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though perhaps it will be impossible to find any such in all the records of history. Thus, suppose all authors, in all languages, agree, that, from the first of JANUARY 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days: Suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among the people: That all travellers, who return from foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or contradiction: It is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubting the fact, ought to receive it as certain, and ought to search for the causes whence it might be derived. The decay, corruption, and dissolution of nature, is an event rendered probable by fo many analogies, that any phænomenon which seems to have a tendency towards that catastrophe, comes within the reach of human teftimony, if that testimony be very extensive and uniform.
But fuppose that all the historians who treat of ENGLAND should agree, that on the first of JANUARY 1600, Queen ELIZABETH died; that both before and after her death she was seen by her phyficians and the whole court, as is usual with persons of her rank; that her successor was acknowledged and proclaimed by the parliament; and that, after being interred a month, she again appeared, resumed the throne, and governed ENGLAND for three years: Imust confess that I should be furprised at the concurrence of fo many odd circumstances, but should not have the least inclination to believe so miraculous an event. I should not doubt of her pretended death, and of those other public circumstances that followed it: I should only assert it to have been pretended, and that it neither was, nor possibly could be real. You would in vain object to me the difficulty, and almost impossibility, of deceiving the world in an affair of fuch consequence. The wisdom and solid judgment of that renowned queen, with the little or no advantage which she could reap-from so poor an artifice: all this might
altonish me; but I would still reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such common phænomena, that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their concurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature.
But should this miracle be ascribed to any new system of religion; men in all ages have been so much imposed on by ridiculous stories of that kind, that this very circumstance would be a full proof of a cheat, and fufficient with all men of sense, not only to make them reject the fact, but even reject it without farther examination. Though the Being, to whom the mi. racle is ascribed, be in this case Almighty, it does not upon that account become a whit more probable; fince it is impossible for us to know the attributes or actions of such a Being, otherwise than from the experience which we have of his productions in the usual course of nature. This still reduces us to past observation, and obliges us to compare the instances of the violation of truth in the testimony of men, with those of the violation of the laws of nature by miracles, in order to judge which of them is most likely and probable. As the violations of truth are more common in the testimony concerning religious miracles, than in that concerning any other matter of fact; this must diminish very much the authority of the former testimony, and make us form a general resolution, never to lend any attention to it, with whatever fpecious pretence it may be covered.
Lord Bacon seems to have embraced the same principles of reasoning. “ We ought (says he) to make
collection or particuler history of all monsters " and prodigious births or productions, and, in a “ word, of every thing new, rare, and extraordinary 46 in nature.
But this must be done with the most “ severe fcrutiny, left wc depart from truth. Above
all, every relation must be considered as suspicious “ which depends in any degree upon religion, as the “ prodigies of Livy: And no less so, every thing that
" is to be found in the writers of natural magic or
alchymy, or such authors who feem, all of them, " to have an unconquerable appetite for falsehood « and fable *."
I am the better pleased with the method of reasoning here delivered, as I think it may serve to confound those dangerous friends or disguised enemies to the Christian Religion who have underaken to defend it by the principles of human reason. Our most holy religion is founded on Faith, not on reason; and it is a sure method of exposing it to put it to such a trial as it is by no means fitted to endure. To make this more evident, let us examine those miracles related in scripture; and not to lose ourselves in too wide a field, let us confine ourselves to such as we find in the Pentateuch, which we shall examine according to the principles of these pretended Christians, not as the word or testimony of God himself, but as the production of a mere human writer and historian. Here then we are first to consider a book, presented to us by a barbarous and ignorant people, written in an age when they were still more barbarous, and in all probability long after the facts which it relates, corroborated by no concurring testimony, and resembling those fabulous accounts which every nation gives of its origin. Upon reading this book, we find it full of prodigies and miracles. It gives an account of a ftate of the world and of human nature entirely different from the present: Of our fall from that state: Of the age of man extended to near a thousand years: Of the destruction of the world by a deluge: Of the arbitrary choice of one people, as the favourites of heaven; and that people the countrymen of the author: Of their deliverance from bondage by prodigies the most astonishing imaginable: I desire any one to Jay his hand upon his heart, and after a serious con sideration declare, whether he thinks that the falsehood of such a book, fupported by such a testimony,
would Nov. Qrg. lib. ii. aph. 29.
would be more extraordinary and miraculous than all the miracles it relates; which is, however, necessary to make it be received according to the measures of probability above established.
What we have said of miracles may be applied, without any variation, to prophecies; and indeed, all prophecies are real miracles; and, as such only, can be admitted as proofs of any revelation. If it did not exceed the capacity of human nature to fortel future events, it would be absurd to employ any prophecy as an argument for a divine mission or authority from heaven: So that upon the whole we may conclude, that the Christian Religion not only was at first attend. ed with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one. Mere reason is insufficient to convince us of its veracity: And whoever is moved by Faith to assent to it, is conscious of a continued miracle in his own person, which fubverts all the principles of his understanding, and gives him a determination to believe what is most contrary to custom and experience.
SE CTION XI,
Of a PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE and of a.
Was lately engaged in conversation with a friend
who loves sceptical paradoxes; where, though he advanced many principles of which I can by no means approve, yet as they seem to be curious, and to bear fome relation to the chain of reasoning carried on throughout this enquiry, I shall here copy them from
my memory as accurately as I can, in order to submit them to the judgment of the reader.
Our conversation began with my admiring the fingular good fortune of philosophy, which as it requires entire liberty above all other privileges, and chiefly ftourishes from the free opposition of sentiments and argumentation, received its first birth in an age and country of freedom and toleration, and was never cramped, even in its most extravagant principles, by any creeds, confeflions, or penal itatutes. For, except the banishment of PROTAGORAS, and the death of SOCRATES, which ląst event proceeded partly from other motives, there are scarcely any instances to be met with, in ancient history, of this bigoted jealousy with which the present age is so much infested. EpiCurus lived at Athens to an advanced age, in peace and tranquillity: EPICUREANS * were even admitted to receive the facerdotal character, and to officiate at the altar, in the most facred rites of the established religion: Aņd the public encouragement of pensions and salaries was afforded equally, by the wiseft of all the Roman emperors ļ, to the professors of every sect of philosophy. How requisite such kind of treatment was to philosophy, in her early youth, will easily be conceived, if we reflect, that, even at present, when she may be supposed more hardy and robuft, she bears with much difficulty the inclemency of the seasons, and those harsh winds of calumny and persecution which blow upon her.
You admire, fays my friend, as the fingular good fortune of philosophy, what seems to result from the natural course of things, and to be unavoidable in every age and nation. This pertinacious bigotry, of which you complain, as fo fatal to philosophy, is really her offspring, who, after allying with superstițion, separates himself entirely from the interest of his parent, and becomes her most inveterate enemy and persecutor. Speculative dogmas of religion,
the * LUCIANI OUT, n, darila..
* ld. every@.
| Id. & Dio,