God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost…
Miracles are a Divine testimony given to a person or doctrine.
I. WHAT A MIRACLE IS. The shortest and plainest description I can give of it is this: that it is a supernatural effect, evident and wonderful to sense.
1. That it be a supernatural effect. By a supernatural effect I mean such an effect as either in itself or in its own nature, or in the manner and circumstances of it, exceeds any natural power that we know of to produce it.
2. There is another condition also required to a miracle, that it be an effect evident and wonderful to sense; for if we do not see it, it is to us as if it were not, and can be no testimony or proof of anything, because itself stands in need of another miracle to give testimony to it, and to prove that it was wrought; and neither in Scripture, nor profane authors, nor in common use of speech, is anything called a miracle, but what falls under the notice of our senses; a miracle being nothing else but a thing wonderful to sense; and the very end and design of it is to be a sensible proof and conviction to us of something which we do not see.
II. IN WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES, AND WITH WHAT CAUTIONS AND LIMITATIONS, MIRACLES GIVE TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH AND DIVINITY OF ANY DOCTRINE.
1. The entire proof of the Christian doctrine or religion, consisting of many considerations, when taken together, make up a full demonstration of the truth of it, when perhaps no one of them, taken singly and by itself, is a convincing and undeniable proof.
2. But yet miracles are the principal external proof and confirmation of the divinity of a doctrine.
3. Especially if miracles have all the circumstances of advantage given to them which they are capable of; if they be many and great, public and unquestionable, and universal and of long continuance.
4. It cannot be denied, but that God doth sometimes permit miracles to be wrought for the countenancing of a false doctrine. So our Saviour tells us that the elect, that is, the true and sincere Christians, should not be deceived by the" signs and wonders of the false Christs and false prophets." And therefore He was not afraid of having the credit of His doctrine weakened by foretelling that false prophets should work miracles; because He knew when the devil had done his utmost, the difference would be apparent enough between the confirmation which He had given to the Christian doctrine, and what the devil should be able to give to his instruments. As —
(1) Either the doctrine would be absurd in itself, and such as no miracles can confirm. Or —
(2) It would be contrary to that doctrine which had already bad a far greater and more Divine confirmation. Or —
(3) The miracles which false prophets work are presently confuted, and upon the spot. Thus Moses confuted and conquered Pharaoh's magicians, by working miracles which they could not work, which forced them to yield the cause, and acknowledge that it was "the finger of God." And so likewise Simon Magus. Or else —
(4) The miracles wrought, or pretended to be wrought, to confirm false doctrines, are such as do, some way or other, confute themselves; or if they be real, are sufficiently detected to be the pranks of the devil, and not the great and glorious works of God. Such were the miracles of the heathen deities, wrought so privately and obscurely, and confessedly mixed with so much of imposture, as to bring a just suspicion upon them. that, when they were real, the devil was the author of them. And such were the miracles which are attributed to Mahomet.
1. What hath been said may satisfy us of the truth and divinity of the Christian doctrine, which had so eminent a testimony given t, it from heaven, and did at first so strangely prevail in the world, contrary to all human probability, "not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord."
2. From hence we may judge how groundless the pretences are, which men nowadays make to inspiration and infallibility, because this is not to be proved and made out any other way but by miracles. For either we must believe every pretence of this kind; and then we are at the mercy of every crafty and confident man, to be led by him into what delusions he pleases; or we must only believe those who give Borne testimony of their inspiration; but the evidence of inspiration was always miracles.
3. You see what an immediate testimony from heaven God was pleased to give to the first preachers of the Christian doctrine, to qualify them with any probability of success, to contest with violent and almost invincible prejudices of men educated in a contrary religion, and which had the secular authority and laws on its side. For having this Divine seal given to their commission, they did as it were carry the letters-patents of heaven in their hands, and an authority paramount to that of human laws.
4. The consideration of what has been said, doth justly upbraid us, that our religion, which hath such evident marks of divinity upon it, and comes down to us confirmed by so many miracles, should yet have so little efficacy upon the lives of the greatest part of those who call themselves Christians.Secondly, that God gave testimony to the apostles and first publishers of Christianity, in a very eminent manner.
1. At this time the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles in miraculous powers and gifts; when this new law was "to come forth out of Zion, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem." And among these gifts, the first we find mentioned was the gift of tongues, without which the gospel must of necessity have been very slowly propagated in the world.
2. The next miraculous gift I shall mention after the gift of tongues is the gift of prophecy, or foretelling things future, which was always looked upon as an evidence of inspiration.
3. The next gift is that of healing all manner of diseases.
4. The power of raising the dead, which hath always been esteemed one of the greatest and most unquestionable miracles of all other.
5. Another miraculous gift was that of discerning spirits, the principal use of which was to try and judge who were true prophets.
6. And, besides these which I have mentioned, there was likewise a power of inflicting corporal punishments and diseases upon scandalous and obstinate Christians, which in Scripture is called, "a delivering men up to Satan, for the destroying or tormenting of their bodies, that their souls might be saved at last." And of this kind were those diseases which befel the Christians for their disorderly and irregular carriage at the sacrament, of which the apostle speaks (1 Corinthians 11:30).
7. There was the power of casting out devils in the name of Christ, which was common to the meanest Christian, and continued in the Church a long time after most of the other gifts were ceased, as , , and , do most expressly testify concerning their times.
III. THE REASON WHY THESE MIRACLES ARE NOW CEASED IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, and have been for a long time, so that there have been no footsteps of this miraculous power for many ages.
I. THESE MIRACULOUS POWERS AND GIFTS HAVE CEASED IN THE CHURCH FOR SEVERAL AGES.
II. THERE IS NOT THE LIKE NECESSITY AND OCCASION FOR THEM THAT THERE WAS BEFORE. They were at first in a great degree necessary to introduce the gospel into the world, which was destitute of all other helps and advantages, to recommend it to the esteem and liking of mankind; to give credit to a new doctrine and religion, so contrary to the inveterate prejudices of men, bred up in another religion very different from this, and so opposite to the lusts and interests of men.
III. I come now TO ANSWER THAT OBJECTION from the innumerable miracles which have been, and still are pretended to be, wrought in the Church of Rome. And so indeed we find that, the Arians and other heretics in former times pretended to miracles, for the confirmation of their errors, a good while after miracles were generally ceased in the Christian Church, which shows that this is no new or strange thing.
1. The most learned and judicious writers of the Roman Church do acknowledge that there is no necessity of miracles, s now, and that Christianity is sufficiently established by the miracles which were wrought at first to give testimony to it; and therefore, not being necessary, without manifest evidence of fact, it, is not necessary to believe that they are continued.
2. The miracles pretended to by the Church of Rome are of very doubtful and suspected credit, even among the wisest persons of their own communion.
3. The miracles of the Church of Rome, supposing several of them to be true, have such marks and characters upon them, as render it very suspicious that they are not operations of God, or good spirits, but the working of Satan.
4. The miracles of the Church of Rome, taking them for true, are very impertinently and unseasonably wrought. When and where there is no need and occasion for them, they are very rife and frequent; but where there is greatest occasion for them and most reason to expect them, they are either not at all, or very rarely so much as pretended to.
5. Be from whom of all persons in that Church we might expect the most and greatest miracles, does not, so far as I can learn, pretend at all to that gift; I mean the head of their church, the Pope.
6. Most of the doctrines in difference between us and the Church of Rome, which they chiefly pretend to confirm by these miracles, are not capable of being confirmed by them. There are three sorts of doctrines, two of which are in their own nature incapable of being confirmed by a miracle, and a third upon supposition of its cent, artery to the Christian doctrine, which hath already had an unquestionable Divine confirmation.
(1) No doctrine which is contrary to sense, is capable of being confirmed by a miracle, as transubstantiation.
(2) No doctrine that does countenance or enjoin idolatry is capable of being confirmed by a miracle. This is evident from Deuteronomy 13.
(3) No doctrine contrary to any part of the Christian doctrine, which hath already received an unquestionable Divine confirmation, is capable of being confirmed by the miracles pretended to in the Church of Rome, if they were real.
7. The chief Prophecies of the New Testament, which are concerning false prophets, and concerning antichrist, have marked Him out by this character, that He should be a great worker of miracles and magnify Himself upon this pretence (Matthew 24:24).
Parallel VersesKJV: God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?