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of Convictiona 49 our lot to converle with Christ and his apostles, and to be eye-witnefles of their miracles ; we fhould, by such an advantage, have been secured from any degree of doubt or infidelity: Whereas certain it is, that is, that they, who at this distance from the first rise of the gospel, after weighing the several evidences of it, waver in their faith, would have wavered though they had seen the first promulgers of it work wonders. Even that light itself did not hinder inany, to whom the golpel was firit preached, from turning it ints afriviour efs, and enying the Lord Jesus, as St. Fu de complains. Deceived we are, if we think, that God hath not furnished every age of the church with sufficient inducement to embrace the Faith ; and the latest ages, perhaps, with the lirongelt inducements to it. Indeed, the lustre of the primitive miracles is now wanting to us : But then we are freed from several inconvenien. čes, under which the first Christians laboured, aná we enjoy likewise several advantages which they wanted. We have no original prejudices aq gainst the gospel to subdue, as they had; for we have been educated in the belief of it: We are not tenipted, as they werę, to revoli from it, by the dread of dangers and death ; for all manner of encouragements attend our profesion of it. The miraculous success of the apostles preaching, and the accomplishment of many of their predictions, which to those early Christians were matter of faith only, are to us matters of light and experie ence. And we, that live at the greatest distance from the age of the apostles, have in this che ade Tintage of such as were much nearer to them VOL. II
That even these last and worst of times have produced the best apologies for our faith, the most accurate, and rational, and unanswerable accounts of the truth of Christianity. To apply, therefore, the words of Solomon to the present case; “ Say nor thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these ? for thou doft not enquire wisely of this thing.
The last inference, which the doctrine delivered fuggests to us, is, that we shohld be invited from thence to magnify and to adore the divine wisdom, which hath to ordered the first proofs and evidences of our faith, that they will be equally fad tisfactory and convincing to the end of the world. « I know” (faith the wise man) “ that whatsoever God doth,it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it; and God doth it, that man should fear before him," Eccl. iii. 14. Accordingly, he hath proposed a standing revelation, so well confirmed by miracles, once for all, that it should be needless to recur to them, ever afterwards, for the conviction of any man, who was born within the pale of Christianity. This was the shortest, the fittest, and wifest way that could have been taken ; the best suited to the majesty of God, and to the other methods of his providence; and the best accommodated also to the nature, capacities, and interests of men. It had been below him, by an immediate interpofition of his omnipotence, to have been appealing every day to his creatures for the truth of his religion ; an endless and an unbecoming talk, to put upon offering fuppernatural proofs, for the conviction of impious men, as often as their infidelity should be
pleased to demand them! Not so doth he proceed in the government of the natural world : He made it, indeed, at the first, after a miraculous and incomprehensible manner; but he steers a id directs the affairs of it, ever since, by standing rules and laws, and by the ordinary ministry of second causes. With equal wisdom hath he tem. pered the conduct of the moral world also : for though he ushered in the Mosaic and Christian in. ftitutions, by a great variety of amazing signs and wonders ; yet, as soon as the truth of those reve. lations was thus illustriously manifested, and the accounts of these things were committed to writa ing, miracles, in great measure, ceased; and the appeal afterwards was to the written word [to the law, and to the testimony], which supplied the room of them.
Indeed, motives that address themselves coolly to our reason, are fittest to be employed upon reasonable creatures : it is no ways congruous, that God should be always frightening and astonishing men into an acknowledgement of the truth, who were made to be wrought upon by calm evidence and gentle methods of persuasion. Should such a miracle as that which is mentioned in the text be indulged to one, others would think themselves equally entitled to it; and, if indulged to many, it would no longer have the effect of a miracle, its force and influence would be loft by the frequency of it. · Or, supposing it to continue in its full strength, how often foever repeated; yet the faith it produced would not be so free and voluntary an act, as that ought to be, to which are annexed all the glorious and invalu
able privileges of believing. In a word, good men have no need of a miracle ; for they are convinced, without it: And it would be of dangerous consequence to the bad ; for they, we find, would not, even with it, be convinced. And therefore, the allowance of such a favour to them, would serve only to render them more obdurate and more inexcusable; it would enhance their guilt, and increase their condemnation.. · Let us then, from there, and such confideratie ons as there, be led to reverence the infinite wildom and goodness of God in all his transacti, ons with men! Let us learn, not to dispute the methods of his providence ; but humbly and ima plicitly to acquiesce in them, and to adore them, I et us fatisfy ourselves, That every thing is cera tainly ordered by him after the apteft, and best, and most becoming manner, though our first apprehensions should suggest otherwise to us; and that no contrivance, no policy, no prudence whatsoever can, in any respect, deviate from his Scheme, without leaving us in a much worse condition than it found us ! For, .“ Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord
“ God Almighty ! Just and irue are all thy “ ways, thou King of saints !"
To thee ( Father, San, and Holy Ghost) be ren.
dired, as is most due, all pollible i onour, adam ration, and praise, now, and for cyer