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day, a man was raised from the dead, in which room, and at the time specified, we being present and looking on, perceived no such event to have taken place. Here the assertion is contrary to experience properly so called : and this is a contrariety which no evidence can surmount, It matters nothing, whether the fact be of a miraculous nature or not. But although this be the experience, and the contrariety, whichi archbishop Tillotson alleged in the quotation with which Mr Hume
his Essay, it is certainly not that experience, nor that contrariety, which Mr Hume himself intended to object. And, short of this, I know no intelligible signification which can be affixed to the term “ contrary to experience," but one, viz. that of not having ourselves experienced any thing similar to the thing related, or such things not being generally experienced by others. "not generally:" for to state concerning the fact in question, that no such thing was ever experienced, or that universal experience is against it, is to assume the subject of the controversy.
Now the improbability which arises from the want (for this properly is a want, not a contradiction) of experience, is only equal to the probability there is, that, if the thing were true, we should experience things similar to it, or that such things would be generally experienced. Suppose it then to be true that miracles were wrought on the first promulgation of Christianity, when nothing but miracles could decide its authority, is it certain that such miracles would be repeated so often, and in so many places, as to become objects of general experience? Is it a probability approaching to certainty? is it a probability of any great strength or force? is it such as no evidence can encounter? And yet this probability is the exact conperse, and therefore the exact measure, of the improbability which arises from the want of experience, and which Mr Hume represents as invincible by human testimony.
It is not like alleging a new law of nature, or a new experiment in natural philosophy; because, when these are related, it is expected that, under the same circumstances, the same effect will follow universally; and, in proportion as this expectation is justly entertained, the want of a corresponding experience negatives the history. But to expect concerning a miracle, that it should succeed upon a repetition, is to expect that which would make it cease to be a miracle, which is contrary to its nature as such, and would totally destroy the use and purpose for which it was wrought.
The force of experience as an objection to miracles, is founded in the presumption, either that the course of nature is invariable, or that, if it be ever variedl, variations will be frequent and general. Has the necessity of this alternative been demonstrated ? Permit us to call the course of nature the agency of an intelligent Being; and is there any good reason for judging this state of the case to be probable? Ought we not rather to expect, that such a Being, on occasions of peculiar importance, may interrupt the order which he had appointed, yet, that such occasions should return seldom; that these interruptions consequently should be confined to the experience of a few; that the want of it, therefore, in many, should be matter neither of surprise nor objection?
But as a continuation of the argument from experience, it is said that, when we advance accounts of miracles, we assign effects without causes, or we attribute effects to causes inadequate to the purpose, or to causes, of the operation of which we have no experience. Of what causes, we may ask, and of what effects does the objection speak? If it be answered that, when we ascribe the cure of the palsy to a touch, of blindnes to the anointing of the eyes
with clay, or the rising of the dead to a word, we lay ourselves open to this imputation; we reply, that we ascribe no such effects to such
We perceive no virtue or energy in these things more than in other things of the same kind. They are merely signs to connect the miracle with its end. The effect we ascribe simply to the volition of - the Deity; of whose existence and power, not to say of whose
agency, we have previous and independent proof. We
have, therefore, all we seek for in the works of rational agents,-a sufficient power and an adequate motive. In a word, once believe that there is a God, and miracles are not incredible.
Mr Hume states the case of miracles to be a contest of opposite improbabilities, that is to say, a question whether it be more improbable that the miracle should be true, or the testimony false: and this I think a fair account of the controversy. But herein I remark a want of argumentative justice, that, in describing the improbability of miracles, he suppresses all those circumstances of extenuation, which result from our knowledge of the existence, power, and disposition of the Deity ; his concern in the creation; the end answered by the miracle, the importance of that end, and its subserviency to the plan pursued in the work of nature. As Mr Hume has represented the question, miracles are alike incredible to him who is previously assured of the constant agency of a Divine Being, and to him who believes that no such Being exists in the universe. They are equally incredible,