Page:Literature and Dogma (1883).djvu/135

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favour; the literal story it never even occurs to one of us to believe. But that the walls of Jericho literally fell down at the sound of the trumpets of Joshua, we are asked to believe, told that it is impious to disbelieve it. Yet which place and time were most likely to generate a miraculous story with ease,—Hellas and the days of Epaminondas, or Palestine and the days of Joshua? And of documentary records, which are the most historical in their way of being generated and propagated, which the most favourable for the admission of legend and miracle of all kinds,—the Old Testament narratives with their incubation of centuries, and the New Testament narratives with their incubation of a century (and tradition active all the while), or the narratives, say, of Herodotus or Plutarch?

None of them are what we call critical. Experience of the history of the human mind, and of men's habits of seeing, sifting, and relating, convinces us that the miraculous stories of Herodotus or Plutarch do grow out of the process described by Shakespeare. But we shall find ourselves inevitably led, sooner or later, to extend the same rule to all miraculous stories; nay, the considerations which apply in other cases, apply, we shall most surely discover, with even greater force in the case of Bible-miracles.

4.

This being so, there is nothing one would more desire for a person or document one greatly values, than to make them independent of miracles. And with regard to the Old Testament we have done this; for we have shown that the essential matter in the Old Testament is the revelation to Israel of the immeasurable grandeur, the eternal necessity, the priceless blessing of that with which not less than three-fourths of human life is indeed concerned,—righteousness. And it makes no difference to the preciousness of this reve-