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nature can do. But this, it is said, is to argue in a circle, is to prove the doctrines first by miracles, and then the miracles by the doctrines : the objection a mistake, which lies in this ; that men do not distinguish between the doctrines proved by miracles, and the doctrines by which miracles are tried; for 'they are not the same. God never wrought miracles to prove the difference between good and evil : this existed and was known before the gospel ; but the doctrines proved by miracles are the new revealed doctrines of Christianity, unknown to and undiscoverable by man's reason. Concluding exhortation to those who hold fast and admire the principles of natural religion, but despise or overlook the proofs of Christianity: the same reasons which oblige them to believe in God, oblige them to believe in Christ also.

DISCOURSE X.

ACTS, CHAP. II._VERSE 22.

Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles

and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.

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The great evidence of Christianity, to which our Saviour and his Apostles constantly appeal, are the miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did by the hand of Jesus to confirm the authority and commission he gave him to publish and declare his will to the world. This being the only reasonable evidence that he could give of his coming from God, our Saviour says expressly, 'If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin :' John xv. 24. If he had not given these undeniable proofs of his being a teacher sent from God, they would have been acquitted, not only in reason, but even out of his own mouth. “If I do not the works of

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Father,' says he, believe me not:' John X. 37. • If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true :' John v. 31. and he adds, verse 36, “The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father sent me. Thus, when St. John sent to him to inquire expressly whether he was the Christ or no, he showed the messengers his works, and bade them relate to John what they had seen ; referring it to him to judge by his works, which were the only proper evidence, whether he was the Christ or no.

The truth then of Christianity resting on the authority of miracles, I shall endeavor in the following discourse to show,

First, Wherein the true force of this argument from miracles consists, and what it is that they prove.

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Secondly, What sort of works are to be admitted for miracles in proving the truth of any religion.

First, I shall endeavor to show wherein the true force of this argument from miracles consists, or what it is that they prove.

Miracles are not intended to prove the being of God, nor the doctrines of morality; for natural religion is supported by natural reason, and has for its evidence the works of nature. Thus St. Paul argues in his first chapter to the Romans, declaring that what was to be known of God was manifest to men, God having showed it unto them : For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.' And in the most corrupt and degenerate times God did not leave himself without witness, continuing to do good, to give rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling the hearts of men with joy and gladness. These are the standing proofs of the being and goodness of God; and men need but open their eyes, and look round them, to see the wonderful and stupendous works of nature, which lead directly to the knowlege of God. And what greater evidence can man have than this ? for if the making one world will not prove the being of a God, the making of ten thousand will not. And therefore this is a principle of religion not learnt from revelation, but which is always supposed as the foundation of revelation ; for no revelation can bring greater works to prove its authority, than the works by which the clear and unexceptionable dictates of natural religion are proved; for the distinction between miracles and works of nature is no more than this, that works of nature are works of great power, produced constantly and in a regular course, which course we call nature; that miracles are works of great power also, wrought in an unusual

way: : but they are both considered in the same light, and with equal advantage, as effects leading to the knowlege of a great though invisible power. Thus we must acknowlege great power to be shown in the sun's constant rising and setting; and as great in his standing still, should we see him stopped in his course for the space of a whole day. That we have all eyes to see, and ears to hear, is an effect of

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as great power, as giving sight to one born blind, or hearing to one born deaf. On this account it is impossible that any true revelation should contradict or evacuate any clear dictate of natural religion, which stands at least on as good a bottom as any revelation can do. And therefore the principles of natural religion must be supposed for the foundation of revealed; which is intimated by the writer to the Hebrews : · He that comes to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him;' that is, he must bring this belief with him ; for a revelation is not to prove the being of a God, or that he loves virtue, and hates vice. God never wrought miracles for this purpose, having sufficiently evidenced himself from the beginning of the world by the visible things of the creation; and had any one asked our Saviour to show a proof that there was a God, I am apt to imagine he would have turned him over to the works of nature, as he did the rich man’s brethren to Moses and the prophets for a proof of a future state.

But to ascertain the use of miracles, it will be proper to consider when and for what purpose they were introduced. In early times we meet with none; nor was there any

occasion for them, so long as men preserved a right notion of God as Maker and absolute Lord of the universe, and were acquainted with him (I had almost said, personally acquainted with him) and knew his voice when he spoke to them; for so long they received his commands without doubt or hesitation; and being perfectly satisfied that the command came from God, what weight or authority could the multiplying of signs and wonders add to their persuasion ? for signs and wonders could only show that the command came from God, to whom all nature obeyed and was subject ; and as they wanted no such proof, there was no room or occasion for the introducing of miracles. But when idolatry prevailed in the world, and every nation

, had its peculiar deity, to whom they gave the name of God, it became necessary, in order to preserve true religion in the world, to distinguish between the true God and the pretended deities adored by the heathen. The great works of the creation were standing proofs of the being of a God, and common to all nations; and therefore the belief of a Deity was the common

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persuasion of the world; for though men in general were become idolaters, yet they were not atheists; but then the true God was forgotten, or almost lost in the multiplicity of false gods, to whom the blindness of the world ascribed the honor and power due to the one Supreme only.

In this state of things God thought proper to exert himself in such acts of power as should demonstrate his superiority above all gods of the heathen, and to assume a character of distinction, that the hand might be certainly known from which the mighty works proceeded : and it is very observable that God did publicly assume such a character and work miracles, at one and the same time. The first miracles of which we have any account, were those wrought by Moses in Egypt; and at the same time God declared himself to be the God of the Hebrews. And this was the first declaration of himself to the world under such a character: for we do not read he ever styled himself the God of Noah, or the God of Shem, or of any other person, till after the call of Abraham ; for to him he appeared at first, and said, I am the Almighty God:' Gen. xvii. 1. And though in the family of Abraham he was known by the name of the God of Abraham, yet was not that relation understood in the world, till Moses had express command to make it known to Pharaoh and his people. And the accuracy with which the message was delivered,' is observable ; for though God commanded Moses in speaking to the children of

• The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me;' yet in speaking to the king of Egypt, who probably might know little of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his orders are to say,

The God of the Hebrews hath met us,' &c. Exod. iii. 15, 18. and v. 3. It

may appear strange to us to hear the God, the Creator of heaven and earth, assuming to himself a character that seems to limit the right of his dominion; for why does he, who is God of all the world, style himself “ the God of the Hebrews ? Is he not the God of all nations ? Or why does he appeal to miracles wrought under the character of God of the Hebrews, when the great works of the creation (of all miracles the

Israel to say,

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