Reason, by Ethan Allen

Chapter vi.

Section i. Of Miracles

Previous to the arguments concerning miracles, it is requisite that we give a definition of them, that the arguments may be clearly opposed to the doctrine of miracles, the reality of which we mean to negative; so that we do not dispute about matters in which we are all agreed, but that we may direct our speculations to the subject matter or essence of the controversy.

We will therefore premise, that miracles are opposed to, and counteract the laws of nature, or that they imply an absolute alteration in either a greater or less degree, the eternal order, disposition and tendency of it; this, we conclude, is a just definition of miraculousness, and is that for which the advocates for miracles contend, in their defining of miracles. For if they were supposed to make no alteration in the natural order of things, they could have no positive existence, but the laws of nature would produce their effects, which would preclude their reality, and render them altogether fictitious, inasmuch as their very existence is premised to consist in their opposition to, and alteration of the laws of nature: so that if this is not effected, miracles can have no positive existence, any more than nonentity itself; therefore, if in the course of the succeeding arguments, we should evince that the laws of nature have not and cannot be perverted, altered or suspended, it will foreclose miracles by making all things natural. Having thus defined miracles, and stated the dispute, we proceed to the arguments.

Should there ever have been a miraculous suspension and alteration of the laws of nature, God must have been the immediate author of it, as no finite beings may be supposed to be able to alter those laws or regulations, which were established by omnipotent power and infinite perfection, and which nothing short of such power and perfection can perpetuate. This then is the single point at issue, viz: whether God has, or can, consistent with his nature as God, in any instance whatever, alter or deviate from the laws, with which he has eternally impressed the universe, or not.

To suppose that God should subvert his laws, (which is the same as changing them) would be to suppose him to be mutable; for that it would necessarily imply, either that their eternal establishment was imperfect, or that a premised alteration thereof is so. To alter or change that which is absolutely perfect, would necessarily make it cease to be perfect, inasmuch as perfection could not be altered for the better, but for the worse, and consequently an alteration could not meet with the divine approbation; which terminates the issue of the matter in question against miracles, and authorizes us to deduce the following conclusive inference, to wit: that Almighty God, having eternally impressed the universe with a certain system of laws, for the same eternal reason that they were infinitely perfect and best, they could never admit of the least alteration, but are as unchangeable, in their nature, as God their immutable author. To form the foregoing argument into syllogisms, it would be thus:—

God is perfect — the laws of nature were established by God; therefore, the laws of nature are perfect.

But admitting miracles, the syllogism should be thus:—

The laws of nature were in their eternal establishment perfect — the laws of nature have been altered; therefore, the alteration of the laws of nature is imperfect.

Or thus: the laws of nature have been altered — the alteration has been for the better; therefore, the eternal establishment thereof was imperfect.

Thus it appears, from a syllogistical as well as other methods of reasoning, that provided we admit of miracles, which are synonymous to the alterations of nature, we by so doing derogate from the perfection of God, either in his eternal constitution of nature, or in a supposed subsequent miraculous alteration of it, so that take the argument either way, and it preponderates against miracles.

Furthermore, was it possible, that the eternal order of nature should have been imperfect, there would be an end to all perfection. For God might be as imperfect in any supposed miraculous works, as in those of nature; nor could we ever have any security under his natural or moral government, if they were liable to change; for mutability is but another term for imperfection, or is inseparably connected with it.

God, the great architect of nature, has so constructed its machinery, that it never needs to be altered or rectified. In vain we endeavor to search out the hidden mystery of a perpetual motion, in order to copy nature, for after all our researches we must be contented with such mechanism as will run down, and need rectification again; but the machine of the universe admits of no rectification, but continues its never ceasing operations, under the unerring guidance of the providence of God. Human architects make and unmake things, and alter them as their invention may dictate, and experience may determine to be most convenient and best. But that mind, which is infinitely perfect, gains nothing by experience, but surveys the immense universality of things, with all their possible relations, fitnesses and unfitnesses, of both a natural or moral kind, with one comprehensive view.

Section ii. A Succession of Knowledge, or of the Exertion of Power in God, Incompatible with His Omniscience or Omnipotence, and the Eternal and Infinite Display of Divine Power Forecloses Any Subsequent Exertion of it Miraculously

That creation is as eternal and infinite as God, has been argued in chapter second; and that there could be no succession in creation, or the exertion of the power of God, in perfecting the boundless work, and in impressing the universe with harmonious laws, perfectly well adapted to their design, use and end.

