Page images

acceptance and submission as the rule of our opinions There is a popular, a philosophic, and a theological and manners.

sense of the term miracle. He may believe that a Divine communication has A mirucle, in the popular sense, is a prodigy, or an been made to himself; but his belief has no authority extraordinary event, which surprises us by its novelty. to command ours. He may have actually received it; In a more accurate and philosophic sense, a miracle is but we have not the means of knowing it without proof an effect which does not follow from any of the regu

That proof is not the high and excellent nature of the lar laws of nature, or which is inconsistent with some truths he teaches; in other words, that which is called known law of it, or contrary to the settled constitution the Internal Evidence cannot be that proof. For we and course of things. Accordingly, all miracles precannot tell whether the doctrines he teaches, though suppose an established system of nature, within the they should be capable of a higher degree of rational limits of which they operate, and with the order of demonstration than any delivered to the world before, which they disagree. may not be the fruits of his own mental labour. He Of a miracle in the theological sense, many definimay be conscious that they are not; but we have no tions have been given.(1) That of Dr. Samuel Clarke means of knowing that of which he is conscious, except is:" A miracle is a work effected in a manner unusual, by his own testimony. To us therefore they would or different from the common and regular method of have no authority but as the opinions of a man, whose providence, by the interposition of God himself, or of intellectual attainments we inight admire, but to whom some intelligent agent superior to man, for the proof or we could not submit as to an infallible guide; and the evidence of some particular doctrine, or in attestation of less so, if any part of the doctrine taught by him were the authority of some particular person.” either mysterious and above our reason, or contrary to

Mr. Horne defines a miracle to be "an effect or event, our interests, prejudices, and passions.

contrary to the established constitution or course of If, therefore, any person should profess to have re-things, or a sensible suspension of controlment of, ceived a revelation of truth from God to teach to mankind, or deviation from, the known laws of nature, wrought and that he was directed to command their obedience either by the immediate act, or by the assistance, or to it on pain of the Divine displeasure, he would be by the permission of God.”(2) This definition would asked for some external authentication of his mission; be more complete in the theological sense, if the last nor would the reasonableness and excellence of his clause in Dr. S. Clarke's definition were added to it, doctrines be accepted in place of this. The latter might" for the proof or evidence of some particular doctrine, entitle him to attention ; but nothing short of the former or in attestation of the auihority of some particnlar perwould be thought a ground sufficiently strong for son.” With this addition, the definition will be suffiyielding to him an absolute obedience. Without it he ciently satisfactory, as it explains the nature of the phemight reason, and be heard with respect; but he could nomenon, and gives the reason or end of its occurrence. not command. On this very reasonable ground, the Farmer, in his “ Dissertation on Miracles, “ denies Jews on one occasion asked our Lord, “By what au- to any created intelligences, however high, the power thority doest thou these things?" and on another, of working miracles, when acting from themselves * What sign showest thou unto us ?

alone. This dispute is only to be settled by a strict Agreeably to this, the authors both of the Jewish and definition of terms; but whatever power may be althe Christian revelations profess to have authenticated lowed to superior beings to produce miraculous effects, their mission by the two great external proofs, MIRACLES or effects apparently so, by the control they may be and PROPHECY; and it remains to be considered whether supposed to exert over natural objects; yet, as they are this kind of authentication be reasonably sufficient to all under the government of God, they have certainly command our faith and obedience.

no power to interfere with his work, and the order of The question is not, Whether we may not conceive his providence, at pleasure. Whatever they do, thereof external proofs of the mission of Moses, and of Christ fore, whether by virtue of natural power, or power and his Apostles, differing from those which are assumed specially communicated, they must do it by commisto have been given, and more convincing. In whatever sion, or at least by license. way the authentication had been made, we might have conceived of modes of proof differing in kind or more scheme would be revealed at once, or unfolded graample in circumstance; so that to ground an objection dually. Nay, we are not, in any sort, able to judge upon the absence of a particular kind of proof for whether it were to have been expected, that the revewhich we have a preference, would be trifling (9) But lation should have been committed to writing, or lest this is the question, Is a mission to teach the will of to be handed down, and consequently corrupted, by verGod to man, under his immediate authority, sufficiently bal tradition, and at length sunk under it, if mankind authenticated when miracles are really performed, and so pleased, and during such time as they are permitted, prophecies actually and unequivocally accomplished ? in the degree they evidently are, to act as they will. To this point only the inquiry need now go; for whether “ Now, since it has been shown, that we have no real miracles were performed by Moses and Christ, and principles of reason upon which to judge beforehand, whether prophecies were actually uttered by them, and how it were to be expected revelation should have received unequivocal accomplishment, will be reserved been left, or what was most suitable to the Divine plan for a farther stage of the inquiry.

