« AnteriorContinuar »
man. They have a common inte rest, and in two separate ways they are liable to a suspicion of collusion: first, because the same motives which act upon one, probably act upon the rest. In this respect, they are under a common influence; secondly, because, if not the motives, at any rate the physicians themselves, act upon each other. In this respect, they are under a reciprocal influence. They are to be reasoned about as one individual.
3dly, As Hume could not possibly fail to see all this, we may be sure that his choice of witnesses was not accidental. In fact, his apparent carelessness is very discreet management. His object was, under the fiction of an independent multitude, to smuggle in a virtual unity; for his court physicians are no plural body in effect and virtue, but a mere pleonasm and a tautology.
And in good earnest, Hume had reason enough for his caution. How much or how little testimony would avail to establish a resurrection in any neutral* case few people would be willing to pronounce off-hand, and, above all, on a fictitious case. Prudent men, in such circumstances, would act as the judges in our English courts, who are always displeased if it is attempted to elicit their opinions upon a point of law by a proposed fiction. And very reasonably; for in these fictitious cases all the little circumstances of reality are wanting, and the oblique relations to such circumstances, out of which it is that any sound opinion can be formed. We all know very well what Mr Hume is after in this problem of a resurrection. And his case of Queen Elizabeth's resurrection being a perfectly fictitious case, we are at liberty to do any one of three different things:-either simply to refuse an answer; or, 2dly, to give such an answer as he looks for, viz., to agree with him in his disbelief under the supposed contingency, without therefore offering the slightest prejudice to any scriptural case of resurrection: i.e. we might go along with him in his premises, and yet balk
him of his purpose; or, 3dly, we might even join issue with him, and peremptorily challenge his verdict upon his own fiction. For it is singular enough, that a modern mathematician of eminence (Mr Babbage), has expressly considered this very imaginary question of a resurrection, and he pronounces the testimony of seven witnesses, competent and veracious, and presumed to have no bias, as sufficient to establish such a miracle. Strip Hume's case of the ambiguities already pointed out-suppose the physicians really separate and independent witnesses-not a corporation speaking by one organ-it will then become a mere question of degree between the philosopher and the mathematician-seven witnesses? or fifty? or a hundred? For though none of us (not Mr Babbage, we may be sure), seriously believes in the possibility of a resurrection occurring in these days, as little can any of us believe in the possibility that seven witnesses, of honour and sagacity (but say seven hundred), could be found to attest such an event when not occurring.
But the useful result from all this is, that Mr Hume is evidently aware of the case Beta (of last Sect.) as a distinct case from Alpha or from Gamma, though he affects blindness: he is aware that a multitude of competent witnesses, no matter whether seven or seven hundred, is able to establish that which a single witness could not; in fact, that increasing the number of witnesses is able to compensate increasing incredibility in the subject of doubt; that even supposing this subject a resurrection from the dead, there may be assigned a quantity of evidence (x) greater than the resistance to the credibility. And he betrays the fact, that he has one eye open to his own jesuitism by palming upon us an apparent multitude for a real one, thus drawing all the credit he can from the name of a multitude, and yet evading the force which he strictly knew to be lodged in the thing; seeking the reputation of the case Beta, but shrinking from its hostile force.
* By a neutral case is meant, 1st, one in which there is no previous reason from a great doctrine requiring such an event for its support, to expect a resurrection; 2dly, a case belonging to a period of time in which it is fully believed that miraculous agency bas
Of the Argument as affected by a Clas
sification of Miracles.
Let us now inquire whether Hume's argument would be affected by the differences in miracles upon the most general distribution of their kinds. Miracles may be classed generally as inner or outer.
