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most considerable part, are such as to be clearly and unquestionably above all human power. Of this sort are the dividing of the Red Sea, the curing inveterate diseases with a word, and raising the dead.

A miracle ought (in order to its being received by those who were not eye-witnesses) to have been wrought in the presence of such a number of creditable witnesses, as to render it unlikely that there should have been any delusion. Though it may be possible, that the senses of one or two persons may be deceived, it is not to be supposed, that those of any number should. And the greater the number of witnesses is, (supposing them credible,) the probability of their being all at the same time under a delusion becomes the less, till it comes to be wholly incredible and inconceivable; and then their testimony becomes unquestionable. This necessary condition ef fectually excludes such pretended miracles as those of Mahomet's vision, which passed wholly without witness. For our Saviour's reasoning is undeniably just; if a man bear record of himself, his record is not true; that is, the mere assertion of a person, who, for any thing that appears, may be interested to deceive, is not a sumcient ground of credit. On this account also that most monstrous insult upon all the senses and faculties of mankind, Transubstantiation, is effectually cut off from all pretensions to the character of a miracle. For the wafer is so far from having been ever turned into a whole Christ before any credible witness or witnesses, that every person, before whom it has been attempted or pretended to be done, has had, or might have had, the assurances of both sense and understanding, that it remained still as much wafer as ever.

The witnesses of a miracle must be credible; they must be under no visible temptation to deceive; and they must be persons of such understanding as to be equal to the examination of the pretended miracle. The pretended miracles of the Papists may on very just grounds be suspected; as we know what immense profits that worldly church gets by deluding the people. The workers of the Scripture-miracles were under no temptation to bribe witnesses; but quite to the contrary. For they all lost, and

none of them gained any thing secular by their works. Moses forsook the court of Pharaoh to wander many years in the wilderness, and die there. The prophets suffered persecution and death for their plainness in reproving the fashionable vices of their times. The blessed Saviour of the world, and his apostles, and the first proselytes to Christianity, exposed themselves to every kind of affliction and distress, and to violent and infamous deaths. So that they cannot, with any shadow of reason, be suspected of having bribed witnesses to testify to their miracles; nor indeed had they any secular advantage to offer in order to gain proselytes.

The witnesses of a supposed miracle must, in order to its credibility, be supposed persons of such understanding as to be equal to the examination of the fact. Now the Scripture-miracles were performed before such numbers, that, according to the common course of human capacities, they must have been seen and examined by many persons, not only of sufficient understanding for inquiring into a simple fact, but of more shrewdness and sagacity than ordinary. Nor was there any superior capacity necessary to determine whether the Red Sea was really miraculously divided, when the thousands of Israel passed through it in full march, and saw the waters as a wall on their right hand, and on their left. Nor was there any occasion for great sagacity to convince those who saw some hundreds of diseased people healed with a word, that real miracles were wrought. Nor was there any subtlety of discernment necessary to convince the disciples of Christ, who had conversed with him for several years, who heard him speak as never man spoke, that he who after his death appeared to several hundreds together, and often conversed intimately with the eleven, for six weeks, was the same person, their well known Lord and Master, whom they saw sacrificed on mount Calvary.

It is said in the above definition of a proper miracle, that, in order to credibility, it is necessary that the effect be such as to be subject to the full examination of the spectators. There are very few of the Scripture-miracles that were not of too substantial and permanent a nature to be in any manner imitated by the præstegia, or tricks of


impostors. A sudden appearance, for a short time, of any strange and unaccountable kind, might be questioned. But a body diseased for many years, cured with a word, a withered limb restored in a moment, a distracted brain instantly redressed, a dæmon authoritatively dispossessed, a man four days buried, recalled to life; these are effects of power too substantial to be mistaken; and too lasting to be suspected of having passed through a superficial examination.

Lastly, it is said in the above definition of a proper and credible miracle, that it must be declared by the worker of it to be wrought expressly in confirmation of some particular doctrine, which doctrine must be such as to commend itself to the unprejudiced reason of mankind, and to bear the marks of a revelation worthy of God, and useful for men. A miracle, or wonderful effect, connected with no particular doctrine, is to be called a natural or artificial phenomenon, or a prodigy; not a miracle in a theological sense, which last alone is what we are at present concerned with.

