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of simulating them in order to uphold the credit of idolatry. Now the three miracles of Moses which were simulated, all involved a creating energy. A serpent was created out of the matter of the rod; the frogs, from their immense multitude, appear also to have been created; and blood was formed out of the matter of water. But in the imitations of the magi, there was no creation: we are forbidden by the doctrine of Scripture to allow this, and therefore there must have been deception and the substitution of one thing for another; which, though performed in a manner apparently much above human adroitness, might be very much within the power of a number of invisible and active spirits. Serpents, in a country where they abound, might be substituted for rods; frogs, which, after they had been brought upon the land by Moses, were numerous enough, might be suddenly thrown upon a cleared place; and the water, which could only be obtained by digging, for the plague of Moses was upon all the streams and reservoirs, and the quantity being in consequence very limited, might by their invisible activity be easily mixed with blood or a colouring matter. In all this there was something of the imposture of the priests, and much of the assistance of Satan; but in the strict sense no miracle was wrought by either, while the works of Moses were, from their extent, unequivocally miraculous.

For the reasons we have given, no apparent miracles wrought in support of falsehood, can for a moment become rivals of the great miracles by which the revelations of the Scripture are attested. For instance, nothing like that of feeding several thousands of people with a few loaves and fishes can occur, for that supposes creation of the matter and the form of bread and fish; no giving life to the dead, for the "issues from death" belong exclusively to God. Accordingly we find in the “signs and wonders" wrought by the false prophets and Christs predicted in Matthew, whether we suppose them mere impostors, or the immediate agents of Satan also, nothing of this decisive kind to attest their mission. THEUDAS promised to divide Jordan, and seduced many to follow him; but he was killed by the Roman troops before he could perform his miracle. Another promised that the walls of Jerusalem should fall down; but his followers were also put to the sword by Felix. The false Christ, BARCHOCHEBA, raised a large party; but no miracles of his are recorded. Another arose, A. D. 434, and pretended to divide the sea; but hid himself after many of his besotted followers had plunged into it, in faith that it would retire from them, and were drowned. Many other false Christs appeared at different times; but the most noted was SABBATAI SEVI, in 1666. The delusion of the Jews with respect to him was very great. Many of his followers were strangely affected, prophesied of his greatness, and appeared by their contortions to be under some supernatural influence; but the grand seignior having apprehended Sabbatai, gave him the choice of proving his Messiahship,

by suffering a body of archers to shoot at him; after which, if he was not wounded, he would acknowledge him to be the Messias; or, if he declined this, that he should be impaled, or turn Turk. He chose the latter, and the delusion was dissipated.

Now whatever" signs or wonders" may be wrought by any of these, it is clear from the absence of all record of any unequivocal miracle, that they were either illusions or impostures.

The same course of remark applies to prophecy. To know the future certainly, is the special prerogative of God. The false prophet anticipated by Moses in Deuteronomy, who was to utter wonderful predictions which should "come to pass," is not therefore to be supposed to utter predictions strictly and truly, as founded upon an absolute knowledge of the future. A shrewd man may guess happily in some instances, and his conjectures when accomplished may appear to be "a sign and a wonder," to a people willing to be deceived, because loving the idolatry to which he would lead them. Still farther, the Scripture doctrine does not discountenance the idea of an evil supernatural agency "working" with him; and then the superior sagacity of evil spirits may give to his conjectures, founded upon their own natural foresight of probabilities, a more decided air of prophecy, and thus aid the wicked purpose of seducing men from God's worship. Real and unequivocal prophecy is however impossible to them, and indeed we have no instance of any approach to it among the false prophets recorded in the Jewish history. The heathen oracles may afford us also a comment on this. They were exceedingly numerous; many of them were highly celebrated; all professed to reveal the future; some wonderful stories are recorded of them; and it is difficult to refer the whole to the imposture of priests, though much of that was ultimately detected. That they kept their credit for two thousand years, and were silenced by the spread of the Gospel, and that, almost entirely, before the time of the establishment of Christianity by Constantine, as acknowledged by hea then authors themselves-that they were in many instances silenced by individual Christians, is openly declared in the apologies of the Christian fathers, so that the Pythonic inspiration could never be renewedthese are all strong presumptions at least, that, in this mockery of the Oracle of Zion, this counterfeit of the standing evidence given by prophecy to truth, there was much of diabolical agency, though greatly mingled with imposture. (2) Nevertheless, the ambiguity and obscurity by which the oracles sported with the credulity of the heathen, and miserably seduced them, often to the most diabolical wickednesses, and yet, in many cases, whatever might happen, preserved the appearance

