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But Jesus answered them, My Father hitherto worketh, and I work.
WHEN at first by the divine power this visible system of things was consummated and settled in that course wherein it now stands, it is said that “God rested from all his work which he had made:’ the plain meaning of which saying is, that God so framed all the parts of nature, and several kinds of things, and disposed them into such an order, and inserted into them such principles of action, that thereafter (without more than an ordinary conservation or concourse from him) things generally should continue in their being, station, and course, without any great change, for ever; that is, for so long as God had determined, or till their due period was run through : (“He established them,’ as the psalmist speaks, “for ever and ever; he made a decree, that shall not pass: His word was settled in the heavens, and his faithfulness unto all generations: they continue this day according to his ordinances:” “He made a covenant with day and night, and appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth:') thus God rested and ceased from his work of creation. But it is not said, nor intended, that God did absolutely give over or forbear working; that he withdrew his care, and tied up, as it were, his own hands by a resolution not to intermeddle more with any thing, but to enjoy a kind of Epicurean ease and ārpatia. No : his wisdom hath so ordered things, that there should be need and reason of his acting continually; that there should be frequent occasion of variously displaying his glorious attributes; of exercising his power, of demonstrating his goodness. Indeed, as to beings merely natural and unintelligent, there were no need of his doing more; for they are all thoroughly his obedient servants, and exactly fulfil his word; never straggling from the station in which he placed them; never transgressing the rule that he prescribed them : but he hath also made other beings, by nature uncapable of such uniformity and settlement; very free, and therefore very mutable; to the well governing of whom therefore a continual intention and activity is requisite. For the use and benefit of which beings, as a great part of nature was designed and made by God, so it was not unmeet, that for their sake he should sometime alter the course of nature, and cross or check the stream of things. The fuller and clearer illustration of his glory, the showing that all things do not pass on in a fatal track; the confirming that he made nature, because he can command and control it; the demonstration of his especial care over and love toward men, in suspending or thwarting his own established laws and decrees, as it were, for their sake; the exciting men the more to mind God, and impressing on them a respect toward him ; the begetting faith in him, and hope in his providence, are fair accounts, for which God sometimes should perform (even in a manner notorious and remarkable to us) actions extraordinary. And that God doeth so, we learn in the words I read from the mouth of truth itself; whose affirmation (for persuading the
incredulous) I intend to second with particular instances, at
tested to by reasonable proof, suitable to the nature of the
matter; and this with design to infer from such operations (as
effects assignable to no other cause), the existence of God;
having endeavored formerly to deduce the same from the com
mon ordinary works, appearing in both worlds, natural and
human. And as we before distinguished the ordinary works
or actions, so here we shall distinguish the extraordinary ones,
into two sorts; into those which are above or against the course
(or power) of nature; and those, which surmount or cross the stream of human affairs; such as being evidenced and granted to have been really performed, either all men will believe, or the wisest men will readily confess the being of such a cause as we assert. I. Let us first consider the first kind: and of these we may generally affirm, that no man can deny many such to have been performed, without giving the lie to the most authentic records of history that are or have been extant; without extremely disparaging the credit of mankind; without impeaching all nations and all ages not only of extreme weakness, (in credulous assent unto, regarding and relying on, such appearances; which not only the vulgar sort, but even princes and statesmen, learned men and philosophers, every where have done,) but of notorious baseness and dishonesty, in devising and reporting them; without indeed derogating utterly from all testimony that can be rendered to any matter of fact, and rendering it wholly insignificant; for that if we may disbelieve these reports, there is no reason we should believe any thing that is told us. To this kind we may refer the presignification and prediction of future events, especially those which are contingent, and depend on man's free choice; to the doing of which nothing is more evident in itself, nor more acknowleged by all, than that a power or wisdom supernatural is required; concerning