of government, in any of the afore-mentioned respects;

it must be quite frivolous to object afterward as to any (9) “ We know not beforehand what degree or kind of them, against its being left one way rather than anof natural information it were to be expected God other; for this would be to object against things, upon would afford men, each by his own reason and expe- account of their being different from our expectations, rience, nor how far he would enable and effectually which has been shown to be without reason. And dispose them to communicate it, whatever it should be, thus we see, that the only question concerning the to each other; nor whether the evidence of it would be truth of Christianity is, whether it be a real revelation ; certain, highly probable, or doubtful; nor whether it not whether it be attended with every circumstance wouid be given with equal clearness and conviction to which we should have looked for; and concerning the all. Nor could we guess, upon any good ground I authority of Scripture, whether it be what it claims to mean, whether natural knowledge, or even the faculty be; not whether it be a book of such sort, and so proitself, by which we are capable of attaining it, reason, mulged as weak men are apt to fancy a book conwould be given us at once, or gradually. In like man- taining a divine revelation should be. And, therefore, ner we are wholly ignorant what degree of new know- neither obscurity, nor seeming inaccuracy of style, nor ledge it were to be expected God would give mankind various readings, nor early disputes about the authors by revelation, upon supposition of his affording one; or of particular parts, nor any other things of the like kind, how far, or in what way, he would interpose miracu- though they had been much more considerable in delously to qualify them, to whom he should originally gree than they are, could overthrow the authority of make the revelation, for communicating the knowledge the Scripture, unless the Prophets, Apostles, or our given by it, and to secure their doing it to the age in Lord had promised that the book, containing the divine which they should live, and to secure its being trans- revelation, should be secure from those things."-BUTmitted to posterity. We are equally ignorant, whether LER's Analogy. the evidence of it would be certain, or highly probable, (1) The reader may see several of them enumerated or doubtful; or whether all who should have any de' and examined in Doddridge's Lectures, Part 5. gree of instruction from it, and any degree of evidence (2) Introduction to the critical study of the Scriptures, of its truth, would have the same; or whether the vol. i. c. 4, sect. 2.

The miracles under consideration are such cffects Granting, then, the possibility of miraculous interpo. as agree with the definition just given, and which are sition on the part of the Great Author of Nature, on spe. wrought either immediately by God himself, to attest the cial occasions, and for great ends, in what way and Divine mission of particular persons, and to authenti- under what circumstances does such interposition aucate their doctrines; or by superior beings commis- thenticate the Divine mission of those who prosess to sioned by him for the same purpose; or by the persons be sent by him to teach his will to mankind? themselves who prosess this Divine authority, in order The argument is, that as the known and established to prove that they have been invested with it by God. course of nature has been fixed by him who is the Crea

The possibility of miracles wrought by the power of tor and Preserver of all things, it can never be violated, God, can be denied by none but Atheists, or those departed from, or controlled, but either immediately by whose system is substantially Atheistic. Spinosa de himself, or mediately by other beings at his command, nies, that any power can supersede that of nature; or and by his assistance or permission; for if this be not that any thing can disturb or interrupt the order of allowed, we must deny either the Divine omnipotence, things: and accordingly he defines a miracle to be “ a or his natural government; and, if these be allowed, rare event, happening in consequence of some laws that the other follows. Every real miracle is a work of are unknown to us." This is a definition of a prodigy, God, done specially by him, by his permission, or with not of a miracle; but if miracles in the proper sense his concurrence. be allowed, that is, if the facts themselves which have in order to distinguish a real miracle, it is necesbeen commonly called miraculous be not disputed, this sary that the common course of nature should be unmethod of accounting for them is obviously most absurd; derstood; for without some antecedent knowledge of inasmuch as it is supposed that these unknown laws the operation of physical causes, an event might be chanced to come into operation, just when men pro- deemed miraculous which was merely strange, and fessing to be endued with miraculous powers wished through our ignorance inexplicable. Should an earththem, while yet such laws were to them unknown. quake happen in a country never before visited by For instance, when Moses contended with the Egyp- such a calamity within the memory of man, by the iglian magicians, though these laws were unknown to norant it might be considered miraculous; whereas an him, he ventured to depend upon their operation, and earthquake is a regular effect of the present established by chance they served his purpose.

