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Our most holy religion is founded on faith, not on reason; and it is a sure method of exposing it, to put it to such a trial as it is by no means fitted to endure; '--and again, 'as if the testimony of man could ever be put in the balance with that of God himself, who conducted the pen of the inspired writers.. .
It has been well remarked by the author of the present life, that 'the leading principle of this theory is, in conformity with its author's law of cause and effect, that where once our experience has taught us that two things follow each other, as cause and effect, by an unvarying sequence, if we hear of an instance in which this has not been the case, we ought to doubt the truth of the narrative. In other words, if we are told of some circumstance having taken place out of the usual order of nature, we ought not to believe it; because the circumstance of the narrator having been deceived, or of his designedly telling a falsehood, is more probable than an event contradictory, to all previous authenticated experience. It is a rule for marking the boundary and proper application of the inductive system, and one that is highly serviceable to science, But, in applying it to use, we must not be led away by the narrow application, in common conversation, of the word experience. There is the experience of the common workman, and there is the experience of the philosopher. There is that observation of phenomena which makes a ditcher know that the difficulty of pulling out the loosened stone with a mattock, indicates it to be so many inches thick ; and that observation, fully as sure, which shews the geologist that the stratum of the Pennsylvanian graywacke, is upwards of a hundred miles thick. The experience and observation of the husbandman teach him, that when the opposite hill is distinct to his view, the intervening atmosphere is not charged with vapour; but observation, not less satisfactory, shews the astronomer that Jupiter and the moon have around them no atmosphere such as that by which our planet is enveloped. Now, there is nothing more fully founded on experimental observation than the fact, that there was a time when the present order of the world was not in existence. That there have been convulsions, such as, did we now hear of their contemporary occurrence, instead of attesting their past existence through the sure course of observation and induction, we would at once maintain to be impossible. To this, then, and this only, comes the theory of miracles, that, at the present day, and for a great many years back, the accounts that are given of circumstances having taken place out of the general order of nature, are to be discredited, because between the two things to be believed, the falsehood of the narrative is more likely than
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the truth of the occurrence. But the very means by which we arrive at this conclusion, bring us to another, that there was a time to which the rules taken from the present observation of the course of nature did not apply.' În a note, the author observes, This matter seems, on another occasion, to have passed under his own view. In the 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion,' he makes Philo say, 'Strong and almost incontestible proofs may be traced over the whole earth, that every part of this globe has continued for many ages covered with water. Although order were supposed inseparable from matter, and inherent in it, yet may matter be susceptible of many and great revolutions through the endless periods of eternal duration. That even Hume's argument makes allowance for miracles having some time or other existed, and that it can only be urged against this or that individual statement of an unnatural occurrence, is the weapon which Campbell wields with chief effect in his admirable dissertation.'— Life, vol. i., pp. 282, 283.
Mr. Burton has very properly pointed out the danger of being led astray by the use of the term experience, since it admits of all but infinite degrees, according to the observation of individuals. But he might have added, that its continued extension is constantly supplying corrections of its former information, and of the conclusions drawn from it. We must be permitted to add, also, that there is a deception practised in Mr. Hume's idea on which his whole argument is founded, of a certain and universal experience. There exists no such thing as human experience beyond each person's own consciousness. The extension of the idea of experience towards universality, that is the collected experience of all men in all times and places, is an accumulation of experiences founded on testimony. Each one's own experience may be confirmed, corrected, or contradicted by that of others; but then the individual so endeavouring to collect the universal experience of mankind is compelled to admit the credibility of human testimony. Now this testimony, with regard to causes and effects which other men observe, must be subjected to the ordinary rules which establish our faith in testimony. But then this very foundation on which rests, what Hume calls, universal experience is not the evidence of our own senses, but that very same evidence of testimony on which our faith is claimed for miracles. The sceptical philosopher endeavoured to set his doctrine of universal experience in the light of personal evidence from sense, and so to overbear and explode that faith which Christians repose in the testimony afforded to miracles. His whole argument, however, depends upon the truth of the
perience of mankind endeavouring to colleat of others; but
representation that our own experience is necessarily stronger than any human testimony offered to us. But the analysis of the argument shows, that the notion of universal experience itself rests upon the foundation of human testimony. The attempt, therefore, to close the door against human testimony in the case of miracles is obviously unfair, and must necessarily fall to the ground. As long as human testimony is clear and unimpeachable, and is rebutted by no testimony, in the particular case, from our own personal experience, it must be as valid in proving a strange as in proving a common event. Mr. Hume has shown no good reason why testimony should be a sufficient ground for his notion of universal experience—and an insufficient ground for the Christian's faith in miracles. No argument can set that evidence aside, but that which goes to a direct invalidation of the testimony in each particular case. We must conclude that Mr. Hume employed his notion of universal experience against the force of testimony either dishonestly, or with a complete oversight of the identity of its basis with the basis of belief in miracles.
