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subsists at this moment: we have every reason which the nature of the case admits, to establish the probability of the performance of the miracles.
Again, that the Mosaic and the Christian dispensations were not of men but of God, I take to be clear from their internal evidence, independent of their external proofs. Not to enter more than is necessary into their respective doctrines, I will appeal but to one from each of them in confirmation of this point. That Moses first taught the unity, the eternity, and the spirituality of the Deity cannot be disputed. That the notions of the heathen world in general upon this subject, on the contrary, were polytheistical, absurd, and contemptible, cannot be denied. And if a few philosophers made any approach to the truth upon this point, there is every reason to think that their conjectures (for they were nothing else) must be traced to a Jewish original. In like manner the Christian Doctrine of a future state, with its rewards and punishments, founded
Christian ideas of virtue and vice, was absolutely unknown to the Pagan world, and but imperfectly understood
in the latter part of the Jewish history. I know that in modern times many able Christian writers have endeavoured to prove the unity, and the attributes of God, and the doctrine of a future state by arguments drawn (as they suppose) from their own minds : such as the necessity for a first cause, the unity of design in the works of creation, the laws of matter and motion, the irregularities in human affairs and many others. But (as I lately had occasion to observe) I am persuaded that in all this, they have mistaken the light of Revelation for the light of reason, and have been more indebted than they themselves were aware of, to the doctrines and the influence of Christianity. And that upon their own principles merely, there is not one of their arguments that is not liable to serious objections. In our total ignorance of the manner of existence, of that Being, whom we call the first cause, (which all those writers fully admit)
we conclude with certainty, that there is but one such Being ? And unable as we are from reason to account for the existence of so much evil in the world, (which they also admit) how can we solidly refute the
Manichean notion of two independent principles, the one of good, and the other of evil?? And with respect to a future state, why should we suppose that our arguments in favour of it, built upon reason only, are more conclusive than were those of the most celebrated ancient, and we may add, modern philosophers, which evidently produced no permanent conviction even upon their own minds? For I fear that this doctrine even now seldom forms any part of the creed of a Deist. Because if he really believes it, and is possessed of a mind of only ordinary intelligence and candour, it must go far towards making him a Christian. But his real impediment to its reception, arises from his not forming correct ideas of the nature and attributes of that Divine Being, in whose existence he professes to believe. How this can be done, but by the help of those intimations respecting himself, which he has afforded us in the Sacred Volume, it is impossible for any man to say. Canst thou (says Zophar to Job) by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection ? If then these doc
Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 239—245.
trines are clearly not of human invention, and cannot be proved by any arguments drawn from reason only; we must conclude that they are, as the Scriptures clearly shew, of Divine original; and we must firmly believe in them, as resting upon Divine authority. And we must consider that authority to have been established by the performance of miracles.
The necessity for this species of evidence is so apparent, that I am not aware of any description of Christians who reject it: not even those, who by denying the Divinity of our Saviour and his atonement, reduce Christianity within the narrowest possible limits : making it to consist only of the doctrine of a future
The objection to miracles proceeds from a different quarter. From those who believe in no Revelation whatever. And who so far from allowing them to be a proof of religion, treat them as decisive marks of imposture. Yet confident as their tone is, it is but feebly supported by their arguments ; which amount to little more than this assertion of Mr. Hume, that no human testimony can render a miracle credible, because “ it is contrary to experience that a miracle should be true, but not contrary to experience that
testimony should be false?.” Itake this because it is the main argument relied upon by modern infidels : and if it can be refuted therefore, leaves nothing to apprehend upon that ground. Yet its weakness is so apparent, that nothing but the Author's great reputation as a writer upon other subjects, could have gained it the attention it has received. For what is it to object to a miracle that it is contrary to experience, but to say that a miracle is a miracle? What constitutes a miracle, but its being contrary to general or ordinary experience ? If it is meant to say, that it is contrary to universal experience, that is to assume the point in discussion, to take for granted the fact to be proved, and not to shew the insufficiency of the proposed medium of proof, namely, human testimony. Yet this is the only way of assailing the miracles with success, by shewing the incompetency of the witnesses, either from
gnorance of what they reported, or from wilful falsehood in reporting it.
But this would have been a task so full of difficulty, and so unlikely to lead to the desired conclu
* This is truly stated by Paley to be Mr. Hume's principle, though he has not expressed it precisely in these terms. Evidences, vol. i. p. 6.