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tural religion want not the support of miracles. But when any new doctrine is published to the world, or any new command, of which nature has given no notice, it is of necessity that such new doctrines should be established by new proofs. One thing, indeed, we learn from natural reason, that God is to be trusted and obeyed in whatever he promises or commands: but still a proof is required, that such new doctrine or command does really proceed from God. And this shows how necessary miracles are to the introduction of a new revelation: not that miracles can prove the truth of any doctrine; but they directly prove the commission of the person who does them to proceed from him by whose power alone they could be performed. Sherlock.
CREDIBILITY OF MIRACLES, AS SUPPORTING
MIRACULOUS facts are not to be ranked with impossibilities. There was a time when the matter that composes my body was as void of life as it will be when it shall have lain twenty years in the grave; when the elementary particles, whereof my eye is made up, could no more enable a percipient being to see, than they can now enable one to speak; and when that which forms the substance of this hand was as inert as a stone. Yet now, by the goodness of the Creator, the first lives, the last moves, and, by means of the second, I perceive light and colours. And if almighty power can bring about all this gradually,
by one particular succession of causes and effects, may not the same power perform it in an instant, and by the operation of other causes to us unknown? Or will the atheist say, (and none who believes in God can doubt the possibility of miracles) that he himself knows every possible cause that can operate in the production of any effect? Or is he certain that there is no such thing in the universe as almighty power?
To raise a dead man to life; to cure blindness with a touch; to remove lameness, or any other bodily imperfection, by speaking a word, are all miracles; but must all be as easy to the author of nature, or to any person commissioned by him for that purpose, as to give life to an embryo, make the eye an organ of sight, or cause vegetables to revive in the spring. And therefore, if a person, declaring himself to be sent of God, or invested with divine power, and saying and doing what is worthy of such a commission, should perform miracles like these, mankind would have the best reason to believe that his authority was really from heaven.
As the common people have neither time nor capacity for deep reasoning; and as divine revelation of religion must be intended for all sorts of men, the vulgar as well as the learned, the poor as well as the rich: it is necessary, that the evidence of such a revelation should be of that kind which may command general attention, and convince men of all ranks and characters, and should therefore be level to every capacity. It would be easy, no doubt, for the Deity to convey his truths immediately to every man by inspiration,
so as to make inquiry unnecessary, and doubt impossible. But this would not be consistent with man's free agency and moral probation; and this would be very unlike every other dispensation of Providence with respect to man, who, as he is endowed with rational faculties, feels that he is under an obligation to use and improve them. This would be to make him love religion, and believe in it, without leaving it in his power to do otherwise; and such faith, and such love, would be no mark of either a good disposition or a bad. Now there is no kind of evidence, consistent with our moral probation and free agency, that is likely to command universal attention, and carry full conviction in religious matters to men of all ranks and capacities, except the evidence arising from miracles, or supernatural Beattie.
I KNOW not how it has happened, but there are many in the present age, whose prejudice against all miraculous events have arisen to that height, that it appears to them utterly impossible for any human testimony, however great, to establish their credibility. For the sake of such men, suffer me to hazard an observation or two upon the -subject.
Knowledge is rightly divided, by Mr. Locke, into intuitive, sensitive, and demonstrative. It is clear, that a past miracle can neither be the ob
ject of sense nor of intuition; we cannot then, philosophically speaking, be said to know that a miracle has ever been performed. But, in all the great concerns of life, we are influenced by probability rather than knowledge; and of probability, the same great author establishes two foundations, a conformity to our own experience, and the testimony of others. Now it is contended, that by the opposition of these two principles, probability is destroyed; or, in other terms, that human testimony can never influence the mind to assent to a proposition repugnant to uniform experience. Whose experience do you mean*?. You will not say your own; for the experience of an individual reaches but a little way; and no doubt you daily assent to a thousand truths in politics, in physics, and in the business of common life, which you have never seen verified by ex, perience. You will not produce the experience of your friends; for that can extend itself but a little way beyond your own.-But by uniform experience, I conceive, you are desirous of understanding the experience of all ages and nations since the foundation of the world. I answer, first, how is it that you become acquainted with the experience of all ages and nations? You will reply, from history.-Be it so: peruse then by far the most ancient records of antiquity; and if you find no mention of miracles in them, I give up the point. Yes, but every thing related therein respecting miracles is to be reckoned fabulous.
• The person with whom our author is reasouing, is the celebrated Mr. Gibbon.-Editor.
Why? Because miracles contradict the experience of all ages and nations. Do you not perceive that you beg the very question in debate? for we affirm, that the great and learned nation, that the heathen inhabiting the land of Canaan, that the numerous people of the Jews, and the nations which, for ages, surrounded them, have all had great experience of miracles. You cannot otherwise obviate this conclusion, than by questioning the authenticity of that book, concerning which Newton, when he was writing his Commentary on Daniel, expressed himself to the person * from whom I had the anecdote, and which deserves not to be lost: 'I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible, than in any profane history-whatsoever.'
Three men of distinguished abilities rose up at different times, and attacked Christianity with every objection which their malice could suggest, or their learning could devise: but neither Celsus, in the second century, nor Porphyry, in the third, nor the emperor Julian himself, in the fourth century, ever questioned the reality of the miracles related in the Gospel. Bp. Watson.
THE STATE OF IDOLATRY, AND THE CONDUCT OF SOCRATES, AND OTHER WISE MEN, RESPECTING IT, A PROOF OF THE NECESSITY OF REVELATION.
To prove the truth of the assertion, that even the wise men, who knew God, did not glorify him as Dr. Smith, late Master of Trinity College.