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day generally disbelieved, and for asserting which they were met with all but an imputation of “the lie direct.” They admitted, however, that their assertion was founded on “ experience so rare as to be had only once in a century;" but that experience has been since universally borne out by all who have candidly examined the question, and the apparantly isolated and marvellous cases have settled down into examples of broad and general laws, now fully justified by experience and analogy.
Physiological evidence is adduced (which we will suppose well substantiated) to show that the excision of the whole tongue does not take away the power of speech, though that of the extremity does so: hence the denial of the story from imperfect experience. So of other cases : the angel at Milan was the aërial reflection of an image on a church; the balls of fire at Plausac were electrical; the sea-serpent was a basking shark or a stem of sea-weed. A committee of the French Academy of Sciences, with Lavoisier at its head, after a grave investigation, pronounced the alleged fall of aërolites to be a superstitious fable. It is, however, now substantiated, not as a miracle, but as a well-known natural phenomenon. Instances of undue philosophical scepticism are unfortunately common; but they are the errors, not the correct processes, of inductive inquiry.
Granting all these instances, we merely ask, What do they prove, except the real and paramount dominion of the rule of law and order, of universal subordination of pyhsical causes, as the sole principle and criterion of proof and evidence in the region of physical and sensible truth? and nowhere more emphatically than in the history of marvels and prodigies do we
find a verification of the truth,“Opinionum commenta delet dies, naturæ judicia confirmat."
This, in fact, is the sole real result of all the profound parallelisms and illustrative anecdotes so confidently but unconsciously adduced by these writers with an opposite design.
What is the real conclusion from the far-famed “Historic Doubts" and the “ Chronicles of Ecnarf,” but simply this, — there is a rational solution, a real conformity to analogy and experience, to whatever extent a partially informed inquirer might be led to reject the recounted apparent wonders on imperfect knowledge and from too hasty inference ? These delightful parodies on Scripture (if they prove anything) would simply prove that the Bible narrative is no more properly miraculous than the marvellous exploits of Napoleon I., or the paradoxical events of recent history.
Just a similar scepticism has been evinced by nearly all the first physiologists of the day, who have joined in rejecting the development theories of Lamarck and the “ Vestiges ;” and, while they have strenuously maintained successive creations, have denied and denounced the alleged production of organic life by Messrs. Crosse and Weekes, and stoutly maintained the impossibility of spontaneous generation, on the alleged ground of contradiction to experience. Yet it is now acknowledged under the high sanction of the name of Owen,* that “ creation ” is only another name for our ignorance of the mode of production ; and it has been the unanswered and unanswerable argument of another reasoner, that new species must have originated either out of their inorganic elements, or out of previously organized forms; either development or spontaneous generation must be true; while a work has now appeared by a naturalist of the most acknowledged authority, — Mr. Darwin's masterly volume on “ The Origin of Species” by the law of “ natural selection," — which now substantiates on undeniable grounds the very principle so long denounced by the first naturalists, the origination of new species by natural causes ; a work which must soon bring about an entire revolution of opinion in favor of the grand principle of the self-evolving powers of nature.
* British Association Address, 1858.
By parity of reason, it might just as well be objected to Archbishop Whately's theory of civilization, we have only for a few centuries known anything of savages : how then can we pretend to infer that they have never civilized themselves ? — never, in all that enormous length of time which modern discovery has now indisputably assigned to the existence of the human race ! This theory, however, is now introduced as a comment on Paley in support of the credibility of revelation ; and an admirable argument no doubt it is, though perhaps many would apply it in a sense somewhat different from that of the author. If the use of fire, the cultivation of the soil, and the like, were divine revelations, the most obvious inference would be, that so likewise are printing and steam. If the boomerang was divinely communicated to savages ignorant of its principle, then surely the disclosure of that principle in our time by the gyroscope was equally so. But no one denies revelation in this sense : the philosophy of the age does not discredit the inspiration of prophets and apostles, though it may sometimes believe it in poets, legislators, philosophers, and others gifted with high genius. At all events, the revelation of civilization does not involve the question of external miracles, which is here the sole point in dispute. The main assertion of Paley is, that it is impossible to conceive a revelation given except by means of miracles.
This is his primary axiom ; but this is precisely the point which the modern turn of reasoning most calls in question, and rather adopts the belief that a revelation is then most credible, when it appeals least to violations of natural causes. Thus, if miracles were, in the estimation of a former age, among the chief supports of Christianity, they are at present among the main difficulties, and hinderances to its acceptance.
One of the first inductive philosophers of the age (Professor Faraday) has incurred the unlimited displeasure of these profound intellectualists, because he has urged that the mere contracted experience of the senses is liable to deception, and that we ought to be guided in our conclusions, and, in fact, can only correct the errors of the senses, by a careful recurrence to the consideration of natural laws and extended analogies.* In opposition to this heretical proposition, they t set in array the dictum of two great authorities of the Scottish school (Drs. Abercrombie and Chalmers), that, “on a certain amount of testimony, we might believe any statement, however improbable ;” so that, if a number of respectable witnesses were to concur in asseverating that on a certain occasion they had seen two and two make five we should be bound to believe them!
* Lecture cn Mental Education, 1854.
+ See Edinburgh Papers, “ Testimony,” &c., by R. Chambers, Esq., F. R. S. E., &c.
This, perhaps it will be said, is an extreme case. Let us suppose another: if a number of veracious witnesses were to allege a real instance of witchcraft at the present day, there might, no doubt, be found some infatuated persons who would believe it; but the strongest of such assertions to any educated man would but prove, either that the witnesses were cunningly imposed upon, or the wizard himself deluded. If the most numerous ship's company were all to asseverate that they had seen a mermaid, would any rational persons at the present day believe them ? That they saw something which they believed to be a mermaid would be easily conceded. No amount of attestation of innumerable and honest witnesses would ever convince any one, versed in mathematical and mechanical science that a person had squared the circle or discovered perpetual motion.
Antecedent credibility depends on antecedent knowledge and enlarged views of the connection and dependence of truths, and the value of any testimony will be modified or destroyed in different degrees to minds differently enlightened.
Testimony, after all, is but a second-hand assurance; it is but a blind guide : testimony can avail nothing against reason. The essential question of miracles stands quite apart from any consideration of testimony : the question would remain the same, if we had the evidence of our own senses to an alleged miracle ; that is, to an extraordinary or inexplicable fact. It is not the mere fact, but the cause or explanation of it, which is the point at issue.
The case, indeed, of the antecedent argument of miracles is very clear, however little some are inclined to perceive it. In nature and from nature, by scienc