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Idea of the Author," said Fichte,* "is almost unknown in our age, and something most unworthy usurps its name. This is the peculiar disgrace of the age—the true source of all its other scientific evils. The inglorious has become glorious, and is encouraged, honoured. and rewarded. According to the almost universally received opinion, it is a merit and an honour for a man to have printed something' merely because he has printed it, and without any regard to what it is which he has printed and what may be its result. They, too, lay claim to the highest rank in the republic of letters who announce the fact that somebody has printed something, and what that something is; or, as the phrase goes, who review the work of others. It is almost inexplicable how such an absurd opinion could have arisen."
Inexplicable indeed—except through the revelation which later years have afforded us of the odd results of an over-dose of that perilous specific, commercial individualism! The literature of the Socialised community of the future will surpass that of the present era of unlimited competition by so much as union is stronger than discord, love nobler than hate, and the natural sense of perfect equality with one's fellow creatures a truer and more vital wisdom than the academic culture of oneself.
H. S. SALT.
BY DE QUINCEY.
(AT else is the laying of such a stress on miracles but the
case of “a wicked and adulterous generation asking a sign”?
But what are these miracles for ? To prove a legislation from God. But, first, this could not be proved, even if miracle-working were the test of Divine mission, by doing miracles until we knew whether the power were genuine ; i.e., not, like the magicians of Pharaoh or the witch of Endor, from below. Secondly, you are a poor, pitiful creature, that think the power to do miracles, or power of any kind that can exhibit itself in an act, the note of a god-like commission. Better is one ray of truth (not seen previously by man), of moral truth, e.g., forgiveness of enemies, than all the powers which could create the world.
“Oh yes !” says the objector ; "but Christ was holy as a man." This we know first; then we judge by His power that He must have been from God. But if it were doubtful whether His power were from God then, until this doubt is otherwise, is independently removed, you cannot decide if He was holy by a test of holiness absolutely irrelevant. With other holiness-apparent holiness—a simulation might be combined. You can never tell that a man is holy; and for the plain reason that God only can read the heart.
“ Let Him come down from the cross, and we,” &c. Yes; they fancied so. But see what would really have followed. They would have been stunned and confounded for the moment, but not at all converted in heart. Their hatred to Christ was not built on their unbelief, but their unbelief in Christ was built on their hatred ; and this hatred would not have been mitigated by another (however astounding) miracle. This I wrote (Monday morning, June 7th, 1847) in reference to my saying on the general question of miracles : Why these dubious miracles ?—such as curing blindness that may have been cured by a process ?—since the unity given to the act of healing is probably (more probably than otherwise) but the figurative unity of the tendency to mythus; or else it is that unity misapprehended and mistranslated by the reporters. Such, again, as the miracles of the loaves-so liable to be utterly gossip, so incapable of being watched or examined amongst a crowd of 7,000 people. Besides, were these people mad? The very fact which is said to have drawn Christ's pity, viz., their situation in the desert, surely could not have escaped their own attention on going thither. Think of 7,000 people rushing to a sort of destruction ; for if less than that the mere inconvenience was not worthy of Divine attention. Now, said I, why not give us (if miracles are required) one that nobody could doubt-removing a mountain, e.g.? Yes; but here the other party begin to see the evil of miracles. Oh, this would have cocrced people into believing! Rest you safe as to that. It would have been no believing in any proper sense: it would, at the utmostand supposing no vital demur to popular miracle—have led people into that belief which Christ Himself describes and regrets) as calling Him Lord ! Lord ! The pretended belief would have left them just where they were as to any real belief in Christ. Previously, however, or over and above all this, there would be the demur (let the miracle have been what it might) of, By what power, by whose agency or help? For if Christ does a miracle, probably He may do it by alliance with some Z standing behind, out of sight. Or if by His own skill, how or whence derived, or of what nature ? This obstinately recurrent question remains.
There is not the meanest court in Christendom or Islam that would not say, if called on to adjudicate the rights of an estate on such evidence as the mere facts of the Gospel : "O good God, how can we do this ? Which of us knows who this Matthew waswhether he ever lived, or, if so, whether he ever wrote a line of all this ? or, if he did, how situated as to motives, as to means of information, as to judgment and discrimination ? Who knows anything of the contrivances or the various personal interests in which the whole narrative originated, or when ? All is dark and dusty.” Nothing in such a case can be proved but what shines by its own light. Nay, God Himself could not attest a miracle, but (listen to this !)-but by the internal revelation or visiting of the Spirit —to evade which, to dispense .with which, a miracle is ever resorted to.
Besides the objection to miracles that they are not capable of attestation, Hume's objection is not that they are false, but that they are incommunicable. Two different duties arise for the man who witnesses a miracle and for him who receives it traditionally. The duty of the first is to confide in his own experience, which may, besides, have been repeated ; of the second, to confide in his understanding, which says : "Less marvel that the reporter should have erred than that nature should have been violated.”
How clearly do these people betray their own hypocrisy about the divinity of Christianity, and at the same time the meanness of their own natures, who think the Messiah, or God's Messenger, must first prove His own commission by an act of power ; whereas (1) a new revelation of moral forces could not be invented by all generations, and (2) an act of power much more probably argues an alliance with the devil. I should gloomily suspect a man who came forward as a magician.
Suppose the Gospels written thirty years after the events, and by ignorant, superstitious men who have adopted the fables that old women had surrounded Christ with—how does this supposition vitiate the report of Christ's parables ? But, on the other hand, they could no more have invented the parables than a man alleging a diamond-mine could invent a diamond as attestation. The parables prove themselves.
II.-WHY THE PAGANS COULD NOT INVEST THEIR GODS
WITH ANY IOTA OF GRANDEUR.
T is not for us so idle a purpose as that of showing the Pagan
backsliding—that is too evident—but for a far subtler purpose, and one which no man has touched, viz., the incapacity of creating grandeur for the Pagans, even with carte blanche in their favour, that I write this paper. Nothing is more incomprehensible than the following fact-nothing than this when mastered and understood is more thoroughly instructive--the fact that having a wide, a limitless field open before them, free to give and to take away at their own pleasure, the Pagans could not invest their Gods with any iota of grandeur. Diana, when you translate her into the Moon, then indeed partakes in all the natural grandeur of a planet, associated with a dreamy light, with forests, forest lawns, &c., or the wild accidents of a Huntress. But the Moon and the Huntress are surely not the creations of Pagans, nor indebted to them for anything but the murderous depluming which Pagan mythology has operated upon all that is in earth or in the waters that are under the earth. Now, why could not the ancients raise one little scintillating glory in behalf of their monstrous deities ? So far from raising a glory round Jupiter-he is sometimes made the ground of nature (not, observe, for any positive reason that they had for any relation that Jupiter had to creation, but simply for the negative reason that they had nobody else)-never does Jupiter seem more disgusting than when as just now in a translation of the Batrachia I read that Jupiter had given to frogs an amphibious nature, making the awful, ancient, first-born secrets of chaos to be his, and thus forcing into contrast and remembrance his odious personality.
Why, why, why could not the Romans, &c., make a grandeur for their gods ? Not being able to make them grand, they daubed them with finery. All that people imagine in the Jupiter Olympus of Phidias—they themselves conser. But an apostle is beyond their reach. When, be it well observed, the cruel and dark religions are far more successful than those of Greece and Rome, for Osiris, &c., by the might of the devil, of darkness, are truly terrific. Cybele