Изображения страниц

the mind which compel us to reject them. On the contrary, when an effect is produced which cannot be accounted for on natural principles, the mind rises naturally from the greatness of the work to a supernatural cause.

Neither have we any experience to urge in behalf of the objection to miracles. We have discovered uniformity of working among certain agencies, and we have discovered diversity of operations proceeding from the will of man. If it is replied, God does not work except by His laws in the economy of material nature, we demand in vain from Physical Science either reason or proof for such an assertion. God's will is expressed in His material works-whoever said it was not? But when it is asserted that His will is not expressed anywhere else, we again demand of the physical student reason or proof, and find none. His will, as expressed in His works, cannot, it is admitted, be contrary to His will as expressed in His Word, or revelation ; but neither is it so. There is no opposition; physical science has done nothing to prejudice faith in revelation or miracles. Material nature is elastic enough to admit of the play of the human will, and if it can and does admit of the play of the human will, it cannot shut out the Divine will. The chain of antecedents and consequents, the “grand truth of the universal order and constancy of natural causes,” therefore, presents no argument against miracles as effects proceeding from special causes.

Let the science of physics be cultivated in all its bearings to the utmost extent; but do not undervalue the tools of the workman; do not exclude mind and the higher science of mind. There is both room and need for the study of metaphysics and mental philosophy, as well as of physics. “It must be borne in mind (said the President of the British Association) that, even if we are satisfied, from a persevering and impartial inquiry, that organic forms have varied indefinitely in kind, still the causa causans of these changes is not explained by our researches; if it be admitted that we find no evidence of amorphous matter suddenly changed into complex structures, still, why matter should be endowed with the plas ticity by which it slowly acquires modified structures is unexplained. If we assume that natural selection, or the struggle for existence, coupled with the tendency of like to produce like, gives rise to various changes, still our researches are at present uninstructive as to why like should produce like, why acquired characteristics in the parent should be reproduced in the offspring. Reproduction is still itself an enigma.” Without another science, then, the doctrine of continuity is dark-we lengthen out the chain backwards, it snaps asunder, and we

are left gazing upon a gap which nothing but Deity itself can fill up. We agree that philosophy should have no likes or dislikes; and, while a glow of admiration” will assuredly be permitted “to the physical enquirer when he beholds his orderly development by the necessary inter-relation and inter-action of each element of the Cosmos,” we, too, viewing this necessary chain of cause and effect as concealing God when considered alone, as exhibiting nothing but a dark and inevitable fatalismwe, I say, may also be permitted a glow of admiration when we find ourselves set free from the darkness which surrounds this chain of endless causation, to behold in the purer light of Mind and INTELLIGENCE the Cause of all causes, even Him “who stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing."


PENNY, Esq., M.V.I.

[ocr errors]


that every department of Nature is under the control of laws the most exact and inexorable,"*-- which may well be conceded ; nor does it require any depth of “investigation ” to arrive at a fact so patent to all observers. We may, therefore, allow it to be an axiom of science, and an “inexorable lawthat no effect can take place, in Nature or out of Nature, without an adequate cause; and we add that one of these “inexorable laws” is that the laws which “control” are necessarily, and ipso facto, stronger than the Nature “controlled.”

It has been said further, that the whole course of Nature is a chain of antecedents and consequents, bound together by a necessary and absolutely certain connection entirely beyond the reach of interruption or alteration ; and every event that happens in Nature is the inevitable result of the laws and properties of matter and force, which can neither be violated, modified, nor suspended; and beyond these laws and properties Nature knows no other rule; they are alone and supreme.*_But the very reverse of this is manifest in every " event in Nature, every one of which is a breach, interruption, or overruling of one chain of antecedents by another. The laws of inertia and gravitation are broken through by vegetation ; the chain of consequents in vegetation is broken by the animal that feeds upon it; and, above all, the will of man disposes according to his need, his pleasure, or his caprice, of all the chains of

* Vide Journal of Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol. I. p. 95.

[ocr errors]

consequents, in every region or kingdom of Nature, mineral, vegetable, animal, or elementary.

That the laws which rule Nature" are " alone and supreme" may be conceded, relatively speaking, i. e., in respect to the ruling of Nature; but this is merely moving round the circle of cause and effect, antecedent and consequent; the question is, How these laws work, and how the manifold results in Nature are obtained ? And the partisan of “science” who has acknowledged that there is a God,* does not pretend that, distinct from material Nature, there is no other ruling power or law. Nature's laws,“ ruling Nature,” are themselves distinct from and above Nature; and, whether Nature “know” it or not, we know that the Intelligence which established those laws and ordained them to work out His unchangeable will, and still upholds them in His hands, causing while yet placing bounds to their mutual action and reaction, is necessarily distinct from and above Nature.

The argument continues :

To assert that an event, or a series of events occurred, which are contrary to this uniformity, which are not the result of these laws and properties, but opposed to them, and incompatible with them, is to assert the occurrence of an impossibility, and is simply absurd." +

But we have seen that nothing is more “uniform," in the sense here intended, in Nature, than the constancy of a mutual crossing or counteraction in its laws, and that it is not "incompatible" with these laws that one should be continually over-riding another, and producing thereby a new order of results or chain of consequents, therefore miracles; and that without such opposition and mutual reaction of her laws, Nature's only law would be speedily to die out and cease to be.

