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PAR I before any one can derermine, whether there
II. be any peculiar Presumption against Miracles, mu more than against other extraordinary things;
he must consider, what, upon first hearing, would be the Presumption against the last mentioned Appearances and Powers, to a Person acquainted only with the daily, monthly, and annual, Course of Nature respecting this Earth, and with those common Powers of Matter which we every Day see.
Upon all this I conclude; That there certainly is no such Presumption against Miracles, as to render them in any wise incredible : That on the contrary, our being able to discern Reasons for them, gives a positive Credibility to the History of them, in Cases where those Reasons hold: And That it is by no Means certain, that there is any peculiar Presumption at all, from Analogy, even in the lowest Degree, against Miracles, as diftinguished from other extraordinary Phenomena: though it is not worth while to perplex the Reader, with Inquiries into the abstract Nature of Evidence, in order to determine a Question, which, without such Inquiries, we fee - is of no Importance,
CH A P. III.
Of our Incapacity of judging, what
were to be expected in a Revela-
ESIDES the Objections against the CHAP. B
Evidence for Christianity, many are al- III. ledged against the Scheme of it; against the whole Manner in which it is put and left with the World ; as well as against several particular Relations in Scripture: Objections drawn, from the Deficiencies of Revelation; from things in it appearing to Men Foolishnessa ; from its containing matters of Offence, which have led, and it must have been foreseen would lead, into strange Enthusiasm and Superstition, and be made to serve the Purposes of Tyranny and Wickedness; from its not being universal'; and, which is a thing of the fame Kind, from its Evidence not being sa convincing and satisfactory as it might have been : for this last is sometimes turned into a positive Argument against its Truth b. It Ą Į Cor. i. 28.
b See Ch. vi.
PAR I would be tedious, indeed impossible, to enu
4. merate the several Particulars comprehended munder the Objections here referred to; they
being so various, according to the different Fancies of Men. There are Persons, who think it a strong Objection against the Authority of Scripture, that it is not composed by Rules of Art, agreed upon by Criticks, for polite and correct Writing. And the Scorn is inexpressible, with which some of the propherick Parts of Scripture are treated : partly through the Rashness of Interpreters; but very much also, on account of the hieroglyphical and figurative Language, in which they are left us. Some of the principal things of this Sort shall be particularly considered, in following Chapters. But my Design at present, is to observe in general, with respect to this whole Way of arguing, that, upon Supposition of a Revelation, it is highly credible beforehand, we should be incompetent Judges of it, to a great Degree: and that it would contain many things appearing to us liable to great Objections; in case we judge of it otherwise, than by the Analogy of Na
And therefore, though Objections against the Evidence of Christianity are most seriously to be considered; yet Objections 'against Christianity itself are, in a great meafure, frivolous: almost all Objections against it, excepting those which are alledged againft the particular Proofs of its coming from CHAP. God. I express myself with Caution, lest I III. should be mistaken to vilify Reason; which is indeed the only Faculty we have wherewith to judge concerning any thing, even Revelation itself: or be misunderstood to affert, that a lupposed Revelation cannot be proved false, from internal Characters. For, it may contain clear Immoralities or Contradictions: and either of these would prove it false. Nor will I take upon me to affirm, that Nothing else can possibly render any supposed Revelation incredible. Yet still the Observation above is, I think, true beyond Doubt; that Objections against Christianity, as distinguished from Objections against its Evidence, are frivolous. To make out This, is the general Design of the present Chapter. And with regard to the whole of it, I cannot but particularly wish, that the Proofs might be attended to; rather than the Assertions cavilled at, upon account of any unacceptable Consequences, whether real or supposed, which may be drawn from them. For, after all, That which is true, must be admitted, though it should shew us the Shortness of our Faculties; and that we are in no wise Judges of many things, of which we are apt to think ourselves very competent ones.
PAR T not be any Objection with such, against the
II. Juftness of the following Observations.
As God governs the World, and instructs his Creatures, according to certain Laws or Rules, in the known Course of Nature ; known by Reason together with Experience: so the Scripture informs us of a Scheme of divine Providence, additional to this. It relates, that God has, by Revelation, instructed Men in things concerning his Government, which they could not otherwise have known; and reminded them of things, which they might otherwise know: and attested the Truth of the whole, by Miracles. Now if the natural and the revealed Dispensation of things are both from God, if they coincide with each other, and together make up one Scheme of Providence: our being incompetent Judges of one, must render it credible, that we may be incompetent Judges also of the other. Since, upon Experience, the acknowledged Constitution and Course of Nature is found to be greatly different from what, before Experience, would have been expected; and such as, Men fancy, there lie great Objections against: this renders it beforehand highly credible, that they may find the revealed Dispensation likewise, if they judge of it as they do of the Constitution of Nature, very different from Expectations formed be