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MY LORD İF I accost your Grace, not with modern politeness; but
with ancient simplicity, the subject in which I am engaged, and the course of my studies will, I hope, plead my excuse.
I am indebted, my Lord, to an illustrious person for unsolicited favours-favours valuable in themselves; but made doubly so by the giver, by the manner, by being conferred upon one who had received few obligations of this kind, and by settling him amongst those whom he had great reason to love and to esteem ; and I appeal, not to your Grace, but to all others; whether I should be excusable, if I neglected or delayed to publish this acknowledgement, which I cannot send forth without a warm, though perhaps a vain wish, that it may be as lasting as it is sincere.
The discourtesies which we experience, are things too common and too insignificant to deserve a place in our memory or in our writings : it is best to bury then in eternal oblivion, and in their room to substitute the good offices of our friends, which ought to be remembered and recorded with pleasure. These testimonies of our gratitude should accompany the offspring of our invention and industry, that both may descend hand in hand to posterity, and either live together, or die together.
The ecclesiastical miracles, after the days of the apostles, and the authority of the futhers and historians upon which they depend, have been a subject of contention. This hath produced two opposite parties, and I cannot flatter myself with the hopes of pleasing either the one or the other. However, since what is offered upon this head in the
following Remarks, is only an appendage, and the principal intention of the whole is to defend and recommend Christianity which is daily assaulted and insulted, the attempt at least may claim the approbation of all candid judges, and is not unzeorthy of your Grace's countenance and protection; happy, if it should be instrumental in instructing or amending any who have deviated from the sacred paths of truth and duty !
Permit me, my Lord, to make a transition from my Patron to the rest of my Readers, and to inform those who
тау think this address deficient in the most essential part, in the part where modern writers usually employ all their skill, that it was a custom amongst the ancients, not to sacrifice to lieroes till after sun-set.
REM A Ř KS
ONE of the great arguments for the truth of Chris
tianity is taken from the miracles of our Saviour and his apostles.
It seems to be rashness for us, who know so little of the powers of intellectual and spiritual agents, and of the scheme of divine providence, to affirm that (the miracles of the Old and New Testament excepted) God never wrought any, or never suffered any to be wrought by spirits good or evil. It is true, that fraud, and fiction, and credulity, and ignorance of natural powers, and a strong imagination, and a disordered understanding, and misguided zeal have been the
parents of ten thousand false wonders.
Van Dale rejected every thing of the preternatural kind, which is related to have appeared in the Pagan world, and resolved it all into imposture, and said that there were no real miracles, any more than real predictions, except those of which God was the author: but Le Clerc, in his account of Van Dale's works, shews that this is affirming too much, and talking unpliilosophically, and that we have not sufficient grounds to determine in so positive a manner. Q 4
Bibl. Chois. I. p. 106. Le Clerc might perhaps have fallen into Van Dale's opinion, to which he had a certain propensity, if he had not been a careful reader of Cudworth and Grew. These two Christian philosophers led him into another way of thinking; and suggested to him strong motives for hesitation,
A miracle is a sensible operation, contrary to the common course of nature, wrought either by the immediate act, or by the assistance, or by the permission of God.
Miracles cannot directly prove the truth or falsehood, the reasonableness or absurdity of any doctrine. As they are appeals to our senses, so are doctrines to our reason. They are properly credentials and testimonials, which, when a man can produce openly and fairly; if he teaches nothing absurd, much more if his doctrines and precepts appear to be good and beneficial, he ought to be obeyed.
Some learned men have affirmed that God alone can work miracles, which is not to be proved by reason, nor to be reconciled with the Scriptures without giving them the torture, and stretching or paring them to the hypothesis ; and the contrary notion is more prevalent. But opinions fall and rise again, and we may expect to see this discarded system set up to try
its fortune once more. This inconvenience attends it, that, if every mira. culous operation be ascribed to God alone, when once a miracle is judged to be well attested, all inquiries into the reasonableness of the doctrine which it was wrought to support are in a manner superseded; but in the other 'system, which supposes that evil spirits may work miracles as well as good ones, full leave is