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Now the MIRACLES, which Christianity objects to our belief, and which, therefore, demand credit of every reasonable man, are, and I apprehend must be, qualified in one or other of these three ways.
1. They must either, in the first place, be such as Christ and his inspired Servants and Followers are recorded to have performed for the CREDENTIALS of their miffion.
II. Or, fecondly, such as make a necessary part in, or towards the completion of the Gospel System.
III. Or, thirdly and lastly, such as have been performed directly to manifest and verify THE DIVINE PREDICTIONS, when impious men have set themselves on attempting to defeat them.
I. When a Miracle is wrought (as in the first case) for the CreDENTIAL of a Mef
senger coming with the revealed Will of God to Man, we may safely confide in it. Because such a Miracle is so far from being beneath the dignity of the occasion, that it is even necessary to answer the important purpose of it. Under this idea, it hath, I believe, been generally conceived in every age of our holy Religion, till the present, Indeed, it seems to have been the constant expectation of Believers, that these supernatural attestations should accompany every NEW MESSAGE from Heaven; insomuch that all the pretended Revelations in the Pagan World, as well as the real in the Jewish and the Christian, were constructed on this principle of credit.
But now, in these times, fome there are even amongst the Ministers of the Gospel, who tell us, they think, or at least are hardy enough to teach, that the REASONABLENESS of the Doctrine is the best, and indeed the only true evidence of its divine Original.
If in this they should not be mistaken, 1 may, however, boast, that I, myself,
have, in this Work, greatly strengthened this boasted plenitude of evidence. But, in reverence to Truth, I hold
myself obliged to own, that, in my opinion, the REASONABLENESS of a Doctrine pretended to come immediately from God, is, of itself alone, no PROOF, but a PRESUMPTION only of such its divine Original : because, though the excellence of a Doctrine (even allowing it to surpass all other moral teaching whatsoever) may shew it to be worthy of God, yet, from that fole excellence, we cannot certainly conclude that it came immediately from him; since we know not to what heights of moral knowledge the human understanding, unallifted by inspiration, may arrive. Not even our full experience, that all the Wisdom of Greece and Rome comes extremely short of the Wisdom of the GOSPEL, can support us in concluding, with certainty, that this Gospel was sent immediately from God. We can but very doubtfully guess, what excellence may be produced by a wellformed and well-cultivated Mind, further
blessed with a vigorous temperament, and a happy organization of the Body. The amazement into which Sir Isaac Newton's Discoveries, in Nature, threw the learned World, as soon as men becanie able to comprehend their Truth and Utility, sufficiently shews, what little conception it had, that the human faculties could ever. rise so high or spread so wide.
On the whole, therefore, we conclude, that, strictly speaking, there is no ground of conviction folid and strong enough to bear the weight of so great an interest, but that which rises on MIRACLES, worked by the first Messengers of a new Religion, in Tupport and confirmation of their MisSION.
That is, MIRACLES, and MIRACLES ONLY, demonstrate that the Doctrine, which is seen to be worthy of God, did, indeed, COME IMMEDIATELY from him.
To be plain, there is a glaring absurdity in the novel fancy here exposed; of which we can find no instance in the affairs of civil life-And civil and religious Policies are conducted on the same principles of Reason,
while administered in their integrity. For what public Person ever imagined, or expected to have it believed, that the true and
proper CREDENTIAL of a Minister of State was the fairness of his Character, or the equity of his demands ? Nothing but the BROAD-SEAL of his Master, he knows, will satisfy those to whom he is fent, that he has a right to the Personage which he affumes. Doth not common sense tell us, that a Messenger from God must come recommended to mankind in the same mailner?
Neither his personal accomplishments, nor the excellence of his Doctrine, nor, in a word, any thing short of the BROAD-SEAL of Heaven, exemplified in MIRACLES, will be sufficient to establish his assumed Character.
But the Doctors of this new School seem to have fallen into the absurdity here exposed, by another as ridiculous ; namely, that the GOSPEL ITSELF IS NO MORE, NOR OTHER, THAN A REPUBLICATION OF THE RELIGION OF NATURE: (an extravagance, amongst the first of those, which, I pre