At the same time we fully admit, and lay it down as a distinct principle, that just in proportion to the singularity and apparent improbability, or even impossibility, of the fact testified, ought to be the strength, abundance and clearness of the testimoniy adduced in its support. The friends of revelation bave never been unwilling that the testimony for the sacred miracles should be examined with the utmost severity, and that no fair means of testing its credibility should be overlooked. Our controversy with such objectors as Mr. Hume and his followers is, not that they subject the testimony of the witnesses to too searching a test, but that theypresume to say, no testimony whatever can establish a miracle, and so supersede all examination, by setting up their supposed universal experience against testimony, when, as we have shown, their notion of experience is itself only a collection of testimonies. The whole argument is reducible to this,-a witness is credible, yea, all witnesses are credible, when they speak in conformation of my own experience, but unworthy of credit when they testify to anything which surpasses it.
But we must dismiss the subject, having already trespassed upon the attention of our readers beyond our usual limits, and we fear with discussions which too many will deem dry and uninteresting, though others may attach to them no inconsiderable importance.
Of Mr. Burton's 'Life of Mr. Hume' we can say, that it is the most complete and the best written that has yet appeared in a distinct form, and with advantages which no previous
per Change a test, ubject be by setting establish" that the
biographer of Hume has enjoyed. The author might have indulged in comment further than he has done; but what he has said by way of disquisition upon any of the multifarious topics that arise, is generally well said ; and, upon the whole, we can commend his work as a piece of excellent and interesting biography.
Art. V.-Scotland, its Faith and its Features ; or, a Visit to Blair
Athol. By the Rev. Francis Trench. In 2 vols. London: :
R. Bentley To the imagination it presents a pleasing picture of antiquated comfort, to realize a gentleman and his lady starting together in a pony chaise on a long journey through a pleasant, and to them, an unknown country. Let them be supposed to have plenty of leisure, plenty of money, plenty of introductions to agreeable friends, and withal, a fair proportion of the love of nature and the love of each other, and we confess that we could envy them such a trip. The steam-engines of the rail-roads may puff away as they please, as if in self-admiration, or pant, as with excessive exertion, to hasten to their destined goal ;-give us, we say, at least occasionally, the time and the means for a good old English way of proceeding over hill and dale, with a companionship to stimulate our intellect, and to sympathize with our observations. Let us start on a bright summer morning—not exactly in the sultry season, and not without the grateful interchanges of sun and cloud-nay, even if you will, of fitful showers to refresh the face of nature, and teach us, by little temporary inconveniences, the more to relish the felicities of our lot;- let us have British hearts within, and British landscapes without ;good roads, well-fed animals, a strong-built vehicle, comfortable inns, and the et cetera of our country's accommodation, and we shall be quite willing to pass at right angles from the noisy train, nor hear its ominous whistle for a month. .
It is not, however, for mere amusement that the man of property, and especially the clergyman, like our author, should travel. While pursuing enjoyment or gaining health, it is wise to gather information, and then to communicate it to others. Mr. Trench has acted on this principle: he has made pleasure subservient to usefulness, and knowledge to religion; and although there be a certain degree of superficiality pervading the whole, which often prompts rather than satisfies inquiry, we thank him for his not unpleasing or unprofitable volume. At Kendal, whither our author had proceeded by leisurely
stages from his home on the coast of Hampshire, he fell in with some railroad men, and we cannot forbear citing his account of them as truly descriptive, and especially as pointing out the methods which piety may adopt for their spiritual benefit.
A vast number of railroad men were loitering about the streets, telling their avocation by their mien, dress, and general appearance, in a way that cannot be mistaken by any one who has lived in the neighbourhood of their work, or at all events observed them with any degree of interest and attention. Exactly as I remember them standing in groups, or slowly strolling about the streets of Reading, after their day's work was done, so I found them at Kendal this evening, telling at once the nature of their ayocation by their clay-coloured garments, their strong bodily development, and their independent bearing My present notice of their dress recalls to my memory some particulars of their peculiar tastes, on this subject, as indulged in'on holidays and Sundays. Then, in many instances, their costume is very handsome, and no small sums are expended upon it. I have seen them clad in coats of the finest broad cloth, and of such copious dimensions that they would certainly have made two garments of the same kind for many a slim young gentleman. Their tailor's bill must of course have been in accordance with the size of the garment. To this was often added a velvet waistcoat, figured, of red, or some other brilliant colour, adorned with hanging buttons of equally showy pattern. Nor must I forget the corduroys and highly polished laced boots. The dress of their wives, too, was sometimes of a costly and showy description; and altogether there was something very peculiar in the appearance of one of these high-dressed labouring men, accompanied by his wife to church, especially when coming for the baptism of a child, or on any other marked incident in their lives.'
I have also alluded already to their physical strength. The arm of a robust railroad man is quite an extraordinary spectacle. I do not exaggerate in saying, that I have seen it twice the size of an ordinary labourer. I have sat among them reading and explaining the Scriptures, while nine or ten of them, as hearers, were arranged on a bench in a line close before me, and I have more than once found my attention wandering from my subject, and fixed with astonishment on the gigantic size of their limbs, as developed by mus. cular exertion, among men qualified by constitution to bear it. So
'As to their independent mien, I have only one remark to make here, which is, that I would earnestly recommend to all ministers and others, interested in their spiritual and moral welfare, and desirous to have fruit among them even as among others,' not to mistake it for insolence or repulsiveness; nor at all to suppose that they are less susceptible of kindness and attention than others, engaged in bard and rough toil, and removed from all influences of a softening and ameliorating character. Just let it be proved to them that you have their interest at heart, by attention to some of their number in cases of sickness, or any circumstances where sympathy can be