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racle is not
PROP. tor, then it is as easy for any of them, and as much XIII.
within their natural power, (by the permission of God,) to alter the course of nature at any tiine, or in any respect, as to preserve or continue it.
It is not therefore a right distinction to define a fore a mi. miracle to be that which is against the course of narightly de ture, meaning, by the course of nature, the power of fined to be nature or the natural powers of created agents; for, is against in this sense, it is no more against the course of nathe course ture for an angel to keep a man from sinking in the or above water, than for a man to hold a stone from falling in the natural the air by overpowering the law of gravitation ; and powers of
yet the one is a miracle, the other not so. In like manner, it is no more above the natural power of a created intelligence to stop the motion of the sun or of a planet, than to continue to carry it on in its usual course ; and yet the former is a miracle, the latter not so: But, if by the course of nature, be meant only (as it truly signifies) the constant and uniform manner of God's acting, either immediately or mediately, in preserving and continuing the order of the world, then, in that sense, indeed, a miracle may be rightly defined to be an effect produced contrary to the usual course or order of nature, by the unusual interposition of some intelligent being superior to men, as I shall have occasion presently to observe more particularly.
And from this observation we may easily discover reasonable- the vanity and unreasonableness of that obstinate those who prejudice which modern deists have universally taken
up against the belief of miracles in general : They possibility of miracles see that things generally go on in a constant and rein general. gular method; that the frame and order of the world
is preserved by things being disposed and managed in an uniform manner; that certain causes produce certain effects in a continued succession according to certain fixed laws or rules; and from hence they conclude, very weakly and unphilosophically, that there are in matter certain necessary laws or powers, the result of which is that which they call the course
den v the
of nature, which they think is impossible to be chang- PROP. ed or altered, and consequently, that there can be no
XIV, such thing as miracles : Whereas, on the contrary, if they would consider things duly, they could not but see that dull and lifeless matter is utterly incapable of obeying any laws, or of being indued with any powers; and that, therefore, that order and disposition of things, which they vulgarly call the course of nature, cannot possibly be any thing else but the arbitrary will and pleasure of God exerting itself and acting upon matter continually, either immediately by itself, or mediately by some subordinate intelligent agents, according to certain rules of uniformity and proportion, fixed indeed, and constant, but which yet are made such merely by arbitrary constitution, not by any sort of necessity in the things themselves, as has been abundantly proved in my former discourse : And, consequently, it cannot be denied, but that it is altogether as easy to alter the course of nature as to preserve it; that is, that miracles, excepting only that they are more unusual, are in themselves, and in the nature and reason of the thing, as credible in all respects, and as easy to be believed, as any of those we call natural effects.
4. Those effects which are produced in the world Some efregularly and constantly, which we call the works of fects prove nature, prove to us, in general, the being, the power, stant pro- . and the other attributes of God. Those effects, which videuce of
God, and upon any rare and extraordiary occasion, are produ- others ced in such manner that it is manifest they could nei- prove the ther have been done by any power or art of man, interposi. nor by what we call chance, that is, by any composi- tion eitheir tion or result of those laws which are God's constant himself, or and uniform actings upon matter, these undenia- of soine
in elligent bly prove to us the immediate and occasional inter
being suposition either of God himself, or at least of some in-perior to telligent agent superior to men, at that particular time, and on that particular account. For instance, the regular and continued effects of the power of gravitation, and of the laws of motion; of the me
of God, or of some
PROP. chanic, and of the animal powers; all these prove to us,
in general, the being, the power, the presence, and the constant operation, either immediate or mediate, of God in the world. But if, upon any particular occasion, we should see a stone suspended in the air, or a man walking upon the water, without any visible support, a chronical disease cured by a word speaking, or a dead and corrupted body restored to life in a moment; we could not then doubt but there was an extraordinary interposition either of God himself, in order to signify his pleasure upon that particular occasion, or at least of some intelligent agent far superior to man, in order to bring about some particular design.
