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only accountable for those acts in respect of which he is free.
. If this then be the case, as it seems to be, that men's minds are susceptive of such insinuations and impressions, as frequently by ways unknown do affect them, and give them an inclination towards this or that, how many things may be brought to pass by these means without fixing and refixing the laws of nature; any more than they are unfixt, when one man alters the opinion of another, by throwing a book, proper for his purpose, in his way? I say, how many things may be brought about thus, not only in regard of ourselves, but other people, who may be concerned in our actions, either immediately, or in time, through perhaps many intermediate events ? sperity or improsperity of a man, or his fate here, does not entirely depend upon his own prudence, or imprudence, but in a great measure upon his situation among the rest of mankind, and what they do. The natural effect of his management meeting with such things as arė, the natural effects of the actions of other men, and being blended with them, the result may be something not intended or fore
Wollaston Rel. of Nat. sect. v. p. 106. These things, according to the light of reason, are not improbable; and, as our author observes, no man.can prove the contrary: but whilst we acknowledge the gracious influences of Providence in every thing that tends to make us better, and wiser, and happier, we must be very careful to keep the sober mean between the extremes, the one of excluding the divine interposition in the natural and moral world, the other of destroying human agency, or of ascribing the wild fancies of our own heads to the sugges. tions of the Holy Spirit.
Le Clerc, giving an account of ' An Essay on Divine Providence, by Robert Burrow,' says,
. Besides a general Providence, this author shows, that there are extraordinary occasions, where God interposes in a particular manner; as he did formerly by miracles, and by prophecies, and as he hath done since, by particular interpositions, which we cannot properly call miracles. It is very probable, not to say certain, that God can inter
pose, and that he doth interpose now, as well as formerly, in extraordinary cases, though we perceive it not, because we are not forewarned that it shall be so. Things happen, which seem not to be according to the ordinary course of nature, but by a particular intervention of the Deity, though God doth not give us previous notice of it, as he did when he established the Mosaic and the Christian religion. God hath commanded us to call upon him, and hath promised to grant us whatsoever is proper for us. And who can doubt of his fulfilling these promises ? Let us suppose that a good man, and a man whose welfare is very necessary to his family, which he has educated religiously, is in great danger of dying by a distemper, and that his family earnestly prays to God for his recovery. Is it not possible that they may, by their supplications, obtain from God the life and the health of this man, which else he would not have granted ? Upon the supposition that his disease was mortal, and that without these prayers God would not have removed it, this would be a real miracle. In like manner, every thing that God gives to those who pray to him, and would not else give them, is a miracle, though we perceive it not, because we know not beforehand that it shall be so.
• In the number of these providential interpositions, supposing the fact to be true, might be placed what happened on the coasts of Holland and Zeland, the 14th of July, 1672. The United Provinces having ordered public prayers to God, when they feared that the French and English fleets would make a descent upon their coasts, it came to pass, that when these fleets waited only for the tide, to land their smaller vessels, it was retarded contrary to its usual course, for twelve hours; which disappointed the design, so that the enemies were obliged to defer it to another opportunity, which they never found, because of a storm that arose afterwards, and drove them from the coast.
. A thing of this nature, happening at such a juncture, to save the country from ruin, was accounted miraculous ; and a prediction of it would have proved it to have been
However, as nothing falls out without the concurrence of the Divine Providence, there was great reason to return thanks to God for the deliverance.
. In the history of other nations, events of this kind are recorded, which, if they had been foretold, must have been accounted real miracles.' Le Clerc Bibl. A. et M. xxvi. 391.
* Nec dubito quin etiamnum hodie Deus, precibus pio. rum permotus, multa occulte mutet in animis et corporibus, qua mutatione averruncet ab hominibus religiosis magnas calamitates, quæ iis alioqui contingerent. Multa operatur, quæ res nobis faciunt secundiores, et veritati, nobis insciis, prosunt; quamvis talia sub oculos non cadant. Sunt hæc vera miracula, sed Dei sese occultantis, etiam iis, in quorum gratiam hoc facit. Quare semper nos oportet ad Deum precibus confugere, et omnium eorum, quæ nobis secunda eveniunt, gratias ei agere; quamvis Deus sua illa occulta auxilia non venditet. Clericus ad Isai. xlv. 15.
After Constantine, the miracles become extremely sus. picious, both from their own frivolous or extravagant nature, or their apparent bad tendency, or many other circumstances, which I shall not here examine. I mean not by this that Providence never interposed in behalf of the Christian cause.
The defeat of Julian's attempt to rebuild the temple may justly be ascribed to a particular Provi. dence.
Monkery, and the immoderate veneration of saints and martyrs, and Christianity somewhat adulterated with Paganism, and the spirit of wrangling and of oppression, and religious controversies imprudently and indecently carried on by all parties, and false miracles, and feigned visions, came hand in hand, and prevailed too much.
