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84

SPECIMENS OF ALLEGED

The truth in this case, as in many others, may rationally be sought between these extremes of opinion. We cannot, at this distance of time, assume to decide what the precise facts were; but, without impeaching the good faith of a crowd of respectable witnesses, we may deem it probable that the cure really was an extraordinary one, due, it may be, to the influence of the excited mind over the body, or to some magnetic or other occult agency hitherto unrecognized by science; at all events, to some natural, though hidden, cause. Pascal and La Place are doubtless equally in error; the latter in denying that a wonderful cure was effected, the former in seeking its cause in the special intervention of a supernatural power; in imagining that God had

girl declared that the touch had cured her. Some days afterward she was examined by several physicians and surgeons, who substantiated the fact of ber cure, and expressed the opinion that it had not been brought about by medical treatment, or by any natural cause. Besides this, the cure was attested not only by all the nuns of the convent,-celebrated over Europe for their austerity,—but it is further fortified by all the proof which a multitude of witnesses of undoubted character-men of the world as well as physicians—could bestow upon it. The Queen Regent of France, very much prejudiced against Port Royal as a nest of Jansenists, sent her own surgeon, M. Felix, to examine into the miracle; and he returned an absolute convert. So incontestable was it regarded, even by the enemies of the nuns, that it actually saved their establishment for a time from the ruin with which it was threatened by the Jesuits,—who ultimately succeeded, however, some fifty-three years later, in suppressing the convent; it being closed in October, 1709, and razed to the ground the year after.

To Racine-writing in 1673, and therefore unacquainted with these facts—the argument could not occur, that God does not suffer Himself to be bafiled by man, and that it is difficult to imagine Him interfering one day in support of a cause which, the next, He suffers to go down before the efforts of its enemies.

But here we approach a subject vailed from finite gaze, the intentions of the Infinite. We are as little justified in asserting that God bad no special purpose in permitting an extraordinary phenomenon, which to the ignorance of that day seemed a miracle, as in assuming to decide what that purpose may have been.

JANSENIST MIRACLES.

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suspended for the occasion a great law of nature, for the purpose of indorsing the five propositions of Jansenius, of reprehending a certain religious order, and of affording a momentary triumph to a few persecuted nuns

Similar errors have been of frequent occurrence. Perhaps the most striking example on record is contained in that extraordinary episode in the instructive history of the mental epidemics of Europe, the story of what have been called the Convulsionists of St. Médard. It is to this that Hume alludes, in a paragraph of the chapter from which I have already quoted, when he says,

“There surely never was a greater number of miracles ascribed to one person than those which were lately said to have been wrought in France upon the tomb of the Abbé Pâris, the famous Jansenist, with whose sanctity the people were so. long deluded. The curing of the sick, giving hearing to the deaf and sight to the blind, were everywhere talked of as the usual effects of that holy sepulcher. But, what is more extraordinary, many of the miracles were immediately proved upon the spot, before judges of unquestioned integrity, attested by witnesses of credit and distinction, in a learned age, and on the most eminent theater that is now in the world. Nor is this all: a relation of them was published and dispersed everywhere; nor were the Jesuits, though a learned body, supported by the civil magistrates, and determined enemies to those opinions in whose favor the miracles were said to have been wrought, ever able distinctly to refute or detect them. Where shall we find such a number of circumstances agreeing to the corroboration of one fact ? And what have we to oppose to such a cloud of witnesses but the absolute impossibility or miraculous nature of the events which they relate ? And this, surely, in the eyes of all reason

86

HUME'S IMPRUDENCE.

able people, will alone be regarded as a sufficient refuta

tion.*

Hume here places himself in the category of those whom Arago considers deficient in prudence. He pronounces certain events to be impossible, because they are contrary to his experience. He is misled by the pretensions of those who relate them. The eminent magistrate to whose elaborate work we are indebted for a narrative of the events in question (Carré de Montgéron) assumes that they were brought about by the special intervention of God, exerted, at the intercession of the deceased Abbé, to sustain the cause of the Jansenist Appellants and condemn the doctrines of the Bull Unigenitus.t Hume cannot admit the reason or justice of such pretensions. Nor can we. But here we must distinguish. It is one thing to refuse credit to the reality of the phenomena, and quite another to demur to the interpretation put upon them. We may admit the existence of comets, yet deny that they portend the

* Hume': Essays, vol. ii. p. 133.

t" La Vérité des Miracles opérés par l'intercession de M. de Pâris et autres Appellans,” par M. Carré de Montgéron, Conseiller au Parlement de Paris. 3 vols. 4to, 2d ed., Cologne, 1745.

