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There is a great difference between proving us, and leading us into error. God proves us; but he never leads
To prove, is to present the occasion which does not impose a necessity to act. To lead into error, is to place man under the necessity of assuming and approving a falsehood. This God cannot do; and yet he would do this, if in an obscure question, he permitted miracles to be wrought on the side of falsehood.
We are warranted then to conclude, that it is impossible for a man who conceals his false doctrine, with a view to make it appear like truth, and who affirms himself to be conformed to the will of God and the rule of his church, to work miracles, in order gradually and insensibly to insinuate a false and subtle error. not be; still less can it be, that God who knoweth the heart, should work miracles in favour of such a deceiver.
5. There is a great difference between not being for Jesus Christ, and avowing the infidelity; and not being for Jesus Christ, but pretending to be so. In the first case, perhaps, miracles might be permitted, but not in the other; for it is quite clear of the one class, that they are opposed to the truth, but it is not so of the other; and thus, such miracles may be rightly estimated.
Miracles, then, have been the test in doubtful points, between the Jew and the heathen, the Jew and the Christian, We have seen this in all the combats of truth against
In those of Abel against Cain ; of Moses against the magicians of Egypt; of Elijah against the prophets of Baal ; of Jesus Christ against the Pharisees; of St Paul against Elymas; of the Apostles against the Exorcists; and the primitive Christians against infidels. The truth always surpassed in a contest of miracles; and never in a contest for the true God, and for the truth of religion, has a miracle been wrought in support of error, but a greater miracle has been wrought in support of truth.
By this rule it is clear, that the Jews were under obligation to believe in Christ. He was suspected by them, but his miracles were infinitely more strong than the suspicions against him. They ought therefore to have believed him.
In the days of Jesus Christ, some believed in him, but others would not, because the prophecies said, that Messiah should be born in Bethlehem ; instead of which, they conceived that Jesus Christ was born in Nazareth. But they should have examined more narrowly, whether he might not yet have been rn in Bethlehem ; for his miracles being such, as to carry conviction, the alleged contradictions of his doctrine to Scripture, and this obscurity, did not operate to excuse, but merely to blind them.
Jesus Christ healed him that was born blind, and did many other miracles on the Sabbath-day, by means of which, the Pharisees were blinded, who affirmed that it was right to try the miracles by the doctrine.
The same rule which renders imperative the belief in Christ, equally forbids the belief of antichrist.
Jesus Christ did not speak either against God, or against Moses. The antichrist and the false prophets foretold in the Old and New Testaments, will speak openly against God, and against Jesus Christ. But to a concealed enemy, God will not give the power of openly working miracles.
Moses foretold Jesus Christ, and commanded to follow him. Jesus Christ foretold the antichrist, and forebad to follow him.
The miracles of Jesus Christ were not predicted by antichrist, but the miracles of antichrist were predicted by Jesus Christ. And thus, if Jesus Christ were not the Messiah, he would have led into error; but we could not be reasonably led into error by the miracles of antichrist. Therefore the miracles of antichrist, do not affect the miracles of Jesus Christ. In fact, when Jesus Christ predicted the miracles of antichrist, did he think to injure the faith of his own?
There is no reason to believe in antichrist, that there is not for believing in Christ ; but there are reasons for believing in Christ, which there are not for believing in antichrist.
6. Miracles assisted in the foundation, and will assist in the preservation of the church to the days of antichrist, and even to the end.
Wherefore, God, to preserve this testimony in his church, has either confounded all false miracles, or foretold them in his word; and, in both ways, has elevated his cause, and us who believe in it, above those false wonders which appear to us supernatural.
It will be the same in future time. Either God will not permit, or he will confound false miracles, or he will work greater; for miracles have such weight, that however evident the truth of God may be, yet it is necessary that he should warn us against them, when they are wrought against him; without this, they might disturb us.
And thus, however much the passage in the 15th of Deuteronomy, which forbids to believe, and to hear those whowork miracles,and who thereby seduce from the service of God; and that in St Mark xiii. 22. which says, There shall rise up false Christs and fulse prophets, who shall do
many signs and wonders, and seduce, if it were possible, the very elect, and some similar ones, may appear to make against the authority of miracles; nothing more directly proves their force.
The true reason why real miracles are not believed, is the want of love to God. Ye believe not, said Christ, because ye are not of my sheep. The same reason holds, why men believe false miracles. Because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God shall send them strong delusion, that they shall believe a lie. 2 Thes.ii. 10.
When I have considered how it is that men repose such faith in impostors, who profess to have certain remedies for disease, as to put their lives in their hands, it has appeared to me, that the true reason is, that there are some real remedies ; for it could not be, that there should be so many fallacious ones, and that they should obtain so much credit, if there were none that were true. Had there never been a real remedy, and all our diseases had been incurable, it is impossible that any men could have supposed themselves able to cure; or that so many others should have reposed confidence in their boasted powers, As, for instance, if any man professed to be able to prevent us from ever dying, no one would believe this, because there is not a single instance of success. But since many effectual remedies have been attested by the wisest of men, the disposition to believe has been thus created; because, as the fact cannot generally be denied, that there are successful cures which are undoubted, the people who are unable to discriminate between the false and the true, believe all. In the same way, the belief of so many imaginary influences of the moon, originates in the fact, that some do exist, as the Aux and reflux of the waters of the ocean.
In the same way, it appears to me that there could
never have been so many false miracles, false revelations and predictions, if there had not been some that were true; nor so many false religions, if there had not been a true one. For had there been nothing of the kind, it is almost impossible that men could have invented these things, and still more so, that others should have believed them. But since there have been some very remarkable things which were true, and that they have been believed by the greatest among men, such an effect has been produced, that almost all the world has acquired a tendency to believe those that are untrue. And thus, instead of concluding that because there are many false miracles, there are none true, we must, on the contrary conclude, that there are some true miracles, because there are so many false ; and that there false ones, only from this cause, that there are some true; and that, in the same way, there are false religions, only because one religion is true. The real cause of this is, that the human mind, being prejudiced towards that side of the question, by some things that are true, acquires a predisposition to receive even what is counterfeit.
MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS ON RELIGION,
PYRRHONISM has been useful to religion, for after all, men, before the coming of Christ, did not know where they were, nor whether they were great or insignificant, And those who affirmed the one or the other, knew nothing really, and conjectured without reason,
and at a venture. And whichever they denied, they were still compelled to admit the principle of faith,