« AnteriorContinuar »
magic, we need not scruple to say that, in this age, it must be most egregious trifling, and that it does not deserve any reply. At least it will be time enough to consider this objection, when some person shall be produced, who shall seriously fay, that he believes the miracles, but not the doctrines. Spinoza himself, as Mr. Bayle affures us, faid to his friends, that " if he could be “ convinced of the resurrection of Lazarus, “ he would break his whole system in pieces, “ and readily embrace the common faith “ of christians."
It may also be alledged as an argument for the use of miracles, that the more general is the corruption of religion, and consequently the more necessary revelation is, the less capable men are of perceiving the interial proofs of the excellence of a divine religion, and therefore the more occasion they have for external proofs, such as miracles afford.
It is possible that there may be intelligent beings, superior, and invisible to us, and, their powers far exceeding ours, they may exert them in such a manner, as that to us the appearance will be the same as of a divine interposition. But such an abuse of superior powers would be so fatal, that it cannot be suppofed that a wise and good being would permit it. Indeed, if this were the case, the divine being would leave himself no certain inethod of making his own power and designs known to his creatures, whatever occasion there might be for his interposition; as it would not be in their
power to guard themselves from artful and malicious beings, who might take pleasure in misleading and confounding them. If ever, therefore, such beings be permitted to work miracles, we may de
it that they will be so circumstanced, that it will be in the power of men of virtue and good understanding to discover the cheat.
Upon the whole, however, it is not in the least degree probable, that any being, besides the supreme, ever worked a real miracle ; and, consequently, that all the Vol. I,
wonders in which God himself has not been concerned have been the effects of artifice and deceit, so as to impose upon none but the ignorant and the credulous; and that men of understanding, who have opportunity of making proper inquiries, may see through and detect them.
Of the ncture of the evidence for revelation.
be Mural atural
'ATURAL religion being that know
ledge of God, of our duty, and future expectations, which we acquire from our observations on the usual course of na- that ture, revealed religion may be defined to be the knowledge, relating to the fame fub- ce is jects, which we acquire from interruptions of the usual course of nature, by the interposition of the God of nature, the sole con- tence troller of the laws which he himself has established. Now the
it for v
proper evidence that
€ are !
there has been any such interruption in the usual course of nature, or that any real miracles have been performed, must be the testimony of those who had an opportunity of examining the facts, in the same manner as, by our own observation, and that of others together, we acquire a knowledge of the laws of nature themselves.
In some respects, however, the evidence of revelation borrows aid from other considerations, independent of human testimony, so as to be perfectly similar to the evidence for natural religion. The proper
evidence for natural religion arises from present appearances, the doctrines of it being nothing
more than the conclusions we draw from tiem, Could we possibly account for every thing that we see in the world around us without the supposition of an uncaused being, there would have been no foundation for natural religion; but not being able to account for what we fee without supposing the existence and agency of a supreme being, we are under a necessity of admitting that there is such a being, and consequently of afsenting to every other article of natural religion.
In like manner a variety of present appearances may be considered as so many standing evidences of several leading articles in revealed religion ; because, unless we admit that the divine being has interposed in the government of the world, in such a manner as the histories of the Jewish and christian revelations assert, it is imporsible to give a satisfactory account of the known state of the world in past and present times ; as, for instance, that such a system as Judaism should have been established, and such a religion as christianity should have had that spread in the world, which all history shews that it had, in such circumstances as the same history informs us both the professors of that religion, and the world in general, then were.
In fact, the evidence from testimony itself is ultimately the same with this, being reduceable to the method of judging from known and even present appearances.