Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 16

A reply to the Bishop's reply

page break

A Reply to the Bishop's Reply,

Printed by Lyon and Blair Wellington Lambton Quay.

page break
page break

A Reply to the Bishop's Reply,

The Bishop of Wellington is, I hear, very anxious that some person should reply to his "Reply." The old fighting instinct, so conspicuous in the days of Philo-Maoriism and "the three F.'s," though dormant, is not yet extinct. Well, I am not fond of controversy of this kind. I have a special horror of the odium theologicum, and I may say that I did not write any of the letters that appeared in the papers on this subject, nor did I indeed read many of them. But I read the little brochure, of the Bishop, and while it appeared to me (with one or two exceptions which I shall note) to be written with candour and moderation, it also seemed to be fairly open to very grave logical objections.

The ground of debate circumscribed by the Bishop is a very narrow one; it is not, mark, whether miracles are true—a larger question, and involving other evidence which by the definition is excluded. The question here is: "Is a miracle opposed to reason?" Let him define his ground for himself:—" What I propose is to endeavour to show that the objection commonly advanced by persons laying claim to some intellectual superiority over their neighbours, against miracles—that they are repugnant to reason—is untenable. * * I purposely page 4 leave out of consideration all collateral questions—all questions of greater or lesser probability. I wish to raise the simple issue—Is a miracle, as such, incredible, or, in other words, impossible"?—(p. 5.) Again, "If a miracle had never been wrought or even pretended, my argument would remain substantially the same; the scientific question relates to the possibility of supernatural occurrences at all."—(p. 20.) Thus, then, it is clear that the only question is whether, according to the laws of the human mind in the investigation of truth and the laws or order of external nature, miracles are, ("as such," mark this,) in themselves, without regard to other evidence, more credible than otherwise? It is then plainly a question, to be determined by the tests so prescribed, of greater or lesser antecedent probability between the constancy of natural laws or order and "a visible interruption or suspension of the order of nature for a providential purpose." How can the Bishop, after putting the case on the ground of reason pretend to treat questions of greater or lesser probability as collateral? No arguments are more legitimate or better known in logic than probable arguments; surely no logician will dispute this, and as I shall show, these are the precise kind of arguments proper to this discussion. This is an inconsistency of the Bishop at the start, and there are other very grave ones besides. The Bishop gives (at page 20) a summary of his argument:—" I have briefly endeavored to show that a miracle cannot be contradictory to any intuition of reason, which is concerned only with individual objects; nor to any necessary truths of reason, because these are only necessarily true within the mind itself; nor to any deduction of reason from observed facts, because the mind possesses no absolute criterion page 5 of the conformity of intellectual notions to such observed facts. I have further striven to make it clear that the invariability of the order or laws of nature, although a practical regulative truth, cannot be converted into, and established as a universal proposition, in the sense of a truth of geometry, so that its denial should involve either a contradiction or an obvious absurdity." Any one can see that, in such a question as this, and on the narrow ground on which it is put, if you allow a man to define his terms for himself and to make his own assumptions, he could prove, and prove logically too, any conclusion whatever. Given the premises, the conclusion would follow straight enough. Now the Bishop has, as might be expected, defined his terms to suit himself; he has also made his assumptions in the same way. He has throughout made a use of the word "reason" which, as applied to such a subject matter, i.e., the interpretation of external nature, is quite illegitimate. There are, in the first part of the last quotation or elsewhere, certain expressions: "intuition of reason," "absolute truth of reason," "necessity as an absolute truth of reason," "deduction of reason," &c., on which the changes are throughout rung, and to which I shall hereafter object. But it is in the last sentence of the summary that the main argument, so far as there is any such, is indicated. "The invariability, &c., of nature "cannot be proved as a truth of geometry, &c." This invariability of nature is, then, says the Bishop, a pure assumption. Granting, for the sake of argument, (which I certainly do not in any other sense admit,) that it is an assumption, let us see how he goes about his argument. On recurring to the definition of a miracle (p. 5.) it is seen that in the very term of it: "an interruption of the order of nature page 6 "for a providential purpose," there is made the great assumption of a personal God. This the Bishop admits at p. 16. "When it is admitted that we cannot 'prove' the existence of a personal God, this admission is made just in the same sense, and in no other, in which it is admitted we cannot 'prove' our own existence or that of an external world." But then, says he, "human consciousness prevents us from calling in question the assumption of a God." With this argument from consciousness, I shall deal hereafter, but now let me point out a piece of extraordinary inconsistency. There are, by admission of both parties for the moment, two assumptions, the one the constancy of the order of nature, the other the existence of a personal God; neither of which can be "proved" geometrically. The Bishop began by marking out a very narrow circle, "are" miracles to be believed on grounds of reason alone?"—(see pp. 5, 20.) And into this circle he invites all and sundry, without reference to religious belief, to try conclusions with him on rational grounds only, and with the weapons of reason. Having got people into the ring he coolly turns upon them, and says in effect:—"By your leave—just permit me to step outside a little for a weapon of mine which I have found very convenient before;" the opponent demurs; then mark what happens. Sir, you are an atheist—do you suppose for an instant a Christian would enter into a serious discussion about miracles with an avowed atheist?" This is not merely inconsistent; it would be, if addressed to an individual, gratuitously offensive; for what right has he when any person takes him up on his own ground, to make imputations which by the conditions of battle are out of the case? Page 16 comes simply to this—that of two assumptions, the page 7 Bishop makes the one favorable to him, and when you demur you are "an atheist" and he won't fight. By the Bishop's own terms of combat any person has a complete right to deny, for argument's sake, the assumption of a personal God without being branded with an opprobious epithet.

