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they were educated, seem rather to be prejudiced against it, and to be ready to discard it for that reason j and who, as this Author advises *, explode under the name of Prejudice all the EjfeB of their Education.
Another of his Arguments to prove that the Christian Faith is not a rational one, is drawn from the Nature of Examination and Enquiry. The Strain of his Reasoning is to this purpose j that Reason requires us to examine before we believe, whereas the Faith required in the Gospel is absolutely inconsistent with a fair Examination. He observes, that " there is not one single Argument from ,J Reason, why a Man should not return of course M to Neutrality, the first Moment he begins to
think for himself. That nothing is more evil "dent, than that to examine fairly, we must "come unprejudiced and indifferent to the Exami"nation. Examination jn the very Term implies
a Suspense of Conviction; and therefore if Reli*4 gion admits at all of Examination, it must ne"cessarily admit likewise of (at least a temporary) "Disbelief. The rational Christian, whoever he *4 be, must of course have originally set outaScep
"tick and that a Man ihay, nay must, dis
"believe a while for Information's sake—." And yet all Doubting and Disbelief is what the Gospel condemns -f-. The Author had said the fame thing before |f, and he returns to it in several Parts of his Pamphlet.
But the Whole of his Reasoning here proceeds upon a wrong Foundation, viz. that all Examination
tion necessarily supposes a persect Neutrality or Indifferency of Mind, and a temporary Disbelief. It is manifest, that in examining into the Truth of Facts, it is not necessary that we have an absolute Doubt of those Facts, or be perfectly neutral and indifferent about them, before we enter on a particular Examination. It is very usual to examine into Facts that we were pretty sure of in general before, and yet this may not hinder the Examination and Enquiry from being just and exact. And the fame may also hold, with regard to Doctrines and Principles. It is not at all necessary to a fair "Examination of Principles, that a Man be perfectly neutral and indifferent to them when he begins the Enquiry, or that he should actually disbelieve them. In many cafes this would be unreasonable, in some searce possible, except the Things he enquires or examines into are Things which he never heard of before. For if he enquires, e.g. into Doctrines or Principles in which he had been carefully educated and instructed, and when instructed had Reasons given him, which appeared to him -good and sufficient; it would be absurd to suppose .that he should not be influenced by those Reasons, till he saw cause to alter his Sentiments. For it would be as irrational to disbelieve the Principles in which a Man was educated, for no other Reason, but because he was educated in them j as it would be, to believe them merely for that Reason. When a Man has reason to believe a Thing, and no sufficient Reason that he yet knows of to the contrary, it would be unreasonable entirely to suspend his
Assent Assent to it, merely because it is possible to be false, tho' he has no reason to think it so.
A Man may enter upon an Enquiry with a Belief that what he enquires into is true, or at least very probable, for the Reasons which have been given him j but yet with a Resolution to examine more closely, and search more narrowly into the Validity of those Reasons and Evidences. And it is sufficient to a fair Examination, that he applies himself to it with a Mind honestly prepared and disposed to receive and submit to whatever Evidence shall arise in the Course of the Examination or Enquiry. This is all the Neutrality, if this Gentleman will call it so, that is necessary to a fair Enquiry, viz. a Disposition or Resolution to embrace Truth, on which side soever it shall upon a careful Search appear; and this Neutrality may be where a Man at present thinks he has much more reason to believe, than the contrary. All the Doubt that is strictly and absolutely necefiary to a fair Examination is, that it is possible what he enquires into may be otherwise than he at present apprehends it. But a Man may believe a thing possible to be false, and yet have great reason to believe it true. And it may well happen, that in the Course of his Examination, he may see still greater Reason to believe and be assured of what he thought at first only probable. In which case, the Examination may be carried on very fairly, /. e. with a Mind open to Conviction and Evidence,without entertaining any considerable Doubt, or ever once seeing cause absolutely to suspend the Assent concerning it. Thus, e.g. if a Man has been carefully educated cated in the Belief of a God, arid of a Providenqe^ and the moral Differences of Things, and at the fame time has been instructed in the Reasons upon which these Principles are founded, it is not necessary to a fair Examination into those Principles, that he should be perfectly indifferent with regard to them, or should disbelieve them j he may very Consistently carry on an Examination and Enquiry, Without having his Belief of them shocked eithef in the Beginning or whole Progress of it, because as he goes on in the Examination, the Evidence may rise fuller to his view, and his Convictions may grow stronger. And I doubt not this hath also been the case of many excellent Persons of great Abilities and Probity, and of free Judgments, who have examined the Evidences for Christianity. They have come to the Examination with a good Opinion of it at first, but yet with a Resolution impartially to consider and follow the Evidence that should arise; and the more they examined, the more they found reason to believe it; and therefore were never obliged during their Examination absolutely to suspend their Assent to it, or to refuse to govern their Practice by its Precepts.
There is no need therefore to suppose with this Writer, that all the Time of Examination and Enquiry must be an infidel Interim, as he calls' it*, or to talk of the Danger of Death's coming upon us whilst we are carrying on this Enquiry, and of our lacking Faith the necejsary Passport, &c. For a Person may fairly carry on the Enquiry, and yet neither during all that time disbelieve the Principles, aplcs^ nor neglect the Practice of the Duties of
Christianity; yea, may still have his Faith more strengthned as he goes on, and his Resolutions more established for a Christian Practice.
We may fee by this, how just this Gentleman's Insinuations are, as if all Enquiries and Disquisitions into the Truth and Authenticknefs of Revelation were Practices utter/y inconsistent with the Pretensions of such as call themselves Christians, or expeB any Benefit from the Gospel-Covenant, to which they are always presumed Parties *. For supposing' God hath given us a Revelation, which he knows is attended with sufficient Evidence to satisfy a reasonable and well-disposed Mind, he may very consistently require us both to examine and to believe it; because he knows a firm Belief of it will be the Effect of a fair Examination, if it be not our own faults. His Design may be in effect this-: Examine fairly and carefully, and you will fee such Evidences of its Truth and Excellency, as will make your Belief and Obedience a reasonable Service.
Nor can I see but a Parent who takes great care and pains in training up his Child to just and worthy Sentiments of Religion and Virtue, may very consistently bid him examine and enquire when he grows up, without desiring him to disbelieve what. he has taught him. There would be nothing absurd in his addressing him thus: I have endeavoured to instruct you in the Reasonableness of the Principles of Religion, as far as I w?s able to do it; and now you are come to a Capa