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rence b. tween
ror would be absolutely invincible; and that would, PROP.
XIV. in all respects, be the very same thing as if God worked the miracles to deceive men himself. No man can doubt but evil spirits, if they have any natural powers at all, have power to destroy men's bodies and lives, and to bring upon men innumerable other calamities; which yet, in fact, it is evident God restrains them from doing, by having set them laws and bounds which they cannot pass. Now, for the very same reason, it is infinitely certain that God restrains them likewise from imposing upon men's minds and understandings, in all such cases where wise, and honest, and virtuous men would have no possible way left by which they could discover the imposition.
And here at last the difference between those who The diffo. believe that all miracles necessarily require the immediate power of God himself to effect them, and those who
, those who believe created spirits able to work teach that miracles, is not very great. They who believe all mediate miracles to be effected only by the immediate power God is, ur of God, must do it upon this ground, that they sup- is not, nepose God, by a perpetual law, restrains all subordinate cessarily
requisite intelligent agents from interposing at any time to to the alter the regular course of things in this lower world ; working of (for, to say that created spirits have not otherwise a is not very natural power, when unrestrained, to do what we great at call miracles, is saying that those invisible agents have no power naturally to do any thing at all.) And they who believe that subordinate beings have power to work miracles must yet of necessity suppose that God restrains them in all such cases at least where there would not be sufficient marks left, by which the frauds of evil spirits could be clearly distinguished from the testimony and commission of God.
And now, from these few clear and undeniablo propositions, it evidently follows;
1st. That the true definition of a miracle, in the The true theological sense of the word, is this—that it is a of a mira
PROP. work effected in a manner unusual or different from XIV.
the common and regular method of providence, by the interposition either of God himself, or of some intelligent agent superior to man, for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation to the authority of some particular person. And if a miracle so worked be not opposed by some plainly superior power; nor be brought to attest a doctrine either contradictory in itself, or vicious in its consequences, (a doctrine of which kind no miracles in the world can be sufficient to prove ;) then the doctrine so attested must necessarily be looked upon as divine, and the worker of the miracle entertained as having infallibly a commission from God.
2. From hence it appears, that the complete strength of demonstration of our Saviour's being a teacher sent dence of from God, was, to the disciples who saw his miracles, our Savi: plainly this : That the doctrine he taught, being in
itself possible, and in its consequences tending to promote the honour of God and true righteousness among men; and the miracles he worked being such that there neither was nor could be any pretence of more or greater miracles to be set up in opposition to them,-it was as infallibly certain that he had truly a divine commission as it was certain that God would not himself impose upon men a necessary and invincible error.
3. From hence it appears, how little reason there objection,
is to object, as some have done, that we prove in a
circle the doctrine by the miracles, and the miracles Circle the by the doctrine. For the miracles, in this way of miracles reasoning, are not at all proved by the doctrine ; but doctrine, only the possibility and the good tendency, or at
least the indifferency of the doctrine, is a necessary
condition or circumstance, without which the docby the mi.
trine is not capable of being proved by any miracles. It is indeed the miracles only that prove the doctrine, and not the doctrine that proves the miracles; but then, in order to this end, that the miracles may
and the doctrine
prove the doctrine, it is always necessarily to be first PROP. supposed that the doctrine be such as is in its nature capable of being proved by miracles. The doctrine must be in itself possible and capable to be proved, and then miracles will prove it to be actually and certainly true. The doctrine is not first known, or supposed to be true, and then the miracles proved by it; but the doctrine must be first known to be such as is possible to be true, and then miracles will prove that it actually is so. Some doctrines are, in their own nature, necessarily and demonstrably true, such as are all those which concern the obligation of plain moral precepts ; and these neither need nor can receive any stronger proof from miracles than what they have already (though not perhaps so clearly indeed to all capacities,) from the evidence of right
Other doctrines are in their own nature necessarily false and impossible to be true; such as are all absurdities and contradictions, and all doctrines that tend to promote vice; and these can never receive any degree of proof from all the miracles in the world. Lastly, other doctrines are in their own nature indifferent, or possible, or perhaps probable to be true; and these could not have been known to be positively true, but by the evidence of miracles, which prove them to be certain. To apply this to the doctrine and miracles of Christ. The moral part of our Saviour's doctrine would have appeared infallibly true, whether he had ever worked any miracles or no. The rest of his doctrine was what evidently tended to promote the honour of God, and the practice of righteousness amongst men: Therefore that part also of his doctrine was possible and very probable to be true; but yet it could not from thence be known to be certainly true, nor ought to have been received as a revelation from God, unless it had been proved by undeniable miracles. And the miracles he worked did indeed undeniably prove it to be the doctrine of God. Nevertheless, had his doctrine in any part of it been either absurd and
PROP. contradictory in itself, or vicious in its tendency
and consequences, no miracles could then possibly
doctrine of the miracles. Of the 4. From hence it follows, that the pretended mipretended racles of Apollonius Tyaneus, Aristeas Proconnesius, Apolloni- and some few others among the heathens, even sup
posing them to have been true miracles, (which yet others.
