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On Mr. Hume's Argument against Miracles.
703 of it with rapture in contemplation of Hume's argument against miracles an whole universe filled with life, is inconclusive, and that testimony happiness and love! I am not one of may be of a nature to amount io those who think the news too good to absolute certainty, and of certainty be true. I have already expressed my there can be no degrees. Probability belief that as a deduction from pre- is a word by which we express nothing mises already admitted, concerning but our ignorance of causes ; and, in the Divine perfections and govern- fact, no event ever took place, agreement, the doctrine is a highly rational able to the laws of nature, that was one, and what every enlightened or could be previously improbable. reasoner must feel disposed to receive. Such an event may have appeared to But I am afraid we go too far when us improbable, from our ignorance of we presume to ascribe this doctrine to existing causes; but, certainly, whatJesus Christ or his Apostles. They ever has taken place, to him who certainly predicted some events in knew all the causes in action, was terms sufficiently distinct and clear, not in the slightest degree improbable. such as the resurrection and a future We are somewhat acquainted with julgment, e.g. “God hath appointed the laws that givern human testia day in which he will judge the mony, but we are in general wholly world in righteousness by thai man ignorant of the previous circumstances, whom he hath ordained." “ The which produce any given event, in all trumpet shall sound and the dead shall cases where testimony is wanted; for be raised incorruptible." And it was of our own transactions we want not just as easy for them to have said, the testimony. It is then, perhaps, not wicked shall be severely punished for a correct to say, that a very slight testiwhile, but shall afterwurds le brought mony will overcome a greater preto repentunce and le saved, if they had rious improbability; for of any given been appointed to reveal any thing fact, there was in the thing itself no upon this subject.
previous improbability, and we are Finally, Sir, it appears that the always conscious that what we call New Testament is completely silent improbable, is only owing to our on this subjeci, which some of our ignorance of causes, of which ignobrethren seem so anxious to make a rance we are also conscious, as to part of Christian belief; and when almost every occurrence where testiwe reflect on what has been the con- mony can be required. Still this argusequence in former ages, of admitting ment which sets aside all previous various additions to the primitive doc. improbability, supposes that the fact trine, inerely because they seemed to contemplated happened according to be deducible from certain texts ille the operation of known general laws; understood, or to result from prin- and as all we see and observe may be ciples already established, or were explained, when the particulars are supported by the authority of eminent known, by these general laws, there nanies, Unitarians cannot be too will still attach to the mind a sense of careful how they enlarge their creed. improbability, when a fact is reported, A certain class of the orthodox con- in contradiction to the known operasider their preachers inspired, and tion of these general laws. For inerery thing littered from the pulpit stance, Mr. Cogan, in spite of him. has the force of Divine truth; it is self, would require stronger and more with them the word of God. But as circumstantial' testimony, to satisfy Unitarian preachers make no such him that a man had risen froin the elaim, it will be the indelible disgrace dead, than that a man had died. How of their hearers, if they have no better does this feeling arise, for it is evident reason for their belief, than that such that if this be the fact, testimony is are the opinions of their teachers. sufficient to ascertain it? It arises, I I am, Sir,
presume, from such a fact being conYour's, &c. irary to general experience, and to its R. L. being a violation of a known general law. Now this gives a certain
Dec. 3, 1816. of force to Hume's reasoning, and I AGREE with your excellent Cor- think it must be admitted that it seems last Number, . (p. 614,) that Mr. of the strongest kind.
