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Mr. Cogan on Mr. Hume's Argument against Miracles. 645 ohjection, and I think impartially, at that testimony of a certain kind prodifferent times for more than thirty duces a conviction equal to what is years, and I have never had but one produced by ocular demonstration. opinion concerning it, which is, that And whence does this arise? It is it has no force whatever.
the spontaneous and necessary result The objection, indeed, has been of experience. That kind and degree ably answered again and again, and of testimony which we have never by some more elaborately than it re- known to deceive us, we rest assured quired. To meet the conceptions of cannot deceive us; and such is the the multitude it may indeed be desira- confidence which we place in it, that ble that error should be exposed in the supposed improbability of the many words ; but it is a maxim with fact to which it bears witness, usually me, that false reasoning always adimits detracts nothing from the strength of a short refutation, when iť is once the conviction which is effected by it. clearly discerned in what the fallacy It is true enough that according 10 consists.
Mr. Hume's observation we cannot Mr. Hume's objection amounts to rationally admit any fact, till we conthis, that a miracle being a violation ceive it io be more improbable that the of the order of nature, can never be evidence should be false than that the rendered credible by testimony, as the fact should be true. But in order to a falsehood of testimony can in no case just judgment, it is necessary that we be deemed miraculous. It would per- consider on what ground we prohaps have been more correct to define nounce any fact to be antecedently a iniracle to be a deviation from the improbable'; and it is certain that order of nature; but let this pass. It when our notions of their improbais to be observed that Mr. Hume does bility arise, as they often do, from a not object to the evidence which is mere defect of knowledge, they inproduced in favour of the Christian stantly yield to certain testimony: miracles as being deficient in quantity, Such' being the force of testimony but denies in toto that this species of and such the nature of the faith evidence can confirm a miracle. This which we place in it, I ask what fact makes it necessary to inquire a little cannot be supported by testimony, the into the force of this evidence. It falsehood of which would be deemed will suit Mr. Hume's purpose that we impossible, except that which should should consider testimony in the gross, itself appear to involve an impossibility. in which view of it, it must be con- But the Christian iniracles do not fessed that it not unfrequently de- come under this predicament, nor does ceives. But testimony differs from Mr. Hume's argument proceed upon testiniony as much as error does fiom such a supposition. What then is it truth, and it may be so circumstanced which renders them incapable of and so accumulated in force that its being supported by testimony Their falsehood will be deemed impossil·le. antecedent improbability. And of this Let the actions and the fate of the improbability how are we to judge? late Emperor of France be for a Were they not referred to a superior moment called to mind. These are power ; were they supposed to be admitted by thousands, upon the evi. effected by some hidden law of nature dence of testimony alone, and admit- which was never in action before nor ted with as full conviction as can be since; were it necessary to maintain produced by inatheinarical or ocular that ihey took place without any demonstration. And will any one assignable cause and to acknowledge presume to say that this evidence may that they produced no important effect, be false ? Is it not to suppose a viola- their antecedent improbability would tion of the order of nature to suppose it certainly be great. . But irom what false?* It has just been intimated data are we to conclude that God
would never interfere miraculously in • How far the evidence which is produced in favour of the Christian miracles shewn to be false, it remains with every falls sbort of the strongest possible testi. one to consider for himself whether the mony, is a question with whicb I have antecedent improbability of the Christian Dothing to do. Mr. Hunie's is an abstract miracles appears to him to be surmounted position, that po testimony can prove the by the testimony which is brought forward reality of a miracle. When this has been in their behalf. VOL. XI.