I copy from the advertisement, p. 5:-"Il s'agit de miracles qui prouvent evidemment l'existence de Dieu et sa providence, la vérité du Christianisme, la sainteté de l'église Catholique, et la justice de la cause des Appellans de la bulle UNIGENITUS."

The weight of evidence brought to bear, in this extraordinary work, in proof of each one of the chief miracles there sought to be established, would be sufficient, in a court of justice, to convict twenty men. I doubt whether such an overwhelming mass of human testimony was ever before thrown together to sustain any class of contested facts.

I had prepared, and had intended to give in the present volume, a chapter containing a condensed narrative of this marvelous epidemic, and the phenomena it brought to light; also to devote several other chapters to the details of other historical episodes somewhat similar in character. But the subject grew under my hands to such dimensions that I was compelled to exclude it.

DISCRIMINATION OF MODERN SCIENCE.

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birth or death of heroes. The first is a question of fact, the second only of inference or imagination.

This view of the case does not appear to have suggested itself at the time either to friend or foe. The Jesuit inquisitors, unable to contest the facts, found nothing for it but to ascribe them to witchcraft and the devil. Nor did any better mode occur to them of refuting Montgéron's work than to have it burned by the hands of the common hangman, on the 18th of Febru

ary, 1739.

Modern science is more discriminating. The best medical writers on insanity and kindred subjects, after making due allowance for the exaggerations incident to the heat of controversialism, and for the inaccuracies into which an ignorance of physiology was sure to betray inexperienced observers, still find sufficient evidence remaining to prove, beyond cavil, the reality of certain cures, and other wonderful phenomena exhibited; but they seek the explanation of these in natural causes.* They do not imagine that the Deity suspended the laws of nature in order to disprove a papal bull; but neither do they declare, with Hume, the impossibility of the facts claimed to be miraculous.

* Consult, for example, Dr. Calmeil's excellent work, De la Folie, considérée sous le point de vue pathologique, philosophique, historique, et judiciuire,” 2 vols., Paris, 1845. It will be found vol. ii. pp. 313 to 400, in the chapter entitled " Théomanie Extato-Convulsive parmi les Jansénistes," in which the subject is examined in detail, from a medical point of view, and natural explanations offered of the phenomena in question, many of which phenomena are of so astounding a character that Hume, ignorant as he was of the effects produced in somnambulism, during catalepsy, and in other abnormal states of the human system, may well be pardoned for his incredulity.

Calmeil believes—and it seems probable enough-that these convulsions constituted a nervous malady of an aggravated character, probably hysteria complicated with ecstatic and cataleptic symptoms. He says, “Dès 1732, l'hystérie se compliqua de phénomènes extatiques, de phénomènes cataleptiformes."-Vol. ii. p. 395.

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SPIRITUAL AGENCY, IF SUCH

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A judgment similar to that which the Scottish historian, more than a century ago, passed on the miracles of St. Médard, is passed in our day, by a large majority of the world, on all alleged appearances or agencies of an ultramundane character. The common opinion is, that such things cannot happen except miraculously; that is, by special intervention of the Deity, and a temporary suspension by Him, in favor of certain persons, of one or more of the laws which govern the universe. And, as they cannot believe in miracles, they reject, unexamined, all evidence tending to establish the reality of such phenomena.

I am not here asserting that such phenomena do occur. I am but adducing evidence for the opinion that, if they do, they are as much the result of natural law as is a rainbow or a thunder-clap. I am seeking to show cause to the believers in their existence why they should cease to attach to them any inkling of the supernatural.

Numerous examples of these alleged phenomena will be found in succeeding chapters. Meanwhile, assuming for a moment the affirmative on this point, I might found, on mere general principles, an argument in connection with it. To a question naturally suggesting itself, namely, to what end God permits (if He does permit) ultramundane intercourse, I might reply, that it is doubtless for a purpose as comprehensive as benevolent; that we may reasonably imagine Him to be opening up to our race a medium of more certain knowledge of another world, in order to give fresh impulse to our onward progress toward wisdom and goodness in this, and more especially to correct that absorbing worldliness, the besetting sin of the present age, creeping over its civilization and abasing its noblest aspirings. And, if these be admitted as rational surmises, I might go on to ask how we may suppose that God would be likely to carry out such an intent;-whether, after a partial and

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