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AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

The recent controversy between Dr Middleton and his opponents has produced so many elaborate treatises on Miracles that the public may well be weary of the subject, and of the various theories propounded. The line taken by Mr. Hume and his free-thinking brethren is well known. They openly deny the existence of miracles, and their sophistry has called forth many zealous Christians to defend this highly-prized prerogative of revelation.

After the able arguments adduced by these gentlemen it may be thought that the subject is exhausted, and that a new work on Miracles must be superfluous. A little reflection, however, will show that this is not the case, and that much yet remains to be done. Indeed the chief point in dispute is still undecided; for, notwithstanding all that has appeared, learned writers themselves have not arrived at distinct and clearly-defined ideas upon various points, and therefore it is not wonderful that they have failed to impart settled convictions to their readers.

This may be traced chiefly to three causes. First, The several writers have conceived different ideas of a miracle, and these they have expressed by various definitions. Proceeding upon opposite principles, and treating different subjects under the same name, they have arrived at different and often contradictory conclusions, thus producing a still further confusion of ideas.

Secondly, In order to acquire a full knowledge of the subject of miracles, there are several preliminary points to be examined. Of these some are comparatively plain and simple, and ought to serve as guides in investigating others which are more abstruse and intricate. But none of the writers, so far as I have seen, have taken a full and comprehensive view of all the several heads. Generally confining their inquiries to one particular point, they assume that their readers are conversant with all the others from which their arguments are drawn. But, as this is rarely the case, their reasoning appears obscure and inconclusive, even when they have truth upon their side ; and when they are defending error, it perplexes and bewilders their readers.

Thirdly, Even Christian writers, when treating of miracles, have paid too little attention to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. This omission has not entirely escaped the observation of Dr Middleton and his opponents, for they mutually charge each other with the neglect of Scripture proof. Mr Hume and his followers not only discard the Holy Scriptures from their pages, but would ridicule any one who attempted to confute them from these sacred records. Thus the Word of God

has been in a great measure excluded from this controversy, whereas, miracles being the work of the Omnipotent, it is chiefly, if not solely, from His sacred Word that we can be thoroughly instructed regarding them. Besides, the Word of God contains the most ample information upon every point relative to miracles, and therefore it is the more surprising that it has been overlooked and neglected by Christian authors.

Any attempt to supply this defect, and clearly to elucidate the Scripture Doctrine of Miracles, seems calculated to benefit the cause of religion, and may not be unacceptable to Christians generally. This has been the author's aim, but how far he has succeeded, the judgment of his readers must decide. Of his own deficiencies he is fully sensible. To elegance of style-a pleasing kind of argument, and skilfully used by the enemies of Christian miracles, he has no pretension. His entire reliance is upon the intrinsic goodness of his cause; and if he has failed to do it justice, he can only hope that his efforts may induce some abler hand to undertake and prosecute the work.

EDINBURGH, 1775.

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