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spasms or the rickets as proofs of strength, 1 don't see why I should be reckoned“ flippant" or "insolent" for just hinting as much. It may be want of taste or judgment on my part, to be sure ; but however, Sir, 1 shall not be readily offended by any little expression of morosity which the gentleman may manifest, but shall read with pleasure whatever comes from his pen, allowing something to the hauteur of talent.
Concerning his last conmunication, I shall speak with that freedom which I reckon the soul of all true discussion. It is in substance a mere repetition of what he had before advanced; the principles he sets out to prove are his former principles, and the argument he had already expressed with sufficient clearness to convey a just conception of his system. Now the reader must bear in mind, that what he had before advanced had been amply controverted; and yet the writer goes on reasoning in the same strain as before, and with as much volubility as though his argument had never been answered, calling to our minds the polemic abilities of Goldsmith's village schoolmaster.
“ Though oft refuted he could argue still." Your correspondent, Mr. Editor, has thought fit to put words in my mouth which I had never used, and then to ridicule them, for no other purpose that I can conceive but!to get rid of the real question, and evade the difficulty with which he found himself encompassed. Ridiculous as he may wish to make my question appear, yet I am so ridiculous as to tell him again that the laws of nature MUST BE KNOWN (and, as was then observed," by the laws of nature I mean the whole of the laws of nature, and nothing but the laws of nature") before we can positívely ascertain what phenomena and effects are a violation of them. I appealed to the gentleman for this inforination : if he cannot give it, let him be ingenuous enough to say so-, without it, his system hangs by a hair-it is a mere splendid delusion! a golden dream ! a castle in the air ! a palace of ice!
As the whole of the argument rests on this simple point, I am anxious to be clearly understood ; though I suppose“ a Deist" was the only reader who could have mistaken my reasoning before. The gentleman would find some difficulty in simply pointing out the express and particular law of nature, which the resurrection of Jesus violated; for, let it be remem• bered, that the change of ordinary effects is not necessarily a violation of the laws of nature. But, to demonstrate the necessity in this argument of every law of nature being set forth, I would suppose that" a Deist” is acquainted with all the laws of nature ercept onem-even then he could not positively infer that the resurrection of Jesus is an infraction of the laws of nature,
because the effect might be produced by the intervention of this tery unknown law-but as it is, how rash must be the conclu. sions of the writer, pretended to be drawn from the laws of nature, when in reality he knows little or nothing about them !
We are indebted to the gentleman certainly for whatever light he has been pleased to throw on the chaotic gloom which envelopes the laws by which the world is governed ; but still we cannot conceive to what purpose it is (except in pity to our ignorance) that we are told that the trees are green in spring-that the longest day is longer than the shortest-that lead sinks in water-that fire burns wood--and that smoke ascends upwards. It certainly is all very true, and we who know so little of the laws of nature inight contribute our share of information to what has been just advanced-summer is hot and winter is cold-carrots are red and turnips are white-sprats live in the water, and elephants on land ; and, as the gentleman justly observes," nothing surely is easier than to demon. strate the constancy and universality of these and similar laws." Well! and what then, Mr: Editor?-Why! nothing, Sir. Cannot “a Deist” perceive that he is strugling with a phantom? Nobody, that I know of, has disputed with him the immutability of the laws of nature; but we who think as well as talk about the laws of nature, are led to believe that they must necessarily be so various and complicated, that in many instances they will appear to counteract and even violate each other. We then do not presume to affix their limits and ascertain their boundaries-the subject is infinitely above our comprehensions, though perfectly simple to “a Deist.'
Pursuing this kind of argument, I had attempted in my first letter to shew, that, on the principles assumed by your corres, pondent, an Indian would be as much justified in rejecting, as false and contrary to nature, the narration of a process perfectly simple and consonant to philosophy, as a Deist” is in discrediting the resurrection of Jesus on a similar ground and to the illustration 1 had given, his reply is, “ let the experiment be made before competent witnesses, and the testimony received or rejected accordingly." It is strange that the writer could not see that this is what we have been all along contending for; by this very criterion, we say, let the truth or falsehood of the testimony of the witnesses of the death and resurrection of Jesus be tried. The rule which he has laid down is a just one ;. but at the same time it is at war with every part of his system, for it has been his express object to frame an argument utterly subversive of human testimony. But the truth is, there are a variety of facts, whịch, from their own nature, must depend on testimony alone.
To convince the reader that the writer has confounded him
self, let me suppose any given event is reckoned to-day, con. trary to the usual course of events, and that to-morrow an experiment is made before competent witnesses, which convinces them of its truth-these witnesses communicate it to others, but they of course, according to the previous argument of “ Deist," ought to reject it, because to them there is nothing in the whole range of their observations which bears any analogy to such a process. In this dilemma I would ask the writer, if the experiment is to be repeated to everybody to whom they relate it? If he says, No! Why then it follows, that human testimony is sufficient to establish a fact manifestly iuconsistent with the usual course of events. If he says, Yes!
What's to be done if the experiment cannot be repeated ? Not to multiply instances, how could the Aeronaut, in the situation I had described him, procure the balloon and necessary apparatus to convince the doubting Indian? But, says “ a Deist," in cases where a direct experiment is not possible, we may often make considerable approaches towards certainty, by reflecting on the particular circumstances of the case in point, and by comparing these particular circumstances with the known and acknowledged course of events.” But how could the sceptic Indian do this; how could he make such advances towards certainty ? when to his experience there is not only nothing in nature which bears analogy to such a process, but the known and acknowledged course of nature is in direct opposition to the particular circumstances of the case in point. Let the writer candidly and fairly review his reasoning, and he must be convinced of its weakness. I am sure he could readily detect the fallacy of such kind of argument on the side of Christianity, where, I confess, 1 should be sorry to find it.
