Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 378 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
avowedly breaking the order of nature.  And reason cannot be admitted to take cognizance of their claims and to consider their character, their purpose, their results, their credentials, because the mere supposition of them violates the fundamental conception and condition of science, absolute and invariable law, as well as that common-sense persuasion which everybody has, whether philosopher or not, of the uniformity of the order of the world.


To make room for reason to come in and pronounce upon miracles on their own merits—­to clear the ground for the consideration of their actual claims by disposing of the antecedent objection of impossibility, is Mr. Mozley’s main object.

Whatever difficulty there is in believing in miracles in general arises from the circumstance that they are in contradiction to or unlike the order of nature.  To estimate the force of this difficulty, then, we must first understand what kind of belief it is which we have in the order of nature; for the weight of the objection to the miraculous must depend on the nature of the belief to which the miraculous is opposed.

His examination of the alleged impossibility of miracles may be described as a very subtle turning the tables on Hume and the empirical philosophy.  For when it is said that it is contrary to reason to believe in a suspension of the order of nature, he asks on what ground do we believe in the order of nature; and Hume himself supplies the answer.  There is nothing of which we have a firmer persuasion.  It is the basis of human life and knowledge.  We assume at each step, without a doubt, that the future will be like the past.  But why?  Hume has carefully examined the question, and can find no answer, except the fact that we do assume it.  “I apprehend,” says Mr. Mozley, accepting Hume’s view of the nature of probability, “that when we examine the different reasons which may be assigned for this connection, i.e. for the belief that the future will be like the past, they all come at last to be mere statements of the belief itself, and not reasons to account for it.”

Let us imagine the occurrence of a particular physical phenomenon for the first time.  Upon that single occurrence we should have but the very faintest expectation of another.  If it did occur again once or twice, so far from counting on another recurrence, a cessation would come as the more natural event to us.  But let it occur a hundred times, and we should feel no hesitation in inviting persons from a distance to see it; and if it occurred every day for years, its recurrence would then be a certainty to us, its cessation a marvel.  But what has taken place in the interim to produce this total change in our belief?  From the mere repetition do we know anything more about its cause?  No.  Then what have we got besides the past repetition itself?  Nothing.  Why, then, are we so certain of its future
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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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