Imágenes de páginas

acter of

evidence of

Christian revelation.

ter; and by the testimony of his followers, which in PROP. all its circumstances was the most credible, certain,

XIV. and convincing evidence, that was ever given to any matter of fact in the world.

First, The Christian revelation is positively and directly proved to be actually and immediately sent to us from God, by the many infallible signs and miracles which the author of it worked publicly as the evidence of his divine commission.

Besides the great excellency and reasonableness of of the life the doctrine considered in itself, of which I have al- and charready treated, it is here of no small moment to ob- our Savi. serve, that the author of it (separate from all exter-our, as an nal proof of his divine commission) appeared in all the truth his behaviour, words, and actions, to be neither an of the impostor nor an enthusiast.* His life was innocentand spotless, spent entirely in serving the ends of holiness and charity, in doing good to the souls and bodies of men, in exhorting them to repentance, and inviting them to serve and glorify God. When his bitterest enemies accused him, in order to take away his life, they could not charge him with any appearance of vice or immorality. And so far was he from being guilty of what they did accuse him of, namely, of vain-glory and attempting to move sedition, that once, when the admiring people would by force have taken him and made him their king, he chose even to work a miracle to avoid that, which was the only thing that could be imagined to have been the design of an impostor. In like manner, whoever seriously considers the answers he gave to all questions whether moral or captious, his occasional discourses to his disciples, and more especially the wisdom and excellency of his sermon upon the mount, which is as it were the system and summary of his doctrine,

* Πευστέον δή αυτών, εί ποτέ τις άλλος τοιέτος πλάνος ιστόρηται, πραότητος και επιεικείας σωφροσυνης τε και της άλλης αρετής διδάσκαλος τοϊς άπαTwévois yeyovas cicios, &c.-Easeb. Demonstrat. Evangelic. lib. 3.


Of the

the evi.


[ocr errors]

PROP. manifestly surpassing all the moral instructions of xiv. the most celebrated philosophers that ever lived; can

not, without the extremest malice and obstinacy in the world, charge him with enthusiasm.

These considerations cannot but add great weight miracles of and authority to his doctrine, and make his own testi

mony concerning himself exceedingly credible. But

the positive and direct proof of his divine commisbis divine commission are the miracles which he worked for that pur

pose; his healing the sick,-his giving sight to the blind,-his casting out devils,—his raising the dead, -the wonders that attended his crucifixion,-his own resurrection from the dead,-his appearance afterwards to his disciples,—and his ascension visibly into heaven.

These, and the rest of his stupendous miracles, were, to the disciples that saw them, sensible demonstrations of our Lord's divine commission : And to those who have lived since that age, they are as certain demonstrations of the same truth, as the testimony of those first disciples, who were eye-witnesses of them, is certain and true.

To the disciples that saw them, these miracles were sensible and complete demonstrations of our Lord's divine commission, because they were so great, and so many, and so public, and so evident, that it was absolutely impossible they should be the effect of any art of man, of any chance, or fallacy; and the doctrine they were brought to confirm was of so good and holy a tendency, that it was impossible he should be enabled to work them by the power and assistance of evil spirits ; so that, consequently, they must of necessity have been performed, either immediately or mediately by God himself.

But here, because there have been many questions general. raised, and some perplexity introduced by the

disputes and different opinions of learned men, concerning the power of working miracles, and concerning the extent of the evidence which miracles give to the truth of any doctrine, and because it hath been much

Of mira. cles in


controverted, whether true miracles can be worked PROP.

XIV. by any less power than the immediate power of God; and whether, to complete the evidence of a miracle, the nature of the doctrine pretended to be proved thereby is requisite to be taken into the consideration or no; it may not perhaps be improper, upon this occasion, to endeavour to set this whole matter in its true light, as briefly and clearly as I can.

1st, then; In respect of the power of God, and in That in rerespect to the nature of the things themselves, ab- hoe por solutely speaking, all things that are possible at all, of God, all that is, which imply not a direct contradiction, are alike easy. equally and alike easy to be done. The power of God extends equally to great things as to sinall, and to many as to few; and the one makes no more difficulty at all, or resistance to his will, than the other.