I. The inner, or those which may be called miracles for the individual, are such as go on, or may go on, with in the separate personal consciousness of each separate man. And it shows how forgetful people are of the very doctrines which they themselves profess
as Christians, when we consider, on the one hand, that miracles in this sense
are essential to Christianity, and yet, on the other hand, consider how often it is said that the age of miracles is past. Doubtless, in the sense of external miracles, all such agencies are past. But in the other sense, there are distinct classes of the supernatural agency, which we are now consider ing; and these three are held by many Christians; two by most Christians; and the third by all. They are a.-Special Providences: which class it is that many philosophic Christians doubt or deny. B.-Grace: both predisposing [by old theologians called prevenient] and effectual. y.—Prayer considered as efficacious. Of these three we repeat, that the two last are held by most Christians: and yet it is evident that both presume a supernatural agency. But this agency exists only where it is sought. And even where it does exist, from its very nature (as an interior experience for each separate consciousness) it is incommunicable. But
that does not defeat its purpose. It is of its essence to be incommunicable. And, therefore, with lation to Hume's great argument, which was designed to point out a vast hiatus or inconsistency in the divine economy" Here is a miraculous agency, perhaps, but it is incommunicable: it may exist, but it cannot manifest itself; which defect neutralizes it, and defeats the very purpose of its existence"-the answer is, that as respects these interior miracles, there is no such inconsistency. They are meant for the private forum of each man's consciousness: nor would it have met any human necessity to
have made them communicable. The language of Scripture is, that he who wishes experimentally to know the changes that may be accomplished by In that way only, prayer, must pray. and not by communication of knowledge from another, could he understand it as a practical effect. And to understand it not practically, but only in a speculative way, could not meet any religious wish, but merely an irreligious curiosity.
As respects one great division of miraculous agency, it is clear, therefore, that Hume's argument does not apply. The arrow glances past: not so much missing its aim as taking a false one. The hiatus which it sup poses, the insulation and incommunicability which it charges upon the miraculous as a capital oversight, was part of the design: such mysterious agencies were meant to be incommunicable, and for the same reason which shuts up each man's consciousness into a silent world of its own-sepa
rate and inaccessible to all other consciousnesses. If a communication is thrown open by such agencies between the separate spirit of each man and the supreme Spirit of the universe, then the end is accomplished; and it is part of that end to close this communication against all other cognizance. So far Hume is baffled. The supernatural agency is incommunicable: it ought to be so. That is its perfection.
II. But now, as respects the other great order of miracles-viz. the external, first of all, we may remark a very important subdivision: miracles, in this sense, subdivide into two most different orders-1st, Evidential miracles, which simply prove Christianity. 2nd, Constituent miracles, which, in a partial sense, are Christianity. And, perhaps, it may turn out that Hume's objection, if applicable at all, is here applicable in a separate way and with a varying force.
The 1st class, the evidential miracles, are all those which were performed merely as evidences (whether simply as indications, or as absolute demonstrations) of the divine power which upheld Christianity. The 2d class, the constituent miracles, are those which constitute a part of Christianity. Two of these are absolutely indispensable to Christianity, and cannot be separated from it even in thought, viz.
the miraculous birth of our Saviour, and his miraculous resurrection. The first is essential upon this ground that unless Christ had united the two natures (divine and human) he could not have made the satisfaction required: not being human, then, indeed, he might have had power to go through the mysterious sufferings of the satisfaction: but how would that have applied to man? It would have been perfect, but how would it have been relevant? Not being divine, then indeed any satisfaction he could make would be relevant: but how would it have been perfect? The mysterious and supernatural birth, therefore, was essential, as a capacitation for the work to be performed; and, on the other hand, the mysterious death and consequences were essential, as the very work itself.
Now, therefore, having made this distinction, we may observe, that the first class of miracles was occasional and polemic: it was meant to meet a special hostility incident to the birthstruggles of a new religion, and a religion which, for the very reason that it was true, stood opposed to the spirit of the world; of a religion which, in its first stage, had to fight against a civil power in absolute possession of the civilised earth, and backed by seventy legions. This being settled, it follows, that if Hume's argument were applicable in its whole strength to the evidential miracles, no result of any importance could follow. It is clear that a Christianised earth never can want polemic miracles again; polemic miracles were wanted for a transitional state, but such a state cannot return. Polemic, miracles were wanted for a state of conflict with a dominant idolatry. It was Christianity militant, and militant with child-like arms, against Paganism triumphant. But Christianity, in league with civilisation, and resting on the powers of this earth allied with her own, never again can speak to idolatrous man except from a station of infinite superiority. If, therefore, these evidential miracles are incommunicable as respects their proofs to after generations, neither are they wanted.
