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lar understanding, disdaining all dependence on teaching, as our deists do ; which tends to lead one to reject almost all important truths, out of an affectation of thinking freely, independently, and singularly. Some of the heathens professed their great need of teaching, and of divine teaching. (4.) The heathens did not proceed with that enmity against moral and di. vine truth, not having been so irritated by it. They were willing to pick up some scraps of this truth which came from reve. lation, which our deists reject all in the lump.
§ 15. If we suppose that God never speaks to, or converses at all with mankind, and has never, from the beginning of the world, said any thing to them, but has perfectly let them alone, as to any voluntary, immediate, and direct signification of his mind to them, in any respect teaching, commanding, promising, threatening, counselling or answering them ; such a notion if established, would tend exceedingly to atheism. It would na. turally tend to the supposition, that there is no Being that made and governs the world. And if it should nevertheless be supposed, that there is some Being who is, in some respect, the original of all other beings; yet this notion would naturally lead to doubt of his being properly an intelligent, volitive Being; and to doubt of all duties to him implying intercourse, such as prayer, praise, or any address to him, external or internal, or any respect to him at all analogous to that which we exercise towards rulers or friends, or any intelligent beings we here see and know; and so it would tend to overthrow every doctrine and duty of natural religion. Now, in this respect, deism has a tendency to a vastly greater degree of error and brutishness, with regard to matters of religion and morality, than the ancient heathenism. For the heathens in general had no such notion, that the Deity never at all conversed with mankind in the ways above-mentioned ; but received many traditions, rules, and laws, as supposing they came from God, or the gods, by revelation.
§ 16. Many of the free-thinkers of late deceive themselves, through the ambiguity or equivocal use of the word Reason. They argue that we must make our reason the highest rule by which to judge of all things, even of the doctrines of revelation ; because reason is that by which we must judge of revelation itself. It is the rule on which our judgment of the truth of a revelation depends, and therefore undoubtedly must be that, by which particular doctrines of it must be judged: not considering that the word reason is here used in two senses. lu the former, viz. in our judging of the divinity of a supposed revelation, the word means the faculty of reason taken in the whole extent of its exercise : in the latter, it is the opinion of our reason, or some particular opinions that have appeared rational to us. Now. there is a great difference between these
thy to influence the faculty of reason; it seems not to be considered by them, that such evidence, when spoken of in general, comprehends divine testimony, as well as other sorts of evidence; unless they would entirely set aside divine revelation, as carrying in it no evidence at all. If this be their meaning, they are deceitful ; for this is not what they pretend : since it would entirely change the point in dispute, and alter the whole contro. versy.
Or if, when they say reason is a higher rule than revelation, they mean reason exclusive of revelation, or that such arguments of truth ás we have without revelation, are better than divine testimony ; that is as much as to say, all other arguments are better than divine testimony. For reason or argument, without divine testimony, comprehends all other arguments that are without divine testimony: and then, this is as much as to say, that divine testimony is the very least and lowest of all possible arguments, that ever can occur to the mind of man, in any measure to influence his judgment; which meaning they will hardly own. On the whole, it is manifest, that, let us turn the expressions which way we will, all the boasted proof of their assertion is owing wholly to confusion, and an ambiguous use of terms; it is talking without ideas, and making sounds without fixing any distinct meaning.
§ 19. Here, if any, in disdain of such an imputation, shall say, “ I see no necessity of supposing this assertion to be so unreasonable and unintelligible. By reason, we mean that evidence which is seen by reason simply considered ; reason itself, without dependence on the dictates of another; viewing things as they are in themselves :" such an objector is mistaken, if he thinks he has got clear of the difficulty. All evidence whatsoever, even that by divine revelation, is included in his description of reason. It is by viewing things as they are in themselves, and judging by our own reason, and not by the reason of another, that we judge there is a divine revelation, and that we judge divine revelation must be agreeable to truth. Reason judges by viewing things as they are in themselves, not the less because it makes use of a medium of judgment; and when reason makes use of divine testimony as an evidence or medium of judgment, it judges as much by viewing things as they are in themselves, as when it makes use of any other medium of judgment; as, for instance a measuring rod in judging of distances, a compass in judging of directions and courses, and figures and characters in calculating and determining numbers.
