Miracles And Special Providences 1867
( Originally Published 1916 )
IT is my privilege to enjoy the friendship of a select number of religious men, with whom I converse frankly upon theological subjects, expressing without disguise the notions and opinions I entertain regarding their tenets, and hearing in return these notions and opinions subjected to criticism. I have thus far found them liberal and loving men, patient in hearing, tolerant in reply, who know how to reconcile the duties of courtesy with the earnestness of debate. From one of these, nearly a year ago, I received a note, recommending strongly to my attention the volume of "Bampton Lectures" for 1865, in which the question of miracles is treated by Mr. Mozley. Previous to receiving this note, I had in part made the acquaintance of the work through an able and elaborate review of it in the "Times." The combined effect of the letter and the review was to make the book the companion of my summer tour in the Alps. There, during the wet and snowy days which were only too prevalent in 1866, and during the days of rest interpolated between days of toil, I made myself more thoroughly conversant with Mr. Mozley's volume. I found it clear and strong—an intellectual tonic, as bracing and pleasant to my mind as the keen air of the mountains was to my body. From time to time I jotted down thoughts regarding it, intending afterward to work them up into a coherent whole. Other duties, however, interfered with the complete carrying out of this intention, and what I wrote last summer I now publish, not hoping to be able, within any reasonable time, to render my defence of scientific method more complete.
Mr. Mozley refers at the outset of his task to the movement against miracles which of late years has taken place, and which determined his choice of a subject. He acquits modern science of having had any great share in the production of this movement. The objection against miracles, he says, does not arise from any minute knowledge of the laws of nature, but simply because they are opposed to that plain and obvious order of nature which everybody sees. The present movement is, he thinks, to be ascribed to the greater earnestness and penetration of the present age. Formerly miracles were accepted without question, because without reflection; but the exercise of the "historic imagination" is a characteristic of our own time. Men are now accustomed to place before themselves vivid images of historic facts; and when a miracle rises to view, they halt before the astounding occurrence, and, realizing it with the same clearness as if it were now passing before their eyes, they ask themselves, "Can this have taken place?" In some instances the effort to answer this question has led to a disbelief in miracles, in others to a strengthening of belief. The aim of Mr. Mozley's lectures is to show that the strengthening of belief is the logical result which ought to follow from the examination of the facts.
Attempts have been made by religious men to bring the Scripture miracles within the scope of the order of nature, but all such attempts are rejected by Mr. Mozley as utterly futile and wide of the mark. Regarding miracles as a necessary accompaniment of a revelation, their evidential value in his eyes depends entirely upon their deviation from the order of nature. Thus deviating, they suggest and illustrate a power higher than nature, a "personal will" ; and they commend the person in whom this power is vested as a messenger from on high. Without these credentials such a messenger would have no right to demand belief, even were his assertions regarding his Divine mission backed by a holy life. Nor is it by miracles alone that the order of nature is, or may be, disturbed. The material universe is also the arena of "special providences." Under these two heads Mr. Mozley distributes the total preternatural. One form of the preternatural may shade into the other, as one color passes into another in the rainbow; but, while the line which divides the specially providential from the miraculous can-not be sharply drawn, their distinction broadly expressed is this: that, while a special providence can only excite surmise more or less probable, it is "the nature of a miracle to give proof, as distinguished from mere surmise, of Divine design."
Mr. Mozley adduces various illustrations of what he regards to be special providences, as distinguished from miracles. "The death of Arius," he says, "was not miraculous, because the coincidence of the death of a heresiarch taking place when it was peculiarly advantageous to the orthodox faith . . . was not such as to compel the inference of extraordinary Divine agency; but it was a special providence, because it carried a reasonable appearance of it. The miracle of the Thundering Legion was a special providence, but not a miracle, for the same reason, because the coincidence of an instantaneous fall of rain, in answer to prayer, carried some appearance, but not proof, of preternatural agency." The eminent lecturer's remarks on this head brought to my recollection certain narratives published in Methodist magazines, which I used to read with avidity when a boy. The general title of these exciting stories, if I remember right, was "The Providence of God Asserted," and in them the most extraordinary escapes from peril were recounted and ascribed to prayer, while equally wonderful instances of calamity were adduced as illustrations of Divine retribution. In such magazines, or elsewhere, I found recorded the case of the celebrated Samuel Hick, which, as it illustrates a whole class of special providences approaching in conclusiveness to miracles, is worthy of mention here. It is related of this holy man that, on one occasion, flour was lacking to make the sacramental bread. Grain was present, and a windmill was present, but there was no wind to grind the corn. With faith undoubting, Samuel Hick prayed to the Lord of the winds : the sails turned, the corn was ground, after which the wind ceased. According to the canon of the Bampton Lecturer, this, though carrying a strong appearance of an immediate exertion of Divine energy, lacks by a hair-breadth the quality of a miracle. For the wind might have arisen, and might have ceased, in the ordinary course of nature. Hence the occurrence did not "compel the inference of extraordinary Divine agency." In like manner Mr. Mozley considers that "the appearance of the cross to Constantine was a miracle, or a special providence, according to what account of it we adopt. As only a meteoric appearance in the shape of a cross it gave some token of preternatural agency, but not full evidence."
In the Catholic canton of Switzerland where I now write, and still more among the pious Tyrolese, the mountains are dotted with shrines, containing offerings of all kinds, in acknowledgment of special mercies—legs, feet, arms, and hands—of gold, silver, brass, and wood, according as worldly possessions enabled the grateful heart to express its indebtedness. Most of these offerings are made to the Virgin Mary. They are recognitions of "special providences," wrought through the instrumentality of the Mother of God. Mr. Mozley's belief, that of the Methodist chronicler, and that of the Tyrolese peasant, are substantially the same. Each of them assumes that nature, instead of flowing ever onward in the uninterrupted rhythm of cause and effect, is mediately ruled by the free human will. As regards direct action upon natural phenomena, man's wish and will, as expressed in prayer, are confessedly powerless; but prayer is the trigger which liberates the Divine power, and to this extent, if the will be free, man, of course, commands nature.
Did the existence of this belief depend solely upon the material benefits derived from it, it could not, in my opinion, last a decade. As a purely objective fact, we should soon see that the distribution of natural phenomena is unaffected by the merits or the demerits of men; that the law of gravitation crushes the simple worshippers of Ottery St. Mary, while singing their hymns, just as surely as if they were engaged in a midnight brawl. The hold of this belief upon the human mind is not due to outward verification, but to the inner warmth, force, and elevation with which it is commonly associated. It is plain, however, that these feelings may exist under the most various forms. They are not limited to Church of England Protestantism—they are not even limited to Christianity. Though less refined, they are certainly not less strong in the heart of the Methodist and the Tyrolese peasant than in the heart of Mr. Mozley. Indeed, those feelings belong to the primal powers of man's nature. A "sceptic" may have them. They find vent in the battle-cry of the Moslem. They take hue and form in the hunting-grounds of the Red Indian; and raise all of them, as they raise the Christian, upon a wave of victory, above the terrors of the grave.
The character, then, of a miracle, as distinguished from a special providence, is that the former furnishes proof, while in the case of the latter we have only surmise. Dissolve the element of doubt, and the alleged fact passes from the one class of the preternatural into the other. In other words, if a special providence could be proved to be a special providence, it would cease to be a special providence and become a miracle. There is not the least cloudiness about Mr. Mozley's meaning here. A special providence is a doubtful miracle. Why, then, not call it so ? The term employed by Mr. Mozley conveys no negative suggestion, whereas the negation of certainty is the peculiar characteristic of the thing intended to be expressed. There is an apparent unwillingness on the part of the lecturer to call a special providence what his own definition makes it to be. Instead of speaking of it as a doubtful miracle, he calls it "an invisible miracle." He speaks of the point of contact of supernatural power with the chain of causation being so high up as to be wholly, or in part, out of sight, whereas the essence of a special providence is the uncertainty whether there is any con-tact at all, either high or low. By the use of an incorrect term, however, a grave danger is avoided. For the idea of doubt, if kept systematically before the mind, would soon be fatal to the special providence, considered as a means of edification. The term employed, on the contrary, invites and encourages the trust which is necessary to supplement the evidence.
This inner trust, though at first rejected by Mr. Mozley in favor of external proof, is subsequently called upon to do momentous duty in regard to miracles. 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, Mr. Mozley 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, be-cause 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. A favorite theory—the desire to establish, or avoid a certain result—can so warp the mind as to destroy its powers of estimating facts. I have known men to work for years under a fascination of this kind, unable to extricate them-selves from its fatal influence. They had certain data, but not, as it happened, enough. By a process exactly analogous to that invoked by Mr. Mozley, they supplemented the data, and went wrong. From that hour their intellects were so blinded to the perception of adverse phenomena that they never reached truth. If, then, to the disciplined scientific mind, this incongruous mixture of proof and trust be fraught with danger, what must it be to the indiscriminate audience which Mr. Mozley addresses? In calling upon this agency he acts the part of Frankenstein. It is a monster thus evoked that we see stalking abroad, in the degrading spiritualistic phenomena of the present day. Again, I say, where the aim is to elevate the mind, to quicken the moral sense, to kindle the fire of religion in the soul, let the affections by all means be invoked; but they must not be permitted to color our reports, or to influence our acceptance of reports of occurrences in external nature. Testimony as to natural facts is worthless when wrapped in this atmosphere of the affections; the most earnest subjective truth being thus rendered perfectly compatible with the most astounding objective error.
