There are several ways in which a man, who practises the art of divination, might try to make good his pretensions to this supernatural endowment. He might do so by attempting to pronounce on the kind and the quantity of money which I have about my person. He might pass a confident utterance on a matter that is hidden from every human eye but my own, even on the number and the character of those pieces of coin which I am carrying about with me, -and this description of his may be rigidly true, in all its varied particulars, and at different times may he make distinct and repeated trials of the same kind, and succeed in every one of them. And surely it is conceivable, that these examples of an unfailing coincidence, between what he says, and what I myself know of the subject, may be so striking, and so multiplied, and so obviously free of all the symptoms and all the preparations of jugglery, as to leave upon my mind, not merely a firm, but also a most just and rational conviction, that the man is what he pretends to be; that there is a reach of discernment about him, beyond all that is known of the powers or the principles of nature; that in fact, he has established himself to be a miraculous personage, and by evidence, too, of such a kind, as, with a man of sober and enlightened judgment, might be altogether irresistible.

Now, it is to be remarked of such evidence, that, in the main strength of it, and in the proper and original impression of it, it is addressed exclusively to myself. I may make known to others the whole history of this wonderful transaction.

I may report to them all the cases of successful divination which have been accomplished upon me.

But still the evidence of these cases has to pass through the intervening medium of my testimony. Before that others can feel the same power of evidence with myself, they must be made to undergo the same treatment; or the same divination must be practised successively and individually upon each of them. They may choose to discredit my testimony. They may distrust my powers of memory and observation. They may suspect a collusion between me and an artful pretender. They may look upon me as a man either

a of dishonest purpose, or of diseased imagination. They may muster up a thousand possibilities, to ward away from them a conviction, which I know and am assured to be a just one. And thus it is that I may, on the one hand, be surrounded by the incredulity of all my fellows, and I may be assailed, in every direction, by the imputations of falsehood or fanaticism; and yet, with the personal access I have had to an evidence to which none of my acquaintances have been admitted, and with a proper confidence in the soundness of my own recollections, and with the

sense of a single-minded integrity throughout the whole of this business, I may, on the other hand, though accosted at every turn by the ridicule and the reproaches of my acquaintances, be fully warranted to place my immoveable confidence in him with whom I have held the intercourse of all these intimate and peculiar communications.

But let us now vary the supposition, and conceive that our extraordinary personage embarks his pretensions on another and a higher species of divination; that, instead of attempting to divine the money which is in my pocket, he attempts to divine the thoughts which are in my heart; that, laying claim to the wondrous prerogative of supernaturally knowing what is in man, he offers to scrutinize my mind, and to read to me the varied characters which, in the shape of opinion, and desire, and ruling passion, and prevailing infirmity of temper, stand engraven in its chamber of imagery; that he unfolds to me the workings of my own soul, and lays before me a picture of the inner man, that can be vividly recognized by the eye of my own conscience; that he proves to me, how this little world of self, with all its affections and its tendencies, which stand so hidden from general observation, by a thick and an impalpable veil, is altogether naked and open before him; that he makes me perceive, by his insight into the thoughts and intents of my heart, how he is indeed a most skilful and a most enlightened discerner; that, by his piercing inspection into the secrecies of my bosom, he can so divide asunder my soul and spirit, as to make every one of them manifest in his sight. Why, is it not conceivable, that in this way, too, there may be



multiplied upon me the instances of a penetration far above the powers of humanity; that every new case of such a divination may serve to strengthen my confidence in him who performs it; and that, at length, I may be so overpowered by the evidence which he thus brings to bear upon me, as to give my full consent to all his pretensions, and to embark my every prospect, and my every determination, on his authority, as a messenger from God ? And yet, when I do so, I do it upon the strength

I of evidence, directed individually to myself. I cannot make another man the partaker of this evidence. I cannot possibly put him upon that station of advantage which I occupy. I cannot translate into his bosom my own direct and immediate consciousness of the movements which are going on in my

bosom nor can I furnish him with a window of observation, through which he may note the coincidence between those divinations which have been attempted on my mind, and my mind, which is the subject of these divinations. I am the only man living who can be made directly to perceive this coincidence, and to me exclusively and appropriately belongs the main strength of the evidence that is founded upon it. There lies an impassable barrier between me and my next door neighbour, in virtue of which I find it impossible to make a full or an adequate communication of this evidence to him. There may be divinations conceived, where the subject of them is equally accessible to all men. But the peculiarity of the divination that I am now insisting on, is, that the subject of it is accessible only to the individual on whom it is practised. Ere my neighbour can possess the


[ocr errors]

evidence which it affords, he must be made the subject of a distinct divination. Before this takes place, he has nothing to rest upon but my testimony, which he may reject as false, or which he may deride as fanciful, or which he may utterly despise, as symptomatic of folly and of superstitious weakness. Still, however, in the face of all this, I may obstinately adhere to my own conviction, and be right in doing

My contemptuous neighbour has no access to the materials upon which my judgment is founded. He cannot bring himself into a state of contiguity with my mind, nor obtain such a view of its workings, as to see how good the evidence is that I have for my conviction; nor, until he has forced his way within the penetralia of the inner chamber, will I, with a right sense of my integrity, and a right confidence in my judgment, hold him entitled to pronounce it a bad evidence.

I alone have access to the depositions of my own consciousness. And I have faith in their veracity. And I can judge of the accordancy between them, and the divinations of the man who calls himself a prophet. And I may see it to be an accordancy so close, and so minutely variegated, and so often exemplified, and so sustained throughout all the successions of my experience and my history, that, believing it to be miraculous, I may say, and say with justness, that surely God is in him of a truth. And thus may I exhibit, not merely an inflexible, but a sound and philosophically consistent faith, even in circumstances where, abandoned by the sympathy of all my fellows, I am traduced as a hypocrite, or reviled as an enthusiast. There is something to confirm all this in Scripture




« VorigeDoorgaan »