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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 16

Note C.—Page 18

Note C.—Page 18.

Hume, while writing against miracles, states the matter thus:—"A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined."—(Philosophical Works, vol. iv., p. 133.) But it has been seen that the "firm unalterable experience" is an assumption. Let J. S. Mill reply to this—"But in order that an alleged fact should be contrary to a law of causation, the allegation must be, not simply that the cause existed without being followed by the effect, for that would be no uncommon occurrence, but that this happened in the absence of any adequate counteracting cause. Now in the case of an alleged miracle, the assertion is the exact opposite of this. It is, that the effect was defeated, not in the absence, but in consequence of a counteracting cause, namely, a direct inter- page 24 position of an act of the will of some Being who has power over nature; and in particular of a Being whose will, being assumed to have endowed all the causes with the powers by which they produce their effects, may well be supposed able to counteract them. A miracle (as was justly remarked by Brown) is no contradiction to the law of cause and effect, it is a new effect supposed to be produced by the introduction of a new cause. Of the adequacy of that cause, if present, there can be no doubt; and the only antecedent improbability which can be ascribed to the miracle, is the improbability that any such cause existed."—(Logic, vol. ii., p. 159.)


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