« PoprzedniaDalej »
“ having been the person who, during those bad times, had maintain. « ed the cause of the Church in a very singular manner; so be.wag “ a moderate man in his temper, though with a higk principle, and " probably would have fallen into healing counsels, He was also “ much set on reforming abuses, and for, raising in the clergy a due « sense of the obligations they lay under."
The most considerable of his writings are, 1. A Conimentary on the New Testament, folio, an edition of which, but garbled, was pub. lished by Le Clerc, at Amsterdam. 2. A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, folio. 3. A Practical Catechism, 8vo, of which many editions have been published. This is, indeed, the best practical system of divinity in our language.
It was the laudable practice of the late excellent Dr. Samuel Johnson, to give or recommend Dr. Hammond's Works to those of his friends who were about to enter into holy orders.
. [Concluded from page 262.] IN appreciating the credit of any miraculous story, the fore. going 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 Socraó tes; the visions of St. 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. Dod dridge. All these may be accounted for by a momentory 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 dedote 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. But if a person born blind be restored to sight, a notorious cripple to the use of his limbs, or a dead
• Batty on Lunacy.
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 perception : and of this kind are by far the 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 Jew. ish 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 St. John's gospel, did not quit the place, or conceal himself from enquiry. On the conIrary, he was forthcoming, to answer the call, to satisfy the scrutiny, and to sustain the browbeating of Christ's angry and powerful enemies. . When the cripple at the gate of the temple was suddenly cured by Peter,t 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 ef. fect of any momentary delirium, either in the subject or in the wit nesses of the transaction. It is the same with the greatest number of the scripture miracles. There are other cases of a mixed pature, in which, although the principal miracle be momentary, some circumstance combined with it is permanent. Of this kind is the history of St. Paul's convertion. 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 communication made to Ananias in another place, and by a vision independent of the former; Ananias finding out Paul in consequence of intelligence so received, and finding him in the condition described, and Paul's recovery of his sight upon Ananias lay. ing his hands upon him, are circumstances, which take the transac. tion, and the principal miracle as included in it, entirely out of the case of momentary miracles, or of such as may be accounted for by false perceptions. Exactly the same thing may be observed of Peter's vision preparatory to the call of Cornelius, and of its connection with what was imparted in a distant place to Cornelius himself, and with the message dispatched by Cornelius to Peter. The vision might be a dream, the message could not. Either communi. cation, taken separately, might be a delusion; the concurrence of the two was impossible to happen without a supernatural cause.
John xü. 1, 2, 9, 10. † Acts üi, 2. Acts iv. 14. Acts ix.
Beside the risk of delusion which attaches upon mometary miracles, there is also much more room for imposture. The account cannot be examined at the moment. And, wlien that is also a moment of hurry and confusion, it may not be difficult for men of influence to gain credit to any story, which they inay wish to have believed. This is precisely the case of one of the best attested of the mir. acles of old Rome, the appearance of Castor and Pollux in the battle fought by Posthumius with the Latins at the lake Regillus. There is no doubt but that Posthumius after the battle, spread the report of such an appearance. No person could deny it, whilst it was said to last. No person, perhaps, had any inclination to dispute it afterwards, or if they had, could say with positiveness, what was or what was not seen, by some or other of the army, in the dismay, and amidst the tumult of a battle.
In assigning false perceptions, as the origin to which some miraculous accounts may be referred, I have not mentioned claims to inspiration, illuminations, secret notices or directions, internal sensa. tions, or consciousness of being acted upon by spiritual influences, good or bad; because these, appealing to no external proof, however convincing they may be to the persons themselves, form no part of what can be accounted miraculous evidence. Their own credibility stands upon their alliance with other miracles. The discussion, therefore, of all such pretensions may be omitted.
II. It is not necessary to bring into the comparison what may be called tentative miracles; that is, where, out of a great number of trials, some succeed, and in the accounts of which, although the narrative of the successful cases be alone preserved, and that of the unsuccessful cases sunk, yet enough is stated to shew that the cases produced are only a few out of many in which the same means have been employed. This observation bears, with considerable force, upon the ancient oracles and auguries, in which a single coincidence of the event with the prediction, is talked of and magnified, whilst failures are forgotten, or suppressed, or accounted for. It is also applicable to the cures wrought by relics, and at the tombs of saints. The boasted efficacy of the king's touch, upon which Mr. Hume lays some stress, falls under the same description. Nothing is alledged concerning it, which is not alledged of various nostrums, namely, out of many thousands who have used them, certified proofs of a few who have recovered after them. No solution of this sort is applicable to the miracles of the gospel. There is nothing in the narrative which can induce, or even allow us to believe, thai Christ attempted cures in many instances, and succeeded in a few; or that he ever made the attempt in vain. He did not profess to heal every where all that were sick ; on the contrary, he told the Jews, evidently meaning to represent his own case, that " although many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, yet unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, untu a woman that was a widow :" and that “ many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of
them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian."* By which examples he gave them to understand, that it was not the nature of a divine interposition, or necessary to its purpose, to be general ; still less, to answer every challenge that might be inade, which would teach men to put their faith upon these experiments. Christ never pronounced the word, but the effect followed.t It was not a thousand sick that received his benediction, and a few that were benefit ed: a single paralytic is let down in his bed at Jesus' feet, in the midst of the surrounding multitude; Jesus bid him walk, and he did so. A man with a withered hand is in the synagogue ; Jesús bid him stretch forth his hand, in the presence of the assembly, and it was “ restored whole like the other." There was nothing tentative in these eures; nothing that can be explained by the power of aceident.
