David Hume was the point man behind the current false Skeptical dichotomy between the natural and the supernatural. But it is less known that many wrote responses to him in his own day. This is an archive of those responses.
(TM): William Adams (1706?-1789) was a Fellow and Master of Pembroke College, Oxford, and a friend of the literary giant Samuel Johnson.
(TM):When David Hume first published his attack on the reasonableness of belief in miracles in his Philosophical Essays in 1748, the work provoked a great number of replies of varying quality. Adams's work, now inexplicably forgotten by most apologists and neglected by Hume scholars, is one of the earliest and ablest rejoinders to Hume's attack. Adams pursues Hume courteously (Hume is said to have remarked that Adams had treated him better than he deserved) but also relentlessly, reading him closely, criticizing his reasoning, and rebutting him point by point.
The 3rd edition of the work, linked here, contains a particularly good discussion of the alleged miracles at the tomb of the Abbé Paris to which Hume refers in the second part of "Of Miracles." Adams makes full and careful use of sources that Hume does not mention, distinctly refuting the key claims Hume makes regarding the affair.
An html version of this work is available here.
Evidences of the authenticity, inspiration, and canonical authority of the Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia: Presbyterian board of publication, [1836?] Extract on Hume.
Assembly's Missionary Magazine
Also known as General Assembly's Missionary Magazine, or Missionary Magazine; or, Evangelical intelligencer. Edited by William P. Farrand.
Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies at Baylor University. In 2008-09 he will serve on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame as the Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow in Notre Dame's Center for Ethics & Culture. Learn more about Beckwith here.
A Treatise on Logic; or, The laws of pure thought; comprising both the Aristotelic and Hamiltonian analyses of logical forms, and some chapters of applied logic. Second edition. Cambridge [Mass.] Sever and Francis, 1864. xv, 450 pp. diagrs. 20 cm.
Hume's celebrated argument against the credibility of miracles is a fallacy which results from losing sight of the distinction between Testimony and Authority, between Veracity and Competency. He argues, that it is contrary to all experience that a Law of Nature should be broken, but it is not contrary to experience that human testimony should be false; and therefore we ought to believe that any amount of Testimony is false, in preference to admitting the occurrence of a miracle, as this would be a violation of Law. We answer, that the miraculous character of an event is not a matter of Intuition, but of Inference; hence, it is not to be decided by Testimony, but by Reasoning from the probabilities of the case, the only question being whether, in view of all the circumstances, the Conclusion is competent that the occurrence was supernatural. The Testimony relates only to the happening of the event considered merely as an external phenomenon; the question respecting the nature of this event, whether it is, or is not, a violation of Physical Law, whether it is an effect of this or that Efficient Cause, cannot be determined by Intuition and Testimony, but is a matter for Judgment founded on Reasoning, in view of all the circumstances of the case. If doubtful of our own Competency to form a correct opinion on this point, we may defer to the Authority of another, who is familiar with the kind of Reasoning by which such questions are settled. Now we have abundant evidence from experience, that no event whatever, regarded simply as an external phenomenon, can be so strange and marvellous that sufficient Testimony will not convince us of the reality of its occurrence. To the contemporaries of our Saviour, not even bringing a dead man to life would have appeared so incredible as the transmission of a written message five thousand miles, without error, within a minute of time. Yet this feat has been accomplished by the Magnetic Telegraph. Why do we decide, then, that the raising of Lazarus was, and the transmission of intelligence by telegraph is not, a miracle? Evidently not by Intuition, but by reasoning from the very different circumstances of the two cases. The fact, that the eyes of the blind were opened, or a storm was reduced to a calm, or the dead were raised, is established by Intuition and Testimony, which have established many other facts quite as wonderful; the character of this fact, whether miraculous or not, is to be settled in a very different manner. We say, then, that Hume's argument, which is based exclusively upon an appeal to experience and Testimony, is totally inapplicable to the question respecting the credibility of a miracle. Testimony has nothing to do with the correct inference of a Conclusion from its Premises.
Brackenridge, H. H. (Hugh Henry)
American writer, lawyer, judge, and justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Editor, The United States Magazine, 1779.
Henry Edwin Dwight. The Life and Writings of Hon. Vincent L. Bradford, LL.D., D.C.L.: An Eminent lawyer, legislator and railroad president; compiled and edited by Henry E. Dwight. Philadelphia: Printed for private distribution, 1885. vi, 297 pp.: port.; 21 cm.
"A very careful view of the state of art and science in the old and new worlds, and especially throughout Christendom, since the close of the last century, up to the present day, will show vast and hitherto unequaled progress, while it exhibits the influence exerted by Christianity upon the pursuits of art and science. Those countries have made the greatest attainments which have most largely enjoyed the advantages of an open Bible, an evangelical ministry, Sunday-schools, Bible classes, institutions of Christian learning and benevolence, a free religious press, liberty of conscience, and other blessings bestowed by the gospel of Christ. If pseudo scientists and philosophers, who have arisen since the decay of the schools of Hume, Gibbon Voltaire, Rousseau, Paine, and the French Encyclopedists, to plague this century with specious infidelity un-der the names of "Socialism," "Natural Selectivism," "Evolutionism," "Potential Atomism," "Positivism, "Survivalism of the Fittest," "Materialism," "Rationalism," "Humanitarianism," and like "isms," such as Charles Darwin, Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Lange, Professor Huxley, Dr. Tyndall, Stuart Mill and their confreres, have rejuvenated from the antique theory of "Potential Matter," broached by old Democritus; the falsehoods they inculcate will perish before the influence of science enlightened and guided by Christian faith. In the light of such illumination, how flimsy is the sophistry which assails the miracles mentioned in the Old and New Testaments as proofs of their divine authenticity and inspiration! Those miracles are recommended to religious belief, not only by the intrinsic evidence of purity and truth afforded by the Holy Scriptures which narrate them, but also by their moral adaptation to the psychical, moral and intellectual organization of man, which aesthetically perceives and acknowledges their reality, appropriateness, invigorating, comforting and purifying power, and that they accord with an enlightened conscience. Religious faith in them cannot be disturbed by the shallow argument, that "a miracle is a deviation from the known laws of nature," and therefore incredible when such a proposition ignores the action of almighty power, having at its disposal infinite means, originating, necessarily controlling, and possibly modifying, for the purposes of moral government, known second causes or physical laws, and employing other physical resources of infinite variety and extent. Such presumptuous sophistry impiously attempts to frame out of a few isolated, partial and imperfectly observed facts, a system of lawand government for an infinite mind and for an infinite universe: " Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." If natural science does observe a manifestation of order, harmony, and continuity of action, in the material universe, which indicate the plan of a divine mind, as the tools lying scattered in and around a great workshop indicate an artificer, and if a rational necessity the dictate of the perception of the moral meaning of the mysteries which surround man postulates a divine mind establishing and maintaining general law; yet such an assumption has no logical bearing upon the special phenomena of miracles or the modes of their production.
