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And in practical mathematics our senses have still great er employment.
If we would judge of the pure properties, and actions of the mind, of the nature of spirits, their various perceptions and powers, we must not inquire of our eyes and our ears, nor the images or shapes laid up in. the brain, but we must have recourse to our own con. sciousness of what pafles within our own mind. · If we are to pass a judgment upon any thing that relates to fpirits in a ftate of union with animal n2ture, and the mixt properties of sensation, fancy, appetite, passion, pleasure and pain, which arise thence, we must consult our own sensations, and the other powers which we find in ourselves, considered as men or creatures made up of a mind and an animal; and by just reasonings deduce proper consequences, and improve our knowledge in these subjects.
If we have , occasion to judge concerning matters done in past ages, or in distant countries, and where we ourselves cannot be present, the powers of sense and reason (for the most part) are not sufficient to inform us, and we must: therefore have recourse to the tefti. mony of others; and this is either divine or human.
In matters of mere human prudence, we shall find. the greatest advantage by making wise observations on our own conduct, and the conduct of others, and a survey of the events attending such conduct. Experience in this cafe is equal to a natural fagacity, or 12ther superior. A treasure of observations and expe. riences collected by wife men, is of admirable service here. And perhaps there is nothing in the world of this kind equal to the sacred book of Proverbs, even if we look on it as a mere human writing. .
In questions of natural religion, we must exercifa the faculty of reason which God has given us; and fince he has been pleased to afford us his word, wc fhould confirm and improve or correct our reasonings on this subject by the divine affistance of the bible. .
In matters of revealed religion, that is, Chriftianity, Judaism, &c. which we could never have known by the light of nature, the word of God is our only foun. dation and chief fight; though here our reason mutt
be used both to find out the true meaning of God in his word, and to derive just inferences from what God has written, as well as to judge of the credentials whereby divine testimony is distinguished from mere human testimony, or from impofture.
As divine revelation can never contradict right reason, (for they are two great lights given us by our creator for our conduct) so reason ought by no means to assume to itself a power to contradict divine revelation..
Though revelation be not contrary to reason, yet there are four classes wherein matters of revelation may be said to raise above, or go beyond: our reason.
1. When revelation afferts two things of which we have clear ideas, to be joined, whose connection or agreement is not discoverable by reason; as when scripture informs us, that the dead shall rise, that the earth. shall be burnt up, and the man Christ Jesus shall return from heaven, none of these things could ever be found out or proved by reason..
2. When revelation affirms any proposition, while Teason has no clear and distinct ideas of the subject, or of the predicate ; as God created all things by Jesus Christ :. by the Urim and Thummim God gave forth divine oracles. The predicate of each of thele propofitions is to us an obfcure idea, for we know not what was the peculiar agency of Jesus Christ when God the father created the world by him; nor have we any clear and certain conception what the Urim and Thummin were, nor how God gave answers to his people by them. . :- 3. When revelation, in plain and express language, declare some doctrine which our reason at present knows not with evidence and certainty how or in what sense to reconcile some of its own principles ; as, that the child Jesus is the mighty God, Ira. ix. 6. which propofition carries a feeming opposition to the unity and spirituality of the godhead, which are principles of reason.
4 When two propositions or doctrines are plainly asserted by divine revelation, which our reason at prefent knows not how or in what sense with evidence and certainty to reconcile with one another; as, the Father is the only true God, John xvii. 3. and yet, Christ is over all, God blefsed for ever, Rom. ix. 5.
Now divine revelation having declared all these propositions, reason is bound to receive them, because it cannot prove them to be utterly inconsistent or impoffible, though the ideas of them may be obscure, though we ourselves see not the rational connection of them, and though we know not certainly how to reconcile them. In these cases reason must submit to faith : that is, we are bound to believe what God afferts, and wait till he shall clear up that which seems dark and difficult, and till the mysteries of faith shall be farther explained to us, either in this world, or in the world to come,* and reason itself dictates this submission.