the government of the world, or in rational reply would be, who can tell osher words would never communicate brit he who sees the end from the to mankind such a revelation as the beginning? Allowing the improbaChristian And this improbability is biliny of such an interposition from the precise improbability which, if Mr. the want of past experience, would Hunie is to be believed, no testimony this improbability amount to any thing
But such an interpo- like a proof that the future would in sition is contrary to experience. It has this respect correspond to the past? been observed that this expression is and shall that become incredible, not quite accurate; but waving this, when attested, which it was by no I ask, may it not with equal truth be means certain would not take place! affirmed that the falsehood of testi- In a word, that any thing short of the mony in certain circumstances is con- absolute incredibility of a fact in itself trary to experience ? But to what considered should render it incapable , experience is the interposition in of being proved by testimony, is a paraquestion contrary? To say that it is dox which it may require some ingecontrary to universal experience is to nuity to defend, hut which it is truly beg the question. When, therefore, wouderful that any human being it is said that such an interposition is should be found seriously to believe. contrary to experience, the meaning I affirın, then, without fear of refutation, must be that it is contrary either to that the evidence of testimony may be our experience or to general experience. so circumstanced as to render a miracle To urge that it is contrary to our ex- wrought for a certain purpose, the ob perience would be to lay it down as ject of rational belief. and I have no an axiom, that if God should ever hesitation to affirm, also, that whoever interfere miraculously in the affairs of would not believe such miracle upon njen,
he must interfere also in our age the strongest possible testimony, would and for our particular satisfaction. not believe it on the evidence of ocular To press the objection that such an demonstration. But in fact, a being so interposition is contrary to gencral ex. incredulous does not exist. I once, in. perience, would subject the objector deed, heard an unbeliever say, that he to a very perplexing question. What would not believe a miracle if he saw reason is there to suppose that if God it. I approved his consistency, though should interfere miraculously in the I did not give credit to his declaration. administration of the world, such in. Man, however reluctant, may be com- : terpositions would be so frequent as to pelled to believe his eyes,' and he be matters of general experience? In may also be compelled to put faith in the case of events which must take testimony in spite of all the refined and place, if they take place at all, by the subtle reasonings in the world. In operation of the laws of nature, genc- many cases, he cannot wait to calculate tal experience will reasonably influ- between the strength of the evidence ence our belief, and the want of simi- and the improbability of the fact; and lar instances will render us slow in in some cases, could he wait for ever, admitting facts which seem to set the he would not know how to manago ordinary course of nature at defiance. the calculation. And conscious of his But to bring a miraculous interposi- infirmity he chooses in such cases rather tion of Providence, which is recorded to examine the validity of the testito have taken place at a certain time mony, of which he can judge with and for a certain purpose, to the test tolerable exactness, than to fatigue his of general experience, is palpably ab- faculties with endeavouring to balance surd, unless it could be proved that if the evidence which is laid before him Iniracles were ever wrought they must against improbabilities, the force of be wrought frequently, which is a which he cannot estimate. And in proposition that no one would choose the case of Christianity, if he conto defend. But to shew how little ceives himself to be an incompetent experience has to do with the credi- judge of the antecedent credibility of a bility of a Divine revelation, let us Divine Revelation, his business is to suppose that God had never interposed inquire into the evidence with as much miraculously in the government of the impartiality as he can, and to abide by world to the present hour, and that the result of such inquiry. If any the question were now put, whether Christian has precisely calculated the he ever would so interpose. The only preponderance of this evidence above
A Sermon for Preachers. the à priori improbability of the facts, this passion as much as possible from I should be glad to be acquainted the view of others. For as every one with the balance. And if any disa is in some degree under its influence, it ciple of Mr. Hume will point out the is certain that I cannot obtrude my own measure in which the antecedent ima self-love upon the notice of others, with, probability of the facts preponderates out risking an abatement of that respect above the strength of the iestimony, for me, which they inight possibly feel added to the improbability of the pre- while they were not sensible thai my valence of Christianity, had the mira- own vanity was an obstacle to my percles been false, he may call upon meceiving the preferable qualities which to abjure the Christian faith.
they suppose themselves to possess. One word more on the subject of Hence, he is sure to succeed the best in miracles, and I have donc. Though obtaining the approbation of other men, we could not judge à priori whether who is not niggardly in his commenGod would interfere miraculously in dations of their virtues whether real or the government of the world, yet when imaginary, and who says but little of such an interposition has taken place, his own. This forgetfulness of ourits credibility may be heightened by the selves is of more importance in proporend which was proposed by it, and the tiou to the publicity of the station we consequences by which it has been fol- are called to occupy. Not only be lowed. Thus the Christian dispensa- cause more eyes are upon us, and our tion, among other objects, was avowedly frailties are placed in a glare of light intended to overthrow ihe idolatry of which scarcely allows one of them to the heathen world, and to establish the be invisible; but also because it is worship of the One living and true God. generally expected that such meu And this purpose it has most fully and should live for the public and not for gloriously accomplished. The inira- themselves, that they are wholly der cles, then, recorded in the Christian voted to the public good, and conse Scriptures, are not events which have crated to their advantage.
