Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

our Beings, and the wife Governour of the World, designed that most part of our Knowledge should come in this way, and that we mould be governed and determined by this kind of Evidence and Testimony, in many Cafes of great Importance. The Necessity we are under to do this, arifeth from the very Frame of our Nature, and the Constitution of Things, and the Circumstances in which we are placed in the World, and consequently from the Will and Appointment of God himself. Why then should it be thought absurd to suppose that he should order it so, that our Knowledge of some important Matters of Religion mould allb come in this way? Can any Reason be assigned, why when this is allowed to be proper and sufficient with regard to all other Facts, it should not be admitted with regard to Facts in which Religion is nearly concerned? And yet our Author declaims pathetically upon it, Pag. 50, 51. and asks, Are we to imagine, that God would ever leave a Matter of such Consequence uponsuch a Foundation? If God has been ever pleased to give a Revelation to Mankind at all, all but the Persons that lived in the very Age and Place in which that Revelation was first made, must receive the Doctrines and Laws of it, and the Knowledge of the Facts by which it was. attested in that way; and if that Revelation be transmitted to us in a way, which we ourselves should count unquestionable in any other Cafe, and we have as much assurance of the Facts, as we could justly expect concerning any Facts done at that distance, he may reasonably require our As-, sent; and our refusing in such a case to yield an Assent, sent, could not be properly said to be owing to a A Want of Evidence, because we admit such Evidence in other Cases, but to some other Causes, and those not very justifiable ones, and to an Aversion and Opposition of Mind to its Doctrines and Laws. And I am afraid, that in such a case it would hardly be accepted as a sufficient Excuse for Persons to plead, that they laboured under the insuperable Incapacity os a particular Infidel Make, and Antichriftian Complexion, as he expresses it *, which put it entire/y out of their power to join in giving an Afl'ent; since this Infidel Constitution would appear not to be of God's making, but of their own.

[graphic]

If the Laws and Doctrines of the Christian Revelation are transmitted to us with as much Evidence as we could reasonably expect, supposing a Revelation really to have been given some Ages ago; and if we have all that Evidence concerning the extraordinary Facts whereby it was originally attested, which could well be expected supposing those Facts really to have been done; he that receives that Revelation, its Doctrines and Laws, and the Accounts of the Facts upon that Evidence, i. e. upon as high Evidence as the Nature of the thing will bear, may approve himself to God and his own Conscience, as having acted a right part, and such, as we may suppose, a wise and righteous God wiii graciously accept from reasonable Beings. And on the other hand, it may be justly questioned, whether they that refuse to accept a Revelation as coming from God, though attended with all the Evidence tliat any past Revelation could be justly

expected expected to have, can approve themselves to the great Governour of the World and Lord of Conscience, as having acted an honest and reasonable part. For it is in effect, as if a Man should declare, let a Revelation have been given in former Ages never so well attested and confirmed, and tho' that Revelation is transmitted with all the Evidence, and in as sure a way as a Revelation given in past Ages could be transmitted, yet I will not receive it, because it was given in former Ages; that is, because I myself did not live at the time when it was first given. And it would be as reasonable to plead before a human Tribunal, I will not be governed by any Laws given in former Ages before I was born, nor acknowledge their Authority, tho' I have all the Proofs of their Authority that I can have concerning Laws enacted in former Ages. If any Man should pretend to act thus in the Cafe of human Laws, let him profess never so much Impartiality, and that he acts to the best of his Judgment, or declaim never so rhetorically on the Insufficiency of moral Evidence; I am apt to think, it would hardly hinder his being punished for violating those Laws, except the Court should be so kind as to take his making such a Plea for a Proof of his being not right in his Senses.

This Writer, under pretence of doing honour to Religion and Faith, all along supposes, that nothing less will do, than such an absolute Certainty as excludes all Possibility of Mistake. That it is

not sufficient to say, there is great Appearance of Probability; there must be an absolute Certainty, without the least Possibility of our being disappointed in our Security *: Or, as he elsewhere expresses if, that it must be sufficiently calculated to extort an Ajj'ent from every one that hears it -j-. As if no Evidence would be sufficient in Religion, but one that is plainly irresistible, and forces itself upon us whether we will or no. He frequently talks, as if every thing that had not such an absolute Certainty as to exclude all Possibility of the contrary, were for that reason doubtful, no more than a precarious Conjecture, incapable to produce a satisfying ConviSlion; when any Man that has ever reflected on the Nature of Evidence at all, must be sensible, that things may be so certain as to leave no room for reasonable Doubt, that yet are not fb absolutely certain as to be without the least Possibility of Error.

It will be easily allowed, that the greater Certainty any Man attains to in Religion, it is the better, and more likely both to yield him thorough Satisfaction of Mind, and to have a happy Influence upon his Conduct. But it is far from being true, that there can be no right or saving Faith, without the highest possible Degree of Certainty and Assurance. That Faith is sufficient, though mixed with some Doubting, where a Man is satisfied that he has more convincing Reasons to believe the Scripture, than any thing that can be brought to the contrary, and when, in consequence of this, he is prevailed with to submit to its Authority and Laws, and to comply with the Terms of the Gospel-Covenant. If it were only very probable, that the Christian Religion is of God, it

would

* P. 3*. t P. no.

would be both our Duty and our Wisdom to embrace and receive it, and to govern our Conduct by its excellent Precepts. No Man could run a hazard in such a case, by receiving the Gospel, or at least a hazard equal to what he would run on the other side. Supposing, by obeying the Laws of the Golpel, he should deny himself some Liberties, and controul his Passions in the manner that Religion prescribes, which doth not require us to extirpate the Passions, but to govern them, and keep them within proper Bounds; this is no more than what some of the greatest Philosophers and wisest Men in all Ages have advised to, as the best way for a Man's own Satisfaction and Tranquillity, and for preserving Body and Mind in a right Temper. Or, if he should be called to suffer Martyrdom, it is a Conduct that Reason prescribes, to suffer any temporal Losses and Inconveniences, and Death itself, even for the Probability of obtaining eternal Happiness. In other Cafes, Men think it reasonable to hazard some present Loss, and to undergo some present Hardships and Inconveniences on the probable Prospect of some considerable Advantage to be procured by it. But where the Advantage proposed, is so infinitely great as the Rewards of Religion, it ought proportionably to have a more powerful Influence. And I think it cannot reasonably be denied, that the Man that had as great a Certainty of the Truths of Religion, and the important things it sets before us, as we have of many things that come to us by historical and moral Evidence, would be utterly inexcusable, if he did not govern himself by its Directions, whatsoever present

M Incon

« AnteriorContinuar »