First. These arguments may be further illustrated, and the evidence of the being of a God more fully exhibited, from the following considerations, to wit: dependent beings and existences must be dependent on some being or cause that is independent, for dependent beings, or existences, could not exist independently; and, in as much as by retrospectively tracing the order of the succession of causes, we cannot include in our numeration the independent cause, as the several successive causes still depend on their preceding cause, and that preceding cause on the cause preceding it, and so on beyond numerical calculations, we are therefore obliged (as rational beings) to admit an independent cause of all things, for that a mere succession of dependent causes cannot constitute an independent cause; and from hence we are obliged to admit a self-existent and sufficient cause of all things, for otherwise it would be dependent and insufficient to have given existence to itself, or to have been the efficient cause of all things.

Having thus established the doctrine of a self-sufficient, self-existent, and consequently all-powerful cause of all things, we ascribe an eternal existence to this cause of all causes and effects, whom we call God. And, inasmuch, as from the works of nature it is manifest, that God is possessed of almighty power, we from hence infer his eternal existence. Since his premised existence at (and not before) any given era, would be a conclusive objection to the omnipotency of his power, that he had not existed before, or eternally. For as God is a being self-sufficient, self-existent, and almighty, (as before argued) his power must apply to his own existence as well as to the existence of things in general, and therefore, if he did not eternally exist, it must be because he had not the almighty power of existence in himself, and if so, he never could have existed at all; so that God must have eternally existed or not have existed at all; and inasmuch as the works of nature evince his positive existence, and as he could not be dependent on the power, will, or pleasure of any other being but himself for his existence, and as an existence, in time would be a contradiction to his almighty power of self-existency, that he had not eternally existed; therefore, his existence must have been (in truth) eternal.

Although it is to us incomprehensible that any being could be self-existent or eternal (which is synonymous,) yet we can comprehend, that any being that is not self-existent and eternal and dependent and finite, and consequently not a God. Hence we infer, that though we cannot comprehend the true God (by reason of our own finiteness,) yet we can negatively comprehend that an imperfect being cannot be God. A dependent being is finite, and therefore imperfect, and consequently not a God. A being that has existed at a certain era (and not before) is a limited one, for beyond his era he was not, and therefore finite, and consequently not a God. Therefore, that being only who is self-existent, infinitely perfect and eternal, is the true God: and if eternally and infinitely perfect, there must have been an eternal and infinite display, and if an eternal and infinite display, it could be nothing short of an eternal and infinite creation and providence.

As to the existence of a God, previous to Moses’s era of the first day’s work, he does not inform us. The first notice he gives us of a God was of his laborious working by the day, a theory of creation (as I should think) better calculated for the servile Israelitish Brick-makers, than for men of learning and science in these modern times.

Section iii. Rare and Wonderful Phenomena No Evidence of Miracles Nor are Diabolical Spirits Able to Effect Them, or Superstitious Traditions to Confirm Them, Nor Can Ancient Miracles Prove Recent Revelations.

Comets, earthquakes, volcanoes, and northern lights (in the night,) with many other extraordinary phenomena or appearances intimidate weak minds, and are by them thought to be miraculous, although they undoubtedly have their proper natural causes, which have been in a great measure discovered. Jack-with-a-lantern is a frightful appearance to some people, but not so much as the imaginary spectre. But of all the scarecrows which have made human nature tremble, the devil has been chief; his family is said to be very numerous, consisting of “legions,” with which he has kept our world in a terrible uproar. To tell of all the feats and diabolical tricks, which this infernal family is said to have played upon our race, would compose a volume of an enormous size. All the magicians, necromancers, wizards, witches, conjurors, gypsies, sybils, hobgoblins, apparitions and the like, are supposed to be under their diabolical government: old Belzebub rules them all. Men will face destructive cannon and mortars, engage each other in the clashing of arms, and meet the horrors of war undaunted, but the devil and his banditti of fiends and emissaries fright them out of their wits, and have a powerful influence in plunging them into superstition, and also in continuing them therein.

This supposed intercourse between mankind and those infernal beings, is by some thought to be miraculous or supernatural; while others laugh at all the stories of their existence, concluding them to be mere juggle and deception, craftily imposed on the credulous, who are always gaping after something marvellous, miraculous, or supernatural, or after that which they do not understand: and are awkward and unskilful in their examination into nature, or into the truth or reality of things, which is occasioned partly by natural imbecility, and partly by indolence and inattention to nature and reason.