laws of nature. To one who believes in a Supreme Creator of all But as the course of nature and the operation of things, and the dependence of all things upon his power physical causes are but partially understood, and will and will, miraculous interpositions must be allowed perhaps never be fully comprehended by the most inpossible, nor is there any thing in them repugnant to quiring minds, it seems necessary that such miracles our ideas of his wisdom and immutability, and the per- as are intended to authenticate any religious system, fection of his works. They are departures from the promulged for the common benefit of mankind, should ordinary course of God's operation, but this does not be effects produced upon objects whose properties have arise from any natural necessity, to remedy an unfore- been the subject of common and long observation; that seen evil, or to repair imperfections in his work; the it should be contrary to some known laws hy which reasons for them are moral and not natural reasons, the objects in question have been uniformly and long and the ends they are intended to accomplish are moral observed to be governed ; or that the proximate causo ends. They remind us when they occur, that there is a of the effect should be known to have no adequate power superior to nature, and that all nature, even to power or adaptation to produce it. When these cirits first and most uniform laws, depends upon Him. cumstances occur separately, and more especially They are among the chief means by which He who is when combined, a sufficient antecedent acquaintance by nature invisible, makes himself as it were visible with the course of nature exists to warrant the conto his creatures, who are so prone to forget him en. clusion, that the effect is miraculous, or, in other words, tirely or to lose sight of him by reason of the interpo- that it is produced by the special interpositiou of God. sition of the veil of material objects.(3)

Whether the works ascribed to Moses and to Christ,

and recorded in Scripture, were actually performed by (3) Bishop Butler has satisfactorily shown, in his them, will be considered in another place; but here š Analogy (part ii. c. 11), that there can be no such pre- is proper to observe, that, assuming their actual occur. . sumption against miracles as to render them, in any rence, they are of such a nature as to leave no reawise, incredible, but what would conclude against such sonable doubt of their miraculous character; and from uncommon appearances as comets, and against there them we may borrow a few instances for the sake or being any such powers in nature as magnetism and illustrating the preceding observations, without preelectricity, so contrary to the properties of other bodies judging the argument. not endued with these powers. But he observes, " take The rod cast from the hand of Moses became a ser in the consideration of religion, or the moral system of pent. Here the subject was well known; it was a rod, the world, and then we see distinct particular reasons a branch separated from a tree, and it was obviously for miracles, to afford mankind instruction, additional contrary to the known and established course of nature, to that of nature, and to attest the truth of it; and our that it should undergo so signal a transformation. Irtbe being able to discern reasons for them, gives a positive fact can be proved, the miracle must therefore follow. credibility to the history of them, in cases where those The sea is parted at the stretching out of the rod of reasons hold."

Moses. Here is no adaptation of the proximate cause “ It is impossible,” says an oracle among modern to produce the effect, which was obviously in opposiunbelievers (Voltaire), "ihat a Being, infinitely wise, tion to the known qualities of water. A recession should make laws in order to violate them. He would of the sea from the shores would have taken down the not derange the machine of his own construction, un whole mass of water from the head of the gulf; but here less it were for its improvement. But as a God, he the waters divide, and, contrary to their nature, stand hath, without doubt, made it as perfect as possible; or, upon each side, leaving a passage for the host of Israel. if he had foreseen any imperfection likely to result It is in the nature of clouds to be carried about by from it, he would surely have provided against it from the wind; but the cloud which went before the le. the beginning, and not be under a necessity of changing raelites in the wilderness, rested on their tabernait afterward.

He is both unchangeable and omnipo-cle, moved when they were commanded to march, tent, and therefore can neither have any desire to alter and directed their course; rested when they were to the course of nature, nor have any need to do so."

