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in this case, contrary to experience; and, consequently, the evidence which seems to prove a miracle must be held to be deceptive.
Now we have a great respect for experience, and have no inclination to say anything in the present argument by which the value of this proverbially effectual teacher may be depreciated; but this is setting her to unfair work. Experience is, doubtless, one of the sources of our knowledge, but it is not the only source of it; immediate observation by our senses is another, and testimony borne to us by others is a third. If there be any force in the argument we are now examining, it lies in exalting one of these sources of knowledge at the expense of the other two, and in assigning to experience the prerogative of overriding sense and testimony. This is demonstrably wrong, however. The evidence of experience is, in truth, the evidence of sense and testimony accumulated, and nothing more, since it is clearly not in the power of experience to supply any original or independent evidence of her own. She is absolutely limited to the work of a compiler; and merely reduces to a code of practical wisdom, either what has happened to ourselves, or what we are told has happened to others. She is, consequently, the inferior, rather than the superior; and if superiority may be claimed by either party, it is certainly sense and testimony that are entitled to it, since they furnish the primary authentication on which experience herself reposes her confidence. Not, however, that an absolute authority is to be claimed, either for the senses alone, or for the senses aided by testimony; since sources of fallacy are always incident to these, in avoiding which experience renders invaļuable and indispensable aid : but neither, in her turn, is she to be absolute. It is not to be a positive bar to belief of a reported fact, that nothing of the sort has been known to happen before.
If, indeed, an opposite principle were laid down, and nothing contrary to experience were held entitled to belief, it is far from being miracles alone which would be expunged from human knowledge. In that case, nothing could be believed that was without precedent, nothing that happened for the first time, nothing new. Upon this supposition, it behoved that everything which was to happen in his history should have happened to the first man during the first moment of his being, since he was precluded from believing anything which was not authenticated by his experience. How, indeed, even with this help, could he believe in the world around him, when he beheld the glorious aspect of it for the first time, or in the first sunset, or in the first sunrise? Or how could the drowning population of the old world have believed in the deluge which was carrying them away, if the evidence of the senses could prove nothing which was contrary to experience ? But we cease this questioning, which we fear our readers may grow weary of as unnecessary. It is too plain that all which we now believe on the evidence of experience was once new, and believed, not only without her aid, but in contradiction to her voice; and that by continually believing in a similar manner more new things, we are continually adding to the treasures of practical wisdom with which enriches us.
It is, in truth, a primary and indestructible principle of our nature to give immediate credence, both to the evidence of sense, and to the evidence of testimony. We find ourselves, indeed, occasionally misled by both, and we are constrained to resort to methods for correcting the errors to which both are liable, but such means are ready to our hands, and are far different from an absolute subjection of our faith to our experience. In fact, miracles are as capable of proof as any other occurrences.
Well, be it so, says an objector: but the miracles actually recorded cannot be proved, for they never took place. The records of them are either false or fabulous.
We cannot here go fully into the extensive subject which this allegation opens to us, or do any justice to the mass and variety of evidence by which the historical truth and fidelity of the scriptural narratives are demonstrated. Nor can we undertake to advert, even in a cursory manner, to all the miracles recorded in the sacred writings. We shall confine ourselves to a few remarks on the Christian miracles, or those by which the Messiah signalized his residence on earth, and gave proof of his mission from heaven.
Taking the evangelical narratives as we find them, and looking at the allegation that the miracles therein recorded were frauds—that is, that the occurrences represented as miraculous were not really so, but merely tricks practised upon unwary observers—we make this general observation, that, if the miracles of Christ were frauds, they were the most marvellous and incredible of frauds.
Frauds, as a class of human transactions, have a generic character, by which they may be distinguished from the other affairs of life, and for which every sagacious investigator makes a careful search. All frauds have an object in some way gratifying to the inventor or executor of them. All frauds exhibit, when fully examined, marks of contrivance and artifice. All successful frauds are indebted to felicitous circumstances and coincidences for their issue. To set that down as a fraud which has not these characteristics is unjust. Let us try by these tests the miracles of Christ.
