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absurdities,” the deniers of continued miracles in the church, which we think unsatisfactory and unsound, although it has received the sanction of Mr. Locke, and been followed by most writers upon
the subject: this is, to judge of the credibility of a miracle by its propriety, or fit adaptation to some presumed end. “Where such supernatural events are suitable to ends aimed at by him who has the power to change the course of nature; there, under such circumstances, they may be the fitter to procure belief by how much the more they are beyond or contrary to ordinary observation.” This reasoning of Mr. Locke is necessarily founded upon the assumed competency of man to judge of the end, and also of the suitableness of the supernatural event: to both of which claims we demur. A very large proportion of the miracles performed by our Lord, when on earth, were merely for the purpose of setting before men's eyes the power which He as the Head did possess, and all who are to inherit his kingdom, whenever it is established in the world, shall possess : as the transfiguration on the mount was the exhibition, or rehearsal as it were, of his “coming and majesty” at the same yet future period. As his people have all enjoyed more or less of the foretaste of that glorious state, so have many of them exercised, at different times, portions of that superhuman power which shall then be used by all, though perhaps not even then by all in an equal degree. The great difference between our Lord's working miracles and his disciples' working them, was, that He did it in his own name, while they did it in His. So far from thinking the cure of Miss Fancourt extraordinary, whether miraculous or not, we believe that hundreds and thousands of similar cases have occurred in our own times, among the poor in spirit who are rich in faith. To deny this is to deny that God answers prayer, and to limit his power. We say, to limit his power; because, if it be admitted that God ever answers prayer, it must mean that something has been effected by God which would not have been effected had not that request been made to him, or, in other words, contrary to what would have been the course of nature : and if God is to interfere at all, to connect the epithets of great and small with the acts of God is to speak absurdly as well as irreverently,
The facts, which the Christian Observer has declared are unimpeachable, respecting Miss Fancourt's case, are shortly these: the sudden and complete restoration of the health of her who had been for eight years a helpless cripple. A believer in God's promise, that “whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive," prayed to God to glorify the name of Jesus, by granting his request for the cure of this cripple : and the cripple arose from her couch quite strong
Upon these unimpeachable facts the Christian Observer says: that'" it would not be consistent with our duty not to add a few
remarks, lest it should be inferred that we give any credence to what appears to us a most dangerous and unscriptural opinion, that the
of miracles has revived. The facts of the above case are incontrovertible, and there is not the slightest reason to impute mistake, misconception, and least of all misrepresentation, to the narrators.” So far, then, these narrators have escaped better than the poor Fathers did out of the hands of Dr.Middleton. It appears to us also, as it does to the Editor of the Christian Observer, “a most dangerous and unscriptural opinion that the age of miracles has revived;" the dangerand contrariety to Scripture consisting, however, in the word revived, for we utterly deny that the age of miracles has ever ceased. The editor proceeds to say:“We boldly lay down, as the basis of the whole argument, that there is no sufficient proof of any miracle whatever having ever been wrought since the Apostolic age.”....“We scruple not to lay down this doctrine in its largest and broadest extent; fully believing that no one thing has afforded infidels a more plausible weapon against the divinely recorded miracles, than the alleged credulity of some of its defenders in other matters.”-It is
very easy to be very“ bold,” and the weakest men are sometimes the boldest. But it is not quite so easy to be very wise : and we hope our friend will take this lecture on “prudence" at our hands in good part, especially as seeing it is very short. For we apprehend that there is in this boast more of heat than of discretion, more of rashness than of intrepidity. If we were merely anxious for victory, we could ensure an easy one by closing on an adversary who has laid himself so much open. But, desiring no triumph to ourselves, or to any other individual, but to the Truth alone, we permit the Christian Observer, to withidraw, if he please, in order to amend, his plea. We have already shewn that Spinoza, Hume, and Middleton could only attack the miracles of the age succeeding the times of the Apostles by arguments which told equally against the sacred canon itself: if the Editor of the Christian Observer can separate these; if he has discovered a formula which shall work out this desired result, he will exhibit deeper erudition,and shew himself a more profound master of logic, than any one who has yet ventured upon this perilous field. We cannot give better proof of the sincerity of our good wishes towards him, than by polishing and sharpening his arms for the encounter (for encounter him we will, he may rest assured, whenever he shall venture to appear in support of his position, point by point, authority by authority, father by father, council by council; not a step shall he hold that he does not win); and we therefore proceed to suggest to him the unfitness for the conflict which he has already evinced. It is almost passing belief, that the Christian Observer, a journal so famed for “prudence" and "judiciousness,” should have ventured
upon so confident an assertion as that contained in the above extract. The dogmatism of it carries conviction to our minds that the writer has never paid any attention whatever to the subject. Very different indeed was the language which Dr. Middleton made use of, when he first published his dissertation; and he gives the following reasons for delaying its promulgation: “When I recollected the great importance of the subject, which had never before been professedly examined ; and that the part especially, which I had undertaken to defend, was not only new, but contradictory to the general opinion which prevails among Christians; and, above all, that I had nothing to trust to in the management of it but my own private judgment; I began to think it a duty, which candour and prudence prescribed, not to ularm the public at once with an argument so strange, and so little understood; or to hazard an experiment so big with consequences, till I had first given out some sketch or general plan of what I was projecting.” (Preface.) If the Christian Observer had honestly acknowledged that his opinions were new, contradictory to the general opinion which prevails among Christians, and that he had nothing to trust to but his own private judgment, whatever might have been thought of his arguments, or his deductions, we should have had no right to complain : but when he calls the general opinion which prevails among Christians, upon the continuance of miraculous powers in the church, "one of the new notions after another" which have appeared "of late;” and urges “ministers,” « parents,” and the instructors of youth,” to guard against the belief of the orthodox truth; we do feel imperatively bound to expose the dogmatism which attempts to enforce upon the public, as the ancient belief, that which was unheard of before the time of Dr. Middleton; more especially as this dogmatism has been re-echoed by the more ignorant and more presumptuous editors of other journals.
He says, “We do not think it necessary to be always able to explain the rationale of an alleged miracle, in order to prove that it is not miraculous. It is not a just alternative to say, You ought either to account for this cure on ordinary principles, or to allow it to be miraculous. This is an appeal to human ignorance: it is to tell us, that all which we cannot understand must of necessity be a deviation from the laws which God has established for the physical and moral government of his creation. We might in reply point to the needle touched by the loadstone, and say, you must either rationally account for its property of turning to the north, or allow it to be miraculous,” &c.- Instead of its being " necessary to be able to explain the rationale of an alleged miracle,” the very possibility of doing so is that which would negative the miracle: the miracle consists in our not being
able to explain the rationale of the process. But then it is said, if not being able to explain the rationale constitutes the miracle, the magnetic needle is a miracle. Did it not enter the head of our worthy contemporary, that, besides not being able to explain the rationale of magnetism, there is another most important pointnamely, that, though he does not know why he produces this effect, yet it is in his power to produce that effect a hundred times in a day whenever he pleases ? in short, that the power of magnetism is a power constantly resident in certain forms of matter which man can exercise and command at all times; just like fuidity in water, fertility in soil, elasticity in air, &c. &c. But can he, or can Mr. Greaves, go whenever they please into the chambers of cripples and make them rise up and walk ? If they cannot do this, then his parallel with the magnetic needle wholly fails him. Our friend, therefore, must study the definition of a miracle somewhat more attentively before we meet him again.
Next he has recourse to the notable scape-goat of nervous excitement. “The recipient of the benefit was confined to her couch with a spinal malady, and was labouring under great pain and languor, and of necessity predisposed to the powerful influence of nervous excitement. It makes no difference as to the rationale of the question, that in the present instance the excitement was conducted through the medium of certain theological opinions, be they right or wrong. We only argue, that it was the excitement that produced the effect.”—This is like" the house that Jack built." What produced the cure? nervous excitement. What produced the nervous excitement ? theological opinions. What produced the theological opinions ? Oh, this is to inquire into the rationale of the miracle; and we are not bound to give the rationale. The Editor then gives the details of the conversation which passed between Mr. Greaves and Miss Fancourt, and again observes, " surely in all this there was enough to operate upon the strongest nervous system.” Hence he thinks, that, if he can establish that the recipient was under nervous excitement, there was no miracle : wherefore the recipients of miracles in the Scripture were, we presume, in his estimation, not under nervous excitement. Nothing, certainly, is said in St. John ix. respecting the nervous excitement of the man that was born blind; but none, except “those great believers in absurdities the infidels and sceptics," will believe that he was not under considerable nervous excitement, or that there was not “ clearly” as “much mystery in the manner" of our Lord towards him, as there was in the nianner of Mr. Greaves towards Miss Fancourt. The blind man hears a conversation concerning himself and his parents being born in sin: thus, as “in the present instance, the excitement was conducted through the medium of certain theological opinions.” Our Lord then spits on the ground, makes clay with the spittle, puts this clay upon his eyes : “ Few cases of animal magnetism, of which extraordinary instances are on record, have been accompanied with equal solemnity......there was clearly much mystery in his manner; and the effect was not likely to be lessened, when” our Lord sent him some distance to wash off the clay in the pool of Siloam. Wherefore, if the fact of the recipient being in a state of nervous excitement be incompatible with a miracle being worked upon him, then is the cure of the blind man in St. John as completely excluded as that of Miss Fancourt.
We have admitted, for the sake of the argument, the gloss which the Christian Observer has put upon the narrative, by assuming that this lady was under a peculiar susceptibility in consequence of what she had heard of the Scotch miracles, and. also by the remarkable manner of Mr. Greaves during his conversation about her case with her father. We have shewn, that, even if such were the facts, the arguments of the Christian Observer are unsound; and having done this, we now proceed peremptorily to deny the accuracy of his assertions. We deny that Miss Fancourt was present when Mr. M'Neile preached, or had ever heard of the circumstances which have lately occurred at Port Glasgow until after her cure; and we deny that she was present at the conversation on the subject of these occurrences between Mr. Greaves and her father : so that, in plain truth, there never was probably a person yet in such a case so entirely void of all those preparatory circumstances which could have wrought upon an irritable system. In our view this makes no alteration in the cause of the cure; but if any one should think it does, then we have a right to reckon it on our side of the argument. It is a violation of the delicacy which is the peculiar glory and dignity of the female sex to mention their names in print; but as this young lady has been subject to the sneers of the infidel, as if she were a novel-reading, fanciful hypocondriac, we feel no impropriety in saying that her frame of mind is so peculiarly the reverse of this, so unusually strong, and her habits so much the reverse of morbid and imaginative, that her reading is all of the graver kind, and particularly devoted to the acquisition of languages. She had taught herself Greek while confined to the couch ; and the books she was reading at the time of her cure were the works of Cecil, Leighton, John Owen, and Prideaux.
The Editor of the Christian Observer will also better fit himself for our next encounter by an attentive perusal of Mr. Phillips's treatise on the Law of Evidence. He says, "We ought in particular to have the opinion of one or more medical practitioners, known to be far removed from superstition, as to the
VOL. III.--- NO. I.