“ This argument (says Dr. Van Mildert) is grounded the question. All nature is subservient to the will of on a misconception or a misrepresentation of the design God; and as his existence and attributes are manifested of miracles, which is not the remedy of any physical in the ordinary course of nature, so in the extraordidefect, not to rectify any original or accidental imper- nary work of miracles his will is manifested, by cho sections in the laws of nature, but to manifest to the display of his absolute sovereignty over the course of world the interposition of the Almighty, for especial nature. Thus in both instances, the Creator is gloripurposes of a moral kind. It is simply to make known fied in his works; and it is made to appear, that by to mankind, that it is He who addresses them, and Him all things consist,' and that' for his pleasure they that whatever is accompanied with this species of evi- are and were created. This seems a sufficient an. dence, comes from Him, and claims their implicit be- swer to any reasoning a priori against miracles, from lief and ob dience. The perfection, therefore, or im- their supposed inconsistency with the Divins perfecperfection of the laws of nature has nothing to do with tions."

pitch their tents, and was a pillar of direction by day; stances we have mentioned, they are satisfactory eviand by night, when it is the nature of clouds to be dences of a Divine mission. come dark, the rays of the sun no longer permeating But though this should be allowed, and also that the them, this cloud shone with the brightness of fire. eye-witnesses of such miracles would be bound to ad

In all these cases, if the facts be established, there mit the proof, it has been made a question, whether can be no doubt as to their miraculous character. their testimony affords sufficient reason to others to

"Were a physician instantly to give sight to a blind | admit the fact that such events actually took place, and man, by anointing his eyes with a chemical prepara consequently whether we are bound to acknowledge tion, to the nature and qualities of which we were ab- the authority of that mission, in attestation of which solute strangers, the cure would to us, un ubtedly, the miracles are said to have been wrought. be wonderful; but we could not pronounce it mira- If this be admitted, the benefits of a revelation must culous, because it might be the physical effect of the be confined to those who witnessed its attestation by operation of the unguent upon the eye. But were he miracle, or similar attestations must be afforded to to give sight to his patient, merely by commanding him every iřídividual; for, as no revelation can be a benefit to receive it, or by anointing his eyes with spittle, in unless it possess Divine authority, which alone can inshould, with the utmost confidence, pronounce the cure fallibly mark the distinction between truth and error, to be a miracle; because we know perfectly, that neither should the authentication be partial, the benefit of the the human voice nor human spittle has, by the establish- communication of an infallible doctrine must also be ed constitution of things, any such power over the dis- partial. We are all so much interested in this, because eases of the eye. No one is ignorant, that persons ap- no religious system can plead the authentication of parently dead are often restored to their families and perpetual miracle, that it deserves special consideration. friends, by being treated, during suspended animation, Either this principle is unsound, or we must abandon in the manner recommended by the Humane Society. all hope or discovering a religion of Divine authority. To the vulgar, and sometimes even to men of science, As miracles are facts, they, like other facts, may be these resuscitations appear very wonderful; but as reported to others; and, as in the case of the miracles they are known to be effected by physical agency, they in question, bearing the characters which have been cannot be considered as miraculous deviations from the described, the competency of any man of ordinary unlaws of nature. On the other hand, no one could doubt derstanding to determine whether they were actually of his having witnessed a real miracle, who had seen a wrought cannot be donbted; if the witnesses are creperson, that had been four days dead, como alive cut dible, it is reasonable that their testimony should be of the grave at the call of another, or who had even admitted : for if the testimony be such as, in matters beheld a person exhibiting all the common evidences of the greatest moment to us in the affairs of common of death, instantly resuscitated merely by being desired life, we should not hesitate to act upon; if it be such, to live.”(4)

that in the most important affairs men do uniformly In all such instances, the common course of nature act upon similar or even weaker testimony; it would be is sufficiently known to support the conclusion, that mere perverseness to reject it in the case in question; the power which thus interferes with, and controls it, and would argue rather a disinclination to the doctrine and produces effects to which the visible natural causes which is thus proved, than any rational doubt of the are known not to be adequate, is God.(5)

sufficiency of the proof itself. But it is also necessary, in order to prove that even The objection is put in its strongest form by Mr. these miraculous events are authentications of a divine Hume, in his Essays, and the substance of it is : Expemission, that a direct connexion between the power of rience is the ground of the credit we give to human tesGod, exerted in a miraculous act, and the messenger timony; but this experience is by no means constant, and his message, should be established.

for we often find men prevaricate and deceive. On the The following circumstances would appear suffi- other hand, it is experience, in like manner, which asciently to establish such a connexion :-1. When the sures us of those laws of nature, in the violation of miracles occur at the time when he, who professes to which the notion of a miracle consists; but this expehave a divine mission from God, is engaged in making rience is constant and uniform. A mira le is an event known the will of God to mankind, by communicating which, from its nature, is inconsistent with our expethe revelation he has received, and performing other rience; but the falsehood of testimony is not inconacts connected with his office.--2. When, though they sistent with experience; it is contrary to experience are works above human power, they are wrought by that miracles should be true, but not contrary to expethe messenger himself, or follow his volitions. The rience that testimony should be false, and, therefore, force of this argument may be thus exhibited :

no human testimony can, in any case, render them When such unequivocal miracles as those we have credible. pointed out occur only in connexion with an actual This argument has been met at large by many auprofession by certain persons, that they have a Divine au- thors,(6) but the following extracts afford ample refuthority to teach and command mankind, this is a strong tation : presumption, that the works are wrought by God in “The principle of this objection is, that it is contrary order to authenticate this pretension; but when they to experience that a miracle should be true; but not are performed mediately by these persons themselves, contrary to experience that testimony should be false. by their own will, and for the express purpose of esta- “Now there appears a small ambiguity in the term blishing their mission, inasmuch as they are allowed experience,'and in the phrases 'contrary to experience,' to be real miracles, which no power but that of God or contradicting experience,' which it may be necescan effect, it is then clear that God is with them, and sary to remove in the first place. Strictly speaking, that his co-operation is an authenticating and visible the narrative of a fact is then only contrary to expeseal upon their commission.

rience, when the fact is related to have existed at a It is not necessary, in this stage, to specify the rules by time and place; at which time and place, we, being which real and pretended miracles are to be distinguish- present, did not perceive it to exist; as if it should be ed; nor to inquire, whether the Scriptures allow, that, in asserted that in a particular room, and at a particular some cases, miracles have been wrought in support of hour of a certain day, a man was raised from the dead; falsehood. Both these subjects will be examined when in which room, and at the time specified, we, being prewe come to speak of the miracles of Scripture. The sent, and looking on, perceived no such event to have ground established is, that miracles are possible; and taken place. that when real miracles occur under the circum- “Here the assertion is contrary to experience, pro

perly so called; and this is a contrariety which no evi(4) Gleig's edition of Stackhouse's History of the dence can surmount. It matters nothing whether the Bible, vol. iii. p. 241.

fact be of a miraculous nature or not. But although (5) It is observable, that no miracles appear to have this be the experience and the contrariety which Arch. been wrought by human agency before the time of bishop Tillotson alleged in the quotation with which Moses and Aaron, in whose days not only had the world long existed, but consequently the course of na- (6) See CAMPBELL'S Dissertation on Miracles; ture had been observed for a long period; and farther, PRICE's Four Dissertations, Diss. 4; Paley's Evithese first miracles were wrought among a refined and dences; Adams' Essay on Miracles ; Bishop Doug. observant people, who had their philosophers, to whom Las's Criterion; Dwight's Theology, vol. ii.; Dr. the course of nature, and the operation of physical Hey's Norrisian Lectures, vol. i.; VAN MILDERT'I causes, were subjects of keen investigation.

Boyle's Lectures, vol. i.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Mr. Hume opens his Essay, it is certainly not that ex- swered by the miracle; the importance of that end, perience nor that contrariety which Mr. Éume himself and its subserviency to the plan pursued in the works intended to object. And short of this, I know no intel- of nature. As Mr. Hume has represented the quesligible signification which can be affixed to the term tion, miracles are alike incredible to him, who is pre

contrary to experience,' but one, viz. that of not having viously assured of the constant agency of a Divine ourselves experienced any thing similar to the thing Being, and to him who believes that no such Being related, or such things not being generally experienced exists in the universe. They are equally incredible, by others. I say • not generally;' for to state, con- whether related to have been wrought upon occasions cerning the fact in question, that no such thing was the most deserving, and for purposes the most benefiever experienced, or that universal experience is against cial, or for no assignable end whatever, or for an end it, is to assume the subject of the controversy.

confessedly trifling or pernicious. This surely cannot “Now the improbability which arises from the want be a correct statement. In adjusting also the other side (for this properly is a want, not a contradiction) of ex- | of the balance, the strength and weight of testimony, perience, is only equal to the probability there is, that, '.3 author has provided an answer to every possible if the thing were true, we should experience things cumulation of historical proof, by telling us that we similar to it, or that such things would be generally are not obliged to explain how the story or the evidence experienced. Suppose it then to be true, that miracles arose. Now I think that we are obliged; not, perhaps, were wrought upon the first promulgation of Chris- to show by positive accounts how it did, but by a protianity, when nothing but miracles could decide its bable hypothesis how it might so happen. The existauthority, is it certain that such miracles would be re- ence of the testimony is a phenomenon: the truth of peated so often, and in so many places, as to become the fact solves the phenomenon. If we reject this soobjects of general experience? 'Is it a probability ap- lution, we ought to have some other to rest in; and proaching to certainty? Is it a probability of any great none, even by our adversaries, can be admitted, which strength or force? Is it such as no evidence can en- is not consistent with the principles that regulate counter? And yet this probability is the exact con- luman affairs and human conduct at present, or which rerse, and therefore the exact measure of the improba- makes men then to have been a different kind of beings bility which arises from the want of experience, and from what they are now. which Mr. Hume represents as invincible by human “But the short consideration, which, independently testimony.

of every other, convinces me that there is no solid “ It is not like alleging a new law of nature, or a new foundation for Mr. Hume's conclusion, is the followexperiment in natural philosophy; because, when these ing: When a theorem is proposed to a mathematician, are related, it is expected that, under the same circum- the first thing he does with it is to try it upon a simple stances, the same effect will follow universally; and case; and if it produce a false result, ne is sure that in proportion as this expectation is justly entertained, there is some mistake in the demonstration. Now to the want of a corresponding experience negatives the proceed in this way with what may be called Mr. history. But to expect, concerning a miracle, that it Hume's theorern-If twelve men, whose probity and should succeed upon a repetition, is to expect that which good sense I had long known, should seriously and would make it cease to be a miracle; which is contrary circumstantially relate to me an account of a miracle to its nature as such, and would totally destroy the use wrought before their eyes, and in which it was imposand purpose for which it was wrought.

sible that they should be deceived; if the governor of “ 'The force of experience, as an objection to mira- the country, hearing a ramour of this account, should cles, is founded in the presumption, either that the call these men into his presence, and offer them a short course of nature is invariable, or that, if it be ever va- proposal, either to confess the imposture, or submit to ried, variations will be frequent and general. Has the be tied up to a gibbet; if they should refuse with one necessity of this alternative been demonstrated ? Per- voice to acknowledge that there existed any falsehood mit us to call the course of nature the agency of an or imposture in the case; if this threat were commuintelligent Being; and is there any good reason for nicated to them separately, yet with no different effect; judging this state of the case to be probable ? Ought if it were at last executed ; if I myself saw them, one we not rather to expect, that such a Being, on occasions after another, consenting to be racked, burned, or stranof peculiar importance, may interrupt the order which gled, rather than give up the truth of their account;he had appointed, yet that such occasions should return still, if Mr. Hune's rule be my guide, I am not to beseldom; that these interruptions, consequently, should lieve them. Now I undertake to say, that there exists be confined to the experience of a few; that the want not a skeptic in the world who would not believe thein, of it, therefore, in many, should be matter neither of or who would defend such incredulity.”() surprise nor objection?

“The Essayist,” says the Bishop of Llandaft, “ who " But as a continuation of the argument from expe- has most elaborately drawn out this argnment, perrience, it is said, that when we advance accounts of plexes the subject, by attempting to adjust, in a sort of miracles, we assign effects without causes, or we attri- metaphysical balance of his own invention, the degrees bute effects to causes inadequate to the purpose, or of probability resulting from what he is pleased to call to causes, of the operation of which we have no expe- opposite experiences; viz. the experience of men's ve

Of what causes, we may ask, and of what racity on the one hand, and the experience of the firm effects does the objection speak? If it be answered, and unalterable constitution of the laws of nature on that when we ascribe the cure of the palsy to a touch, the other. But the fallacy in this mode of reasoning of blindness to the anointing of the eyes with clay, or is obvious. For, in the first place, miracles can, at the raising of the dead to a word, we lay ourselves open most, only be contrary to the experience of those who to this imputation; we reply, that we ascribe no such never saw them performed. To say, therefore, that eflects to such causes. We perceive no virtue or energy they are contrary io general experience (including, as in these things more than in other things of the same it should seem, the experience even of those who prokind. They are inerely signs to connect the miracle fess to have seen and to have examined them), is to with its end. The effect we ascribe simply to the voli- assume the very point in question. And in the next tion of the Deity; of whose existence and power, not place, it is equally fallacious to allege against them the to say of whose presence and agency, we have previo experience of the unalterable constitution of the laws ous and independent proof. We have, therefore, all we of nature; because, unless the fact be previously inseek for in the works of rational agents—a suflicient vestigated, whether those laws have ever been altered power and an adequate motive. In a word, once or suspended, this is likewise a gratuitous assumpbelieve that there is a God, and miracles are not incre- tion, dible!

“In truth, this boasted balance of probabilities could Mr. Hume states the case of miracles to be a con- only be employed with effect in the cause of infidelity, test of opposite improbabilities; that is to say, a ques- by counterpoising against the testimony of those who tion whethir: it be more improbable that the miracle professed to have seen iniracles, the testimony of those should be true, or the testimony false ; and this I think it any such were to be found) who, under the circuma fair account of the controversy. But herein I remark stances, and with the same opportunities of forming a a want of argumentative justice, that, in describing judgment, professed to have been convinced, that the the improbability of miracles, he suppresses all those things which they saw were not miracles, but mere circunstances of extenuation which result fronı our impostures and delusions. Here would be indeed exknowledge of the existence, power, and disposition of the Deity; his concern in the creation ; the end an- (7) Palet's Evidences, Preparatory Considerations.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


perience against experience; and a skeptic might be ture, prove the constant providence of the Deity; those, well employed in estimating the comparative weight of on the contrary, which upon any extraordinary occasion the testimony on either side, in order to judge of the are produced in such a manner as it is manifest could credibility or incredibility of the things proposed to his not have been either by human power, or by what is belief. But when he weighs only the experience of called chance, prove undeniably the immediate interthose, to whom the opportunity of judging of a miracle position of the Deity on that especial occasion. God, by personal observation has never been afforded, against it must be recollected, is the Governor of the moral as the experience of those who declare themselves to be well as of the physical world; and since the moral welleye-witnesses of the fact; instead of opposite experi- being of the universe is of more consequence than its ences, properly so called, he is only balancing total physical order and regularity, it follows obviously, that inexperience on the one hand, against positive experi- the laws, conformably with which the material world ence on the other.

seems generally to be regulated, are subservient and may Nor will it avail any thing to say, that this parti- occasionally yield to the laws by which the moral world cular inexperience of those who have never seen mira- is governed. Although, therefore, a miracle is contrary cles is compensated by their general experience of the to the usual course of nature (and would indeed lose unalterable course of nature. For, as we have already its beneficial effect if it were not so), it cannot thence observed, this is altogether a mere petitio principii. be inferred that it is a violation of the laws of nature,' It is arguing, upon a supposition wholly incapable of allowing the term to include a regard to moral tendenproof, that the course of nature is indeed so unalterably cies. The laws by which a wise and holy God governs fixed, that even God himself, by whom its laws were the world cannot (unless he is pleased to reveal them) ordained, cannot, when he sees fit, suspend their ope- be learned in any other way than from testimony; since ration.

on this supposition, nothing but testimony can bring us " There is therefore a palpable fallacy (however a acquainted with the whole series of his dispensations; subtle metaphysician may attempt to disguise it by and this kind of knowledge is absolutely necessary preingenious sophistry) in represencing the experience of viously to our correctly inferring those laws. Testimankind as being opposite to the testimony on which mony, therefore, must be admitted as constituting the our belief of miracles is founded. For the opposite principal means of discovering the real laws by which experiences, as they are called, are not contradictory the universe has been regulated ; that testimony asto each other; since there is,' as has been justly ob- sures us, that the apparent course of nature has often served, 'no inconsistency in believing them both. A been interrupted to produce important moral effects; miracle necessarily supposes an established and gene- and we must not at random disregard such testimony, rally unaitered (though not unalterable) course of because in estimating its credibility, we ought to look things; for in its interception of such a course, lies the almost infinitely more at the moral than at the physical very essence of a miracle, is here understood. Our circumstances connected with any particular event."(8) experience, therefore, of the course of nature leads us Such evidence as that of miracles, transmitted to to expect its continuance, and to act accordingly; but distant times by satisfactory testimony, a revelation it does not set aside any proofs, from valid testimony, may then receive. The fitness of this kind of evidence of a deviation from it: neither can our being personally to render that revelation an instant and universal beneunacquainted with a matter of fact, which took place a fit, wherever it comes, is equally apparent; for as Mr. thousand years ago, or in a distant part of the world, Locke observes,(9) “ The bulk of mankind have not warrant us in disbelieving the testimony of personal leisure nor capacity for demonstration, nor can they witnesses of the fact. Common sense revolts at the carry a train of proofs; but as to the worker of miraabsurdity of considering one man's ignorance or experience as a counterpoise to another man's knowledge (8) It would be singular, did we not know the inconand experience of a matter of fact. Yet on no better sistencies of error, that Mr. Hume himself, as Dr.Campfoundation does this favourite argument of infidels bell shows, gives up his own argument. appear to rest."

" I own” (these are his words) “there may possibly The substance of Dr. Campbell's answer to Mr. be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, Hume's argument has been thus given:

of such a kind as to admit a proof from human testi“The evidence arising from human testimony is not mony, though perhaps (in this he is modest enough, he solely derived from experience; on the contrary, testi- avers nothing; perhaps) it will be impossible to find mony has a natural influence on belief, antecedent to any such in all the records of history.” To this declaexperience. The early and unlimited assent given to ration he subjoins the following supposition : “Suppose testimony by children, gradually contracts as they ad all authors, in all languages, agree that from the 1st vance in life; it is therefore more consonant to truth of January, 1600, there was a total darkness over the to say, that our diffidence in testimony is the result of whole earth for eight days; suppose that the tradition of experience, than that our faith in it has this foundation. this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among Besides, the uniformity of experience in favour of any the people; that all travellers, who return from foreign fact is not a proof against its being reversed in a parti- countries, bring us accounts of the same traditions, withcular instance. The evidence arising from the single out the least variation or contradiction; it is evident that testimony of a man of known veracity will go farther our present philosophers, instead of doubting of that to establish a belief of its being actually reversed. If fact, ought to receive it for certain, and ought to search his testimony be confirmed by a few others of the same for the causes whence it might be derived." Could one character, we cannot withhold our assent to the truth of imagine that the person who had made the above acit. Now, though the operations of nature are governed knowledgment, a person, too, who is justly allowed by by uniform laws, and though we have not the testimony | all who are acquainted with his writings to possess of our senses in favour of any violation of them; stili, uncommon penetration and philosophical abilities, that if in particular instances we have the testimony of this were the same individual, who had so short a thousands of our fellow-creatures, and those, too, men while before affirmed, that “a miracle," or a violation of strict integrity, swayed by no motives of ambition of the course of nature, “supported by any human or interest, and governed by the principles of common testimony, is more properly a subject of derision than sense, that they were actually witnesses of these vio- of argument.” lations, the constitution of our nature obliges us to be- The objection“ that successive testirnony diminishes, lieve them.

and that so rapidly as to command no assent after a “Mr. Hume's reasoning is ounded upon too limited few centuries at most,” deserves not so full a refutaa view of the laws and course of nature. If we con- tion; since it is evident, that testimony continues cresider things duly, we shall find that lifeless matter is dible so long as it is transmitted with all those circumutterly incapable of obeying any laws or of heing en- stances and conditions which first procured it a certain dued with any powers; and therefore, what is usually degree of merit among men. Who complains of a called the course of nature can be nothing else than the decay of evidence in relation to the actions of Alexan arbitrary will and pleasure of God, acting continually der, Hannibal, Pompey, or Cæsar? We never hear upon matter according to certain rules of uniformity, persons wishing they had lived ages earlier, that they still bearing a relation to contingencies. So that it is might have had better proof that Cyrus was the con. as easy for the Supreme Being to alter what men think queror of Babylon; that Darius was beaten in several the course of nature, as to preserve it. Those effects battles by Alexander, &c.--See Dr. O. GREGORY'S which are produced on the world regularly and indesi- Letters on the Christian Revention, vol. i. p. 196. nently, and which are usually termed the works of na- (9) Reasonableness of Christianity.

« PreviousContinue »