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not be annihilated, so in this case, notwithstanding the impossibility of attaining to a precise coincidence of opinion, arguments may still avail to to reduce those differences of opinion which must always subsist within a narrower compass; and thus we may in morals, as well as mathematics, imagine the poflibility of a perpetual approach, whilst we acknowledge the impo!ibility of an actual contact.
And, ift, I assert, without fear of contradic. tion, that Reason is the fole judge of the evidences of a divine revelation: A revelation deftitute of evidence cannot be supposed; and to appeal to authority as a fufficient ground of evidence is a palpable absurdity. The authority of the Church, if the claim was admitted, must rest upon the authority of revelation; and the authority of revelation itself must reft upon the authority of its evidence; and to make the authority of the evi. dence 'rest upon the authority of the Church, is evidently to argue in a circle, and in fo small and confined a circle that the sophism must be instantly detected. Accordingly, the Papists themfelves appeal to Reason as a competent judge of this matter; and very celebrated treatises have been written by the divines of the Romish communion, in which the evidences of Christianity have been ably and learnedly stated, Reason then is the acknowledged judge of this question; but the danger is, least we should require a degree of evidence which Reason has no right to exact. If the evi.
dence rises to probability, we should act most irrationally in rejecting it because it falls short of moral certainty-as juftly might we reject moral certainty because it falls short of mathematical demonstration. Whoever attends to the evidences of the Christian religion with impartiality and candour, must be compelled to allow the probability at least of its divine origin: In this case how will Reason direct a man to act ? to remain in a state of perpetual scepticism is equally irksome and difficult ; the balance will ultimately incline either to the one side or the other. Now to reject a probability is to embrace an ima probability: Let those then who incline to infide. lity in consequence of the objections to which Christianity is liable, and the difficulty they find in answering those objections satisfactorily,-let such men reflect upon the insuperable difficulties with which that infidelity is itself attended :-Let them take the trouble to frame not only a nega. tive but a positive creed, and they will soon see how much weaker and more exposed to objection every particular and distinct scheme of infidelity is than Christianity-how much less the positive evidence in its favour-how much greater the inconsistencies and improbabilities connected with it.
But, zdly, Reason is competent to judge not only of the evidences but the doctrines of revelation : this it must be owned is a proposition to which an unqualified affent ought not to Þe given ; it stands in need of much explanation,
and no explanation can be expected to produce universal satisfaction. Reason and Revelation must doubtless be in their natures perfectly reconcileable; but they may apparently differ, and in that cafe must revelation be explained in conformity to Reason, or must Reason submit to be filenced by the voice of revelation? In order to aslist our determinations upon this point, it must be remembered, that there is a most important distinction between Reason abstractedly considered, i. €. eternal truth and rectitude, and human Reason; or those prin ciples which we adopt upon the presumption of their conformity to the di&tates of abstract truth; and it is very supposable that the doctrines of revelation may differ very widely from our ideas of Reason, though they unquestionably correspond to Reason as it subsists in the divine mind, i. e. to perfect truth, rectitude and wisdom. Nevertheless, there are some things fo clearly difcernible by the light of human Reason, that it is impossible for us, without discarding it as entirely useless, to doubt of their agreement with right Reason or abstract truth; and if it could be proved that revelation really contradicted any
of those principles which Reason indubitably inculcated, we should indeed be reduced to a state of the most distressing perplexity. If Christianity, accompanied as I think it is with convincing evi. dence of a divine original, should in express terms assert, that the substance which I see in the form
of bread and wine is really and truly the body and blood of Christ, and that the same identical body subsists whole and undivided at the same instant of time in a thousand different places, or if I could believe that this religion really afcribes all the attributes of Deity to three distinct persons, and yet maintains in the most unequi. vocal language the absolute unity of the Divine Nature, I would without fiesitation acknowledge, that Reason and Understanding were given us in vain! The simple dictates of Reason, which in cases of this nature have a clearness and certainty which no fpecies of evidence can supersede, must destroy the authority of revelation; and the evidence by which this revelation is accompanied must, on the other hand, confound every principle of Reason, and “ amaze indeed the very faculty “ of eyes and ears :” Happily we are not redưced to this alarming state. Nothing contained in the Christian revelation can with the least degree of justice be said to contradict those principles of Reason which have any pretence to be styled self-evident. But fome will not scruple to affirm, that many articles of the Christian faith may nevertheless be deemed irrational, as not coinciding with those conclusions which Reason enables us
deduce from self-evident principles; they think that evident marks of imperfection are discernible in the general scheme; and they fancy, as a certain Spanish Monarch is reported to have boasted with respect to the system
of the Universe, that if they had been con-
Say of this plan the bearings and the ties,