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I shall not dispute about a word. It will be fufficient to oba serve, that our assurance in any argument of this kind is derived from no other principle than our observation of the veracity of human testimony, and of the usual conformity of facts to the reports of witnesses. It being a general maxim, that no objects have any discoverable connexion together, and that all the inferences, which we can draw from one to another, are founded merely on our experience of their constant and regular conjunction; 'tis evident, that we ought not to make an exception to this maxim in favour of human testimony, whose connexion with any events seems, in itself, -as little necessary as any other. Were not the memory tenacious to a certain degree; had not men commonly an inclination to truth and a principle of probity; were they not sensible to shame, when detected in a falsehood: Were not these, I say, disa covered by experience to be qualities, inherent in human nature, we should never repose the least confidence in human testimony. A man delirious, or noted for falsehood and villany, has no manner of authority with us.

And as the evidence, derived from witnesses and human testimony, is founded on past experience, so it varies with the experience, and is regarded either as a proof or a probability, according as the conjunction between any particular kind of report and any kind of objects, has been found to be constant or variable. There are a number of circumstances to be taken into consideration in all judgments of this kind; and the ultimate standard, by which we determine all disputes, that may arise concerning them, is always derived from experience and obfervation. Where this experience is not entirely uniform on any fide, 'tis attended with an unavoidable contra

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riety in our judgments, and with the same opposition and mutual destruction of arguments as in every other kind of evidence. We frequently hesitate concerning the reports of others. We balance the opposite circumstances, which cause any doubt or uncertainty; and when we discover a superiority on any fide, we incline to it; but still with a diminution of assurance, in proportion to the force of its antagonist.

This contrariety of evidence, in the present case, may be, derived from several different causes; from the opposition of contrary testimony ; from the character or number of the wit. nesses; from the manner of their delivering their testimony; or from the union of all these circumstances. We entertain a suspicion concerning any matter of fact, when the witnesses contradi& each other; when they are but few, or of a suspicious character ; when they have an interest in what they affirm; when they deliver their testimony with doubt and hesitation, or on the contrary, with too violent asseverations. There are many other particulars of the same kind, which may diminish or destroy the force of any argument, derived from human testimony.

Suppose, for instance, that the fact, which the testimony endeavours to establish, partakes of the extraordinary and the marvellous ; in that case, the evidence, resulting from the testimony, admits of a diminution, greater or less, in proportion as the fact is more or less unusual. The reason, why we place any credit in witnesses and historians is not from any connexion, which we perceive à priori, between testimony and reality, but because we are accustomed to find a conformity between them. But when the fact attested is such a one as has S 2

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feldom fallen under our observation, here is a contest of two. opposite experiences; of which the one destroys the other, as far as its force goes, and the fuperior can only operate on the mind by the force, which remains... The very fame principle of experience, which gives us a certain degree of allus. rance in the testimony of witnesses, gives us also, in this case, another degree of assurance against the fact, which they endeavour to establish; from which contradi&ion there necessarily arise a counterpoise, and mutual destruction of belief and authority.

I should not believe such a story were it told me by Cato; was a proverbial faying in Rome, even during the life-time of that philosophical patriot *. The incredibility of a fact, it was allowed, might invalidate fo great an authority.

The INDIAN prince, who refused to believe the first relations concerning the effects of* frost, reasoned justly; and it naturally required very strong testimony to engage his assent to facts, that arose from a state of nature, with which he was unacquainted, and which bore so little analogy to those events, of which he had had constant and uniform experience. Though. they were not contrary to his experience, they were not conformable to it to

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' *.PLUTARCH, in vita Catonis.

+ No INDIAN, 'tis evident, could have experience that water did not freeze in cold climates. This is placing nature in a situation quite unknown to him ; anđ ’tis impossible for him to teit à priori what will result from it. 'Tis making a new expec riment, the consequence of which is always uncertain.. One may sometimes conjec, ture from analogy what will follow ; but still this is but conjecture. And it must be confest, that, in the present case of freezing, the event follows contrary to the rules of analogy, and is such as a rational INDIAN would not look for. The operations

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But in order to increase the probability against the testimony of witnesses, let us suppose that the fact, which they affirm, instead of being only marvellous, is really miraculous; and fuppose also, that the testimony, considered apart, and in. itself, amounts to an entire proof; in that case there is proof against proof, of which the strongest must prevail, but still with a diminution of its force, in proportion to that of its antagonist.

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain fufpended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water ; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle if it ever happen in the common course of nature. 'Tis no miracle that a man in seeming good health should die on a sudden; because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to

of cold upon water are not gradual, according to the degrees of cold; but whenever: it comes to the freezing point, the water passes, in a moment, from the utmost liqui-. dity to perfect hardness. Such an event, therefore, may be denominated extraordinary, and requires a pretty strong testimony, to render it credible to people in a warm cli-i mate: But still it is not miraculous, nor contrary to uniform experience of the course, of nature in cases where all the circumstànces are the fame. The inhabitants of SuMATRA have always seen water fluid in their own climate, and the freezing of their rivers ought to be deemed a prodigy: But they never saw water in Muscovy duting the winter; and therefore they cannot reasonably be positive what would there. be the consequence.

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happen. But 'tis a miracle, that a dead man should come to life ; because that has never been observed, in any age or country. There must, therefore, be an uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not inerit that appellation. And as an uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle ; nor can such a proof be destroyed, or the miracle rendered credible, but by an opposite proof, which is superior *

The plain consequence is (and 'tis a general maxim worthy of our attention) “ that no testimony is sufficient to establish “ á miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its “ falshood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which " it endeavours to establish: And even in that case there is a “ mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior only gives “ us an assurance suitable to that degree of force, which re

• Sometimes an event may not, in itself, seem to be contrary to the laws of nature, and yet, if it were real, it might, by reason of some circumstances, be denominated a miracle ; because, in fast, it is contrary to these laws : Thus, if a person, claiming a divine authority, Mould command a fick person to be well, a healthful man to fall down dead, the clouds to pour rain, the winds to blow, in short, should order many natural events, which immediately follow upon his command ; these might justly be esteemed miracles, because they are really, in this case, contrary to the laws of nature. For if any suspicion remain, that the event and command concurred by accident, there is no miracle and no transgression of the laws of nature. If this suspicion be removed, there is evidentiy a miracle, and a transgression of these laws; because nothing can be more contrary to nature than that the voice or command of a man should have such an influence. A miracle may be accurately defined, a transgression of a law of nature by a particular velition of the Deily, or by the interposition of some invisible agent. A miracle may either be discoverable by men or not. This alters not its nature and essence. The raising of a house or ship into the air is a visible miracle. The raising of a feather, when the wind wants ever so little of a force requifite for that purpose, is as real a miracle, though not so sensible with regard to us:

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