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these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire, as any argument from experience
'possibly he imagined*." Again, “ As an uniform ex"perience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full " proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of "any'miraclet." The proof then which the essayist admits from testimony, is, by his own estimate, not only superiour to a direct and full proof; but even superiour to as entire a proof, as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Whence, I pray, doth testimony acquire such amazing evid'ence ? Testiniony,' says the author, hath no evidence, but . what it derives from experience. These differ from each s other only as the species from the genus.' Put then for tesa timony, the word experience, which in this case is equivalent, and the conclusion will run thus: Here is a proof from experience, which is superiour to as entire a proof from experience as can possibly be imagined. This deduction from the author's words, the reader will perceive, is strictly logical. What the meaning of it is, I leave Mr. Hume to explain.
What hath been above deduced, how much soever it be ack counted, is not all that is implied in the concession made by the author. He further says, that the miraculous fact so at: tested, ought not only to be received, but to be received for certain. Is it not enough, Sir, that you have shown that your most full, most direct, most perfect argument may be overcome ; will nothing satisfy you now but its destruction ? One would imagine, that you had conjured up this demon, by whose irresistible arm you proposed to give a mortal blow to religion, and render scepticism triumphant, (that you had jured him up, I say) for no other purpose, but to show with what facility you could lay him. To be serious, does not this author remember, that he had oftener than once laid it down as a maxim, That when there is proof against proof, we must incline to the superiour, still with a diminution of assurance; in proportion to the force of its antagonist? But when a fact is received for certain, there can be no 'sensible diminution of assurance, such diminution always implying some doubt and uncertainty. Consequently the general proof from experience, though as entire as any argument from experience can possia bly be imagined, is not only surinonnted, but is really in com: parison as nothing, or, in Mr. Hume's phrase, undergoes an nihilation, when balanced with the particular proof from testia mony. Great indeed, it must be acknowledged is the force of truth. This conclusion, on the principles I have been endea
vouring to establish, has nothing in it, but what is conceivable and just; but on the principles of the essay, which deduće all the force of testimony from experience, serves only to confound the understanding, and to involve the subject in midnight darkness.
It is therefore manifest, that either this author's principles condemn his own method of judging, with regard to miraculous facts; or that his method of judging subverts his principles, and is a tacit desertion of them. Thus that impregnable fortress, the asylum of infidelity, which he so lately gloried in having erected, is in a moment abandoned by him, as a place untenable.
There is no peculiar presumption against such miracles as are
said to have been wrought in support of religion.
Is it then so, that the decisive argument, the essayist dattered himself he had discovered*, which with the wise and learned, was to prove an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, and would consequently be useful, as long as the world endures; is it so, that this boasted argument hath in fact little or no influence on the discoverer himself! But this author may well be excused. He cannot be always the metaphysician. He cannot soar incessantly in the clouds. Such constant elevation suits not the lot of humanity. He must sometimes, whether he will or not, descend to a level with other people, and fall into the humble track of common şense. One thing however he is resolved on; If he cannot by metaphysick spells silence the most arrogant bigotry and superstition; he will at any rate, though for this purpose he should borrow aid from what he hath no liking to, trite and popular topicks; he will at any rate free himself from their impertinent solicitations.
There are accordingly two principles in human nature, by which he accounts for all the relations, that have ever been in the world, concerning miracles. These principles are, the passion for the marvellous, and the religious affectiont; against either of which singly, the philosopher, he says, ought ever to be on his guard; but incomparably more so, when both happen to be in strict confederacy together. “For if the spirit
of religion join itself to the love of wonder, there is an end
*46 of common sense; and human testimony, in these circum-« stances, loses all pretensions to authority.*" Notwithstand
ing this strong affirmation, there is reason to suspect that the -author is not in his heart, so great an enemy to the love of wonder, as he affects to appear. No man can make a greater concession in favour of the wonderful, than he hath done in the passage quoted in the preceding section. No man ever fonder of paradox, and, in theoretical subjects, of every notion that is remote from sentiments universally received. - This love of paradox, he owns himself, that both his enemies and his friends reproach him witht. There must surely be some foundation for so universal a censure. If therefore, in respect of the passion for the marvellous, he differs from other people, the difference ariseth from a particular delicacy in this gentleman, which makes him nauseate even to wonder with the crowd. He is of that singular turn that where every body is struck with astonishment, he can see nothing wondrous in the least; at the same time he discovers prodigies, where no soul but himself ever dreamt that there were any.
We may therefore rest assured of it, that the author might be conciliated to the love of wonder, provided the spirit of reJigion be kept at a distance, against which he hath unluckily scontracted a mortal antipathy, against which he has resolved to wage eternal war. When he but touches this subject, he loseth at once his philosophiek composure, and speaks with an acrimony unusual to him on other occasions. Something of this kind appears from the citations already made. But if these should not satisfy, I shall produce one or two more, which certainly will. There is a second supposition the author makes of a miraculous event, in a certain manner circumstanced and attested, which he declares, and I think with particular propriety, that he would 6 not have the least inclii nation to believet." At his want of inclination the reader will not be surprised, when he learns that this supposed miracle is concerning a resurrection, an event which bears too strong a resemblance both to the doctrine and to the miracles of holy writ, not to alarm a modern Pyrrhonist. To the above declaration he subjoins, “ But should this miracle be ascribed " to any new system of religion, men in all ages have been so 66 much imposed on by ridiculous stories of that kind, that this 4. very circumstance would be a full proof of acheat, and sufficient 66 with all men of sense, not only co make them reject the fact, " but even reject it without further examination.” Again, a little after, “As the violations of truth are more common in,
p. 164. 185. † Dedication to the four dissertations. I p. 204. in the note.,
“ the testimony concerning religious miracles, than in that “ concerning any other matter of fact,” (a point which the author is positive, though he neither produceth facts nor arguments to support it) ", this must diminish very much the au66. thority of the former testimony, and" (pray observe his words) “ make us form a GENERAL RESOLUTION, never to lend " any attention to it, with whatever specious pretext it may be « covered.” ". Never did the passion of an inflamed orator, or the intemperate zeal of a religionist, carry him further against his adversary, than this man of speculation is carried by his prejudice against religion. Demagogues and bigots have often warned the people against listening to the arguments of an envied and therefore detested rival, lest by his sophistry they should be seduced into the most fatal errours... The same part this author, a philosopher, a sceptick, a dispassionate inquirer after truth, as surely he chooseth, to be accounted, now acts in favour of infidelity. He thinks it not safe to give religion even a hearing. Nay so strange a turn have matters taken of late with the managers of this controversy, that it is now the FREETHINKER who preaches implicit fuith ; it is the INFIDEL, who warns us of the danger of consulting reason. Beware, says he, I admonish you, of inquiring into the strength of the plea, or of bringing it to the deceitful test of reason; for " those who will be SO SILLT as to examine the affair by that
medium, and seek particular flaws in the testimony, are al“ most sure to be confounded*.” That religion is concerned in the matter, is reckoned by these sages sufficient evidence of imposture. The proofs she offers in her own defence, we are told by these candid judges, ought to be rejected, and rejected without examination. The old way of scrutiny and argument must now be laid aside, having been at length discovered to be but a bungling, a tedious, and a dangerous way at best. What then shall we substitute in its place? The essayist hath a most admirable expedient. A shorter and surer method he recommends to us, the expeditious way of resolution. "Form, says he, a GENERAL RESOLUTION, never to lend
uny attention to testimonies or facts, urged by religion, with whatever specious pretext they may be covered.'
I had almost congratulated Mr. Hume, and our enlightened age, on this happy invention, before I reflected, that though the application might be new, the expedient itself, of resolving to be deaf to argument, was very ancient, having been often with great success employed against atheists and here
p. 197. in the note.
ticks, and warmly recommended by Bellarmine and Scotus, and most others of that bright fraternity the schoolmen : Persons, I acknowledge, to whom one could not, perhaps in any other instance, find a resemblance in my ingenious opponent.
I am afraid that after such a declaration, I must not presume .to consideri myself as arguing with the author, who hath, in 80 -peremptory a manner, resolved to attend to nothing that can be said in opposition to his theory. What judgment he has,' to use his own expression, he has renounced by principle, in
these sublime and mysterious subjects*,' If however it should prove the fate of these papers, the forbidding title of them notwithstanding, to be at any time honoured with the perusal of some infidel, not indeed so rivetted in unbelief as the essayist, I would earnestly intreat such reader, in the solemn style of Mr. Hume, “ To lay his hand upon his heart, and us after serious consideration declaret," If any of the patrons of religion had acted this part, and warned people not to try by argument the metaphysical subtleties of the adversaries, affirming, that they who were mad enough to examine the * affair by that medium, and seek particular flaws in the rea
soning, were almost sure to be confounded ; that the only prudent method was, to form a GENERAL RESOLUTION, never to lend any attention to what was advanced on the opposite
side, however specious,' whether this conduct would not have afforded great matter of triumph to those gentlemen the de. ists; whether it would not have been construed by them, and even justly, into a tacit conviction of the weakness of our cause, which we were afraid of exposing in the light, and bringing to a fair trial. But we scorn to take shelter in ob
scurity, and meanly to decline the combat ; confident as we are, that REASON is our ally and our friend, and glad to find that the enemy at length so violently suspects her.
As to the first method, by which the author accounts for the fabulous relations of monsters and prodigies, it is freely acknowledged, that the Creator hath implanted in human nature, as a spur to the improvement of the understanding, a principle of curiosity, which makes the mind feel a particular pleasure in every new acquisition of knowledge. "It is acknowledged also, that as every principle in our nature is liable to
abuse, so this principle will often give the mind a bias to the marvellous, for the more marvellous any thing is, that is, the more unlike to all that hath formerly been known, the more new it is; and this bias, in many instances, may induce belief on insufficient evidence.