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star existing a million of million of miles from me when I think I see it, more than when I dream of such a For until it be proved that there is a candle in the room by which I write this, the supposition of my seeing in God the pyramidical idea of its flame, upon occasion of the candle's being there, is begging what is in question. And to prove to me that God exhibits to me that idea, upon occasion of the presence of the candle, it must first be proved to me that there is a candle there, which upon these principles these principles can never be done. Farther, We see the "necessary and unchangeable essences of things" in the perfections of God. Water,
a rose, and a lion, have their distinct essences one from another, and all other things; what I desire to know are these distinct essences, I confess I neither see them in nor out of God, and in which of the perfections of God do we see each of them?
Page 504, I find these words, "It is evident that the perfections that are in God which represent created or possible beings are not at all equal: that those for example that represent bodies are not so noble as those for example that represent spirits; and amongst those themselves, which represent nothing but body, or nothing but spirit, there are more perfect one than another to infinity. This is conceivable clearly, and without pain, though one finds some difficulty to reconcile the simplicity of the divine Being with this variety of intelligible ideas which he contains in his wisdom." This difficulty is to me insurmountable; and I conclude it always shall be so, till I can find a way to make simplicity and variety the same. And this difficulty must always cumber this doctrine, which supposes that the perfections of God are the representatives to us of whatever we perceive of the creatures; for then those perfections must be many, and diverse, and distinct one from another, as those ideas are that represent the different creatures to us. And this seems to me to make God formally to contain in him all the distinct ideas of all the creatures, and that so, that they might be seen one after another. Which seems to me after all the talk
of abstraction to be but a little less gross conception than of the sketches of all the pictures that ever a painter draws, kept by him in his closet, which are there all to be seen one after another, as he pleases to show them. But whilst these abstract thoughts produce nothing better than this, I the easier content myself with my ignorance which roundly thinks thus: God is a simple being, omniscient, that knows all things possible; and omnipotent, that can do or make all things possible. But how he knows, or how he makes, I do not conceive his ways of knowing as well as his ways of creating are to me incomprehensible; and, if they were not so, I should not think him to be God, or to be perfecter in knowledge than I am. To which our author's thoughts seem in the close of what is above cited somewhat to incline, when he says, "the variety of intelligible ideas which God contains in his wisdom;" whereby he seems to place this variety of ideas in the mind or thoughts of God, as we may so say, whereby it is hard to conceive how we can see them; and not in the being of God, where they are to be seen as so many distinct things in it.
To discourse of miracles without defining what one means by the word miracle, is to make a show, but in effect to talk of nothing.
A miracle then I take to be a sensible operation, which, being above the comprehension of the spectator, and in his opinion contrary to the established course of nature, is taken by him to be divine.
He that is present at the fact, is a spectator: he that believes the history of the fact, puts himself in the place of a spectator.
This definition, it is probable, will not escape these two exceptions.
1. That hereby what is a miracle is made very uncertain; for it depending on the opinion of the spectator, that will be a miracle to one which will not be so to another.
In answer to which, it is enough to say, that this objection is of no force, but in the mouth of one who can produce a definition of a miracle not liable to the same exception, which I think not easy to do; for it being agreed, that a miracle must be that which surpasses the force of nature in the established, steady laws of causes and effects, nothing can be taken to be a miracle but what is judged to exceed those laws. Now every one being able to judge of those laws only by his own acquaintance with nature, and notions of its force
(which are different in different men), it is unavoidable that that should be a miracle to one, which is not so to another.
2. Another objection to this definition will be, that the notion of a miracle, thus enlarged, may come sometimes to take in operations that have nothing extraordinary or supernatural in them, and thereby invalidate the use of miracles for the attesting of divine revelation.
To which I answer, not at all, if the testimony which divine revelation receives from miracles be rightly considered.
To know that any revelation is from God, it is necessary to know that the messenger that delivers it is sent from God, and that cannot be known but by some credentials given him by God himself. Let us see then whether miracles, in my sense, be not such credentials, and will not infallibly direct us right in the search of divine revelation.
It is to be considered, that divine revelation receives testimony from no other miracles, but such as are wrought to witness his mission from God who delivers the revelation. All other miracles that are done in the world, how many or great soever, revelation is not concerned in. Cases wherein there has been, or can be need of miracles for the confirmation of revelation, are fewer than perhaps is imagined. The heathen world, amidst an infinite and uncertain jumble of deities, fables, and worships, had no room for a divine attestation of any one against the rest. Those owners of many gods were at liberty in their worship; and no one of their divinities pretending to be the one only true God, no one of them could be supposed in the pagan scheme to make use of miracles to establish his worship alone, or to abolish that of the other; much less was there any use of miracles to confirm any articles of faith, since no one of them had any such to propose as necessary to be believed by their votaries. And therefore I do not remember any miracles recorded in the Greek or Roman writers, as done to confirm any one's mission and doctrine. Conformable hereunto we find
St. Paul, 1 Cor. i. 22, takes notice that the Jews (it is true) required miracles, but as for the Greeks they looked after something else; they knew no need or use there was of miracles to recommend any religion to them. And indeed it is an astonishing mark how far the god of this world had blinded men's minds, if we consider that the Gentile world received and stuck to a religion, which, not being derived from reason, had no sure foundation in revelation. They knew not its original, nor the authors of it, nor seemed concerned to know from whence it came, or by whose authority delivered; and so had no mention or use of miracles for its confirmation. For though there were here and there some pretences to revelation, yet there were not so much as pretences to miracles that attested it.
If we will direct our thoughts by what has been, we must conclude that miracles, as the credentials of a messenger delivering a divine religion, have no place but upon a supposition of one only true God; and that it is so in the nature of the thing, and cannot be otherwise, I think will be made appear in the sequel of this discourse. Of such who have come in the name of the one only true God, professing to bring a law from him, we have in history a clear account but of three, viz. Moses, Jesus, and Mahomet. For what the Persees say of their Zoroaster, or the Indians of their Brama (not to mention all the wild stories of the religions farther East) is so obscure, or so manifestly fabulous, that no account can be made of it. Now of the three before-mentioned, Mahomet having none to produce, pretends to no miracles for the vouching his mission; so that the only revelations that come attested by miracles, being those of Moses and Christ, and they confirming each other; the business of miracles, as it stands really in matter of fact, has no manner of difficulty in it; and I think the most scrupulous or sceptical cannot from miracles raise the least doubt against the divine revelation of the Gospel.
But since the speculative and learned will be putting of cases which never were, and it may be presumed never will be; since scholars and disputants will be