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eternity and the omnipresence of God, and the philosophical doctrines of light, atoms, space, motion, &c. are hardly solvable to this day.
15. Where two extremes are propofed, either in matters of speculation or practice, and neither of them has certain and convincing evidence, it is generally the safest to take the middle way. Moderation is more likely to come near the truth than doubtful extremes. This is an excellent rule to judge of the characters and value of the greatest part of persons and things; for nature seldom deals in superlatives. It is a good rule also by which to form our judgment in many speculative controversies; a reconciling medium in such cases does often best secure truth as well as peace.
16. When two different propositions have each a very strong and cogent evidence, and do not plainly appear inconsistent, we may believe both of them, though we cannot at present see the way to reconcile them. Reason, as well as our own consciousness, assures us, that the will of man is free, and that multitudes of human actions are in that respect contingent ; and yet reason and scripture assures us, that God foreknows them all, and this implies a certain fatality. Now though learned men have not to this day hit on any lo clear and happy method as is desired to reconcile these propofitions ; yet since we do not see a plain inconfift. ency in them, we justly believe them both, because their evidence is great.
17. Let us not therefore too suddenly determine in difficult matters, that two things are utterly inconfiftent: for there are many propositions which may appear inconsistent at first, and yet afterwards we find their consistency, and the way of reconciling them may be made plain and easy: as also, there are other proposi. tions, which may appear confiftent at first, but after due examination we find their inconsistency.
18. For the same reason we should not call those difficulties utterly insolvable, or those objections unanswerable, which we are not presently able to answer: time and diligence may give farther light.
19. In short, if we will secure ourselves from error, we ihould not be too frequent or hafty in asserting the
certain consistency or inconsistency, the absolute uni. verfality, neceflity, or impossibility of things, where there is not the brightest evidence. He is but a young and raw philosopher, who, when he sees two particular ideas evidently agree, immediately aflerts them to agree universally, to agree necessarily, and that it is impoflible it should be otherwise : or when he sees evidently that iw particular ideas happen to disagree, he presently afserts their constant and natural inconsistency, their utter impossibility of agreement, and calls every thing contrary to his opinion absurdity and nonsense. A true philosopher will affirm or deny with much caution or modesty, unless he has thoroughly examined, and found the evidence of every part of his ailertion exceeding plain.
20. Let us have a care of building our assurance of any important point of doctrine upon one single argu-ment, if there are more to be obtained. We should not fight and reject all other arguments which support. the same doctrine, lest if our favourite argument Thould be refuted, and fail us we should be tempted to abandon that important principle of truth. I think this was a very culpable practice in Descartes, and some of his flowers, who, when he had found out the argument for the existence of God derived from the idea of a most perfect and self-existent being, he seemed to despite and. abandon all other arguments against atheism. .
21. If we happen to have our chief arguments for any opinion' refuted, we should not immediately give up the opinion itself; for perhaps it may be a truth itill, and we may find it to be justly supported by other arguments, which we might once think weaker, or perhaps by new arguments which we knew not before,
22. We ought toesteem that to be sufficient evidence of a proposition, where both the kind and the force of the arguments or proofs are as great as the nature of the thing admits, and as the neceffity or exigencies of the case requires. So if we have a credible and certain telo timony that Christ rose from the dead, it is enough; we are not to expect mathematical or ocular demonstration for it, at least in our day. 23. Though we should seek what proofs may be at- tained of any propofition, and we should receive any : number of arguments which are just and evident for the confirmation of the same truth ; yet we must not judge of the truth of any proposition by the number of arguments which are brought to support it, but by the strength and weight of them: a building will stand firmer and longer on four large pillars of marble, than on ten of sand, or carth, or timber.
24. Yet where certain evidence is not to be found or expected, a considerable number of probable argu. ments carry great weight with them, even in matters of fpeculation. That is a probable hypothesis in philosophy or in theology, which goes farthest towards the Tolution of many difficult questions ariâng on any subject.
Principles and rules of Judgment in Matters of Morality
TTERE it may be proper, in the first place, to menU tion a few definitions of words or terms.
By matters of morality and religion I mean those things which relate to our duty to God, ourselves, or our fellow-creatures.
Moral good, or virtue, or holiness, is an action or temper conformable to the rule of our duty. Moral evil, or vice, or sin, is an action or temper unconfor. mable to the rule of our duty, or a neglect to fulfil it.
Note, The words vice or virtue chiefly imply the relation of our actions to men and this world : fin and holiness rather imply their relation to God and the other world.
Natural good is that which gives us pleasure or sa'tisfaction. Natural evil is that which gives us pain or grief.
Happiness confifts in the attainment of the highest
and most lasting natural good. Misery consists in suffering the highest and most lasting natural evil; that is, in short, heaven or hell.
Though this be a juft account of perfect happiness and perfect misery, yet whatsoever pain overbalances pleasure, there is a degree of misery; and wheresoever pleasure overbalances pain, there is a degree of happiness.
I proceed now to lay down some principles and rules of judgment in matters of morality and religion.
1. The will of our Maker, whether discovered by reason or revelation, carries the highest authority with it, and is therefore the highest rule of duty to intelligent creatures ; a conformity or non-conformity to it determines their actions to be morally good or evil.
2. Whatsoever is really an immediate duty towards ourselves, or towards our fellow-creatures, is more remotely a duty to God; and therefore in the practice of it we should have an eye to the will of God as our rule, and to his glory as our end.
3. Our wise and gracious Creator has closely united our duty and our happiness together; and has connected fin, or vice, and punishment ; that is, he has ordained that the highest natural good and evil should have a close connection with moral good and evil, and that both in the nature of things, and by his own pofitive appointment.
4. Conscience should seek all due information in order to determine what is duty, and what is sin, because happiness and misery depend upon it.
5. On this account our inclination to present tem. poral good, and our aversion to present temporal evil, must be wisely overbalanced by the confideration of future and eternal good or evil, that is, happiness or misery, And for this reason we should not omit a duty, or commit a sin, to gain any temporal good, or to avoid any temporal evil.
6. Though our natural reason in a state of innocence might be sufficient to find out those duties which were necessary for an innocent creature, in order to abide in the favour of his Maker, yet in a fallen state our natural reason is by no means sufficient to find out all that is
necessary to restore a sinful creature to the divine fa vour.
7. Therefore God has condescended in various ages of mankind to reveal to finful men what he requires of them in order to their restoration, and has appointed in his word some peculiar matters of faith and practice, in order to their salvation. This is called revealed religion, as the things knowable concerning God, and our duty by the light of nature are called natural religion.
8. There are also many parts of morality, and natural religion, or many natural duties relating to God, to ourselves, and to our neighbours, which would be ex. ceeding difficult and tedious for the bulk of mankind to find out and determine by natural reason; therefore it has pleafed God, in this sacred book of divine revelation, to express the most necessary duties of this kind in a very plain and easy manner, and make them intelligible to fouls of the lowest capacity; or they may be very easily derived thence by the use of reason.
9. As they are some duties much more necessary and more important than others are, so ever duty requires our application to understand and practise it in proportion to its necessity and importance.
10. Where two duties seem to stand in opposition to each other, and we cannot practise both, the less must give way to the greater, and the omission of the leis is not finful. So ceremonial laws give way to moral: God will have mercy and not sacrifice.
11. In duties of natural religion, we may judge of the different degrees of their necessity and importance by reason, according to their greater or more apparent tendency to the honour of God, and the good of men: but in matters of revealed religion, it is only divine revelation can certainly inform us what is most necessary, and most important; yet we may be assisted also in that search by the exercises of reason.
12. In actions wherein there may be some scruple about the duty or lawfulness of them, we should chule always the safest fide, and abstain as far as we can from the practice of things whose lawfulness we suspecta
13. Points of the greatest importance in human life,