Page images

6. Confider farther, whether the report were capable of being easily refuted at first if it had not been true; if so, this confirms the testimony. .

7. Inquire yet again, whether there has been a conftant, uniform tradition and belief of this matter from the very firít age or time when the thing was transact. ed, without any realonable doubts or contradictions.


3. If any part of it hath been doubted by any confiderable persons, whether it has been searched out and afterwards confirmed, by having all the fcruples and doubts removed. In either of these cases the testimony becomes more firm and credible.

0. Iuguire on the other hand, whether there are any considerable objections remaining against the belief of that proposition so attested. Whether there be any ching very improbable in the thing itself. Whether any concurrent circumstances seem to oppose it. Whether any person or persons give a positive and plain teltimony against it. Whether they are equally skilful, and equally faithful as those who affert it. Whether there be as many or more in number; and whether they might have any secret biais or influence on them to contradiet it.

10. Sometimes the entire silence of a thing may have something of weight towards the decision of a doubtíul point of hitory, or a matter of human faith, viz. where the fact is pretended to be public, if the persons who are Glent about it were kilful to observc, and could not but know such an occurrence; if they were engaged by principle or by intereft to have declared it: if they had fair opportunity to speak of it: and these things may tend to make the matter fufpicious, if it be not very well attested by pofitive proof.

II. Remember that in some reports there are more marks of falsehood than of truth, and in others there are more marks of truth than falsehood. By a comparison of all these things together and putting every argument on one side and the other into tie balance, we mult form as good a judgment as we can which side preponderates; and give a strong or feeble affent or cilient, or withhold our juilgmenis entirely, according to greater or lesser evidence, according to more plain or dubious marks of truth or falsehood.

12. Observe, that in matters of human testimony there is oftentimes a great mixture of truth and falsem hood in the report itleif: some parts of the story may be perfectly true, and come utterly, false, and some may have such a blended confusion of circumstances which are a little wrapt aside from the truth, and misrepréfented, that there is need of good skill and accuracy to form a judgment concerning them, and determine which part is true, and which is false. The whole report is not to be believed, because some parts are indubitable true, nor the whole to be rejected, because some parts are as evident falsehoods.

We may draw two remarkable obfervations from this fcction.

Observe. I. How certain is the truth of the Christian religion, and particularly of the resurrection of Christ, which is a matter of fact on which christianity. is built ; We have almost all the concurrent evidences that can be derived from human testimony, joining to confirmi this glorious truth. The fact is not impoihble; concurrent circumstances cast a favourable afpeét on it; it was forctold by one who wrought miracles, and there." fore not unlikely, nor unexpected :-the apostles and first disciples were eye and ear-witnesses, for they conversed. with their risen Lord; they were the most plain, honelt men in themselves : the temptations of worldly interests did rather discourage their belief and report of it: they all agreed in this matter, though they were men of different characters ; Pharisees and fishermen, and publicans, men of Judea and Galilee, and perhaps Heam thens, who were early converted: the thing might ealily. have been disproved, if it were false : it bath been con veyed by constant tradition and writing down to cur times; those who at first doubted were afterwards condvinced by certain proofs ; nor have any pretended to give any proof of the contrary, but merely denied the fact with impudence in oppobtion to all these evidences.

Ubferv. II. How weak is the faith which is due to a multitude of things in ancient human history ! Tor: though many of these criteria, or marks of credibility, are found plainly in the more general and public facts, yet as ta a multitude of particular facts and circumitances, how deficient are they in such evidence as Thould demand our assent! Perhaps there is nothing that ever was done in all past ages, and which was not a public fact, so well atteited as the resurrection of Christ,


Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of divine


A S human testimony acquaints us with matter of

fact, both pait and prelent, which lie beyond the reach of our own personal notice ; so divine testimony is suited to inform us both of the nature of things, as well as matters of fact, and of things future, as well as present or paft. .

Whatsoever is dictated to us by God himself, or by inen who are divinely inspired, must be believed with full assurance. Reason demands us to believe whatso. ever divine revelation dictates : for God is perfectly wise, and cannot be deceived; he is faithful and good, and will not deceive his creatures: and when reason has found out the certain marks or credentials of divine testimony to belong to any proposition, there remains then no farther inquiry to be made, but only to find out the true sense and meaning of that which God has revealed, for reason itself demands the belief of it. : Now divine testimony or revelation requires thefe fole lowing credentiats.

1. That the proposition's or doctrines revealed be not inconlistent with reason ; for intelligent creatures can never be bound to believe real inconfiftencies. Therefore we are sure the Popish doctrine of transube ftantiation is not a matter of divine revelation, because

it is contrary to all our senses and our reason, even in their proper exercises.

God can dictate nothing but what is worthy of himself, and agreeable to his own nature and divine pero fections. Now many of these perfections are discovered. by the light of reason, and whatsoever is inconfitent. with these perfections cannot be a divine revelation.. • But let it be noted, that in matters of practice towards our fellow.creatures, God may command us to : act in a manner contrary to what reaton would direct antecedent to that command. So Abraham was com-. manded to offer up his son a sacrifice; the Ifraelites were ordered to borrow of the Egyptians without paying them, and to plunder and flay the inhabitants of Canaan : because God has a sovereign right to all things, and can with equity dispoilers his creatures of life, and every thing which he has given them, and especially such finful creatures as mankind; and he can ap--point whom he pleases to be the instruments of this. just difpoffefsion or deprivation. So that these divine commands are not really inconsistent with right reason :: for whatsoever is 10, cannot be believed where that in-ourlistency appears.

2. Upon the same account the whole doctrine of reavelation must be consistent with itself; every part of it: must be conGittert with each other; and though in points of practice latter revelation may repeal or cancel: former divine laws, yet in matters of belief no. Jatter revelation can be incontistent with what has been hereto-fore revealed..

3. Divine revelation must be confirmed by some: divine and supernatural appearances, someextraordinary figiis or tokens, vilions, voices, or miracles wrought, or prophecies fulfilled.. There must be some demonftra. tions of the presence and power of God, superior to all the powers of nature, or the settled connection which : God, as creator, has established among his creatures in this viGble world.

4. If there are any such extraordinary and wonder-ful appearances and operations brought to contest with,, or to oppose divine revelation, there must, and always : will be fuch a superiority on the lide of that revelatioph.

which is truly divine, as, to manifest that God is there.. This was the cause when the Egyptian forcerers contended with Moses. But the wonders which Mofes. wrought did lo-far transcend the power of the magicians, as made them confefs, It was the finger of God.

5. These divine appearances or attestations to revelation must be either known to ourselves, by our own personal observation of them, or they must be fufficiently attested by others, according to the principles and rules by which matters of human faith are to be judged in the foregoing section.

Some of those, who lived in the nations and ages where noiracles were wroughi, were eye and ear-witneiles of the truth and divinity of the revelation ; but we, who live in these distant ages, must have them derixed down to us by just and inconteftible history and tradition. We also, even in these distant times, may see the accomplishments of tome ancient predictions and thereby obtain that advantage towards the confirmation of our faith in divine revelation beyond what those pere tons enjoyed who lived when the predictions were pronounced.

6. There is another very confiderable confirmation of divine teftimony: and that is, when the doctrines themselves, either on the publication or the belief of them produced fupernatural effects. Such were the miraculous powers which were communicated to be lievers in the first ages of christianity, the conversion of the Jews or Gentiles, the amazing success of the gospel of Christ without human aid, its power in change ing the hearts and lives ofignorantand vicious Heathens, and wicked and profane creatures in all nations, and filling them with a spirit of virtue, piety, and goodness.. Wheresoever persons have found this effect in their own hearts, wrought by a belief of the gospel of Christ, they have a witneis in themselves of the truth of it, and abundant reason to believe it divine..

. Of the difference between reason and revelation, and in what sense the latter is superior, see more in Chap II. Sect. 9. and chap. IV. Direct. 6.

« PreviousContinue »