That any magical intercourse or correspondence of mere spirits with mankind, is contradictory to nature, and consequently impossible, has been argued in chapter sixth. And that nothing short of the omnipotent power of God, countermanding his eternal order of nature, and impressing it with new and contrary law, can constitute a miracle has been argued in this, and is an effect surpassing the power of mere creatures, the diabolical nature not excepted. From hence we infer, that devils cannot work miracles. Inattention to reason, and ignorance of the nature of things makes many of mankind give credit to miracles. It seems that by this marvellous way of accounting for things, they think to come off with reputation in their ignorance; for if nature was nothing but a supernatural whirligig, or an inconstant and irregular piece of mechanism, it would reduce all learning and science to a level with the fanaticism and superstition of the weak and credulous, and put the wise and unwise on a level in point of knowledge, as there would not, on this thesis, be any regular standard in nature, whereby to ascertain the truth and reality of things. What is called sleight-of-hand, is by some people thought to be miraculous. Astrological calculations of nativities, lucky and unlucky days and seasons, are by some, regarded, and even moles on the surface of the skin are thought to be portentive of good or bad fortune.

“The Swedish Laplanders, the most ignorant mortals in Europe,” are “charged with being conjurors, and are said to have done such feats, by the magic art, as do not at all fall far short of miracles; that they will give the sailors such winds as they want in any part of their voyage; that they can inflict and cure diseases at any distance; and insure people of success in their undertakings; and yet they are just such poor miserable wretches as used to be charged with witchcraft here,” viz: in England and in New England, “and cannot command so much as the necessaries of life: and indeed, none but very credulous and ignorant people give credit to such fables at this day, though the whole world seems to have been bewitched in believing them formerly.” “The 24th of March, 1735, an act passed in the Parliament of Great Britain to repeal the statute of I Jac’s, entitled an act against conjuration, witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked spirits, and to repeal an act in Scotland entitled Amentis Witchcraft.” It is but forty-six years since the supreme legislature became apprized of the natural impossibility of any magical intercourse between mankind and evil and wicked spirits; in consequence whereof they repealed their statute laws against it, as they were naturally void, unnecessary, and unworthy of their legislative restriction. For that such a crime had no possible existence in nature, and therefore could not be acted by mankind; though previous to the repeal of those laws, more or less of that island had fallen a sacrifice to them; and the relations of those imaginary criminals were stamped with infamy by such executions, which had the sanction of law, alias of the legislature and the judges, and in which many learned attorneys have demonstrated the turpitude of such capital offences, and the just sanction of those laws in extirpating such pests of society from the earth; to which the clergy have likewise given their approbation, for that those capital transgressors made too free with their devils.

Furthermore, the repeal of those laws, as far as the wisdom and authority of the British Parliament may be supposed to go, abrogated that command of the law of Moses, which saith, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” and not only so, but the doctrine of the impossibility of intercourse, or of dealing with wicked spirits, forecloses the supposed miraculous casting out of devils, of which we have sundry chronicles in the New Testament.

But to return to the annals of my own country, it will present us with a scene of superstition in the magical way, which will probably equal any that is to be met with in history, to wit: the Salem witchcraft in New England; great numbers of the inhabitants of both sexes were judicially convicted of being wizards and witches, and executed accordingly; some of whom were so infatuated with the delusion, that at their execution they confessed themselves guilty of the sorcery for which they were indicted; nor did the fanaticism meet with a check until some of the first families were accused with it, who made such an opposition to the prosecutions, as finally to put an end to any further execution of the Salemites.

Those capital offenders suffered in consequence of certain laws, which, by way of derision, have since been called the Blue Laws, in consequence of the multiplicity of superstition, with which they abounded, most of which are repealed; but those that respect sorcery have had favorite legislators enough to keep them alive and in force to this day.

I recollect an account of prodigies said to have been carried on by the Romish Clergy in France, upon which his most Christian Majesty sent one of his officers to them with the following prohibition, to wit: “by the command of the king, God is forbid to work any more miracles in this place;” upon which the marvellous work ceased.

There has been so much detection of the artifice, juggle and imposture of the pretenders to miracles, in the world, especially in such parts where learning and science have prevailed, that it should prompt us to be very suspicious of the reality of them, even without entering into any lengthy arguments from the reason and nature of things to evince the utter impossibility of their existence in the creation and providence of God.

