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And the Miracles by which the Scriptures are confirmed and authorized must be true; because there is no precedent Divine Revelation which they contradict, nor any immoral or falfe Doctrine which they deliver, nor any thing else contained in them whereby they can be proved to be falfe: And in this cafe, that which all the Wit and Understanding of Man cannot prove to be falfe, muft be true, or elfe God would fuffer his own Name and Authority to be ufurped and abused, and Mankind to be impofed upon in a thing of infinite confequence, without any poffibility of discovering the Impofture, which it is contrary to the Divine Attributes for him to permit; but either by the Works themselves, or by the End and Defign of them, or by fome means or other, the Honour, and Wisdom, and Mercy of God is concerned to detect all fuch Impoftures. If Miracles be wrought to introduce the Worship of other Gods, befides him, whom Reason, as well as Scripture, affures us to be. the only True God; if they be done to feduce Men to immoral Doctrines and Practices; if they be performed to contradict the Religion already confirmed by Miracles, in which nothing of this nature could poffibly be discovered; if never fo aftonishing Miracles be wrought for fuch ill Designs as thefe, they are not to be regarded, but rejected with that Conftancy which becomes a Man who will act according to the Principles of Natural Reason and Religion. But when Miracles were perform'd, which, both for the End and Defign of them, as well as for the manner and circumftances of their Performance, had all the credibility that any Miracle could have, if it were really wrought by God's immediate Power to confirm a Revelation; if thefe Miracles have been foretold by Prophecies, (as, on the other fide, the Prophecies were fulfilled by the Miracles) if they were done publickly before all forts of Men, and that often, and by many Men fucceffively, for divers Ages together, and
all agreed in the fame Doctrine and Design; if neither the Miracles themselves, nor the Doctrines which are attefted by them, can be difcovered to have any deceit or defect in them, but be moft excellent and divine, and moft worthy of God; in such a case we have all the Evidence for the Truth of the Miracles,. and of the Religion which they were wrought to eftablish, that we can have for the Being of God himfelf. For if these Miracles and this Religion be not from God, we must fuppofe either that God cannot, or that he will not fo reveal himself by Miracle to the World, as to diftinguifh his own Revelation from Impostures: both which Suppofitions are contrary to the Divine Attributes; contrary to God's Omnipotence, because he can do all things, and therefore can exceed the Power of all Finite Beings; and contrary to his Honour, and Wisdom, and Goodness, because these require both that he fhould reveal himself to the World, and that he fhould do it by Miracles, in fuch a manner as to make it evident which is his Revelation. But if he both can and will put fuch a Diftinction between False Miracles and True, as that Men fhall not, except it be by their own fault, be feduced by falfe Miracles; then that Religion which is confirmed by Miracles, concerning which nothing can be discovered to be either impious or falfe, must be the true Religion. For we have feen, that there must be fome Revealed Religion, and that this Religion must be revealed by Miracle; and we have the Goodness, and Truth, and Juftice of God engaged, that we should not be impofed upon by false Miracles, without being able to difcern the Impofture: And therefore that Religion which both by its Miracles, and Doctrine, and Worship, appears to be Divine, and could not be proved to be falfe, if it were fo, must certainly be true; because the Goodness and Honour of God is concerned, that Mankind, in a Matter of this confequence, fhould not be deceived, with
out their own fault or neglect, by Impostures vented under his own Name and Authority. Upon which account, the Sin against the Holy-Ghost, in ascribing the Miracles wrought by Chrift, to Beelzebub, was fo heinous above all other Crimes; this being to reject the utmost Means that can be used for Man's Salvation, and in effect to deny the Attributes and very Being of God. The fum of this Argument is, That though Miracles are a moft fit and proper Means to prove the Truth of Religion, yet they are not only to be confider'd alone, but in conjunction with other Proofs; and that they must neceffarily be true Miracles, or Miracles wrought to establish the true Religion, when the Religion upon the account whereof they are wrought cannot be difcovered to be false, either by any Defect in the Miracles, or by any other Means, but has all the Marks and Characters of Truth. Because God would not fuffer the Evidence of Miracles, and all other Proofs, to concur to the Confirmation of a falfe Religion, beyond all poffibility of difcovering it to be fo.
III. How Divine Revelations may be supposed to be preserved in the World. It is reasonable to fuppofe that Divine Revelations fhould be committed to Writing, that they might be preferved, for the benefit of Mankind, and deliver'd down to Pofterity, and that a more than ordinary Providence fhould be concerned in their Prefervation. For whatever has been said by fome, of the Advantage of Oral Tradition, for the conveyance of Doctrines, beyond that of Writing, is fo notoriously fanciful and ftrained, that it deferves no ferious Answer. For 'till Men fhall think it fafeft to make Wills, and bequeath and purchase Estates by Word of Mouth, rather than by Inftruments in Writing, it is in vain to deny that this is the beft and fecureft way of conveyance that can be taken: fo the common Sense of Mankind declares, and fo the Experience of the World finds it to be in things which D Men
Men take all poffible care about; and it is too manifeft, and much to be lamented, that Men are more follicitous about things Temporal, than about Eternal; which affords too evident a Confutation of all the Pretences of the Infallibility of Oral Tradition, upon this ground, That the Subject Matter of it are things upon which the Eternal Happiness or Mifery of Mankind depends. Befides, the Obligations and the Motives are the fame to tranfmit with all care and faithfulness, the Terms of Salvation to Pofterity by Writing, that they would be, if they were to be tranfmitted by Oral Tradition: the only Difference is, that Writing is the fureft way of Conveyance; not that it wants any Advantage, which can be pretended by Oral Tradition. And the Lord faid unto Mofes, write this for a memorial in a book, Exod. xvii. 14. Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, for ever and ever, Ifa. xxx. 8.
IV. It is requifite that a Divine Revelation fhould be of great Antiquity: Becaufe, upon the fame grounds that we cannot think that God would not at all reveal himself to Mankind, we cannot fuppofe that he would fuffer the World to continue long under a ftate of Corruption and Ignorance, without taking fome care to remedy it, by putting Men into a capacity of knowing and practifing the Duties of Vertue and Religion.
V. Another Requifite of a Divine Revelation, is, that it fhould be fully promulged and published to the World, for the general Good and Benefit of Mankind, that it may attain the Ends for which a Revelation must be defigned.
REASONABLENESS and CERTAINTY
ROM what has been already difcourfed, it appears, that these things are requifite in a Divine Revelation: I. Antiquity. II. Promulgation. III. A fufficient Evidence, by Prophecies and Miracles, in Proof of its Authority. IV. The Doctrines delivered by Divine Revelation must be Righteous and Holy, confiftent with the Divine Attributes, and fuitable to their Condition to whom it is made, and every way fuch as may answer the Design of a Revelation.
The Antiquity of the Scriptures.
S it is evident from the Divine Attributes, that God would not fo wholly neglect Mankind, as to take no care to discover and reveal his Will and Commandments to the World; fo, when there was