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But you suppose the municipal laws are so provided as to make a part of the general, and therefore they will not be broken in upon, nor must we expect to see things conducted otherwise than by them, until transported into some other province, where there is another system prevailing. Why, so I suppose too, because I never yet saw an alteration made in them, and shall continue to suppose so until I see cogent reason to suppose otherwise; and I think I have shown myself throughout the course of this work, as hearty a friend to nature and experience as need be desired : nevertheless, this supposition, though a rational one is but supposition, amounting to a moral, not a mathematical certainty, nor strong enough to render all evidence whatever to the contrary invalid, or make it absolutely incredible that such should be produced.
For let us consider how far our experience deposes: that there are such
powers of nature and such an order as we find operating and prevailing here, but with regard to all beyond it is totally silent: it informs us nothing concerning creatures invisible, what powers or views they may or cannot have, what inducements or restraints with respect to their interfering in sublunary affairs. Therefore, to argue in Mr. Adams' way, evidence offered to prove an interposition either of the divine power or invisible creatures, does not contradict experience, because it deposes to a point whereon that deposes nothing. All that experience informs us of, relative to the case is, the capacity of substances within our notice to receive positions and stations by foreign operation upon them : thus far then both evidences agree in their testimony, for what miracle does not work a change of station in substances, or put them into a position we know them capable of receiving?
It is now an incontested principle that all matter is homogeneous, the difference in bodies arising from composition, or the different position of their component particles with respect to one another: so that wine consists of the same matter with water, every particle of one being capable of taking its place in the other, and of receiving the motion requisite to convey it into such place. But we never knew an instance of water changed into wine, otherwise than by a passage through circulating vessels of the vine and the grape, and perhaps in its way receiving an accession of other particles which never were in the composition of water. What then? we may still know that the matter composing those particles was capable of standing in such arrangement as would have made it water; and experience deposes nothing concerning other powers than those falling under our notice ; whether they have or have not skill, discernment, and activity, sufficient to change the arrangement of matter in water, so that it shall instantaneously become wine.
In like manner we know by experience that matter is capable of standing in the arrangement of the human body performing circulation and other vital functions; and spiritual substance is capable of taking a station in such part of the composition where it may receive the notices brought by the organs of sensation; both which together make a living man.
We know not what corporeal particle, nor what manner of adherence, holds the perceptive substance in vital union : however we know it is there, and when once dislodged, have no reason ever to expect its return, because we see the machine continually tend more and more to corruption. But we have no experience to assure us there are not other agents who have command enough over the motion both of corporeal and spiritual particles to reinstate them exactly in the stations we have already seen them capable of occupying, in which case the dead man would be restored to life : and until such assurance can be had, the fact must remain credible.
Since then we find by experience of natural motions that substances are capable of receiving miraculous changes, upon what grounds can we deny Almighty power capable of working them? or even pronounce peremptorily upon the incapacity of other powers? If there be a mundane Soul, such as I have described in treating upon that article, extending everywhere, permeating everything, perceptive and active throughout, intelligent in every part by communication of lights from the rest : I see nothing inconceivable in the thought of his turning water into wine, or restoring a dead man to lise, or even making a new man by arranging the elements into a vital machine, and stationing therein one of his own component particles : this seems to me so far from being contrary to reason, that it does not rise above reason: nor do I find a difficulty in comprehending it so great, as in comprehending how I move my own limbs. If I believe no superior power does interfere to disturb the courses of visible nature, because I see no reason for it, it does not follow from thence, that I never can see reason : for there is a material difference between finding no reason for a thing, and finding a solid reason against it; the one suffices for me to withhold my assent, the other alone can warrant me to condemn it as incredible.
4. I do not know that it is needful to add anything in particular upon Revelation, as a distinct species of miraculous operations : because I apprehend that it might be effected by an arrangement of particles or change of modification in our mental organization, similar to those made in bodies by the others. Men commonly conceive their dormant stores of knowledge to be something, they do not know what, whether substance or modification, or component part, lying in the mind itself, and therefore not capable of locomotion, or diversity of arrangement. I have examined this matter carefully in the Chapter on Judginent and other places, and found reason to conclude, that the mind or purely spiritual part receives nothing besides perception, nor can contain anything it does not actually perceive: that in all perception there must be two things employed, one to discern, the other to be the object discerned; which object cannot be something within the substance of the mind itself, unless you will suppose her to consist of parts, some blind and imperceptive, producing no effect until touching the others' notice.
Therefore the objects must be exhibited by something external to the perceptive mind, which something I have termed the mental organization, the various arrangement or motion (for I do not pretend to determine which) of whose particles form the judgments that we discern: in a manner analogous to that of writing, where the shape and arrangement of the letters present the sense of them to your thought; or of speech, where the modulations of sound produce the same effect. Our judgments in the natural way proceed ordinarily from instruction, conviction, or experience, but sometimes we find them arise from other causes : in dreams and delusions they are produced by mechanical operation; strong liquors, indigestion, external accident and passion, often make us judge very differently of things; eagerness of desire will assure us of success beyond all grounds of expectation, and terror magnifies dangers. Archbishop Tillotson says, that many people have told a lie so often until they believed it to be true : and we may have known persons who remembered having given a key or a paper to somebody else, and immediately after found it in their own pockets. All which shows that judgment is not passed upon knowledge in the mind itself, which we may presume would be immutable while deposited there, but upon representations exhibited in something else, which is capable of receiving changes from external and mechanical causes.
And though we have no ground from experience to think but these causes act naturally, yet since we have not experience of universal nature, that does not hinder the operation of other causes from producing different modifications, which will exhibit correspondent scenes of judgment for the mind to inspect, and whatever the mind sees there from time to time, that is her present determination. Therefore, though I believe it never actually done,
yet I conceive it very feasible in theory, that such a Being as we have imagined the mundane Soul, might hold discourse with a man by suggesting ideas to his thought, like those another would excite in conversation : and by this means instruct him in knowledge he could not have attained any other way, describe persons and transactions he never saw, declare to him future events that human sagacity could not discover, inspire him with sentiments, move his passions, and rouse up a spirit to any particular undertaking, more effectually than the most accomplished orator with all his powers of persuasion.
5. It may be said that all we have urged hitherto amounts to no more, than that there may be a power of making supernatural effects, but shows no probability that such a power ever is excited. I do not desise it should; I would have them still remain improbable; all I contend for is only a possibility : but things improbable have sometimes been known to come to pass, therefore improbability alone will not stop our ears against all evidence offered to prove their reality. Nevertheless, it may be denied that we have yet made out even a possibility : because the acts of voluntary agents, and such we must suppose all workers of supernatural effects to be, for necessary agents can never stir a step beyond the laws of nature imposing the necessity upon them, may be rendered impossible by their repugnance to the character of the agent, how much soever they lie within his power to perform. A miser has it in his power to make ducks and drakes of his guineas; a nobleman to hire himself out at harvest as a common laborer; a fond mother to strangle the child she doats
upon : yet we think these things impossible to be done by the persons to whom we know it is easily possible to do them; and this impossibility suffices to make the fact incredible. Now the character of infinite wisdom and goodness belonging to God, and the like character of universal benevolence and as boundless intelligence as created Being can possess, ascribed to the mundane Soul, will not leave it credible, that the original plan of creation should have been laid imperfect so as to need occasional corrections, or without such need that either would interpose to disturb the order of nature in any single instance, much less would employ their superior power in hurtful, idle, or trifling operations.
All this 1 very readily admit, as well the assumption, as the inference deduced from it: but do we know the original plan so perfectly as to be assured the lines of connection between the several systems comprised in it may never work an alteration in the laws of visible nature; or that some interpositions were not contained within the plan, and made essential parts of it? For why is it necessary that every supernatural operation must be a sudden expedient to supply an unforeseen defect, and not a preconcerted design interwoven among the order established for second causes? Nobody can well doubt but God might have caused the corn to sprout up spontaneously, or houses fit for our commodious habitation to grow out of the ground like trees : yet he has so contrived his laws of nature here below, as to make the interposition of human industry necessary to preserve this sublunary system from falling defective. What then should hinder but that he may have purposely framed his laws of visible nature incomplete without some supernatural interpositions to fill up the remaining spaces in his plan of universal polity? And whether these interpositions be made by immediate exertion of Omnipotence, or by ministry of the mundane Spirits, vulgarly called Angels, either upon express command or upon discernment of the expedience, is not material to our present purpose.
6. Then for things pernicious, wanton, and trifling, I must own it appears to me incredible that any such should be the work of God or his superior order of creatures : but are we such perfect masters of wisdom and goodness, as always to know assuredly what is, or is not inconsistent therewith? The conceit of this knowledge makes people think hardly of Providence for the few evils scattered about in nature, and has driven some to deny a Providence upon account of the many errors and wastes, worthless productions, and unavailing accidents, observable everywhere, in which they can see no use nor design. But we see not the . half of nature, nor of the consequences resulting from events passing within our view, so there may be good fruits produced by things that yield nothing but evil so far as we can discern, and important uses in what appears to us unprofitable and frivolous: nor is it unlikely that the wisdom of God should seem foolishness to men, or the follies of men be turned by him to serve wise and excellent purposes. Persons following different professions and sciences are no competent judges of the pertinence of one another's proceedings: that may appear idle and nugatory to the unskilled, which the professor knows to be very material and necessary : much less can we undertake to pronounce upon the actions of creatures of different natures, or say with confidence what is becoming or important for them to do, and what unworthy their attention.
Some have amused themselves in a vacant hour with imagining what ideas the brute creatures must entertain of our transactions, supposing them endued with understanding and reflection like ours. It is certain that no understanding can proceed further