In miracles, commonly so called, Nature's laws are neither violated nor modified in themselves; one law is simply overruled by another, a new chain of cause and effect being commenced thereby. The power which directs this over-ruling, whether intelligibly to itself or not, is the worker of the miracle. The vegetable germ, blindly exerting the powers with which it is endowed, assimilates the earthy and gaseous elements to itself, over-rules the mineral and atmospheric laws, and works a miracle. The ox which eats the grass,

and converts its elements into its own flesh and bones, over-rules the laws of vegetable life, and works a miracle. And, above all, every act of man may be called a miracle, inasmuch as one law of Nature is thereby, and that "inexorably," over-ruled

* Ibid. p. 96.

+ Ibid. p. 95.


by another, and a new chain of cause and effect commenced. This, indeed, may be affirmed of every act or movement of animal life generally; the “uniform course” of Nature being altered by every footfall on its surface.

But man's whole mission upon earth seems to be that he should work miracles. He breaks the “uniform course” and overrules the laws of wild Nature, and turns a howling wilderness into a fruitful field or smiling garden, and subdues the whole animal kingdom to serve his convenience, by the simple process of opposing one law of Nature to another, by the superior power of his own intelligence and will.

Neither vegetables nor animals “know” anything of the laws by which they act or are acted upon; they fulfil their parts by a blind faith in the power implanted in their germs and developed by the counteraction of other powers ordained for the purpose by the Supreme Intelligence.

But man is not precluded from knowing the laws and power by which he works, although the vast majority of men concern themselves to know nothing about it; and the nations and peoples do their Creator's behest, and work the miracles they were sent on earth to work, knowing little more of the secret springs of their own life and action than the animals around them.

Man has been called a MICROCOSM, because he unites in himself something of the essences of all the kingdoms of Nature, sidereal, as well as earthly. And it is manifest that this must be so; for, since he is capable of receiving the influences of the sun and the skies, of the atmosphere and the earth, and of the animal and vegetable world living and moving in them, there must necessarily be something in him of the nature of all these things; and the power which we see he possesses to act upon Nature is in itself a proof that he must have visible or secret connecting links homogeneous with that Nature, vital and physical.

Some men are not only conscious of their power over Nature, but exercise themselves in it, and strengthen it to a remarkable degree. We may instance the Rareys, and tamers of wild beasts or reptiles in all countries, who, by faith in their power, and by the exercise of their will, tighten or relax the secret sympathetic links at their pleasure, and make the fiercest of such animals tremble at their look, and end by lying down like lambs at their feet.

Of such are mesınerists, who, by the power of their will alone, transmitted through the secret links which connect them with their patients, send them to sleep and make them do many wonderful things.

All power is of God; and God has apportioned the use of it to all His creatures according to their kind and to the purposes of His goodness and wisdom. The vegetable and the animal have each power after their kind, according to the work given them to perform, while the secret springs of their action are beyond their ken. But man seems to be master of the springs of his own power (i.e. the portion with which God endowed him) : he can strengthen them by exercise, and relax or destroy them completely by disuse; and he can direct them as he will, either in subjection to inward inspirations of a pure conscience (which is God's gift), or to the wild and lawless allurements of his imagination or his passions.

In conformity with this freedom of choice, and indifferently for good or for evil, we find at all times, and in our own day, instances of men who, by their earnestness, enthusiasm, or faith, have more or less powerfully moved the springs of Nature, and done many wonderful works or miracles.

Religious enthusiasm, so called, has been the means of many wonderful results; and these results are of a nature according to the direction of this enthusiasm or faith; and may be characterized as good, or evil, or neuter. If this faith is exercised in entire submission to the Divine light, its results are in conformity; and thus we see how a Moses was enabled to overcome the magicians, and bring his people out of Egypt, and separate them as a peculiar people, a light for the Gentiles till Shiloh should come.

The magicians of Egypt and those of other countries, Fetish priests, Fakirs, Medicine-men, and Marabouts of the present day, work many wonders or miracles, by moving the same springs of Nature (for all their performances are not mere jugglery); but their works lack the beauty of those of the Divine order, and are rightly named occult, or deeds of darkness.

The CHAIRMAN.-I am sure you will all return a cordial vote of thanks to these two gentlemen for their very interesting papers. I think you

will also agree that Mr. English's Essay is one of the most valuable papers that we have had yet brought before us, and I hope we shall now have a useful and profitable discussion on the subject.

Rev. ROBINSON THORNTON, D.D.-I will trouble you with a few remarks on the first of the interesting papers we have heard this evening ; and they will not be in opposition, but rather in harmony with the arguments of Mr. English. They have brought out (but not, perhaps, quite with the clearness I could wish) two very important questions, which we have to consider on the subject of miracles. On this subject there are two grand fallacies, in my opinion, which are constantly urged by those who oppose miracles. The

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »