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fatly exercised about their proper objects, with the just affistance of reason, they give us sufficient evidence of truth.
This may be proved from an argument drawn from the wisdom, goodness, and faithfulness of God our creator. It was he gave us our senses, and he would not make us of such a constitution as to be liable to perpetual deception and unavoidable error in using these faculties of fenfe in the best manner we are capable of, about these very things which are the proper objects of them.
This may be proved also by the ill consequences that would follow from the supposition of the contrary. If we could have no certainty of the dictates of our senses, we could never be sure of any of the common affairs and occurrences of life. Men could not transact any of their civil or moral concerns with any certainty or justice : nor indeed could we eat or drink, walk or move with safety. Our senses direct us in all these.
Again, the matters of religion depend in some measure upon the certainty of the dictates of fense ; for faith comes by hearing ; and it is to our senses that God appeals in working miracles to prove his own revelation. Now, if when our eyes and ears, and other organs of sense are rightly disposed and exercised about their proper objects, they were always liable to be deceived, there could be no knowledge of the gospel, no proof of divine revelation by visions, voices or miracles.
Our senses will discover things near us and round a. bout us, which are necessary for our present state, with fufficient exactness, and things distant also, as far as they relate to our neceffary use of them.
Nor is there need of any more accurate rules for the use of our senses in the judgment of all the common affairs of life, or even of miraculous and divine operations, than the vulgar part of mankind are sufficiently acquainted with by nature, and by their own daily observations.
But if we would express these rules in a more exact manner, how to judge by the dictates of our senses, they should be represented thus: ...,
1. We must take care that the organs of our senfe be rightly difposed, and not under the power of any distemper or confiderable decay; as for instance, that, our eyes are not tinctured with the jaundice, when we would judge of colours, left we pronounce them all yellow : that our hands are not burning in a fever, or benumbed with frost or the palsy, when we would judge of the heat or coldness of any object; that our palate be not vitiated by any disease, or by some other improper taste, when we would judge of the true taste of any folid or liquid. . This direction relates to all our senses, but the following rules chiefly refer to our sight.
2. We must observe whether the object be at a proper distance, for if it be too near or too far off, our eyes will not sufficiently diftinguish many things which are properly the objects of light; and therefore (if possible) we must make nearer approaches to the object, or remove, farther from it, till we have obtained that due distance which gives us the clearest perception.
3. We must not employ our sight to take a full furvey at once of objects that are too large for it, but we must view them by parts, and then judge of the whole; Nor must our senses judge of objects too small; for some things which appear through glasses to be really and distinctly existent, are either utterly invisible, or greatly confused, when we would judge of them by the naked eye.
4. We must place ourselves in such a position toward the object, or place the object in such a position toward our eye, as may give us the clearest representation of it: for a different position greatly alters the appearance of the shape of bodies. And for this reason we should change the position both of the eye and the object in some cases, that by viewing the object in several ap. pearances, we may pass a more complete and certain judgment concerning it.
5. We must consider what the medium is by which objects are represented to our senses; whether it be thinner or thicker ; whether it be air or vapour, or water, or glass, &*c. whether it be duly enlightened or dusky; whether it reflect or refract, or only transmit the appearance of the object; and whether it be tinc
tured with any particular colour : whether it be moving or at rest.
6. We must sometimes use other helps to aflist our senses ; and if we make use of glasses, we must make all just allowances for the thickness or thinness of them, for the clearness or dulness, for the smoothness or roughness, for the plainness, the convexity or concavity of them, and for the distance at which these glailes are placed from the eye, or from the object, (or from one another, if there be two or more clafles ufed) and all this according to the rules of art. The same sort of caution should be used also in mediums which aslift the hearing, such as speaking trumpets, hearing-trunpets, &c. : 7. If the object may be proposed to more senses than one, let us call in the assistance of some other senies to examine it, and this will increase the evidence of what one sense dictates. For example ; our ear may aslift our eye in judging of the distance of bodies, which are both viable and fonorous, as an exploded canon, or a cloud charged with thunder. Our feeling may aslilt our fighe in judging of the kind, the shape, situation, or distance of bodies that are nearer at hand, as whether a garment be filk or stuff, &c. So if I both fee, hear, and embrace my friend, I am sure he is present.
