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what is incredible-what is sufficient to command their belief and what not.
Mr. Hume says, “I own there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of a proof from human testimony. Suppose all authors, in all languages, agree, that from the 1st of January, 1600, there was a total 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 tradition, 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 search for the causes whence it might be derived."*
Dr. Campbell, after quoting this passage, charges Hume strongly with inconsistency; and declares that he has given up the argument.
“ Was there ever,” says he, a more glaring contradiction, than to declare, on the one hand, that no testimony for any kind of miracle can ever possibly amount to a probability, much less to a proof,' and yet supposing a case, the testimony for which would amont not only to proof but to CERTAINTY?”Whether the Reviewer will agree with Mr. Hume in the above quotation, or not, I cannot tell. If he agrees with him, then he gives up the argument, and stands contradicted by himself. If he disagrees with him, he contradicts common sense.
Upon the supposition, that to preserve consistency, and maintain his principles, he disagrees with Hume, we shall put another case, though it is scarcely possible that a stronger one can be put than the one just now stated. Suppose that, fifty or sixty years ago, two hostile armies had been marching across this island; that they had come to Edinburgh, and marched to the sea-side; that, at the word of one of the generals, the sea had opened, and allowed his army to pass on dry ground; that, at his word, the waters had returned, and swept away the opposing army; that this fact had been testified by every individual of the surviving army, and by a hundred thousand spectators who had seen it
* The Reviewer has put a case, “that we would not believe the inhabitants of London, though they should tell us that the moon had not set there
for 24 hours :) but this is a case not in point, and therefore a mere sonhism.
from the neighbouring shores; and that it had been mentioned by all cotemporary writers;-upon the principles of the Reviewer, we ought not to believe it. Nay, though it had happened last year—though all the army which passed were still alivethough all the inhabitants of the surrounding countries were to come forward and declare that they saw it-yea, though all the fraternity of the Edinburgh Reviewers had seen it, except the writer of the article we are exa ing, who had happened not to be present, he could not have believed all this accumulation of evidence.
This is a very strong case, but we have a right to put the strongest possible case, because the assertion of Hume and of the Reviewer is most unqualified, “that no testimony can be a sufficient ground of belief in opposition to experience.” It is to no purpose to say, that none of the Scripture miracles are so strongly testified. These gentlemen are not attacking the testimony in favour of Scripture miracles, on account of its weakness; they declare that no testimony, be it ever so strong, could induce them to believe the reality of a miracle. We may leave it here to the common sense of the reader. Had such a miracle, and so attested, taken place, even Hume declares he would have believed it, provided it had been wrought on any other account than for the support of religion. If any person feels disinclined to believe a miracle so strongly proved, as supporting religion, it only shows that his hatred of religion is so great, as in that particular instance to have suspended the right exercise of his rea
To render the above instance more striking, I have brought it very near our own times. But though our imagination is apt to impose on our judgment with regard to very distant facts, yet, if they were originally well attested, the distance of time makes no difference. On this point I shall give a quotation from the Reviewer, which will be considered of great value by those who are disposed to view him as hostile to revelation.
“It does not appear,” says he, “that the diminution of evidence is a necessary consequence of transmission from one age to another. It may hold in some instances; but in those which most commonly occur, no sensible diminution of evidence seems to be produced by the lapse of time. Take any ancient event that is well attested, such for example as the retreat of the ten thousand, and we are persuaded it will be generally admitted, that the certainty of that event having taken place, is as great at this moment as it was at the return of the Greek army, or when Xenophon published his history."
CONCLUSION. Thus have I endeavoured to shew the inconclusiveness of the whole reasoning, both of La Place and the Reviewer. They have assumed the very point in debate, and then reasoned from it as if it had been granted. They have called that experience, which is really testimony, and they have asserted an uniformity in it which has no existence. There are several other matters in the article we have been considering, which would also deserve to be brought under review; but it does not enter into my present plan to do any thing farther, than merely to point out the sophistry of the great argument which has been brought forward in such a triumphant manner.
Neither is it any part of my present design, to bring into view the positive proofs by which the miracles of the Scriptures are supported. Those who wish for information on that point, will find it discussed in almost all the works on the evidences of Christianity. It may be sufficient here, for the sake of the general reader, to observe, that there are no presumptions against miracles being wrought in support of revealed religion; that there is a strong presumption in their fa
that the Supreme Being is the author of the laws of nature; that as it is by his power that these laws operate, so he must have the power of suspending or altering them when he sees meet;* that the establishment of revealed religion was an event of such importance to mankind, that it might have been expected that the Supreme Being would have interfered, and suspended or altered the laws of nature, to prove that it came from him.It is also to be observed, that the miracles which were wrought in support of revelation, particularly of the gospel, were very numerous; of various kinds; of such a nature, that the witnesses could not have been deceived; that they were wrought before great numbers,-before enemies as well as friends; that those who lived at the time, and had the strongest interest in denying them, never did so; that the witnesses were very numerous, had no worldly interest to serve by their testimony; on the contrary, a very great proportion of them underwent the greatest sufferings, and many of them were subjected to a cruel death on account of their testimony, and that nevertheless not one of them ever drew back, and acknowledged they had been testifying a falsehood, though by doing so they might have escaped their sufferings.
