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It would carry us greatly too far out of our way, to enter here into an examination of the facts and therefore, especially as our Author has not even attempted to prove the contrary, I fhäll content : myself with referring him to the consideration of those arguments, by which it has, in my opinion, been proved from the relation itself, that All the Magicians did amounted to nothing more than fuch poor attempts to imitate in some measure the real miracles of Mofes, as mere human artifice might accomplish
In Deut. xiia 5. the case is put not of a real, but a mere false, pretended prophet; ņot of one who by real inlpiration foretold soinething that came to pass, and of which nothing but inspiration could have assured him; but of one, who by means: either of fome' knowledge not common, fome accidental concurrence of circum: stances, secret: contrivance, or some other such human, but undiscovered ineans; should foretell fomething, which did eventually come to pass ; but which did not need inspiration to foretell it; though they might fuppose it did. This is evident from hence, that the person giving them any such fign, which actually came to pass, to persuade them into Idolatry, is there directed to be put to death, as a false prophet; which it is incredible he should have been, if actually, inspired by God for this very purpose. So that here the expression - The Lord your God proveth: you, to know whether you love the Lord your God, &cti can signify no more, than that God permits such a Deceiver to make use of such artifices with a
*The Author will do well to consult particularly Le Moine's Treatise on Miracles ;. not only for the case of the Magicians, but for the several Texts likewise concerned in this question ; from p. 140, to p. 204, &vo.. * Deut. xiii. 3.
view to deceive you ; not that he inspires him, and commissions him to do what he does, or that he does any thing that really requires any supernatural powers, as the Author supposes.
As to Micaiak's address to Ahab t, it is plainly nothing more than a parabolical description.
The persons' mentioned by our Lord (Matth. xxiv. 24,) are there expresly styled, false Christs and falfe Prophets; that is, persons who would not really be poffeffed of divine powers and authority, though they would pretend to be poffeffed of them: and it is directly afferted, that every one would be deceived, who should pay regard to the greac signs and wonders they would shew. And does not this manifestly imply, that whoever regarded them would be deceived in supposing their signs and wonders to be real miracles, as well as in suppoing Them, on that account, to be real Chrifts or real Prophets ? What other equitable construction can be put upon the words ? And, at all events, certainly nothing is here said, capable of being alleged to fhew, that these great signs and wonders would be any thing more, than the effects of mere human cunning and deceit. And thus likewise the signs and wonders spoken of by St. Paul; (2 Theff
. ii. 9.) are expresy described, as bying signs and wonders ; or mere impositions.
When therefore the Author affirms, without proof, " That God is said sometimes to have
permitted real Miracles to be wrought by the
agency of Evil Spirits ;" he asserts as an acknow. ledged fact, what it is not in his power to produce any instance in support of; and what therefore I must take leave to deny ; together with the consequence he means to draw from it.
. 1 Kings xxii, 19-23.
But besides, supposing it had been said, though it really is not, that God fometimes permits real miracles to be wrought by the agency of Evil Spirits ; how would this prevent Miracles from being man's only proper criterion, whereby to judge of Divine Revelations ? The perfect holiness, justice, veracity, and goodness of God, render it a contradiction to suppose, that he can permit any Being, whether good or evil, fo to authenticate any thing for a Revelation, as to lay his Rational Creatures under a moral necessity of receiv. ing, as a Revelation from him, what really is not. If therefore God should ever permit, whaç we have no grounds for believing he ever did, or ever will; and great reason to think, from our Saviour's argument concerning Beelzebub *, that he never can; but if God should ever permie an Evil Being to work real miracles, in order to deceive mankind into a rational, but at the same time mistaken belief, that something is a Revela, tion from God, which really is not ; he would, it thould seem, over-rule thote miracles, by caufing others to be wrought in opposition to them, and fo plainly superiour to them; as to leave mankind without excuse, if they did not prefer the Laft to the First; and thus distinguish the true revelation from the false.
Or should we for mere argument's fake suppose, that God might at any time permit an Evil Being to work miracles, in fupport of something evil; without causing other miracles to be wrought, in oppofition to them, and plainly capable of overpowering them; it should feem, that the miracles of this Evil Being must be worked, either to recommend some practice, which our own reafon is capable of informing us is notoriously vicious ;
* Mark jii. 22-26.
or to inculcate the belief of some doctrine, which our own reason may inform us, is notoriously false. In either of which cases it must be manifeft, that such miracles can only be permitted to try 35; and consequently, that it would be our duty to regard them as nothing more, than an extraordinary summons from God, to adhere to That practice which we ourselves know to be evidently virtuous and right; and to That belief which our own reason informs us is manifestly just.
But if it were possible, in the nature of the thing, for God to permit an Evil Being to work real miracles, to prove something to be a Revelation from God, which really was not; so as to leave mankind deftitute of any means to discover the deception ; if this was possible, which most certainly it is not; still would it be the absolute duty of mankind, as Rational Creatures, to admit as a Revelation from God, whatever came duly authenticated to them as such; though by this means they should unavoidably be led into an error: bę. caufe it is in every instance the indispensable duty of Man, to consult and govern himself by the dictates of his reafon; and an error so adopted would not only be absolutely innocent, but our conduct in thus adopting it, would be truly virtuous and praiseworthy.
Had it therefore been faid, as the Author affirms, though we have seen it is not, That * God fometimes permits miracles to be wrought
by Evil Spirits ;" still would it be certain, that MIRACLES, of which Prophecies fulfilled are one species, must ever be, from the very nature of the thing, the only possible criterion for man to judge by, whether such a Religion as may be a Revelation from God, actually is one *
SECT. It would be unpardonable to quit this subject, -without SECT. VIII.
The Author's principles, that Revelation must be
UNIVERSAL, and cannot stand in need
HE Author has still another argument
against Revelation in general, and we must therefore consider it.
“ Let us, says he, turn our thoughts inwards, " and ask ourselves seriously, Whether it be proba
ble that God has given to mankind any written « Revelation immediately from himself, and un“ der his special and particular direction; in do
ing which he effectually restrained the pub“ lisers of it, from blending any of their own “ opinions and sentiments with the
percfect word thus delivered to them? Will not our “ consciences answer, that it is highly probable
such written Revelation has been made + ?", Here, at one stroke, the Author utterly overthrows the very fundamental principle for which chiefly he all along contends. For, if our consciences tell us, that probably no pure unmixed Revelation was ever written, and if, as he like, wise contends, pure morality is the only pure unmixed Revelation ; how can it be probable, much less credible, that the books of the New Testament
taking notice of a curious principle laid down by the Author's friend in the Preface. Nothing, says he, can prove the “ divine authority of any revelation, but its internal moral « excellence." - What is this but asserting, that 'the very identical circumstance, which makes a doctrine capable of having been discovered by human reason only, without being revealed ; is the only possible proof, that it could not be dil. covered by human reason only, but must have been revealed ? + P. 370.