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or constant, and of the first we reckon only about fifteen during a space of forty years. Several of those also happened together, as where the Israelites were punished by one prodigy and cured by another; these therefore as to their impression can count only for one; and some were probably displayed only to a small portion of the people. So that supposing them to have been pretty equally distributed, (which is the hypothesis most favourable for the objectors) we can hardly allow more than one visible divine interference in four years. Let half a million of men be taken at hazard even from the most enlightened nation of Europe, and (if religion were not a party in the cause,) I would willingly abide the verdicts of my opponents on this question; " Whether it could be reasonably expected, that a series of portents, repeated at similar intervals, would preserve the whole of that mass from the commission of flagrant crimes?”
With regard to the miracles I have termed constant, that is, regular and enduring, let not my readers be startled, if I say,
that to the bulk of the Israelites these were probably no miracles at all. Man is the interpreter of nature, and knows just so much of her constitution as he can trace out by observation. A miracle is a deviation from that invariable sequence which is known to be established, because experienced on all other occasions. But in order to ascertain the exception, we must be acquainted with the rule. During the journeyings of the Israelites in the desert, onegeneration passed away, and another succeeded it. To this succeeding generation, as well as to part of the former, the rule was unknown, and probably almost unheard of, and the exception became the rule. That manna should rain from heaven to feed them; that a cloud of glory should precede the tabernacle to direct them; that their feet should not swell,
nor their raiment wax old during forty years, was to them the course of nature: and if so, it is evident these constant miracles would furnish to the bulk of that nation no present evidence of Almighty power sufficient to awe the turbulent emotions of the heart into obedience. At the very least, it is clear, that to all who had no remembrance of a different state of things, these exhibitions were only miracles by report; they were not miracles to the senses; they were in the nature of prodigies related to have happened in former years; and this, ad homines, is a satisfactory reply; for Mr. Gibbon only alleges the absurdity of believing the Jews senseless to miracles wrought before their eyes. Yet still these dispensations of Providence were not without a use evident even to our limited understandings. Besides the provision they furnished for the comfort of a favoured people, they were strictly miracles at their first appearance, and as such we have reckoned them among those which we termed occasional; they continued to be miracles to the knowing and inquisitive, who sought an acquaintance with something more than the circle commanded by their senses; and they were miracles to the whole nation, so soon as they quitted the wilderness and saw a different order of things established in the world around them. It is surely not unreasonable to suppose that our heavenly Father dealt with the Israelites as with us; that knowledge, faith, and consolation, were the fruits of humble but active inquiry; that, in their days as in ours, they who in simplicity of heart sought the Lord, discovered and adored him; while those who were sunk in sensuality, or blinded with pride, received the miracles of mercy with indifference or insult, till a miracle of vengeance overtook them:
“Discite justitiam moniti, et non temnere divos.”
In the following page of the review we have part of our Saviour's celebrated prophecy respecting the destruction of Jerusalem; “ When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand: Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled;" as an expository comment on which the reviewer furnishes us with Mr. Gibbon's sneer of triumph: “ The revolution of seventeen centuries has instructed us not to press too closely the mysterious language of prophecy and revelation.” This is smart; but though it ought to be offensive, need not be alarming to any pious Christian. The passage, doubtless, has its difficulties; but infidels are not always happy in their selections, nor is this the prophecy of all others which can best serve their purpose. During several verses which precede the sentences quoted, our blessed Lord foretels the approaching destruction of Jerusalem so distinctly, that the minute fulfilment of that prediction has been repeatedly alleged among the strongest evidences of our faith. What is clear, therefore, must answer for what is obscure. This is every day's practice, when established character is allowed to overbear the malevolence of floating rumours. He whose prescience enabled him so accurately to denounce an approaching event with all its circumstances of horror, might certainly, if he had thought fit, have closed his prophecy with as much clearness as he commenced it: and the belief of a Christian is so powerfully fortified by the consideration of the body of this prophecy, that he could hardly select a moment more convenient for encountering difficulties and objections of every description. Among the numberless obvious reasons to be assigned, why obscurities such as this have been left, as it were, to darken revelation, there is one which ought not to be overlooked; that they make us feel the real weight of its evidence, by compelling us to examine it more minutely. “ Curis acuunt mortalia corda."
After a short quotation from Josephus, the intention of which is more evident than its pertinency, the reviewer proceeds to notice the celebrated account, by Marcellinus, of the whirlwind and fiery eruptions which compelled Julian to forego his impious design of rebuilding Jerusalem; which even Mr. Gibbon relates with an honourable impartiality. But the Edinburgh Reviewer is too independent to be seduced to err by any authority. He treats therefore the whole story as a legend; and declares that he
really has little more respect for the prodigies of Marcellinus, than for those of Livy or Plutarch.” The answer to this is so obvious, that it would be anticipated by every school-boy. Livy and Plutarch recount prodigies of former ages, handed down by traditional and superstitious credulity; Ammianus narrates an extraordinary event, with all its particulars, which he might have witnessed himself, and probably (considering his acknowledged faithfulness) did receive immediately from those who had; which a Pagan could have no temptation to forge, and the professed eulogist of Julian might almost have omitted without censure. I admit that Crispus was put to death by Constantine, though it is not mentioned by Eusebius. Surely if a believer in revelation allows facts which in some sense discredit Christianity, though related only by Pagan historians, he is entitled to claim the alternative advantage, and to receive those at least with which a heathen supplies him. Yet I agree with the Edinburgh Reviewer that it would be injudicious to rest the evidence of Christianity on this narrative, though I cannot consent to class it, as he does, with the legends of Livy and Plutarch. Theirs were indeed correctly called legends, for they were to be read in earlier annals: this is most unfortunately so termed; for Ammianus was probably the first who committed the story to writing.
It is impossible to close these remarks without observing on the strange inconsistencies which appear in the Edinburgh Review. In the same page we sometimes find Christianity both countenanced and discredited, both professed and indirectly denied. And the number of that work which furnishes the articles on which I have now been commenting, contains one of the most spirited, and as far as I have the means of judging, deserved chastisements of a rhyming sensualist which perhaps ever has been penned. I allude to the critique of Mr. Moore's poems; a critique which does honour to the talent, the manliness, and the feelings of its author. But why are these Reviewers thus inconsistent with themselves? Why will they disconnect the precept and its principle, the action and its motive? Why will they attempt to separate morals from religion, from a religion whose code of practical injunctions is so complete, and whose motives are so commanding? It may seem preposterous to hope (after all that has been witnessed) that these gentlemen should assume a new tone, and become the champions instead of the oppugners of Christianity. And yet the nature of a review, in which the writers of particular articles must be generally unknown, renders such a change always practicable; and I am much mistaken, if their own interest, well understood, does not prescribe it. The path which they have hitherto pursued in respect to religion, is trite,