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was there for any thing which could bear the name or colour of piety, in publishing and attesting miracles in its behalf? If it be said that many promote the belief of revelation, and of any accounts which favour that belief, because they think them, whether well or ill founded, of public and political utility, I answer, that if a character exist, which can with less justice than another be ascribed to the founders of the Christian religion, it is that of politicians, or of men capable of entertaining political views. The truth is, that there is no assignable character which will account for the conduct of the apostles, supposing their story to be false. If bad men, what could have induced them to take such pains to promote virtue? If good men, they would not have
about the country with a string of lies in their mouths.
IN APPRECIATING the credit of any miraculous story, these are distinctions which relate to the evidence. There are other distinctions, of great moment in the question, which relate to the miracles
themselves. Of which latter kind the following ought carefully to be retained.
I. It is not necessary to admit as a miracle, what can be resolved into a false perception. Of this nature was the demon of Socrates ; the visions of Saint Anthony, and of many others; the vision which Lord Herbert of Cherbury describes himself to have seen; Colonel Gardiner's vision, as related in his life, written by Dr Doddridge. All these may be accounted for by a momentary insanity; for, the characteristic symptom of human madness is the rising up in the mind of images not distinguishable by the patient from impressions upon the senses *. The cases, however, in which the possibility of this delusion exists, are divided from the cases in which it does not exist, by many, and those not obscure marks. They are, for the most part, cases of visions or voices. The object is hardly ever touched. The vision submits not to be handled. One sense does not confirm another. They are likewise almost always cases of a solitary witness. It is in the highest degree improbable, and I know not, indeed, whether it hath ever been the fact, that the same derangement of the mental organs should seize different persons at the same time; a derangement, I mean, so much the same, as to represent to their imagination the same objects. Lastly, , these are always cases of momentary miracles; by which term I mean to denote miracles, of which the whole existence is of short duration, in contradistinction to miracles which are attended with permanent effects. The appearance of a spectre, the hearing of a supernatural sound, is a momentary miracle. The sensible proof is gone, when the apparition or sound is over. born blind be restored to sight, a notorious cripple to the use of his limbs, or a dead man to life, here is a permanent effect produced by supernatural means. The change indeed was instantaneous, but the proof continues. The subject of the miracle remains, The man cured or restored is there : his former condition was known, and his present condition may be examined. This can by no possibility be resolved into false
* Batty on Lụnacy,
greater part of the miracles recorded in the New Testament. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, he did not merely move, and speak, and die again; or come out of the grave, and vanish away. He returned to his home and his family, and there continued ; for we find him, some time afterwards in the same town, sitting at table with Jesus and his sisters ; visited by great multitudes of the Jews, as a subject of curiosity; giving by his presence, so much uneasiness to the Jewish rulers as to beget in them a design of destroying him*. No delusion can account for this. The French prophets in England, some time since, gave out that one of their teachers would come to life again; but their enthusiasm never made them believe that they actually saw him alive. The blind man, whose restoration to sight at Jerusalem is recorded in the ninth chapter of Saint John's Gospel, did not quit the place, or conceal himself from inquiry. On the contrary, he was forthcoming, to answer the call, to satisfy the scrutiny, and to sustain the brow-beating of Christ's
* John, xii. 1, 2, 9, 10
angry and powerful enemies. When the cripple at the gate of the temple was suddenly cured by Peter *, he did not immediately relapse into his former lameness, or disappear out of the city ; but boldly and honestly produced himself along with the apostles, when they were brought the next day before the Jewish council *. Here, though the miracle was sudden, the proof was permanent. The lameness had been notorious, the cure continued. This, therefore, could not be the effect of any momentary delirium, either in the subject or in the witnesses of the transaction. It is the same with the greatest number of the Scripture miracles.
There are other cases of a mixed nature, in which, although the principal miracle be momentary, some circumstance combined with it is permanent. Of this kind is the history of Saint Paul's conversion 1. The sudden light and sound, the vision and the voice, upon the road to Damascus, were momentary : but Paul's blindness for three days in consequence of what had happened ; the com
* Acts, iii. 2.
+ Acts, iv. 14,