Imatges de pÓgina

that which is only pretended. All works therefore performed, as in the foregoing instances, against the known course of nature, and avowedly for a good end, of the highest importance, must be attributed to God, either as immediately causing, or else as commanding, or, at least, as permitting them, for that good end; and consequently, take them in what light you will, must prove the divinity of the worker's mission.

Pursuant to what hath been laid down, were any thing, directly contrary to nature, performed in the sight of one wholly unacquainted with nature, he could not understand it as a miracle, that is, as supernatural, or as a proof of any point whatsoever, beyond that of an equivalent cause. It would be really a miracle, or a wonderful effect of the Divine power, but not to his understanding. This shews, that the naturally invariable course of things, or agency of causes, must be so far clearly understood by those to whom a miracle is exhibited in the way of proof, as nature is counteracted, reversed, or suspended, by that miracle; or it can neither appear a miracle, nor a proof, to them. A man may be greatly surprised at a very striking effect or performance, which he never saw, nòr heard of before; but he can with no certainty conclude it the effect of a divine and supernatural cause, if he knows no part of nature, to which it is evidently contrary; or knows not so much of nature in general, as to see nature alone could not possibly produce it. We cannot conceive, that Adam, supposing him destitute of all knowledge, but what he acquired by experience, could have been affected with the sight of his son Abel alive, some days after he knew him to be dead, in the same manner, as one of us should be, did the like happen to ourselves, now that we know, by the experience of all men, in all ages, what death is, and that no dead man naturally revives.

There is no other method by which the stated laws and principles of nature may be known, but by experiment. The natural philosophers of former ages, although they all planned their systems on this basis (for they could not possibly have another), yet, paying too little respect to it, and building on too few, or too hasty, experiments, did but bewilder themselves in the search of natural causes, and gave

us little else than mere whims and dreams for discoveries. Bacon was the first who put the study of nature in a proper course; and Boyle and Newton, following that course, arrived at certainty in many things, that had been utterly unknown, or but darkly guessed at, before their times. But they sought only for hidden principles, or remote causes; whereas all the rest of mankind have been, since the creation, employed, by an unavoidable necessity, in making such experiments as discover the ordinary and common causes of things. In this respect, every plain illiterate man is an experimental philosopher, who, by infinite trials, hath made himself so far acquainted with nature, as his own occasions require. Hence it is, that he knows the difference between sight and blindness, between hearing and deafness, between the free use of his limbs and lameness, between health and sickness, and between life and death, with more certainty, because on the strength of more experiments, made either by himself or others, than Newton did the difference between his own attraction, and the pressure of Cartesius. Yet had any one, in the midst of Sir Isaac's successful experiments, made in proof of his attraction, come in, and, by a single word, taught his ball of lead to ascend in open air, or caused his two bo'dies, already approaching by the force of attraction, suddenly to fly asunder, he must have taken the phenomenon for the effect of a supernatural cause, or else, contrary to all his experience, have given up his attraction, as neither natural nor stated. And why is the plain man to form any other conclusion, when, in direct opposition to the uniform experience of himself and all other men, he sees the blind endued with sight, the sick restored to health, or the dead raised to life, in a moment, and by a word or touch; or actually feels the delightful change wrought in himself?

But here the objector says, These changes may proceed from natural causes, unknown to us. The powers of nature, he tells us, and we grant it, are very great, and often hidden from the bulk of mankind; while some men, or some other creatures superior to men, who happen to be acquainted with them, may so turn the force of these prepollent natural powers against the operation of weaker, but more obvious, causes, as to produce those effects we call miracles. Of this, he says, we see instances every day; as, in the cure of agues,

by the bark; of rheumatisms, by the electrical shock; and of various other disorders, by secret nostrums. He says, moreover, that many common experiments in natural philosophy, and the tricks of legerdemain, seem perfectly miraculous to the vulgar. How far, he farther urges, the powers of nature may go, or may be known, and applied, by men, or separate spirits, we cannot tell; and therefore cannot be sure the performances we Christians call miraculous, might not have been effected without having recourse to a divine power.

We are obliged to hear him out, and must own, his objection might have a great deal in it, were it not for one defect; namely, that it is nothing to the purpose. Surely common sense must tell us, there is an immense difference between such effects as are produced by medicines, by instruments, by a long apparatus, and never without them; and such as are exhibited by a word or touch, without medicines, without instruments, without any apparatus. It is no matter what the secret powers of nature may be; it is evident, that, in the case before us, no power of nature was applied, but a power, if we may judge by ourselves, and universal experience, directly contrary, or quite superior, to those powers of nature, that are known to act with the greatest force, and without the smallest variation, since the origin of things.

