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truth also corroborated still further by the actual fulfilment of antient * prophecies relating to the dispersion and other circumstances of this extraordinary people; not to mention the attestation given to their religion, from the Gospel being a continuation of one and the same extraordinary plan of divine providence for the virtuous improvement and happiness of the whole human race. --- : To these revelations from heaven by Moses and by Jesus Christ, for the most beneficent purposes, to make mankind virtuous and happy, it is objected, that their foundations fail on being examined, because the proofs of the interposition of the divine Being in their favour are not to be depended upon, resting solely on the testimony of weak and fallible mortals, who have in all ages delighted in inventing, listening to, and propagating stories of wonderful things, of apparitions and communications with their false gods, to countenance their various superstitions and idolatrous practices, and such practices have been too much imitated and encouraged by Christians themselves. The imputation must be allowed to have some foundation; and this credulous turn and weakness ought ever to put us on our guard, that we suffer not
* See, to name no others, Moses's prophecy concerning the captivity of the Israelites, of a state not yet erected ; and the exact fulfilment of Christ's prophecy, not to say of that of Moses, in so many exact particulars, and the long captivity that was to follow. Deut. xxviii. Luke xix. xxi. -
ourselves to be deceived by false pretences to a divine extraordinary power : but it does not invalidate the testimony of mankind to those instances of it which are accompanied with sufficient evidence, and not loaded with any unnatural contradictory circum; stances.
It should be remembered, however, that it is a misrepresentation of these divine interpositions in behalf of the Gospel, when it is alleged that they are brought to prove the truth of its doctrines, of which, unquestionably, they are not proper proofs: those primary truths, for instance, of Christ's religion, and of all true religion ; namely, that God is to be loved and obeyed before all things; that virtue, or the love of our fellow-creatures, so aş to seek their happiness as our own, is to be cultivated by us : these and the like doctrines have their proper evidence, founded in the nature of man and the relation between him: and his. Maker, independent of miracles, which can add nothing to them in that respect.
The proper province and design of miracles is, to confirm the authority of a prophet or divine messenger in what he delivers concerning the will and government . of God, and men's future destination, where their natural light and faculties fail, them. And in this view, for this purpose, Christ constantly appealed to them; referring men to the works which his Father impowered him to performi, as the evidence of his coming from God; of which they were the direct proofs.;-although they are calculated, and may also be
designed, to revive and powerfully to recall men's attention to important truths within their knowledge, but overlooked and neglected by them. * Some, indeed, would prejudge and set aside at once the whole of the extraordinary and divine communications recorded in the Scriptures, as entirely fabulous, argaing it to be inconsistent with the character and attributes of the great first cause, the supreme, allperfect Being, and therefore impossible for him to alter the course of nature established by himself, and to interrupt those laws of his own appointment, by which he governs and preserves the world. We should here take care, that we are not imposed on by words that signify nothing. For what do we mean by nature, but the art, if we may so speak, of the great Creator, his workmanship; the regular succession of causes and effects appointed by him; by which every thing is brought to pass And who shall take upon him to say, that it is unbecoming him, or that his power is in any way limited and restrained so that he eannot interrupt the general order of things appointed by himself, to promote his wise and benevolent designs? Perhaps this prejudice or difficulty, that has been started against all miraculous interpositions, as implicating a weakness of conduct in the supreme Being, we may, on a nearer inspection, perceive to take its rise purely from men's imperfect conceptions of the divine agency and government. Here, we must ever profess ourselves in the dark, --- - and
and most defective in our judgments, concerning the manner in which the Deity acts; and therefore speak with reverence and uiffidence.
But, as we are persuaded, from what we see and know, that he made all things with most consummatę wisdom, and for the best purposes of universal good, our highest thoughts of him lead us to conclude, that, when he created the world, all future events were before him, known and foreseen in their causes; and every the minutest circumstance relating to every creature contrived and directed ultimately to answer the end designed; since, without this, his wise and kind designs might be liable to be continually crossed and defeated.
In agreement with this idea, the apostle says, Acts xv. 18. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. And we may humbly presume, that we do not err in supposing that the Almighty did at first, and originally, so devise and lay out his course of nature, as we term it, the whole train. of causes and effects, all that was to befall his wholecreation and each individual in it, throughout all. future time, that those events, which we call supernatural, should be the result of established laws and a more comprehensive plan of things, though unperceived by us; as much as the most. ordinary events, our sustenance andi support in life, and that of all other animals, is the effect of those laws that we see to be established. So that, in the eye of a Being who could take in the whole of the divine administration
and operations, those called miraculous are as much the result of general laws, as the most ordinary events. The course of nature, of which we hear so much, and cannot hear too much, if properly viewed and considered by us; those most curious and exact laws, both in the natural and moral system, by which the universe is upheld and preserved, we cannot sufficiently extol and admire. Those who have most minutely scanned and inquired into and best understood them, Barrow, Boyle, Maclaurin, (to name a few only of our own countrymen,) have not been able to contain themselves from breaking out into such holy raptures in contemplation of that wisdom and goodness which formed and preserves the whole of things, as might kindle a flame of devotion in the coldest breast. This may be a lesson to us, in our study of nature and its stupendous laws, not to lose sight of the great. Being, who framed it. For we find some so swallowed up in their disquisitions and researches into the wonderful contrivance with which all the parts of the vast machine are put together, and so doting on their discoveries of some of the secret powers and energies by which it is conducted, as to imagine, that these powers and emergies are something, as it were, inherent in matter, distinct from and independent of its maker. And as all things seem to go on of themselves, (for they see not him whose” secret agency directs and supports the whole,) they are blindly led
* Heb. xi. 27. On