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i "ficient to establish a miracle, unless the teftimony : “ be of such a kind, that its falfhood would be
“ more miraculous, than the fact, which it endea. “ vours to establish: And even in that cafe, there is " a mutual destruction of arguments, and the superior “ only gives us an assurance suitable to that degree “ of force, which remains, after deducing the infe“ rior.” When any one tells me, that he fawa dead man restor'd to life, I immediately confider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceiv'd, or that the fact which he relates, should really have happen'd. I weigh the one miracle against the other, and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falfhood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event, which he relates ; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion. .
In the foregoing reasoning we have fuppos’d, that the teftimony, upon which a miracle is founded, may possibly amount to an entire proof, and that the faldhood of that teltimony would be a kind of pro
digy. But 'tis easy to few, that we have been a great deal too liberal in our conceflions, and that there never was a miraculous event, establish'd on so full an evidence.
For firft, there is not to be found, in all history, any miracle attested by a sufficient number of men, of such unquestion'd good sense, education, and learn. ing as to secure us against all delusion in themselves ; of such undoubted integrity, as to place them be. yond all suspicion of any design to deceive others; of such credit and reputation in the eyes of man. kind as to have a great deal to lose in case of being detected in any falfhood; and at the same time attesting facts, perform'd in such a public manner, and in so celebrated a part of the world, as to render the detection unavoidable: All which circumstances are requisite to give us a full assurance in the testimony of men. ..
Secondly. We may observe in human nature a principle, which, if frictly examin'd, will be found to diminish extremely the assurance, which we might have, from human testimony, in any kind of prodigy. The maxim, by which we commonly conduct ourselves in our reasonings, is, that the objects, of which we have no experience, resemble those, of which we have ; that what we have found to be moft
usual usual is always most probable ; and that where there is any opposition of arguments, we ought to give the preference to such of them as are founded on the greatest number of past observations. But tho' in proceeding by this rule, we readily reject any fact, which is unusual and incredible in an ordinary degree ; yet in advancing farther, the mind observes not always the fame rule; but when any thing is affirm'd utterly abfùrd and miraculous, it rather the more readily admits such, a fact, upon account of that very circumstance, which ought to destroy all its authority. The passion of surprize and wonder, arising from miracles, being an agreeable emotion, gives a sensible tendency towards the belief of those events, from which it is deriv'd. And this goes fo. far, that even those who cannot enjoy this pleasure immediately, nor can believe those miraculous events, of which they are informid, yet love to pare take of the satisfaction at second-hand, or by re. bound, and place a pride and delight in exciting the admiration of others.
With what greediness are the miraculous accounts of travellers receiv’d, their descriptions of sea and land monsters, their relations of wonderful adventures, strange men, and uncouth manners? Bus if the spirit of religion join itself to the love of won
der, there is an end of common sense; and human testimony, in these circumstances, loses all pretenfi.. sions to authority. A religionist may be an enthufast, and imagine he sees what has no reality: He may know h's narration to be false, and yet perfevere in it, with the best intentions in the world, for the sake of promoting so holy a cause : Or even where this delusion has no place, vanity, excited by so strong a temptation, operates on him more pow. erfully than on the rest of mankind in any other cir. cumstances; and self-interest with equal force. His auditors may not have, and commonly have not sufficient judgment to canvass his evidence : What judgment they have, they renounce by principle, in these sublime and mysterious subjects : Or if they were ever so willing to employ it, paffion and 2 heated imagination disturb the regularity of its operations. Their credulity increases his impudence : And his impudence over powers their credulity..
ELOQUENCE, when in its highest pitch, leaves little room for reason or reflection ; but addressing it. felf entirely to the fancy or the affections, captivates the willing hearers, and fubdues their understanding. Happily, this pitch it feldom attains. But what a Cicero or a Demosthenes could scarcely operate over 2 Roman or Athenian audience, every Capuchin, every
itinerant or stationary teacher can perform over the generality of mankind, and in a higher degree, by touching such gross and vulgar passions *.
THIRDLY. It forms a very strong presumption against all supernatural and miraculous relations, that they are observ'd chiefly to abound amongst ignorant and barbarous nations ; or if a civiliz'd peo. ple has ever given admission to any of them, that people will be found to have receiv'd them from ig- norant and barbarous ancestors, who transmitted them with that inviolable sanction and authority, which always attends antient and receiv'd opinions. When we peruse the first histories of all nations, we are apt
• The many instances of forg'd miracles, and prophecies and supernatural events, which, in all ages, have either been detected by contrary evidence, or which detect themselves by their absurdity, mark sufficiently the strong propensity of mankind to the extraordinary and the marvellous, and ought reasonably to beget a suspicion against all relations of this kind. This is our natural way of thinking even with regard to the most common and moft credible events. For instance : There is no kind of report, which rises so easily, and spreads so quickly, especially in country-places and provincial towns, as those concerning marriages ; infomuch that two young persons of equal condition never see each other twice, but the whole neighbourhood immediately join them together. The pleasure of telling a piece of news so interesting, of propagating it, and of being the first reporters, of it, spreads the intelligence. And this is so well known, that no man of sense gives attention to these reports, till he finds them confirm’d by some greater evidence. Do not the same passions, and others ftill stronger, incline the generality of mankind to the believing and reporting, with the greatest vehemence and affurance, all religious miracles ?