Still it will be urged-were not the miracles meant for purposes ulterior to the transitional state? Were they not meant equally for the polemic purpose of confuting hostility at the
moment, and of propping the faith of Christians in all after ages? The growing opinion amongst reflecting Christians is, that they were not: that the evidential miracles accomplished their whole purpose in their own age. Something of supernatural agency, visibly displayed was wanted for the first establishment of a new faith. But, once established, it was a false faith only that could need this external support. Christianity could not unroot itself now, though every trace of evidential miracle should have vanished. Being a true religion, once rooted in man's knowledge and man's heart, it is self-sustained; it never could be eradicated.
But, waiving that argument, it is evident, that whatever becomes of the evidential miracles, Christianity never can dispense with those transcendant miracles which we have called constituent,-those which do not so much demonstrate Christianity as are Christianity in a large integral section. Now as to the way in which Hume's argument could apply to these, we shall reserve what we have to say until a subsequent section. Meantime, with respect to the other class, the simply evidential miracles, it is plain, that if ever they should be called for again, then, as to them, Hume's argument will be evaded, or not, according to their purpose. If their func tion regards an individual, it will be no just objection to them that they are incommunicable. If it regards a multitude or a nation, then the same power which utters the miracle can avail for its manifestation before a multitude, as happened in the days of the New Testament, and then is realized the case Beta of Sect. II. And if it is still objected, that even in that case there could be no sufficient way of propagating the miracle, with its evidence, to other times or places, the answer must be,
1st, That, supposing the purpose merely polemic, that purpose is answered without such a propagation.
2dly, That, supposing the purpose, by possibility, an ulterior purpose, stretching into distant ages, even then our modern arts of civilisation-printing, &c.-give us advantages which place a remote age on a level with the present as to the force of evidence ; and that even the defect of autopsy may be compensated by sufficient testimony of a multitude, it is evident that
1st, We have drawn into notice [Sect. II.] the case Beta,-overlooked by Hume in his argument, but apparently not overlooked in his consciousness, the case where a multitude of witnesses overrules the incommunicability attaching to a single witness.
2dly, We have drawn into notice the class of internal miracles,-miracles going on in the inner economy of every Christian's heart; for it is essential to a Christian to allow of prayer. He cannot be a Christian if he should condemn prayer; and prayer cannot hope to produce its object without a miracle. And to such miracles Hume's argument, the argument of incommunicability, is inapplicable. They do not seek to transplant themselves; every man's personal experience in this respect is meant for him.
3dly, Even amongst miracles not internal, we have shown-that if one class (the merely evidential and polemic) are incommunicable, i. e. not capable of propagation to a remote age or place, they have sufficiently fulfilled their immediate purpose by their immediate effect. But such miracles are alien and accidental to Christianity. Christ himself reproved severely those who sought such signs, as a wicked, unbelieving generation; and afterwards he reproved, with a most pathetic reproach, that one of his own disciples who demanded such a sign. But besides these evidential miracles, we noticed also,
4thly, The constituent miracles of Christianity; upon which, as regarded Hume's argument, we reserved ourselves to the latter section: and to these
we now address ourselves.
But first we premise this
That an à priori (or, as we shall show, an à posteriori) reason for believing a miracle, or for expecting a miracle, will greatly disturb the valuation of x (that is, the abstract resistance to credibility), as assumed in Hume's argument. This is the
centre in which, we are satisfied, lurks that prov feudos which Hume himself suspected and we add, that as a vast number of witnesses (according to a remark made in Sect. II.) will virtually operate as a reduction of the value allowed to x, until x may be made to vanish altogether,-so, in the reverse order, any material reduction of value in x will virtually operate exactly as the multiplication of witnesses; and the case Alpha will be raised to the case Beta.
This lemma being stated as a point of appeal in what follows, we proceed to
On Hume's Argument, as affected by the purpose.
This topic is so impressive, and indeed awful, in its relation to Christianity, that we shall not violate its majesty by doing more than simply stating the case. All the known or imagined miracles that ever were recorded as flowing from any Pagan origin, were miracles-1. Of ostentation; 2. of ambition and rivalship; 3. expressions of power; or, 4. were blind accidents. Not even in pretence were any of them more than that.