There have been some, and there are many persons, who believing the truth of Christianity, doubt of the miracles after the apostolical age, or reject them. Such were Van Dale, and Moyled; and Le Clerc, who yet was not so far
d Van Dale hath not declared himself fully of that opinion : but he rejected all the Pagan accounts of magicians, incantations, prophecies, oracles, miracles, &c. and he gave no credit to the ejections of dæmons after the age of the apostles and of the apostolical men, and to the stories which the fathers have related concerning dæmoniacs. He observes, that in the days of the apostles, the gift of casting out evil spirits, like other miraculous powers, was conferred upon a few persons, and to
fixed in that opinion, as to think it improbable that miracles were wrought in the beginning of the second century.
them only for great and special purposes; whence he concludes, against Tertullian and others, that in the subsequent ages every Christian could not have been endued with this power. According to his system, dæmons not being any longer permitted to take possession of human bodies, there was no occasion for exorcists. Every example of this kind, which might have been alleged, he would either have called in question, as not well attested, or would have ascribed to a divine power, and to good angels.
In Gerard Brant's History of the Reformation, it is related, that in the year 1566, the boys and girls who were educated in the charityschool at Amsterdam were possessed with evil spirits, and agitated and tormented to such a degree as to feel the ill effects of it all their lives after ; and that during this disorder they spake new languages, and revealed the secret counsels and designs carried on against the protestants.
Upon which Van Dale thus delivers his opinion: “Historiam hanc revera contigisse minime nego. Verum enimvero unde habent hi, prodentes alias et sinceri scriptores, hæc diaboli, in his pueris supernaturali modo operantis, opera atque effecta fuisse ?-Nam si hic aliquid superaut præternaturale statuendum, considerandum est minime pueros illos, diabolica quadam malignitate, in homines quosvis involasse, ipsosve pulsasse aut lacerasse, aliisve maniacorum furoribus incensos ulla mala perpetrasse, dum ipsi tam dira paterentur; sed ex adverso, Mirabilia multa, de rebus præsentibus et plane occultis, manifestasse, ac quidem talia, quæe protestantibus, qui tunc premebantur summis angustiis, utilia possent esse ac salutaria, contra persecutores, qui omni astu diabolico et crudelitate ipsos dispergere ac disperdere conabantur.
• Pietati certe ac rectæ. rationi, ipsique Sacræ Scripturæ, malorumque istorum temporum statui, longe magis convenit, talia nos providentice Divinæ majestatis attribuere, ut quæ in illis rerum angustiis, per talia, ut sibi caverent, piis ac probis reformatæ vitæ et doctrinæ hominibus auxilio esse voluit.' Dissert. de Idol.
Van Dale, a man not inclined to credulity, a scholar, and a physician, moved by the authority of wise and worthy persons and candid historians, was willing to admit the fact, and inclined to account it preternatural. He will not allow it to have been by the operation of evil dæmons; and yet, on the contrary, there are reasons, though he take no notice of them, to think that a good spirit would not afflict children in such a manner : and therefore some will be of opinion, that the case of these young persons was a bodily disorder, and a species of enthusiastic madness, exaggerated by the first relaters, and by common fame.
A reformation is seldom carried on without a lieat and a vehemence which borders upon enthusiasm ; and, as Cicero hath observed that there never was a great man 'sine afflatu divino,' so in times of relie gious contests there seldom was a man very zealous for liberty, civil and evangelical, and a declared and active enemy to insolent tyranny,
To these authors will it be permitted to add Middleton ? He declared himself more than once in favour of revelation. Let us therefore err, if it be an error, on the side which is favourable to him and to his memory, and join him to these ingenious and learned men.
His system was treated by some persons as a novelty; but they should have said, As far as we know; for, be it right, or be it wrong, it certainly is not new.
When the truth of our religion,' says Moyle, had been confirmed by so many signal miracles, which were never disowned by the Heathens themselves, it quickly triumphed over all opposition, and spread with a wonderful progress over all the parts of the Roman empire. When Christianity had gained such a footing in the world, the work was half done, and the rest might be safely trusted to the preaching of our ministers, and the suffering of our martyrs; and the ends of miracles being fully ac
blind superstition, political godliness, bigotry, and pious frauds, who had not a fervency of zeal which led him, on some occasions, somewhat beyond the sober bounds of temperate reason. When men are thus disposed, and have animated each other, and are inflamed by opposition, persecution, and ill usage, they are strongly inclined to expect a divine interposition, and to explain every strange appearance that way. The impetuosity spreads far and wide, and seizes even upon children.
But as to the fact before us, I leave it, as I have some other points, undecided, to the judgment of the reader.
Many stories of this kind, but not so well attested, have been related concerning the protestants in Dauphiné and the Cevennes. It is said, amongst other strange things, that one of them, to prove himself a prophet, ordered a pile to be made and kindled, and stood unhurt for a quarter of an hour in the midst of the fire, whilst the flames surrounded him on all sides, and made an arch over his head; and that more than twelve hundred persons were present, and spectators of the miracle. See Le Theatre sacré des Cevennes, by Misson, which he wrote to defend the cause of the French prophets here in England. But these prophets were at last put, not out of countenance, (for such people never bluslı) but put to fight, when they had failed of their promise to raise a dead man, and had fallen out amongst themselves. Vid. Act. Erud. 1708. p. 137. et 1714. p. 89.
There will, in all probability, be a succession of such kind of persons in every age, and in one part or other of the Christian world, not exactly alike, nor yet very different.
• Facies non omnibus una, Nec diversa tamen : qualem decet esse sororum.'