A philosophical theory which denies the miracles of the Bible is certainly not in accordance with the inductive philosophy of the great Bacon, nor in harmony with his axiomatic saying that "the imperfect sciences lead away from God, and the perfect sciences lead back to him." Such sophistry is essentially atheistic, because in favor of second causes, termed by it "fixed laws," it is insensible to the moral government of an infinite, eternal, and almighty Supreme Being over an infinite universe of material and moral existence. What would have been the conclusions of the teachers of such false doctrine a few centuries ago concerning the now familiar wonders effected by the forces of electricity, galvanism,,magnetism, and caloric? It is also a doubtful philosophy which reverses the natural relations of science to religion, and asserts that because the idea of an infinite, eternal, almighty, omniscient, and omnipresent God cannot be fully comprehended by any finite intellect, therefore God is unknowable, and is not an object of belief or worship to man; and that what is termed humanitarianism, or the discharge of moral duty toward his fellow, is the only possible religion of man. Such teaching wholly disregards the capacities and aptitudes of the moral and religious organization of man; of his soul, spirit, and intellect, enlightened, purified, and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to know so much of God and his attributes as will satisfy, not his curiosity, but his moral and religious desires and wants, and bestow on him " a peace which passes all understanding." Such teaching also overlooks the fact that God and his attributes are sufficiently revealed, for all needful moral and religious uses and purposes, in the work of creation, in the dealings of daily providence, in the fulfilled prophecies of the Bible, and especially in the person of his Son, "God manifest in the flesh," "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself,"--the most perfect possible revelation of infinite "love," which is the essential nature of Jehovah. As a musical instrument responds to a master's touch, so does the human soul to the love of God in Christ, when communicated to it by the Holy Spirit.
Brougham, Henry / Brougham and Vaux, Henry Brougham, Baron
Lord Chancellor of England.
A Discourse of Natural Theology: Showing the nature of the evidence and the advantages of the study / by Henry Lord Brougham. London: Charles Knight, 1835. vii, 296 pp.
A founder of the Disciples of Christ or Churches of Christ.
Robert Owen (1771-1858) and Alexander Campbell. Debate on the evidences of Christianity: containing an examination of the social system and of all the systems of scepticism of ancient and modern times, held in the City of Cincinnati, between Robert Owen, of New Lanark, Scotland, and Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Virginia: with an appendix by the parties. London, R. Groombridge; ([Nottingham: T. Kirk, printer]) 1839. 546 pp.
(TM): George Campbell was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and professor and principal at Marischall College and a member of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, of which the noted Scottich philosopher Thomas Reid was also a member.
Read more about Campbell here.
A Dissertation on Miracles: containing an examination of the principles advanced by David Hume in an Essay on Miracles, with a correspondence on the subject by Mr. Hume, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Blair, now first published, to which are added Sermons and Tracts. The third edition, with additions and corrections. Edinburgh, 1797. Volume 1 of 2; 465 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 375 pp.
Section III. Mr Hume himself gives up his favourite argument.
'MR HUME himself,' methinks I hear my reader repeating with astonishment, 'gives up his favourite argument! To prove this point is indeed 'a very bold attempt.' Yet that this attempt is not altogether so arduous as, at first hearing, he will possibly imagine, I hope, if favoured a while with his attention, fully to convince him. If to acknowledge, after all, that there may be miracles, which admit of proof from human testimony; if to acknowledge, that such miracles ought to be received, not as probable only, but as absolutely certain; or, in other words, that the proof from human testimony may be such, as that all the contrary uniform experience should not only be overbalanced, but, to use the author's expression, should be annihilated; if such acknowledgments as these are subversive of his own principles; if, by making them, he abandons his darling argument; this strange part the essayist evidently acts.
'I own,' these are his words, 'there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit a proof from human testimony, though perhaps' (in this he is modest enough, he avers nothing; perhaps) 'it will be impossible to find any such in all the records'
of history.' To this declaration he subjoins the
following supposition: 'Suppose all authors, in all languages, agree, that, from the 1st of January 1600, there was a total darkness over the whole earth for eight days; suppose that the tradition of this extraordinary event is still strong and lively among the people; that all travellers, who returnfrom foreign countries, bring us accounts of the same tradition, without the least variation or contradiction: It is evident, that our present philosophers, instead of doubting of that feet, ought to receive it for certain, and ought to search for the causes whence it might be derived *.'
* Page 203. in the note.
