« ПредишнаНапред »
Paris, it would be impossible for Mr. Hume, notwithstanding all his fine-fpun reasonings, to disbelieve, or even to doubt, the reality of them; and, certainly, it cannot be irrational to believe, where it is impossible to disbelieve. Nevertheless, as whatever truth is capable of being opposed by argument is capable of being defended by argument, this famous paradox of Mr. Hume, no doubt, demands a more strict and logical confutation. The objection resolves itself into two distinct propositions, one of which is true, and the other false. ist, It is true, that a weaker evidence cannot destroy a stronger ; in other words, it must be admitted, that of two inconsistent propositions that is to be adopted which is, upon the whole, best supported by proof, or most probable. But, 2dly, It is falfe, that a miracle is invariably to be regarded as the greatest of all improbabilities." Uniform experience,” as Mr. Hume well observes, " is the basis of rational assurance;" and our uniform experience of human nature must convince us, that men are wholly actuated by mộtives. Now, if in order to obviate the testimony which is offered to authenticate an event of a miraculous nature, the resurrection of Christ for instance, it is necessary to suppose, that the attestors were actuated by such motives as are totally incompatible with those immutable principles upon which human nature is founded, it would be absurd in such a case not to admit the reality of the miracle; as it would doubtless be much more incredible, that the fundamental principles of human nature should suffer a total alteration, than that the Creator of the world should condescend, in a way which we call miraculous, to make a a revelation of his will to mankind. In this supposition there is certainly nothing absurd or improbable in itself. It is objected only, that such an interposition is not agreeable to experience. Not to our experience, it must be acknowledged, but to assert that it is not agreeable to the expe rience of former ages, is evidently to beg the question. It is positively affirmed, that such interposition has actually taken place; but when, or by whom, was it ever pretended, that human nature was 2000 years ago constituted on prin ciples diametrically opposite to those by which it is actuated at present? In this case, therefore, we have the experience of all ages, to oppose to an experience not uniformly confirmed by the testimony of
In a word, the hypothesis which implies a want of uniformity in human nature involves in it a complication of confusion and absurdity, being wholly unfupported by evidence, and violating every principle of reafon ; but the suppofition which admits a divine miraculous interposition is confirmed by a cloud of witnesses, and it is likewise perfectly consonant to those ideas which reason teaches, or at least favours, respecting the nature and attributes of the Deity, and agreeable to the general analogy of the divine government.
It would be improper to pass unnoticed another sophism of Mr. Hume, closely connected with the former, and worthy of the fame author. He pretends, that of two opposite arguments, the superior only gives us an assurance corresponding to that degree of force which remains after deducting the inferior. This is a maxim which seems calculated to introduce a system of universal scepticism; for if it is just, we cannot attain to a full assurance of any one truth, but what admits of mathematical demonstration. How happens it, then, that Mr. Hume should, in contradiction to his own theory, reject all the proofs and evidences of Christianity with such positive disdain? It cannot be denied that, taken collectively, they form a strong body of evidence, amounting to what some have not scrupled to stile a moral demonstration. But, replies Mr.Hume, Į reject this evidence, because it is inconsistent with other evidence which I regard as fuperior in force. But, good Sir, will you please to deduct the force of the inferior from the force of the superior evidence, and then tell us what the balance amounts to in favour of infidelity. Surely if this account was fairly stated, you would be constrained, if ingenuous, upon your own hypothesis, to exclaim, with King Agrippa, “ Almost I am persuaded to be a Christian.” But, in order to relieve Mr. Hume from this aukward dilemma, it may be observed, that moral evidence admits of a great variety of degrees, such as is generally distinguished by the terms demonstrative, conclusive, fatisfacH Η
Now a proposition established by demonstrative, conclufive, or satisfactory evidence, must necessarily be regarded as true ; and it so happens that truth admits of no degrees, and whatever may become of the calculations of the Philosopher, the axiom of the Poet stands uncontradicted, that “Truth is Truth to the end of the reckoning." Therefore, if the evidence is such as is sufficient to produce a clear conviction of the truth of the proposition in question, it is impossible to have recourse to that metaphysical deduction recommended by Mr. Hume, for truth admits of no deduction or diminution whatever.
Thus, if I am persuaded by any evidence, whether it be, or not be, strictly demonstrative that Christianity is true; if I am affailed by ten thoufand objections, my faith is not shaken by the mere confideration of an opposition of arguments, nor am I in the least inclined to sacrifice the smallest particle of the truth in such circumstances, under the fpecious pretext of philosophical impartiality, and of allowing due weight to the arguments on both fides ; for the mind rests with exactly the fame security upon moral certainty, and even upon evidence many degrees fhort of moral cer- . tainty, as upon mathematical demonstration. And I maintain, that with respect to Christianity, as in a thousand other cases, the evidence is fo Itriking, and forcible, as to be capable of producing, and it has actually produced in thoufands, a firm and rational conviction of its
truth. In this state of mind objections must of coursé cease to influence; and however plausible they might be deemed while there was room for doubt, let impartial reason once pronounce the evidence fufficient, they instantly vanish and diffolve ; and we believe the astonishing accounts of the fall of the Persian or Peruvian Empires with as little hesitation as we admit that two and two are equal to four, or that the whole is greater than the part.
But, 2dly, It has been triumphantly asked concerning christianity, by some of its adversaries, Cui bono? They boldy affert, that nothing of importance is contained in revelation which was not discoverable by the light of reason they profess to admit the great doctrines of the unity and perfections of God; of the essential and unalterable distinction between moral good and evil; of the immateriality and immortality of the foul; and of a future state of rewards and punishments : all thefe things they admit; admit! but upon what ground? I would not willingly depreciate human reason and understanding, but I profess it appears to me very doubtful, whether, upon natural principles, any one of these articles will admit of satisfactory proof. The best solution of that difficult question, What reli. gious truths are discoverable by the light of reafon, is afforded by recurring to facts; and it will indisputably appear, that even in those ages and countries which are most celebrated for intellectual