No man left no trace behind them, but are can forget hijnself always, and cerevents of which the effects have been tainly ought not. But it must surely experienced from the season of their be thought that when a preacher canoccurrence to the present hour, and not get through a single paragraph of which will continue to be experienced his sernion without some such phrases eill time shall be no more.
as I shall next observem propose to It has, I think, been made to ap- shew-1 affimi-In the course of my pear that Mr. Hume, while he threat reading-In my opinion--In my forens destruction to Christianity at a wer discourse with perhaps twenty blow, has iu fact effected nothing, and other similar forms of expression, his that the Christian does not set aside own riews, and the operations of his every principle of rational beliei, whey own mind, have a disproportionale he acknowledges Jesus of Nazareth to place in his thoughts. There are also have been a man approved of God by gesticulations and accents, which can MIRACLES and signs which God never be mistaken, as intimating the did by him.
strong impression of self importanet E. COGAN. under which a teacher delivers his in
stractions. Whatever may be the
fence, and with a sincere wish to do almost uniformly produce in the minds
less conspicuous. Let our preachers as much devoted to study as a faithful have their thoughts absorbed in their transaction of the trust committed to subject, when they write and when me would permit. No subject has oc. they speak, and I am disposed to think cupied more of my consideration than they will make very few allusions our relations with all the beings around either to the person who is teaching, us, our duties to them, and our future or to the process by which he acquired prospects. After hearing, all which the ideas he is communicating. L. probably can be suggested concerning
them, I have formed the best judgment Letier of Mr. Jefferson's (on Religion,) I could as to the course they pre
in Answer to one from a Quaker. scribe, and in the due observance of
[From Niles's American Register.] that course, I have no reflections Copy of a Letter addressed ly to which give me uneasiness. An elo
Thomus Jefferson, dated 29th 8th Mo. quent preacher of your religious so 1813.
ciety, Richard Moti, in a discourse of ESTEEMED FRIEND THOMAS much unction and pathos, is said to JEFFERSON,
have exclaimed aloud to his congreHAVE for years felt at times af- gation, that “ he did not believe there
was a Quaker, Presbyterian, Metho. for thy salvation: to wit, the attain- dist, or Baptist in heaven." Having ment, while on this stage of time (in paused to give his congregation time to the natural body) of a suitable portion stare and to wonder, he added, that, of dirine life, for otherwise we know “ in heaven God knows no distinction, little more than the life of nature, and but considered all men as his children therein are in danger of becoming in- and brethren of the same family." I ferior to the beasts which perish, in believe with the Quaker preacher, that consequence of declining the offers of he who observes these moral precepts, divine' life made to every rational in which all religions concur, will being. But I have long had better never be questioned at the gates of hopes of thee, and have thought (parti- heaven as to the dogmas in which all cularly in our little quiet meeting differ: that on entering there, all these yesterday) that thou hast been faithful are left behind us, and the Aristideses (at leasi) over a few things, and wish and Catos, the Penns and Tillotsons, thou mayest become ruler over more, Presbyterians and Papists, will find and enter into the joy of our Lord, and themselves united in all the principles into his rest ; and it occurred in order which are in concert with the Supreme thereto, that we should become Christ- Mind. Of all the systems of morality, ians, for he that hath not the spirit of ancient or modern, which have come Christ, is none of his, and this know- under my observation, none appears to ledge and belief is, I think, strongly me so pure as that of Jesus. "He who insisted on by divers of the Apostles follows this steadily, need not, I think, who had personally, seen, and were be uneasy, although he cannot comeve-witnesses to his Majesty, particu. prehend the subtleties and mysteries larly in the Mount, and others who erected on his doctrines by those who, had not that in view, which however, calling themselves his special followers was insufficient to perfect them, and and favourites, would make him come was to be taken away that they might into the world to lay snares for all un. be more effectually turned to that spirit derstandings but theirs. Their metawhich leadeth into all truth, whose physical heads usurping the judgmentpower alone is able to reduce the spirits seat of God, denounce as his enemies of nature to suitable
silence and sub- all who cannot perceive the geometrical mission. Thy Friend,
logic of Euclid, in the demonstrations of St. Athanasirs, that three are one,
or one three. In all essential points, Reply ly Thomas Jefferson. you and I are of the same religion, and SIR,
ham too old to go into the unessentials. I HAVE duly received your favout Repeating, therefore, my thankfulneis
. of August 29, and am sevsible of the for the concern you have been so good kind intentions from which it flows, as to express, 1 salote you with friend. and truly thankful for them, the more ship ayd brotherly love. as they could only be the result of a fa