Could one imagine that the person who had made the above acknowledgment, a person too who is justly allowed, by all who are acquainted with his writings, to possess uncommon penetration and philosophical abilities, that this were the same individual, who had so short while before affirmed, that 'a miracle,' or a violation of the usual course of nature,' supported by any human testimony, is more 'properly a subject of derision than of argument *;'
* Page 194.
who had insisted, that 'it is not requisite, in order to reject the fact, to be able accurately to disprove
the testimony, and to trace its falsehood; that such an
evidence carries falsehood on the very face of it *;'
* Page 194.
that 'we need but oppose, even to a cloud of witnesses, the absolute impossibility, or,' which is all one, 'miraculous nature of the events, which they relate; that this, in the eyes of all reasonable people, will alone be regarded as a sufficient refutation *;'
* Page 196, &c.
and who, finally to put an end to all altercation on the
subject, had pronounced this oracle. 'No TESTIMONY FOR ANY KIND OF MIRACLE CAN EVER POSSIBLY AMOUNT TO A PROBABILITY, MUCH LESS TO A PROOF *' Was there ever a
more glaring contradiction?
* Page 202. There is a small alteration made on this
sentence in the edition of the Essays in 1767, which is posterior to the 2d edition of this dissertation. See Preface,
YET for the event supposed by the essayist, the testimony, in his judgment, would amount to a probability ; nay, to more than a probability, to a proof; let not the reader be astonished, or if he cannot fail to be astonished, let him not be incredulous, when I add, to more than a proof, more than a full, entire, and direct proof; for even this I hope to make evident from the author's principles and
reasoning. 'And even supposing,' says he, that is, granting for argument's sake, 'that the testimony 'for a miracle amounted to a proof, it would be opposed by another proof, derived from the very nature of the fact, which it would endeavour to establish*.'
* Page 202.
Here is then, by his own reasoning, proof against proof, from which there could result no belief or opinion, unless the one is conceived to be in some degree superior to the other. 'Of which proofs,' says he, 'the strongest must prevail, but still with a diminution of its force, in proportion to that of its antagonist *.'
* Page 180.
Before the author could believe such a miracle as he supposes,
he must at least be satisfied that the proof of it from testimony is stronger than the proof against it from experience. That we may form an accurate judgment of the strength he here ascribes it to testimony, let us consider what, by his own account, is the strength of the opposite proof from experience. '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*
* Page 180.
Again, 'As an uniform experience amounts to a proof, there is here a direct and full proof, from the nature of the fact, against the existence of any miracle *.'
* Page 181.
The proof then which the essayist admits from testimony,
is, by his own estimate, not only superior to a direct
and full proof, but even superior to as entire a
proof as any argument from experience can possibly
be imagined. Whence, I pray, doth testimony acquire
such amazing evidence? 'Testimony,' says the author, 'hath no evidence, but what it derives 'from experience. These differ from each other only as the species from the genus.' Put then
for testimony, the word experience, which in this case is equivalent, and the conclusion will run thus:
Here is a proof from experience, which is superior
to as entire a proof from experience, as can
possibly lie imagined. This deduction from the
author's words, the reader will perceive, is strictly
logical. What the meaning of it is, I leave to Mr
Hume to explain.
(TM): Campbell's book is perhaps the best-known of the replies to Hume's attack on miracles to be issued in Hume's lifetime, and it is historically important since Campbell and Hume actually corresponded briefly, through a mutual friend, regarding a manuscript of Campbell's work.
While scholars have tended to stress Campbell's view of testimony as an autonomous source of knowledge, there is much else in the book worthy of at least as much notice, including a thorough discussion of Hume's attempt to draw a parallel between pagan and popular miracle accounts and the gospel miracles. (Part II, sections IV and V)
The works of Adams, Campbell, and John Douglas, taken together, provide a thorough response to Hume's essay; but it was Campbell to whom Hume was referring when he remarked to a friend that "the Scotch theologue" had beaten him. [See also here.]
Campbell was not only a theologian but also an authority on rhetoric, so it is no surprise that his Dissertation contains many memorable passages, such as this one from the Introduction (p. 12):
God has neither in natural nor in revealed religion left himself without witness; but has in both given moral and external evidence, sufficient to convince the impartial, to silence the gainsayer, and to render inexcusable the atheist and the unbeliever. This evidence it is our duty to attend to, and candidly to examine. We must prove all things, as we are expressly enjoined in holy writ, if we would ever hope to hold fast that which is good.
Mathematician and lecturer. Learn more about Chalmers here and here
Evidence and Authority of the Christian Revelation. 6th edition. Andover [Mass.]: Published and sold by Mark Newman, 1818. (Andover: Flagg & Gould). 172 pp.; 23 cm. Extracts of the first five chapters regarding testimony. Extract, Chapter 3, On the Internal Marks of Truth and Honesty to be Found in the New Testament.
"It will be a great satisfaction to the writer of the following pages, if any shall rise from the perusal of them, with a stronger determination than before to take his Christianity exclusively from his Bible. It is not enough to entitle a man to the name of a Christian, that he professes to believe the Bible to be a genuine communication from God. To be the disciple of any book, he must do something more than satisfy himself that its contents are true -- he must read the book -- he must obtain a knowledge of the contents. And how many are there in the world, who do not call the truth of the Bible message in question, while they suffer it to lie beside them unopened, unread, and unattended to."
A Selection from the works of William E. Channing, D. D. Boston, 1855. 477 pp. The Evidences of Revealed Religion. Discourse before the University in Cambridge, at the Dudleian Lecture, March 14, 1821.
