« ForrigeFortsæt »
6. Consider farther, whether the report were capable of being easily refuted at first, if it bad not been true : if so this confirms the testimony.
7. Enquire yet again, whether there has been a constant uniform, tradition and belief of this matter, from the very first age or time when the thing was transacted, without any reasonable doubts or contradictions. Or,
8. If any part of it hath been doubted by any considerable persons, whether it has been searched out and afterwards confirmed, by having all the scruples and doubts removed. In either of these cases the testimony becomes more firm and credible.
9. Enqnire, on the other hand, whether there are any considerable objections remaining against the belief of that proposition so attested. Whether there be any thing very improbable in the thing itself. Whether any concurrent circumstances seem to oppose it. Whether any person or persons give a positive and plain testimony against it. Whether they are equally skilful and equally faithful as those who assert it. Whether there be as many or more in number, and whether they might have any secret bias or influence on them to contradict it.
10. Sometimes the entire silence of a thing may have something of weight toward the decision of a doubtful point of bistory, or a matter of human faith, namely, where the fact is pretended to be public, if the persons who are silent about it were skilful to observe and could not but know such an occurrence; if they were engaged by principle or by interest to bave declared it: if they had fair opportunity to speak of it: and these things may tend to make a matter suspicious, if it be not very well attested by positive proof.
11. Remember that in some reports there are more marks of falsehood than of truth, and in others there are more marks of truth than of falsehood. By a comparison of all these things together, and putting every argument on one side and the other into the balance, we must form as good a judgment as we can wbich side preponderates ; and give a strong or a feeble assent or dissent, or withhold our judgment 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 falehood in the report itself : some parts of the story may be perfectly true, and some utterly false ; and some may have such a blended confusion of circumstances, which are a little warpt aside from the truth, and misrepresented, 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 soine parts are indubitably true, nor the whole to be rejected, because some parts are as evident falsehoods.
We may draw two remarkable observations from this section.
Observ. I. How certain is the truth of the Christian reli. gion, and particularly of the resurrection of Christ, which is a matter of fact on which Christianity is buili! We bave almost all the concurrent evidences that can be derived from human tes. timony joining to confirm this glorious truth. The fact is not impossible; concurrent circumstances cast a favourable aspect on it; it was foretold by one who wrought miracles; and therefore 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, honest men in themselves ; the. temptations of worldly interests did rather discourage their belief and report of it : they all agree in this matter, though they were men of different characters; Pharisees and Fishermen, and Publicans, men of Judea and Galilee, and perbaps some Heathens, who were early converted : the thing might easily have been disproved if it were false ; it hath been conveyed by constant tradition and writing down to our times ; those who at first doubted, were afterwards convinced by certain proofs; nor have any pretended to give any proof of the contrary, but merely denied the fact with impudence, in opposition to all these evidences.
II. How weak is the faith which is due to a multitude of things in ancient human history! For though many of these criteria, or marks of credibility, are found plainly in the more general and public facts, yet as to a multitude of particular facts and circumstances, how deficient are they in such evidence as should demand our assent! Perhaps there is nothing that ever was done in all past ages, and which was not a public fact, so well attested as the resurrection of Christ. Sect. VI.--Principles and Rules of Judgment in Matters
divine Testimony. AS human testimony acquaints us with matters of fact, both past and present, 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 past.
Whatsoever is dictated to us by God himself, or by men who are divinely inspired, must be believed with full assurance. Reason demands us to believe whatsoever 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 enquiry to be made, but only to find out the true sense and Deaning of that which God has revealed, for reason itself demands the belief of it.
Now divine testimony or revelation requires these following credentials :
1. That the propositions or doctrines revealed be not inconsistent with reason; for intelligent creatures can never be bound to believe real inconsistencies. Therefore we are sure the popish doctrine of transubstantiation is not a matter of divine revelation, because it is contrary to all our senses and our reason, éven in their proper exercises.
God can dictate nothing but what is worthy of himself, and agreeable to his own nature and divine perfections. Now many of these perfections are discoverable by the light of reason, and whatsoever is inconsistent 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 reason would direct antecedent to that commande So Abraham was commanded to offer up his son a sacrifice: The Israelites were ordered to borrow of the Egyptians without paying them, and to plunder and slay the inhabitants of Canaan : because God has a sovereign right to all things, and can with equity dispossess his creatures of life, and every thing which he has given them, and especially such sinful creatures as mankind; and he can appoint whom he pleases to be the instruments of this just dispossession or deprivation. So that these divine commands are not really inconsistent with right reason ; for whatsoever is so, cannot be believed where that inconsistency appears.