There are questions in judging of which the affections or sympathies are often our best guides, the estimation of moral goodness being one of these. But at this precise point, where they are really of use, Mr. Mozley excludes the affections and demands a miracle as a certificate of character. He will not accept any other evidence of the perfect goodness of Christ. "No outward life and conduct," he says, "however irreproachable, could prove His perfect sinlessness, because goodness depends upon the inward motive, and the perfection of the inward motive is not proved by the outward act." Bat surely the miracle is an outward act, and to pass from it to the inner motive imposes a greater strain upon logic than that involved in our ordinary methods of estimating men. There is, at least, moral congruity between the outward goodness and the inner life, but there is no such congruity between the miracle and the life within. The test of moral goodness laid down by Mr. Mozley is not the test of John, who says, "He that doeth righteousness is righteous"; nor is it the test of Jesus: "By their fruits ye shall know them: do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles ?" But it is the test of another: "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread." For my own part, I prefer the attitude of Fichte to that of Mr. Mozley. "The Jesus of John," says this noble and mighty thinker, "knows no other God than the True God, in whom we all are, and live, and may be blessed, and out of whom there is only Death and Nothingness. And," continues Fichte, `he appeals, and rightly appeals, in support of this truth, not to reasoning, but to the inward practical sense of truth in man, not even knowing any other proof than this inward testimony, `If any man will do the will of Him who sent Me, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.' "
Accepting Mr. Mozley's test, with which alone I am now dealing, it is evident that, in the demonstration of moral goodness, the quantity of the miraculous comes into play. Had Christ, for example, limited himself to the conversion of water into wine, He would have fallen short of the performance of Jannes and Jambres; for it is a smaller thing to convert one liquid into another than to convert a dead rod into a living serpent. But Jannes and Jambres, we are informed, were not good. Hence, if Mr. Mozley's test be a true one, a point must exist, on the one side of which miraculous power demonstrates goodness, while on the other side it does not. How is this "point of contrary flexure" to be determined? It must lie somewhere between the magicians and Moses, for within this space the power passed from the diabolical to the Divine. But how to mark the point of passage—how, out of a purely quantitative difference in the visible manifestation of power, we are to infer a total inversion of quality—it is extremely difficult to see. Moses, we are informed, produced a large reptile; Jaunes and Jambres produced a small one. I do not possess the intellectual faculty which would enable me to infer, from those data, either the goodness of the one or the badness of the other; and in the highest recorded manifestations of the miraculous I am equally at a loss. Let us not play fast and loose with the miraculous; either it is a demonstration of goodness in all cases or in none. If Mr. Mozley accepts Christ's goodness as ranscendent, because He did such works as no other man did, he ought, logically speaking, to accept the works of those who, in His name, had cast put devils, as demonstrating a proportionate goodness on their part. But it is people of this class who are consigned to everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Such zeal as that of Mr. Mozley for miracles tends, I fear, to eat his religion up. The logical threatens to stifle the spiritual. The truly religious soul needs no miraculous proof of the goodness of Christ. The words addressed to Matthew at the receipt of custom required no miracle to produce obedience. It was by no stroke of the supernatural that Jesus caused those sent to seize Him to go backward and fall to the ground. It was the sub-lime and holy effluence from within, which needed no prodigy to commend it to the reverence even of his foes.
As regards the function of miracles in the founding of a religion, Mr. Mozley institutes a comparison, between the religion of Christ and that of Mahomet; and he derides the latter as "irrational" because it does not profess to adduce miracles in proof of its supernatural origin. But the religion of Mahomet, notwithstanding this drawback, has thriven in the world, and at one time it held sway over larger populations than Christianity itself. The spread and influence of Christianity are, however, brought forward by Mr. Mozley as "a permanent, enormous, and incalculable practical result" of Christian miracles; and he makes use of this result to strengthen his plea for the miraculous. His logical warrant for this proceeding is not clear. It is the method of science, when a phenomenon presents itself, toward the production of which several elements may contribute, to exclude them one by one, so as to arrive at length at the truly effective cause. Heat, for example, is associated with a phenomenon; we exclude heat, but the phenomenon remains: hence, heat is not its cause. Magnetism is associated with a phenomenon; we exclude magnetism, but the phenomenon remains: hence, magnetism is pot its cause. Thus, also, when we seek the cause of a diffusion of a religion—whether it be due to miracles, or to the spiritual force of its founders—we exclude the miracles, and, finding the result unchanged, we infer that miracles are not the effective cause. This important experiment Mohammedanism has made for us. It has lived and spread without miracles; and to assert, in the face of this, that Christianity has spread because of miracles, is, I submit, opposed both to the spirit of science and the common-sense of mankind.
The incongruity of inferring moral goodness from miraculous power has been dwelt upon above; in another particular also the strain put by Mr. Mozley upon miracles is, I think, more than they can bear. In consistency with his principles, it is difficult to see how he is to draw from the miracles of Christ any certain conclusion as to His Divine nature. He dwells very forcibly on what he calls "the argument from experience," in the demolition of which he takes obvious delight. He destroys the argument, and repeats it, for the mere pleasure of again and again knocking the breath out of it. Experience, he urges, can only deal with the past; and the moment we attempt to project experience a hair-breadth beyond the point it has at any moment reached, we are condemned by reason. It appears to me that when he infers from Christ's miracles a Divine and altogether superhuman energy, Mr. Mozley places himself precisely under this condemnation. For what is his logical ground for concluding that the miracles of the New Testament illustrate Divine power? May they not be the result of expanded human power? A miracle he defines as something impossible to man. But how does he know that the miracles of the New Testament are impossible to man? Seek as he may, he has absolutely no reason to adduce save this—that man has never hitherto accomplished such things. But does the fact that man lias never raised the dead prove that he can never raise the dead? "Assuredly not," must be Mr. Mozley's reply; "for this would be pushing experience beyond the limit it has now reached—which I pronounce unlawful." Then a period may come when man will be able to raise the dead. If this be conceded—and I do not see how Mr. Mozley can avoid the concession it destroys the necessity of inferring Christ's Divinity from His miracles. He, it may be contended, antedated the humanity of the future; as a mighty tidal wave leaves high upon the beach a mark which by-and-by becomes the general level of the ocean. Turn the matter as you will, no other warrant will be found for the all-important conclusion that Christ's miracles demonstrate Divine power than an argument which has been stigmatized by Mr. Mozley as a "rope of sand"—the argument from experience.
The learned Bampton Lecturer would be in this position, even had he seen with his own eyes every miracle recorded in the New Testament. But he has not seen these miracles; and his intellectual plight is therefore worse. He accepts these miracles on testimony. Why does he believe that testimony? How does he know that is not delusion; how is he sure that it is not even fraud? He will answer that the writing bears the marks of sobriety and truth ; and that in many cases the bearers of this message to mankind sealed it with their Wood. Granted with all my heart; but whence the value of, all this? Is it not solely derived from the fact that men, as we know them, do not sacrifice their lives in the attestation of that which they know to be untrue? Does not the entire value of the testimony- of the Apostles depend ultimately upon our experience of human nature? It appears, then, that those said to have seen the miracles based their inferences from what they saw on the argument from experience; and that Mr. Mozley bases his belief in their testimony on the same argument. The weakness of his conclusion is quadrupled by this double - insertion of a principle of belief,. to which he flatly denies rationality. His reasoning, in fact, cuts two ways—if it destroys our trust in the order of nature, it far more effectually abolishes the basis on which Mr. Mozley seeks to found the Christian religion.
Over this argument from experience, which at bottom is his argument, Mr. Mosley rides rough-shod. There is a dash of scorn in the energy with which he tramples on it. Probably some previous writer had made too much of it,. and thus invited his powerful assault. Finding the difficulty of belief in miracles to rise from their being in contradiction to the order of nature, he sets himself to examine the grounds of our belief in that order. With a vigor of logic rarely equalled, and. with a confidence in its conclusions never surpassed, he disposes of this belief in a manner calculated to startle those who, without due examination, had come to the conclusion that the order of nature was secure.
What we mean, he says, by our belief in the order of nature, is the belief that the future will be like the past. There is not, according to Mr. Mozley, the slightest rational basis for this belief.
"That any cause in nature is more permanent than its existing and known effects, extending further, and about to produce other and more instances besides what it has produced already, we have no evidence. Let us imagine," he continues, "the occurrence of a particular physical phenomenon for the first time. Upon that single occurrence we should have but the very faintest expectation of another. If it did occur again, once or twice, so far from counting on another occurrence, a cessation would occur as the most natural event to us. But let it continue one hundred times, and we should find no hesitation in inviting persons from a distance to see it; and if it occurred every day for years, its occurrence would be a certainty to us, its cessation a marvel.
What ground of reason can we assign for an expectation that any part of the course of nature will be the next moment what it has been up to this moment, i.e. for our belief in the uniformity of nature? None. No demonstrative reason can be given, for the contrary to the recurrence of a fact of nature is no contradiction. No probable reason can be given; for all probable reasoning respecting the course of nature is founded upon this presumption of likeness, and therefore cannot be the foundation of it. No reason can be given for this belief. It is without a reason. It rests upon no rational grounds, and can be traced to no rational principle."
"Everything," Mr. Mozley, however, adds, "depends upon this belief, every provision we make for the future, every safeguard and caution we employ against it, all calculation, all adjustment of means to ends, supposes this belief; and yet this belief has no more producible reason for it than a speculation of fancy. . . . It is necessary, all-important for the purposes of life, but solely practical, and possesses no intellectual character. . . . The proper function," continues Mr. Mozley, "of the inductive principle, the argument from experience, the belief in the order of nature—by whatever phrase we designate the same instinct- is to operate as a practical basis for the affairs of life and the carrying on of human society." To sum up, the belief in the order of nature is general, but it is "an unintelligent impulse, of which we can give no rational account" It is inserted into our constitution solely to induce us to till our fields, to raise our winter fuel, and thus to meet the future on the perfectly gratuitous supposition that it will be like the past.
"Thus, step by step," says Mr. Mozley, with the emphasis of a man who feels his position to be a strong one, "has philosophy loosened the connection of the order of nature with the ground of reason, befriending in exact proportion as it has done this the principle of miracles." For "this belief not having itself a foundation in reason, the ground is gone upon which it could be maintained that miracles, as opposed to the order of nature, are opposed to reason." When we regard this belief in connection with science, "in which connection it receives a more imposing name, and is called the inductive principle," the result is the same. "The inductive principle is only this unreasoning impulse applied to a scientifically ascertained fact. . Science has led up to the fact; but there it stops, and for converting this fact into a law, a totally unscientific principle comes into play, the same as that which generalizes the commonest observation of nature."
The eloquent pleader of the cause of miracles passes over without a word the results of scientific investigation, as proving anything rational regarding the principles or method by which such results have been achieved. Here, as' elsewhere, he declines the test, "By their fruits shall ye know them. Perhaps our best way of proceeding will he to give one or two examples of the mode in which men of science apply the unintelligent impulse with which Mr. Mozley credits them, and which shall show, by illustration, the surreptitious method whereby they climb from the region of facts to that of laws.
Before the sixteenth century it was known that water rises in a pump; the effect being then explained by the maxim that "Nature abhors a vacuum." It was not known that there was any limit to the height to which the water would ascend, until, on one occasion, the gardeners of Florence, while attempting to raise water to a very great elevation, found that the column ceased at a height of thirty-two feet. Beyond this all the skill of the pump-maker could not get it to rise. The fact was brought to the notice of Galileo, and he, soured by a world which had not treated his science over-kindly, is said to have twitted the philosophy of the time by remarking that Nature evidently abhorred a vacuum only to a height of thirty-two feet. Galileo, however, did not solve the problem. It was taken up by his pupil Torricelli, to whom, after due pondering, the thought occurred, that the water might be forced into the tube by a pressure applied to the surface of the liquid outside. But where, under the actual circumstances, was such a pressure to be found? After much reflection, it flashed upon Torricelli that the atmosphere might possibly exert this pressure; that the impalpable air might possess weight, and that a column of water thirty-two feet high might be of the exact weight necessary to told the pressure of the atmosphere in equilibrium.
There is much in this process of pondering and its results which it is impossible to analyze. It is by a kind of inspiration that we rise from the wise and sedulous contemplation of facts to the principles on which they depend. The mind is, as it were, a photographic plate, which is gradually cleansed by the effort to think rightly, and which, when so cleansed, and not before, receives impressions from the light of truth. This passage from facts to principles is called induction; and induction, in its highest form, is, as I have just stated, a kind of inspiration. But, to make it sure, the inward sight must be shown to be in accordance with outward fact. To prove or disprove the induction we must resort to deduction and experiment.
Torricelli reasoned thus: If a column of water thirty-two feet high holds the pressure of the atmosphere in equilibrium, a shorter column of a heavier liquid ought to do the same. Now, mercury is thirteen times heavier than water; hence, if my induction be correct, the atmosphere ought to be able to sustain only thirty inches of mercury. Here, then, is a deduction which can be immediately submitted to experiment. Torricelli took a glass tube a yard or so in length, closed at one end and open at the other, and filling it with mercury, he stopped the open end with his thumb, and inverted it into a basin filled with the liquid metal. One can imagine the feeling with which Torricelli removed his thumb, and the de-light he experienced on finding that his thought had fore-stalled a fact never before revealed to human eyes. The column sank, but it ceased to sink at a height of thirty inches, leaving the Torricellian vacuum overhead. From that hour the theory of the pump was established.
The celebrated Pascal followed Torricelli with another deduction. He reasoned thus: If the mercurial column be supported by the atmosphere, the higher we ascend in the air, the lower the column ought to sink, for the less will be the weight of the air overhead. He caused a friend to ascend the Puy de Dôme, carrying with him a barometric column; and it was found that during the ascent the column sank, and that during the subsequent descent the column rose.
Between the time here referred to and the present, millions of experiments have been made upon this subject. Every village pump is an apparatus for such experiments. In thousands of instances, moreover, pumps have refused to work; but on examination it has infallibly -been found that the well was dry, that the pump required priming, or that some other defect in the apparatus accounted for the anomalous action. In every case of the kind the skill of the pump-maker has been found to be the true remedy. In no case has the pressure of the atmosphere ceased; constancy, as regards the lifting of pump-water, has been hitherto the demonstrated rule of nature. So also as regards Pascal's experiment. His experience has been the universal experience ever since. Men have climbed mountains, and gone up in balloons; but no deviation from Pascal's result has ever been observed. Barometers, like pumps, have refused to act; but instead of indicating any suspension of the operations of Nature, or any interference on the part of its Author with atmospheric pressure, examination has in every instance fixed the anomaly upon the instruments themselves. It is this welding, then, of rigid logic to verifying fact that Mr. Mozley refers to an "unreasoning impulse."
Let us now briefly consider the case of Newton. Before his time men had occupied themselves with the problem of the solar system. Kepler had deduced, from a vast mass of observations, those general expressions of planetary motion known as "Kepler's laws." It had been observed that .a magnet attracts iron; and by one of those flashes of inspiration which reveal to the human mind the vast in the minute, the general in the particular, it had been inferred that the force by which bodies fall to the earth might also be an attraction. Newton pondered all these things. He looked, as was his wont, into the darkness until it became entirely luminous. How this light arises we cannot explain; but, as a matter of fact, it does arise. Let me remark here that this kind of pondering is a process with which the ancients could have been but imperfectly acquainted. They, for the most part, found the exercise of fantasy more pleas-ant than careful observation, and subsequent brooding over facts. Hence it is that when those whose education has been derived from the ancients speak of "the reason of man," they are apt to omit from their conception of reason one of its most important factors. Well, Newton slowly marshalled his thoughts, or rather they came to him while he "intended his mind," rising like a series of intellectual births out of chaos. He made this idea of attraction his own. But, to apply the idea to the solar system, it was necessary to know the magnitude of the attraction, and the law of its variation with the distance. His conceptions first of all passed from the action of the earth as a whole to that of its constituent particles. And persistent thought brought more and more clearly out the final conclusion that every particle of matter at-tracts every other particle with a force varying inversely as the square of the distance between the particles.
