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assistance of sense also to be acquainted with lines, angles, and figures ; and in practical mathematics our senses have still greater 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 enquire of our eyes and our ears, nor the images or shapes laid up in the brain, but we must have recourse to our own consciousness of what passes within our own mind.
If we are to pass a judgment upon any thing that relates to spirits in a state of union with animal nature, 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
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 different countries, and where we ourselves can-' not be present, the powers of sense and reason, for the most part, are sufficient to inform us, and we must therefore have recourse to the testimony 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 case is equal to a natural sagacity, or rather superior. A treasure of observations and experience collected by wise 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 exercise the faculty of reason which God has given us ; and since he has been pleased to afford us his word, we should confirm and improve, or correct our reasoning on this subject by the divine assistance of the bible.
In matters of revealed religion, that is, Christianity, Judaism, &c. which we could never have known by the light of nature, the word of God is our only foundation and chief light; though here our reason must 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 imposture.
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 relation.
Though revelation be not contrary to reason, yet there are four classes wherein matters of revelation may be said to rise above, or go beyond our reason.
1. When revelation “ asserts two things of which we have clear ideas,' to be joined, whose connection or agreenent 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 the things could ever be found out or proved by reason.
2. When revelation “affirms any proposition, while reason 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 these propositions is to us an obscure idea, for we know not what was the peculiar agency of Jesus Christ, when God the Father created the world by hiin ; nor have we any clear and certain conception what the Urim and Thummim were, nor how God gave answers to his people by them.
3. When revelation“ in plain and express language, declares some doctrine which our reason at present kuows not with evidence and certainty, how or in what sense to reconcile to some of its own principles ;" as that the child Jesus is the mighty God; Isa. ix. 6. which proposition carries a seeming 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 present 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 blessed 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 impossible, though the ideas of them may be obscure, though we ourselves see not the rational connection of thein, 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 asserts, and wait till he shall clear up that which seemis 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 the submission.
VII. Direct. It is very useful to “have some general prin* See something more on this subject, Direct. II. preceding, and Cbap. V.
ciples of truth settled in the mind, whose evidence is great and obvious, that they may be always ready at band to assist us in judging of the great variety of things which occur.” These may be called first notions, or fundainental principles ; for though many of them are deduced from each other, yet most or all of them may be called principles when compared with a thousand other judgments wbich 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 prudential principles of judgment. It would be too tedious to give a specimen of them all in this place. Those which are of the most universal use to us both as men and as Christians, may be found in the following chapter among the rules of judgment about particular objects.
VIII. Direct. Let the “ degrees of your assent to every proposition bear an exact proportion to the different degrees of evidence." Remember this is one of the greatest principles of wisdom that man can arrive at in this world, and the best human security against dangerous mistakes in speculation or practice.
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 planets 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 assent, because the arguments for the latter are drawn from mathematical observations; but the arguments for the former are but probable conjec.
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 stronger. 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 set limits to your own improvement.” Be ready always to hear what may be objected even against your favourite opinions, and those which have had longest possession 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 ; victory is on your side, and the advantage 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 great rules of morality, &c. We should avoid a light fluttering genius, ever ready to change our foundations, and to be carried about with every wind of doctrine. To guard against which inconvenience, we should labour with earnest diligence and fervent prayer, that our most fundamental and important points of belief and practice, may be established upon just grounds of reason and scripture, wheo we come to years of discretion, and fit to judge for ourselves in such important points. Yet since it is possible that the folly or prejudices of younger years may have established persons in some mistaken sentiments, even in very important matters, we should always hold ourselves ready to receive any new advantage toward the correction or improve ment even of our established principles, as well as opinions of lesser moment.
CHAP. V.- Special Rules to direct us in judging of parti
cular Objects. IT would be endless to run through all those particular objects concerning which we have occasion to pass a judgment at one time or another. Things of the most frequent occurrence, or 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 these will be the subject of the following sections. Sect. I.--Principles and Rules of Judgment concerning the
Objects of Sense. THOUGH our senses are sometimes liable to be deceived, yet when they are rightly disposed, and fitly exercised about their proper objects, with the just assistance of reason, they give us sufficient evidence of truth.
This may be proved by 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 sense in the best manner we are capable of, about those very things which are the proper objects of thein.
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 of 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 sense ; 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 he no knowledge of the gospel, no proof of divine revelation by visions, voices, or miracles.
Our senses will discover things near us and round about us, which are necessary for our present state, with sufficient exactness ; and things distant also, so far as they relate to our neces. sary 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 manAer, how to judge by the dictates of our senses, they should be represented thus :
1. We must take care that the organs of our sense be rightly disposed, and not under the power of any distemper or considerable decay; as for instance, that our eyes are not tinctured with the jaundice, when we would judge of colours, lest we pronounce them all yellow; that our bands are not burning in a fever, nor 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 tast when we would judge of the true taste of any solid 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 ut a proper distance ; for if it be too near or too far off, our eyes will not sufficiently distinguish many things which are properly tbe o jects of sight; and therefore if possible) we must make wearer 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 survey 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