We are told, that the first occasion and introduction of miracles into the world, was to prove the divine authority of revelation, and the mission of its first teachers; be it so. Upon this plan of evincing the divinity of revelation, it would be necessary that its teachers should always be vested with the power of working miracles; so that when their authority or the infallibility of the revelation which they should teach, should at any time be questioned, they might work a miracle; or that in such a case God would do it; which would end the dispute, provided mankind were supposed to be judges of miracles, which may be controverted. However, admitting that they are possible, and mankind in the several generations of the world to be adequate judges of them, and also, that they were necessary to support the divine mission of the first promulgators of revelation, and the divinity which they taught; from the same parity of reasoning, miracles ought to be continued to the succeeding generations of mankind, co-extensive with its divine authority, or that of its teachers. For why should we in this age of the world be under obligation to believe the infallibility of revelation, or the heavenly mission of its teachers, upon less evidence than those of mankind who lived in the generations before us? For that which may be supposed to be a rational evidence, and worthy to gain the belief and assent of mankind at one period of time, must be so at another; so that it appears, from the sequel of the arguments on this subject, that provided miracles were requisite to establish the divine authority of revelation originally, it is equally requisite that they be continued to the latest posterity, to whom the divine legislator may be supposed to continue such revelation as his law to mankind.

Nothing is more evident to the understanding part of mankind, than that in those parts of the world where learning and science has prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in such parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue; which is of itself a strong presumption that in the infancy of letters, learning and science, or in the world’s non-age, those who confided in miracles, as a proof of the divine mission of the first promulgators of revelation, were imposed upon by fictitious appearances instead of miracles.

Furthermore, the author of Christianity warns us against the impositions of false teachers, and ascribes the signs of the true believers, saying, “And, these signs shall follow them that believe, in my name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” These are the express words of the founder of Christianity, and are contained in the very commission, which he gave to his eleven Apostles, who were to promulgate his gospel in the world; so that from their very institution it appears that when the miraculous signs, therein spoken of, failed, they were considered as unbelievers, and consequently no faith or trust to be any longer reposed in them or their successors. For these signs were those which were to perpetuate their mission, and were to be continued as the only evidences of the validity and authenticity of it, and as long as these signs followed, mankind could not be deceived in adhering to the doctrines which the Apostles and their successors taught; but when these signs failed, their divine authority ended. Now if any of them will drink a dose of deadly poison, which I could prepare, and it does not “hurt them,” I will subscribe to their divine authority, and end the dispute; not that I have a disposition to poison anyone, nor do I suppose that they would dare to take such a dose as I could prepare for them, which, if so, would evince that they were unbelievers themselves, though they are extremely apt to censure others for unbelief, which according to their scheme is a damnable sin.

Section iv. Prayer Cannot Be Attended with Miraculous Consequences

Prayer to God is no part of a rational religion, nor did reason ever dictate it; but, was it duly attended to, it would teach us the contrary.

To make known our wants to God by prayer, or to communicate any intelligence concerning ourselves or the universe to him, is impossible, since his omniscient mind has a perfect knowledge of all things, and therefore is beholden to none of our correspondency to inform himself of our circumstances, or of what would be wisest and best to do for us in all possible conditions and modes of existence, in our never ending duration of being. These, with the infinitude of things, have been eternally deliberated by the omniscient mind, who can admit of no additional intelligence, whether by prayer or otherwise, which renders it nugatory.

We ought to act up to the dignity of our nature, and demean ourselves, as creatures of our rank and capacity, and not presume to dictate any thing, less or more, to the governor of the universe; who rules not by our proscriptions, but by eternal and infinite reason. To pray to God, or to make supplication to him, requesting certain favors for ourselves, or from any, or all the species, is inconsistent with the relation which subsists between God and man. Whoever has a just sense of the absolute perfection of God, and of their own imperfection, and natural subjection to his providence, cannot but from thence infer the impropriety of praying or supplicating to God, for this, that, or the other thing; or of remonstrating against his providence: inasmuch, as “known to God are all our wants;” and as we know, that we ourselves are inadequate judges of what would be best for us, all things considered. God looks through the immensity of things, and understands the harmony, moral beauty and decorum of the whole, and will by no means change his purposes, or alter the nature of the things themselves for any of our entreaties or threats. To pray, entreat, or make supplication to God, is neither more nor less than dictating to eternal reason, and entering into the province and prerogative of the Almighty; if this is not the meaning and import of prayer, it has none at all, that extends to the final events and consequences of things. To pray to God with a sense, that the prayer we are making will not be granted any more for our making it, or that our prayer will make no alteration in the state, order or disposal of things at all, or that the requests, which we make, will be no more likely to be granted, or the things themselves conferred upon us by God, than as though we had not prayed for them, would be stupidity or outright mockery, or “to be seen of men,” in order to procure from them some temporary advantages. But on the other hand for us to suppose, that our prayers or praises do in any one instance or more alter the eternal constitution of things, or of the providence of God, is the same as to suppose ourselves so far forth to hold a share in the divine government, for our prayers must be supposed to effect something or nothing, if they effect nothing they are good for nothing; but that they should effect any alteration in the nature of things, or providence of God, is inadmissible: for if they did, we should interfere with the providence of God in a certain degree, by arrogating it to ourselves. For if there are any particulars in providence, which God does not govern by his order of nature, they do not belong to the providence of God, but of man; for if in any instance, God is moved by the prayers, entreaties, or supplications of his creatures, to alter his providence, or to do that in conformity thereto, which otherwise, in the course of his providence, he would not have done; then it would necessarily follow, that as far as such alteration may be supposed to take place, God does not govern by eternal and infinite reason, but on the contrary is governed himself by the prayer of man.

Our great proficients in prayer must need think themselves to be of great importance in the scale of being, otherwise they would not indulge themselves in the notion, that the God of nature would subvert his laws, or bend his providence in conformity to their prayers. But it may be objected, that they pray conditionally, to wit: that God would answer their prayers, provided they are agreeable to his providential order or disposal of things; but to consider prayer in such a sense renders it, not only useless, but impertinent; for the laws of nature would produce their natural effects as well without it, as with it The sum total of such conditional prayer could amount to no more than this, viz: that God would not regard them at all, but that he would conduct the kingdom of his providence agreeable to the absolute perfections of his nature; and who in the exercise of common sense would imagine that God would do otherwise?

The nature of the immense universality of things having been eternally adjusted, constituted and settled, by the profound thought, perfect wisdom, impartial justice, immense goodness, and omnipotent power of God, it is the greatest arrogance in us to attempt an alteration thereof. If we demean ourselves worthy of a rational happiness, the laws of the moral system, already established, will afford it to us; and as to physical evils, prudent economy may make them tolerable, or ward most of them off for a season, though they will unavoidably bring about the separation of a soul and body, and terminate with animal life, whether we pray for or against it.

To pray for any thing, which we can obtain by the due application of our natural powers, and neglect the means of procuring it, is impertinence and laziness in the abstract; and to pray for that which God in the course of his providence, has put out of our power to obtain, is only murmuring against God, and finding fault with his providence, or acting the inconsiderate part of a child; for example, to pray for more wisdom, understanding, grace or faith; for a more robust constitution — handsomer figure, or more of a gigantic size, would be the same as telling God, that we are dissatisfied with our inferiority in the order of being; that neither our souls nor bodies suit us; that he has been too sparing of his beneficence; that we want more wisdom, and organs better fitted for show, agility and superiority. But we ought to consider, that “we cannot add one cubit to our stature,” or alter the construction of our organic frame; and that our mental talents are finite; and that in a vast variety of proportions and disproportions, as our Heavenly Father in his order of nature, and scale of being saw fit; who has nevertheless for the encouragement of intelligent nature ordained, that it shall be capable of improvement, and consequently of enlargement; therefore, “whosoever lacketh wisdom” instead of “asking it of God,” let him improve what he has, that he may enlarge the original stock; this is all the possible way of gaining in wisdom and knowledge, a competency of which will regulate our faith. But it is too common for great faith and little knowledge to unite in the same person; such persons are beyond the reach of argument and their faith immovable, though it cannot remove mountains. The only way to procure food, raiment, or the necessaries or conveniences of life, is by natural means; we do not get them by wishing or praying for, but by actual exertion; and the only way to obtain virtue or morality is to practice and habituate ourselves to it, and not to pray to God for it: he has naturally furnished us with talents or faculties suitable for the exercise and enjoyment of religion, and it is our business to improve them aright, or we must suffer the consequences of it. We should conform ourselves to reason, the path of moral rectitude, and in so doing, we cannot fail of recommending ourselves to God, and to our own consciences. This is all the religion which reason knows or can ever approve of.

