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signing also by them to maintain and convey down the sincere way of piety,) he imparted also unto Moses, the especial instru: ment of those purposes, a power of doing wonders, thereby procuring authority to his person, and credit to his pretences. Moses did well perceive, and judge, that had he come without such attestation he should not have been received or regarded :
But, behold,' said he, “they will not believe me, nor hearken to my voice; for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee :' wherefore God furnished him with such a power of doing such things as should assure the truth of his message ; the effect whereof is thus expressed ; · Israel saw that great work, wbich the Lord did on the Egyptians; and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses :' to the promulgation of the law, and establishment of that particular covenant with the Israelites, God did also exhibit sig. nifications of his presence in a most evident and affecting manner : Lo,' said God to Moses, expressing that matter and its design, “I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever.' And in the whole conduct of that people toward Canaan, God for those ends vouchsafed by Moses to perform very great and prodigious things; which we may see reckoned up in the 78th and 105th Psalms, and in the oth of Nehemiah. So also when God employed Elias to sustain the remainders of decayed piety in Israel against the countenance of power given to wickedness, and against the stream of popular use, he endued him with a liberal measure of his Spirit, and a power of doing great miracles: the like may be observed of all the prophets, judges, and princes, who on special occasions were raised to perform considerable services for the glory of God and the good of his people. This therefore being God's constant practice, it cannot but be well supposed that in this case he would not withhold his attestation, but would afford it in a most plentiful measure to that person who was in dignity so far to excel all other his envoys and agents; whose undertaking should in importance so vastly transcend all others, that ever were set on foot in the world ; to him, who was to free, not one small people only, but all mankind, not from a temporal slavery in Egypt, but from eternal misery in hell; to promulge, not a pedagogy of ritual observances, but a law of spiritual righteousness; to establish, not a temporal covenant for a little spot of earth, but an everlasting testament for all the world, importing endless beatitude in heaven. God therefore surely would not balk his road on such an occasion, nor refuse his especial testimonials to so great a personage, and to so good a design.
5. If we consider the general reasons assignable why God hath been wont to proceed in this manner, or why he should use it on any occasion, they are with strongest force applicable to this case.
The most general reasons why God doth ever interpose extraordinarily, or produce works supernatural, are, to assert palpably his own divinity and providence; strongly to encourage devotion and piety in men : for he by suspending or thwarting the course of nature plainly declareth himself the maker and master thereof; that he freely made the world, and freely doth uphold it; that he hath not tied his own hands, nor confined his power within limits; but is superior to and free from all laws, excepting those of indefectible holiness and goodness; and consequently that all things do not proceed in a track of dead fatality. He thereby also assureth us that he hath an especial regard unto and a care over men, and wisely ordereth human affairs by his providence, frequently (as wisdom directeth and occasion requireth) interposing his hand for the succor, encouragement, and reward of good men ; that therefore it is not vain to hope and trust in him ; tbat prayers and devotions are available to procure good from him; that repentance and obedience are no less profitable for us than acceptable to him; that also he freely and justly dispenseth recompenses suitable to men's actions voluntarily performed ; that in fine there is a foundation of religion, and a ground of justice between God and man: these things are most evidently and effectually demonstrated by extraordinary attestations ; and when therefore could they more seasonably be used, than when God by the Messias intended to call all the world to the. acknowlegement and obedience of himself, to the practice of all piety and goodness, with assurances of fit reward, in regard to such practice? If farther to excite men's attention and regard, to breed awe and reverence in men's minds, to confound the
impudence, and to bend or break the obstinacy of men, are main ends and proper effects of such testimonies ; whether we consider the Messias's person, the nature of his undertaking, or the persons with whom he was to deal, it is plain (as we have showed) that his business would best deserve and most need them: no dispensation could better deserve them for worth and consequence; none could more need them for greatness and difficulty.
Such reasons may be assigned for the necessity and usefulness of divine attestations in this case: but in opposition to these discourses, and in derogation to this way of confirming any truth or authority, it may be said that no such testifications can well serve to such purposes; for that the like have been and may be applied to the persuasion of error and impiety by false prophets and antichrists, by magicians and wizards; who not only have cunningly counterfeited, but really executed very prodigious and wondrous things, in a manner unaccountable to human philosophy. Since also there are wicked spirits, in subtilty and power far exceeding us, who are able easily to divert the natural course of things; and the limits of whose power in working so it is hard for us to discern or define ; how can we be assured that what is done in this kind doth not proceed from them, but from a virtue divine? how can it be a certain and convincing argument of truth? may we not here object that of Tertullian, saying, that our Lord pronouncing that many impostors should come, and do miracles, showed thereby the faith grounded on miracles to be temerarious.”