All frauds, we say, have an object in some way gratifying to the inventor or executor of them. It is not in human nature to take so much trouble, unless with a view to procure by it some pleasing or beneficial result. Now, with respect to our Lord Jesus Christ, he tells us frankly what the end he contemplated by his miracles was-namely, to prove that his Father had sent him; not only a spiritual object, identical with no worldly gratification, but an object in order to attain which his miracles must of necessity be genuine. Tricks of legerdemain could have no tendency but to defeat it. What other object did he seek, which feigned miracles might seem adapted to secure for him ? Was he ambitious ? Did he court wealth? Did he court human applause ? Nothing of the kind. All that could possibly be gained by a course of clever and successful artifice he disregarded and flung away. Why, then, should he be suspected of insincerity ?
All frauds, we have said, exhibit, when fully examined, aspects of contrivance and ingenuity. They would otherwise have no adaptation to their end. Having no reality, they must have a semblance of truth. The simple and straightforward consists only with the honest. In this respect what was the character of Christ's miracles ? Are there any indications of elaborate preparation ? Was there watchfulness of time and circumstance? Were there any curious precautions, or signs of timidity and suspicion? Was there any attempt at concealment? Was there any study of publicity and display? Was there any fishing for applause? Again, nothing of the kind. The miracles of Jesus were wrought upon the most natural occasions, with the greatest possible modesty, without the slightest preparation, with the utmost conceivable openness, and in all varieties of circumstances, from the domestic privacy of the sick chamber to the presence of thronging multitudes. Never did an artful man bear himself so modestly, or a juggler lay himself so open to exposure. Never was a knave at the same time such a fool, or so utterly wanting in the indispensable tactics of his profession.
All successful frauds, we have further observed, are indebted to felicitous circumstances and coincidences for their issue. Being adapted to their end, not by reality, but by appearance only, it is not in their nature to succeed by their own force, but only as aided by a fortunate concurrence of tributary causes ; and thus it is, for the most part, in subsequent periods at least, not difficult to trace, as in the rise of Mohammedanism, for example. But what in this relation was the aspect of the Christian enterprise? Were earthly powers in its favour? Were Jewish prejudices in its favour? Was pagan philosophy in its favour? Or pagan morals? Did it pander to the luxury and vices of mankind ? Did it present stimulants or rewards to ambition ? A third time, nothing of the kind.
On the contrary, everything was adverse to the success of Christianity. The venerable antiquity and unquestionable divinity of Judaism, and the inveterate prejudice of the Jew; the lofty pride of pagan wisdom, and the utter profligacy of pagan morals ; the feeble and defenceless condition of its advocates, and the crushing magnitude of its foes. Yet Christianity succeeded ; and, if a fraud, assuredly in circumstances in which no other fraud 'ever succeeded in the world. But it cannot be. If Christianity triumphed, its triumph must have come from heaven; a testimony and an honour which no fraud can be supposed for a moment to have enjoyed.
Regarding the achievements of Christianity as a problem to be solved, indeed, the supposition of its having been a systematic fraud places the greatest of all difficulties in the way of its solution; it is far more easy if we proceed on the supposition of its genuineness and truth. It is passing wonderful on the latter hypothesis ; but on the former it is utterly inexplicable.
The genuineness and reality of the Christian miracles being admitted, however, we are finally told that the evidence so derived is of no worth. Miraculous attestation need not be contended about, for, if it be obtained, it is valueless. So writers of grave name now allege.*
On this allegation we may observe in passing, that, if it had occurred to former writers of the infidel school, it might have saved them a great deal of trouble. They would scarcely have taken so much pains to impugn a species of evidence, which, if it were conceded, was of no weight. To which it may be added, that the studied depreciation of the evidence of miracles may fairly be taken as a confession that the miracles themselves cannot be got rid of. But to the allegation itself.
Miraculous attestation, we are told, is of no value. We ask, why? Because, says the writer already referred to, God appears sufficiently and best in what is regular. Our remarks upon this are two. First, that what may be either sufficient or the best indications of God's presence in the world, is not a question for Mr. Mackay, or for any one but God himself, to determine. Secondly, that to indicate God's presence in the world is very far from being the intention of miracles, as this writer supposes. This is entirely misconceiving the thing to be proved by them. The object of a miracle is to prove that God has given a commission to another-namely, to the party by whom the miracle is wrought: an object which, it is clear, could not be effected by the regular processes of the natural world.
Mr. Newman is equally beside the mark, when he asks, with an air of triumph, of what doctrine can a miracle be to me an evidence ? Miracles were never intended to supply evidence of doctrines. Their sole intention is to prove a fact; and that fact is simply this, that the person by whom a miracle is wrought has received a commission from God. It was for this purpose specifically that miracles were employed by Christ, as appears decisively from a passage which we have already quoted—“ The works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.” And the method of proof is by no means recondite. The work effected is wrought by an immediate exertion of divine power, but, as this is beyond human control, the effectuation of works by it implies divine permission and warrant; and this warrant would not be given but for a purpose by God approved. When, therefore, a person says, I bave a mission from God, and works a miracle-or, in other words, wields divine power in proof of his assertion, his argument has certainly a direct bearing, and a decisive value.
Such, indeed, has been the admitted force of miracles in all ages. So it was with the Israelites, when they saw the miracles of Moses. So it was with the Jews, when they saw the miracles of Jesus. • Rabbi,' said Nicodemus, 'we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles which thou doest, except God be with him.' And after one of his magnificent works—the feeding of five thousand men with a few loaves and fishes—the evangelist adds, . Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.'*
* See Mackay's Progress of the Intellect.' + Phases of Faith.
Words for the Wise.
• Faithful are the wounds of a friend.' - Solomon.
VII.-(D.V.)' What can it mean?" said the lady. What can it mean?' echoed the gentleman. Perhaps it is a new degree,' suggested the lady: . "Perhaps it is,' replied the gentleman. “Doctor of Virtue, for instance? queried the lady." What do you think of Victorious Doctor, my dear?' asked the gentleman. You are always so foolish, Charles; I will ask Dr. Pliable myself,' said the lady. Do, my dear,' answered the gentleman ; and they passed on.
Now this dialogue, neither so long, nor, to say the truth, so witty as Dr. Dodd's famous sermon on M.A.L.T., was occasioned by half that number of letters on a hand-bill. The name of her favourite divine had caught the lady's eye, and she had stopped to read it. There, in magnificent capitals, ran the announcement which puzzled, whilst it delighted her, - The Reverend Popular Pliable, D.D., will (D.V.) take the chair;' and it was the latter pair of letters, attached to the reverend gentleman's name, which had occasioned the dialogue in the street. Arrived at home, her thoughts still ran upon the cabalistic letters. D.D. she knew all about; but D.V. was incomprehensible. She must know. To see that stout member of the corporation of letters, Mr. D., paying his addresses, in a kind of parenthetical boudoir, to a Chinese beauty without any feet, was too much for her woman's curiosity. · What does it mean, Charles ? ' she asked at the dinner-table, more vehemently than ever. • Mean, Emily? Hem ! let's consider. Why the half-moon, of course, glorifying “ the baseless fabric of a V• How absurd you are,' she rejoined, and relapsed into the silence of speculation. But the ruling passion was strong within her, and when the cloth was drawn, she asked again. Numerals, perhaps, Roman numerals,' suggested the naughty Charles this time; Sidney Smiths' “ forty-parson power" raised to five hundred and five.' voking you are; as if I did not know that the letters were initials.'
* John iii, 2, and vi. 14.