I think it to be impossible for any moral discourse. The epithet dry is so man to read of the 'miracles of the frequently applied to morality, that I second and third centuries of the wish to know what there is in it to Christian æra, without being more justify or occasion its being so called. inclined to disbelieve the iniracles than I think it must meet some morbid to believe the testimony. But why? quality in the mind which receives it From a lurking suspicion, of which with disgust; to such a mind, how very the improbability of such miracles is dry and disgusting must be our Saviour's the foundation.' He begins to ques- Sermon on the Mount, as that is ention the testimony, and to bring for- tirely composed of moral precepts. ward certain general reasons against Were these precepts reduced to pracits credibility, such as that it was tice, it would so improve the mental then the interest of many that such taste and moral constitution, that what miracles be believed, and that men's is now dry and disgusting would be minds were then prepared to receive received even with a zest—that happy easy proof of iniracles. But these are union would then take place between only general and indeed very flimsy faith and works which constitutes the reasons, by which to impeach the religion of Christ. veracity, or observation, of multitudes That Unitarian ministers should ocof religious men, who were ready to casionally preach doctrinal sermons, suffer death for religion, and many of and defend their opinions against their whom did suffer death. If we make opponents, is useful and necessary; but thus free with human testimony at while so many preachers are deprecithis distance of time, when the cir- ating, morality (and the relish with cumstances are to us most imperfectly which this is received their crowded known, where are we to stop? l audiences declare), it behores the for. fully agree with Mr. Cogan, that the mer rather 10 increase than to abate degree of testimony is io determine their exertions in that important part the particular question concerning any oftheir Master's work, the enforcing the miracles, and I am quite sure that precepts of the gospel. Who are they testimony nay be such as to establish whom the Scriptures dignify by the any fact, be it miraculous or otherwise. appellation of his peculiar people? As the human mind is constituted, those who are zealous of good works. rarity passes for improbalility, and one I would recoinmend it to J. B. when miraculous fact being established, the he invites his friends to a controversial conceived improbability of others is entertainment at a Unitarian chapel, to diminished, until their frequent occur- warn them of the possibility of their rence takes away all sense of impro- meeting with only inoral fare, which bability from the mind, and their though less palatable, may, if it does proof becomes as casy as that of any not meet a disposition to indigestion, other fact. In the abstract, therefore, afford solid and wholesome nourishthere is nothing in Mr. Hume's argu- ment. ment, yet it is one which will ever carry with it an imposing air of reason. Sir,
Dec. 3, 1816. If these remarks procure us a few more WISH our friends at Edinburgh lines from Mr. Cogan, your readers will be pleased:
raising a fund for a new chapel, and A. B. C. shall be happy to contribute my mite
to so desirable an object. I think, SIR,
Bristol, Nov. 25, 1816. however, they would do well, in the TOUR valuable Miscellany fre- first instance, to imitate the conduct of
quently contains hints to minis- their brethren at York, Thorne, &c.ters for their improvement in the mode see what they can raise among theniof conducting their pulpit exercises. selves, and then lay their case before the In your Repository of last month (p. public. 584), J. B. recommends it to Unitarian There seems no mode of supporting ministers to preach statedly once a the great cause of Unitarianism so free fortnight upon a doctrinal or contro- from objection, as that of giving enversial subject—those who invite their couragement to the building and refriends to this treat, would not then be building of chapels, where circumpained by their disappointment and stances render such measures prudent. disgust at hearing in its stead a dry, Let us therefore hope, that as chapels
Some Ol-servations on the Sermons of Missionaries.
703 are called for, they will receive prompt the existence of God, or strip the soul as well as general support. The Uni- of its immortality. All the errors of tarians are a wealthy body; and if, on these misguided men proceed from conevery such occasion, a small number templating the Deity as an inexorable only of those who are able would im- judge rather than a merciful Fother; mcdiately subscribe, each, his guinea, and to shake off the dread inspired by a most iniportant object would be easily this idea, they use cvery effort to delude obtained.
theniselves into the belief, either that Your's respectfully,
there is no God to punish them, or that A CONSTANT READER. all they have to apprehend is some
slight and temporary chastisement, for Some Olservations on the Sermons of example, some worldly misfortune.
Missionaries. Translated from the But what do they gain by this perSpanish of P. Feijoo, a Alonk and suasion ? they are exactly in the situa. Pullic Writer to the King of Spain, tion of a criminal, who, Aying from in the last Century.
justice, flings himself down a precipice, (Concluded from p. 639.) and to avoid a probable punishment, I FIND I have imperceptibly as- embraces certain death they seek to
sumed the style of the pulpit, no avoid Divine justice by the mosi trewhere more superfluous than in a letter mendous of all precipices, that of imaddressed to a preacher: all I intended piety: yet even those who deny the was simply to propose the subject, existence of God, when they would leaving to you, who are so well accns- dethrone the awful Judge who will tomed to the ministry, to chiuse the pronounce sentence on their iniquity, nieans of persuasion. You may perhaps do not so much flatter themselves that apprehend, that by not denouncing they can fly from Divine justice, as the threats of God's anger against sin- thai Divine justice will Ay from them. ners, your sermons will be bui of little Other unbelievers who assert the use. It is this fear that in reality in- soul to be mortal, think by this means duces so many zealou, missionaries to
to escape from God and eternal miinsist so frequently on the torments sery: one party seek to amuibilate the and horrors of hell. I shall not deny Deity, the other to annihilate theinthe utility of these images if properly selves, hoping their souls will perish introduced : however, ihe sentiment when their bodies return to dust. Both of love to God has not only a superior schemes are impious, but the first is value and dignity far excelling any in- much more horrible and more palpably centive derived from fear, (as I before false: it is therefore probable that the hinted), but it should also be considered supporters of this opinion have been that the impressions made by love on fewer in number, because all nature the soul are inore lasting than those of proclaims the existence of its Maker in fear. The reason is that love being so loud a tone, that it seems impossible sweet, gentle and pleasing, the heart any intellectual deafness can be so finds itself at ease, and far froin repel- great as to resist its impression. ling, opens to receive and cherish'it: The majority of infidels giving up fear on the contrary, is severe, violent this cause as desperate, have ranged and disagrecable, the heart therefore themselves with the second party: rejects it as much as possible. Love freed alike from the hopes and fear of allures, fear oppresses ; love is enjoyed, a future life, they feel at liberty to fear is suffered ; lore being always an enjoy the present, and give a loose to act of the will, is likewise often the all their disorderly passions. But there object of it, that is, the will loves with is as much inadvertence as impiety in another act of reflected love: but fear this attempt to escape from God. If is invariably an irksome guest wherever the terror of Divine justice iinpels thein it gains admission, and is received to shun it, (and I acknowledge they much in the same manner as we grant are right to fly from its punishments, a lodging to an enemy who forces us what criminal but would do the same?) to open the door sword in hand; we ac- yes, let them fly from justice but not cordingly apply all our power to expel from God. How is this possible? To the invader, and frequently succeed. avoid justice they must Ay from the
The pernicious and horrible doc. judge. Every human tribunal has a trines of various unbelievers, spring limited jurisdiction; the culprit may from this principle; they either deny escape to another province, or he may retreat from one kingdom to another; Testament; for in comparison of their but if God is omnipresent and omni- power to affect the mind, the eloquence potent, whither can we free from his of Demosthenes or Cicero on oleer vengeance? This is not what I mean subjects is but unmeaning words. when I allow we may fly from Divine In one place we meet with a shepjustice ; I am sensible it is impossible herd so solicitous for the preservation to escape from God: where then can of his flock, that he seeks the lost sheep we take refuge? where, but in Divine over hills and mountains, climbing mercy? If in a certain sense this may steeps and treading on thorns, and be decmed escaping from God, it is to having found it, he places it on his shelter ourselves from the terrors of our shouklers to secure it from the attacks judge under the protection of our Fa. of the wild beasts. In another we bether; to appeal from the God of terror bold a kind and tender father highly to the God of pity, from the God of insalted and offended by his son, who, vengeance to the God of mercy. after having forsaken him and spent
I infer from all that has been said, all his wealth in riot and dissipation, that the principal or only end that the when forced by necessity he returns evangelical orator ought to have in home, he is embraced and received by view, is to instil the love of God into his forgiving parent with erery demonthe hearts of his hearers. It may in. stration of affection. Who is this deed be in general proper to attain this Father but the Redeemer of the ood by motives of fear. “ Timor Doi world, the Sovereign Lord of heaven initium dilectionis ejus," says the sacred and carth? who the strayed sheep, the text in Ecclesiasticus, — The fear of prodigal sou? but the man who abanGod is a preparatory disposition to love dons Jerusalem for Babylon, the dehim. The greater number of coni- serter from the noble army of the just mentators indeed explain this to mean to the infamous squadron of the wicked. filial fear; but it may with propriety be Notwithstanding he has outraged and extended to servile fear also, when the offended his God, let but the sinner latter conducts to love, as I have al- have recourse to his clemency; all he ready endeavoured to shew.
demands is an humble and contrite Suppose now the first object of a heart. Let him only confess, " Father missionary serinon should be to alarm I have sinned against heaven and before ihe auditors by a description of the in- thee, and I am no more worthy to be tenseness and eternal duration of fu- called thy son," this alone is requisite ture punishments ; terror being once to obtain forgiveness. The Saviour of raised in every bosom, it ought to be the world has assured us of it by the intimated that the only way to escape pen of the Evangelist (Luke xv). this fearful and boundless abyss of mi- It is plain the inercy of God must be sery and torment, is an hunible appli- infinite towards sinners, since nothing cation to Divine mercy to shield us less could make him receive the crifrom Divine justice. The better to minal with caresses, who had evinced impress the minds of the congregation, his hatred by insult and disobedience. the preacher may represent on one Do earthly monarchs thus admit to hand the awful tribunal of offended their favour a vassal who has not only Deity snrrounded by the ministers of been ungrateful but rebellious? No, his avenging wrath, and on the other their clemency is as limited as their a throne of grace on which is seated a existence is finite; the mercy of God compassionate and forgiving God, who is boundless, because his being is inopens wide his arms to embrace all who finite. will have recourse to his mercy—that By these and similar representations, benignant Being whom the greatest of the minds of the auditors may be elethe apostolic preachers defines as the vated above the servile dread of puFather of mercies and God of all con- nishment to confidence in the Divine solation. Oh! what a spacious, what mercy; and one step is alone wanting a beautiful field is here displayed to to lead them to that height of love we the preacher on which to exert his are desirous they should attain. The zeal and eloquence. The latter indeed gradation is natural and easy; for man is superfluous : let him but use the being convinced that God is supremely energetic phrases, the appropriate si- merciful and full of loving-kindness, miles, or rather the animated images therefore infinitely amiable; that his of Holy Scripture, especially the New forbearance is so great that even aftet
Some Observations on the Sermons of Missionaries.
