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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 appearances, 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 thioner 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 tinctured with any particular colour : whether it be moving or at rest.
6. We must sometimes use other helps to assist 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 glasses are placed from the eye, or from the object, (or from one another, if there be two or more glasses used) and all this according to the rules of art. The same sort of caution should be used also in mediums which assist the hearing, such as speaking-trumpets, hearing-trumpets, &c.
7. If the object may be proposed to more senses than one, let us call in the assistance of some other senses to examine it, and this will increase the evidence of what one sense dictates. For example ; our ear may assist our eye in judging of the distance of bodies, which are both visible and sonorous, as an exploded canon, or a cloud charged with thunder. Our feeling may assist our sight in judging of the kind, the shape, situation, or distance of bodies that are near at hand, as whether a garment be silk or stuff, &c. So, if I both see, 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 metbods as these that modern philosophy has been so greatly improved by the use of sensible experiments. Sect. II.-Principles and Rules of Judgment in matters of
Reason and Speculation.
practice; there are peculiar rules which relate to things practical, whether they be matters of religion, morality, or prudence : yet many things in this section may be applied to practical enquiries and matters of faith, though it chiefly relates to knowledge, and speculations of reason.
1. Whatsoever clear ideas we can join together without inconsistency, are 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 impossibility.
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. 3. Whatsoever 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 enquiries 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 enquiries, we can never be assured by reason, that we know all the powers and properties of any tipite being
7. If finite beings are not adequately known by us, much less the things 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 justly and certainly concerning infinities, in some parts of them, or so far as our ideas reachi, though the infinity of them hath something incomprehensible in it. And this is built on the general rule following, namely,
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 certainly concerning human souls, their union with bodies, concerning the divisibility of matter, and the attributes of God, though many other things relating to them are all dark. ness to us.
10. If any opinion proposed bas either no arguments, or equal arguments for and against it, we must remain in perfect suspence about it, till convincing evidence appear on one side.
Il. Where present pecessity of action does not constrain us to determine, we should not immediately yield up our assent 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 side, 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 an answerable difficulties attending it, we must not reject it immediately, till we examine whether the contrary opinion has not 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 : apd let our assent bear proportion to the superior evidence.
14. If any doctrine bath very strong and sufficient light and evidence to command our assent, we should not 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 bis faith, and must renounce even the dictates of his reason and his senses ; and the most learned man perhaps would bold but very few of them fast: for some objections which attend the sacred doctrine of the 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 proposed, either in matters of speculation or practice, and neither of thein has certain and concincing evidence, it is generally safest to take the middle way. Bloderation is more likely to come near the truth thap 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 sucb 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 seripture assure us, that God foreknows them all, and this implies
a certain fatality. Now though learned men bave not to this day hit on any so clear and happy method as is desired to reconcile these propositions, yet since we do not see a plain inconsistency 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 inconsistent, 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 propositions which may appear consistent 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 froin error, we should not be too frequent or hasty in asserting the certain consistency or inconsistency, the absolute universality, necessity, or impossibilty 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 asserts them to agree universally, to agree necessarily, and that it is impossible it should be otherwise. Or when he sees evidently that two particular ideas happen to disagree, he presently asserts their constant and natural inconsistency, their utter impossibility of agreement, and calls every thing contrary to his opinion absurdity and ponsense. A true pbilosopher will affirm or deny with much caution and modesty, unless he has thoroughly examined and found the evidence of every part of his assertion exceeding plain.
20. Let us have a care of building our assurance of any important point of doctrine upon one single argument, if there are more to be obtained. We should not slight and reject all other arguments which support the same doctrine, lest if our favourite argument should 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 followers, 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 despise 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 still, and we may find it to be justly supported by other arguments, which we migirt once think weaker, or perhaps by new arguments which we kuew not before.
22. We ought to esteem 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 necessity or exigence of the case requires. So if we have a credible and certain testimony 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 attained of any proposition, 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 earth, or timber.
24. Yet where certain evidence is not to be found or expected, a considerable number of probable arguments carry great weight with them even in matters of speculation. That is a probable hypothesis in philosophy or in theology, which goes farthest toward the solution of many difficult questions arising on any subject. Sect. III.-- Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters of
Morality and Religion. HERE it may be proper in the first place to mention 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 unconformable 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. Sin and boliness, rather imply their relation to God and the other world.
Natural good is that which gives us pleasure or satisfaction. Natural evil is that which gives us pain or grief. Happiness consists 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 just account of perfect bappiness and fect misery, yet wheresoever 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 there