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be said to have been a martyr after all, without the crown of martyrdom. Ilis books were ordered to be burned : and although the hope of a free pardon had been extended to him he was imprisoned for life. That, however, was not for long, for his mental sufferings at the weakness lie had shown in denying the truth, combined with the cruelty of the gaolers, put an end to his existence a few months afterwards, in the year 1481. On seeing his books burned, the old man, we are told, bad wept bitterly, and cried, "Must, “then, all the truth they contain perish? Such is not thy'sentence, O God “of Truth.” No! it was but the impotent sentence of men, and, despite their efforts, the truth Wesalia taught lived after him to work its work.
JAS. L. GOODING.
THE NATURE OF A MIRACLE.
FROM A LECTURE.
(Continued from p. 144.) Among the numerous questions suggested by the theory of miraculous events, it strikes me as most important to ask, Of what use is a miracle? Has it any evidential value? What good end does it serve, beyond that of benefiting the person or persons concerned ? Upon this point, the common practice of Christian writers is to assume all their case requires, but, as a rule, they avoid argument. It is quite possible to assume that in all the instances of miraculous interference-granting, for argument sake, that the events occurred in the precise order and form in which they have been recorded—a person, or class of persons, derived some great benefit. It may be said that, although the Egyptian army and its leaders were drowned in the Red Sea, the Hebrews happily escaped from a great difficulty through this miraculous destruction of their pursuers; that, when the walls of ancient Jericho fell
, before the trumpet's blast, although the people of that city were suddenly deprived of their artificial shield, and exposed to the premeditated indiscriminate slaughter, the chosen people were preserved from the dangers and losses which would probably have resulted from a prolonged siege, and a stubborn resistance; and that, when the angel of the Lord smote the army of the Assyrian monarch, the people of Jerusalem were delivered from the jaws of the consuming lion, and were thus secured the chance of repentance, for a short time longer, while retaining their possessions. So, also, of the Christian and Heathen miracles the same assumptions may be ventured, but, in that case, the miracles are of no value to ourselves. To render them serviceable to mankind in the present century, it must be shown that, legitimately, they are to influence our modes of thought, and to furnish data for religious arguments; and it is in the attempt to make them do this that our orthodox writers have pressed them into doing service as among the evidences which are to support Christianity. It is zealously maintained that the Christian religion is proven to be true, because no mero man could have performed the wonderful works which Jesus accomplished. Mo Ilvaine, in his treatise upon “The Evidences of Christianity,” dwells upon this point as being of the utmost importance. “ Make good,” he says,
“ the evidence that the Saviour, "and his apostles, wrought miracles, in attestation of their Divine mission, and the "Christian religion, as contained in the New Testament, and taught by them, “must be a Divine Revelation."* Simpson argues that, "unless we first prove "the historical value of the miracles, we are beating the air in endeavouring to “maintain the Christian system of doctrine;” and, in one of his discourses, a modern Hulsean Lecturer says, “I am endeavouring to throw as strong a light as “ possible upon the fact, that it is the miracles of Christ with which we, as
Christians, are vitally concerned : if they be true, our faith is whole ; if they be false, our faith is destroyed.”+ He imitates the early writers in resting all upon
* P. 115. + Goodwin's Hulseap Lectures, 1855, p. 68. The Italic, are hiy own.
the miracles, and, although many modern divines have found it expedient to abstain from venturing so far, it is certainly the common mode of maintaining the Christian system in the pulpit discourses. But it is altogether valueless. It has not even a shadow of evidential value, and recent orthodox critics-Trench, and others of his school-have been constrained to admit that fact; but, assuming that a man came before us to teach a number of new truths, the working of miracles, to assist his argument, would tend rather to retard than to hasten the progress and general adoption of his principles. As it was in the olden times, so is it now, that the more ignorant the people, the more ready would they be to embrace the new system when supported by miracles, or what seemed to be such. Not knowing either what wondrous suspensions are involved in miracle working, and being equally ignorant of the extent to which works may be done by the forces of Nature, the ignorant would readily credit the miraculous story; but the men who really influence tle world, they who, in the long run, are sure of preeminence, the men who understand Nature the best, would be the least disposed to attest a miracle. Not because of any anti-religious scruples, but simply because of knowing that the order of Nature is uniform.
An illustration of this is furnished in the history of the Salt Lake Valley community. The Mormons have not succeeded in gaining over any but the most ignorant portion of the community. It is granted that many of their converts have been won from the middle and money classes; but as wealth and wisdom, knowledge and acres, do not invariably go together, there can be no reason against assuming—what, in many cases, has been demonstrated—that the men of substance they have gained over were, in an educational sense, as ignorant as the poorest peasant. It is quite possible that they had received what is called an education; but, unfortunately, the majority who entered our schools were sent out again without being anything more than merely crammed with a few ideas which, parrot like, they were taught to repeat; they were not trained to use their reasoning powers, or, by processes of thought, to work out solid conclusions for themselves. Thus, although their wealth secures them consideration in the world of business and city.lise, it does nothing for them in the world of mind; they are rich in purse, and poor in soul; and while it may be possible for them to purchase the half of Europe, its possession would not secure them against the weakness generated by superstition, or do anything toward lifting them into that sphere in which intellectual manlıood and freedom of thought are supreme. With all their gold they are still poor, and as liable to be deluded by the religious charlatan as the
red men of the American prairies, or the tribes of Inner Africa,
Unfortunately, in dealing with this subject, we have to do with men who are perpetually shifting their ground, and who modify away the whole soul of their statements, in order to avoid the force of objections, while still adhering to the original conclusions. The celebrated Weston has argued that “ our Saviour has “left us on record a certain and infallible rule whereby we may judge of the “validity of Miracles : namely, the reasonableness or excellency of those doc
trines, which they are brought to confirm. So that whenever Miracles are "wrought, if ever that can be, to attest a Talmud, or a Koran, a doctrine absurd
or contradictory, advancing confusion in this world, or the interests of Satan in "the other; derogatory to the honour of God, or inconsistent with his attributes ; “in all these cases we may be assured that the Seal is counterfeit, and not origi"nally from heaven. And the reason of this is plain, because if Miracles proceed “from God, they must confirm a doctrine of the same heavenly nature, entirely “free from sin on the one hand, as derived from infinite goodness; and altogether "void of absurdity on the other, as derived from infinite wisdom.”* Thus our estimate of the value of the miracle is, according to this, to be determined by the nature of the doctrines it accompanies or attests. The latter is to guarantee the validity of the former. And that this was the opinion of the early fathers is now generally admitted. Even Paul instructed the followers of his ministry that they were to accept no other doctrine than that he had preached, not even if an angel
* Weston's Rejection of Christian Miracles by the Heathen, pp, 6-7.
descended from heaven to preach it. No miracle was to be admitted as proving the contrary. The believers were warned to be upon their guard against those who would do mighty works in order to deceive, even the elect, and the test by which their works were to be tried was no other than the purity of their doctrines. Even in the earliest ages of Judaism, the same standard by which to test the value of science and wonders-miracles-was crected. Moses is represented as saying: “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a “sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass, whercof he spake unto “thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us
serve them; Thou shalt not harken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer “of dreams: for the Lord your God provcth you, to know whether ye love the “Lord your God with all thy heart and with all thy soul."* This is a clear statement of the case in favour of the idea that the nature of the doctrinc must be viewed as determining the manner in which we are to deal with the miracle worker. The doctrine is raised above the miracle, and, consequently. the latter, according both to Paul and Moses, has no evidential value, and the worker is not to be followed until we are satisfied on other grounds of bis truth.
Here, then, the question comes up, What can the cvidence furnished by miracles be worth? If it be not absolute as an evidence, it must be an encumbrance. All elements that do not conduce to the clearing up of any question, mu be omitted in its consideration. And there can be no medium between the absolute and the useless. The supernatural, lying beyond our daily observation, must either come on to bear down all opposition, to render all other evidence useless, and to secure an unwavering conviction; or it has to be absolutely rejected. Unlike ordinary human evidence, it is not amenable to those tests by which the relative value of testimony is determined. If a man were charged with stealing, and George Smith, the tinman, with an angel from heaven, came into the witness box to give in their evidence, we should be placed in this awkward situation-either we should not require to hear what Smith had to say, being sufficiently satisfied with the supernatural witness; or the latter would have to be rejected altogether, because of our not being able to cross-question and discover how he came to know-by seeing, or only by hearsay—that which he came to testify. Thus bis evidence would be valueless, because of our being incapable of comprehending how he acquired his knowledge, in which case we could have no certainty that he know the facts. And, obviously, even the most orthodox of men must confess that "they who are capable "of working miracles," the angels, are liable to be deceived. The major portion of modern theology rests upon the assumption that “the heavenly hosts were so “far deceived by the prince of darkness that they took up arms against the * Highest,” and it is, therefore, impossible to assume that they are unfalteringly preserved from falling into error.
It follows, then, from this, logically enough, that Weston is right in representing that it is the doctrine which is to prove the miracle, not the miracle to prove the doctrine, and this position must be accepted, with all its consequences, by those who assert the validity of miracles. Indeed that this is so has been seen by others besides Weston, among the orthodox supporters of miracles, who have found themselves compelled to assert, either in words or in substance, the same thing.
* Deut. xiii, 1-3.
LONDON: PUBLISHED BY M. PATTIE, 31, PATERNOSTER Row, AND GEORGE
GLAISHER, 470, New OXFORD STREET.
