When a Prophet speaketh in the Name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not, spoken, but the Prophet hath Spoken it presumptuously, thou falt not be afraid of bim, Deut. xviii. 22. This is the Mark of Distin&ion between a False and a True Prophet, That whatever the latter foretold in the Name of the Lord, should come to pass; but whatever the first foretold in his Name, should not come to pass : which implies, that God will disappoint such Predictions, as he threatens, Ezek. xiv.
9. and not fuffer them to come to pass ; otherwise, the coming to pass of Things foretold, could be no certain Mark of a true Prophet, because they might come to pass by Chance.
The Prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the Prophet shall come to pass, then soall the Prophet be known that the Lord hath truly sent him, Jer. xxviii. 9. k Maimonides delivers it, not only as his own Opinion, but as the receiv'd Do&rine of the Rabbins, that if a Prophet foretold prosperous Events, and they did not come to pass, it was a convincing Argument of a False Prophet : But if he threaten'd Judgments, tho' they were not inflicted, he might be a True Prophet. Which Docyrine they advanc'd from a Misinterpretation of the Words of Jeremiah now mention'd.
For the False Prophet Hananiah, having declar'd in the Name of the Lord, that 7econiah and all the Captives of Judah, with the Vefsels of the Temple, should within two Years be brought back from Babylon to Jerusalem ; Jeremiah
Maim. de Fundamentis Legis. C. 10. S. 6, 7. Pref. in Seder Zeraim. p. 8.
tells him, that he heartily pray'd, that it might pleafe God, that this should prove true ; but that it was no new thing to prophesie of all Calamities that were to befal a People, which was the thing that had rais’d so great a Hatred against him. The Prophets that have been before me, and before thee of old, prophesied both against many Countries, and against great Kingdoms, of War, and of Evil, and of Pestilence. The Prophet which prophesieth of Peace, when the Word of the Prophet shall come to pass, then shall the Prophet be known that the Lord hath truly sent him, Jer. xxviii
. 8,9. He speaks here of Peace, with relation to this particular Case in question at that time, and says, that the Event would fhew who was the true Prophet : But he lays down no Rule to detect false Prophets, by the Predi&tion of Prosperous, rather than of Adverse Events; which is directly contrary to God's exprefs Declaration by him : Åt what inftant I shall speak concerning a Nation, and concerning a Kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it, if that Nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their Evil, I will repent of the Evil, that I thought to do unto them. And at what inftant I Jhall speak concerning a Nation, and concerning a Kingdom, ! to build and to plant it ; if it do evil in my fight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the Good wherewith I said I would benefit them , chap. xviii. 7, 8, 9, 10. And the righteous Man, that committed Iniquity, was to have no benefit from the Promises made to him as the wicked Man, upon his Repentance, was not to fuffer the Punishment denounc'd against him, Ezek. xxxiii. 13, 18, So manifestly contrary is this Rule of the Rabbins for the discerning of false from true Prophets, to the express Words of Scripture; and 1 Maimonides confesses it fail'd at the Destru
! Maim. de Fuşd, Leg: f. 10. $70
&tion of the first Temple. But if no visible Alteration be made in the case, either by Repentance on the one hand, or by Disobedience 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 sure a Sign, that it was deliver'd by a false Prophet. But if the Prophecy were not pretended to be in the Name of the True God, but were given out with a profess’d Design to entice Men to the Worship of False Gods; then God might suffer it to be fulfild, to prove his People, Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3. For this was consistent with God's Truth and Goodness, especially after Warning given, and after so clear a Revelation both by Prophecies and Miracles : if any Man, in this case, would be seduced 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 Āges, and different Places, all teaching the same Doctrine, and tending to the fame End and Design in their several Revelations, and that End is the Discouragement of all Wickedness, and the Maintenance of all Virtue and true Religion, these Prophecies have all that can be requisite to assure us that they are from God; and God, by suffering 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 possible Assurance 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, besides the direct Evidence which they afford to whatever is deliver'd by them, they add an undeniable Confirmation to those Miracles which have been foretold, and are wrought at the Time, and in the Manner, and by