VIJ. Direct. It is very useful to have fome general principles of truth settled in tbe mind, whoje evidence is great and obvious, that they may be always ready at hand to al us in judging of the great variety of things which occur. These may be called first nations, or fundamental prina ciples ;. for though many of them are deduced from each other, yet most or all of them may be called price ciples when compared with a thousand other judgments which we form under the regulation and influence of these primary propositions.
Every art and science, as well as the affairs of civil life and religion, have peculiar principles of this kind belonging to them. There are metaphysical, physical, mathematical, political, economical, medicinal, theological,, moral, and prudentical principles of judgment: It would be too tedious to give a specimen of them all in this place. Those which are most of universal use to us both as men and as chriftians, may be found in the following chapter among the rules of judgment about particular objects.
VIII. Direct. Let the degrees of your affent to every proposition bear an exact proportion to the different degrees of evidence. Remember this is one of the greatest princi. ples of wisdom that man can arrive at in this world, and the best human security againft dangerous mistakes in fpeculation or practice..
* See fomething more on this subject, direct. II. preced. and chap, V. sect. 6.
In the nature of things, of which our knowledge is made up, there is infinite variety in their degrees of evidence. And as God hath given our minds a power to suspend their assent till the evidence be plain, so we have a power to receive things which are proposed to us with a stronger or weaker belief, in infinite variety of degrees proportionable to their evidence. I believe, that the planers are inhabited, and I believe that the earth rolls among them yearly round the sun; but I do not believe both these propositions with an equal firmness of affent, because the arguments for the latter are drawn from mathematical observations ; but the arguments for the former are but probable conjectures and moral reasonings. Yet neither do I believe either of these propositions so firmly, as I do that the earth. is about twenty-four thousand miles round, because the mathematical proof of this is much easier, plainer and Itronger. And yet farther, when I say that the earth was created by the power of God, I have still a more infallible assurance of this than of all the rest, because reason and scripture join to assure me of it.
IX. Direct. Keep your mind always open to receive truth and never fet limits to your improvements. Be always. ready to hear what may be objected even against your favourite opinions, and those which have had longest poffefsion of your assent. And if there should be any new and uncontroulable evidence brought against these old or beloved sentiments, do not wink your eyes fast against the light, but part with any thing for the sake of truth: Remember when you overcome an error, you gain truth; the victory is on your side, and the advantages is all your own,
I confess those grand principles of belief and practice which universally influence our conduct both with regard to this life and the life to come, should be supposed to be well settled in the first years of our studies, such as, the existence and providence of God, the truth of christianity, the authority of scripture, the general rules. of morality, &c. We should avoid a light fluttering genius, ever ready to change our foundations, and to be carried about with every kind of doctrine. To guard. against which inconveniences, we should labour with
earnest diligence and fervent prayer, that our most fundamental and important points of belief and practice may be establifhed upon just grounds of reason and fcripture when we come to years of discretion, and fit to judge for ourselves in fuch important points. Yet fince it is possible that the folly or prejudices of younger years may have established persons in some mistaken fentiments, even in very important matters, we should always hold ourselves ready to receive any new advantage toward the direction or improvement even of our established principles, as well as opinions of lefser moment.
SPECIAL RULES TO DIRECT US IN JUDING OF PARTI
TT would be endless to run through all those partiI cular objects.concerning which we have occasion to pass a judgment at one time or another. Things of the most frequent occurrence, of the widest extent, and of the greatest importance, are the objects and exercises of sense, of reason and speculation, the matters of morality, religion, and prudence, of human and divine testimony, together with the essays of reasoning upon things past and future. Special rules relating to all there will be the subject of the following fections.
SECT. I. Principles and Rules of Judgment concerning the Objects of
THOUGH our senses are sometimes liable to be i deceived, yet when they are rightly disposed; and