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habiting an island called Atlantis, beyond the pillars of Hercules, the present straits of Gibraltar; that this island was connected with other islands in the Atlantic ocean, and these with a large continent; and that this powerful nation passed over into Africa and Europe, and conquered the greater part of them. Now this whole account of the island Atlantis, and the powerful nation of the Atlantidæ, may be considered as described by Plato, as resting upon the simple testimony of the Egyptian priests. But suppose an island and a continent, of the kind mentioned above, had been discovered by modern navigators in the Atlantic ocean, inhabited by a people tracing their origin to a great and powerful nation, from whom they professed to derive their improvements, usages, laws, and institutions; that the remains of their ancient glory were still perceptible in their cities, temples, and other specimens of architecture, sculpture, and painting; would not such circumstances strongly confirm the truth of this Egyptian story, and, in fact, render credible what at present, is justly regarded only as a romantic and fabulous tale? Take this mode of reasoning, and apply it to the case of christianity. Have we not undoubted proof that Moses and Christ once lived, and performed the actions which are ascribed to them in the circumstances, that from the very times in which they lived, there has been a continued succession of men, who have submitted to their laws, and professed themselves their followers; that great and mighty empires have been erected on the foundations which they laid; that the monuments of these empires are still existing, and that institutions arising out of the great events of their lives, continue to be observed in sacred commemoration of them? When the whole of this species of evidence is classed under the general appellation historical, it is certainly throwing into one confused heap, things which, if not discrepant from each other in kind, are certainly greatly discrepant in their degree of force. Science, indeed, furnishes us with no term
to designate this degree of proof, by which important facts and events may be authenticated, but its superior weight and influence upon the understanding, are no less perceptible on that account. The evidence which we derive from considerations of this kind, when taken in connection with the other proofs of christianity to which we have before alluded, affords a clear, intense, and irresistible light, which cannot fail to flash conviction upon every unprejudiced mind. Under this view of the subject, and in the full possession of such satisfactory proof, what shall we say of that bold, though unfounded declaration of Mr. Volney, in a work very scriptively and characteristically entitled his Ruins, as it may emphatically be styled a chaos of follies, fantasies, and absurdities; " that there are absolutely no other monuments of the existence of Jesus Christ as a human being, than a passage in Josephus, a single phrase in Tacitus and the gospels; and that the existence of Jesus is no better proved, than that of Osiris and Hercules, and that of Fo or Bedou.”
Is there any extravagance of opinion or impudence of assertion, of which the impugners of the gospel are not capable, when it happens to suit their purpose at the time, and more especially, when the prospect is presented to them, by the boldness of their assumptions, to dupe the ignorant and ensnare the unsuspecting? It is impossible that Mr. Volney could have been ignorant of the egregious mistatement, and even palpable fallacy of a declaration of this kind. After the view which we have already taken of the subject, it is certainly unnecessary to enter into the refutation of an assumption so glaringly unfounded, as the answer to it must by this time be obvious to the reader. The same view of the matter which we have exhibited above, serves also, as we have asserted, completely to sap the force, and defeat the purpose of the much vaunted argument ascribed to Mr. Hume, although, as we have already shown, he was not entitled to the merit of inventing it. Even supposing his reasoning upon the point to be conclusive, and we have proved, we trust, by unanswerable arguments it is not, it would not accomplish the object he had in view. The fact, that the miracles of Christ and his Apostles were performed, rests not solely upon the testimony of the Apostles and Evangelists, unimpeachable as it is, and corroborated as it is moreover, by circumstances that render it satisfactory. It is written in deep and legible characters, if I may speak so, upon the moral order of the world. Effects were produced at that time, by the miracles of Christ and his Apostles, of which such extraordinary acts alone could have been the adequate cause. The more remote results of them are discernible at the present day.
Thus we have endeavoured to refute this celebrated argument against miracles, to separate what is true from what is false in it, and to show that when properly understood, instead of proving of any detriment to the interests of our holy religion, it is rather a confirmation of its truth; since after a scrutiny of this kind, it is found impregnable also upon this quarter, in which it at first appeared to be most vulnerable. We shall conclude the subject by a few brief observations, in the form of scholia, connected with the foregoing investigation.
In the first place, it will be an abuse of the doctrine we have held on this subject, if it should be said, that we regard every miracle as incredible, which has not been substantiated by such proof as that which we have required above. When we have obtained in the manner described, sufficient evidence of the interference of God as the conductor of any dispensation, as that of the Jewish or Christian, every insulated miracle which may be exhibited, will not require the same evidence to prove it, as was necessary in the first in. stance, to establish that important fact; as after we have conclusively deduced from an examination of some of the most important parts of the works of the Creator, the existence of a contriver, we readily refer the less important portions of creation to the same original. Under this description, would be included many of the insulated miracles, both of the Old and New Testament. When Moses and Christ had established their claims to a divine commission, and we are convinced of the validity of those claims, our belief in such miraculous interferences becomes easy.
Secondly. As Mr. Hume promised himself, that he had discovered an argument which would put an everlasting check to all kinds of superstitious delusion, under which he no doubt included Judaism and Christianity, we think we may avail ourselves of the principles we have prescribed, to put an end to superstitious delusion, without having an ill aspect upon the system of our holy religion. Before we believe
any miracles in future, let us put them to the same test, which we have seen the scripture miracles so well sustain, and if they can bear it we will receive them. I need scarcely remark, that so severe a test as this will at once exclude the pretensions of all those impostors who have attempted thus to trifle with the interests of mankind, commencing with Simon Magus, and continuing down through the whole line of his successors to the present day. This view of the subject, renders an object of ridicule rather than serious consideration, those stories of a blind man cured by the emperor Vespasian in Egypt; and that of a lame one cured at Saragossa, as related by the cardinal De Retz, as well as the tales of the cures, which were said to be performed at the tomb of the Abbè de Paris. These accounts, under this philosophical view of the subject, are too frivolous to be rendered worthy of a serious discussion; and could have been brought forward, and considered by Mr. Hume in connexion with the scripture miracles, only from the mere wantonness of opposition, and pruriency of debate.
Finally: If the fact be established, that miracles were performed by Christ and his Apostles, the infallibility of their doctrines results by necessary consequence. Knowledge is power, says lord Bacon. And with equal justness and propriety, we may reverse the maxim, and declare that the existence of extraordinary power, indicates the possession of extraordinary wisdom. It is not to be presumed for a moment, that any being will be allowed to exercise the prerogatives of deity, or be invested with his awful authority, who is not delegated by God himself. To suppose that God would enable one commissioned by himself, to perform miracles in the confirmation of error, is to suppose him to give his awful sanction to deceive mankind.