But now let us inquire a little more carefully into the meaning of "reason" &c., as applied to investigations and interrogations of nature, and into the comparative validity of the grounds for our belief in the invariability of the order of nature, and the belief in a personal God as a sufficient cause to sanction the credibility of miracles. It is assuredly, evade the point as you may, a case of greater or lesser antecedent probability. In this inquiry I shall call the same witnesses whose testimony the Bishop has used: these are, J. S. Mill, Herbert Spencer, Dr. Thomas Brown, and to these I shall add a couple of experts of the Bishop's own cloth, viz:—Dr. Thomson, Archbishop of York, and the Rev. A. H. Killick, Fellow of University of Durham, and author of the admirable Handbook to Mill's Logic. I shall also make use of the researches of the antiquary, Sir John Lubbock.

The changes are rung so repeatedly through the first half of the pamphlet on the terms "reason," "necessary truths of reason," &c., and so much of of the argument is made to turn on the sense in which these phrases are used, that although I have not space to enter fully into the question, some notice must be taken of these definitions, and the inferences attempted to be drawn from them. We are told that there are "certain necessary truths of reason, generally accepted," that "the only necessary truths of which the human reason is cognisant, are the proper axioms of geometry—that if such axioms page 8 are the only necessary truths of the reason, it might be thought scarcely needful to show that inferences from observed facts, or, in other words, the results of inductive science cannot establish a claim to be such."—(p.p. 7, 8.) He then goes on through several pages, indeed the greater part of the pamphlet, to infer that as the belief in the invariability of the order of nature—the conviction that the future will resemble the past—while it may be a good guide for practical conduct in life—"has no foundation in reason. All we can say is, that previous past recurrence of the facts leads to the expectation of a similar recurrence in the future. But an expectation—a mere blind expectation—is not a rational answer; it is not a rational solution of the difficulty; such an expectation rests on no ground of reason, and cannot satisfy the requirements of reason. That the sun has risen everyday throughout past ages leads to the expectation that it will rise to-morrow, and we all act on this belief and expectation. But if a reason is asked for this expectation, what reason can be given? None. * * We believe it, we act upon the belief and expectation. But it is not a truth of reason."—(p. 9.) This passage is the key-note to much that follows, indeed it is the pith and essence of the whole argument, if it can be called such. Now let us see what is "reason"? And what are necessary truths and in what sense are the axioms of geometry such? What are "laws of nature," or "uniformity of nature," and how proved, and what is the ground and the amount of cogency of our belief in them? The answers to these questions will bring us far on in our inquiry. Mr. J. S. Mill lays down the universal type of reasoning thus:—"1. Certain individuals (having a certain attribute, A) have also a page 9 given attribute, B; 2. An individual, or individuals, resemble the former in having attribute A; 3. Therefore, they resemble them also in possessing the given attribute, B."—(Mill, Logic, i., 226. Killick, 65.) To this type it will be seen that all reasoning, that establishing the axioms of geometry, the laws of nature, and everything else, ultimately conforms. The character of necessity," says Mill, "(and even with some reservations, the peculiar certainty) attributed to mathematical truths is an illusion. As to their peculiar certainty, it only consists in this, that mathematical conclusions are not liable to be interfered with by counteracting causes. In themselves they are not more certain or exact than those of any other sciences; * * the necessity, too, of geometrical truths consists only in this,—that they necessarily follow from the granting of hypotheses from which they are deduced. Their necessity in fact is certainty of inference. The primary suppositions or hypotheses are—(1.) Definitions; (2.) Axioms. Some of these suppositions are not only not necessary, they are not even strictly true. Axioms are experimental truths; inductions from the evidence of our senses. That is, the evidence on which we believe axioms is of the same kind as the evidence on which we believe any other fact of external nature—our experience of their truth." These views of Mill have been controverted by Dr. Whewell, but he replies to all the objections, and has by far the best of the argument. In these views of the nature and ultimate grounds of mathematical truths, Mill is supported by such men as Sir John Herschell and Mr. H. Spencer.—(Logic i., 279, 294.). So much, then, for the necessary truths of reason in geometry—they rest on precisely the same grounds and on page 10 the same type of reason as the belief in the constancy of the order of nature, viz: induction from experience. Now let us look into the nature and mode of proof of these laws or order of nature. "The uniformity of nature is proved by a generalisation of all our inductions, it is a conclusion by an induction per enumerationem, simplicem from a large number of inductions. Thus if we knew not whether nature were uniform or not, we could still reason that since all the men that ever lived have died, all men yet to be born will die, and, therefore, in this respect nature is uniform; so, again, we reason that because the sun has risen ever since time began it will do the same to-morrow, and again conclude that nature is uniform; so, again, we reason that since water was always found to run down hill and not up, it will, unless something intervenes to prevent it, always do so, and again nature is uniform; and thus when finally, age after age passes away and innumerable inductions are made, every one of which adds its item of proof without a single contradictory instance, the inference by one grand induction of the universality of the principle is irresistible. The condition which renders this induction from unanalyzed experience a valid process, is this:—We must know that if any exception had occurred we should be aware of it. This assurance in most cases we cannot have; yet there are certain remarkable cases where, having this certainty, an induction by simple enumeration amounts to a rigorous proof, indeed the only proof of which they are susceptible. These are—(1.) The fundamental principles of mathematics. (2.) The principle of the uniformity of nature. The axiom of the uniformity of nature is proved then by this form of induction, the principle having page 11 been found true in every legitimate induction yet made, and these multitudinous inductions having covered the whole face of nature's operations."—(Killick, pp. 97, 99; condensed from Mill.) So far then from the conviction of the constancy of natural order and law "having no foundation in reason," "no rational answer," &c., the belief according to the greatest of modern logicians rests for its validity on precisely the same grounds as the fundamental principles of mathematics. Now let us see what the Archbishop of York has to say on the subject. This eminent ecclesiastic (the second in dignity in the empire, I believe) and equally eminent logician, classifies the degrees of belief or modality of judgments, as follows: He reduces them all to three great classes, each having within it three sub-classes or degrees—(1.) "Problematical, containing (a) Possible; (6) Doubtful; (c) Probable. (2.) Assertive, with its sub-divisions, (a) morally certain for the thinker himself; (4) morally certain for a class or school; (c) morally certain for all. (8.) Demonstrable, with its degrees, (a) physically certain, with a limit; (b) physically certain, without limitation; (c) mathematically certain. The Problematical judgment is neither subjectively nor objectively true; it is mere opinion. The Assertive judgment is one of which we are fully persuaded ourselves, but cannot give grounds for our belief; it is therefore subjectively, but not objectively, certain. The Demonstrative judgment is both subjectively and objectively true." In this last he includes the laws of physical science, as the law of gravitation, of chemical affinity, &c. In another place he speaks directly of the laws of induction, whereby the uniformity of nature is proved:—"On what principleare incomplete inductions, i.e., examinations of page 12 facts that stop short of complete enumeration, sufficient to establish general laws? The answer contains the most interesting and important of the principles of logic. All our experience teaches us that in the Universe, the 'Cosmos'—whose very name means order—regularity, and uniformity prevail, and caprice and uncertainty are excluded. Whilst it is conceivable that any one of the natural laws in which we place most confidence might be reversed, while it is certain that many of them have been miraculously suspended for purposes proportionably great and important, our present belief in their permanence is almost unlimited. * * Our confidence in the uniformity of natural laws is embodied in the canon, that under the same circumstances and with the same substances, the same effects always result from the same causes. This great inductive principle is itself proved by induction, and partakes of the same formal defect that may be charged against other inductive results, viz: that its terms are wider than our experience warrants. * If the canon were the result of a simple enumeration of all possible cases, its present value as a rule would disappear; since it is to unknown and unexamined cases that we chiefly wish to apply to it."—(Law of Thought, pp. 300, 308.) Thus then it is clear that Dr, Thomson, while he believes in miracles on other evidence sufficient for him, has no sympathy with a mode of reasoning which asserts that the uniform laws of nature have no rational answer to give for themselves. According to him, so far from our belief in this conformity being "a mere blind expectation," this judgment of ours is not problematical nor even assertive, but "Demonstrative." It is not opinion merely, or belief merely, but science. Now let us hear what says the celebrated page 13 metaphysician, Dr. Thomas Brown, of Edinburgh, in his famous book on Cause and Effect:— Ignorant as we are of the many bearings of events on each other, it appears to me that we are not entitled, in sound philosophy, to affirm of any sequence, in which the antecedent and consequent are not exactly known to us in their fixed mutual relation—that the Deity has not operated in this particular case. It may be much more likely indeed that the sequence is in conformity with the ordinary course of events; but the absolute denial of providential agency, as concerned in it, is not allowable; * * But if it be too much to say, in any particular case, that Providence has not interposed, it appears to me equally, or rather, far more unphilosophic, to pronounce positively, in any particularicase, that there has been such interposition. * * The more attentively we observe the sequences of events in nature, and the more minutely we analyse them, the more exact do we find the uniformity of the particular consequent which we trace after the particular antecedent which we have traced; and the stronger therefore does the presumption become, that if we were able to analyse with still more discriminating accuracy all the complex appearances of things, we should discover a similar uniformity in the varieties that at present are most perplexing to us. * * Therefore, he who affirms positively, in any case, that an event which is not beyond the ordinary operation of the common powers of nature, was not so produced but was the result of Divine agency, must in this very affirmation, take for granted, that he is acquainted with all the tendencies of things at the time of which he speaks, since he is able to pronounce upon their inadequacy; and that, page 14 with this perfect knowledge of every latent circumstance, as insufficient to produce the phenomenon, he is far wiser than the wisest observer that ever looked on nature with the most inquistive and discriminating eyes."—(Cause and Effect, pp. 427, 429.) So then, this great writer, who admitted that if you assume a Divine agency as the author of miracles, there is no contradiction of the law of cause and effect, yet believed that just in direct proportion as our knowledge grows of the sequences of nature, in the same proportion is the presumption strengthened in favour of the invariable uniformity of the connexion of natural antecedent with natural consequent. So far is he from thinking the law of natural uniformity a mere assumption, he believes, like Dr. Thomson, that the vast preponderance of probability is on its side.

Having thus inquired into the validity of the grounds of our "assumption" of the constancy of natural laws, let us now turn to the other "assumption" of a personal God, and see how far the argument is valid on which it is based. The Bishop tells us:—"Mail cannot be more conscious of his own personal existence than he is of the existence of God. His assurance as to the existence of an external world is not so certain. The belief in conscious life in other than his own individual life, * * is now deeply rooted in every man's mental organism, &c."—(p. 16.) Then in a note we have a specimen of the German method of argument from consciousness. Now this argument from consciousness unluckily proves far too much for those who use it. It, like many other fine ways of accounting for difficult things, has fared badly at the hands of the historical method of investigating human phenomena. For, two things have been made clear: page 15 (1st.) That man in his lowest condition, that in which his "consciousness" is undeveloped, brutish, and sluggish, has absolutely no definite ideas at all of either God or religion. (2nd.) As consciousness is evolved and intelligence grows, his notions of God and religion undergo a steady process of development from the grosser to the less gross forms. See for the evidence of the former statement, Sir John Lubbuck's Origin of Civilization, pp. 139, 142, 236 to 240. For the general character of the lowest forms of religious ideas, if they can be called such at all, among savages, see the same work, pp. 133-4, 264, 290, 895. I have not space to indulge in these most interesting extracts, but they will well repay a reference to them. The author, at p. 137, thus classifies the stages of religious thought:—"(1. Atheism: absence of any definite ideas on the subject. (2.) Fetishism: in which man supposes he can force the Deity (if such it can be called) to comply with his wishes. (3.) Totemism: worship of natural objects as symbols of ancestors. (4.) Shamanism: superior deities more powerful than man. (5.) Idolatry, or Anthropomorphism: in which the gods become still more like man, but more powerful; being a part of nature and not creation. (6.) Deity: regarded as the author, not a part of nature; being, in this stage, first a really supernatural being. (7.) Morality at last, becomes associated with religion. (See also this subject on pp. 242, 248, 253, 256, 395.) "Gradually," says Sir J. Lubbock, "an increased acquaintance with the laws of nature enlarged the mind of man. He first supposed that the Deity fashioned the earth, raising it out of the water, and preparing it as the dwelling place of man; subsequently he realized the idea that land and water were alike created by Divine power. page 16 After regarding spirits as entirely evil, he rose to a belief in good as well as in evil deities, and gradually subordinating the latter to the former, worshipped the good spirits alone as gods, the evil sinking to the level of demons. From believing only in ghosts, he came gradually to the recognition of the soul; although uniting this belief with that in a benificent and just being, he connected morality with religion. Thus we see that as men rise in civilization their religion rises with them. * * Every increase in science—that is, in positive and ascertained knowledge—brings with it an elevation of religion. * * The immense services which science has thus rendered to the cause of religion and humanity has not yet received the recognition which it deserves. Science is still regarded by many excellent but narrow-minded persons, as hostile to religious truth, while in fact she is only opposed to religious error. The time is approaching when it will be generally perceived that, so far from science being opposed to religion, true religion without science is impossible."—(pp. 291, 292.) As soon as man begins to have anything that can be called "consciousness," and to have any definite religious ideas at all, he at once begins to cast the image of himself, his volition, the form and pressure of his own mind into the blank of nature, which he is as yet unable otherwise to explain. "A more or less idealised humanity," says Herbert Spencer, "is the form which every conception of a personal God must take. Anthropomorphism is an inevitable result of the laws of thought. We cannot take a step towards constructing an idea of God without the ascription of human attributes. We cannot even speak of a Divine will without assimilating the Divine nature to our own; for we page 17 know nothing of volition, save as a property of our own minds."—(Essays, vol. i., p. 442.) So, then, as civilization advances, as "knowledge grows from more to more," man's consciousness of God as a mode of interpreting nature, undergoes a gradual transition from the insensate Fetishism of the negro—who carries his god in his waist-cloth, takes him out to beat him when ill befalls him and puts him in, when he is about to do something naughty, that he may not see him—to the conception of an omnipotent and benificent author of nature, who governs the Cosmos through the medium of uniform laws which, however, he can and has, as assumed, for providential reasons, suspended at his sovereign will. I may here refer to the celebrated law of the three stages, whereby M. Comte has formulated this transition: (1st.) The Theological; (2nd.) The Metaphysical; (3rd.) The Positive, or Scientific. The first and third of these are the extremes, for whereas in the theological stage of the human mind, man interprets phenomena by analogies from his own nature, in the latter he recognises nothing but the "reign of law." The metaphysical stage is intermediate and transitional between the other two. I have not space to illustrate the law, but the reader who may be curious on the matter will find it beautifully expounded in Mr. Mill's book, Auguste Comte and Positivism. He will also see it most ably applied to the history of the Hellenic mind, in the magnificent 16th chapter of Part I, of Grote's History of Greece, and indeed all through the psychological parts of that superb book.

So, then, if we find this "consciousness"—this conception of personal authorship and governance of nature directly and steadily, under the pressure of growing intelligence, modifying its forms from gross to less gross—steadily, and in proportion to the page 18 access of light, shrinking and receding before its approaches, what is the natural conclusion? According to the inductive law of "concomitant variations" or, as Whately calls it, "the argument from progressive approach," the conclusion is inevitable, that this mode of accounting for the authorship and the changes of nature, is one that is congenial to darkness and the result of ignorance. If, again, we see the conception of invariable sequence—the assumption, if you like, of uniformity of nature—yet existing in the background in the heroic age of Greece, itself taking the pervading colour of the time and personified under the form and name of the Mara, or Fates, independent of the personal rule of Zeus, acquiring ever-increasing strength and consistence from the time when the Hellenic thought, through the minds of Thales, Xenophanes and Pythagoras, first broke through the mythopæic gloom down to this time, the conclusion is the same. From that time to this all our enterprises, all our encroachments on the domain of nature, all our inductions, and deductions, and discoveries, have been just so many verifications of this assumption of the constancy of the order of nature. On this assumption we have predicted the eclipses and the return of comets; on this assumption Messrs. Leverrier, in France, and Adams, in England, reasoning on physical laws, independent and unknown to each other, searched the realms of infinite space, fixed the place in them of a planet (Neptune) the light of which never yet had reached human eye, and, acting on the instructions of M. Leverrier, on the 23rd September, 1846, Dr. Galle turned his telescope on that night to the spot indicated and Neptune was discovered. On this same assumption, a few months ago, scientific expeditions came to this hemisphere to observe the transit of page 19 Venus, and on a given day the citizens of this place saw in the little black velvet spot on the sun, a marvellous testimony to the unerring constancy of nature to the uniformity of her laws. So consistent and continuous from age to age have been these testimonies, that man's belief in the order of nature is now little short of an instinct. Which then is the more reasonable, an assumption which increasing knowledge has been uniformly modifying, or an assumption which the same knowledge has been as uniformly confirming? Surely to men like us "heirs of all the ages in the foremost files of time," the question is idle. When put on this ground of reason alone it simply revolts our rational instincts. The preponderance of probability on the side of the uninterrupted order of nature is so vast as to make the so-called "assumption" a presumption of the most overwhelming description. This being so, it is the nature of all presumptions to shift the burthen of proof upon the other side, who therefore must find the proof of miracles in some other evidence than reason. This is the conclusion of J. S. Mill, in that most candid and able essay on Theism:—"There is, therefore, a vast preponderance of probability against a miracle, to counterbalance which would require a very extraordinary and indisputable congruity in the supposed miracle and its circumstances with something which we conceive ourselves to know or to have grounds for believing, with regard to the Divine attributes. * * Thus, then, stands the balance of evidence in respect to the reality of miracles, assuming the existence and government of God to be proved by other evidence. On the one side, the great negative presumption arising from the whole of what the course of nature discloses to us of the Divine government, as carried page 20 on through second causes and by invariable sequences of physical effects upon constant antecedents. On the other side, a few exceptional instances, attested by evidence not of a character to warrant belief in any facts in the smallest degree unusual or improbable."—(Essays, p.p. 235, 239.) This, it will be seen, puts the case even on the assumption of the existence of a personal God. His conclusion is:—" That miracles have no claim whatever to the character of historical facts, and are wholly invalid as evidences of any revelation."

Having carried the general connected argument thus far, I shall now make certain incidental criticisms on detached portions of the pamphlet. On pages 10, 15, 21, appears a fallacy that colours the whole throughout. Hume is quoted (p. 10.) to show that there is a mental process in inductive inference, and on page 15, Dean Mansel tells us "that our belief in the constancy of natural order is explained by a law of our mental constitution, and that it is a law of mind and not of matter." Again, on page 21, the Bishop is angry with the physicists and physiologists for their ignorance, of "mental science." Now, in the first place, who denies that there is a step taken by the mind in the inductive process; in what operation of logic is not that involved? Next, it is not true that our belief in the constancy of natural order is a law of mind and not of matter. There are two sorts of inference: Objective and Subjective, or Inductive and Syllogistic. "In Objective Inference," says Killick, "the fact stated in the conclusion is a bond fide new truth, a distinct fact, and not merely a part of the same fact or facts stated in the premises. * * In all cases of Objective Inference the conclusion follows in virtue of a law of External Nature and not by a mere law of mind; page 21 and whether it does or does not will be a mere question of physical law. Subjective Inference, on the other hand, affords a contrast in all these respects. * * The mind being in possession of the premises can by a mere comparison of their expression in words, evolve the conclusion—the fact stated in that conclusion being really included in the fact stated in the premises."—(Preface to Handbook, p. 5.) The Bishop, all through, seems quite unaware of this most important distinction, and, therefore, the charge of arrogance and ignorance which, on page 21, he hurls at physicists, recoils on himself. Surely anyone, by force of plain sense, can understand that the proper mental processes to employ in interpreting any phenomena of nature, normal or abnormal, such as miracles, should be those which have so eminently contributed to make man the master and lord of nature, viz:—the inductive methods. The Bishop is again very angry at pages 13, 14, with Mr. Buskin and the author of Supernatural Religion, for a couple of remarks made by those gentlemen. Mr. Buskin maintains that "the uniformity of nature not being established, the most startling apparent departures from it would be attended by no evidential effect." Again the Bishop quotes from the gentleman secondly named above:—"Any argument which could destroy faith in the order of nature would be equally destructive to miracles. If we have no right to believe in a rule, there can be no right to speak of exceptions, &c." I do not wonder at the Bishop losing his mental balance when brought up short by this very neat dilemma of these two gentlemen. But really I am quite unable to give him credit in the remarks on page 14, for both candour and intelligence. Surely this dilemma is as clear as crystal. For if you deny the constancy of natural sequence, what page 22 inevitably follows is chance or chaos, and how, in that case, could anything whatever that happens be an exception or suspension of a rule or order that did not exist, which by your own definition is the essence of miracle? If there were no order of nature, no law of causation, how could this be a providential interruption of it, and where would be the need to bring in Deus ex machinâ as a cause for an event that might, by the supposition, happen at any moment without a cause? In my opinion the sneer of the Bishop is sadly out of place. It is one or other—eminently uncandid or silly.

On page 11 a point is made by "the unanswerable" Canon Mozley. We are told that as science has proclaimed there are no causes in nature, that the chain of physical succession is "a rope of sand consisting of antecedents and consequents, but without a rational link or trace of necessary connection between them—a chain of which the junction not being reducible to reason the interruption is not against reason." A very pretty point indeed: if this is a specimen of the unanswerable Bampton Lectures I do not think much of them. For, first, science has not said there are "no causes" in nature—she says that causation is nothing more than "the invariable, unconditional antecedents," which is a different thing. Then mark the way in which the term "rational link" is coupled by the conjunction "or" to the term "necessary connection." The word "or" in English is ambiguous: It may be= "or, which is the same thing," Latin "vel;" or it may be= "or, which is another thing," Latin "aut," the effect being quite different as the one or the other meaning is conveyed. Here the first is plainly the meaning insinuated, and the effect is to assume in this underhand way that "necessary connection" page 23 and "rational link" are the same thing. The writer knowing that science has successfully attacked the so-called "necessary connection" of cause and effect, in one of the senses of "necessity," i. e., "unavoid-ableness" as opposed to "invariableness," or constancy of sequence, immediately proceeds below to avail himself of this use of "necessary" above as a convertible term with "rational," and infers that as science has destroyed "necessary connection," (in his sense of the term,) therefore she has also removed any "rational link" (which he assumes as the equivalent) and, therefore, on her own showing, miracles can be no interruption, forsooth of a link that does not exist I A sophism, worthy only of a pettifogger in a police court.

Then on page 19 there is another little point much of a piece with this one. Is it seriously pretended that the putting into action new natural laws by the agency of human volition as, e.g., by cutting down the forests, and thus acting through second causes, is the same thing as "a miraculous suspension and interruption of some laws of nature?" Surely this fallacy could not mislead a child. See it exposed in Mill's Essay on Theism, pp. 226, 228.

Thus I have, on grounds of reason, to which he himself has appealed, combated the Bishop's propositions. I repeat, that within the limits of the question "Is a miracle reasonable?" anyone is at liberty to argue on rational grounds alone. After thus defining the ground the Bishop has no right whatever to go outside of it or to fling any imputation. This question as stated, is a challenge to rationalists, and when they meet it on the ground on which it is placed by the challenger he has no reason to complain. The question of the existence of a Personal God, let it be clearly understood, is not here discussed in any page 24 other sense, or with any other view, than so far as it was an assumption made by the Bishop, which by the terms of his Thesis he had no right to make. Whether, as an independent question, it is true or false I here say nothing.

I may say that I have never read a word of Supernatural Religion, or of Hume's famous Essay on Miracles. I know nothing of the former book but what I see in the pamphlet. I deprecate wanton attacks on the unobtrusive exercise of religious faith and duties; but such great and all-absorbing questions as this are engaging the earnest reflection of thinking men everywhere, and when they are pushed forward anyone may fairly criticise them. Clergymen from the habit of treating all questions from the pulpit, without hearing the other side, are apt, above all men, to take a one-sided view and criticism is wholesome to them. I trust I have not exceeded its legitimate bounds.


Lyon and Blair, Printers, Lambton Quay, Wellington.