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Prophets. For that Passage in the 21st of Ezekiel does
Peace, and a Saviour of the World.
alla The Prophets were something better than religious Madmeaning. men. They generally had a Foundation of good Sense
and a learned Education, being, for the most Part, brought up in the Schools of the Prophets, whereof one is mentioned at Naioth in Ramah, where Saniel lived, i Sami xix. 19. another at Kiriath Fearim, i Sam. X.5. Neither was Prophecy among the Fou's, only the running about the Country, now and then, of a crazed Wretch, as your
the Meaningiels with the the World. confide
People are wont to say ; but in a regular Manner, and a fettled Dispensation ; there being great Numbers of the Prophets in that Nation. For even in the most corrupt Times, there were Fifty of the Sons of the Prophets together, beholding Elijah when he was caught up into Heaven, 2 Kings ii. 7. and Obadiah hid an hundred Prophets, fifty in a Cave, during the Rage of Ahab's Persecution, i Kings xviii. 4. Now it is not possible that such a Number of Men so regularly educated, should all be Enthusiastically mad. But I see any Thing can be asserted, to serve a Turn, or to vilify Religion ; sometimes God's Ministers must be mad Fools, at other Times cunning Knaves, 'tho”, methinks the Priest-craft, which you are lo often upon, and Madness, do not fo very well agree.
Phil. Come, Credentius, we won't make any Words about that Matter now ; for we are now entering upon another Stage of Difficulties, which are so many and so great, that, I am afraid, they will make you sweat under them, before you have got through them. What fay you to the Business of Miracles ? Are not these, think you, pretty Things to cheat the Mob with? But I am afraid they will never stand the Test of Philosophy and Reason. One would wonder how such nonsensical Notions as these should come into the World; but considering the Stupidity of them, one might guess them to be of Jewish Original. For probably when the first Fews saw the neighbouring Gentiles worshiping the natural Gods, as Sun, Moon, Earth, Water, &c. they to shew these constant mutable and visible Gods, to be under the Dominion of their Fehovah or Invisible one ; began to brag of the Miracles which they pretended Fehovah had done by triumphing over poor Nature for their dear Sake, for whom they were fond to believe all Things were made. Thus this Notion got from the Fews to other Nations, and so they have been coining Miracles ever since. But really, Sir, a Miracle in your Sense, is Nonsense. For you suppose something above the Power of Nature, which is the greatest and highest Power in the World. For the Power of Nature is the Power of God. Nature is one, eternal,
che Mo Of Philolocal ing the norine
fixt, immutable Chain, which is infinitely drawing out and expanding it self, and not capable of the least Alterae tion: Now if it was possible (as you suppose) by a Miracle that one Link of this, should be disturbed or broken, the whole Frame of Nature would be confounded, and the whole Scheme of future Beings would be infinitely irregular. Nature is the eternal Will and Decree of God, executing itself, and the Will of God is his very Essence ; however it is firm and immutable, hay impoffible to be changed by the contrary Will of God himself: , and therefore we may be sure, it is not to be interrupted by the Hocus Pocus of every capricious Prophet. And indeed Miracles are nothing else but the Dreams of block headed Brains, or a ready Solution of what the uneducated Mob are wont to gape at; and can give no Account of; so that I doubt not, but that a common Almanackmaker that could calculate an Eclipse, or write it out of an Ephemeris, would be a most wonderful Prophet among the Indians ; but when these People, by liberal Education, come to understand the exact Motions of the heavenly Bodies, the Miracle would be at an End: Nay,any Thing that is unusual is by the Vulgar reputed a Miracle, because forfooth they admire it, tho' it be never so natural; but it seases to be a Miracle, when their Admiration is wrought off. Thus a Comer is to them a most wonderful Miracle, because it appears but now and then in a great many Years : But the Sun is no Miracle at all, because they see it every Day; not that they underland the Nature of the Sun better than that of a Comet, but by continually beholding it ; it does not make so great Impression upon their Fancies, and therefore they cease to admire it. And I doubt not but this is the true Reason of most of the reputed Miracles of Scripture, which are but the unusual Works of Nature, which would necessarily have been for all any inspired Person; but only, they being uncommon Works of Nature, the Vulgar wondred at them, and deemed them Miracles. O! but we must have a Care of exploding Miracles, because they do demonstrate the Being of a God; and very lamely too. For the necessary
Laws Laws of Nature, and the Frame of the World, aré a thousand Times more demonstrative of it. For Miracles, of Interruptions in Nature, make wise Men rather doubt of it, and seem rather fortuitous Blunders, than the wise Works, or Efflux of the Deity. Nay, what Proof is there by Miracles of any Thing else, or that any Doctrine came from God? For the Jewish Law allows, that Mia racles might be done by false Prophets, as appears by Deut. xiii. 1. If there arise among you a Prophet, and giveth thee a Sign or Wonder, and the Sign or Wonder come to pass, wherea of he fpake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other Gods, &c. Ton Mall not hearken unto the Prophet, for the Lord your God proveth you. Nay, what were the Fows the better for all the Miracles they had among them, supposing they were true? Moses with all his Miracles was not gonc from them but a few Days, but they were turned as arrant Heathens as any in the World, and fancying the Image of God into the Figure of a Calf. Nay, for all Miracles and Inspirations, the great Solomon himself was à downright Epis Curean, and imagined all Things to come by Chance, Eccl. iii. 19, 20.
Cred. By your Leave, good Philologus ; you have heaped here together so many Falsities, or Mistakes, that I am forced to interrupt you, before you go any fårther.
1. I pray what Reason have you to think that the First Nori: Notion of Miracles had its Origin from among the Fews on of Mia Had not the Greeks and Romans, in the earliest Time, bem
racles not fore they ever consorted with the Fews, the fartie Noti-'Jews. ons? What more common in Homer and Virgil than strange Prodigies, which are wont to amaze whole Armies; till they be unridled, and rendered favourable by fome Augur? What more usual in Greek and Latin Authors, than thegla, Oftenta, Portenta, Miracula ? And you may see a whole Chapter of several of these Miracles collected together in Valerius Maximus, and a great Deal of the same in Plutarch. Inquire of any barbarous Nations in the World, and you shall find, that they have the fame Notion of Miracles, cho'chey never heard of the Jesus, For our No
tion of Miracles, that it is the extraordinary Powver of God, or a Power above Nature, is natural and easy to the Minds of all Mankind; but that a Miracle should be the necessary Power of un-wonted Nature, is only a Dream of the Hobo
bian Philosophy, that few People who are awake, think of.
- 2. Neither is it any good Argument against Miracles, table Chain that they would break your fixt and immutable Chain of of Nature. Nature which you contend for. For there is no Proof
that there is any such fixt immutable Chain ; for if
his Duis is in [iteet eiven them a pray that God hasmin