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deduced from experience. From the power of the Egyptian magicians it is said to be evident, not only that God may, but also that he actually does, sometimes permit miracles to be worked by the disciples of a false as well as of a true religion, and that consequently the miracles by which a doctrine is supported, are by no means a conclusive evidence of the divinity of its origin.
Rousseau' has laboured this objection with his usual ingenuity and eloquence, but, after all, I am at a loss to conceive in what possible way it can be made to apply against the conclusiveness of our argument from the Gospel miracles. There may bę some doubt whether any miracles were really wrought by the magicians of Egypt. But bę this as it may, The fact is, at any rate, the only instance within the whole range of history in which we have any thing like a satisfactory proof of the performance of any real miracles by the votaries of a system notoriously false any evidence, I mean, at all equal to that by which wę establish the truth of the works of Moses and of Christ. The only inference to be drawn from a solitary example, is therefore this; that what God has done once, he may do again; and that as he once empowered the Egyptian enchanters to effeçt a real miracle, he may, under similar circum,
Lettres de la Montagne-to which I generally refer.
stances, empower the disciples of any other false religion to do the same again. Try then and examine whether there be any similarity whatever between the circumstances under which the miracles of Jesus and of the magicians were produced.
In Egypt, there was a contest between the worshippers of two different deities. In Christianity there is no contest at all. Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets, and not to destroy.
In Egypt, the miracles of the magicians were convicted as enchantments by their inferiority. In the miracles of the Gospel there is no inferiority. They are more numerous and magnificent and merciful than those of any other religion in the world.
In Egypt, the means of an immediate detection were at hand in the triumph of the claims and miracles of Moses, and any momentary doubt which might be experienced with regard to the origin of the magicians' powers, instead of leading to any permanent delusion, would only serve to establish a firmer conviction of the truth. It is perfectly reasonable, therefore, to suppose that God in this peculiar and only instance might wisely permit the magicians to perform miracles, though their religion was false ; because the permission, when accompanied by the superiority of Moses, could have no possible tendency to propagate their religion as true. But the case is very different indeed with the miracles of Christianity, if really wrought without the divine interference or approbation, and in defence of a religion which is in fact only of human invention. For the miracles of the Gospel may be traced up to their heavenly origin by all the most distinguishing criteria of truth and divinity. They have in themselves every appearance of coming from God. The moral precepts 'of the system they support are holy and good, its positive institutions innocent, and its mysterious doctrines, though far beyond the reach of human comprehension, are yet in no case contradictory to the principles of human reason: so that in the religion of the Gospel we have no means whatever of detecting the deceit, if deceit exist, and thé delusion when once begun must continue for
It is not, then, in this case, as in the case of the magicians, a reasonable supposition, but a supposition directly inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity, to imagine, that he would have permitted Jesus to perform his miracles with all the usual marks of divinity about them, and under. circumstances where it was impossible to detect the deceit; unless the religion which he preached had received the sanction of divine authority.
The conclusion, therefore, to which we have ultimately arrived, is this, that there is such a difference in the circumstances under which the miracles of the magicians and of Jesus were wrought, that it would be both unfair and unsafe to make an inference which we have drawn from the one our rule of judgment with regard to the other. To say that because the miracles of the magicians do not prove their religion to be true, therefore neither do the miracles of Christ prove Christianity divine, is to draw a general inference from one particular case, and then apply it to another which has no resemblance to the first. Where the facts are different, the same reasoning will not apply.
2. It should be carefully remembered, however, in the second place, that we did not rest our whole argument for the divine authority of Jesus upon the nature and tendency of his many miracles alone. We drew from the mercy and multitude of his mighty works no more than a very strong presumption in favour of their divine origin. That presumption, however, was afterwards confirmed into certainty, by observing that the great and glorious wonders of the Gospel were wrought in defence of a religion of the most perfect righteousness and universal truth. Nor does there appear to be the slightest shadow of a doubt, as to the validity of this inference. It may be and we admitted the possibility—it may be possible for some powerful, yet evil being, to work numerous and beneficent wonders for the delusion of mankind; but we deny that there is any instance on record, in the history of the world, in which the fact can be proved; and we maintain that an evil being would never willingly exert his power in favour of a religion which is holy and true, nor ever be permitted to exert it in favour of one which is unholy and false. We, therefore, conclude that the miracles of Christ, being produced in defence of a system where all that is known and understood is just and wise and holy, must necessarily have been sanctioned by the divine approbation, and be the marks and proofs of a divine authority. Such is our demonstration ; but here again we are interrupted by men reasoning after the rudiments of the world, and are told, that if the truth of the doctrine can be established without and before the consideration of the miracle, the miracle is needless, and that if it cannot, the miracle is inconclusive. In other words, our argument is said to run round a vicious circle, proving the doctrine by the miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine.