Page images
PDF
EPUB

ly and narrowly we look into them, the more occafion we shall have to admire their fine and subtle texture, their beauty, and use, and excellent contrivance. The same we may fay of the standing evidences of the gospel ; every time they are confidered and inquired into, they gain upon fincere unbyaffed minds, appear ftill more reafonable and satisfactory than before, and more worthy every way of that inimitable power and skill which wrought them: And, on that account they are, doubtless, better contrived to work a rational, a deep, and durable conviction in us, than those astonishing motives, which exert all their force at once, upon the first proposal. An argument, that is fometime working its way into the understanding, will at last take the furer hold of it; as those trees, which have the flowest growth, are, for that reason, of the longest continuance. To all which, we may add, in the '.

Third place, That, let the evidence of such a particular miracle be never so bright and clear, yet it is still but particular; and must, therefore, want that kind of force, that degree of influence, which accrues to a standing general proof, from its having been tryed and approved, and consented to by men of all ranks and capacities, of all tem.pers and interests, of all ages and nations. A wise man is then best satisfied with his own reasonings and persuasions, when he finds that wise 2!!d considering men have in like manner reason. (d, and been in like manner persuaded; that the fame argument, which weighs with him, has wcighed with thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand before him; and is such as hath

borne borne down all opposition, where ever it hath been fairly proposed, and calmly considered. Such a reflection, tho': it carries' nothing perfectly deci. five in it, yet creates a mighty confidence in his breast, and strengthens him much in his opinion. Whereas he, who is to be wrought upon by a spe cial miracle, hath no helps, no advantages of this kind, toward clearing his doubts, or supporting his affurance. All the force of the motive lies entirely within itself; it 'receives no collateral strength from external confiderations; it wants those degrees of credibility that spring from authority, and concurring opinions : which is one reason why (as I told you) a man is capable of being disputed out of the truth and reality of such a matter of fact, tho' he saw it with his eyes.,, !, This therefore is a further advantage, which the standing proofs of a revelation have over any occasional miracle; That, in the admitting fuch proofs, we do but fall in with the general sense and persuasion of those among whom we converse: whereas we cannot affirm the truth of such a mis racle, without incurring the scorn and derision; at least, not without running cross to the belief and apprehension, of the rest of mankind ; a difficulty, which (as hath been already thewn) a modest and good man is fcarce able, but a man addicted to his vices is neither able nor willing, for the mere fake of truth, to encounter.

Let us lay these several reflexions together, and we shall find, “ That even a meffage from the « other world is not an argument of such invin“ cible strength, but it would be refifted by such " as had before-band refifted the general proofs

of the gospel; and that our Saviour therefore $ uttered no paradox, but a great, a clear, and -“ certain truth, when he said, That they who 6 bear not Mofes and the Prophets, will not be perfuaded, though one rose from the dead.From which truch it is now time, as my

II. Third General head directs, to deduce the several inferences, which I intended. And, á First, We learn from hence, what is the truç afe and end of miracles: , They are not private, but public proofs; not things to be done in a core ner, for the sake of fingle perfons, but beforç multitudes, and in the face of the fun. Again, they are signs to those who believe not, not to those who believe : I mean, that the great, the chief. end of them is, to establish the truth of a new revelation in those countries, where, and at the time, when, it is first promulged and propa. gated; not to confirm men in the belief of it, after it is fufficiently established. Miracles are the immediate act of Omnipotence; and therefore, not to be employed, but where the importance of the occafion requires them: much less are they to be employed, where they are neither requisite, for likely to succeed; as the case is, where per fons, who are not convinced by the old miracles demand. new ones. It follows from hence, . Secondly, That we have great reason to look up, on the high pretensions which the Roman church Inakes to miracles, as groundless, and to reject her vain and fabulous accounts of them. Half the faints, which have place in her peculiar calendar, were, if you will believe her, converted by miracles: Apparitions, vilions, and intercourses

of all kinds between the dead and the living, are the frequent and familiar embellishments of thofe pious romances, her legends ;which exceed the Scripture itself in wonders and ro, indeed by that means, contradict the doctrine and delign of it : for,' where Mofes and the prophets are received, there,' a continued succession of miracles is needless; and consequently, not to be expected, believed, ôr pretended. It may be a bit

Third Ure of what hath been paid, To take an occasion froin chence of confidering, how furt the foundation of God fändeth (that joundation of ibe apostles and prophets, upon which the church is built, Jesus Christ himself being the head Corner. fone, as the Collect for this day speaks); how very strong and irrefragable the fir1t evidences of Chriftianity needs must be, fince they appear tboth from reason and revelation) to be such, as that they who refilted thein, would refiit every thing besides them. Bue this is fufficiently üni derstood from the whole teñor of the preceeding argument: which instructs us also, in che :

Fourth place, to condemn the folly and impiety of those perfons (for: füch there have been) who have obliged themselves to each other, to appear after death, and give an account of their conditi. on in another world ; and the worse use that hath been inade of these ill contracts, when the survis ving party hath hardened himfelf in his wicked. ncfs, upon the other's failure. It is stupidly foolish, thus to venture our salvation upon an experiment, which we know not whether God will suffer, and which, we have all the reason imaginable to think, he will not suffer to take

place.

.

place. It is highly impious to refolve to persist in our unbelief, till something more is done for our conviction, than God hath thought fit should be done, for the conviction of any man in our circumtances. An apostle, indeed, once said, “ Except I shall see in his hands the print of the “ nails, and put my finger into the print of the “ nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will “ not believe;" John xx. 25. and God was pleased to stoop to his request, and to plant faith in his heart by such an experiment. But it was on the account of the public character he was to bear, as an apof. tle; that is, a witness of the resurrection of Chr A to the rek of the world; and it might therefore be fit, that he himself should, in a very particular and extraordinary way, be satisfied of it; not merely for his own sake, but for the sake of all those who should hereafter believe in his teftimo. py. The manner of his conviction was defigned, not as a peculiar privilege to him ; but as a stand, ing miracle, a lasting argument for the convicti. on of others, to the very end of the world. Besides, though slow of belief, he was at the bottom honest and fincere; not led into those doubts which he entertained, by his lusts and vices; not a revolter from the truth which he had once embraced: And they, therefore, have no reason to expect to be favoured as he was, who stand not poffeffed of any one of those qualifications that belonged to him, but are (generally speaking) the very reverse of his character.

Fifthly, From the same truth we may also be taught to correct a vain thought, which we are sometimes apt to entertain : That, if it had been

our

« PreviousContinue »