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iv. on their passing over Jordan : Numb. xvi. 38, &c., for establishing the priesthood,-and many other such.
These show again that human testimony and its concomitants were judged by God Himself sufficient to prove the reality of all the wonders which He had wrought in favour of His people, and to perpetuate the memory of them for ever; and the result proves the efficiency and fitness of human testimony for this end, since it is by it that the memory of these things has been transmitted from those early ages in which they were performed, even to these our days; and we may safely venture to say, that, by the same means, it will be continued to the end of time.
XVIII. This appears still further from the command which Almighty God gave to His people to beware of favour of their doctrine, Deut. xiii. For on what grounds false prophets, even though working signs and wonders in did God lay this order upon them? We have seen this above — namely, that the stupendous miracles which He had wrought in favour of His truth, when He first revealed it, ought so fully to prove Him to be its author, that any contrary doctrine afterwards proposed should, for that very reason, be condemned and rejected ; and even though its teachers should work signs, yet the same reason should convince them that these were not from God, but from the devil, and therefore also to be rejected. For according to the rules laid down at the end of the preceding chapter, when the doctrine is evidently false, and the miracles doubtful, the known falsehood of the doctrine is the infallible criterion by which to discover the imposture of the pretended miracle.
Now this obligation of rejecting false teachers, even though working signs, was not for those only who had seen the miracles wrought by God at the first revelation
of His law, but for all their posterity in future times, to whom the knowledge of the primitive miracles was to be transmitted, by God's appointment, by means of human testimony. It is evident, then, that Almighty God judged human testimony not only sufficient to convince future ages of the reality of these miracles, but even to impart such a conviction of them, and of the truth of the doctrine attested by them, as to protect the people against the delusion of any false signs or pretended miracles which might be brought by the agency of Satan in order to propagate false doctrine.
XIX. The same we find in the new law. The doctrine revealed by Jesus Christ, and preached by His apostles, was supported, confirmed, and proved to be divine by the miracles wrought in attestation of it. These give such a conviction of the truth of that doctrine, that whatever new doctrine is contrary thereto we are commanded to reject and condemn as false, precisely because contrary to the Gospel ; and St Paul pronounces a curse upon any one, though he were an angel from heaven, who should dare to preach any other gospel than that which he had preached. To the end of time, there will be an obligation upon all Christians to reject as false and erroneous every doctrine which is contrary to the truth revealed by Jesus; but the miracles, by which the doctrine of Jesus was proved to be divine, are conveyed to all succeeding ages primarily by human testimony—for that is the first step by which we come to the knowledge of the Scriptures themselves, in which these miracles are recorded. Therefore, here again human testimony is judged sufficient by Almighty God to convey to us the knowledge of these miracles, and of the doctrines attested by them, with such conviction as to make us proof against the attempts even of an angel from heaven, should he endeavour to delude us by any false doctrine contrary to the Gospel.
XX. If we suppose that Almighty God should be pleased to reveal His will to man, and perform miracles to attest that the revelation was from Him, and should wish the knowledge of this revelation, and of the miracles attesting it, to be transmitted to future ages, how is it possible for this to be done but by human testimony? Can a Middleton or a Hume devise any other way? Will they pretend that a succession of miracles must be kept up in every generation, and in presence of every individual, in order to prove the original revelation ? Will they blasphemously say that the omnipotent Being has it not in His power to transmit with certainty the knowledge of these things to future ages? How ridiculous, then, is it to assert that miracles cannot be proved by human testimony, since it is absolutely the only natural means by which such facts can be proved to those who are not themselves eyewitnesses of them.
XXI. The result of all this is, that no rational objection can be made against the existence of any miracle which does not strike at the testimony by which it is supported. But if this stand the test, no metaphysical argument a priori, and extrinsic to the testimony, can ever influence the mind, or weaken the conviction which the force of that testimony gives. And yet, upon examination we find that all the arguments brought by the above gentlemen and their party are entirely of this kind.
XXII. Here I shall say nothing of Mr Hume's vaunted argument against proving the existence of miracles by human testimony, the futility of which has been already demonstrated by several masterly hands. I shall only observe, with Dr Campbell, that one positive
I shall oneady demonstestimony, the right the existentume's
credible testimony for the existence of a fact, possible in itself, is of more weight to convince a man of commonsense of the existence of such a fact, than ten hundred thousand millions of negative experiences against it; and this single observation, which is founded upon positive experience, and the feelings of our own heart, at once saps the foundation of all that Mr Hume has advanced upon the subject.
XXIII. The other arguments brought by the adversaries of revelation against our thesis may be reduced to these following : Miracles are unnecessary; they are inexpedient ; they are incredible ; they are trifling, and unworthy of the Deity; there are no ends to be gained by them worthy of such extraordinary divine interposition; the doctrine pretended to be attested by them is absurd, from which they conclude that no human testimony can render them credible in any circumstance.
I know not if these gentlemen have ever seriously examined the force of these reasons, or applied them to any particular case, or even put them into proper form, that they might see wherein their strength or weakness lay. I can scarcely think that if they had ever done so they would have exposed themselves to the contempt which such objections must necessarily evoke ; nor do I find, in their writings or conversation, any serious reasoning, but a witticism or a sneer, with the words “incredible, unnecessary, inexpedient,” and the like, interspersed in order to give an appearance of reason to their declamation.
But let us reduce their objection to form, that conmon-sense may estimate its value. Let us suppose, then, a miracle—that, for example, of a blind man restored to sight-to be attested upon oath by three or four men
of known probity, who declare that they were eyewitnesses of it. Every man of ordinary judgment would be satisfied of the fact by such testimony. It could not be imagined that the witnesses were mistaken, as it is supposed they knew the man to be blind, and saw him perfectly restored to sight ; much less could it be thought that men of known probity would attest a thing upon oath as eyewitnesses, if they had no had as full a conviction as the testimony of their senses could possibly give them. And if they be not mistaken in what they saw, and attest the fact precisely as they beheld it, the existence of the miracle is an undoubted consequence.
Let us now see the force of the objection when put in its proper form. In the mouth of a deist, it runs thus : “Several men of probity have attested upon oath that they saw a man, whom they knew before to be blind, miraculously restored to sight; but this appears inexpedient, unnecessary, without any good end, intrinsically incredible—therefore it is a mistake; no such miracle was performed.” The major proposition is the state of the case as attested, the minor is the very argument of the deists; for surely none of them will dare to affirm that miracles are “inexpedient, unnecessary," or the like, in themselves. All they can say is, that so they appear to them; and from this they conclude, as from an answerable argument, that the best-attested miracles are falsehoods and fiction ! How ridiculous the conclusion !
In order that a well-attested miracle be regarded falsehood or fiction, one of two things must be clearly proved, either that the witnesses are deceived in the testimony of their senses, or that they knowingly perjure themselves in order to deceive others. Now what connection is there between the apparent non-necessity or inexpe