there is no reason at all to believe, because they are very poorly attested, and are in themselves very mean and trifling, as has been fully shown by Eusebius in his book against Hierocles, and by many late writers; but supposing them, I say, to have been true miracles,) yet they will prove nothing at all to the disadvantage of Christianity : Because they were worked either without any pretence of confirming any new doctrine at all; or else to prove absurd and foolish things; or to establish idolatry and the worship of false Gods; and consequently they could not be done by the divine power and authority, nor bear any kind of comparison with the miracles of Christ,* which were worked to attest a doctrine that tended in the highest degree to promote the honour of God and the general reformation of mankind.
To return therefore to the argument. The mi
* Δια τί ουχί και βεβασανισμένως της επαγγελλομένες τις δυνάμεις εξετάσομεν από του βίου και του θες και των επακολουθέντων ταϊς δυνάμεσιν, Mtoi sis Brácou twv &9WTON, * siç S w eravógSwoiv.-Origen. advers. Cels. lib. 2.
Μέσον τοίνυν σαυτόν στήσας των περί του Αριστέου γινομένων, και των περί του Ιησού ιστορουμένων, ίδε ει μή εκ του αποφάντος, και των ωφελουμένων εις ηθών επανόρθωσιν και ευλάβειαν την προς τον επί πάσι θεόν, εστίν είπε ότι πιστευτέον μεν ως ουκ άθεεί γενομένοις τοις περί Ιησού ιστορουμένοις, ουχί δε τους περί της Προκοννησίου 'Αριστέου. Τί μεν γαρ βουλομένη η πρόνοια τα περί τον Αριστέαν παράδοξα έπραγματεύετο, και τι ωφελήσαι τώ των ανθρώπων γένει βουλομένη, τα τηλικαύτα (ως όνει) επεδείκνυτο, ουκ έχεις λέγειν.Id. lib. 3.
dence of our Savi
racles (I say) which our Saviour worked were, to the PROP. disciples that saw them, sensible demonstration of_XIV. his divine commission. And to those who have liv- . ed 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 : Which I shall have occasion to consider presently
Secondly. The proof of the divine authority of the of the fulChristian revelation is confirmed and ascertained, by
prophecies, the exact completion both of all those prophecies that as an eviwent before concerning our Lord, and of those that he himself delivered concerning things that were to our's dihappen after.
Concerning the Messiah it was foretold, (Gen. xlix. Of the 10.) that he should come, before the sceptre departed prophecies from Judah : And accordingly Christ appeared a lit- before,contle before the time when the Jewish government cerning the was totally destroyed by the Romans. It was foretold that he should come before the destruction of the second temple, (Hagg. ii. 7.) The desire of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts ; the glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former: And accordingly Christ appeared some time before the destruction of the city and temple. It was foretold that he should come at the end of 490 years, after the restoring of Jerusalem which had been laid waste during the captivity, (Dan. ix. 24.) and that he should be cut off; and that, after that, the city and sanctuary should be destroyed and made desolate : And accordingly, at what time soever the beginning of the four hundred and ninety years can, according to any interpretation of the words, be fixed, the end of them will fall about the time of Christ's appearing, and it is well known how entirely the city and sanctuary were destroyed some years after his being cut off. It was foretold that he should do many great and beneficial miracles; that the eyes of the blind (Isa. xxxv. 5.) should be opened, and