Samuel Vince

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Samuel Vince

Samuel Vince (6 April 174928 November 1821) was an English clergyman, mathematician and astronomer at the University of Cambridge.


  • I have lately spent some Thoughts relative to the Nature of Light, whether it be subject to the common Laws of Motion. In this particular Newton seems to contradict himself. For in his Principia Sect. 14th he applies the common Laws of Motion to account for Reflection and Refraction, as he does also in one Part of his Optics where he proves the Sine of Incid. to Sine Refr, in a given in a given Ratio. But in another Part he says, “nothing more is requisite for producing all the Variety of Colours and Degrees of Refrangibility than that the Rays of Light be Bodies of different Sizes, the least of which may make Violet, and the Greatest the Red"; this manifestly is not consistent with the Theory of Motion applied to Bodies, where the Magnitude of the Bodies is of no Consequence. Now it is evident that if the common Theory of Motion can be applied to Light, the Red Light must have had the greatest Velocity before Incidence, as it suffers the least Deviation, for if the Vels of all the Difft colour'd Light were equal before Incidence, they must by Newton's Principia Sect. Sect. 8. Prop. 1. have continued equal after, and therefore must have suffered the same Deviation. The Determination of this Point seems to be of considerable Importance, as we so often apply the Theory of Motion to Light.
    • As quoted in: Russell McCormmach (2011) Weighing the World: The Reverend John Michell of Thornhill. p. 193

The Credibility of Christianity Vindicated[edit]

Samuel Vince, The Credibility of Christianity Vindicated, In Answer to Mr. Hume's Objections; In Two Discourses Preached Before the University of Cambridge by the Rev. S. Vince. Cambridge, 1798.