T. JEFFERSON. vourable estimate of my public course Monticello, Sept. 18, 1913.
640 SIR, Bath, gih Nov. 1816. of life. If we therefore pray in his YOUR your Correspondent Sigma (p. name whilst we know ourselves to be
514) bas made many good obser- the servants of sin, we pray for our rations upon what is usually termed the condeinnation. We should, therefore, doctrine of Original Sin.' I wonder, be prepared with holy hearts, to desire however, that he has not noticed the always to walk in the ways of right18th chap.of Ezekiel, in which that im- eousness and thith, according to the pious doctrine is so clearly and empha- clear declarations of the blessed Gospel, tically condemned. There the prophet, when we presume to pray in his name: speaking in the name of the Lord, asks otherwise we act more unadviseably the people of Israel why they used this than those who never pray at all, unless proverb, saying, the fathers have eaten they humbly pray for pardon, acceptsour grapes, and the childrens teeth are ance, and to be wholly devoted to all set on edge: and there they are also as- piety and goodness. sured that they should no longer have Having still some room, I announce any reason to make use of this proverh. to you the opening of a very large For, behold all souls are mine; as the Methodist chapel at Bath. On the soul of the father, so also the soul of front of this building is inscribed, Deo the son' is mine: consequently the Sacrum, in capitals. I wish to be in. souls of all his descendants, as well as formed what they inean by Deo. Do the soul of their first progenitor, are they mean the One Father of all, or the offspring of God. It is added, The do they mean Jesus Christ, contrary soul that sinneth, it shall die. There- to his own declaration? Or do they fore no man nor men shall be con- mean Trinity, according to the idolademned for the crimes of any of his trous doctrine of the Church of Rome, ancestors, but every man for his own and of some other churches? transgressions only. The just, or
W. H. righteous man, shall surely live, saith 'the Lord God. On the other hand, if Mr. Cornish's Communication of a curious this just man beget a wicked and im- Ecclesiastical Document, with his Reply penitent son, he shall surely die, his and Remarks, and of Two Letters of blood shall be upon hiin. Iihe, how- the late Dr. Toulmin's. ever, have a son, who seeth all his fa
Colyton, Seplemler 27th, 1816. ther's sins which he hath done, and Sir, doeth not such like, he shall not die THOUGH personally unknown to for the iniquity of his father, but
you, I am in habits of particular surely live. The soul that sinneth, it, friendship with many of your correthat is, it alone, shall die. Then fol- spondents and constant readers, several lows hope for the truly penitent and of whom have been very desirous that despair for every one who forsaketh a letter addressed to me by four minisrighteousness and becomes iniquitous. ters, with my reply, might be inserted In short, this chapter is a complete in the Monthly Repository. confutation of all the assertions which The excellent Dr. Toulmin, who ever have been, or ever shall be intro- began his ministry at Colyton, was for duced, in support of the doctrine of fifty years my tried and faithful friend, Original Sin.
and between him and the society here In the next place, I wish your readers a mutual regard and attachment conto consider what is the real meaning of tinued to the close of his valuable life. praying or doing any thing in the name In all my personal and ministerial conof Christ. There is a letter in the cerns he felt a warm interest. The Theological Repository, which had the attention paid to his memory by others, full approbation of Dr. Priestley: that and particularly my good Brother Howe, letter clearly shewed, that doing any in the Monthly Repository for January thing in the name of Christ, means last, rendered any particular notice from acting as his disciples: we should me unnecessary. 'The letter and my therefore seriously consider, when we reply were put into his hands, to propray in his name, what we call down cure his opinion as to the publication upon ourselves, if we be engaged in of them. His various engagements
, atany iniquitous practices. As his dis- tended with bodily indisposition, and ciples, we must depart from every his lamented death, prevented the corkoown transgression, and cultivate respondence, as I have no doubt, from every virtuous sentiment and holiness being forwarded in due time to you.