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ftored to Life; when Diseases, inveterate and incurable, are recovered; When natural Defects are supplied, by a Touch, or a Word, or at a Distance, and in an Instant, without any Application or Medicine; No doubt can remain, whether a Principle above Nature do not bring these marvellous things to pass. And, since Men are a part of the Creation thus limited and restrained by Natural Laws and Powers; if They shall at any time over-rule and transcend these; What can we think, but that this is by the extraordinary affistance of the Common Creator and Lord; who reserves to himself that incommunicable Character of Sovereignty, by which his stated Methods are set aside? This then proves the Miracles of our Blessed Saviour, the Prophets, and Apostles, and other holy Men, to be the Works of God, in and by Them; that they were Instances far out of the reach of Human Strength or Wisdom ; and beside, above, or contrary to, the established Rules of Natural Causes, and ordinary Providence.
2. Secondly, The constant Apprehensions, which both Reason and Revelation hath given us of God, forbid us to imagine, that he will employ his Power to deceive his Creatures. Of all the divine Perfections, none shine brighter, or are more amiable in our Eyes, than Truth and Goodness. The Former cannot attest to a Lye, nor the Latter seduce Men into dangerous and destructive Mistakes. To these we are beholden for our Certainty in things of common use; and that, though Men differ sometimes about the report of their Senses, in matters of Speculation; yet all the World agrees in it, so far as is necessary, for the support and convenience of Human Life. And, if so good care be taken, in cases common, and of less importance; much more secure of it may we be, where God immediately interposes, and where a right or wrong Judgment is sure toʻ* E 2
prove of the last consequence to us. For, What Idea can we have of a Cruelty more monstrous, more perfidious, than to leave Men bewildred and lost in their Eternal Concerns ? Men, that have proceeded with all possible Prudence and Caution, that have suspended their Belief till a Miracle took off the Scruple? To suspect, I say, that Almighty God is capable of employing Infinite Power, and disturbing the course of Nature, with a design to mislead and delude such wary, and honest, and teachable Men, is to destroy and subvert his Attributes, and leave our felves no Notion at all of such a Being. Nay, for Him to permit the same Evidences to be produced for Errors, as for Truth, is in effect to cancel his own Credentials, and make Miracles of no significance at all. Thus much may serve to justify Men in embracing that Doctrine, which comes confirmed by Miracles; that these are extraordinary Demonstrations of God's Power : and, that God, as Being perfectly True and Good, could not set his Seal to a forged Instrument, nor will he suffer it to be so nicely counterfeited, as should lead wary and well-intending Men into Deceit and Damna tion. For this were to set Truth and Error
the same foot, by allowing both to produce the same Evidence, the fame Signatures of His Direction and Approbation, in their own behalf; and consequently, to perplex the most important matters, and introduce Scepticism and eternal Confusion.
3. Thirdly, Miracles have this peculiar Advantage, that they come home to the Mind presently, and put Men upon Consideration more powerfully, than any other Motive whatsoever. The comparing things, and the weight of the Reasons produced for them together, is a work, that all People are not fitted for. And even They, who think themselves most so, have yet often been imposed upon, by false Colours, and those deceitful Arts of Arguing, which Men of Skill
make use of, to cast a Mist before the plainest Truths, and to give the greatest Falshoods an air of Probabili ty. But at the best, this is a Work of long and cool Thought, an Improvement, acquired by very slow degrees. A Miracle, on the other hand, pierces quite through the Soul, strikes all our Faculties at once, and, by offering it felf to our bodily Senses, becomes an Argument for the meanest Capacities to judge of. It is not lost in idle Astonishment, and unprofitable Gazing, but carries the Beholders to a speedy Enquiry, and so surprises and instructs together.
Men immediately recollect, that this must be the Hand of God; from whence it is, that we find him ftiled not only He that doth, Pf. lxxvii. 14. but He who alone doth, great Wonders : and therefore Christ does most emphatically ftile these the Works of his Father. They know that so wise a Ruler does John X. 37. not use to go out of the common way, nor break in upon his own Laws, except upon weighty Occasions. They are agreed, that the general reason of his doing so is the giving Credit to some Messenger and Message sent by him. Hence the Sareptan Widow, upon receiving her Son brought to life again by Elijah, presently breaks out into that natural Inference, New by this I know that thou art a Man of God,
1 Kings xvii. and that the Word of God in thy Mouth is Truth. Hence the Multitudes, upon our Lord's dispossessing an unclean Devil, cry out, What thing is this? What new Doctrine is this? for with Authority he commandeth even the unclean Spirits, and they do obey him. Then they feel themselves excited to Attention and Reverence, and look for other collateral Motives of Persuafion. But 'tis the Miracle, that first turns the Scale, and foothie Mind at large from Infidelity or Suspense.
Mark i. 27.
This shews the Force of Miracles, to rouze Men out of their unthinking Indifference to holy things, and to determine their Judgments, when they apply themselves to think in good earnest. And it shews the Necessity of them also to plant new Articles of Faith. Because no Man is bound to receive any Revelation as God's, from those Publishers, who are not able to produce His Attestation of it. So good reason had the Jews to require Miracles of our Lord ; So good had He, upon all Occasions, to appeal to them: So inexcusable was their Perverseness, when refusing an Affent to his Doctrine, which he so frequently, so rightfully challenged, upon this account.
Let this suffice to be spoken of Miracles in general ; The Usefulness, the End of them, the Sense of Mankind concerning them, the Accceptation and Effect they found with impartial and considering People ; and Their natural Tendency to dispose Men for Consideration and Conviction. I now proceed to the Particular Miracle, set before us in the Gospel for this Day. Wherein the following Circumstances more especially call for our Observation.
1. First, The not working it till after some Delay. 2. Secondly, The prudent Manner of doing it. And 3. Thirdly, The Efficacy of it, when done.
1. First, The not working it till after some Delay. To take this matter right, it is requisite to observe, that the Virgin, in some pain, as it should seem, for the Trouble her Friends would be under, for an Entertainment too short for their Company, acquaints
Jesus with their want of Wine. To this
he replies, in Terms so seemingly rough, that Interpreters have been at some trouble about
their Meaning. Woman, what have I 10
do with thee? My hour is not yet come. The Complaint implied a desire of Help from him in this Exigence; But, in cases, where a Heavenly Father's
Honour is to be the governing Principle, an earthly Mother's Authority is quite suspended. And though He, who made all Times, could not be under Subjection to any, nor restrained in his Power, at one Hour more than another ; yet there was an Order to be observed, which would give a Gracefulness and EFficacy to all his Works. And Miracles were not to be wrought at all Adventures, for gratifying the Curiosity of Standers-by, or the Importunity of Friends and Relations ; but had their proper Seasons, of which his own Divine Wisdom could best Judge, and was not to be directed in. This seems the most probable Sense of these Words. In which, as we must; not suspect any thing of disrespect or indecent heat; so neither can we discover a positive Denial. For the next thing his Mother does, (after receiving that Rebuke, due for interposing, farther than her Character could bear her out) is to order the Servants, that whatsoever Jesus should say to them, they should be careful to do it. Here then we have Two things to enquire into, Why our Lord deferred this Miracle at all, and, Why, that seeming Refusal notwithstanding, he did it afterwards.
1. His deferring it at first was highly prudent, to prevent all Suspicion of Ostentation and Vanity. For, though, in the following part of his Ministry, we find him often complying with Peoples first Requests, yet his Circumstances then, and now, were very different.
When his Fame had been spread abroad throughout all the Regions round about, and every Tongue set forth his noble Acts; it better became him, as occasions offered, readily to exert his Power. But at present he was not known to the World ; His Disciples were but few, and fresh Comers, and even his most intimate Acquaintance had not yet any due Apprehensions concerning him. Now