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Surely this is vain quibbling. However mistaken men may be, we usually judge of their sincerity by their general truthfulness and probity of character. But, however honest they may be, we distrust the revelations of those who graphic.illy describe the unseen world or testify of those who set at nought the laws of nature, which our experience tells us are fixed and invariable. There are spiritualists whose word, in regard to ordinary events, I would not discount; yet before accepting their testimony in regard to the supernatural, I would require proof equivalent to demonstration. So also of prayer cures and "modern day miracles" of every sort.
Lambert.-" The apostles claimed a divine communication and mission. They worked miracles in proof of their claim. These miracles proved both to the apostles themselves and to those who witnessed them that there could be no mistake about their claim. “What we must say is, that you are mistaken' when you assume to be a better judge, a more reliable witness, of events that transpired nineteen hundred years ago in Judea than those were who then lived, saw those events with their own eyes, or heard them with their own ears. Would your statements, under the circumstances, be taken against theirs in any court of justice ?”
Here, again, is a begging of the question by one who was to grant nothing and take nothing for granted. Here it is assumed that miracles were wrought, the very statement denied in the controversy. The church might as well face the real issue: Is there sufficient evidence to convince intelligent and unbiased lovers of truth that miracles, as recorded, were ever wrought? The skeptic says, along with miracles we read of witchcraft and demoniacal possessions. Witches have been banished from educated society, and demonology is a thing of the past. The insanity of the present was the "evil possession,” not only of the Jews but of other nations. A crazy
man was supposed to be possessed of a devil; and yet, by the light of modern science, we see that insanity is a physical disease, and all enlightened physicians treat it accordingly.
If, then, we see a bundle of superstitions with miracle wonders in the same envelope, we are apt to question the latter as we do the former. We desire a modicum, at least, of the same kind of evidence which satisfied those who have left a record of what they professed to have seen.
The ignorant can still be made to believe in witches, ghosts, and demons; but is it right to abuse the credulity of unlearned and unreflecting minds? It might not be well to let a flood-tide of light on humanity all at once. It is vain to feed a man more than he can assimilate—to indoctrinate him with more truth than he can grasp and hold. The notions of men should not be too rudely shocked. Light must be graduated to the eye. All this, however, does not imply that we should teach positive error nor withhold truth from those who earnestly seek it. But how long must humanity remain in the vestibule of knowledge? How long before fear will cease to be the ruling element of religion? We read of many miracles to-day, not only among Catholics but among Protestants as well. All seem to be equally well authenticated, and yet what scientific man will listen patiently to a recital of these wonders ? We repeat, it is too bad to impose upon the credulous. Apropos: Years ago a servant girl, with a kindly interest for my spiritual welfare, for which I shall ever be grateful, offered me the loan of a Catholic publication. I have forgotten the name of the book but shall not soon forget one legend it contained. It was in substance this: A beautiful girl had two lovers; they fought in jealous rage and both were killed. So incensed were their friends at the innocent cause of their “ taking off' that they cut off the head of the dear girl and cast it in a well. She had died without confession. A bishop passed by, and the head ascended to the top of the well and asked leave to confess, which it did, and the soul was seen (I do not remember by whom) to ascend to heaven! This is only a specimen of legends innumerable, which are put forth as verities-equal verities as apostolic miracles—by a church claiming to be immaculate! The book was not endorsed by an æcumenical council, but it was the kind of food which the shepherd gave to his hungry flock.
But there is another class which professes to open to our vision the portals of the unseen world: spiritualists, men and women, who believe what they tell us, for dying they confess the faith. Their expositions of the mysteries of spirit life are quite as well vouched for as are the kindred claims of the Catholic Church. They invite us to their seances, and exhibit a candor, which the church should emulate, by subrnitting their claims to scientific scrutiny. They claim to “materialize” the spirits of the dead, and to bring them face to face with their friends and kindred in the flesh, who frequently recognize them, and, with a waft of fragrance, consign bouquets to their ethereal fingers. If the Father derides their claims will they not say to him as he said to Ingersoll, “What we must say is that you are mistaken’ when you assume to be a better judge, a more reliable witness, of events which transpired before our eyes than we who saw them; 'would your statements under the circumstances be taken against'ours in any court of justice ? On this question the spiritualists have the vantage-ground; what they are ready to swear they have seen or heard they might testify to; but what the church asserts in regard to apostolic and patristic miracles is, at best, but hearsay, and not admissible as evidence in courts of justice.
The question of the verity of miracles, when divested of theological flummery, is a simple one. It involves only a question of fact. Why should the ignorant and superstitious
be exclusively selected as witnesses of supernatural manifestations? Ignorance is not, per se, holiness, nor credulity wisdom. We all desire to know the truth, and it is not our crime that we can read and write. Here is a question on the answer of which is supposed to hinge the eternal destiny of millions. Give us light; give us proof. If miracles can be wrought they can be proved. God is not parsimonious of his favors. Every breeze that comes to us laden with perfume whispers of his love; every harvest bespeaks the bountifulness of his gifts; and tiny insects, no less than blazing suns, evidence to us the wonder of his works, and the wisdom and beneficence of his provisions for his creatures, from the smallest to the greatest.
Would you convince us of miracles, submit your tests to scientific men, such as compose the French Academy of Science, for example. One favorable report from such a body of men would outweigh, in intelligent minds, the combined testimony of a thousand monasteries, and ten million monks and nuns.
Is the request unreasonable? Did not the patriarchs of old ask of God a “sign” that he would fulfil his promises to them? Scripture tells us they did, and that the signs were given them. Will Deity feel insulted because we ask for proof that he speaks and acts as fallible mortals tell us he does ? Ah! there is not the rub. The God-insulting theory, unrealized as is its hollowness by many who urge it against us, is not what disturbs the votaries of the miraculous. It is merely a pretext. The real point is this: the proof is not forthcoming at the right times and under required circumstances. The inquisitive eye and the experimental crucible of science are dreaded. There is the rub!
Lambert.—“A false prophet does not destroy the possibility of recognizing a true one, as a counterfeit note does not destroy the value of a genuine note."
Granted. But false prophets make us distrustful of prophetic pretensions, as counterfeit notes excite us to a rigid test of the genuine. What is desired is proof; not that “Grimes is dead," for death comes to all; but ample proof that Grimes has risen, or made his presence manifest to those who summoned his spirit from the “ vasty deep,” for here we are met by antecedent improbability.