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“ A miracle," says he, “is a transgression of the law of na: « ture*.". But how are the laws of nature known to us? By experience. What is the criterion, whereby we must judge, whether the laws of nature are transgressed? Solely the conformity or disconformity of events to our experience. This writer surely will not pretend, that we can have any knowledge a priori, either of the law, or of the violation. spren, i e 13 Let us then examine by his own principles, whether the King of Siam, of whom the story he alludes to, is related by Locket, could have sufficient evidence from testimony, of a fact so contrary to his experience as the freezing of water. He could just say as much of this event, as the author can say of a dead man's being restored to life. Such a thing was "never observed, as far as I could learn, in any age or coun• try.' . If the things themselves too are impartially considered and independently of the notions acquired by us in these northern climates, we should account the first at least as extraordinary as the second. That so pliant a body as water should become hard like pavement, so as to bear up an elephant on its surface, is as unlikely in itself, as that a body inanimate to-day should be animated to-morrow. Nay, to the Indian monarch, I must think, that the first would appear more a miracle, more contrary to experience than the second. If he had been acquainted with ice or frozen water, and afterwards seen it bei come fluid ; but had never seen nor learned, that after it was melted, it became hard again, the relation must have appeared marvellous, as the process from fluidity to hardness never had been experienced, though the reverse often had. But I believe nobody will question, that on this supposition it would not have appeared quite so strange, as it did. Yet this supposition makes the instance more parallel to the restoring of the dead to life. The process from animate to inanimate we are all acquainted with ; and what is such a restoration, but the reversing of this process ? So little reason had the author to insinuate, that the one was only not conformable, the other contrary to experience. If there be a difference in this respect; the first to one alike unacquainted with both, mušt appear the more contrary of the two.
Does it alter the matter, that he calls the former " a fact « which arose from a state of nature, with which the Indian “ was unacquainted ?” Was not such a state quite uncon. formable, or (which in the author's language I have shown to be the same) contrary to his experience? Is then a state of
* p. 182, in the note.
PROOF FROM TESTIMONI edible than a
PROOF FROM TESTIMONY..
nature which is contrary to experience, more credible than a single fact contrary to experience? I want the solution of one difficulty: The author, in order to satisfy me, presents me with a thousand others. Is this suitable to the method he proposes in another place, of admitting always the less miracle and rejecting the greater*? Is it not, on the contrary, ad. mitting without any difficulty the greater miracle, and thereby removing the difficulty, which he otherwise would have had in admitting the less? Does he forget, that to exhibit a state of nature entirely different from what we experience at present, is one of those enormous prodigies, which, in his account, render the Pentateuch unworthy of creditt? “ No Indian,” says he in the note, “it is evident, could have experience that “ water did not freeze in cold climates. This is placing nature “ in a situation quite unknown to him, and it is impossible for “ him to tell a priori, what will result from it.” This is precisely, as if, in reply to the author's objection from experience against the raising of a dead man (suppose Lazarus) to life, I should retort: Neither you, Sir, nor any who live in this
century can have experience, that a dead man could not be restored to life at the command of one divinely commissioned to give a revelation to men. This is placing nature in a situation quite unknown to you, and it is impossible for you
to tell a priori what will result from it. This therefore is not ? contrary to the course of nature, in cases where all the cir. • cumstances are the same. As you never saw one, vested 6 with such a commission, you are as unexperienced, as igno
rant of this point, as the inhabitants of Sumatra are of the “frosts in Muscovy ; you cannot therefore reasonably, any
more than they, be positive as to the consequences. Should he rejoin, as doubtless he would, “This is not taking away the
difficulty ; but, like the elephant and the tortoise, in the ac$count given by some barbarians of the manner in which the
earth is supported, it only shifts the difficulty a step further back. My objection still recurs. That any man should be endowed with such power is contrary to experience, and
therefore incredible :' Should he, I say, rejoin in this manner, I could only add, Pray, Sir, revise your own words lately ! quoted, and consider impartially whether they be not as glar
ingly exposed to the like reply. For my part, I can only perceive one difference that is material between the two cases. You frankly confess, that with regard to the freezing of water, besides the absolute want of experience, there would be from analogy a presumption against it, which ought to weigh with a
rational Indian I think, on the contrary, in the case; supposed by me of one commissioned by Heaven, there is at least no presumption against the exertion of such a miraculous power. There is rather a presumption in its favour. i nne
Does the author then say, that no testimony could give the King of Siam sufficient evidence of the effects of cold on water? No. By implication he says the contrary: “ It required very strong testimony.” Will he say, that those most aston, ishing effects of electricity lately discovered, so entirely unanalogous to every thing before experienced, will he say, that such facts no reasonable man could have sufficient evidence from testimony to believe ? No. We may presųme, he will not, from his decision in the former case ; and if he should, the common sense of mankind would reclaim against his ex. travagance. Yet it is obvious to every considerate reader, that his argument concludes equally against those truly marvellous, as, against miraculous events; both being alike unconformable, or alike contrary to former experience*. ... , · Thus I think I have shown, that the author is chargeable with some fallacies, in his way of managing the argument;
* I cannot forbear to observe, that many of the principal terms employed in the essay, are used in a manner extremely vague and unphilosophical. I have rei marked the confusion I find in the application of the words, experience, contrarie, ty, conformity: I might remark the same thing of the word, miracle. 6 A mira« cle," it is said, p. 182, in the note, “ may be accurarely defined, a TRANSGRES. “sjon of a law of nature, by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposal of “ some invisible ugent." The word transgression invariably denotes a criminal op position to authority. The author's accuracy in representing God as a transgres, sor, I have not the perspicacity to discern." Does he intend, by throwing something monstrous into the definition, to infuse into the reader a prejudice against the thing defined ? But supposing thai through inadvertency, he had used the term transgression, instead of suspension, which would have been both intelligible and proper; one would at least expect, that the word miracle in the essay, al. ways exprest the sense of the definition. But this it evidently does not. Thus in the instance of the miracle supposed (p. 203, in the note) he calls it, in the beginning of the paragraph, “A violation of the usual course of nature ;" but in the end, after telling us that such a miracle, on the evidence supposed, “ our ® present philosophers ought to receive for certain," he subjoins, (how consist. ently, let the reader judge)" and ought to search for the causes, whence it might “ be derived." Thus it is insinuared, that though a fact apparently miraculous, and perfectly extraordinary, might be admitted by a philosopher, still the reality of the miracle must be denied. For if the interposal of the Deity be the proper solution of the phenomenon, why should we recur to natural causes ! Hence a careless reader is insensibly led to think that there is some special incredibility in such an interposal, distinct from its uncommonness. Yet the author's great argument is built on this single circumstance, and places such an interposition just on the same footing with every event that is equally uncommon. At one time, he uses the word miracle to denote a bare improbability, as will appear in the sixth section : at another, absurd and miraculous are, with him, synony mous terms; so are also the miraculous nature of an event, and its absolute impossibility, Is this the style and manner of a reasoner?
