Revelation And Inspiration -- By: E. P. Barrows

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 027:105 (Jan 1870)
Article: Revelation And Inspiration
Author: E. P. Barrows


Revelation And Inspiration

Rev. E. P. Barrows

The Credibility Of The Gospel Narratives

They who in modern times refuse to acknowledge the credibility of the Gospel narratives as plain statements of facts stand, as a general rule, on the denial of the supernatural. The basis of all their reasoning is the assumption, openly or in a tacit way, that no supernatural event can happen, and, therefore, that no supernatural event can be authenticated. It is the old ground of Hume — “that a miracle can never be proved so as to be the foundation of a system of religion,” — only set forth with more show of scientific demonstration. How fully Renan stands on this basis will be evident from the following:

“It is an absolute rule of criticism to deny a place in history to narratives of miraculous circumstances; nor is this owing to a metaphysical system, for it is simply the dictation of observation. Such facts have never been really proved. All the pretended miracles near enough to be examined are referable to illusion or imposture. If a single miracle had ever been proved, we could not reject in a mass all those of ancient history; for, admitting that very many of these last were false; we might still believe that some of them were true. But it is not so. Discussion and examination are fatal to miracles. Are we not, then, authorized in believing that those miracles which date many centuries back, and regarding which there are no means of forming a contradictory debate, are also without reality? In other words, miracles only exist when people believe then!’ The supernatural is but another word for faith......A miracle never takes place before an incredulous and sceptical public,

the most in need of such a convincing proof. Credulity on the part of the witness is the essential condition of a miracle. There is not a solitary exception to the rule that miracles are never produced before those who are able or permitted to discuss and criticise them.”1

The very obvious objection to his position that, “if it is impossible to prove that there ever was any instance of supernatural power, it is equally impossible to prove that there was not,” he meets by saying: “It is the duty of him who affirms a proposition to prove it; while he to whom the proposition is made has only to listen to the proof, and to decide whether it is satisfactory.”2 But how can any proof be satisfactory to him who has assumed beforehand that “it is an absolute rule of criticism” — the reader will please mark the expression, not a general rule, which may be modified upon sufficient evide...

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