A JOURNAL OF
PURE THEISM AND RELIGIOUS FREETHOUGHT,
THE ORGAN OF INDEPENDENT RELIGIOUS REFORM.
CONDUCTED BY P. W. PERFI'IT.
New series, No. 37.] SEPTEMBER 14, 1861.
OUT OF THE CLOUD;
A TALE; BY P. W. P.
GEORGE BARRINGTON. SHORTLY after the hasty visit of Dr. Moule to Crosswood the old town and the Royal Hotel were roused from their usual quiet by the rattle of a postchaise, in which sat George Barrington, then returning to ruralise for a time, or perhaps even to settle down, upon a small estate, which could boast of being adorned by a neat and commodious modern-built residence for a substantial country gentleman. He was its owner, for Doctor Moule either had incoi rectly heard his words, or had fallen into an error in supposing him to have merely rented it. The fact was that the father of Barrington—who was a soldier of fortune--had married into a family much superior to his own. His valour and personal attractions had won the lady's heart and hand. But her friends were not agreeable to the match--they laboured very diligently to prevent it, and, finding that to be impossible, charitably, and as far as it lay in their
power, did their best to make things uncomfortable. The lady had great and solid expectations, but no ready money, and the consequence was that the pair had to eke out their scanty means-consisting only of his officer's pay-so as to make it meet the wants of a young family.
Hard as it was, this was done without murmuring by the wife, but the elder Barrington never forgave himself “for depriving her of those luxuries to which, from her earliest childhood, she had been accustomed.” He had seen foreign service with Dr. Moule and Colonel Lester, in fact they were “chums," and frequently the purses of the latter were opened to furnish him with necessary supplies. During the lifetime of the love-bound couple the expectations were never realised ; but shortly after their deaths, which followed rapidly upon each other, they became fruitful, and then the orphan'd children, four in number, found themselves possessors of £5000 a-year each. In addition to this, and about three years before Lester went as rector to VOL. VI. New SERIES, VOL. II.
Crosswood, a maiden aunt of Barrington's, dying, left him her estate, which lay about half-a-mile from the rectory. The fortunate proprietor immediately took possession, and, skilfully planning for himself, set about making many alterations. He resided upon the estate through six months, and then went to town to spend the season, intending at its close to return and enjoy the fruits of all his plans and changes. Instead of doing so he had travelled, and visited his friends, so that the return just alluded to was his first appearance since the workmen had quitted the house. When at Southampton, in the hurried interview he had with the Doctor, he mentioned his intention of settling down at Crosswood, and as the former knew nothing of the aunt's bequest, he concluded that a residence had been rented. Prior to leaving, the Doctor had charged Lester somewhat earnestly to make friends with Barrington--not for any pecuniary or similar advantages, but purely because he would prove to be a first-rate companion, so that when he arrived there was quite a commotion at the Rectory, and Ella was particularly anxious, almost nervously desirous, about discovering if he would prove to be a gentleman worthy of a place in her brother's esteem. Lester himself took the matter more quietly, although strongly predisposed to form a close friendship. He had learnt that Barrington was a man of genius, fond of study; a great scholar, well versed in literature, ancient and modern, and, in fact, a gentleman in every intellectual sense superior to those who form the main staple of country society.
All this was quite true, for Barrington was a first-class man, both in intellect and heart. He had graduated at Cambridge, but without entertaining any definite ideas of the course he was to pursue, whether to enter the army, to become a professional man, or to live at home at ease. Being of active habits and temperament, he could not tolerate the idea of idling away his time, but invariably when sitting down to solve the problem of his future career, of what he should aim at, his cogitations ended in the same uncertainty in which they had begun. Want would probably have quickened his decision ; having a good fortune he never felt the necessity of speedily deciding, and thus when he had completed his twenty-first year he was still undetermined. He could not be content with resolving upon living an inactive country life, and yet was equally unable to decide upon adopting either law, medicine, the sword, or the clerical profession, but the balance began then to turn in favour of the latter.
Under the influence of a sermon preached by the Master of his College, he resolved upon reading up for the Church, and his diligence was most laudable, but he never took orders. The reasons he assigned for changing his mind were that there was a want of reality about the profession which shocked his sense of propriety. Whatever he undertook was performed in earnest, and in this instance he was not long in discovering the want of earnestness in those who were preparing for orders. This, however, considered solely by itself, would not have withheld him, had it not been for the matter-of-course manner in which the want of earnestness was treated by the University authorities. It struck him that as neither the young hands nor the old ones were working with a will, there must be something rotten in the whole affair. Having hinted this to some College friends, he was astonished at their wondering he could ever have looked upon it as anything more than a professional pursuit. They cared nothing for religion, because of knowing nothing about it. All the ideas they had were of the formal type, and it was only like Thibetian Lamas that they were prepared to per