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art, therefore, was to take place, was to enlighten the learned, to disperse or lessen the clouds which obscured certain truths; and the learned were to enlighten and conduct the multitude.
It must not be objected here, that God, by an extraordinary intervention, might have prevented the decay of the language in which the evidence had been written ; that by the same means he might have prevented the loss of the written evidence, the contradictions, the alterations, the' various read. ings of the text :- I have already observed how unreasonable such an objection would be,* since it would be still supposing continued miracles, &c. I have also obser. ved, that these contradictions, these alterations, these variations, of the text, do not affect the ground, or the substance of the evidence; and that it is by no means impossible to reconcile the passages in a satisfactory manner.t
- I now come closer to the difficulty under examination. Since then the certainty of a future state could rest only on proofs of fact; since the nature and design of the miracles required that they should be wrought in certain places, and at certain times; it became a necessary consequence, that the proofs of a future state were to be submitted to the decision of reason, in the same manner as all other proofs of facts. The proofs therefore of a future state fellthus under the test of criticism, as much as any other historal facts : thus likewise they become the most important object of deep investigation; and it was a part of the plan of Providence, that the learned should collect these proofs, arrange them in a certain order, develope, elucidate them, and solve the objections which they would create. That they should compose from the whole particular treatises, and become interpre, ters to the people of these narratives, which contained the words of eternal life.
* Vide Book iv. Chap. iii.
+ Vide Book üi. Chap. viii. and Book iv. Chap. ii. and iji.
Let me now compress my arguments into a narrower compass. Man has two means of arriving at the knowledge of things; the senses, and reflection: neither the one nor the other of these two means, nor both to
gether, could lead him to a moral certainty of a future state : they were too dispropor. tionate to the nature of those things which formed the object of this certainty. This I have clearly proved.*Man therefore could be led to this certainty only by some extraordinary means. But, it was an intel. ligent and moral being which was to be led --it was MAN; that is, a being endowed with certain faculties, and whose faculties were confined within certain actual limits. If, therefore, the extraordinary means, of which I am speaking, had consisted in imparting new faculties to man, or in enlar. ging the actual extent of his faculties, it would no longer have been man, who would have been led to the certainty in question ; it would have been a being very different from that which man really is. It was therefore requisite, that these extraordina. ry means should be so far consistent with the present constitution of man, that, without creating the least alteration, it might be sufficient to convince him of a future state These means were MIRACLES; for nothing could be better adapted to prove to man
*Book xvi. Chap. iii. Pbil. Paling.
kind, that the author of nature had spoken, than miracles. But had miracles been wrought in every place, and in every time, they would have fallen into the ordinary course of nature, and would no longer have been sufficient to ascertain, that the supreme author of nature had spoken.* It became therefore necessary, that miracles should be wrought in certain places, and at certain times. They were, then, to be submitted to the rules of testimony, as are all other facts. Reason, therefore, was to apply these rules, and by this application to judge of the reality of the facts. And, Because these facts were miraculous, and because, to obtain belief, miraculous facts require a greater number of testimonies, and testimonies of superior force, it was agreeable to the nature of this species of proof, that it should be given by witnesses who united, in the highest degree, those conditions that establish, in the eye of reason, the credibility of any fact whatever ;t I say, of any fact whatever, because it seems.yery evident to me, that miracles are not less facts, although those facts are not comprised within the sphere of the common laws of nature. I have already observed elsewhere, * that reason will acquiesce in those proofs of facts which the miracles afford, if, after applying to those proofs the rules of sound criticism and exact logic, they appear to be established on a solid basis.
* Vide Book i. and Book ii. Chap. ii.
+ Vide Book ii. Chap. ii.
-I shall add but one observation more, and shall then, I apprehend, have cleared up the difficulty in question ; Have I not in reality exaggerated this difficulty? Are such great parts, such extensive and elevated knowledge, requisite, in fact, to form a sound judgment of the proofs of the Christian revelation ? In order to appreciate rightly the most palpable proofs, collected by the best writers, with as much order as perspicuity, in books which they have found means to adapt to all capacities, is it not sufficient to have an impartial mind, disengaged from the prejudices of false phi. losophy, an upright heart, and a moderate degree of attention? That a sensible reader
* Book ji. Chap. iii.