Imágenes de páginas

have seen, are only different modes of the divine agency;

but though the divine being has thought proper to act in a perfectly uniform manner, during any given period of time, it cannot follow from thence, that there never can be a reason for his changing that mode of operation; unless our reasoning concerning him and his agency be quite different from our reasoning concerningother intelligent beings and their agency; and in this case there can be no foundation for such a difference.

Besides, 'if there be a God, and if the world, in its present state, have not been eternal, there must have been a time when the divine being did properly interpose, so as to form both it, and the plants and animals which are peculiar to it; and if there has been but one proper interposition in any period of time past, there may, according to Mr. Hume's own method of reasoning, be another.

It would also follow from Mr. Hume's principles, that every new fact in philosophy



must be absolutely incredible, till we can fee how it arises from principles, the operation of which we have seen in other cases; and so the king of Siam will be justified in giving no credit to the Dutchmen, who informed him that, in their country, water became sometimes so hard, that it would even bear men and carriages; for, living in an uniformly warm climate, he had never seen

any such thing, and could not conceive that it was possible.

The evidence that the course of nature has been departed from, is the very fame with that by which we judge when it is not departed from, and must be equally competent in both cases. For certainly the eyes, ears, and other senses of men, are equally capable of judging concerning all things which they are equally capable of perceiving. If a number of persons could distinguish their friend from all other men before he died, they must, being poffeffed of the fame organs, be equally capable of distinguishing him from all other persons after he should be risen from the dead. And whatever


would tend to undermine them. We may take it for granted that God cannot contradict himself. Whatever, therefore, he clearly appears to be in his works, we may affure ourselves that he will also appear to be in any revelation that he shall please to make of himself. He cannot appear good and merciful in one method of making himself known, and cruel and unjust in another. Nothing, therefore, can be admitted as contained in any revelation, that is pretended to come from God, which is contrary to the plain principles of natural religion already demonstrated.

Since, however, there

appear to be

many dificulties on the subject of natural religion, and

many of our conclusions have only a small degree of probability in their favour, we must by no means take it for granted that such conclusions are always just, but must expect that a revelation from God will discover many mistakes, and especially that it will supply many defects, in the best formed system of natural religion.


From the observations which have now been made, it may be seen, that we ought to be very far from relinquishing our reason, when we come to consider the subject of revelation. On the contrary, then it is that we ought to make the most use of it, to see that we be not imposed upon in a matter of so much consequence to us.

It is only by the help of that faculty which we call reason, that we can distinguish between any two systems of religion that may be proposed to us. It is by reason only that we can judge both of their previous probability, and also of the positive evidence that is produced in favour of them. Let us, therefore, upon all occasions, call to our aid that power

which God has given us to be the guide of life, and especially in matters of fo great importance to us as those certainly are which relate to the will of God, what he requires of us, and what we have to expect from him.






Rules for estimating the value of human




HÈ plain rules for estimating the

value of Jingle evidences are the two following. Any thing, capable of being proved by mere testimony, is credible in proportion to the opportunity the witness had of being well informed concerning it hinself, and his freedom from any bias that might make him wish to impofe upon others. If the person who gives us information concerning any transaction, at which we ourselves were not present, appears to be a competent judge of it, and have been in a situation in which he had the best opportunity of being rightly informed, and if there be no appearance of its being his interest to deceive us, we give our affent; but we hesi


« AnteriorContinuar »