707 repeated provocations he is ready to against itself. Experience confirms this forgive the returning penitent; that opinion. The very reverend Father even whilst in the actual commission M. Fr. Bentio Angerich, in an account of sin he requires no satisfaction from which he published of the life and virthe offender, nothing but what is ne- tues of our celebrated legate of Mont. cessary for his own sake to ensure his serrate, Fr. Joseph de San Benito, eternal felicity; how can he resist such chap. X. relates that this monk enjoyed powerful motives to love his God, and throughout the principality of Catalonia prostrate before him say from his heart, the reputation of a mosi enlightened * Most merciful and heavenly Father, understanding, not only amongst the I have sinned against thee like a most ignorant but amongst learned men, and vile and ungrateful creature, therefore was frequently consulted when any I am not worthy to be called thy son, doubts were entertained in spiritual but to be treated as a vile and rebellious affairs. An apostolic minister belong. slave."
ing to the fraternity of Escernalbon, Thus the path is clearly marked out complained to him of the very little by which the missionary may lead men good his sermons effected, soliciting his from servile to filial fear: and it like advice and instructious how he might wise appears that both servile and filial render them more useful; to this refear verifies that sentence of Scripture, quest the holy ınan made the following “ T'imor Dei initium dilectionis ejus." reply, (I quote the exact words of the The consciousness of deserving punish- writer) “ that he should endeavour to Inent shews us the necessity of imploring inculcate the infinite mercy of God mercy; and as this attribute of the more than he had hitherto done, and Supreme Being is perfectly amiable, that he would assuredly reap that hare the transition to love is natural and vest of souls he desired." The writer easy. It may indeed be proper, and it thus proceeds: “ the event justified is frequently' requisite, to iinpress the the advice; the missionary adopted the sinuer with the hazard he incurs of counsel of his brother, and returned eternal perdition and the dread of ever- after some years to Montserrate, hav, lasting irent; but he ought not to ing converted innumerable souls
, and be left under the dominion of terror, raising many to a steadfast and chearful both because love is a more noble prin- hope that were before in imminent ciple of action, more snited to human danger of despair, by reading to them nature, and more efficacious to direct the short compendious treatise in verse him in the road of virtue, and because at the end of San Benito's works.“ unqualified terror overwhelins the soul The account concludes thus : Fr. and weakens our inclinations to obe- Joseph had a special grace by his disdience; for fear though it may restrain courses and writings to infuse hope a man from the commission of sin, into the heart and inspire it with con, wants the sweetness that incites to good fidence in the Divine mercy." works: it may deler us from evil, but The proper and distinctive character it will not render us virtuous. The of mind in this admirable ecclesiastic, business of the preacher is to recall was a profoundly rooted persuasion of sinners to God; but he who represents the mercy and clemency of the Supreine the Almighty armed with vengeance, Being. This formed the prominent is more likely to drive the criminal tó feature of all his discourses and condespair than to reclaiin him.
versations: by inspiring others with the It is easy to perceive that a conversion same sentiments, he accomplished the effected by love will not only be sincere most extraordinary conversions of sin. but permanent. God when considered ners who were reputed absolutely inas a inaster supremely merciful and corrigible. The method he pursued benignant, is an attractive object, a was to introduce his opinions casually magnet that with gentle force draws by way of conversation, as M. Angerich towards it the wills of men, and gives was assured by the monks of his conthem an admirable disposition to perse vent, who had witnessed many of the vere in their resolutions of not relapsing cases. The chapter ends thus: “ This into sin; for before the heart can be holy father was so intimately convinced torn froin so lovely an object, it must of the necessity of impressing sinners suffer great violeuce from the repeated with the hopes of pardon through the assaults of some most impetuons pas- infinite mercy of God, that he used to sion, or it must exert the strongest force say to a spiritual director, who fre