This argument of Hume proves too much, and therefore proves nothing. It proves too much; for if I am to reject the strongest testimony to miracles, because testimony has often deceived me, whilst nature's order has never been found to fail, then I ought to reject a miracle, even if I should see it with my own eyes, and if all my senses should attest it; for all my senses have sometimes given false reports, whilst nature has never gone astray; and, therefore, be the circumstances ever so decisive or inconsistent with deception, still I must not believe what I see, and hear, and touch, what my senses, exercised according to the most deliberate judgment, declare to be true. All this the argument requires; and it proves too much; for disbelief, in the case supposed, is out of our power, and is instinctively pronounced absurd; and what is more, it would subvert that very order of nature on which the argument rests; for this order of nature is learned only by the exercise of my senses and judgment, and if these fail me, in the most unexceptionable circumstances, then their testimony to nature is of little worth.
Once more; this argument is built on an ignorance of the nature of testimony, and it is surprising, that this error has not been more strikingly exposed. Testimony, we are told, cannot prove a miracle. Now the truth is, that testimony, of itself and immediately, proves no fact whatever, not even the most common. Testimony can do nothing more than show us the state of another's mind in regard to a given fact. It can only show us, that the testifier has a belief, a conviction, that a certain phenomenon or event has occurred. Here testimony stops; and the reality of the event is to be judged altogether from the nature and degree of this conviction, and from the circumstances under which it exists. This conviction is an effect, which must have a cause, and needs to be explained; and if no cause can be found but the real occurrence of the event, then this occurrence is admitted as true. Such is the extent of testimony. Now a man, who affirms a miraculous phenomenon or event, may give us just as decisive proofs, by his character and conduct, of the strength and depth of his conviction, as if he were affirming a common occurrence. Testimony then does just as much in the case of miracles, as of common events; that is, it discloses to us the conviction of another's mind. Now this conviction in the case of miracles requires a cause, an explanation, as much as in every other; and if the circumstances be such, that it could not have sprung up and been established but by the reality of the alleged miracle, then that great and fundamental principle of human belief, namely, that every effect must have a cause, compels us to admit the miracle.
It maybe observed of Hume and of other philosophical opposers of our religion, that they are much more inclined to argue against miracles in general, than against the particular miracles, on which Christianity rests. And the reason is obvious. Miracles, when considered in a general, abstract manner, that is, when divested of all circumstances, and supposed to occur as disconnected facts, to stand alone in history, to have no explanations or reasons in preceding events, and no influence on those which follow, are indeed open to great objection, as wanton and useless violations of nature's order; and it is accordingly against miracles, considered in this naked, general form, that the arguments of infidelity are chiefly urged. But it is great disingenuity to class under this head the miracles of Christianity. They are palpably different. They do not stand alone in history; but are most intimately incorporated with it. They were demanded by the state of the world which preceded them, and they have left deep traces on all subsequent ages. In fact, the history of the whole civilized world, since their alleged occurrence, has been swayed and coloured by them, and is wholly inexplicable without them. Now such miracles are not to be met and disposed of by general reasonings, which apply only to insulated, unimportant, uninfluential prodigies. . .
The Christian Observer ... was founded at the Presbyterian publishing center of Philadelphia in 1813 as the Religious Remembrancer, "A Presbyterian Family Newspaper." Among its variety of religious articles were biographical sketches, revivals of religion, theological essays, missionary information, discourses on the preciousness of Christ and the denying of Christ, and essays on bible verses. The paper changed names several times, and in 1869 joined with the Free Christian Commonwealth in Louisville, Kentucky. Several of its contemporaries were swallowed up by its growth. In the early 1900's it was still a leading Presbyterian paper and contained stories and anecdotes, articles on such topics as "The Alcoholic problem," "Practical Suggestions for Church Work," "Saving Faith," "The Anti-opium Campaign in China," "Work Among the Negroes," and "The Pioneer Woman Physician." Cf. American Periodicals, 1741-1900.
Published in London, England. Conducted by members of the established Church of England. Merged with: Christian advocate and review to form: Christian observer and advocate.
C. E. P.On LaPlace's Algebraical Argument Against Miracles. From The Christian Observer, London edition, October 1838, pp. 617-620. This essay is referenced by Harvard law professor Simon Greenleaf in Testimony of the Evangelists. Editor's note: "There is an able reply to Hume's argument in Dr. Chalmers's Evidences of Christianity, lately reprinted in the third volume of his collected works. It contains some points not included in the reasonings of Campbell, Paley, &c. Mr. Babbage also, in what he calls The Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, has adduced some very striking mathematical arguments to demonstrate that testimony is adequate to the proof of miracles; and that the largest induction which can be made, is not sufficient to shew that a deviation from what are considered the laws of nature may not take place, as in the case of the scriptural miracles of raising the dead to life, however improbable such an event antecedently appeared."
Extract includes Preface by editor and essay by U. U. S., "On the Credulity of Some Religious Persons," pp. 620-621.
Craig, William Lane
American philosopher, theologian, New Testament historian, and Christian apologist. Read about Craig here and here.
Professor in the History and Philosophy of Science department at the University of Pittsburgh. Learn about Earman here.
Hume's Abject Failure: The Argument against Miracles -- Review by John Warwick Montgomery:
"Introductory philosophy courses in college or university invariably include Hume's argument against miracles in the philosophy of religion unit to convince students that one cannot use evidence of miracles (such as the resurrection of Christ) to argue for metaphysical truths. Of course, Hume's argument SHOULD be included in the course--but in the LOGIC section as an archetypal piece of bad reasoning. Finally, a professional philosopher--who is by no means a Christian believer--has done a thoroughgoing scholarly critique of Hume's argument, showing beyond all question that the argument is perfectly circular: Hume, with a pre-Einsteinian, 18th century mindset, assumes that 'uniform experience' exists against miracles and concludes--surprise, surprise--that no evidence can ever be effectively marshalled to prove that a miracle has really occurred. This book should be read by every naive philosophical rationalist. It will open epistemological doors to a new appreciation of the potential of miracle arguments as a prime support to claims for a genuine, historical incarnation."
Intellectual principles: or, Elements of mental science: intuitions-thoughts-beliefs. London: James Clarke and Co., 1884. 275 pp.
The celebrated argument of Hume against Miracles—that they are contrary to Experience, while the untruth of Testimony is not—contains several fallacies. There is over-statement on one side, and understatement on the other. Miracles are referred to without any regard to their character and purpose; and Testimony, without any consideration of its nature and circumstances. This cannot be right. The improbability of the Christian miracles is not greater than arises from the assumed absence, not in all ages of the globe, but in the previous ages of human history, of such signs of a Divine mission; and this is very much less than the improbability of a useless deviation from the course of Nature. The improbability of the Christian Testimony being untrue is, not that of any testimony being untrue, but of such testimony being untrue, from such persons, in such circumstances; and that not in one case, but in many, men living and dying for the truth. The assumed impossibility of Miracles has no support from Experience. They are not to be regarded as violations or suspensions of the laws of Nature, nor as effects without adequate causes; but as superhuman works attesting and promoting a Divine mission. Their reality must depend on the only evidence by which past events can be known—the testimony of contemporaries, and the continuance of effects in no other way to be accounted for. It is not contrary to Experience, that lower lessons should be followed by higher, that preparation should lead on to completion, that extraordinary power should accompany extraordinary wisdom and goodness. But it is contrary to Experience, that such men as the writers of the New Testament should be false witnesses; that such writings should be the fruit of personal or popular enthusiasm; that the benefits which Christianity has given to the world should come from folly or fraud. If the being of God be denied, the reality of miracles may well be doubted; but they who believe that there is one Supreme, above all in power, wisdom, and goodness, cannot think it impossible, but rather probable, that in addition to all natural means of instruction something more should be done, to give men the knowledge and help they most need; and to deliver them from the darkness and degradation, the wretchedness and wickedness of their common state of ignorance and superstition.
Royall Professor of Law, Harvard University, 1834. Doctor of Laws degree by Harvard in 1834, Doctor of Laws by Amherst in 1845, and again from the University of Alabama in 1852. H. W. Howard Knott, Dictionary of American Biography: "While engaged in tutorial work he prepared what was originally intended as a text-book on evidence, published in 1842 as A Treatise on the Law of Evidence. The profession at once hailed it as the ablest extant work on the subject, distinguished alike for its deep learning, clarity of style, and practical utility. He added a second volume in 1846, and a third in 1853. In its completed form it came to be regarded as the foremost American authority, and passed through numerous editions under successive editors." Learn more about Greenleaf here.
Mr. Hume's reasoning is founded upon too limited a view of the laws and course of nature. If we consider things duly, we shall find that lifeless matter is utterly incapable of obeying any laws, or of being endued with any powers; and, therefore, what is usually called the course of nature can be nothing else than the arbitrary will and pleasure of God, acting continually upon matter, according to certain rules of uniformity, still bearing a relation to contingencies. So that it is as easy for the Supreme Being to alter what men think the course of nature as to preserve it. Those effects which are produced in the world regularly and indesinently, and which are usually termed the works of nature, prove the constant providence of the Deity; those, on the contrary, which, upon any extraordinary occasion, are produced in such a manner as it is manifest could not have been either by human power, or by what is called chance, prove undeniably the immediate interposition of the Deity on that special occasion. God, it must be recollect, is the governor of the moral as well as of the physical world; and since the moral well-being of the universe is of more consequence than its physical order and regularity, it follows, obviously, that the laws, conformably with which the material world seems generally to be regulated, are subservient, and may occasionally yield to the laws by which the moral world is governed. Although, therefore, a miracle is contrary to the usual course of nature (and would indeed lose its beneficial effect if it were not so), it cannot thence be inferred that it is 'a violation of the laws of nature,' allowing the term to include a regard to moral tendencies. The laws by which a wise and holy God governs the world cannot, unless he is pleased to reveal them, be learnt in any other way than from testimony; since, on this supposition, nothing but testimony can bring us acquainted with the whole series of his dispensations, and this kind of knowledge is absolutely necessary previously to our correctly inferring those laws. Testimony, therefore, must be admitted as constituting the principal means of discovering the real laws by which the universe has been regulated; that testimony assure us that the apparent course of nature has often bee interrupted to produce important moral effects; and we must not at random disregard such testimony, because, in estimating its credibility, we ought to look almost infinitely more at the moral than at the physical circumstances connected with any particular event."
*This argument is pursued to a considerable extent by Professor Vince, in his Sermons on the Credibility of Miracles, preached before the University of Cambridge.
18th-century Scottish philosopher, economist, and historian.
Essays and treatises on several subjects. In two volumes. By David Hume, Esq. A new edition. London, 1768. 582 pp. Vol. 1 of 2. Of National Characters.
"I am apt to suspect the negroes, and in general all the other species of men (for there are four or five different kinds) to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was a civilized nation of any other complexion then white, nor even any individual eminent either in action or speculation. No ingenious manufactures amongst them, no arts, no sciences."
See Philosophical Dictionary by Swediaur for response.
Three essays, moral and political. Never before published. Which compleats the former edition, in two volumes, octavo. London, 1748. 62 pp. Includes "Of National Characters."
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. "I beg the limitations here made may be remarked, when I say, that a miracle can never be proved, so as to be the foundation of a system of religion. For I own, that otherwise, there may possibly be miracles, or violations of the usual course of nature, of such a kind as to admit of proof from human testimony; though, perhaps, it will be impossible to find any such in all the records of history."
Hume, holism, and miracles. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999. 106 pp.; 24 cm. Contents: Promissory note -- 'Miracle', 'Violation', 'Law of nature' -- Hume's own argument -- Hume's argument as reconstructed by J.L. Mackie -- Hume's argument as reconstructed by John Stuart Mill -- Hume's argument as reconstructed by Antony Flew -- Hume's argument as reconstructed by Jordan Howard Sobel -- Repetitions -- Hume's teasing ambiguity -- Closing remarks.
Abstract: "David Johnson seeks to overthrow one of the widely accepted tenets of Anglo-American philosophy - that of the success of the Humean case against the rational credibility of reports of miracles. In a manner unattempted in any other single work, he meticulously examines all the main variants of Humean reasoning on the topic of miracles: Hume's own argument and its reconstructions by John Stuart Mill, J. L. Mackie, Antony Flew, Jordan Howard Sobel, and others."
(TM): John Leland, an English dissenting (Presbyterian) minister who settled in Dublin, well deserves Hunt's description as “the indefatigable opponent of the whole generation of the deists.” Near the end of his life he began writing a series of letters to a friend regarding the history of the controversy, and the result was this massive work, the only tolerably complete contemporary survey of the vast literature on both sides. Read more about Leland here
A View of the principal deistical writers that have appeared in England in the last and present century: with observations upon them, and some account of the answers that have been published against them; in several letters to a friend. The Fifth edition. London: Printed by W. Richardson and S. Clark, for R. and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, and T. Longman in Pater-oster-Row. 1766. Volume 1 of 2. 443 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 463 pp.
A View of the principal deistical writers that have appeared in England in the last and present century: with observations upon them, and some account of the answers that have been published against them; in several letters to a friend. London: Published by W. Baynes, Bookseller, 54, Paternoster Row, 1808. Volume 1 of 2. 508 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 508 pp.
(TM): The casual origin of Leland's View still shows in the disproportionate space given to the work of Lord Bolingbroke, who is no longer considered to be a major figure. But as Leland's survey runs to over 900 pages, there is no lack of material on other deists such as Blount, Toland, Collins, Morgan, Tindal, Annet, Chubb, and Hume, in each case citing copiously from the responses given to them. Students of the history of apologetics will want to supplement their reading of Leland with other works, such as the second volume of John Hunt's Religious Thought in England and Sir Leslie Stephen's unsympathetic but extensive discussion of the deist controversy in his History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century. But no one interested in 18th century apologetics can afford to be without Leland's work.
The View is of much more than merely historical value; because it gives a minute account of numerous responses to the deists, it contains a comprehensive defense of Christianity against all of the objections that its most determined adversaries in the Enlightenment could raise. Leland's own summary of the controversy shows that he understood both the magnitude of the issues and the nature of the achievement of the defenders of Christianity:
They [the deists] have appealed to the bar of reason; the advocates for Christianity have followed them to that bar, and have fairly shewn, that the evidences of revealed religion are such as approve themselves to impartial reason, and, if taken together, are fully sufficient to satisfy an honest and unprejudiced mind. (Letter 35)
Miracles. HarperCollins Publishers
February 2001. 304 pp. Buy this book here.
"All the essentials of Hinduism would, I think, remain unimpaired if you subtracted the miraculous, and the same is almost true of Mohammedanism. But you cannot do that with Christianity. It is precisely the story of a great Miracle. A naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically Christian."
... "Now of course we must agree with Hume that, if there is absolutely "uniform experience" against miracles, if, in other words, they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately, we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports of them to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle."
A Course of Lectures, containing a description and systematic arrangement of the several branches of divinity accompanied with an account of the progress, which has been made at different periods in theological learning by Herbert Marsh. Part 6. On the Credibility of the New Testament. Cambridge: J. Smith, 1822. 104 pp.
Science, Doubt, and Miracles.
"The analogy suggests that Hume has started with the wrong notion of natural laws. The laws of nature are not properly defined as exceptionless regularities. Rather, they are our best attempt to say what nature will always do when left to itself. The vast body of observational and experimental evidence that provides support for our beliefs about the laws of nature has been collected from cases where, as Christians and skeptics agree, God has not been intervening to bring about something that nature itself cannot do. What would happen if He chose to do so is another matter entirely. The question, then, is not, 'How probable (or improbable) is it that we are wrong about the laws of nature?' Rather, it is, 'How probable (or improbable) is it that, in this instance, God has reached into His creation to do something that nature alone could not?'"
A miracle, seen from this point of view, is not an exception to the exceptionless; it is, instead, an occasion when nature is not left to itself. Should it be surprising that we would experience something completely unprecedented when God reaches into the order of nature? Or to put the question in the words of the apostle Paul, 'Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?' (Acts 26:8)"
World-class Christian apologist, philosopher and legal expert. John Warwick Montgomery is Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Christian Thought, Patrick Henry College (Virginia); and Emeritus Professor of Law and Humanities at the University of Luton (England). Professor Montgomery holds ten earned degrees, including the LL.B.; LL.M. from Cardiff University, Wales; the A.B. with distinction in Philosophy (Cornell University; Phi Beta Kappa); B.L.S. and M.A. (University of California at Berkeley); B.D. and S.T.M. (Wittenburg University, Springfield, Ohio); M. Phil. in Law (University of Essex, England); Ph.D. (Univeristy of Chicago), and the Doctorat d'Université from Strasbourg, France. He told Contemporary Authors, "My world-view was hammered out at university; there I became a Christian. . . . Like the late C. S. Lewis (one of my greatest heroes), I was literally dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom by the weight of evidence for Christian truth."
Visit The John Warwick Montgomery website and read more about Montgomery here.
A View of the Evidences of Christianity. The seventh edition. In two volumes. London: printed by J. Davis; for R. Faulder, 1800. Volume 1, 397 pp.; Volume 2. Text-searchable edition found here at CCEL. (TM): Paley's Evidences is one of the very best summaries of the historical case for Christianity, making good use of the work of his great predecessors Lardner and Douglas. In Part I, which is the heart of the book, Paley sets out to establish two propositions:
1. That there is satisfactory evidence that many professing to be original witnesses of the Christian miracles passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings, voluntarily undergone in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and solely in consequence of their belief of those accounts; and that they also submitted, from the same motives, to new rules of conduct, and
2. That there is not satisfactory evidence that persons professing to be original witnesses of other miracles, in their nature as certain as these are, have ever acted in the same manner, in attestation of the accounts which they delivered, and properly in consequence of their belief of those accounts.
In Part II he considers auxiliary evidences such as prophecy, the character of Christ, and the propagation of Christianity. In Part III he considers some popular objections to Christianity.
Olinthus Gregory, Letters on the Evidences, Doctrines, and Duties, of the Christian Religion, London, 1836, p. 99: ... "I must briefly advert to the cogent arguments so ably advanced by the late venerable Dr. Paley, drawn from the numerous obviously undesigned coincidences, mutually subsisting between the several Epistles of St. Paul, and the History of the Acts of the Apostles: these coincidences are so little seen by common observers, that it is impossible to suppose them the effect of forgery: an examination of them is sufficient to prove that neither the history was forged to square with the letters, nor the letters to accord with the history: that they are too numerous and close to be accounted for by the accidental, or by the designed, concurrences of fiction, or in any other way than by the uniformity of the tendency of truth to one point.*
*"For a full development and application of this train of argumentation, see Dr. Paley's admirable work, entitled, Horæ Paulinæ . This book has now been published thirty years, during all which period, though many of the Infidel host have 'gnashed their teeth' at it in private, not one has attempted to refute it."
Jeremiah Joyce (1763-1816). Disclaimer: Joyce was a Unitarian minister. An Analysis of Paley's View of the evidences of Christianity. Cambridge [Eng.]: Printed by B. Flower; for W.H. Lunn, 1795. 90 pp.; 21 cm.
ADVERTISEMENT: "In drawing up the following Analysis, the Editor had no other object in view, than to obtain a more general discussion of this most important of all questions -- Is Christianity true? For the event of the inquiry he is under no apprehension. -- The extensive and accurate view which Dr. Paley has taken of its evidences, merits the applause of every friend to revelation, and, it is hoped, will be the means of exciting that degree of attention, among the friends to freedom of inquiry, which the subject seems to demand.
"The very able account given of Dr. Paley's work in the Analytical Review, the Editor of this pamphlet had never heard of, till after he had finished his own Analysis. He has compared them, and, in consequence, has altered a few passages.
April 20, 1795."
Paley, William. Natural theology, or, Evidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity: collected from the appearances of nature, with illustrative notes by Henry, Lord Brougham and Sir C. Bell, and an introductory discourse of natural theology by Lord Brougham. To which are added supplementary dissertations and a treatise on animal mechanics by Sir Charles Bell. With numerous woodcuts. London: C. Knight, 1845. 4 volumes illus. Volume 1 of 4. Volume 2 of 4. Volume 3 of 4. Volume 4 of 4.
Palfrey, John Gorham
Lowell Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity. Boston: James Munroe, 1843. Volume 2 of 2; 25 cm. On Hume and Gibbon -- Extract on miracles.
Welsh moral and political philosopher. D.D. L.L.D. and fellow of the Royal Society of London, and of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in New-England. Learn about Price here.
The History and Philosophy of Judaism; or, A Critical and philosophical analysis of the Jewish religion. From which is offered a vindication of its genius, origin, and authority, and of the connection with the Christian, against the objections and misrepresentations of modern infidels. Edinburgh, Printed for C. Elliot [etc.] 1787. 388 pp. 22 cm.
(TM): Thomas Sherlock was an Anglican Bishop whose apologetic writings, in the tradition of John Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, focus on the evidence for miracles and the use and intent of prophecy.
Learn more about Sherlock here and here
The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection of Jesus. Not only Mr. Woolston's objections in his sixth discourse on our Saviour's miracles, but those also which he and others have published in other books, are here considered. First published about the year 1729. Edinburgh: printed by J. Robertson. For W. Gray, 1769. 116 pp.; 12^(0) 1729 edition available here. HTML version available here.
(TM): The Trial of the Witnesses of the Resurrection is a charming response to the deist Thomas Woolston, who had attacked the Christian miracles in six pamphlets published in 1727-8. The question at issue is whether the original witnesses of the resurrection were deceivers, and Sherlock frames work as a discussion among some lawyers who find themselves on opposite sides of the question. They decide to have it determined by a mock trial complete with a jury in which the skeptical arguments of Woolston, Anthony Collins, and Matthew Tindal are vigorously advanced by the counsel for the prosecution and rebutted by the counsel for the defense.
The Trial was wildly popular and went through nearly a dozen printings in its first year. The edition linked here also contains Sherlock's Sequel to the Trial of the Witnesses, a valuable work in its own right, written in response to an attack on the Trial by Peter Annet. The mode of argument adopted in the Trial has been an influence on many subsequent apologetic writers, and it has been conjectured that Hume had the Trial in view when he published his famous attack on the rationality of belief in miracles in 1748.
Charles Moss. The Sequel to The Tryal of the witnesses: wherein the evidence of the resurrection is cleared. In answer to a pamphlet, intitled, The Resurrection of Jesus considered by a moral philosopher. The third edition. London, Printed for J. Whiston and B. White, in Fleet-Street, 1757. 167 pp. Note(s): First published in 1744 under title: The evidence of the resurrection cleared from the exceptions of a late pamphlet, entitled, The resurrection of Jesus considered by a Moral philosopher, in answer to The tryal of witnesses.
Use and Intent of Prophecy, in the several ages of the world. In six discourses, delivered at the Temple-Church, in April and May, 1724. To which are added, four dissertations. The third edition, corrected and enlarged. By Tho. Sherlock, London, 1732. 337 pp.
Deism revealed; Or, the attack on Christianity candidly reviewed in its real merits, as they stand in the celebrated writings of Lord Herbert. London, 1751. Volume 1 of 2. 321 pp. Volume 2 of 2. 322 pp.
Christianity against Infidelity: or, the truth of the gospel history; embracing a preliminary argument for the existence of God, and the reasonableness and necessity of a revelation; and a review of sceptical philosophy. New edition, revised and enlarged. Cincinnati: J.A. Gurley, 1849. xi, 425 pp.; 19 cm.
Vol. 1, no. 1 (July/Aug. 1795)-v. 3, no. 6 (Dec. 1798/Jan.-Feb. 1799) [S.l. : s.n.], 1796-1799 ; (New York : Printed by T. & J. Swords, for Cornelius Davis)
The Credibility of Christianity Vindicated: in answer to Mr. Hume; in two discourses preached before the University of Cambridge. To which are added notes and remarks upon Mr. Hume's principles and reasoning.
2nd ed., corrected. Cambridge: Printed by R. Watts, 1809. 78 pp.; 22 cm.
Bishop of Gloucester and religious controversialist.
Scottish Presbyterian clergyman and writer. Slavery abolitionist. Read about Wardlaw here.
On Miracles. Edinburgh: A. Fullarton, 1852. 318 pp.; 19 cm.
Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. Expert in logic and rhetoric. Read more about Whately here. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 edition: "While he was at St Alban Hall (1826) the work appeared which is perhaps most closely associated with his name - his treatise on Logic, originally contributed to the Encyclopaedia Metropolitana, in which he raised the study of the subject to a new level. It gave a great impetus to the study of logic throughout Great Britain."
The Christian duty of educating the poor. A Discourse / delivered in St. Patrick's Cathedral, 24th November, 1844, in behalf of the National School of Clondalkin. Dublin: W. Curry, Jun., and Co., 1845. 31 pp.
Essays on Some of the Peculiarities of the Christian religion. Oxford: Printed by W. Baxter, for John Murray, London, 1825. , vi-xvi, 285 pp. Contents: On a future state.--On the declaration of God in his Son.--On love towards Christ as a motive to obedience.--On the practical character of revelation.--On the example of children as proposed to Christians. Also here.
Historic Doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte. 9th edition, revised and enlarged. London: J. W. Parker, 1849. 62 pp. Also here. HTML version here. (TM): In this delightful spoof, published while Napoleon was still alive, Whately turns Hume's skeptical doubts regarding miracles against reports of the career of Napoleon--with devastating results. In the Preface to the edition linked here, Whately gleefully reports that some readers took this spoof to be seriously recommending universal skepticism. The real point, of course, is that Hume's extreme skepticism, consistently applied, leads to absurd results.
Historic doubts relative to Napoleon Buonaparte. Extract. Introductory background remarks by James Kiefer. In 1819 (while Napoleon was a prisoner on St. Helena, and two years before Napoleon's death), Richard Whately, then teaching at Oxford, published a short work called Historic Doubts Relative To Napoleon Buonaparte. In it, he applied the methods of Hume and others to show that Hume's arguments undermined considerably more than just the case for miracles and other aspects of Christian belief.
The Evidences of Christianity: stated in a popular and practical manner, in a course of lectures, delivered in the Parish Church of St. Mary, Islington. London: George Wilson, 1828. 2 vol.; 23 cm. Volume 1 of 2. Volume 2 of 2. 1832 edition, Volume 1 of 2.
Reverend. Read more about Witherspoon here and here and here.
The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Man. A Sermon, preached at Princeton, on the 17th of May, 1776. To which is added, an address to the natives of Scotland, residing in America. By John Witherspoon. The second edition, with elucidating remarks. [Glasgow]: Philadelphia, printed: Glasgow re-printed; sold by the booksellers in town and country, 1777. 54 pp.; 80.
The Absolute Necessity of Salvation through Christ. A Sermon, preached before the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, in the High Church of Edinburgh, on Monday, January 2. 1758. By John Witherspoon. To which is subjoined a short account of the present state of the Society. Edinburgh: printed for W. Miller, 1758. , 90 pp.
Ecclesiastical characteristics: or, The Arcana of church policy Being an humble attempt, to open the mystery of moderation. Wherein is shewn, a plain and easy way of attaining to the character of a moderate man, as at present in repute in the Church of Scotland. [Philadelphia]: London: Printed, Philadelphia: Re-printed, by William and Thomas Bradford, at the London Coffee-House. The 7th edition. Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, 1767. 60 pp.; 21 cm. (8vo)
Christian Magnaminity; A Sermon, preached at Princeton, September, 1775--the Sabbath preceeding the annual commencement; and again with additions, September 23, 1787. To which is added, an address to the senior class, who were to receive the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Princeton [N.J.] : Printed by James Tod., United States; New Jersey; Princeton, 1787. iv, 44 pp.; 21 cm. (8vo)
Part 1 and Part 2.
The Works of the Rev. John Witherspoon, D.D. L.L.D. late president of the college, at Princeton New-Jersey. To which is prefixed an account of the author's life, in a sermon occasioned by his death, by the Rev. Dr. John Rodgers, of New York: In three volumes. Vol. I[-III] Philadelphia: Printed and published by William W. Woodward, no. 17, Chesnut near Front Street, 1800. 3 volumes; 22 cm. (8vo). Volume 1. Volume 2. Volume 3. Extract from 2nd edition, 1802, Volume 4. On the Georgia Constitution.
With John M. Mason. On liberality in religion : Taken from the Christian's magazine, edited by the Rev. Dr. Mason of New York; together with An inquiry into the Scripture meaning of charity. Portland, [Me.]: A. Lyman, J. M'Kown). Maine; Portland, 1811. 40 pp.