First and last came the Christian miracles, on behalf of a moral purpose. The purpose was to change man's idea of his own nature; and to change his idea of God's nature. Many other purposes might be stated; but all were moral. Now to any other wielder of supernatural power, real or imaginary, it never had occurred, by way of pretence even, that in working miracles he had a moral object. And here, indeed, comes in the argument of Christ with tremendous effect-that, whilst all other miracles might be liable to the suspicion of having been effected by alliance with darker agencies, his only (as sublime moral agencies for working the only
revolution that ever was worked in man's nature) could not be liable to such a suspicion; since, if an evil spirit would lend himself to the propagation of good in its most transcendent form, in that case the kingdom of darkness would be "divided against itself."
Here, then, is an à posteriori reason, derived from the whole subsequent life and death of the miracle-worker, for diminishing the value of x according to the Lemma,
On the Argument of Hume as affected
by Matters of Fact.
It is a very important axiom of the schoolmen in this case-that, à posse ad esse non valet consequentia, you can draw no inference from the possibility of a thing to its reality, but that, in the reverse order, ab esse ad the inference is inevitable: if it posse, is, or if it ever has been-then of ne
cessity it can be. Hume himself would have admitted, that the proof of any one miracle, beyond all possibility of doubt, at once lowered the -x of his argument (i. e. the value of the resistance to our faith) so as to affect the whole force of that argument, as applying to all other miracles whatever having a rational and an adequate purpose. Now it happens that we have two cases of miracles which can be urged in this view: one à posteriori, derived from our historical experience, and the other à priori. We will take them separately.
1. The à priori miracle we call such-not (as the unphilosophic may suppose) because it occurred previously to our own period, or from any consideration of time whatever, but in the logical meaning, as having been derived from our reason in opposition to our experience. This order of miracle it is manifest that Hume overlooked altogether, because he says expressly that we have nothing to appeal to in this dispute except our human experience. But it happens that we have; and precisely where the possibilities of experience desert us. We know nothing through experience (whether physical or historical) of what preceded or accompanied the first introduction of man upon this earth. But, in the absence of all experience, our reason informs us that he must have been introduced by a supernatural agency. Thus far we are sure. For the sole alternative is one which would be equally mysterious, and besides, contradictory to the marks of change-of transition-and of perishableness in our planet itself,-viz. the hypothesis of an eternal unoriginated race: and that is more confounding to the human intellect than any miracle whatever: so that, even tried merely as one probability against another, the miracle would have the advantage. The miracle supposes a supersensual
VOL. XLVI. NO. CCLXXXV.
and transcendent cause. The opposite hypothesis supposes effects without any cause. In short, upon any hypothesis, we are driven to suppose-and compelled to suppose a miraculous state as introductory to the earliest state of nature. The planet, indeed, might form itself by mechanical laws of motion, repulsion, attraction, and central forces. But man could not. Life could not. Organization, even animal organization, might perhaps be explained out of mechanical causes. But life could not. Life is itself a great miracle. Suppose the nostrils formed by mechanic agency; still the breath of life could not enter them without a supernatural force. à fortiori, man, with his intellectual and moral capacities, could not arise upon this planet without a higher agency than any lodged in that nature which is the object of our present experience. This kind of miracle, as deduced by our reason, and not witnessed experimentally, or drawn from any past records, we call an à priori miracle.
2. But there is another kind of miracle, which Hume ought not to have overlooked, but which he has, however, overlooked: he himself observes, very justly, that prophecy is a distinct species of the miraculous; and, no doubt, he neglected the Scriptural Prophecies, as supposing them all of doubtful interpretation, or believing with Porphyry, that such as are not doubtful, must have been posterior to the event which they point to. It happens, however, that there are some prophecies which cannot be evaded or "refused," some to which neither objection will apply. One, we will here cite, by way of example:-The prophecy of Isaiah, describing the desolation of Babylon, was delivered about seven centuries before Christ. A century or so after Christ, comes Porphyry, and insinuates, that all the prophecies alike might be comparatively recent forgeries! Well, for a moment suppose it: but, at least, they existed in the days of Porphyry. Now, it happens, that more than two centuries after Porphyry, we have good evidence, as to Babylon, that it had not yet reached the stage of utter desolation predicted by Isaiah. Four centuries after Christ, we learn from a Father of the Christian Church, who had good personal information as to