Moses, the celebrated prophet and legislator of the Israelites, ingratiated himself into their esteem, by the stratagem of prayer, and pretended intimacy with God; he acquaints us, that he was once admitted to a sight of his back-parts! and that “no man can see” his “face and live;” and at other times we are told that he “talked with God, face to face, as a man talketh with his friend;” and also that at times God waxed, wroth with Israel, and how Moses prayed for them; and at other times, that he ordered Aaron to offer sweet incense to God, which appeased his wrath, and prevented his destroying Israel in his hot displeasure! These are the footsteps, by which we may trace sacerdotal dominion to its source, and explore its progress in the world. “And the Lord said unto Moses, how long will this people provoke me? I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and I will make of thee a great nation, and mightier than they,” but Moses advertises God of the injury, which so rash a procedure would do to his character among the nations; and also reminds him of his promise to Israel, saying, “Now if thou shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations, which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land, which he swear unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.” That Moses should thus advise the omniscient God, of dishonorable consequences which would attend a breach of promise, which he tells us, that God was unadvisedly about to make with the tribes of Israel, had not his remonstrance prevented it, is very extraordinary and repugnant to reason; yet to an eye of faith it would exalt the man Moses, “and make him very great;” for if we may credit his history of the matter, he not only averted God’s judgment against Israel, and prevented them from being cut off as a nation, but by the same prayer procured for them a pardon of their sin. “Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people,” and in the next verse follows the answer, “and the Lord said I have pardoned according to thy word.” It seems that God had the power, but Moses had the dictation of it, and saved Israel from the wrath and pestilential fury of a jealous God; and that he procured them a pardon of their sin, “for the Lord thy God is a jealous God.” Jealousy can have no existence in that mind, which possesses perfect knowledge, and consequently cannot, without the greatest impropriety, he ascribed to God, who knows all things, and needed none of the admonitions, advice or intelligence of Moses, or any of his dictatorial prayers. “And the Lard hearkened unto me at that time also;” intimating that it was a common thing for him to do the like. When teachers can once make the people believe that God answers their prayers, and that their eternal interest is dependent on them, they soon raise themselves to opulency, rule and high sounding titles; as that of His Holiness — the Reverend Father in God — The Holy Poker — Bishop of Souls— and a variety of other such like appellations, derogatory to the honor or just prerogative of God; as is Joshua’s history concerning the Lord’s hearkening unto him at the battle of the Amorites, wherein he informs us, that he ordered the sun to stand still, saying, “Sun stand thou still upon Gidaen, and thou Moon in the valley of Ajalon, so the Sun stood still and the Moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies;” so the Sun stood still in the midst of Heaven, “and hasted not to go down about a whole day;” and then adds, by way of supremacy to Himself above all others, and in direct contradiction to the before recited passages of Moses concerning the Lord’s hearkening unto him, or to any other man but himself, saying, “And there was no day like that before it, or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man.” There is not any thing more evident than that if the representation given by Joshua, as matter of fact, is true, those exhibited by Moses concerning the Lord’s hearkening unto him are not: though the representations of fact by Moses and by Joshua, are allowed to be both canonical, yet it is impossible that both can be true. However, astronomy being but little understood in the age in which Joshua lived, and the earth being in his days thought to be at rest, and the sun to revolve round it, makes it in no way strange, that he caught himself by ordering the sun to stand still, which having since been discovered to have been the original fixed position of that luminous body, eclipses the miraculous interposition of Joshua. Furthermore, if we but reflect that on that very day Israel vanquished the Amorites with a great slaughter, “and chased them along the way that goeth to Bethoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah,” in so great a hurry of war, clashing of arms, exasperation and elevation of mind, in consequence of such triumphant victory, they could make but a partial observation on the length of the day; and being greatly elated with such an extraordinary day’s work, Joshua took the advantage of it, and told them that it was an uncommon day for duration; that he had interposed in the system and prescribed to the sun to stand still about a whole day; and that they had two days’ time to accomplish those great feats. The belief of such a miraculous event to have taken place in the solar system, in consequence of the influence which Joshua insinuated that he had with God, would most effectually establish his authority among the people; for if God would hearken to his voice well might man. This is the cause why the bulk of mankind in all ages and countries of the world, have been so much infatuated by their ghostly teachers, whom they have ever, imagined to have had a special influence with God Almighty.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 12:59