No miracle whatever, nor any number of miracles, would be sufficient to prove twice two to be five. Because we are more clearly and undoubtedly certain of the proportions of numbers, than of any thing supernatural. And all miracles are supernatural. And it would be absurd to imagine that the infinitely wise Author of reason should expect us to question the certain information of our reason upon evidence less certain.

Again, if miracles are pretended to be wrought in proof of a doctrine which leads to any vicious or impious practice, as we may, by a proper examination, and due use of our faculties, be more certain, that such a doctrine cannot be from God, than we can be that a pretended miracle, in support of it, is from him; it is plain we are to reject both the doctrine and pretended miracle, as insufficient against the clear and unquestionable dictates of reason. But if miracles, answering in every part the above definition, are wrought before credible witnesses, in express attestation of a doctrine, though not discoverable by reason, yet not contradictory to it, and tending to the advancement of virtue and happiness, we ought in any reason to conclude such miracles, when properly attested, to have been performed by the power of God, or of some being authorized by him; and may judge our

; selves safe in receiving them as such; because we cannot suppose that God would leave his creatures in a state obnoxious to remediless delusión; nay, we cannot but think it criminal to neglect, or oppose, miracles in such a manner attested, or the doctrine intended to be established by them.

It has been objected against the account we have in Seripture, of innumerable miracles performed by Moses, and the prophets, Christ, and his apostles; that it is not likely they should be true, because we have none such in our times. That, as we bave no experience of miracles, we have no reason to believe that ever there were any performed.

Supposing it were strictly true, that we have no experience, or ocular conviction, of the possibility of miracles, which is by no means to be taken for granted; those who urge this objection would do well to consider, before they embark their unbelief upon it, how far it will carry them. If, because we see no miracles now, we may safely argue that there never were any, it will be as good sense to say, because we now see an earth, a sun, moon, and stars, there never was a time when they were not; there never was a time when the Divine wisdom governed his natural, or moral system otherwise than he does now; there are no different states of things, nor any different exigencies in consequence of those differences; it is absurd to conceive of any change in any one particular, or in the general economy of the universe. • The account we bave in the New Testament, of the dæmoniacs miraculously cured by our Saviour, has, particularly, been thought to pinch so bard, that some have, in order to get rid of the difficulty, attempted (in my humble opinion, altogether unwarrantable) to explain away the whole doctrine of possession by spirits. How comes it, say the objectors, that we read of such numbers of persons in Christ's time possessed with dæmons; while we have no instances of any such in our days ? To this, some gentlemen, whose abilities I should be proud to equal, and of VOL. II.



whose sincere belief of Christianity I have no more doubt than of my own, have given an answer, which I cannot help thinking extremely hurtsul to the cause." The dæ, moniacs,” say those gentlemen, “ were no more than mad people, who were not then, nor are now, possessed with spirits, any more than other diseased persons. Their being spoken of as possessed, was no other than a common way of expressing their disease or distress; and the dispossessing them, was only the cure; which was still miraculous." But if any man can reconcile this notion with the accounts we have from the Evangelists, he must have a key which I own, I am not master of. That a set of grave historians, sacred historians, should fill up their narration with accounts of what was said by such a number of madmen; that those madmen should universally speak to better purpose than the bulk of those who were in their senses; that they should at once, the first moment they cast their eyes on our Saviour, know him to be the Christ, while some even of his own disciples hardly knew what to think of him; that our Saviour himself sbould enumerate his casting out evil spirits, besides curing diseases, as a miracle entirely separate, and of its own kind, and mention his conquest over Satan and his wicked spirits, as a mark of his being the true Messiah ; that he should allow his disciples to continue in a mistake with respect to a point of such con

a sequence; that he should advise them to rejoice more in the thought of their names being written in heaven, than in their having received power over spirits, without telling them at the same time that they were altogether in a mise take about their having received any such power; that we should be gravely told that the madness (not the spirits) which possessed the men in tombs, intreated our Saviour to send it into the herd of swine; that the madness (not the spirit) should so often intreat and adjure him not to send it to the place of torment before the time, that is, probably, before the last judgment, or perhaps an earlier period spoken of in the Apocalypse ; that all these solemn accounts should be given in such a history, and nothing to show them to be figurative, nor, as far as I can see, any possibility of understanding them otherwise than literally; seems wholly unaccountable, Nor can I help thinking

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