Here we have the flower and outcome of Newton's induction; and how to, verify it, or to disprove it, was the next question. The first step of the philosopher in this direction was to prove, mathematically, that if this law of attraction be the true one; if the earth be constituted of particles which obey this law; then the action of a sphere equal to the earth in size on a body outside of it is the same as that which would be exerted if the whole mass of the sphere were contracted to a point at its centre. Practically speaking, then, the centre of the earth is the point from which distances must be measured to bodies attracted by the earth.
From experiments executed before his time, Newton knew the amount of the earth's attraction at the earth's surface, or at a distance of 4,000 miles from its centre. His object now was to measure the attraction at a greater distance, and thus to determine the law of its diminution. But how was he to find a body at a sufficient distance ? He had no balloon? and even if he had, he knew that any height to which he could attain would be too small to enable him to solve his problem. What did he do? He fixed his thoughts upon the moon—a body 240,000 miles, or sixty times the earth's radius, from the earth's centre. He virtually weighed the moon, and found that weight to be 1/3600th of what it would be at the earth's surface. This is exactly what his theory required. I will not dwell here upon the pause of Newton after his first calculations, or speak of his self-denial in withholding them because they did not quite agree with the observations then at his command. Newton's action in this matter is the normal action of the scientific mind. If it were otherwise—if scientific men were not accustomed to demand verification—if they were satisfied with the imperfect while the perfect is attainable, their science, instead of being, as it is, a fortress of adamant, would be a house of clay, ill-fitted to bear the buffetings of the theologic storms to which it is periodically exposed.
Thus we see that Newton, like Torricelli, first pondered his facts, illuminated them with persistent thought, and finally divined the character of the force of gravitation. But, having thus travelled inward to the principle, he reversed his steps, carried the principle outward, and justified it by demonstrating its fitness to external nature.
And here, in passing, I would notice a point which is well worthy of attention. Kepler had deduced his laws from observation. As far back as those observations: extended, the planetary motions had obeyed these laws; and neither Kepler nor Newton entertained a doubt as to their continuing to obey them. Year after year, as the ages rolled, they believed that those laws would continue to illustrate themselves in the heavens. But this was not sufficient. The scientific mind can find no re-pose in the mere registration of sequence in nature. The further question intrudes itself with resistless might, Whence comes the sequence? What is it that binds the consequent to its antecedent in nature? The truly scientific intellect never can attain rest until it reaches the forces by which the observed succession is produced. It was thus with Torricelli; it was thus with Newton; it is thus pre-eminently with the scientific man of to-day. In common with the most ignorant, he shares the belief that spring will succeed winter, that summer will succeed spring, that autumn will succeed summer, and that winter will succeed autumn. But he knows still further—and this knowledge is essential to his intellectual repose—that this succession, besides being permanent, is, under the circumstances, necessary; that the gravitating force exerted between the sun and a revolving sphere with an axis inclined to the plane of its orbit, must produce the observed succession of the seasons. Not until this relation between forces and phenomena has been established is the law of reason rendered concentric with the law of nature; and not until this is effected does the mind of the scientific philosopher rest in peace.
The expectation of likeness, then, in the procession of phenomena, is not that on which the scientific mind founds its belief in the order of nature. If the force be permanent the phenomena are necessary, whether they resemble or do not resemble anything that has gone before. Hence, in judging of the order of nature, our inquiries eventually relate to the permanence of force. From Galileo to Newton, from Newton to our own time, eager eyes have been scanning the heavens, and clear heads have been pondering the phenomena of the solar system. The same eyes and minds have been also observing, experimenting, and reflecting on the action of gravity at the surface of the earth. Nothing has occurred to indicate that the operation of the law has for a moment been suspended; nothing has ever intimated that nature has been crossed by spontaneous action, or that a state of things at any time existed which could not be rigorously deduced from the preceding state.
Given the distribution of matter, and the forces in operation, in the time of Galileo, the competent mathematician of that day could predict what is now occuring in our own. We calculate eclipses in advance, and find our calculations true to the second. We determine the dates of those that have occurred in the early times of history, and find calculation and history in harmony. Anomalies and perturbations in the planets have been over and over again observed; but these, instead of demonstrating any inconstancy on the part of natural law, have invariably been reduced to consequences of that law. Instead of referring the perturbations of Uranus to any interference on the part of the Author of nature with the law of gravitation, the question which the astronomer proposed to himself was, "How, in accordance with this law, can the perturbation be produced?" Guided by a principle, he was enabled to fix the point of space in which, if a mass of matter were placed, the observed perturbations would follow. We know the result. The practical astronomer turned his telescope toward the region which the intellect of the theoretic astronomer had already explored, and the planet now named Neptune was found in its predicted place. A very respectable outcome, it will be admitted, of an impulse which "rests upon no rational grounds, and can be traced to no rational principle" ; which possesses "no intellectual character" ; which "philosophy" has uprooted from "the ground of reason," and fixed in that "large irrational department" discovered, for it, by Mr. Mozley, in the hitherto unexplored wilderness of the human mind!