5. Whether such an extraordinary interposition of such inter. position be
some power superior to men be the immediate inthe imme. terposition of God himself, or of some good angel, or diate work of some evil angel, can hardly be distinguished cer
tainly, merely by the work or miracle itself; because good or er it is impossible for us to know, with any certainty, vil angels, can hardly either that the natural power of good angels, or of be discover evil ones, extends not beyond such or such a certain ed merely
limit, or that God always restrains them from exerwork it- cising their natural powers in producing such or such
It is not therefore a right distinction, to suppose is no rear the wonders which the scripture attributes to evil spipose all the rits, to be mere præstigiæ, sleights, or delusions. For wonders, if the devil has any natural power of doing any thing worked by evil spirits, at all, even but so much as the meanest of men, and to be mere be not restrained by God from exercising that natu
ral power, it is evident he will be able, by reason of his invisibility, to work true and real miracles. Neither is it a right distinction to suppose the miracles of evil spirits not to be real effects in the things where they appear, but impositions upon the senses of the spectators; for, to impose in this manner upon the senses of men, (not by sleights and delusions, but by really so affecting the organs of sense as to make things appear what they are not;) is to all in
son to sup
tents and purposes as true a miracle, and as great PROP. an one, as making real changes in the things themselves.
6. When therefore, upon any particular occasion, How we for instance, when at the will of a person who teaches are to dissome new doctrine as coming from God, and in tes- miracles timony to the truth of that doctrine, there is plainly Goth, for
worked by and manifestly an interposition of some superior the proof power producing such miraculous effects as have of any docbeen before mentioned; the only possible ways by the frauds which a spectator may certainly and infallibly dis- of evil
spirits. tinguish whether those miracles be indeed the works, either immediately of God himself, or (which is the very same thing,) of some good angel employed by him, and, consequently, the doctrine witnessed by the miracles be infallibly true and divinely attested; or whether, on the contrary, the miracles be the works of evil spirits, and consequently the doctrine a fraud and imposition upon men: The only possible ways (I say) of distinguishing this matter certainly and infallibly, are these :-If the doctrine attested by miracles be in itself impious, or manifestly tending to promote vice, then, without all question, the miracles, how great soever they may appear to us, are neither worked by God himself, nor by his commission; because our natural knowledge of the attri.. butes of God, and of the necessary difference between good and evil, is greatly of more force to prove any such doctrine to be false than any miracles in the world can be to prove it true : As, for example, suppose a man, pretending to be a prophet, should work any miracle, or give any sign or wonder whatsoever, in order to draw men from the worship of the true God, and tempt them to idolatry, and to the practice of such vices as in all heathen nations have usually attended the worship of false Gods, nothing can be more infallibly certain, than that such miracles ought at first sight to be rejected as diabolical. If the Deut. xiii. doctrine attested by miracles be in itself indifferent, that is, such as cannot by the light of nature and
PROP. right reason alone, be certainly known whether it be XIV.
true or false ; and, at the same time, in opposition to it, and in proof of the direct contrary doctrine, there be worked other miracles, more and greater than the former, or at least attended with such circumstances as evidently show the power by which these latter are worked to be superior to the power that worked the former; then that doctrine which is attested by the superior power must necessarily be believed to be divine: This was the case of Moses and the Egyptian magicians. The magicians worked several miracles to prove that Moses was an impostor, and not sent of God; Moses, to prove his divine commission, worked miracles more and greater than theirs, or else (which is the very same thing,) the power by which he worked his miracles restrained the power by which they worked theirs, from being able at that time to work all the same miracles that he did ; and so appeared evidently the superior power : Wherefore, it was necessarily to be believed that Moses's commission was truly from God. If, in the last place, the doctrine attested by miracles be such as, in its own nature and consequences, tends to promote the ho
, nour and glory of God and the practice of universal righteousness amongst men, and yet, nevertheless, be not in itself demonstrable, nor could, without revelation, have been discovered to be actually true, (or even if it was but only indifferent in itself, and such as could not be proved to be any way contrary to or inconsistent with these great ends,) and there be no pretence of more or greater miracles on the opposite side to contradict it; (which is the case of the doctrine and miracles of Christ ;) then the miracles are unquestionably divine, and the doctrine must, without all controversy, be acknowledged as
an immediate and infallible revelation from God : Matt. xii. Because, (besides that it cannot be supposed that evil
spirits would overthrow their own power and kingdom,) should God, in such cases as these, permit evil spirits to work miracles to impose upon men, the er