We may observe also that many of the cures which Christ wrought, such as that of a person blind from his birth, also many miracles beside cures, as raising the dead, walking upon the sea, feeding a great multitude with a few loaves and fishes, are of a nature which does not in any wise admit of the supposition of a fortunate experiment.
III. We may dismiss from the question all accounts in which, allowing the phenomenon to be real, the fact to be true, it still remains doubtful whether a miracle were wrought. This is the case with the ancient history of what is called the thundering legion, of the extraordinary circumstances which obstructed the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem by Julian, the circling of the flames and fragrant smell at the martyrdom of Polycarp, the sudden shower that extinguished the fire into which the scriptures were thrown in the Diocletian persecution ; Constantine's dream, his inscribing in consequence of it, the cross upon his standard and the shields of his soldiers; his victory, and the escape of the standard bearer ; perhaps also the imagined appearance of the cross in the heavens, though this last circumstance is very deficient in historical evidence. It is also the case with the modern annual exhibition of liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius at Naples. It is a doubt likewise, which ought to be excluded by very special circumstances, from those narratives which relate to the supernatural cure of hypochondriacal and nervous complaints, and of all diseases which are much affected by the imagination. The miracles of the second and third century are, usually, healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits, miracles in which there is room for some error and deception. We hear nothing of causing the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed.
t There are also instances in Christian writers of repuied miracles, which were natural operations, though
* Luke iv. 25. Mark ii. 3. $ Mat. xii. 10. 1 Jortin's Rem. vol. II. p. 51.
t One, and only one, instance may be produced in which the disciples of Christ do seem to have attempted a cure, and not to have been able to per. form it. The story is very ingenuously and candidly related by three of the evangelists. The patient was afterwards healed by Christ himself; and the whole transaetion seems to have been intended, as it was well suited, to display the superiority of Christ above all who performed miracles in his name : a distinction which, during his presence in the world, it might be necessary to inculcate by some such proof as this.
* Mark ix. 14. Math. svi. 20.
not known to be such at the time, as that of articulate speech after the loss of a great part of the tongue.
IV. To the same head of objection ncarly, may also be referred Rccounts, in which the variation of a small circumstance may have transformed some extraordinary appearance, or some critical coindence of events, into a miracle ; stories, in a word, which may be resolved into exaggeration. The miracles of the gospel can by no possibility be explained away in this manner. Total fiction will account for any thing; but po stretch of exaggeration that has any par. allel in other histories, no force of fancy upon real circumstances, could produce the narrative which we now have. . The feeding of the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes surpasses all bounds of exaggeration. The raising of Lazarus, of the widow's son at Nain, as well as inany of the cures which Christ wrought, come not with. in the compass of misrepresentation. I mean, that it is impossible to assign any position of circumstances, however peculiar, any accidental effects, however extraordinary, any natural singularity, which could supply an origin or foundation to these accounts.
Having thus enumerated several exceptions, which may justiy be taken to relations of miracles, it is necessary, when we read the scriptures, to bear in our mind this general remark, that although there be miracles recorded in the New Testament, which fall within some or other of the exceptions here assigned, yet that they are united with others, to whicb none of the same exceptions extend, and that their credibility stands upon this union. Thus the visions and revelations, which St. Paul asserts to have been imparted by him, may not, in their separate evidence, be distinguishable from the visions and revelations which many others have alledged. But here is the difference. St. Paul's pretensions were attested by external miracles wrought by himself, and by miracles wrought in the cause to which these visions relate ; or to speak more properly, the same historical authority which informs us of one, informs us of the other. This is not ordinarily true of the visious of enthusiasts, or even of the accounts in which they are contained. Again, some of Christ's own miracles were momentary; as the transfiguration, the appearance and voice from heaven at Christ's baptism, a voice from the clouds upon one occasion afterwards, (John xii. 30.) and some others.
It is not denied, that the distinction which we have proposed concerning miracles of this species, applies in diminution of the force of the evidence, as much to these instances, as to others. But this is the case, pot with all the miracles ascribed to Christ, nor with the greatest part, nor with many. Whatever force therefore may be in the objection, we have numerous miracles which are free from its and even those to which it is applicable, are little affected by it in their credit, because there are few, who, admitting the rest, will reject them. If there be miracles of the New Testament, which come within any of the other heads into which we have distributed te ob. jections, the same remark must be repeated. And this is one way, in which the unexampled number and variety of the miracles ascribed to Christ, strengthens the credibility of Christianity. For it precludes any solution, or conjecture about a solution, which imagina