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tament History by chronological and geographical evidences. Nor would any set of impostors have overloaded their scheme with such a number of circumstances no way necessary to it, for fear of committing some blunder which might have detected them. The miraculous power of inflicting death upon offenders, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, and blindness in that of Elymas, was not a thing to be boasted of, if it had not been true; because of the danger of being called to account by the civil magistrate. And that the New Testament History is not a forgery of latter times, is much better established, than that the Eneid, the Metamorphosis, and Horace's works, were written in the Augustan age. For none of them was authenticated by whole churches, nor are they cited by multitudes of authors contemporary with them, as the apostolical writings are by Barnabas, Clemens, Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, and the rest; and acknowledged to be the genuine works of the authors whose names they bear, by enemies, as Tripo, Julian the Apostate, and others of the earliest ages, and authenticated by succeeding writers through every following period. The numerous ancient apologists for Christianity, in their addresses to the emperors, confirm the particulars of the New Testament History by their appeals to records then extant, and persons then living. And history shows, that those appeals were so convincing as to gain the Christians, from time to time, favour and mercy from the emperors.
That the Mosaic history of the Patriarchs, and their posterity, the Jews and Israelites, is genuine, is in a manner visible at this day, from the present circumstances of that part of them, who are distinguished from all other people, I mean the Jews, or the posterity of the two tribes; for those of the ten, are, according to the predictions of prophecy, at present undistinguished, though hereafter to be restored with their brethren, the Jews, to their own land. There is no such minute and circumstantial proof that the Italians are the descendants of the ancient Romans, or the French of the Gauls.
It is to be observed, that the miraculous and supernatural parts of the sacred story depend on the very same authority as the common, and accordingly related in the
same manner; and the whole hangs so together, and rests on the same foundation, that they must either be both true, or both false. But no one ever imagined the latter to be the case.
The simplicity of the Scripture accounts of the most striking and amazing events any where related, their being described in the same artless and unaffected manner as the common occurrences of history, is at least a very strong presumption that the relaters had no design of any kind, but to give a true representation of facts. Had Moses, the most ancient of historians, had any design to impose upon mankind; could he, in his account of the crea tion, the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire from heaven, of the escape of the Israelitish people from Egyptian tyranny, and their passage through the wilderness under his own conduct, (a retreat more remarkable than that of the ten thousand under Xenophon, which makes such a figure in history,) could the relater of these amazing events have avoided expatiating and flourishing upon such astonishing scenes, had they been mere invention? Would the fabulous writer of a set of adventures, of which himself was the fictitious hero, have spoke of himself with the modesty which appears in the Mosaic history? Would he have represented himself as capable of timidity, diffidence, or passion? Would he have immortalized his own weaknesses? Had the inventor of the Scripture account of Abraham, and his posterity, intended his fictitious history as an encomium upon that people, as Virgil did his neid on his countrymen, would he have represented them as perverse disobedient people, so often under the displeasure of their God; condemned to wander forty years, and perish at last to the number of many thousands in the wilderness, to the seeming disparagement of the wisdom of their leader; ever deviating into the worship of idols, contrary to what might have been expected from the numerous miracles wrought in their favour by the true God, a circumstance very improper to be dwelt on, as being likely to bring the truth of those miracles into question with superficial readers?
Would the inventors of the New Testament History, supposing it a fiction, have given an account of such a se
ries of miracles in the cool and unaffected manner they do, had they not been genuine? Could they have avoided some flights of fancy in describing such wonders as the feeding of thousands with almost nothing; the curing of diseases, calming of tempests, driving evil spirits from their holds, and calling the dead out of their graves, with a word? Could they have given an account of the barbarities inflicted on the most innocent and amiable of all characters, without working up their narration to the pitch of a tragedy?
Must not a man be out of his wits before he could think of writing a set of grave directions about the conduct of miraculous and supernatural gifts, as of speaking foreign languages which the speakers had never learned; for telling future events, and the like; must not a man be distracted, who in our times, when no such miraculous gifts subsist, should write of them as common and unquestionable? This the Apostle Paul, one of the most judicious writers of antiquity, sacred or profane, does in a variety of places; mentioning them incidentally, and without going out of his way to prove the existence of them, and even depreciating them in comparison with moral virtues. What is to be concluded from hence, but that those miraculous gifts were at that time as notorious, and common, as perhaps, the knowledge of mathematics, or any other science is now among us?
Miracles being a very important part of the evidence for Revelation, it is proper to consider a little that subject. And first, one would wonder that ever it should have occurred to any person, that the proof from miracles is a weak or suspicious one, supposing the miracles to be really such, and nothing inconsistent in the doctrine they are brought in proof of. For nothing seems more reasonable to expect, than that if the Author of Nature should choose to be likewise Author of Revelation, he should show his concern in the establishment or promulgation of 'such Revelation, by exerting that power over nature. which we know he is possessed of, and for which we believe and adore him, as the Author of Nature. Can any thing be more reasonable to expect than that He, who first breathed into man the breath of life, should, in order
to assure mankind that a particular message comes from Him, give power to those he employs in carrying such message, to restore life to the dead; or than that He, who made the elements of the Natural world, should authenticate his revealed laws by giving to those whom he employs in promulgating them, a power over nature, a command of the elements of air and water; so that winds may cease to rage, and waves to roll, at their word? There is indeed all the reason in the world to believe, that those very objectors against the propriety of miracles, as a proof of a Revelation, coming from God, would have found fault with Christianity had there been no account of miracles in Scripture, as deficient in one very strong and convincing evidence of a Divine original.
The proper definition of such a miracle as may be supposed to be worked by Divine Authority for proof of a Revelation from God, is, an immediate and extraordinary effect of power superior to all human; exhibited in presence of a competent number of credible witnesses, in such a manner as to be subject to their deliberate examination, expressly declared to be intended for establishing a doctrine in itself reasonable, and useful for the improvement of mankind in virtue.
First, a proper miracle, in the theological sense, must be an immediate and extraordinary effect of power, exhibited expressly for the purpose. For the application of any of the constant and regular powers or properties of natural bodies, in however artful, or, to common people, inconceivable a manner, is no miracle; else, all the arts, especially chemistry, might be said to be systems of miracles. The pretended miracle of the liquefaction of the blood of Saint Januarius, with which the priests in Popish countries yearly delude the ignorant people, is no more than the natural effect of a certain liquor dropped upon a mass of a particular gummy or rosinous substance, which dissolves in a manner as little miraculous as that of a lump of sugar, upon which water is dropped. But to proceed. The miraculous work performed must be the effect of a power superior to all human. It is not neces sary that it be superior to angelic power. Because our best notions of the Divine economy lead us to believe
that spiritual beings are the instruments of God for the advantage of mankind. So that while we believe this, to question a miracle performed by a good angel, would be insulting heaven itself. And we may reasonably conclude from the tendency of the doctrine or laws to be established, whether the miracle is wrought by a good or evil being, according to our Saviour's reasoning, Matth. xii. 35. A miracle performed in confirmation of a doctrine tending to promote and establish virtue in the world, and to defeat the designs which evil beings may have against mankind, may reasonably be concluded to be wrought by the power, not of a fiend, but a good spirit, and contrariwise. For it is reasonable to expect a being to exert his power for the advancement of what is agreeable to his own character, and not for the contrary purpose.
Some miracles may be conceived not to be clearly, and indisputably, above all human power; and yet to be genuine miracles. Some of the works of Moses were such, that the Egyptian artists could imitate them in some manner, delusive indeed, and defective; but which rendered it at least disputable whether they were wholly above human power, or not. Nor is it necessary, that every Divine mission be so authenticated as to put its genuineness beyond all possible question. It is enough, if, upon the whole, there be a considerable overbalance of credibility. For, after all, direct revelations of all kinds are ever to be considered as exuberances of Divine Goodness; as advantages beyond what rational agents, in most cases, have any ground to expect; and are therefore by no means to be thought deficient, if they want this or that evidence, and be not attended with all the circumstances of conviction which our fantastical imaginations could invent. The least and lowest degree of supernatural assistance is more than we had any reason to expect, or pretence to demand. And had we never been blessed with any clear and extensive Revelation, we should have been altogether without excuse in acting a wicked part, and stifling the light of natural conscience.
Others of the Scripture miracles, and those by far the