Изображения страниц

a most singular employment, when he denounces men for acting on the probability that there is a heaven, a God, a Saviour, and a hell. It seems to us that there is nothing more at war with all the noble and pure feelings of the soul than this attempt to "swing man from his moorings," and send him adrift on wild and tumultuous seas, with only the infidel's probability that he will ever reach a haven of rest. It is launching into an ocean, without a belief that there is an ocean; and weathering storms, without professing to believe that there may be storms; and seeking a port of peace, without believing that there is such a port; and acting daily with reference to the future, at the same time that all is pronounced an absurdity. And when we see all this, we ask instinctively, can this be man? Or is this being right, after all, in the belief that he is only a semi-barbarous ape, or a half-reclaimed man of the woods?

But we are gravely told, and with an air of great seeming wisdom, that all presumption and experience are against the miraculous facts in the New Testament. And it was, for some time, deemed proof of singular philosophical sagacity in Hume, that he made the discovery, and put it on record to enlighten mankind. For our own part, we think far more attention was bestowed on this sophistry than was required; and, but for the show of confident wisdom with which it was put forth, we think the argument of Campbell might have been spared. It might safely be admitted, we suppose, that all presumption and experience were against miracles before they were wrought:—and this is no more than saying that they were not wrought before they were. The plain matter of fact, apart from all laboured metaphysics, is, that there is a presumption against most facts until they actually take place, because, till that time, all experience was against them. Thus there were many presumptions against the existence of such a man as Julius Cæsar. No man would have ven

tured to predict that there would be such a man.

There were a thousand probabilities that a man of that name would not live; as many that he would not cross the Rubicon; as many that he would not enslave his country; and as many that he would not be slain by the hand of such a man as Brutus; and all this was contrary to experience. So there were innumerable improbabilities in regard to the late Emperor of France. It was once contemplated, we are told, by a living poet who afterward wrote his life on a different plan, to produce a biography grounded on the improbabilities of his conduct, and showing how, in fact, all those improbabilities disappeared in the actual result. The world stood in amazement, indeed, for a few years at the singular grandeur of his movements. Men saw him ride, as the spirit of the storm, on the whirlwind of the revolution; and, like the spirit of the tempest, amazed and trembling nations knew not where his power would strike, or what city or state it would next sweep into ruin. But the world has since become familiar with the spectacle; men have seen that he was naturally engendered by the turbid elements; that he was the proper creation of the revolution; and that if he had not lived, some other master-spirit like him would have seized the direction of the tempest, and poured its desolations on bleeding and trembling Europe. So any great discovery in science or art is previously improbable, and contrary to experience. We have often amused ourselves with contemplating what would have been the effect on the mind of Archimedes, had he been told of the power of one of the most common elements-an element which men who see boiling water must always see:-its mighty energy in draining deep pits in the earth, in raising vast rocks of granite, in propelling vessels with a rapidity and beauty of which the ancients knew nothing, and in driving a thousand wheels in the minutest and most delicate works of art. To the ancient world all this was contrary to experience, and all presumption

was against it, as improbable, certainly, as that God should have power to raise the dead; and we doubt whether any evidence of divine revelation would have convinced mankind three thousand years ago, without the actual experiment, of what the school-boy may now know as a matter of sober and daily occurrence in the affairs of the world. So, not long since, the Copernican system of astronomy was so improbable, that, for maintaining it, Galileo endured the pains of the dungeon. All presumption and all experience, it was thought, were against it. Yet, by the discoveries of Newton, it has been made, to the great mass of mankind, devoid of all improbabilities, and children acquiesce in its reasonableness. So the Oriental king could not be persuaded that water could ever become hard. It was full of improbabilities, and contrary to all experience. The plain matter of fact is, that, in regard to all events in history, and all discoveries in science, and inventions in the mechanic arts, there may be said to be a presumption against their existence, just as there was in regard to miracles; and they are contrary to all experience until discovered, just as miracles are until performed. And, if this be all that infidelity has to affirm in the boasted argument of Hume, it seems to be ushering into the world, with very unnecessary pomp, a very plain truism—that a new fact in the world is contrary to all experience; and this is the same as saying that a thing is contrary to experience until it actually is experienced.

We have another remark to make on this subject. It relates to the ease with which the improbabilities of a case may be overcome by testimony. We doubt not that the wonders of the steam-power may be now credited by all mankind, and we, who have seen its application in so many forms, easily believe that it may accomplish similar wonders in combinations which the world has not yet witnessed. The incredulity of the age of Galileo, on the subject of astronomy, has

been overcome among millions who cannot trace the demonstrations of Newton, and who, perhaps, have never heard his name. It is by testimony only that all this is done; and on the strength of this testimony man will hazard any worldly interest. He will circumnavigate the globe, not at all deterred by the fear that he may find, in distant seas or lands, different laws from those which the Copernican system supposes. We do not see why, in like manner, the improbabilities of religion may not vanish before testimony; and its high mysteries, in some advanced period of our existence, become as familiar to us as the common facts which are now the subjects of our daily observation. Nor can we see why the antecedent difficulties of religion may not as easily be removed by competent proof, as those which appalled the minds of men in the grandeur of the astronomical system, or the mighty power of

the arts.

We wish here briefly to notice another difficulty of infidelity. It is, that it is altogether improbable, and against the analogy of things, that the Son of God, the equal of the Father of the universe, should stoop to the humiliating scenes of the mediation-should consent to be reviled, buffeted, and put to death. We answer, men are very incompetent judges of what a Divine Being may be willing to endure. Who would suppose, beforehand, that God would submit to blasphemy and rebuke? Yet what being has been ever more calumniated? Who has been the object of more scorn? What is the daily offering that goes up from the wide world to the Maker of all worlds? There is not a nation that does not daily send up a dense cloud of obscenity and profaneness as its offering.

Scarce a corner of a street can be turned but our ears are saluted with the sound of blasphemy-curses poured on Jehovah, on his Son, on his Spirit, on his creatures, on the material universe, on his law. To our minds, it is no more

strange that the Son of God should bear reproach and pain with patience for thirty years, than that the God of creation should bear all this from age to age, and as an offering from the wide world. We have only to reflect on what the blasphemer would do if God should be imbodied, and reveal himself to the eye in a form so that human hands might reach him with nails, and spears, and mock diadems, to see an illustration of what they actually did, when his Son put himself in the power of blasphemers, and refused not to die. The history of the blasphemer has shown that, if he had the power, long ago the last gem in the Creator's crown would have been plucked away; his throne would have crumbled beneath him; his sceptre been wrested from his hand; and the God of creation, like his Son in redemption, would have been suspended on a "great central" cross! When we see the patience of God toward blasphemers, our minds are never staggered by any condescension in the Redeemer. We see something in the analogy so unlike what we see among men, that we are strongly confirmed in the belief that they are a part of one great system of things.

We have thus presented a specimen of the nature of the argument from analogy. Our design has been to excite to inquiry, and to lead our readers to cultivate a practical acquaintance with this great work. We deem it a work of principles in theology—a work to be appreciated only by those who think for themselves, and who are willing to be at the trouble of carrying out these materials for thought into a daily practical application to the thousand difficulties which beset the path of Christians in their own private reflections, in the facts which they encounter, and in the inuendoes, jibes, and blasphemies of infidels. We know, indeed, that the argument is calculated to silence rather than convince. In our view, this is what, on this subject, is principally needed. The question, in our minds, is rather, whether we may believe

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »