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with a Word, that operated effectually upon the absent, and at a distance; when, Persons at Death's Door, nay, actually Dead, and Dead for some time, were commanded back to Life and Health, and himself, when slain by the Jews, and committed to the Grave, was, according to his own Prediction, railed from the Dead by the fame divine Spi-. rit, whereby he quicheneth and enliveneth all Things, which These, and many more Actions of Wof the like Nature, recorded in the Gospels, his Divine are plain Demonstrations of a Divine Mission, cpower residing in our Blessed Saviour \ And if they \vere affected by a Divine Power, we have all the certainty ima-. ginable of his being a true Prophet sent from God. For,e of all the great Attributes of God, there are none that shine brighter, and more amiably in our Eyes, than Truth and Goodness; the former cannot attest a Lye, nor the latter seduce Men into dangerous and destructive Mistakes. And yet, if God • should communicate any part of his Power to an Impostor, to enable him to work Miracles, in confirmation of his Pretences, what would become of these two Sacred Attributes? To suspect, I say, that Almighty God is capable off
• • Stanhope's Ep. & Gosp. Vol. 2.
employing his infinite Power, and of
disturbing the Course of Nature, with a
design to mislead and delude Mankind,
in what relates to their Eternal Con-t
cerns, is to destroy and subvert his very
Nature, and leave ourselves no Notion
at all of such a Being. Nay, for him
to permit the same Evidences to be pro
duc'd for Errors, as for Truth, is, in
effect, to cancel his own Credentials, and
make Miracles of no Significance at all:
And therefore we may conclude, that,
how artfully soever some Impojlors may
contrive their Delusions, yet, upon a
strict Examination, there are always to
be found seme Marks and Characters,
whereby to dijlinguijh them from real
Whether ever a real Miracle was Thc»,«,»«wrought by any false and idolatrous Vro- >"£ °*tlic phet, in Confirmation of his Pretensions, ^cern\s a Matter that may well admit of dc- ing fiisc bate. f It is certain, that, from the gi- £*<#<**•. Ving 01 the Law, we do not meet with any, that were ever wrought under such" Circumstances; and therefore we may reasonably suppose, that the Caution, which Moses gives the Jews, s not to hearken to any Prophet, who should give a Sign for following other Gods, is not so 'much a Qreditfion of what should come L 4 to
'Bj> Cbwdlers Defence, p. 421. * J)eut. xiii.
to pasi, as a form of vehement Deportation; that it does not Ib much imply a possibility of their working such Signs, as it earnestly forbids the being led away by them, upon the fairest Pretensions; that it is, in short, a manner of Speech, not unlike that of St. Paul to the GalatianSy h Though we, or an Angel from Heaven preach any other Gospel, than that, which we have preached, let him he accursed: Where he does not suppose, that either the Apostles, or good Angels, would ever be jnduc'd to preach a Doctrine contrary to Christianity, but only puts the most extraordinary Case, and such a one, as would never happen, jn order to shew, that, upon no account whatever, they were to recede from the Truth of the Gospel.
But be that as it will, this is apparent from the very Passage now under Consideration, that the holy Penman gives us a Sign, whereby we may discover the Prophet, here spoken of, to be no other • than an Impo/ior, and that is, his tempting the People to go aster other Gods: From whence we may gather, that, if Miracles have in themselves an evil End and Tendency; if they be wrought to introduce the Worship of other Gods^ besides him, whom Reason, as well as
5 Gal. i, 8,
Scripture, assures us to be the only true God ', if they be done to seduce Men to immoral Doctrines or Practices, or to contradict a Religion, already establifh'd by Miracles, that are incontestibly true j they can by no means, proceed from the Finger os God, but are the Effects, either of humane Fallacy and Delusion, or of a wicked and diabolical Interposition.
When therefore our blessed Saviour And of foretels, that * false Chrifts, and false *" .co"Prophetsshould arise, andshewgreat Signs ^%"ia5 and Wonders, he plainly intimates, ,at Chip, the lame time, that, by some means or M*tt' other, these Wonders would be detect- xxlv* ed, and found to be fallacious; since they would not, with all their Jpecioufhe/s, have efficacy enough to deceive the Eletf. k For the Phrase, if it be possible, (tho' it sliews the greatness of the Artifices employed to deceive) very strongly implies an Impossibility, that good and considerate People should be deceived by them; and consequently evinces, that these false Miracles of Pretenders would be distinguishable from such, as were per.- ■ * formed by God, or any Agents commiffion'd by him. How great soever then the Power of Anti-chrifl may be suppos'd to be, yet the Apostle has taken ! Matt. xxiv. 24. * Bp. Smalll/roke't Vind. p. 3.
ken care to inform us, that all his Operations would be but l lying Wonders, and that those, who should be deceived by them, would be such, as did not believe the fruth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness; and such, as God would fend a ftrong Delusion upony that they should believe a Lye, as a Punishment for their Infidelity, and abandon'd Wickedness. But since, in this account 6f' Jnti-chris, he no where intimates, that good and faithful Chri( stians should be thus deluded by him, but rather implies the very contrary ; we have sufficient reason to conclude, that there are certain Notes of Distinction either respecting, \fl, the Works themselves, and their manner of being done; Ways to or idly, the Persons themselves, and the distin- Ends, for which they do themj wherefrom fase ty a Man °f fober and sedate Reflection Miracles, may discern the difference between seal Miracles, and lying Wonders.
From the Firs, In relation to the Works themWorks selves, it is required, m that they be selves, pffible, since no Power whatever can effect that which is strictly impossible; that they be probable, since the divine Power will hardly concern itself in what savours of Fable and Romance -, that they be not below the Majejiy of God, as he is
\ z Thess. ii. 10. Qpc. "■ Qhand.'er on Miracles.