« FöregåendeFortsätt »
of the world, they will reply, “by history!" You now perceive their own argument is against them; for the history of the Egyptians, of the Romans, of the Jews, of the Canaanites, and of the surrounding nations, relates the occurrence of miracles! If they then answer, but these were all spurious miracles; ask them how do they know? They must say, by history! Here again you have them; for history declares there were genuine, as well as spurious, miracles ! But let us philosophically analyse this argument. Can that be considered a good rule or principle of action, by which truth may be rejected? Certainly not. Suppose, then, that the inventor of gunpowder had. called together twelve friends, (who were ignorant of the composition of this substance, to witness the effects of it, and that while performing his experiment, all his powder had exploded, and killed him. The twelve witnesses relate on oath, what occurred, viz. that a black powder suddenly produced a tremendous noise, flame, and heat, and immediately disappeared, blowing the owner of it 10 pieces! All this would be quite contrary to experience; therefore, if the infidel argument be correct— that things contrary to experience ought not to be believed;" these twelve men on their oaths ought to be discredited, and consequently what we now know to be the truth, viz. the powers of gunpowder, would have been rejected on the fallacious principle of infidel philosophy and wisdom. See Miracles.
But again; to disbelieve in things, because they appear contrary to experience, is unphilosophical, unwise and absurd. 1st. Because, if we act on this principle, we place an effectual barrier to every improvement and new invention in the arts and sciences: for every discovery is, at first, contrary to experience. 20. By this principle, things which we now know to be TRUE, might have been rejected; for instance the effects of gunpowder, as above alluded to, &c. Can that, therefore, be a good or safe rule, by which truths may have been rejected? 3d. We know not the uniform experience of mankind, except by history; and that very source of our information, relates the performance of miracles; so that miracles are not contrary to the uniform experience of mankind.
Let us try the principle of experience as applied to the arts and sciences. I am not against experience, quite the reverse; I am a great advocate for experience; and I will by and by prove that according to experience, under several distinct heads, the Scriptures ought to be believed. Were we to establish the principle, that nothing contrary to experience, or in other words, that we have not experienced, ought to be believed; then we constitute one of the greatest impediments to advancement, in the arts and sciences, and to improvements in general; for every discovery is at first contrary to experience. If the principle then be acted on effectually, we shut the door against discoveries. Moreover, I will prove, that on this very same principle, a positive undeniable truth would have been rejected! Can, then, that be a good principle, or a safe rule, by which a truth could be rejected? Ought you to adopt any such fallacious method of ascertaining the merits, or demerits, of even the most trifling performance, much less the truth or falsehood of a record in which your eternal interests are at stake? The laws of gravity are those with which we are most familiar; mankind has been acquainted with them from time immemorial. There was a time when the laws of magnetism were not known. Suppose, then, at that time, that is, before the laws of magnetism were discovered, a person had published that a piece of iron, without any mechanical contrivance, without any human being touching it directly or indirectly, will gradually ascend through the air with increasing velocity, until it reaches another piece of iron to which it becomes attached, and from which it remains suspended. A thousand tongues would cry out, what a liar this fellow is; he ought to be banished from society! Why so incredulous, why not believe him? They would all reply, because he has related the occuirrence of a circumstance, which could not have occurred, it being not only contrary to experience, but to the laws of nature! Here then you perceive, that what we now know to be a truth, would have been rejected on the principle which constitutes the foundation stone of infidelity! I ask you once for all, can that be a good principle? Notwithstanding all this, some one may endeavour to keep down conviction, by saying to him. self, the laws of magnetism may be tried, but the Bible cannot be tried. This I deny-and now aver, that the Scriptures can be tried to as great a degree of certainty, as this law of magnetism, and this I pledge myself to do in its proper place. What could appear more contrary to the laws of nature, than the fact of the piece of iron ascending (voluntarily to all appearance) instead of descending, according to the known laws of gravitation?
Having now examined into the nature of experience, I shall proceed to the subject of the laws of nature. What, strictly speaking, is meant by the laws of nature? Certainly not commands or orders, but properties or powers derived originally from the first great Cause. To hear the majority of infidels speak about the laws or properties of nature, you would almost imagine that they were perfectly well acquainted with them. Now I can tell you we really know little or nothing about them. And as for those infidels who speak most boldly about them, and of the transactions recorded in the Bible being violations of the laws of nature, I have known many of them who not only were grossly ignorant of those laws, but actually could not tell their names.
In the first place, then, we are in the habit of considering those phenomena which we witness as natural, or in other words, consistent with the laws of nature; and those which we do not witness, as unnatural. In this respect the terms natural and unnatural are merely relative, and this is the case all over the world; so that what to you and to me may be perfectly natural or consistent with what we call the laws of nature, would be quite unnatural to millions on this earth. To explain; it is quite natural for us to have our days and nights about twelve hours each: it would be quite unnatural for us to have them about four thousand three hundred and sixty-eight hours long! Yet there are parts of this very globe where the days and nights are each about four thousand three hundred and sixty-eight hours long! Again, it is quite natural for us, the inhabitants of the temperate zone, to see water become so solid, as to enable immense loads to be conveyed on it, over our large rivers: yet nothing is more unnatural to the inhabitants of the torrid zone. Are all our books which relate this fact; to be rejected by the inhabitants of the torrid zone, because they relate things which are unnatural to those people, or contrary to what they consider the laws of nature? If the principle we are now discussing, be correct, in that things which appear to us unnatural or contrary to the laws of nature, ought not to be credited, then those people ought to reject the truth, that water can become ice! See what evils arise from acting on this principle.
I will now take another view of the subject. Infidels assert that the laws of nature are constant and unchangeable; never vary. This I deny! Infidels say they are
always uniform: I say they are the very reverse. We cannot both be right. Now to the proof. The laws of nature are properly divided into two classes; one, those which regulate the phenomena in the physical world: the other, those which regulate the phænomena or functions in the animated world, that is, in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Now the Scriptures appertain to living, not to dead matter. or minerals; therefore, it is with that class of laws we have principally to do in this question. Are these laws then immutable and unchangeable? I have before said they are not, but quite the contrary. That you should not depend on my word or mere assertion for such an important fact, I will quote for you a paragraph from one of the most eminent physiologists of modern times; I allude to X. Bichat; and what will cause infidels to pay more regard to what he says is, that I cannot say he was a Christian.
Concerning these laws of nature or properties, he says, in the first volume of his Anatomie Generale, page 21 of the Introduction, “The vital properties are at every instant undergoing some change in degree and kind; they are scarcely ever the same." Again he says, “they are subject to a number of varieties; they frequently baffle all calculation, and would require as many formulæ as the cases which occur. In their phænomena nothing can be foreseen, foretold or calculated; we judge of them only by their analogies, and these are in the vast proportion of instances extremely uncertain!” .
What now becomes of the infidel assertion, that the laws of nature are invariable and constant? And what becomes of his conclusion therefrom, that the Bible is not to be believed because it relates things which are contrary to the undeviating (!) laws of nature? I reply, as his position is false, his conclusion must be absurd!