which we have the (not despicable) consent of all times, continued down from the remotest antiquity, that frequently they have been made : “There is,” saith Cicero, “an ancient opinion, drawn even from the heroical times,’ (that is, from the utmost bounds of time spoken of,) “that there is among men a certain divination, which the Greeks call prophecy,’ (or inspiration,) “that is, a presension and knowlege of future things.” And of this kind even profane story doth afford many instances; there indeed having scarce happened any considerable revolution in state, or action in war, whereof we do not find mentioned in history some presignification or prediction;t whereof though many were indeed dark and ambiguous, or captious and fallacious, yet some were very clear and express, (according as God was
in his wisdom pleased to use the ministry of those spirits, which immediately conveyed them, in directing men for their good, or misguiding them for their deserved punishment;) such as were for instance, that concerning Cyrus's conquering the Lydians; that concerning the battle at Salamis; that concerning the battle of Leuctres; and divers others which occur in stories composed by wise men of the wisest nations; even the life of one man, (good Socrates,) described by excellent persons his most intimate acquaintance, (Xenophon and Plato,) affords divers; and Cicero acquaints us that Chrysippus did collect (and it is great pity his collection hath perished) an innumerable store of them, all confirmed by good authority and testimony.” I cannot stand to relate many of them particularly, or discuss the validity of relations concerning such instances: I shall only say, that discourse in Tully, concerning the oracle at Delphos, which may be extended to the rest of that sort, doth not seem contemptible : ‘I defend,” saith he, “this one thing; that never would that oracle have been so renowned, nor so stuffed with the gifts of all nations and kings, if every age had not experienced the truth of those oracles;’t for it is hard that a mere imposture should, to the expense and damage of so many persons, so long continue in credit. I will adjoin but one observation to this purpose, that even among those Pagans who regarded these things, it was known and acknowleged, that such portending, or predicting future things, although immediately conveyed by inferior powers, did originally proceed from the one Supreme God: so the wise poet implies, when he makes the prophetic fury say, that she received her prediction from Apollo, and Apollo from the Almighty Father;
Accipite ergo animis, atque hacc mea figite dicta,
• De Div. 172.
t Defendo unum hoc, nunquam illud oraculum Delphis tam celebre, et tam clarum fuisset, neque tantis donis resertum omnium populorum atque regum, nisi omnis actas oraculorum illorum veritatem esset experta, &c. P. 172.
* ALneid. 3.
where Servius notes, that even Apollo (he who among their deities was in chief esteem for rendering oracles) is “ said to derive his knowlege from Jove,” or the Sovereign God. It seemed not amiss to touch those instances of this kind which profane story yields, but the holy Scriptures afford most evident and eminent ones; some of them extant in books written and in use long before the events foretold; as that of Abraham's concerning his posterity sojourning and being afflicted in Egypt four hundred years; of the prophet concerning Josiah, some hundred years before his birth,) that such a prince should be, and what he should do; of Isaiah concerning Cyrus by name, his conquests, his restoring the Jews from exile, his reedifying Jerusalem; of Jeremiah concerning the captivity, and its duration for seventy years; of Daniel concerning the grand revolutions of empire in the world, (wherein the achievements of Alexander and his successors are so plainly described, that Porphyrius could not but acknowlege the consonancy of them to the events;) of our Saviour concerning the siege and destruction of Jerusalem : the truth of which reports, although we should allow those writings which contain them an authority no greater than human, there were no reason to question ; since most of those writings were extant a good time before the events specified. Now if but one of these innumerable instances were true, if ever one event hath been presignified or predicted, (and it were a hard-case that among so many not one should prove so,) it sufficiently evinces what we intend. But to our purpose especially do appertain the works usually styled miraculous, which exceed or contravene the ordinary course or power of nature; which therefore all men will readily confess performable only by an agent in power or knowlege exceeding their comprehension, (such as are, for example, the fire being withheld from burning, and the waters from flowing; the sick being (without medicinal applications) cured of long chronical distempers; limbs being (in the like manner) restored to persons maimed, and senses to them who from their birth (or otherwise for a long time) had been deprived of their nse; restoring the dead to life, (a thing which Pliny mentions