Page images


There are also things so good, and so beneficial to XX. mankind, that evil spirits may be deemed unable to do them, (God, the fountain of good, retaining them as instruments of his glory, and arguments of his goodness, to his own dispensation,) which also we may presume they would not be willing, were they able, to perform, it being against their disposition or their interest to do it; such are, to dispossess devils, (that is, to divide and weaken their own kingdom;) to discover moral truths of consequence, (that is, to drive men from themselves;) and even to free men from grievous diseases, (that is, to starve their own èixαιρekakíα, and malignity;) as is implied in that John x. 21. passage of the gospel, where it is said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil: Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? Extraordinary works then, if they are very great, very hard, very good, do thence indicate their cause to be divine: wicked spirits deal only in petty, low, and useless prestigiatory tricks, of small consequence, and no benefit.

But there are further some things infallibly signifying a divine virtue, peculiar to God, and (either by their nature or from the decree of God) incommunicable to any creature, otherwise than as acted by God, or immediately depending on him: such are, the knowledge of future contingent events declared by predicting, or presignifying them, accordIsa. xli. 23. ing to that of the prophet; Shew, said he, in way of

challenge and conviction to the objects of heathen worship, the things to come, that we may know ye are gods: such is the discerning men's secret thoughts and intentions, the which God assumeth as xi. 20. xx. proper to himself; I the Lord search the heart, 1

Jer.xvii. 10.


xv. 8.

try the reins; so that Kapoioyoтns is a characteris- SERM. XX. tical attribute, or title, proper to him. Such is the restitution of men from a state of death to life; a Chron. xxviii. 9. work not only in itself most difficult, in respect to 1 Sam. xvi. the ordinary rule of nature, which it transgresseth, Psal. vii. 9. but impossible to any mere creature, without God's Acts i. 24. aid; for that the souls of men when they die return into God's hand, and enter into a state determined by his high sentence; whence no creature can fetch them down, or raise them up; most impossible also because God by especial decree hath reserved the power of doing it appropriate to himself; the power of life and death being his prerogative, who saith, I am he, and there is no God beside me; I kill, Deut.xxxii. and I make alive: of whom again it is said, The * Πλὴν ἐμοῦ. Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down 1 Sam. ii. 6. to the grave, and bringeth up. He it is that in his

hand doth hold the keys of hell and of death. The Rev. i. 18. performing things also by mere word and will, without application of other force, or any preparation of the subject-matter, (being equivalent to the work of creation,) is peculiar unto God, the author of all being, or to such as act by the immediate help of his infinite power.

We may add, that there also seem to be some things, which infernal spirits (who continue under restraint and command, within a great awe and dread of their Judge) dare not so much as pretend to or counterfeit; knowing that as presently they shall be Matt. viii. checked in their attempt, so they shall be grievously Mark i. 24. chastised for their presumptions; such may be the Lake viii. assuming to themselves the special names of God, the directly withstanding the extraordinary messengers of God, and the like.




SERM. So even considering the very nature of strange works may enable us to distinguish them; but the end and design of such works, together with the influences and effects of them, will further ascertain us of their original: if they are done to abet any gross error, or to promote any mischievous purpose; if they manifestly do seduce to apostasy from God or goodness; if they naturally tend to the production of impiety, iniquity, or impurity; if they do necessarily produce any great disorder or disturbance in the world, assuredly hell is the source of them; they derive from him whose kingdom and interest they advance; by their fruits we may know the tree from which they grow. If also they discover ostentation and vanity in the actors, or serve only to gratify idle humour and curiosity in the spectators of them, tending otherwise to no good purpose; it is easy to collect whence they spring ; that they come from the father both of mischiefs and vanities, who not only delights to abuse us with villainies, but to amuse us also with trifles and fond superstitions.

As, saith Origen, the power of those enchantments in Egypt was not, in itself, like to that admirable power by God's grace vouchsafed to Moses; so the end did convince those Egyptian feats to be jugglings, those of Moses to be divinec. 2 Thess. ii. The portentous things done by the energy of Satan are, as St. Paul calleth them, répata eúdous, either false prodigies, or prodigies abetting falsehood and vanity.


· Ως γὰρ οὐχ ὁμοία δύναμις ἡ τῶν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ ἐπωδῶν τῇ ἐν τῷ Μωυσή παραδόξῳ χάριτι, ἀλλὰ τὸ τέλος διέλεγχε τὰ μὲν τῶν Αἰγυπτίων ὄντα μαγ yavelas. Orig. in Cels. 2.


But the works of the most wise and good God, SERM. as they are commonly works of wonderful majesty and grandeur, incomparable and inimitable for difficulty: so they always are holy, always useful; they ever aim at good ends, and produce wholesome fruits: hence we may discern them, and hence we are obliged to acknowledge them; they afford us ground to say with the Psalmist; Unto thee, O Lord, we Ps. lxxv. 1. do give thanks; for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. Such works, as they can only be effects of God's power, so they are arguments of his truth; for that he cannot lend his hand, for that he will not prostitute his assistance to the maintenance of any thing, which is not perfectly true and good; he will not so tempt any man into error. If James i. 13. I by the finger of God cast out devils, then indeed is the kingdom of God come unto you, (that is, if I perform works by the divine power, then assuredly is my doctrine true,) was an irrefragable argument.

We may also observe, that those wicked spirits are themselves apprehensive how easily their feats are distinguished from the works of God; for hence, it seems, they chose to utter them clancularly, in obscure corners, in blind times, among barbarous and silly people; judging that persons of any wisdom or goodness will be soon able to detect them, and ready to explode them: a little light dazzles the powers of darkness, and scares away these spectres; a little goodness mates their force, enfeebleth and dishearteneth them.

We may also add, that the Messias's works by a peculiar character should be manifestly distinguishable from such as proceeded from infernal powers; for that it should be his business to impugn, defeat,

Luke xi. 20.

SERM. and overthrow the Devil's kingdom; all the falseXX. hoods and superstitions, all the immoralities and impieties, which it consisted in, or which supported it: to this end all his doctrine, practice, and performLuke x. 18. ances would conspiringly tend, that Satan like lightning should be thrown down from heaven; which most evidently would evince, that what he should do should only come from heaven.


Having thus shewed reasons why, and signified to what purposes, the Messias was to receive special testimonies from God; let us now survey those, which were indeed by him exhibited to Jesus our Lord. There is indeed no kind or degree of attestation needful or proper, which hath not been largeJohn v.36, ly from heaven afforded to him. God (so our Lord argueth) is in his own nature invisible and indiscernible to any sense of ours; neither could we en1 Tim. vi. dure the lustre of his immediate presence. (No man ever saw God, or can see him; there shall no man xxxiii. 20. see him and live.) It must be therefore by mediation of signs and works supernatural; the causing of which can only be imputed to him, as beyond the power of any creature to effect or counterfeit; that he can assuredly signify his mind unto us; such only in approbation of any person, law, or doctrine, can be expected from him; and such, in divers kinds, and in great measures, God hath, we say, furnished for the authorizing Jesus.

16. Exod.

1. God did attest to him long before his coming into the world, by presignifying and predicting concerning him, at several times, in several ways, by several persons, (even by all the prophets and eminent persons among his people of old,) many things, even all things considerable about him; in exact

« PreviousContinue »