As to the agency of separate spirits; allowing the objector a right to call them in, which is more perhaps than he will, in good earnest, allow himself, we may say the same of them that we do of men; they cannot supersede that course of nature, which God hath impressed on his works, without his assistance. If they are good beings, they will not choose to do it, in case they can; if they are evil beings, God will neither empower nor permit them to overturn what he hath established in the natural, in order only to introduce enormities in the moral world. It may seem somewhat odd, that men who believe little or nothing of angels, devils, or separate spirits, and, on most occasions, make a jest of such beings, should nevertheless, to serve the present turn, introduce them in a serious argument by way of poetical machinery, when nothing else can extricate them from a difficulty that pinches too close for their skill in sophistry; although,

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at other times, they speak of their own reason as too sufficient to fly to any other being for higher wisdom; and do not readily allow, there is any thing in the creation that can do much more than themselves. But if those performances wrought by the prophets, by Christ, and by his apostles, which we call miracles, were only the effect of skill and legerdemain, or of a deeper insight into nature, than any other men were ever masters of, the world hath been more beholden to those deceivers, than ever it was to all the speakers of truth, and doers of right things, since the creation; for they died to bring credit to their illusions, and performed those illusions for no other intelligible purpose, but to reclaim mankind from sin and wickedness. It was impossible for them to give their doctrines the least air of divine revelations by any other means, than that of ascribing them to God, and proving they came from him by their wonderful works, which, as well as the doctrines, they ascribed also to God, in the words of mytext, and a hundred other places. After all, were neither the doctrines the dictates of divine wisdom, nor the works the effect of divine power; were the whole a mere imposition; what did the imposers gain, or hope to gain, by it, but persecution, misery and death? And what did the great deceiver, who, as they could never have willingly undertaken a design so destructive to themselves, must have forced them on it, gain, by it, but the reformation and happiness of mankind, whom to render as corrupt and miserable as himself, is all he could possibly have had in view? We do not find, on other occasions, that imposition is made the introduction to truth, nor falsehood the means of establishing honesty, and integrity of manners, in the world; nor do we hear, that other deceivers designedly labour to serve the rest of mankind, to the loss of all their own worldly comforts, and at the expense of their lives

Here the objectors put us in mind of the wonders performed by the Egyptian magicians, at a trial between them and Moses, before Pharoah; of the secrets whereby, Josephus says, Solomon could cast out devils, and whereby one Eleazar actually expelled a devil, before Vespasian and his army; and of the miracles wrought by that emperor, on two men, the one blind, the other lame, at Alexandria.


these things, saith the objector, were done by natural secrets, or by invisible agents, so might those which you Christians style miracles. If they were done by the power of God, why should not those Egyptians and Romans, who did them, insist on the divinity of their religions, respectively, as well as others, for the like reasons, do on theirs?

But does the objector believe these accounts, or not? If he does, he can no longer surely call in question the truth of evangelical history, in relation to the facts we call miraculous, since those facts are infinitely better attested; but, if he does not, why does he fling the unscriptural miracles in our faces? Have we not as good a right to disbelieve them as he? It is true, as to the performances of the Egyptian magicians, they make a part of that history, which we, as Christians, do profess the belief of, and therefore are obliged to answer on this particular fact.

In the first place, what they did does by no means apappear to have been performed, either by the power of their gods, or in vindication of their religion, but merely in ostentation of their own power, and in opposition to Moses and Aaron; and therefore ought to have no consequences as to religious faith of any kind. In the second place, whatever power it was, it could not have been the power of God; because it was baffled and overpowered by his, in the hands of his servants; and the magicians themselves acknowledged it, when they had unsuccessfully attempted to turn the dust into lice, as Aaron had done: This,' said they, is the finger of God,' Exod. viii. 19. Besides, they were afflicted with the miraculous plague of boils, as well as the other Egyptians; and probably suffered, not only in the destruction of the first-born, because there was no house in Egypt exempted, but likewise in all the other plagues. This could not have been the case, nor could they have failed in any of their attempts, had they acted by a commission from God. In the third place, all they did, was done to gratify a tyrant, and to support the cause of injustice and oppression. And, in the fourth place, their skill, or power, extended only to the doing mischief: neither could they undo what they had done; which shews their art was defective and confined, and gives it the air of a trick, far short of a real power over the nature of things. Hence we may

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