8. We should also make several trials, at some distant times, and in different circumstances, comparing former experiments with later, and our own observations with those of other persons.
It is by such methods as these that modern philofophy has been so greatly improved by the use of Tensible experiments.
Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of Reason
and Speculation. TT is by reason we judge both in matters of specula
I tion and practice ; there are peculiar rules which relate to things practical, whether they be matters of re
ligion, morality, or prudence, yet many things in this section may be applied to practical inquiries and matters of faith, though it chiefly relates to knowledge or specu. Jations of realon.
1. Whatsoever clear ideas we can join together without inconsistency, and to be counted possible, because almighty power can make whatsoever we can conceive.
2. From the mere possibility of a thing we cannot infer its actual existence : nor from the non-existence of it can we infer its impoflibility.
Note, The idea of God seems to claim an exemption from this general rule ; for if he be possible, he certainly exists, because the very idea includes eternity, and he cannot begin to be : if he exist not, he is impossible, for the very same reason.
2. Whatsover is evidently contained in the idea of any thing, may be affirmed of that thing with certainty. Reason is contained in the idea of a man; and existence is contained in the idea of God; and therefore we may affirm God exists, and man is reasonable.
4. It is impossible that the same thing should be, and not be at the same time, and in the same respect. Thence it follows, that two contradictory ideas cannot be joined in the same part of the same subject, at the same time, and in the same respects; or, that two contradictory propositions can never be both true.
5. The more we converse with any subject in its various properties, the better knowledge of it we are likely to attain ; and by frequent and repeated inquiries and experiments, reasonings and conversations about it, we confirm our true judgments of that thing, and correct our former mistakes.
6. Yet after our utmost inquiries, we can never be assured by reason, that we know all the powers and properties of any finite being.,
7. If finite beings are not adequately known by us, much less the things which are infinite : for it is of the nature of a finite mind not to be able to comprehend what is infinite.
8. We may judge and argue very juftly and certain. ly concerning infinites, in some parts of them, or so far as our ideas reach, though the infinity of them hath
something incomprehensible in it. And this is build on the general rule following, viz.
9. Whatsoever is sufficiently clear and evident ought not to be denied, though there are other things belonging to the same subject, which cannot be comprehended. I may affirm many things with certainty concerning human souls, their union with bodies, concerning the divisibility of matter, and the attributes of God, though many things relating to them are darkness to us.
10. If any opinion proposed has either no arguments, or equal arguments for and against it, we must remain in perfect suspense about it, till convincing evidence appear on one lide.
11. Where present necessity of action does not constrain us to determine, we should not immediately yield up our aflent to mere probable arguments, without a due reserve, if we have any reasonable hope of obtaining greater light and evidence on one side or the other: for when the balance of the judgment once resigns its equilibrium or neutrality to a mere probable argument, it is too ready to settle itself on that fide, so that the mind will not easily change that judgment, though bright and strong evidence appear afterwards on the other side.
12. Of two opinions, if one has unanswerable difficulties attending it, we must not reject it immediately, till we examine whether the contrary opinion has noc difficulties as unanswerable.
13. If each opinion has objections against it, which we cannot answer, or reconcile, we should rather embrace that which has the least difficulties in it, and which has the best arguments to support it: and let our aflent bear proportion to the superior evidence.
14. If any doctrine hath very strong and sufficient light and evidence to command our aflent, we should noi reject it because there is an objection or two against it, which we are not able to answer; for upon this foot a common Christian would be baffled out of every article of his faith, and must renounce even the dictates of his reason and his senses ; and the most learned man perhaps would hold but very few of them faft; for fome objections which attend the facred doctrine of the