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writings must neceffarily give a greit, and a very plausible advantage to unbelievers; who, finding that it is not now pretended that religion in general, or christianity in particular, is founded ca argument, will make no difficulty of rejecting them on the principles of common f. np alio, and will not be displeased to find that christian writers will argue the matter with them no longer.
This common sense, which is from henceforth to be considered as the first, and likewise the last resort with respect to religion, and the evidences of it, there writers represent as being the same power or faculty by which we judge that the whole is greater than a part, and by which we distinguish all other self-evident truths from palpable absurdities. By the very concise process of an appeal to this principle, they say, that any man may fully satisfy himself concerning the truth of the being, the unity, the attributes, and the providence of God, and also of a future state of retribution, and even (as Dr. Oswald has given out, and VOL. II.
has promised to prove at large) of the evidences of christianity.
. Upon this plan I might have saved myself the trouble of writing the preceding parts of this work, in which my object, has been to prove the truth of the abovementioned propositions, contenting myself with roundly asserting them; and, without replying to any of the objections of unbelievers, not hesitating to pronounce every man a fool (see Dr. Oswald's Appeal, p. 134.) who did not affent to them.
But, notwithstanding, I have given all the attention I could to the treatise of Dr. Oswald, who has written most fully on the subject, I am by no means convinced that the propositions above mentioned are to be claffed among primary truths, or those to which every man must necessarily give his assent (when the terms of them have been properly explained) without the help of other intermediate propositions. And as I have no natural right to set up my private judge
ment as the standard of truth, in opposition to that of the rest of mankind, I do not see but that an unbeliever is as much at liberty to assert the falfhood, as I am to assert the truth of such propositions ; and what would be gained by our reciprocally calling one another fools and blockheads ?
The source of this umbrage that has been taken at reasoning about religion, appears to me to have been a mistake concerning the nature of it, and an expectation of a kind, or degree of evidence, that the nature of the case will not admit of; and which, indeed, is by no means necessary for the purpose to which it is applied ; being different from, or superior to, that evidence which, in other fimilar cases, does actually produce conviction, and influence the conduct; which, however, is evidently all that can be necessary in the business of religion.
If a lottery be proposed to me, in which I see that there are a thousand prizes to one blank, I do not demur about purchasing a ticket, because it cannot be absolutely demon
strated strated that I shall be a gainer by it; a very high degree of probability having an effect upon the mind, that can hardly be distinguished from that of absolute certainty. .
If the Copernican hypothesis of the solar system be proposed to me, I do not reject it, or even keep my mind in suspense, because there is a possibility of the Ptolemaic system being true, and because the sun, immense as it is, and rapid as its motion must be, may revolve round the earth.
This is still more evidently the case with respect to the influence of tefiimony upon the mind of man, though it can never annount to more than a very high degree of probability. For we reason and act upon the supposition of there having been such a man as Julius Cæfar, of his having been stabbed in the senate-house, and of there being such a city as Pekin in China, just as if we ourselves had been present at those scenes, or places ; though there is a possibility of all the books we have read having been contrived to impose upon us and the world,
and that all our acquaintance were in the secret, and concurred to favour the deception.
Now all the evidence of religious truths is of these kinds, being either general conclusions, by induction from a number of particular appearances, or founded on hiftorical evidence.
If any person, like Lord Bolingbroke, call in question the goodness of God, all that I can say to convince him of his mistake, is to thew him that there are more marks of kind intention than of the contrary in the structure and government of the world; and, if he reply, that some facts, singly taken, are as evident marks of a malevolent intention, as others are of a good intention, and the particular instances to which he alludes be such as I cannot deny. or explain, so that my proof is not complete, I frankly acknowledge that I have no other, or better. But this is sufficient to satisfy me, and, I presume, it will be abundantly satisfactory to all who are can