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circumference. I feel the effect of each particular impression, and that of the whole, I unfold the particular effects, I compare them together, and the general effect of this combination of evidence acts most forcibly on my mind.
I perceive then, that this powerful effect on the mind and heart would be almost annihilated, if, instead of taking the proofs collectively, I took each of them separately, and did not unite them again together; the effect would still grow weaker, if I reduced these proofs to miracles alone.
My method is-natural, and seems to come to the point by the shortest line. I will here briefly recapitulate it :-After having laid my foundations in the physical and moral constitution of man,* as it is known to us by experience and by reasoning, my business was first to inquire, Whether it was consistent with the analogy of this constitu, tion, that man, by the sole force of his reason, should arrive at a sufficient certainty respecting his future destiny ?t And, as it
appeared evident to me that this was not possible, it was natural to inquire, in the next place, Whether the Creator of man. .could not afford him this desirable certainty, without changing his present constitution. This great question led me,* by a road no less philosophical than direct, to the subject of miracles ; for the question was, first, to examine, whether God himself had spoken ; then, how he had spoken; by whom, and to whom, he had spoken.t &c.
But as, agreeably to my principles, miraeles are nothing more than a particular species of language, and that language is nothing more than a collection of signs, which by themselves have no signification ; I was then to consider the design or object of this extraordinary language, which it seemed to me that the legislator of nature had addressed to mankind. I was to consi. der also the moral character of those extraordinary men who had been commissioned
* Book i.
of Chap i. ii iii. Book ü.
Chap. ix. Book ii.
to interpret this language to mankind,* the prophecies which had foretold the mission of a celestial messenger,t the doctrine of that celestial messenger, and theț success of his mission, ** &c.
By thus bringing together, and comparing the externalft and internalți proofs of Christianity, this important consequence results to my mind ;-that there exists no ancient history so well attested, as that of Christ ;--that there are no historical facts established on so great a number of proofs ; on proofs so solid, so striking and so various, as those on which the religion of the Divine Messenger is founded.
Chap. ii. Book ii.
v. and vi. of this Book.
++ The proofs which the miracles and prophecies, the charae. ter of our Saviour, and that of his disciples, exhibit, are called the external proofs. They are exterior to the doctrine consider
ed in itself; but they all concur with the doctrine in establishing · the same fundamental truth.
1 The internal proofs, are those drawn from the nature of the doctrine itself; that is, its excellence, and fitness to the wants of human nature, &c.
A sound logic has taught me to distin. guish exactly the different kinds of certainty, and not to require a mathematical demon. stration concerning matters of fact, or things which essentially depend on testimony.* I am well apprised, that what I call moral certainty is not and cannot be, a perfect and absolute certainty ; that this species of certainty never amounts to more than a greater or less degree of probability, which, approaching more or less to that indivisible point where perfect certainty is to be found, disposes the mind more or less to convic. tion.
I am also well aware, that I should be led into the most absurd Pyrrhonism, if I never gave credit to any evidence short of demonstration, or if I believed only what my senses attest to me. For can there be a more absurd Pyrrhonism, than that which would call in question all facts, historical as well as physical, and which would rashly reject every species of testimony? And how short and miserable would the life of that man be, who would never trust but to his senses, and obstinately reject every analogical conclusion ?*
* I think I have sufficiently proved, in Chap, iii. Book ii. that certain facts, although miraculous, are notwithstanding proper objects of sense, and consequently of testimony.--I always suppose, that my reader has possessed himself of my principles, and has not read my book as he would read a novel
I will not say that the truth of Christi anity has been demonstrated it this tèrm, though adopted and repeated by the best apologists, would, I conceive, be somewhat too strong. But I have no hesitation ini saying, plainly and explicitly, that the facts which establish the truth of Christianity, carry with them, to my apprehension, so exceedingly high a degree of probability, that, were I to reject them, I should do violence to the clearest principles and rules of sound logic, and even to the most obvious dictates of reason and of common sense.
* Consult Chap. i. Book ii.
+ It is obvious, that I here take this word in its proper and most literal sense; nor can any one be offended at what is here said, but those who entirely misunderstand the scope and object of my work. I write for those readers who love precision, and I love it myself. I well know, and have frequently repeated it, that in moral subjects, moral evidence will produce on judicious minds the same essential effects as mathematical proofs. But I am aware, at the same time, of the impropriety of applying to moral evidence, an expression which belongs only to mathematical certainty