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CH A P. X.
CONCLUSION OF GENERAL DIFFICULTIES :-OB. SCURITY OF THE DOCTRINE, AND ITS SEEMING OPPOSITION TO REASON.REPLY.
ASTLY; shall attack the religion
of Christ in its tenets ? Shall I draw arguments from its mysteries, their incom. prehensibility, their opposition (apparently at least) to reason ?
But what right have I to require that all should be light in nature and in grace ? How many mysteries are there in nature which I am unable to penetrate ?. What a multitude of these have I enumerated in the 12th and 13th Parts of the Philosophical Palingenesis, and how far from being complete is the catalogue I have there made of them ! how easily might it be increased, if I thought proper ! What grounds, there
fore, have I to be astonished, at the obscurity in which certain doctrines of religion are involved ? Is not this obscurity itself greatly increased by that darkness which envelopes so many of the mysteries of nature? How unphilosophical would it be, were I to complain, that God has not bestowed on me the eyes and intelligence of an angel, that I might penetrate into all the secrets of nature, and of grace ? Have I the presumption to think, that, in order to satisfy an idle curiosity, God ought to have disturbed the universal harmony of nature, and placed me one step higher in the immense scale of beings? Is not my extent of knowledge sufficient to guide me safely in the path which is traced out for me? Have I not sufficient motives to pursue it steadily, and sufficient hopes to animate my efforts, and to excite me in the pursuit of my proper end ? Even natural religion itself, that religion which I believe to be the result, and which I consider as the glory of my reason, that very system which seems to me so harmonious, so connected in all its parts, so perfectly philosophical ; with how many impenetrable mysteries does it abound ! The sole idea of a necessarily-existent be
ing, of a being existing by itself, how unfathomable is such a thought, even to an archangel! Nay, even without reverting so far back as to that first Great Being which absorbs all comprehension, the soul itself, that soul which natural religion sooths with the hopes of immortality, how many insuperable difficulties does it present to me !
But these doctrines of the religion of Christ, which at first sight appear so incomprehensible, and even so repugnant to reason, are they in reality so much so as they appear to be? Have not men, too bigotted perhaps in favour of their own opi. nions, sometimes given false interpretations to the words of the founder, and of his first disciples ? and have they not thus altered and multiplied the doctrines ? Do I not take these interpretations for the very doctrine itself? I apply myself to the only pure source of all doctrinal truth, I attentively consider that admirable book, which strengthens and increases my hopes; I endeavour to find the true interpretation of it in itself, and not in the dreams and visions of certain commentators : I compare text
with text, doctrine with doctrine, each wri. ter with himself, all the writers together, and the whole with the most evident principles of reason; and, having finished this serious, impartial, long-continued, and of. ten-repeated examination, I find the supposed contradictions disappear, the shades grow weaker, light breaking forth from the midst of darkness, and faith frequently uniting with reason, sometimes soaring above it, but never * standing in direct opposition to its dictates.
* It is obvious, that the consideration of doctrines did not enter into the plan of a work, calculated for all Christian societies, in which I was to confine myself to the establishing the foundations of the credibility of revelation. But I shall here repeat what I said in the Anal. Essay, in concluding my exposition of the do&rine of the resurrection, Sect. 754. – The explanation “ which I have ventured to give of one of the chief doctrines of “ revelation, proves that revelation is not repugnant to philoso“phical ideas ; and this explanation shews, that other doctrines
are equally susceptible of similar explanations, were they bet“ ter understood."
C H A P. XI.
GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ON THE NATURE AND CONNEXION OF THE PROOFS.-CONCLUSION OF THE INQUIRIES INTO CHRISTIANITY.
CHUS have I considered, in a philoso
phical light, the principal proofs of that revelation, which reason pointed out to me, as necessary to the happiness of mankind. I review these proofs distinctly in my own mind; I weigh them over again. I do not allow them to be separated; I take them collectively; I view them together ; I evidently see that they form a whole, and that each principal proof is an essential part of this whole. I discover a subordi. nation, a connexion, a harmony between all the parts, and a tendency in each to one common centre. I place myself in that centre, and thus receive the various impressions which arise from all the points of the