  • The rapid establishment of Christianity must therefore have been from the conviction which those who embraced it, had of its "Truth and power unto salvation." Christianity at first spread itself amongst the most enlightened nations of the earth - in those places where human learning was in its greatest perfection; and, by the force of the evidence which attended it, amongst such men it gained an establishment. It has been justly observed, that "it happened very providentially to the honour of the Christian religion, that it did not take its rise in the dark illiterate ages of the world, but at a time when arts and sciences were t their height, and when there were men who made it the business of their lives to search after truth and lift the several opinions of the philosophers and wise men, concerning the duty, the end, and chief happiness of reasonable creatures." Both the learned and the ignorant alike embraced its doctrines; the learned were not likely to be deceived in the proofs which were offered; and the same cause undoubtedly operated to produce the effect upon each. But an immediate conversion of the bulk of mankind, can arise only from some proofs of a ddivine authority offering themselves immediately to the senses; the preaching of any new doctrine, if lest to operate only by its own force, would go but a very little way towards the immediate conversion of the gnorant, who have no principle of action but what arises from habit, and whose powers of reasoning are insufficient to correct their errors. When Mahomet was required by his followers to work a miracle for their conviction, he always declined it; he was too cautious to trust to an experiment, the success of which was scarcely whithin the bounds of probablity; he amused his followers with prtended visions, which with the aid afterwards of the civil and military powr; and as the accomplishment of that event was by a few obscure persons, who founded their pretentions upon authority from heaven, we are next to consider, what kind of proofs of their divine commission they offered to the world; and whether they themselves could have been deceived, or mankind could have been deludded by them.
    • p. 20; As quoted in "Book review," in The British Critic, Volume 12 (1798). F. and C. Rivington. p. 261-262
  • A very eminent writer has observed, that "the conversion of the Gentile world, whether we consider the difficulties attending it, the opposition made to it, the wonderful work wrought to accomplish it, or the happy effects and consequences of it, may be considered as a more illustrious evidence of God's power, than even our Saviour's miracles of casting out devils, healing the sick, and raising the dead." Indeed, a miracle said to have been wrought without any attending circumstances to justify such an exertion of divine power, could not easily be rendered credible ; and our author's argument proves no more. If it were related, that about 1700 years ago, a man was raised from the dead, without its answering any other end than that of restoring him to life, Iconfess that no degree of evidence could induce me tobelieve it; but if the moral government of God appeared in that event, and there were circumstances attending it which could not be accounted for by any human means, the fact becomes credible. When two extraordinary events are thus connected, the proof of one established the truth of the other. Our author has reasoned upon the fact as standing alone, in which case it would not be easy to disprove some of his reasoning; but the fact should be considered in a moral view - as connected with the establishment of a pure religion, and it then becomes credible. In the proof of any circumstance, we must consider every principle which tends to establish it; whereas our author, by considering the case of a man said to have been raised from the dead, simpli in a physical point of view, without any reference to a moral end, endavours to show that it cannot be rendered credible; and, from such principles, we may admit his conclusions without affecting the credibility of Christianity. The general principle on which he establishes his argument, is not the great foundation upon which the evidence of Christianity rests. He says, "Notestimony can be sufficient to establish a miracle, unless it be of such a kind, that the falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endavours to prove." Now this reasoning, at furthest, can only be admitted in those cases where the fact has nothing but testimony to establish it. But the proofs of Christianity do not rest simply upon the testimony of its first promulgators, and that of those who were affterwards the instruments of communicating it; but they rest principally upon the acknowledged and very extraordinary affects which were produced by the preaching of a few unlearned, obscure persons, who taught "Christ crucified;" and it is upon these indisuptable matters of ffact which we reason; and when the effects are totally unaccountable upon any principle which we can collect from the operation of human means, we must either admit miracles, or admit an effect without an adequate cause. Also, when the proof of any position depends upon arguments drawn from various sources, all concutring to establish its turh, to select some one circumstance, and atrempt to show that that alone is not sufficient to render the fact credible, and thence infer that it is not ture, is a conclusion not to be admitted. But it is thus that our author has endavoured to destroy the credibiliry of Christianity, the evidences of which depend upon a great variety of circumstances and facts which are indisputably true, all cooperating to confirm its truth; but an examination of these falls not whithin the plan here proposed. He rests all his arguments upon the extraordinary nature of the fact, considered alone by itself; for a common fact, with the same evidence, would immediately be admitted. I have endavoured to show, that the extraordinary nature, as much as the mosst common events are necessary to fulfill the usual dispensations of Providence, and therefore the Deity was then direted by the same motive as in a more ordinary case, that of affording us such assitance as our moral condition renders necessary. In the establishment of a pur religion, the proof of its divine origin may require some very extraordinary circumstances which may never afterwards be requisite, and accordingly we find that they have not happened. Here is therefore a perfect concistencty in the operation of the Deity, in his moral government, and not a violation of the laws of nature: Secondly, the fact is immediately connected with others which are indisputably true, and which, without the supossition of the truth of that fact, would be, at least, equally miraculous. Thus I conceive the reasoning of our author to be totally inconclusive; and the argumentss which have been employed to prove the fallacy of his conclusions, appear at the same time, fully to justify our belief in, and prove the moral certainty of, our holy religion.
    • p. 27; As quoted in "Book review," in The British Critic, Volume 12 (1798). F. and C. Rivington. p. 262-263
  • What we mean by the laws of nature, are those laws which are deduced from that series of events, which, by divine appointment, follow each other in the moral and physical world ; the former of which we shall here have occasion principally to consider, the present question altogether, respecting the moral government of God — a consideration which our author has entirely neglected, in his estimation of the credibility of miracles. Examining the question therefore upon this principle, it is manifest, that the extraordinary nature of the fact is no ground for disbelief, provided such a fact, in , a moral point of view, was, from the condition of man, become necessary ; for in that case, the Deky, by dispensing his assistance in proportion to our wants, acted upon the same principle as in his more 'ordinary operations. For however ' opposite the physical effects may be, if their moral tendency be the same, they form a part of the jmoral law. Now in those actions which are called miracles, the Deity is directed by the same moral principle as in his usual dispensations ; and therefore being influenced by the same motive to accomplish the same end, the laws of God's moral government are not violated, such laws being established by the motives and the ends produced, and not by the means employed. To prove therefore the moral laws to be the same in those actions called miraculous, as in common events, it is not the actions thetnselves which are to be considered, but the principles by which they were directed, and their consequences, for if these be the same, the Deity acts by the same laws. And here, moral analogy will be found to confirm the truth of the miracles recorded in scripture. But as the moral government of God is directed by motives which lie beyond the reach of human investigation, we have no principles by which we can judge concerning the probability of the happening of any new event which respects the moral world ; we cannot therefore pronounce any extraordinary event of that nature to be a violation of the moral law of God's dispensations; but we can nevertheless judge of its agreement with that law, so far as it has fallen under our observation. But our author leaves out the consideration of God's moral government, and reasons simply -on the facts which arc said to have nappened, without any reference to an end ; we will therefore examine how far his conclusions are just upon this principle.
    He defines miracles to be "a violation of the laws of nature;" he undoubtedly means the physical laws, as no part of his reasoning has any reference to them in a moral point of view. Now these laws must be deduced, either from his own view of events only, or from that, and testimony jojntly ; and if testimony beallowed on one part, it ought also to be admitted on the other, granting that there is no impossibility in the fact attested. But the laws by which the Deity governs the universe can, at best, only be inferred from the whole series of his dispensations from the beginning of the world ; testimony must therefore necessarily be admitted in establishing these laws. Now our author, in deducing the laws of nature, rejects all well authenticated miraculous events, granted to be possible, and therefore not altogether incredible and to be rejected without examination, and thence establishes a law to prove against their credibility ; but the proof of a position ought to proceed upon principles which are totally independent of any supposition of its being either true or falser. His conclusion therefore is not deduced by just reasoning from acknowledged principles, but it is a necessary consequence of his own arbitrary supposition. "Tis a miracle," says he, "that a dead man should come to life, because that has never been observed in any age or country." Now, testimony, confirmed by every proof which can tend to establish a true matter of fact, asserts that such an event; has happened. But our author argues against the credibility of this, because it is contrary to the laws of nature ; and in establishing these laws, he rejects all such extraordinary facts, although they are authenticated by all the evidence which such facts can possibly admit of; taking thereby into consideration, events of that kind only which have fallen within the sphere of his own observations, as if the whole series of God's dispensations were necessarily included in the course of a few years. But who shall thus circumscribe the operations of divine power and infinite wisdom, and say, "Hitherto shall thou go, and no further." Before he rejected circumstances of this kind in establishing the laws of nature, he should, at least, have shewn, that we have not all that evidence for them which we might "have had" upon supposition that they were true ; he should also have shewn, in a moral point of view, that the events were inconsistent with the ordinary operations of Providence ; and that there was no end to justify the means. Whereas, on the contrary, there is all the evidence for them which a real matter of fact can possibly have ; they are perfectly consistent with all the moral dispensations of Providence and at the same time that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is most unexceptionably attested, we discover a moral intention in the miracle, which very satisfactorily accounts for that exertion of divine power?
    • p. 48; As quoted in "Book review," in The British Critic, Volume 12 (1798). F. and C. Rivington. p. 259-261

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