« ZurückWeiter »
but a very small number of those who may be called truly wise, I shall not be much surprised, if I reflect, at the same time, that to attain to a high degree of perfection of any kind is very uncommon; and that this is particularly the case with respect to moral excellence. But at the same time I can con. ceive, that as gold is no less gold, although mixed with heterogeneous matter ; so virtue, although inaless degree, is no less virtuę. And, as I could wish to be always equitable, I must give this doctrine credit for all the good effects, however inconsiderable, which it produces, and for every disorder it prevents. And, more particularly, were I considering a doctrine which commands us to do good without the least ostentation, to do good works, rather than splendid works ; if this doctrine require also that the left hand should not know what the right band doeth-then I should clearly see the impossibility of calculating all the benefit which may have accrued to society from the promulgation and the practice of such a do&trine.
CH A P. VIII.
ANOTHER GENERAL DIFFICULTY: THAT THE PROOFS OF CHRISTIANITY ARE NOT SUFFICIENTLY WITHIN THE COMPASS OF ALL MEN's UNDERSTANDING, -ANSWER.-SUMMARY OF THE AUTHOR'S REASONING ON MIRACLES AND TESTIMONY.
FIND another difficulty to encounter :
A doctrine which was to be preached to all nations of the earth; a doctrine which was to give to the whole race of mankind a full assurance of immortality; a doctrine which wasan emanation from eternal wisdom : itself;-ought not such a doctrine to have rested on proofs which men of all times and áll places should have understood with equal facility ? and ought not the possibility of scepticism to have been carefully precluded? And yet, what an extensive knowledge is requisite, to collect, to understand and to
give a proper value to these proofs ! how deep, laborious and intricate the inquiry ! how few the persons capable of such a continued application! what uncommon parts, sagacity and discernment, are absolutely necessary to compare the proofs, to estimate the degree of probability which each of them posseses, to judge of the sum of probabilities taken together, to weigh the proofs against objections, to ascertain the force of the objections relatively to each kind of proof, to solve these objections, and from the whole to deduce such conclusions as appear to approach nearest to certainty ! Was a doctrine which required so many extraordinary qualifications of the mind and of the heart, such profound knowledge, and so much inquiry; was such a doctrine well adapted to every individual ? was it calculated to give them reasonable assurances of an happiness to come? could it remove their doubts, strengthen and increase the hopes of reason, and bring life and immortality to light?
I am fully sensible of this difficulty, and do not wish to shrink from it. I see it in all
its force; yet do not think it insurmountable. Let us then analyse it carefully.
By the force of evidence* I have been compelled to acknowledge, that man cannot, by the light of his own reason, attain to the assurance of a future state. It was therefore by extraordinary means alone that he could arrive at this certainty. I can, without difficulty, conceive that the acquisition of new faculties, or perhaps only a great improvement of his present faculties, might have placed this future state within the compass of his intuitive knowledge, and might have admitted him in some manner to contemplate it, as he does his present state. I further conceive, that an internal revelation, or ex. ternal miracles, might afford to man this certainty, so necessary to his happiness, and thus compensate for the imperfection of his actual faculties. But, the acquisition of new faculties, or even a great increase of perfeclion in the actual faculties of man, would have made him a very different being from that which is known to us by the name of man; and, as all the parts of our world
Chap. iü. Part xvi. of the Phil. Paling
have relation both to each other and to the whole system, it is very evident, that if man, the chief being of our planet, had been changed, he would no longer have borne his proper natural relation with the planet where he was destined to pass the first moments of his duration. · A more piercing sight, a far more delicate touch, &c. must have exposed him to continual inconveni. ence.
It would have been requisite also, to have altered the economy of the planet, to have placed it in a proper relation with the new.cconomy of man.
The difficulty, therefore, considered in this point of view, amounts to this Why has not God made a different earth ? And this leads to another question- Wherefore has not God created a different universe ? for the earth is in connexion with the uni. verse, just as man is with the earth. The universe is the whole of all created beings. This whole is systematic and harmonious.; there is not a single part, which bears not a relation to the whole. Can I presume to
A a 2