It is not therefore a right distinction to define or Thatthere. distinguish a miracle by any absolute difficulty in cles ought the nature of the thing itself to be done; as if the not to be

defined by things we call natural were absolutely and in their own nature easier to be effected, than those that we lute diffi

culty in look upon as miraculous; on the contrary, it is evi. dent and undeniable, that it is at least as great an act of the of power to cause the sun or a planet to move at all, themselves as to cause it to stand still at any time: Yet this lat- to be done. ter we call a miracle ; the former not. And to restore the dead to life, which is an instance of an extraordinary miracle, is in itself plainly altogether as easy as to dispose matter at first into such order as to form a human body in that which we commonly call a natural way. So that, absolutely speaking, in this strict and philosophical sense, either nothing is miraculous, namely, if we have respect to the power of God; or, if we regard our own power and understanding, then almost every thing, as well what we call natural, as what we call supernatural, is in this sense really miraculous; and it is only usualness or unusualness that makes the distinction.

any absoa

the nature





2. What degrees of power God may reasonably be XIV: _supposed to have communicated to created beings, to What de. subordinate intelligences, to good or evil angels, is grees of by no means possible for us to determine. Some may have things absolutely impossible for men to effect, it is communi- evident may easily be within the natural powers of ancreated be- gels; and some things beyond the power of inferior ings is not angels may as easily be supposed to be within the possible for natural power of others that are superior to them; and so on.

So that, (unless we knew the limit of communicable and incommunicable power) we can hardly affirm, with any certainty, that any particular effect, how great or miraculous soever it may seem to us, is beyond the power of all created beings in the universe to have produced.

It is not therefore a right distinction to define a therefore a miracle (as some very learned and very pious men not rightly have done,) to be such an effect as could not have defined to been produced by any less power than the divine effect as omnipotence. There is no instance of any miracle could not in scripture, which, to an ordinary spectator, would produced necessarily imply the immediate operation of origiby any less nal, absolute, and underived power: And consequentthan the ly such a spectator could never be certain that the divine om- miraculous effect was beyond the power of all creanipotence. ted beings in the universe to produce. There is one

supposition, indeed, upon which the opinion of all
miracles being necessarily the immediate effects of
the divine omnipotence, may be defended ; and that
is, if God, together with the natural powers where-
with he hath

indued all subordinate intelligent beings, has likewise given a law, or restraint, whereby they be hindered from ever interposing in this lower world, to produce any of those effects which we call miraculous or supernatural : But then, how certain soever it is, that all created beings are under some particular laws and restraints, yet it can never be proved that they are under such restraints universally, perpetually, and without exception: And, with



done either

God him.

out this, a spectator that sees a miracle can never be PROP. certain that it was not done by some created intelligence. Reducing the natural power of created beings to as low a degree as any one can desire to suppose, will help nothing in this matter; for, supposing (which is very unreasonable to suppose) that the natural powers of the highest angels were no greater than the natural powers of men, yet, since thereby an angel would be enabled to do all that invisibly, which a man can do visibly, he would even in this supposition be naturally able to do numberless things which we should esteem the greatest of miracles.

3. All things that are done in the world are done All things either immediately by God himself, or by created in- done in the telligent beings; matter being evidently not at all world, are capable of any laws or powers whatsoever, any more imme than it is capable of intelligence, excepting only this diately by one negative power, that every part of it will, of itself,

self, or by always and necessarily continue in that state, whether created in. of rest or motion, wherein it at present is; so that all telligent

; those things which we commonly say are the effects matter' beof the natural powers of matter and laws of motion, ing capable of gravitation, attraction, or the like, are indeed (if or powers. we will speak strictly and properly) the effects of and con

sequently God's acting upon matter continually and every mo- there is, ment, either immediately by himself, or mediately by properly

speaking, some created intelligent beings : (Which observation, by the way, furnishes us, as has been before noted, thing as with an excellent natural demonstration of Provi- the course dence.) Consequently, there is no such thing as what of nature. men commonly call the course of nature, or the power of nature. The course of nature, truly and properly speaking, is nothing else but the will of God producing certain effects in a continued, regular, constant, and uniform manner; which course or mannerofacting being in every moment perfectly arbitrary, is as easy to be altered at any time as to be preserved. And if (as seems most probable,) this continual acting upon matter be performed by the subserviency of created intelligences appointed to that purpose by the supreme Crea



no such

or power

« AnteriorContinuar »