페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

the Persons foretold by the Prophets; and the Prophecies likewise receive as great a Confirmation from such Miracles. For Prophecies and Miracles, which are singly a sufficient Evidence of Divine Revelation, do mutually support and confirm each other; and hereby we have all the Assurance that can be expected of any Divine Revelation: And therefore, as Prophecy is in it self a most fitting and proper way of Revelation; so, in conjunction with Miracles, it is the most certain way that can be desir’d. .: 2. The Suitableness and Efficacy of Miracles, to prove a Divine Revelation.

It is an extravagant thing to conceive, that God should exclude himself from the Works of his own Creation; or, that he should establish them upon such inviolable Laws, as not to alter them upon fome occasions, when he foresaw it would be requisite to do it: For unless the Course of Nature had been thus alterable it would have been defective in regard to one great End for which it was design’d; viz. it would have faild of being serviceable to the Designs of Providence upon such Occasions. The same infinite Wisdom which contrived the Laws for the Ora der and Course of Nature, contrived them so, as to make them alterable, when it would be necessary for God, by suspending the Powers, or interrupting the Course of Nature, to manifest his extraordinary Will and Power; and by the fame Decree by which he at first establish'd them, he subjected them to such Alterations, as his Wisdom foresaw would be necessary.

We can as little doubt, but that He who made the World, has the sole Power and Authority over it; and that nothing can be done in it, but by his Direction and Influence, or at least by his Permiffion ; and that the Frame and Order of Nature which he at first appointed, can at no time be alter'd, but for great Ends and Purposes. He is not given to change, as Men are, and can never be difappointed in his Eternal Purposes and Designs. But when any thing comes to pass above the Course of Nature, and contrary to it, in Confirmation of a Revelation, which, for the Importance and Excellency of the Subject of it, and in all other re{pects, is most worthy of God, we may be sure that this is his doing; and there is still farther Evidence of it, if this Revelation were prophesy'd of before, by Prophets who foretold that it should be confirm'd by Miracle. As, when Men born blind, receiv'd their Sight; when others were cured of the most desperate Diseases, by a Touch, or at a Distance; when the Dead were raised, and the Devils cast out; these were evident Signs of a Divine Power and Presence, which gave Testimony to the Doctrine deliver'd by those by whom such Miracles were wrought, and the Divine Commission and Authority was produced for what they did and taught. For what could be more satisfactory and convincing to Men, or more worthy of God, than to force the Devils themselves to confess and proclaim his Cor ming? to cause the most insensible things in nature to declare his Power, by giving way, as it were, and starting back in great Confusion and Disorder, at his more immediate and peculiar Presence, to inform Men that the God of Nature was there? This gave Testimony to the Things reveald, and challeng'd the Belief of all Men, in a Language more powerful than any Human Voice, whilft God shew'd forth his Glory, and made known his Will, by exercising his Sovereignty over Nature, in making the whole Creation bow, and tremble, and obey. All which was perform’d according to express Prophecies concerning Christ, that there might be a visible Concurrence both of Prophecies and Miracles in Testimony of him. And this Dispensation of Miracles was admirably fitted to propagate that Religion which concern'd the Poor, as well as the Rich, the Unlearned, as well as the Learned. Miracles were suitable to the Simplicity of the Gospel, and to the universal Design of it: For they are equally adapted to awaken the Attention, and command the Affent of Men of all Conditions and Capacities; they are obvious to the most Ignorant, and may satisfy the Wisest, and confute or silence the Cavils of the most Captious and Contentious.

And this is what all the World ever expected, That God should reveal himself to Men, by working somewhat above the Course of Nature. All Mankind have believ'd, that this is the way of Intercourse between Heaven and Earth; and therefore there never was any of the false Religions, but it was pretended to have been confirm’d by something miraculous. We may appeal to the Sense of all Nations for the Authority of Miracles to attest the Truth of Religion : for whenever any thing happen'd extraordinary, they always imagin’d something supernatural in it; they expe&ed that Miracles should be wrought for the Proof of any thing that had but the Name of Religion; and no false Religion could have gain'd Belief and Credit in any Age or Nation, but under the pretence of them.

The only Difficulty therefore will be, to know how to distinguish True Miracles from False ; or those which have been wrought for the Confirmation of the True Religion, from such as have been done, or are pretended to have been done, in behalf of False Religions.

But here it must be observ’d, That it is not necefsary, in this controversie, that we should be able to determine what the Power of Spirits is, or how far it extends, and what Works can proceed only from the immediate Power of God: It is sufficient that we know, that God presides over All ; that Good Spirits ac in constant Subje&tion and Obedience to him ; that Evil Spirits act for evil Ends that Good Spirits will not impose upon Men, and that he will not suffer the Evil to do it, under any pretence of his own Authority, without affording Means to discover the Delusion. And the Question here is not concerning any strange Work whereof God is not alledged to be the Author, but concerning such as are wrought with a profess’d Design to establish Religion in his Name. Suppose then that there have been many Wonders wrought in the World, which exceed all Human Power, and which yet we know not to what other Power to ascribe; this makes no Difficulty in the present case; because here, not only the Works themselves, but the Design and Tendency of them is to be considered. For Instance, Whether the Miracles reported to have been done by Ves pasian, were true or false, by a Divine or a Diabolical Power, they are of no consequence to us; he established no new Do&trine, and pretended to no Divine Authority, but doubted the possibility of his working them : And supposing them true, and by a Divine Power, the most that can be said of them, is, that as God mention'd Cyrus by Name to be the Deliverer of the Jews, so he might by Miracle signalize this Prince who was to destroy them. But the Miracles of our Saviour and his Apostles were wrought with this declared Purpose and Design, That they were to give Evidence to the Religion which they were fent from God to introduce, as necessary to the Salvation of Mankind.

Having premised this, I must resume what was before observed concerning the Means by which false Prophecies might be detected. It has been already proved from the Notion of a God, that there must be some Divine Revelation; and it has been shewn, That Prophecies and Miracles are the most fit and proper way of Revelation, and that way which Men have ever expected to receive Revelations by. If then there have

been

[ocr errors]

been False Prophecies and Miracles, they must be supposed to have been either before, or at the same time, or after those Prophecies and Miracles by which the True Religion was delivered ; if before, or at the same time, then the fame Divine Wisdom and Goodness which obliges God to reveal his Will to Mankind, must oblige him to take care that the Impostures of those False Prophecies and Miracles by some means might have been discovered. But there is great reason to believe that true Revelations should be first made to Men, before God would suffer them to be tempted with false ones; and if the false were after the true Revelations, then the true Revelations themselves are that by which we ought to judge of all others.

But to speak more particularly of Miracles, which are the present Subjeāt. It is inconsistent with the Infinite Truth, and Honour, and Goodness, and Mercy of God, to suffer Man to be deluded by false Miracles, wrought under a pretence of his own Authority, without any possibility of discovering the Imposture : And therefore if we should suppose there had pass’d any

time before the Discovery of his Will to Mankind, he could not suffer Men, but through their own Fault to be imposed upon by such Miracles; but either by the false and wicked Doctrines which they were brought to promote and establish, as Idolatry, Uncleanness, Murthers, &c. or by some other token of Imposture, they might have been undeceived; And both in the Old and New Testament God has given us warning against false Miracles, Deut. xiii. 1. Mat. xxiv. 24. Gal. i. 8. 2 Thel. ii. 9. so that we may be affured that we are to give no credit to any Miracle that can be wrought to confirm any other Do&trine than what we find in the Scriptures; and if we can but be certify'd that they were true Miracles which gave Testimony and Evidence to them, we need concern our felves about no other.

And

« 이전계속 »