2. Upon the same account the whole doctrine of revelation must be consistent with itself; every part of it must be consistent with each other : and though io points of practice latter revelation may repeal or cancel former divine laws, yet in matters of belief, no latter revelation can be inconsistent with what has been beretofore revealed.
3. Divine revelation must be confirmed by some divine and supernatural appearances, some extraordinary signs or tokens, visions, voices, or miracles wrought, or prophecies fulfilled. There must be some demonstrations 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 visible world.
4. If there are any such extraordinary and wonderful appearances and operations brought to contest with, or to oppose divine revelation, there must and always will be such a superiority on the side of that revetation which is truly divine, as to manifest that God is there. This was the case when the Egyp
tian sorcerers contended with Moges. But the wonders which Moses wrought did so far transcend the power of the Magicians, as made them confess, 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 sufhciently 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 livell in the nations and ages where miracles were wrought, were eye and car-witnesses of the truth and divinity of the revelation ; but we, who live in these distant ages must have then derived down to us by just and incontestible history and tradition. We also, even in these distant times, may see the accomplishment of some ancient predictions, and thereby obtain that advantage toward the confirmation of our faith io divine revelation, beyond wbat those persons enjoyed who lived when the predictions were pronounced.
6. There is another very considerable confirmation of divine testimony ; and that is, when the doctrines themselves, either on the publication or the belief of them, produce superdatural effects. Such were the miraculous powers which were comununi'cated to believers in the first ages of Christianity, the conversion of Jews or Gentiles, the amazing success of the gospel of Christ, without human aid, and in opposition to a thousand inpediments ; its power in changing the hearts and lives of ignorant and vicious heathens, and wicked and profane creatures in all nations, and filling them with a spirit of virtue, piety and goodness. Wbieresoever persons have found this effect in their own hearts, wrought by a belief of the gospel of Christ, they have a witness in themselves of the truth of it, and abundant reason to believe it divine.
of the ditference between reason and revelation, and in what sense the latter is superior, see more in Chap. II. Sect. 9. and Chap. IV. Direct. 6. Sect. VII. Principles and Rules of judging, concerning
Things past, present, and to come, by the mere Use of
THOUGH we attain the greatest assurance of things past, and future by divine faith, and learn many matters of fact, both past, and present, by human faith, yet reason also may in a good degree assist us to judge of matters of faet, both past, present, and to come, by the following principles :
1. There is a system of beings round about us, of which we ourselves are a part, which we call the world, and in this world there is a course of nature, or a settled order of causes, effects, antecedents, concomitants, consequences, &c. from which the Author of nature doth not vary but upon very important occasions.
2. Where antecedents, concomitants, and consequents, causes, and effects, signs and things signified, subjects and adjuncts, are necessarily connected with each other, we may infer the causes from the effects, and effects from causes, the antecedents from the consequents, as well as consequents from antecedents, &c. and thereby be pretty certain of many things both past, present, and to come. It is by this principle that astronomers can tell what day and hour the sun and moon were eclipsed tive hundred years ago, and predict all future eclipses as long as the world shall stand. They can tell precisely at what minute the sun rises or sets this day at Pequin in China, or what altitudes thie dog-star had at mid-night or mid-noon in Rome, on the day when Julius Cæsar was slain. Gardeners upon the same principle can foretel the months when every plant will be in bloom, and the ploughman knows the weeks of harvest': we are sure, if there be a chicken, there was an egg : if there be a rain-bow, we are certain it rains not far off: if we behold a tree growing on the earth, we know it has naturally a root under ground.
3. Where there is a necessary connection between causes and etfects, antecedents and consequents, signs and things sig. nified, we know also that like causes will have like effects, and proportionable causes will have proportionable effects, contrary causes will have contrary effects; and observing men may form mány judgments by the rules of similitude and proportion, where the causes, effects, &c. are pot entirely the same.
4. Where there is but a probable and uncertain connection between antecedents, concomitants, and consequents, we can give but a conjecture, or a probable determination. If the clouds gather, or the weather-glass sinks, we suppose it will rain: if a man spit blood frequently with coughing, we suppose his lungs are hurt : if very dangerous symptoms appear, we expect his death.
5. Where causes operate freely, with a liberty of indifference to this or the contrary, there we cannot certainly know what the effects will be: for it seems to be contingent, and the certain knowledge of it belongs only to God. This is the case in the greatest part of human actions.
6. Yet wise men, by a just observation of human nature, will give very probable conjectures in this matter, also concerning things past, or thing's future, because human nature in all ages and nations has such a conformity to itself. By a knowledge of the tempers of men, and their present circumstances, we may be able to give a happy guess what their conduct will be, and what will be the event by an observation of the like cases in