« הקודםהמשך »
ly and narrowly we look into them, the more occasion we shall have to admire their sine and subtle texture, their beauty, and use, and excellent contrivance. The same we may say of the standing evidences of the gospel; every time they are considered and inquired into, they gain upon sincere unbyassed minds, appear still more reasonable 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 theft force at once, upon the sirst proposal. An. argument, th<t is sometime working its way into the understanding, will at last take the surer hold of it; as those trees, which have the flowed 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 tempers and interests, of all ages and nations. A wise man is then best satissied with his own reasonings and persuasions, when he sinds that wise p'.d consideiing men have in like manner reasoned, and been in like manner persuaded; that the same argument, which weighs with him, hai Weighed with thousands, and ten thousand times tun thousand before him; and is such as hath '. boruc borne down all opposition, where-cver it hath been sairly proposed, and calmly considered. Such a reflection, tho' it carries nothing perfectly decisive in it, yet creates' a mighty considence in his breast, and strengthens him much in his opinion. Whereas he, who is to be wrought upon by a special miracle, hath no helps, n<i> advantages of this kind, toward clearing his doubts, or supporting his assurance. All the sorce of the motive lies entirely within itself; it receives :no collateral strength from external considerations; 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 faw 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 such, proofs, we do but fall in with the general fense and persuasion of those among whom we converse: whereas we cannot assirm the truth of such a mi., racle, without incurring the scorn and derision; at least, not without running cross to the belief and apprehension, of the rest of mankind; a difsiculty, which (as hath been already shewn) a modest and good man is scarce 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 sind, "That even a mesilige from tha ** other world is not an argument of such invin*' cible strength, but it would be resisted by such *• as had before-hand resisted the general proofs v 1 « of "of the pospel; and that our. Saviour therefore "uttered no paradox, but a great, si clear, an<l "certain truth, when he faid, That they who ■** hear net Moses and the Prspfats, will net be v persuaded, though one rose from the dead." From which truth it is now time, as my
ILL Third General head directs, to deduce the several inferences, which I intended. And,
First, We learn from hence, what is the true tife and end of miracles: They arc not private, but public proofs-, not things to be done m a corner, for the fake of single persons, but besore multitudes, and in the face of the fun. Again, they are signs to those who believe not, not to those who bdieve: 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 sirst promulged and propa? gated; not to consirm men in the belief of it, after i.t is sussiciently established, Miracles are thf immediate act of Omnipotence; and therefore, not to be employed, but where the importance of the occasion requires them: much less are they to be employed, where they are neither requisite, Hor likely to succeed; as the cafe is, where persons, who are not convinced by the old miracles* demand, new ones. It follows from hence, , Secondly, That we have great reason to look upon the high pretensions which the Roman church makes to miracles, as groundless, and to rejtct 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 fairacks: Apparitions, visions, and intercourses
of all kinds betwcefttb* dead and the livingyare Ac frequent and familiar embellishments ot those pious romances, her legends;; which exceed the Scripture itself in woritiets 'aud do, indeed by that means, contradict the doctrine and design of k: for, where M'se's and the prophets are received, the¥e, a cbrftiduetf Aiccessioil of miracles is needleft; and corisequentfy'i not to be expected, fceheyed^ Or pretetttfcdv ftf ihay be.as - :'
Third Use of whsft hash been said, To take an. Occasion frbm; tbeWte7^ considering, how sure the foundation if Oodstdndeth [thitt soundation of ibe apift'es atidpftffhets,. us on which the church it hiUt, JefuS Christ himseif being the head Cornerstone, as the Citlefl for this day speaks]; how Vtfry strong and irrefragable the sirst evidences of Christianity rie6ds mttlVbei since they appealtboth from reason and revelation) to be such, al that they who'. Misted them i would Yeliist every thing besides' th^m. ©ut this is suflfcfently urii cferstcVod frotei the whole tenor of the preceeding argument: which instructs us also, in the
Fourth place, to condemn the folly and impiety of those perfons (for such there have been) whd have obliged themselves to each Other, to rippear after death, and give tfn acdOunt of their cOndh?* oil in another world 5 and the worse use that hath been made of these ill contracts, when the surviving party hath hardened himself in his wickedness, upon the other's failure. It is stupidly foolish, thus to venture our falvation 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 resolve to persist in $>ur 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 circumftances. An apostle, indeed, once faid, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the ** nails, and put my singer into the print of the ff nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will ** not believe;" John xx. 25. and God.twas: pleased tostoopto his request,and to plaiitfaithin his heart by such an experiment. But it was on the account
tie; that is, a wimess of the resurrection of Chrst to the reft of the world; and it might therefore be sit, that he himself Ihould, in a very particular and extraordinary way, be fatissied of it; not merely for his own fake, but for the fake of all those who should hereafter believe in his testimony., The manner of his conviction was designed, not as a peculiar privilege to him; but as a standing miracle, a lasting argument for the conviction of others, to the very end of the world. Besides, though flow of belies, he was at the bottom honest and sincere; 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 savoured as he was, who stand not possesied of any one of those qualisications that belonged to him, but are (generally speaking) the very reverse of his character.
Fifthly, From the fame truth we may also be taught to correct a vain thought, which we are sometimes apt to entertain: That, if it,had been
of the public character he was to bear.