The proper function of the inductive principle, or the belief in the order of nature, says Mr. Mozley, is "to act as a practical basis for the affairs of life, and the carrying on of human society." But what, it may be asked, has the planet Neptune, or the belts of Jupiter, or the whiteness about the poles of Mars, to do with the affairs of society? How is society affected by the fact that the sun's atmosphere contains sodium, or that the nebula of Orion contains hydrogen gas? Nineteen-twentieths of the force employed in the exercise of the inductive principle, which, reiterates Mr. Mozley, is "purely practical," have been expended upon subjects as unpractical as these. What practical interest has society in the fact that the spots on the sun have a decennial period, and that when a magnet is closely watched for half a century it is found to perform small motions which synchronize with the appearance and disappearance of the solar spots? And yet, I doubt not, Sir Edward Sabine would deem a life of intellectual toil amply rewarded by being privileged to solve, at its close, these infinitesimal motions.
The inductive principle is founded in man's desire to know—a desire arising from his position among phenomena which are reducible to order by his intellect. The material universe is the complement of the intellect; and, without the study of its laws, reason could never have awakened to the higher forms of self-consciousness at all. It is the Non-ego through and by which the Ego is endowed with self-discernment. We hold it to be an exercise of reason to explore the meaning of a universe to which we stand in this relation, and the work we have accomplished is the proper commentary on the methods we have pursued. Before these methods were adopted the unbridles imagination roamed through nature, putting in the place of law the figments of superstitious dread. For thousands of years witchcraft, and magic, and miracles, and special providences, and Mr. Mozley's "distinctive reason of man," had the world to themselves. They made worse than nothing of it—worse, I say, because they let and hindered those who might have made something of it. Hence it is that, during a single life-time of this era of "unintelligent impulse," the progress in knowledge is all but infinite as compared with that of the ages which preceded ours.
The believers in magic and miracles of a couple of centuries ago had all the strength of Mr. Motley's present logic on their side. They had done for themselves what he rejoices in having so effectually done for us—cleared the ground of the belief in the order of nature, and declared magic, miracles, and witchcraft to be matters for "ordinary evidence" to decide. "The principle of miracles" thus "befriended" had free scope, and we know the result. Lacking that rock-barrier of natural knowledge which we now possess, keen jurists and cultivated men were hurried on to deeds, the bare recital of which makes the blood run cold. Skilled. in all the rules of human evidence, and versed in all the arts of cross-examination, these men, nevertheless, went systematically astray, and committed the deadliest wrongs against humanity. And why? Because they could not put Nature into the witness-box, and question her—of her voiceless "testimony" they knew nothing. In all cases between man and man, their judgment was to be relied on; but in all cases between man and nature, they were blind leaders of the blind.
Mr. Mozley concedes that it would be no great result if miracles were only accepted by the ignorant and superstitious, "because it is easy to satisfy those who do not inquire." But he does consider it "a great result" that they have been accepted by the educated. In what sense educated? Like those statesmen, jurists and church dignitaries whose education was unable to save them from the frightful errors glanced at above? Not even in this sense; for the great mass of Mr. Mozley's educated people had no legal training, and must havé been absolutely de-fenceless against delusions which could set even that training at naught. Like nine-tenths of our clergy at the present day, they were versed in the literature of Greece, Rome and Judea; but as regards a knowledge of nature, which is here the one thing needful, they were "noble savages," and nothing more. In the case of miracles, then, it behooves us to understand the weight of the negative, before we assign a value to the positive; to comprehend the depositions of nature, before we attempt to measure, with them, the evidence of men. We have only to open our eyes to see what honest and even intellectual men and women are capable of, as to judging evidence, in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, and in latitude fifty-two degrees north. The experience thus gained ought, I imagine, to influence our opinion regarding the testimony of people inhabiting a sunnier clime, with a richer imagination, and without a particle of that restraint which the discoveries of physical science have imposed upon mankind.
Having thus submitted Mr. Mozley's views to the examination which they challenged at the hands of a student of nature, I am unwilling to quit his book without expressing my admiration of his genius, and my respect for his character. Though barely known to him personally, his recent death affected me as that of a friend. With regard to the style of his book, I heartily subscribe to the description with which the "Times" winds up its able and appreciative review. "It is marked throughout with the most serious and earnest conviction, but is without a single word from first to last of asperity or insinuation against opponents; and this not from any deficiency of feeling as to the importance of the issue, but from a deliberate and resolutely maintained self-control, and from an overruling, ever-present sense of the duty, on themes like these, of a more than judicial calmness."
[To the argument regarding the quantity of the miraculous, introduced at page 21, Mr. Mozley has done me the honor of publishing a Reply in the seventh volume of the "Contemporary Review."—J. T.]
ADDITIONAL REMARKS ON MIRACLES
AMONG the scraps of manuscript, written at the time when Mr. Mozley's work occupied my attention, I find the following reflections :
With regard to the influence of modern science which Mr. Mozley rates so low, one obvious effect of it is to enhance the magnitude of many of the recorded miracles, and to increase proportionably the difficulties of belief. The ancients knew but little of the vastness of the uni-verse. The Rev. Mr. Kirkman, for example, has shown what inadequate notions the Jews entertained regarding the "firmament of heaven" ; and Sir George Airy refers to the case of a Greek philosopher who was persecuted for hazarding the assertion, then deemed monstrous, that the sun might be as large as the whole country of Greece. The concerns of a universe, regarded from this point of view, were much more commensurate with man and his concerns than those of the universe which science now reveals to us; and hence that to suit man's purposes, or that in compliance with his prayers, changes should occur in the order of the universe, was more easy of belief in the ancient world than it can be now. In the very magnitude which it assigns to natural phenomena, science has augmented the distance between them and man, and increased the popular belief in their orderly progression.