This argument must have irresistible force with those who believe in the existence of a God, but can have no effect upon Atheists. It is probable, that the acute mind of Hume perceived this; and, therefore, while he laboured to undermine our belief of revealed religion by his doctrine about testimony, he laboured at the same time to undermine our belief of a great First Cause by, his doctrine of cause and effect.
We may here appeal to experience, and say, does our experience of human nature, and of the course of human affairs, give us any ground to suspect, that men in such circumstances were not testifying the truth?*
It is a cause of deep regret, that any person should be found so hostile to the best interests of mankind, as to labour to make converts to infidelity. It is still more to be regretted, that a work which often displays such splendid abilities as the Edinburgh Review, should ever contain a single sentence which has even the appearance of such a tendency. The friends of humanity have been delighted with their zealous and persevering efforts in the cause of suffering Africa; and the friends of morality have been no less pleased with the severe chastisements which they have occasionally inflicted on licentious authors. What pity is it, that they do not see that neither humanity nor morals have any firm basis but Christianity? What extensive good might be done, were these talents occasionally employed in behalf of religion? It is long since the Reviewers declared, “ That they were ready, whenever a fair opportunity offered, to defend Christianity against the tiger-spring of infidelity.” Six years have elapsed since that declaration was made, and yet they have not redeemed their pledge. Can they say, that during that period nothing has occurred in their pages of an opposite tendency?
With regard to the final issue of any attack on Christianity, its friends have occasion to feel any alarm. The attacks which hitherto have been made, have eventually been beneficial, inasmuch as they have given occasion to bring the evidences of its truth more clearly into view. It is still to be hoped, that every new attack will bring forward new talents in its defence. But though the general issue is perfectly safe, yet much partial mischief may be done, which ought to be carefully guraded against by every possible means. If the most popular and widely circulating journal in Europe, shall become a vehicle for infidel sentiments, how much harm may thus be done to the cause of religion? If, in addition to this, persons who are hostile to Christianity, fill such stations as give them easy access to the ductile and unsuspecting minds of youth, it certainly ought to excite no small degree of alarm among those, whose highest wish for the welfare of their children is, that they may be Christians.
[The following article belongs to the head of " Original Communications," but is unavoidably placed after the “Selections.”]
For the Religious Monitor.
(Continued from page 415.) When a professor of religion is joined in marriage to an irreligious husband or wife, the evil
follow to all concerned, are exceedingly numerous. Parents have sometimes with pain and sorrow to witness their children in great distress even as it regards this life-the property acquired by painful industry, and generously bestowed on the new-married pair, squandered and destroyed by an unprincipled prodigal, and nothing but poverty, shame and misery 'left.' And it cannot be accounted a small addition to their distress, that they must themselves be related to this ungodly partner. In many cases frequent intercourse is unavoidable; they must see and hear his ungodly conversation; and the evening of their life is filled with bitterness and sorrow, by the imprudent conduet of that child, who ought to have becn their comfort and solace.' "I am weary of my life,” says Rebekah in the name of thousands, “ because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?" Still all this distress and trouble is comparatively light; for the dismal consequences of this connection, which
stare them in the face, are nothing less, if mercy prevent not, than the apostacy and eternal ruin of their child, the object of their tenderest affection. They have no reason to anticipate any thing else. The common course of such connections makes it too evident. God's estimate of the case leaves them no room to hope. “For they will turn away thy son from following me to serve other Gods.” They watched over him, they instructed him with painful care, they offered up many an ardent petition at the throne of grace in his behalf; but all is in vain! and with unutterable grief they must bid him a last adieu. This is nothing to you in your hours of giddiness and fantastic dreams, O ye ungrateful children! but the righteous God will not fail to measure it back to you at a moment when you cannot escape the bitter reflection, that it is what ye yourselves once measured.
To the individuals themselves the consequences are generally of the most serious kind. If, as has often happened, and as the Spirit of God declares will be most probable, he (to speak of the one sex what is equally true of the other) shall be drawn off from a profession of religion, he forsakes the way of life; he en