« ZurückWeiter »
viour's Life, as in the course of this Work: I conceive it may be of some use, to premise somewhat concerning Miracles in general. Which I shall do, in the plainest and most instructive manner, that I can.
1. Now the First thing I observe on this occasion, is, That, upon all extraordinary and new Discoveries of God's Will to Mankind, recorded in Scripture, it appears to have been his constant Usage to strengthen their Authority by Miracles. The Power of working.These was usually imparted to the Persons, whom he thought fit to employ as Instruments, for publishing those Discoveries to the World. In proof of this there is no need to labour: The whole Historical Part of the Old, and New, Testament bear clear and ample Testimony to it. For, from the very first Call of Abraham, out of a Country, over-run with Idolatry and blind Superstition, down to the latest Memorials of St. Paul and the other Aposlles, the Narrative of two thousand years Transactions abounds with Instances of this kind, so very numerous, that it were an Undertaking almost as endless, as it is superfluous, but barely to repeat them. Let it suffice then to remark, upon this occasion; that the End such wondrous Operations were designed to serve, is not merely the Manifestation of God's Almighty Power, but, generally speaking, the employing that Power so, as thereby to give Evidence to some important Truth, to establish the Authority of some eminent Teacher, to convince them who did not yet believe, or to confirm such as were still weak and wavering. They, who will be at the Pains to consider, and compare the Facts, and their several Circumstances, may quickly fatisfy themselves, that this was their general Intent; and will easily discern one, or more of these Purposes, to have been the Motives, even where they were not the Effects, of them. They ought indeed to have been both. And we may justly think it matter of wonder, that
Exod. viii. 196
they should at any time fail of their intended Success; when that hath been considered, which I desire may be observed in the
2. Second Place. That there are few things, wherein Mankind seem to be more agreed, than in the Acknowledgment and Acceptance of Miracles, as an authentick and indisputable Testimony, that the Persons, entrusted with such Power, were employed by God. This Sense of the thing appears, froni the Confession and Practice, not of such only, upon whom the Acknowledgment of the true God, and the Prejudices of Education, might be pretended to have Influence; but of Heathens and Idolaters too. Thus Pharaob's Magicians confess the Miracles of Moses and Aaron, to be the Finger of God. Thus, in the Controversy between Elijah and the Priests of Baal, it was without any difficulty accepted, as a fair Proposal; that He, who answered by Fire from Heaven, should be unanimously served and worshipped: and accordingly upon that Prophet's Sacrifice being confumed, the Cause was immediately yielded. For all the People, when they saw it, fell on
1 Kings Xviii, their Faces, and said, The Lord be is the God, the Lord he is tbe God. Thus Eli
2 Kings v. 8, 17. ja desires, Naaman the Syrian might be sent to Him, that his miraculous Recovery from his Leprosy might make him know, there was a God in Ifrael. And this effect it had ; as appears by his folemn Declaration, that he would thenceforth offer neither Burntoffering nor Sacrifice unto other Gods, but unto the Lord. Thus again Nebuchadnezzar, and after him Darius, was so affected, with the wonderful Deliverances of the three Children, and Daniel; as presently to reverfe their impious Decrees, to put to Death the Advisers of their Punishment, to advance these peculiar Favourites of Heaven to the higheft Trusts, and to enjoin the Worship of the on
24, to 39.
Dan. iii. & iv.
ly true God, by a most folemn Ordinance, to take place throughout their whole Dominions. after all this, think it strange, that, in a Country so much better informed, so much more accustomed to Events of this kind, a Learned Ruler of the Jews should in these terms accoft our Blessed Lord, Rabbi,
we know, that thou art a Teacher come John iii. 2.
from God ; for 10 Man can do these Miracles that thou doest, except God be with him? Or, that a mean Man, who had been born blind, should take the Confidence to confront a whole Assembly of Pharisees,
with this Argument, Since the world beix. 32, 33•
gan was it not heard, that any Man opened the Eyes of one that was born blind. If this Man were not of God, he could do nothing ? Or, that a Consult of wicked Rulers should assign this, as a politick Reason for conspiring the Death of Jesus ; This Man doth ma
ny Miracles; If we let him thus alone, all ix. 47, 48.
Men will believe on him? Or lastly, that our Blessed Saviour himself should put the Credit of his Doctrine upon this short Iflue; If I do not the Works
of my Father, believe Me not; But if I do, X. 37, 38,
though ye believe not Me, believe the Works; that ye may know and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him?
I forbear sundry other Passages to the same effect: presuming, that these fuffice to make it plain, how received a Testimony this of Miracles was, and what Success it hath used to meet with, in all Ages and Parts of the World. The Obstinacy of Some that have stood out against it, proves it indeed to have been not a compulsive or invincible Argument; for nothing can be so to Reasonable Agents. But the Sufficiency of it hath been abundantly feen, as upon other Occasions, fo especially in the Entertainment it prepared for the Gospel, with All, whose Minds were not before block'd up, by those two ordinary im
pregnable Barrier, Wilful Ignorance ; and Worldly Interest.
To what we find in Scripture, concerning the easy and favourable Reception of True Miracles, our own Reason may add a Second Argument, from the Contrivance and Forgery of false ones. For every Counterfeit supposes something, not only of Reality, but of Excellence too, which it hopes to gain the Opinion of, by such artful Dillimulation. Thus Hypocrisy in Religion speaks a confess’d Goodness in Piety and Virtue; and a plausible Lye, the Estimate of Truth. And, as there would be no false Jewels, or false Money, if true Stones and Standard had not both been, and been high in value too: So, had no Miracles been ever wrought ; Or had they not been, in the nature of the thing, fitted to fucceed in the Purposes they were wrought for; It could neither have entred into any Man's head to pretend to them; nor could such Pretences have turn'd to any account. The frequent Impoftures of this kind therefore, which some think to take Advantage from, against Miracles in general, seem rather to conclude the quite contrary way. And instead of inferring, Because many have been falfa, there were never any true: It carries a much better face of reason to say, if there had not been many confessedly True, it can hardly, if at all, be conceived so much as possible, that there should ever have been One False; Less yet, that any fingle Man should have been deluded by it.
This seems to be the case of Miracles, as to the End, and the Fact; I only add in the Third place, That the Nature of These is such, as renders them the most
proper and convincing Evidences that can be, of the thing they are meant to prove: A Commission, I mean from Almighty God, to the Worker of them, and to the Truth of what he shall declare to us in His Name. And in this point, I hope, the Three fol
be admitted, for sufficient Satisfaction.
1. First, That by Miracles are properly understood such Events, as exceed the Power of Nature and ordinary Means, and which the Agent could never effect, by any Skill or Strength of his own. There are many Accidents unusual and strange; Many Compositions and Productions in Nature prodigious and monstrous ; Thefe happen very seldom, and for that reafon surprise us very much, when they do. But, because the result of some secret Powers, and the uncommon coincidence of Causes, make them at least possible to be accounted for, that way; they are not, in strict speaking, Miraculous, though Strange, and full of Wonder. The ground of which Distinction lies in this; that settled Rules, and natural Causes, cannot be marks of a Presence, and Power, immediately divine. The Notions of God and his Providence do all confirm that Remark of the Pfalmift, He commanded
and all things were created : He hath stablished them for ever and ever; he hath given
them a Law, which hall not be broken. So that these regular Appointments in Nature are under the fame Conditions with all other Laws; which cannot be superseded by any Authority less, than that, froin whence they derived their Sanction at first. When any Subject then receives an Operation, of which it is not naturally capable ; Or, which though it be capable of, yet this is by such Means, as are not natuly fitted to produce it; These Operations are miraculous. Nor need it here to give us any great trouble, that the Wisest of Men cannot exactly determine, how far the Powers of Nature may go. Because in these Matters it is enough, that there are many Cases, to which the plainest Man alive may be as sure, as he can be of any thing, that they cannot possibly go. And therefore, when dead Carcases are re