As a natural consequence the demand for evidence is more exacting than it used to be, whenever it is affirmed that the order of nature has been disturbed. Let us take as an illustration the miracle by which the victory of Joshua over the Amorites was rendered complete. In this case the sun is reported to have stood still for "about a whole day" upon Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon. An Englishman of average education at the present day would naturally demand a greater amount of evidence to prove that this occurrence took place, than would have satisfied an Israelite in the age succeeding that of Joshua. For, to the one, the miracle probably consisted in the stoppage of a fiery ball less than a yard in diameter, while to the other it would be the stoppage of an orb fourteen hundred thousand times the earth in size. And even accepting the interpretation that Joshua dealt with what was apparent merely, but that what really occurred was the suspension of the earth's rotation, I think the right to exercise a greater reserve in accepting the miracle, and to demand stronger evidence in. support of it than that which would have satisfied an ancient Israelite, will still be conceded to a man of science.
There is a scientific as well as a historic imagination; and when, by the exercise of the former, the stoppage of the earth's rotation is clearly realized, the event assumes proportions so vast, in comparison with the result to be. obtained by it, that belief reels under the reflection. The energy here involved is equal to that of six trillions of horses working for the whole of the time employed by Joshua in the destruction of his foes. The amount of power thus expended would be sufficient to supply every individual of an army a thousand times the strength of that of Joshua, with a thousand times the fighting power of each of Joshua's soldiers, not for the few hours necessary to the extinction of a handful of Amorites, but for millions of years. All this wonder is silently passed over by the sacred historian, manifestly because he knew nothing about it. Whether, therefore, we consider the miracle as purely evidential, or as a practical means of vengeance, the same lavish squandering of energy stares us in the face. If evidential, the energy was wasted, because the Israelites knew nothing of its amount; if simply destructive, then the ratio of the quantity lost to. the quantity employed may be inferred from the foregoing figures.
To other miracles similar remarks apply. Transferring our thoughts from this little sand-grain of an earth to the immeasurable heavens, where countless worlds with freights of life probably revolve unseen, the very suns which warm them being barely visible across abysmal space; reflecting that beyond these sparks of solar fire, suns innumerable may burn, whose light can never stir the optic nerve at all; and bringing these reflections face to face with the idea of the Builder and Sustainer of it all showing Him-self in a burning bush, exhibiting His hinder parts, or behaving in other familiar ways ascribed to Him in the Jewish Scriptures, the incongruity must appear. Did this credulous prattle of the ancients about miracles stand alone; were it not associated with words of imperishable wisdom, and with examples of moral grandeur unmatched elsewhere in the history of the human race, both the miracles and their "evidences" would have long since ceased to be the transmitted inheritance of intelligent men. Influenced by the thoughts which this universe inspires, well may we exclaim in David's spirit, if not in David's words: "When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon, and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou shouldst be mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou shouldst so regard him?"
If you ask me who is to limit the outgoings of Al-mighty power, my answer is, Not I. If you should urge that if the Builder and Maker of this universe chose to stop the rotation of the earth, or to take the form of a burning bush, there is nothing to prevent Him from doing so, I am not prepared to contradict you. I neither agree with you nor differ from you, for it is a subject of which I know nothing. But I observe that in such questions regarding Almighty power, your inquiries relate, not to that power as it is actually displayed in the universe, but to the power of your own imagination. Your question is, not has the Omnipotent done so and so? or is it in the least degree likely that the Omnipotent should do so and so? but, is my imagination competent to picture a Being able and willing to do so and so? I am not prepared to deny your competence. To the human mind belongs the faculty of enlarging and diminishing, of distorting and combining, indefinitely the objects revealed by the senses. It can imagine a mouse as large as an elephant, an elephant as large as a mountain, and a mountain as high as the stars. It can separate congruities and unite incongruities. We see a fish and we see a woman; we can drop one half of each, and unite in idea the other two halves to a mermaid. We see a horse and we see a man ; we are able to drop one half of each, and unite the other two halves to a centaur. Thus also the pictorial representations of the Deity, the bodies and wings of cherubs and seraphs, the hoofs, horns, and tail of the Evil One, the joys of the blessed, and the torments of the damned, have been elaborated from materials furnished to the imagination by the senses. It behooves you and me to take care that our notions of the Power which rules the universe are not mere fanciful or ignorant enlargements of human power. The capabilities of what you call your reason are not denied. By the exercise of the faculty here adverted to, you can picture to yourself a Being able and willing to do any and every conceivable thing. You are right in saying that in opposition to this Power science is of no avail—that it is "a weapon of air." The man of science, however, while accepting the figure, would probably reverse its application, thinking it is not science which is here the thing of air, but that unsubstantial pageant of the imagination to which the solidity of science is opposed.