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many miracles he did, which were greater than ever any other man had done. When God sent Moses to the children of Israel with a message, that now, according to his promise, he would redeem them by his hand out of Egypt, and furnished him with signs and credentials of his mission; it is very remarkable what God himself says of those signs, Exod. iv, 8: • And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, nor hearken to the voice of the first sign (which was turning his rod into a serpent) that they will believe the voice of the latter sign;' (which was the making bis hand leprous by putting it in his bosom ;) God further adds, v. 9, “And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river and pour upon the dry land : and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.' Which of those operations was or was not above the force of all created beings, will, I suppose, be hard for any man, too' hard for a poor brick-maker, to determine; and therefore the credit and certain reception of the mission, was annexed to neither of them, but the prevailing of their attestation was heightened by the increase of their number; two supernatural, operations showing more power than one, and three more than two. God allowed that it was natural, that the marks of greater power should have a greater impression on the minds and belief of the spectators. Accordingly the Jews by this estimate judged of the miracles of our Saviour, John, vii. 31, where we have this account: ‘And many of the people believed on him, and said,When Christ com eth will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done ?' This, perhaps, as it is the plainest, so it is also the surest way to preserve the testimony of miracles in its due force to all sorts and degrees of people. For miracles being the basis on which divine mission is always established, and consequently that foundation on which the believers of any divine revelation must ultimately bottom their faith, this use of them would be lost, if not to all mankind, yet at least to the simple and illiterate, (which is the far greatest part,) if miracles be defined to be none but such divine operations as are in themselves beyond the power of all created beings, or at least operations contrary to the fixed and established laws of nature. For as to the latter of those, what are the fixed and established laws of nature, philosophers alone, if at least they, can pretend to determine. And if they are to be operations performable only by divine power, I doubt whether any man,
learned or unlearned, can, in most cases, be able to say of any particular operation that can fall under his senses, that it is certainly a miracle. Before he can come to that certainty, he must know that no created being has a power to perform it. We know good and bad angels have abilities and excellencies exceedingly beyond all our poor performances or narrow comprehensions. But to define what is the utmost extent of power that any of them has, is a bold undertaking of a man in the dark, that pronounces without seeing, and sets bounds in his narrow cell to things at an infinite distance from his model and comprehension.
Such definitions therefore of miracles, however specious in discourse and theory, fail us when we come to use, and an application of them in particular cases.
These thoughts concerning miracles, were occasioned by my reading Mr. Fleetwood's Essay on Miracles, and the letter written to him on that subject. The one of them defining a miracle to be an extraordinary operation performable by God alone; and the other writing of miracles without any definition of a miracle at all.