that he all along avails himself of an ambiguity in the word experience that his reasoning includes a petitio principii in the bosom of it ; and that, in supporting his argument, he must have recourse to distinctions, where, even himself being judge, there is no difference.
M R. Hume himself,' methinks I hear my reader repeating with astonishment, 'gives up his favourite argument? To
prove this point is indeed a very bold attempt.' Yet that this attempt is not altogether so arduous, as at first hearing, he will possibly imagine, I hope, if favoured, a while with his attention, fully to convince him. If to acknowledge, af. ter all, that there may be miracles, which admit of proof from human testimony; if to acknowledge, that such miracles ought to be received, not as probable only, but as absolutely certain ; or, in other words, that the proof from human testimony may be such as that all the contrary uniform experience, should not only be overbalanced, but, to use the author's expression, should be annihilated; if such acknowledgments as these, are subversive of his own principles; if by making them, he abandons his darling argument ; this strange part the essayist evidently acts. .
"I own," these are his words, “there may possibly be s miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such * a kind as to admit a proof from human testimony, though " perhaps” (in this he is modest enough, he avers nothing'; perhaps) " it will be impossible to find any such in all the re** cords of history.” To this declaration he subjoins the following supposition : “ Suppose all authors, in all languages,
* agree, that from the 1st of January 1700, there was a total 5 darkness over the whole earth for eight days; suppose that " the tradition of this extraordinary event, is still strong and "lively among the people ; that all travellers, who, return "from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same trai 6 dition, without the least variation or contradiction ; it is "evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubting
of that fact, ought to receive it for certain, and ought to u search for the causes, whence it might be derived*.”..
* p. 203, in the note.
Could one imagine, that the person who had made the above acknowledgment, a person too who is justly allowed by all who are acquainted with his writings, to possess uncommon penetration and philosophical abilities, that this were the same individual, who had so short while before affirmed, that “ a miracle," or a violation of the usual course of nature, “ sup“ ported by any human testimony, is more properly a subject “ of derision than of argument* ;" who had insisted, that “ it is not requisite, in order to reject the fact, to be able acs curately to disprove the testimony, and to trace its false “ hood ; that such an evidence carries falsehood on the very “ face of it t;" that " we need but oppose even to a cloud of " witnesses, the absolute impossibility, or," which is all one, 6 miraculous nature of the events, which they relate ; that 6 this in the eyes of all reasonable people, will alone be re6 garded as a sufficient refutationt;" and who finally to put an end to all altercation on the subject had pronounced this oracle. ".No. TESTIMONY FOR ANY KIND OF MIRACLE GAN « EVER POSSIBLY AMOUNT TO A PROBABILITY,.MUCH LESS TO ¢ A PROOFil." Was there ever a more glaring contradiction ! " Yet for the event supposed by the essayist, the testimony, in his judgment, would amount to a probability; nay to more than a probability, to a proof ; let not the reader be astonished, or if he cannot fail to be astonished, let him not be incredulous, when I add, to more than a proof, more than a full, entire and direct proof; for even this I hope to make evident from the author's principles and reasoning. “ And even supposing,” says he, that is, granting for argument's sake," that the testi“mony for a miracle amounted to a proof, it would be opposed
by another proof, derived from the very nature of the fact, € which it would endeavour to establish**.” Here is then, by his own reasoning, proof against proof, from which there could result no belief or opinion, unless the one is conceived to be in some degree superiour to the other. " Of which
proofs,” says he, “the strongest must prevail, but still with 66 a diminution of its force in proportion to that of its antago“ nist.tt" Before the author could believe such a miracle as he supposes, he must at least be satisfied that the proof of it from testimony is stronger than the proof against it from experience. That we may form an accurate judgment of the strength he here ascribes to testimony, let us consider what, by his own account, is the strength of the opposite proof from experience. “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; " and as a firm and unalterable experience has established