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Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
being existed who saw it.  The counterpart of this whole scene was wanting—­the understanding mind; that mirror in which the whole was to be reflected; and when this arose it was a new birth for creation itself, that it became known,—­an image in the mind of a conscious being.  But even consciousness and knowledge were a less strange and miraculous introduction into the world than conscience.
Thus wholly mysterious in his entrance into this scene, man is now an insulation in it; he came in by no physical law, and his freewill is in utter contrast to that law.  What can be more incomprehensible, more heterogeneous, a more ghostly resident in nature, than the sense of right and wrong?  What is it?  Whence is it?  The obligation of man to sacrifice himself for right is a truth which springs out of an abyss, the mere attempt to look down into which confuses the reason.  Such is the juxtaposition of mysterious and physical contents in the same system.  Man is alone, then, in nature:  he alone of all the creatures communes with a Being out of nature; and he divides himself from all other physical life by prophesying, in the face of universal visible decay, his own immortality.

And till this anomaly has been removed—­that is, till the last trace of what is moral in man has disappeared under the analysis of science, and what ought to be is resolved into a mere aspect of what is, this deep exception to the dominion of physical law remains as prominent and undeniable as physical law itself.

It is, indeed, avowed by those who reduce man in nature, that upon the admission of free-will, the objection to the miraculous is over, and that it is absurd to allow exception to law in man, and reject it in nature.

But the broad, popular sense of natural order, and the instinctive and common repugnance to a palpable violation of it, have been forged and refined into the philosophical objection to miracles.  Two great thinkers of past generations, two of the keenest and clearest intellects which have appeared since the Reformation, laid the foundations of it long ago.  Spinoza urged the uselessness of miracles, and Hume their incredibility, with a guarded subtlety and longsighted refinement of statement which made them in advance of their age except with a few.  But their reflections have fallen in with a more advanced stage of thought and a taste for increased precision and exactness, and they are beginning to bear their fruit.  The great and telling objection to miracles is getting to be, not their want of evidence, but, prior to all question of evidence, the supposed impossibility of fitting them in with a scientific view of nature.  Reason, looking at nature and experience, is said to raise an antecedent obstacle to them which no alleged proof of fact can get over.  They cannot be, because they are so unlike to everything else in the world, even of the strangest kind, in this point—­in

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