To this suggestion we may in general return, that seeing the doing such things is the chief and most effectual way whereby God, beyond the resistance of doubt or dispute, can in some cases assure us concerning his mind and will, (whereby he can bestow honor and credit to any instrument employed by him, to any revelation proceeding from him,) it cannot but (notwithstanding that cross instance) reasonably be supposed that God however doth reserve the power thereof in some eminent and discernible manner peculiar to himself, for the promoting his own service. That also at least God being the author and establisher of nature, and the continual sustainer of it by his free providence, it is not likely that he will suffer the laws and course thereof to be much violated, except on occasions very considerable, and for very good purposes; no inferior caust being able to determine his voluntary influence or providential concourse to the accomplishment of designs contrary to his will and purpose. That also the natural goodness and justice of God, the constant care and providence he exerciseth over this world, the particular relations he beareth toward mankind, (as the Maker and Father, the Lord and Governor thereof,) the honor and interest of truth, of religion, of virtue, (whose protector and patron he is, and declareth himself,) the necessary regard he also, in connexion with the rest, doth bear to his own honor and glory, do all conspire to persuade that God will never endure such things to be performed in any high manner, so that good and well meaning people shall be very liable to be thereby extremely seduced into error ; or that himself shall be intolerably mocked by the enemies of his glory and our good. This may serve to render it probable that the objection is capable of a solution.
* Tert. in Marc, iii. 2.
But to answer more distinctly and particularly; we do grant that God sometimes for special reasons (for wise probation of some persons, and just punishment of others; for to approve some men's sincerity and constancy, to detect other men's naughtiness and vanity) may permit such things (in some manner, in some degree such) to be effected by the influence of wicked spirits, or the fraud of wicked men; yet then it will never be very hard for moderately wise and well-disposed persons to distinguish such feats from those acts which issue from the positive and direct efficacy of God, for authorising his messengers and confirming his truth : we may usually discern them to come from bad causes by their nature; we may certainly detect them by their design and influence.
There are some things so great that it is not reasonable to conceive that any such inferior power
is able to do them; or if they were able, that God should permit their power actually to be exerted, and to succeed in doing them: such is the making any general or grand alteration in the course of nature ; which being God's great work and establishment, the which he doth,
as the prophets speak, govern by a standing law, and preserve according to a perpetual decree, which cannot pass ; yea according to a covenant, which his faithfuluess is in a manner engaged to observe; it is not probable that he will suffer any creature to disturb or disorder : this experience well confirmeth; for bad bad spirits a power of crossing nature so, such is their malice and proneness to do mischief, that the world would soon have been turned by them into confusion and ruin ; that all things therein go in so kindly and steady a course, is an argument of their small power and influence on things; that God holdeth the reins fast in his own hands, reserving to himself only as Lord paramount of nature a power to dispense with any of its main laws; that it is he alone, who,' as the psalmist saith, *doeth great wonders.' There are also some things, which, although not of so great and general consequence, are yet of so difficult performance, that it is improbable any creature should affect them ; such was the turning of dust into lice, which the devils could not enable the Egyptian sorcerers to perform ; to prepare or dispose so much dust for the reception of souls, and to furnish so many souls for the dust, did, it seems, exceed their ability ; whence they were forced to confess of that miracle done by Moses, “This is the finger of God.'
There are also things so good and so beneficial to mankind, that evil spirits may be deemed unable to do them, (God, the fountain of good, retaining them as instruments of his glory, and arguments of his goodness, to his own dispensation, which also we may presume they would not be willing, were they able, to perform, it being against their disposition or their interest to do it; such are, to dispossess devils, (that is, to divide and weaken their own kingdom ;) to discover moral truths of consequence, (that is, to drive men from themselves ;) and even to free men from grievous diseases, (that is, to starve their own énexaiperakia, and malignity ;) as is implied in that passage of the gospel, where it is said, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil : Can a devil
eyes of the blind ? Extraordinary works then, if they are very great, very hard, very good, do thence indicate their cause to be divine : wicked spirits deal only in petty, low, and useless prestigiatory tricks, of small consequence and no benefit.