Determined to destroy revelation, at all events, and in defi. ance of all consistency, your correspondent, after he had stated the testimony of competent witnesses to be a ground for receiving or rejecting the truth of any fact, tells us “ that no human testimony whatever can warrant a belief in miraculous agency ordivine interposition.” This is one of his old“ preli- minarjes” with a new coat on : we will examine whether it looks more tolerable for the alteration. But, first of all, to the broad assertion of the writer, I would oppose this simple observation, that if it should be more difficult to believe the evidence in favour of " miraculous agency or divine interposition" to be false, than to admit the existence of such “ miraculous agency and divine interposition, no man could be so sceptically credulous as to reject it. Much of the argument will depend on what is meant by a miracle
Deist” has found a very convenient definition : miracle (says he) has very properly been defined a transgression
of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity." The definition may suit the gentleman's purpose, no doubt; but I have yet to learn that it is the true one. Whether a miracle is in reality a transgression of a law of nature, or merely the change of ordinary effects by the efficacy of some antecedent law or governing principle in nature, can only be known to God, whose omniscience can scan these multitudinous laws in all their bearings and relations; and to the learned gentleman, I suppose I must add, whose system proceeds on a knowledge equally unbounded. Definitions are at all times difficult to give, even on simple subjects ; in the present instance it must be infinitely more so. The objection to “a Deist's” definition of a miracle is, that it pre-supposes a knowledge which nobody has but himself; the definition which I shall submit is, the only one which I shall feel bound at present to defend, viz. that a miracle is a remarkable phenomenon, contrary to the usual operation of nature, and not within the compass (or apparently so) of any of its KNOWN LAWS. This definition will form the only angwer I consider necessary to the objections on this branch of the dispute.
The design of this letter bas been just to brush away the dirt the gentleman has thrown up in passing so hastily by my argument; in my next, I shall offer a few observations on what the writer has advanced concerning the scriptures, and the character of Deity as gathered from those writings. On the laws of nature it is most likely I have concluded all that I shall have to offer, of a controversial kind at least, as it is not very probable that the gentleman either will or can furnish that information which can alone he reckoned to meet my argument. On that argument, whether weak or strong, I rest, and leave it as a sufficient refutation of all that has been, or may be, advanced by “a Deist.”
Two or three remarks on the controversy generally shall conclude this communication : Christianity is or is not from heaven-its divine origin was attested by men like ourselveswe know something of man-we have some settled notions of the laws of the human mind-if they bore testimony to a falsehood, they have acted contrary to the principles inherent in our natures, and violated the most clear and acknowledged laws of human action. The truth of revelation would not be at all affected, even if it could be proved to involve a disturbance of the laws of nature--the Being who gave nature its laws can annul or modify them agreeable to his will, and the disturbance of such laws to accomplish a general design is less a miracle than calling them originally into existence. Whether miracles are occasioned by an immediate act of Deity, or spring from some settled law in nature, is a question only suit
ed for the vanity of speculation-at the contemplation of the immensity of the subject, human reason shrinks into itself, and into nothing-system and hypothesis , vanish before the SOVEREIGN DISPOSER OF ALL THINGS-nature bows to the omnipotence of his will—revelation declares the benificence of his designs--and philosophy, expanded by religion, rests on the IMMUTABILITY OF THE LAWS OF GOD. Blackfriars.
THOUGILTS ON THE TRIAL OF MR. D. I. EATON, FOR PUB
'LISHING THE THIRD PART OF PAINE'S AGE OF REASON.
“ The truth is, Christianity is the proteus image of every varying country and taste, debased with the impurest mixtures of man ; now shackled by superstition, then as falsely sublimed by fanaticism ; often forging chains for the person or the conscience; always made subservient to the established policy; seldom enlightened or strong enough to influence the conduct, and as rarely looking to the real happiness or interests of mankind.”--Srictures, &c. BY A CLERGI MAN OF THE ESTABLISHÇD CHURCH.
To the Editor of the Frecthinking Christians' Magazine.
THE extracts I shall have occasion to give, of the speeches
of the Attorney-general and Lord Ellenborough, at this trial, will be taken from the report in the Times newspaper.
In the Court of King's Bench (March 6) this case came on before a full special jury. Mr. ABBOTT, in opening the pleadings, merely stated that this was an information filed against the defendant, for publishing a blasphemous and prophane libel on the holy scriptures, to which he had pleaded- Not Guilty.
And here, Mr. Editor, at the opening of this business; two or three questions naturally present themselves-what is it that constitutes" a blasphemous and prophane libel on the holy scriptures :" Did the gentlemen of the jury make up their minds on this point, before they gave their verdict ? We might have expected from the Attorney-general some clear and lucid statement as to the meaning to be attached to the terms of the information; but for this I have looked through his speech in vain.-It is true the learned gentleman* observed that “ blasphomy had always been held by the common law, of which the scriptures were considered a part, as one of the highest misdemeanors ;" but unless we are first given to understand what
blasphemy” is, it is mere idle talk to tell us what rank'it holds among the various classes of offences which swell our
* Learned Gentleman--a phrase commonly applied in the courts of law to an ill-looking man in a frightful wig and gowní
, of disgusting, and overbearing manners, and only skilfulin perverting truth, insulting innocence, and bewildering common sense.