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vealed religions, and be satisfied which they ought to receive as coming from God; though they have by no means ability precisely to determine what is or is not above the force of any created being; or what operations can be performed by none but a divine power, and require the immediate hand of the Almighty. And therefore we see it is by that our Saviour measures the great unbelief of the Jews, John xv. 24, saying,
• If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father ;” declaring, that they could not but see the power sence of God in those many miracles he did, which were greater than ever any other man had done. When God sent Moses to the children of Israel with a message, that now, according to his promise, he would redeem them by his hand out of Egypt, and furnished him with signs and credentials of his mission; it is very remarkable what God himself says of those signs, Exod. iv. 8, “ And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, nor hearken to the voice of the first sign” (which was turning his rod into a serpent), that “ they will believe the voice of the latter sign (which was the making his hand leprous by putting it in his bosom). God farther adds, ver. 9, “ And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour upon the dry land : and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.” Which of those operations was or was not above the force of all created beings, will, I suppose, be hard for any man, too hard for a poor brick-maker, to determine; and therefore the credit and certain reception of the mission was annexed to neither of them, but the
prevailing of their attestation was heightened by the increase of their number ; two supernatural operations showing more power than one, and three more than two. God allowed that it was natural, that the marks of greater power should have a greater impression on
the minds and belief of the spectators. Accordingly, the Jews, by this estimate, judged of the miracles of our Saviour, John vii. 31, where we have this account, “ And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?" This, perhaps, as it is the plainest, so it is also the surest way to preserve the testimony of miracles in its due force to all sorts and degrees of people. For miracles being the basis on which divine mission is always established, and consequently that foundation on which the believers of any divine revelation must ultimately bottom their faith, this use of them would be lost, if not to all mankind, yet at least to the simple and illiterate (which is the far greatest part) if miracles be defined to be none but such divine operations as are in themselves beyond the power of all created beings, or at least operations contrary to the fixed and established laws of nature. For as to the latter of those, what are the fixed and established laws of nature, philosophers alone, if at least they, can pretend to determine. And if they are to be operations performable only by divine power, I doubt whether any man, learned or unlearned, can in most cases be able to say of any particular operation, that can fall under his senses, that it is certainly a miracle. Before he can come to that certainty, he must know that no created being has a power to perform it. We know good and bad angels have abilities and excellencies exceedingly beyond all our poor performances or narrow comprehensions. But to define what is the utmost extent of power that any of them has, is a bold undertaking of a man in the dark, that pronounces without seeing, and sets bounds in his narrow cell to things at an infinite distance from his model and comprehension.
Such definitions, therefore, of miracles, however specious in discourse and theory, fail us when we come to use, and an application of them in particular cases. 170.1.
“ These thoughts concerning miracles were occasioned by my reading Mr. Fleetwood's Essay on Miracles, and the letter writ to him on that subject. The one of them defining a miracle to be an extraordinary operation performable by God alone: and the other writing of miracles without any definition of a miracle at all."
M E M 0 I R S
RELATING TO THE
LIFE OF AN THON Y
FIRST EARL OF SHAFTESBURY.
TO WHICH ARE ADDED,
Writ by the Earl of Shaftesbury while Prisoner in the
Tower; one to King Charles II., another to the Duke of York, a Third to a noble Lord: found with Mr. Locke's Memoirs, &c.
Being at Oxford in the beginning of the Civil War (for he was on that side as long as he had any hopes to serve his country there) he was brought one day to king Charles I., by the lord Falkland, his friend, then secretary of state, and presented to him as having something to offer to his majesty worth his consideration. At this audience he told the king that he thought he could put an end to the war if his majesty pleased, and would assist him in it. The king answered, that he was a very young man for so great an undertaking. Sir, replied he, that will not be the worse for your affairs, provided I do the business ; whereupon the king showing a willingness to hear him, he discoursed to him to this purpose :
The gentlemen and men of estates, who first engaged in this war, seeing now after a year or two that it seems to be no nearer the end than it was at first, and beginning to be weary of it, I am very well satisfied would be glad to be at quiet at home again, if they could be assured of a redress of their grievances, and have their rights and liberties secured to them. This I am satisfied is the present temper generally through all England, and particularly in those parts where my estate and concerns lie; if therefore your majesty will empower me to treat with the parliament garrisons to grant them a full and general pardon, with an assurance that a general amnesty (arms being laid down on both sides) should re-instate all things in the same posture they were before the war, and then a free parliament should do what more remained to be done for the settlement of the nation :
That he would begin and try the experiment first in his own country; and doubted not but the good success he should have there would open him the gates of other adjoining garrisons, bringing them the news of peace and security in laying down their arms.
Being furnished with full power according to his desire, away he goes to Dorchester, where he managed a treaty with the garrisons of Pool, Weymouth, Dorchester, and others; and was so successful in it, that one of them was actually put into his hands, as the other were to have been some few days Prince Maurice. after. But prince Maurice, who commanded some of the king's forces, being with his army then in those parts, no sooner heard that the town was surrendered, but he presently marched into it, and gave the pillage of it to his soldiers. This sir A. saw with the utmost displeasure, and could not forbear to express his resentments to the prince; so that there passed some pretty hot words between them ; but the violence was committed, and thereby his design broken. All that he could do was, that he sent to the other garrisons, he was in treaty with, to stand upon their guard, for that he could not secure his articles to them; and so this design proved abortive, and died in silence.