(2) This subject is acutely and learnedly discussed in "An Answer to M. de Fontenelle's History of Oracles, translated from the French by a Priest of the Church of England."

of having told the truth, sufficiently proved the want of a certain and clear knowledge of the future; and, upon the showing of their own writers, nothing was ever uttered by an oracle which, considered as prophecy, can be for a moment put in comparison with the least remarkable of those Scripture predictions which are brought forward in proof of the truth of the Scriptures. When they are brought into comparı son, the most celebrated of them appear contemptible. (3) We may then very confidently conclude, that as Scripture no where represents any "signs or wonders" as actually wrought to contradict the evidence of the Divine commission of Moses, of Christ and his apostles; so in those passages in which it supposes that they may occur, and predicts that they will be wrought in favour of falsehood, and, in the case of the false Christs, in opposition to the true Messiah, they do not give any countenance to the notion, that either real miracles can be wrought, or real predictions uttered, even by the permission of God, in favour of falsehood for no permission, properly speaking, can be given to any being to do what he has not the natural power to effect; and permis. sion in this case, to mean any thing, must imply that God himself wrought the miracles, and gave the predictions, through the instrumentality of a creature it is true, but in fact that he employed his Divine power in opposition to his own truth,‚—a dishonourable thought which cannot certainly be maintained. His permission may however extend to a license to evil men, and evil spirits too, to employ, against the truth and for the seduction of men, whatever natural power they possess. This is perfectly consistent with the general doctrine of Scripture; but this permission is granted under rule and limit. Thus the history of Job is highly important, as it shows that evil spirits cannot employ their power against a good man without express permission. An event in the history of Jesus teaches also that they cannot destroy even an animal of the vilest kind, a swine, without the same license. Moral ends too were to be answered in both cases-teaching the doctrine of Providence to future generations by the example of Job; and punishing the Gadarenes in their property for their violation of the law through covetousness. So entirely are these invisible opposers of the truth and plans of Christ under control; and as moral ends are so explicitly marked in these instances, they may be inferred as to every other, where permission to work evil or injury is granted. In the cases indeed before us, such moral purposes do not entirely rest upon inference; but are made evident from the history. The agency of Satan was permitted in sup. port of idolatry in Egypt, only to make the triumph of the true God over idols more illustrious, and to justify his severe judgments upon the Egyptians. The false prophets anticipated in Deuteronomy were per

(3) See note B at the end of the chapter.

mitted, as it is stated, in order "to prove the people." A new circumstance of trial was introduced, which would lead them to compare the pretended predictions of the false prophet with the illustrious and wellsustained series of splendid miracles by which the Jewish economy had been established,—a comparison which could not fail to confirm rational and virtuous men in the truth, and to render more inexcusable those light and vain persons who might be seduced. This observation may also be applied to the case of the false Christs. In certain of these cases there is also something judicial. When men have yielded themselves so far to vice, as to seek error as its excuse, it seems a principle of the Divine government to make their sin their punishment. The Egyptians were besotted with their idolatries; they had rejected the clearest evidences of the truth, and were left to the delusions of the demons they worshipped. The Israelites, in those parts of their history to which Moses refers, were passionately inclined to idolatry; they wished any pretence or sanction for it, and were ready to follow every seducer. What they sought, they found,-occasions of going astray, which would have had no effect upon them had their hearts been right with God. The Jews rejected a spiritual Messiah, with all the evidences of his mission; but were ready to follow any impostor who promised them victory and dominion; they were disposed therefore to listen to every pretence, and to become the dupes of every illusion. But in no instance was the temptation either irresistible, or even strong, except as it was made so by their own violent inclinations to evil, and proneness to find pretences for it. In all the cases here supposed, the temptation to error was never present but in circumstances in which it was confronted with the infinitely higher evidence of truth, and that not merely in the number or greatness of the miracles and predictions, but in the very nature of the "signs" themselves,-one being unquestionably miraculous, the other being at best strange and surprising, without a decided miraculous or prophetic character. The sudden and unperceived substitution of serpents for the rods of the magicians, might, if the matter had ended there, have neutralized the effect of the real transformation of Aaron's rod; but then the serpent of Moses swallowed up the others. When frogs were already over all the land of Egypt, the imitation must have been confined to some spot purposely freed from them, and for that reason did not bear an unequivocal character; nor could the turning of water from a well into blood, (no difficult matter to pretend,) rival for an instant the conversion of the waters of the mighty Nile, and the innumerable channels and reservoirs fed by it, into that offensive substance. To these we are to add the miracles which followed, and which obliged even the magicians to confess "the finger of God." To the people whom the false prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy should attempt to lead astray from the LAW, all its mag.

nificent evidences were known; the glory of God was then between the cherubim; the Urim and Thummim gave their responses; and the government was a standing miracle. To those who followed false Christs, the evidences of the mission of Jesus were known; his unequivocal miracles, it is singular, were never denied by those very Jews who, ever looking out for deception, cried as to the expected Christ, "Lo, he is here, and lo, he is there!" The "working of Satan," and the "lying wonders," mentioned in the Thessalonians, were to take place among a people, who not only had the words of Christ and his apostles, but acknowledged too their Divine authority as established by miracles and prophecies, the unequivocal character of which theirs never even pretended to equal. Thus, in none of the instances adduced in the argument, was there any exposure to inevitable error, by any evidence in favour of falsehood; the evidence of the truth was in all these cases at hand, and presented itself under an obviously distinct and superior character. We conclude therefore that the objection to the conclusive nature of the proof of the truth of the Scriptures from miracles and prophecies grounded upon the supposed admission that miracles may be wrought and prophecies uttered in favour of error, is not only without foundation, but that as far as Scriptural evidence goes on this subject, the demonstrative nature of real miracles and prophecies is, by what it really admits as to "the working of Satan," abundantly confirmed. It does not admit that real miracles can be wrought, or real prophecies uttered; and it never supposes simulated ones, when opposed to revealed truth, but under circumstances in which they can be detected, or which give them an equivocal character, and in which they may be compared with true miracles and predictions, so that none can be deceived by them but those who are violently bent on error and transgression.

Another objection to the conclusiveness of the proof from miracles, is brought from the pretended heathen miracles of Aristeas, Pythagoras, Alexander of Pontus, Vespasian, and Apollonius Tyanæus, and from accounts of miracles in the Romish Church; but as this objection has been very feebly urged by the adversaries of Christianity, as though they themselves were ashamed of the argument, our notice of it shall be brief. For a full consideration of the objection we refer to the authors mentioned below. (4)

With respect to most of these pretended miracles, we may observe, that it was natural to expect that pretences to miraculous powers should be made under every form of religion, since the opinion of the earliest ages was in favour of the occurrence of such events; and as truth had been thus sanctioned, it is not surprising that error should attempt to counterfeit its authority. But they are all deficient in evidence. Many

(4) MACKNIGHT'S Truth of the Gospel History; DOUGLAS's Criterion; CAMP BELL on Miracles; and PALEY'S Evidences.

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