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For the idea of doubt, if kept systematically before the mind, would soon be fatal to the special providence as a means of edification. The term employed, on the contrary, invites and encourages the trust which is necessary to supplement the evidence. ... Whenever the evidence of the miraculous seems incommensurate with the fact which it has to establish, or rather when the fact is so amazing that hardly any evidence is sufficient to establish it, he invokes“ the affections. They must urge the reason to accept the conclusion from which unaided it recoils. The affections and emotions are eminently the court of appeal in matters of real religion, which is an affair of the heart; but they are not, I submit, the court in which to weigh allegations regarding the credibility of physical facts. These must be judged by the dry light of the intellect alone, appeals to the affections being reserved for cases where moral elevation, and not historic conviction, is the aim. It is, moreover, because the result, in the case under consideration, is deemed desirable that the affections are called upon to back it. If undesirable, they would with equal right be called upon to act the other way. Even to the disciplined scientific mind, this would be a dangerous doctrine. ..
Mahometanism has lived and spread without miracles; and to assert, in the face of this, that Christianity has spread because of miracles, iš not more opposed to the spirit of science than to the common sense of mankind.- John Tyndall (Fragments of Science for Unscientific People, pp. 47, 50).
In this connection must not be omitted Thomas Carlyle's illustration :
To the minnow, every cranny and pebble and quality and accident of its little native creek may have become familiar. But does the minnow understand the ocean tides and periodic currents, the tradewinds and monsoons and moon's eclipses, by all which the condition of its little creek is regulated and may from time to time (unmiraculously enough) be quite overset and reversed ? Such a minnow is man: his creek this planet earth, his ocean the immeasurable all; his monsoons and periodic currents the mysterious course of Providence through æons of æons.- Sartor Resartus, Book II., chap. viii.
This last expression will recall another, but perhaps rather unpleasantly (lest unjustly), ironical utterance by Carlyle, which, if not an admonition right in point, should here be excluded for “idiosyncrasy":
The Builder of this universe was wise ;
He formed all souls, all systems, planets, particles.
Was - Heavens! — was thy small nine and thirty articles !
experience concerning individual and national credulity must not escape consideration ; namely, the predominance of feeling over judgment, of fancy over reason; or rather the tendency to seek a bit of reason as — to borrow a word from the apothecaries
-a"medium" for swallowing marvels. A little gypsy girl, when asked why the lions did not eat up Daniel, answered, " I guess God told the lions that Daniel was not good to eat.” A child never asks itself whether the chimney-flue is large enough to take in Santa Claus and his pack. Grandmother says so". is proof enough. . To every people, the sun has been a god; each has its “ folk-lore”; to one or another there have been spirits of the earth, of the air, of the water,-- angels, bargeists, boggarts, brownies, bug’ears, cat-witches, demigods, demons, devils, dryads, erl-kings,
elves, fairies, fauns, gnomes, goblins, gorgons, hag-hurts, hamadryads, imps, kelpies, mermaids, naiads, nixies, nymphs, Ogres, plutos, plutuses, pucks, quat-bringers, raven-rooks, satyrs, sprites, tritons, undines, voodists, warlocks, wizards,- indeed, as M. J. Savage remarks, “ the whole universe one wild, strange scene of phantasm.” * Even the intellectual Kepler believed that the order of the motions of the heavenly bodies could only be explained on the supposition that an angel inhabited and guided each planet in its course. Even the eminent jurist, Sir Matthew Hale, honestly condemned to death certain persons as witches.
At the trial of two widows of Lowestoft in Suffolk, named Rose Callender and Amy Duny, at Bury Saint Edmunds, at the spring assizes in 1664, on a charge of bewitching two children of Samuel Pacy, Sir Matthew Hale instructed the jury that witches do exist: "for, firstly, the Scriptures have affirmed so much; secondly, the wisdom of all nations hath provided laws against such persons, which is an argument of their confidence of such a crime.” The sentence of death was executed.- See, in Dr. M. Arnold's Last Essays on Church and Religion, “A Psychological Parallel.”
If this could be true of the mental operations of the Chief Justice of the King's Bench, the author of The Primitive Origination of Mankind considered and explained according to the Light of Nature, The History of the Pleas of the Crown, and Contemplations, Moral and Divine, etc.,— shall we say that, as to the common people,-- their loose habits of observation and narration --Shakspere's averment is at all hyperbolical?
* Talks about Jesus, p. 27.
No natural exhalation in the sky,
scape of nature, no distempered day,
King John, Act III., Scene 4.
No evil thing that walks by night
A thousand fantasies
The world has never had enough monitors like Fisher Ames, proclaiming that, in order “to study nature or man, we ought to know things that are in the ordinary course, not the unaccountable things that happen out of it.”
Every nation on earth affords illustrations of seeming inability to abandon some unreasoning prejudice or silly superstition. Charles R. Mills, for nearly a quarter of a century a Presbyterian missionary in China, mentions a custom in Shantung of letting accumulate on the floor of the house a “luck hillock”- in one inn, three feet high — of the dirt scrapings from the shoes, etc. This was to conciliate the “ Yang, the force that has to do with life, light, warmth, prosperity, as against the “ Yin,” the opposite, - the former strong, the latter effeminate. When some Dutchman proposed to make the river Manzanares navigable to the Tagus, and that to Lisbon, the Council said if it had been the will of God that the rivers should be navigable, he would have made them so.*
A people who are charmed by a horseshoe whim, who do not practise the decimal system of weights and measures, nor give their children a decent orthography, and who levy on the Chattels of widows and spinsters, but deny them suffrage representation as to expenditure of the tax, have not far to go for examples of senseless aversion to new and rational ideas. Dr. Zabdiel Boylston introduced inoculation for the small-pox in
* The London Telegraph announces that Dr. Otto Kuntze has explored Pakamaran, the Death Valley, and finds it as healthy as any other part of Java. The legends of death from the upas tree were wholly propagated by Javanese superstition, Boston in 1721, and tried it at first on his son Thomas and other members of his family. The municipal government prohibited its practice, and the people would have torn him to pieces had he not retired from the city.* This was of a piece with a certain unreasoning bigotry :
Exclusion is in their mouths and supremacy in their hearts. These are the essence of sectarianism, call it by what denomination you will.- Lady Sidney Owenson Morgan.
This recalls the conversation mentioned in the life of J. S.. Buckminster, that occurred many years ago, concerning a new, but now influential, sect. Said one, “Well, they do manage to set a fair example in their lives.” 6. That is true," answered the other; “but, do you know, I believe the devil helps them to do this, that we may be the more easily blinded to the damnable nature of their doctrines.” Isaac Pitman tells us that, not a half century ago, an English clergyman warned his hearers against “mesmerism, phrenology, and stenography.” “ All are bigots,” says Margaret Fuller, "who limit the Divine within the boundaries of their present knowledge.” Sadi Gul is generally conceded to have made a hit in his parable of Abraham's aged Parsee guest: “ Abraham, for a hundred years hath the divine bounty flowed out to this man in sunshine and rain, in bread and life. Is it fit for thee to withhold thy hand from him, because his worship is not thine ?”
Especially were the Jews, at the time of Jesus, given to all sorts of demonological whims concerning prodigies, exorcisms, amulets, and dreams,- so says an eminent scholar, Dr. John Lightfoot. Credat Judæus,-“ Let the Jew believe that!” was a Roman proverb. The gospel narratives bear the stamp of the spirit that prevailed, and show us the conditions with. which the preaching of Christianity had to comply, or rather the price it had to pay in order to gain a hearing: Prodigies, it was imagined, were necessary to mark Jesus as the Christ. Truly thou art the Son of God!” " Is not this the Son of David ? cry out the astounded multitudes; and demons prove again and again that they are well aware of his dignity. One writer's words, “ Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe," taken in connection with Paul's declaration, “ The Jews require a sign,” might be paraphrased, “ The reason why the Jews
* See Dr. J. M. Jones' History of Inoculation, etc., passim. As to the credulity of the ancient Mexicans, who divided the world's life into five ages with fivesuccessive suns, see Montaigne's Essays, iii., p. 207. As to African and other superstitions, see the (1881) Index of (volumes of) Harper's Magazine, p. 653.
never believed in Jesus was that they never saw him do expected signs and wonders."
As to the credulity of a later age, ecclesiastical history says two hundred miracles of Ignatius Loyola were laid before the Pope when Loyola's canonization was in question, including walking in the air, raising the dead, etc.; and that it was hardly less common for Francis Xavier to raise the dead than to heal the sick. St. Dunstan,* Cotton Mather, Salem, Boston Common,- verb. sap.
And as to the present day, there is much to remind of Goethe's aphorism, “ Miracle is the pet child of Faith,” if not also of Renan's remark, " A miracle was never wrought in the presence of savans.' In Ireland, as recently as the last famine there, we find — what ?
As usual, the new miracle was first perceived by a poor woman, in the shape of an apparition of the Virgin, St. Joseph, and St. John, close to a Catholic church. Other women and children rapidly began to see it, too; then the housekeeper of an archdeacon saw it'; and then the archdeacon himself saw it,- or something very like it. As soon as the fame of it got abroad, cripples and diseased persons began to come in, in great numbers, to get the benefit of it; and now the restoration of sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, walking to the lame, by merely sitting round the church or in contact with it, has occurred so frequently that the individual cases have ceased to be reported. ... In no instance have they been efficacious upon any sceptic or Protestant.- The (N. Y.) Nation, March 25.
An apparition can be produced by a paint composed chiefly of sulphide of calcium, now used in some tunnel cars.t
In studying the record of the resurrection, I we shall have occasion further to consider the subject of infectious visions.
The so-called liberal application of Mill's rule will be considered in the next chapter.
* See Dickens' Child's History of England, chap. iv.
† As to the optical illusion known a ; "the conjurer's ghost," see in Harper's Magazine, lv., p. 822 (November, 1877), a well-illustrated article entitled “The King of the Conjurers."
# Chap. xxxvi.