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And then, as to the actual Mistakes that some People may have made in Disquisitions of this kind, or the gross Delusions they may have been led into, by depending upon the Truth of things, as made out to them by Moral Evidence: These lure cannot be Stumbling-blocks in the way of any Man, that is not willing to lay hold of every slight Occasion, to deter himself from the doing of his Duty.
That some People who have trusted to Moral Evidence, have been deceiv'd in so doing, I hope you think no more an Argument against Proofs of this nature in general; than you think Blunders and Paralogisms, to be a Scandal to the Nature of Demonstration j or the Intemperance of some particular Persons, an Argument against the Use of those necessary Blessings of Life,, which they so faultily abuse.
BUT being now upon this Head, it may perhaps be of some use, to point out in COncise Terms, the more general Causes and Springs of Mistake in matters of Argumentation -? or to shew by what means it is, That Men become accessary to their own Delusions, in the Conclusions they draw, as the Result of their Enquiries into things. Now this may be,
First, By arguing with Media, which in their own Nature are not just, or proper to afford a positive Conclusion to be drawn from them.
And therefore a Man may be mistaken this way, if he argues with Data, which are either—
Foreign and impertinent to the Business in hand.
Or too few and defective, and therefore, insufficient to furnilh him with matter for a fair Conclusion.
Or more than are needful; by which means the Mind is perplex'd and confounded, and a Man is sometimes led into Conclusions which contradict one another: in which Cafe 'tis very likely, that he fixes upon that part of the Contradiction, which most favours his own prejudie'd and mistaken Notions, and so comes to impose upon himself.
Secondly, AS a Man may be deceiv'd (as to his X\ main Conclusion) by arguing even truly and justly, from Data that are unjust and improper; so he may likewise go as wide of the Truth, by arguing after an irregular manner, vpon Data which (in their own Nature) are ever so just, adequate, and pertinent to the Matter which is enquir'd into.
The most obvious Causes of this, are Ignorance, Inconjideration, Precipitancy, Partiality (arising from prejudicate Notions and Opinions) and whatever else may be redue'd to, or are cognate with these.'
Nor is it a Jot more strange, for Men to draw wrong Conclusions, from just and natural Premisses, than to infer things from such Principles-, as will never fairly afford them any Conclusion at all.
However, it may be sufficient, in order to the end of our going Right, in these sort of Enquiries, to have shewn as well the general Causes ses of Mistakes, as a plain and practicable Method, by which we may avoid them.
TH E third general Head propos'd, was the Consideration of the Impossibility, That Providence jhould ever countenance, or suffer any sort of Imposture to be countenanced, with an Evidence os such Qualifications and Conditions, as we , have been hitherto discoursing os.
And this can need no Proof to those who pretend to believe the Existence of such a Being, as he that made and governs the World, must necessarily be: So that this Labour is saved. All that can conclude, That God is Eternal Truth, infinite Love and Goodness, unspotted Justice and Holiness ; that he could not make Creatures t» delude and tantalize, nor give them Faculties, which jhould never be of any use to them: All I say, that can conclude this (as all may, that can conclude that God is) may also from thence presently infer, the simple absolute Impossibility, of his ever dealing after this manner, with a Race of reasonable Creatures.
So that nothing remains for me to do upon this Head, but only to deduce a few Corollaries', and so conclude the Second Part of this Discourse.
SECT. SEC T. LV.
IF Delusions and Impostures can never be pass'd upon Mankind, with Evidences of such a Nature as has been describ'd; then it follows,
Cor oil. I. Wherever we can be sure of an Evi? dence thus qualiffd, there we may be sure, we JhaS not be deceivd, in giving our Assent thereto.
Coroll. 2. Where the Events of things do not answer to our Schemes of Reasoning upon themthe Evidences upon which we proceeded to argue in those Cafes, were not, in their Nature, sufficient to afford us such a Conclusion.
So that some Fallacies or Mistakes, must be committed ; tho not then perceiv'd or suspected by us.
Coroll. 3. Where we are sure of an Impostures by the plain and undeniable Marks of it; there we can be certain, that the Evidences offer d to persuade Men of the "truth of it, would, if thorowly examined, appear to be weak and frivolous.
Coroll. 4. Where things of great Importance are to be believ'd by Mankind, we may be certain, That Divine Providence will order the mat* ter so, that they shall be proposed to us with such Evidences, as will be sufficient to oblige our Understandings (as we are reasonable Creatures) to assent to them as true.
Tho this does not follow directly from the PROP, it self, yet it follows immediately from
that that which is the grand Reason of the PROP. viz.. The infinite Perfection of the Supreme Author of the Universe,
For the Divine Mercy and Goodness, are every whit as much concern'd, to give important Truths, a Degree of Evidence, fit to recommend them to us, as every way proper Objects of Belief as those, and other Divine Perfections are, to deny such Evidence to Impostures, that they may not be believ'd by us. And therefore, I infer, That M for all things, which any way relate to the Salvation of Mankind, and are to be prov'd by Moral Evidence; we shall be sure to find, upon Examination, that they have a Degree of Evidence, proportional to the intrinfick Weight and Importance of them, and in all refpetls sufficient to convince our Judgments of their Truth and Reality.
And I shall now proceed to enquire (according to the fourth and last At tide of the Method propos'd) whether there be not such an Evidence as this, for the Refurretlion of Jesus Christ.