Abbildungen der Seite

say, that, in the work of the Supreme Intelligence, there exists any one thing which has no connexion with the work, and which at the same time constitutes a part of it! If, notwithstanding the weakness of my powers and faculties ; if, notwithstanding the great imperfection of my instruments, I still discover so many connexions and relations, and so much harmony, between the various parts of the world which I inhabit; if these connexions are multiplied, combined, and diversified, in proportion as I multiply, combine,

combine, and vary my observations and experiments ;-how great is the probability that, were my faculties and instruments incomparably more perfeet, that I should discover every where, and even in the smallest parts, the same

connexions and relations, and the same harmony! and this must necessarily be, since the greatest parts are always formed of the smallest, and these of others still more diminutive, &c. and every whole essentially depends on the order and proportion of the parts of which it is composed.

How unphilosophical, therefore, would it be to pretend, that the ceconomy of man should have been changed, by the Author of the universe, in order to afford him a greater certainty of his future state? Nei. ther would the desire of an internal revelation, to give him a full assurance of it, be less contrary to reason. Such a revelation must have been universal, or have extend. ed itself to every individual, since this cer. tainty of a future state was equally necessary to every single being.

But I have already observed, at the be. ginning of Chap. I. Book II. that it was suitable to the economy of man to be led by his senses and by reflection ; now, supposing an internal and universal revelation, carried forwards from age to age, would such a revelation have been conformable to the present constitution of man? And if, from the first origin of things, it was ordained, that the happiness he was to enjoy in his future state should be the result of his reason employed on inquiries into the foundation of that happiness, how could he have applied his reason to this important inquiry, if an internal and irresistible reve. lation had thus rendered useless. the exercise of this faculty ?

Another extraordinary method still remained, which might conduct man to this certainty, so much to be desired, and which appears not to have been within the reach of his unassisted reason. This extraordinary means was that of miracles, palpable, striking, numerous, and diversified, duly connected with each other, and indissolubly united with such circumstances as might characterize them, and determine their scope and design. It is evident that this extraordinary mean was the only one (at least known to us) which made no alteration in the present constitution of man, and left free exercise to all his faculties.

But if miracles were designed to manifest to man the will of the Supreme Being; if they were, in some measure, the physical expression of this will; then evidently all men had an equal claim to this extraordinary favour; all men would have ardently desired to see these signs; and if, as I have

already remarked, * for the gratification of every individual, miracles had become perpetual and universal; how could they have retained their quality of extraordinary signs ? What distinction would have re- . mained between miracles, and the ordinary course of nature ? +

It was therefore essential to the very natùre of miracles, that they should be occasionally wrought, in certain places, and on .certain times; now, this relation to time and place, this necessary relation, evidently supposes testimony, and oral or written tradition. Tradition required a certain lan. guage, which should be intelligible to those to whom this tradition was transmitted. This language could be neither universal, perpetual, nor invariable : such a language was no more agreeable to the economy of our planet, than a perfcet resemblance, either physical or moral, between all the individuals of mankind. It was therefore a natural consequence of the vicisitude of hu.' man things, that the language in which the witnesses of the miraculous facts published their narrative, -should one day become a dead language, and be understood by the learned only. Again-It was a conse. quence of the same vicisitude in the things of this world, that the originals of the nar. rative should be lost; that the first copies of these originals should be lost also ; and that the latter copies should present a number of various readings; that a multitude of minute facts, and minute circumstances, well known to the contemporaries of the witnesses, and necessary to elucidate. certain

* At the beginning of Chap. i. Book ii.

+ I intreat the reader to recur to what I have said on-this subjed, in Book i. and ii,

passages of the text, should be unknown to their descendants, as well as a variety of other information, more or less use ful, &c. Finally-It was the natural conse-, quence of the state of things, and of the nature of the human faculties, that an art* should be invented, the direct object of which should be the interpretation of the most important of all books. This refined

* The art of criticism, which might be called the logic of the scholars, or of commentators. Vide Book iii. Chap. viii.

« ZurückWeiter »