If any should say, that reason, in our inquiries after truth, is to be regarded as a rule superior to experience, this--according to what would be most naturally suggested to the mind by such a saying, and might generally be supposed to be intended by it according to the more usual acceptation of words---would
be a foolish assertion. For by the comparison which takes place in the proposition between reason and experience, reason would be understood in such a sense as that it might properly be set in opposition to experience, or taken in contradiction to it; and therefore the proposition must be understood thus, viz. That our highest rule is what our reason would suggest to us independent of experience, in the same things that are matters of experience. Or, what our reason would lead us to suppose before experience, is what we must regard as our highest rule, even in those matters that afterward are tried by experience. Certainly, he that should proceed in this manner in his inquiries after truth, would not be thought wise by considerate persons.
§ 20. Yet it is really true, in some sense, that our reason is our highest rule ; and that by which we are to try and judge of all things : even our experience and senses themselves must be tried by it. For we have no other faculty but our reason, by which we can determine of truth or falsehood, by any argument or medium whatsoever. Let the argument be testimony or experience, or what it will, we must judge of the goodness or strength of the argument by reason. And thus it is we actually determine, that experience is so good and sure a medium of proof. We consider the nature of it; and our reason soon shows us the necessary connexion of this medium with truth. So we judge of the degree of dependence that is to be had on our senses by reason; by viewing the agreement of one sense with another, and by comparing, in innumerable in. stances, the agreement of the testimonies of the senses with other criteria of truth, and so rationally estimating the value of these testimonies.
But if this is what is meant by saying, that our reason is a surer rule than experience, it is an improper way of speaking, and an abuse of language. For, take reason thus ; and so reason and experience are not properly set in contradiction, or put in comparison one with another ; for the former includes the latter, as the genus includes the species, or as a whole includes the several particular sorts comprehended in that whole. For, judging by experience is one way of judging by reason, or rather, experience is one sort of argument which reason makes use of in judging. And to say that reason is a niore sure rule than experience, is to say, that arguing is a more sure rule than a particular way of arguing : or to say that argument (in general) is a more sure rule than that particular sort of argument, viz. experience. Or if, by reason, is meant the faculty of reason, or that power or ability of the mind, whereby it can see the force of arguments ; then such an assertion will appear still more nonsensical. For then, it is as much as to say, that the mind's ability to see the force of arguments, is a surer rule by which to judge of truth, than that particular argument,
viz. experience; which is the same as to say, an ability to judge of arguments is a surer argument than that sort of argument, experience; or that a man's understanding is a better rule to understand by, than such a particular ineans or rule of understanding.
These observations concerning reason and experience, when these two are compared as rules by which to judge of truth, may be applied to reason and revelation, or divine testimony, when in like manner compared as distinct rules of truth. To insist, that men's own reason is a rule superior to divine revelation, under a pretence, that it is by reason that we must judge even of the authority of revelation ; that all pretended revelations must be brought to the test of reason ; and that reason is the judge whether they are authentic or not, &c., is as foolish as it would be to assert, for the like reasons, that man's own reason is a test of truth superior to experience. There is just the same fallacy in the arguments that are brought to support one and the other of these foolish assertions; and both are, for reasons equally forcible, very false, or very nonsensical.
$ 21. If the assertion of those who say, that men's own reason is a higher test of truth than divine revelation, has any sense in it, it must imply a comparison of different sorts of arguments or evidences of truth ; and so the meaning of it must be, that those evidences of truth, which men find before they have the help of divine revelation, are a better criterion of truth, than any discovery they have by revelation. And their great argument to prove it, is this, that the faculty of reason, by which the mind is able to discern the force of truth, is the only faculty by which we are able to judge of the value and force of revelation itself. It is just such a sort of arguing, as if a person should
about to demonstrate, that a man could more certainly discover the form and various parts of the planets with the naked eye, than with a telescope ; because the eye is that by which we see all visible things, yea by which we see and discern how to use and to judge of the goodness of telescopes themselves.
In the argument these men use, to prove that reason is a better test of truth than revelation, they wretchedly deceive themselves, by sliding off from the meaning which they give to the word reason in the premises, into another meaning of it exceedingly diverse in the conclusion. In the premises, wherein they assert, that reason is that by which we judge of all things, even of revelation itself, they mean either the power of discerning evidence ; or the act of reasoning in general. The consequence they draw is, therefore, reason is a higher test of truth than revelation. Here if they retained the same sense of the word as in the premises, the conclusion would be perfect nonsense. For then, the conclusion would be thus: The
power or the act of discerning evidence, is a better evidence of truth, than divine revelation. But this is not what is intended to be understood. What is intended in the conclusion, is, that the evidence we have before we have revelation, or independently of it, is better and more certain than revelation itself.
§ 22. The outward provision which God makes through the ages
of the world for the temporal benefit and comfort of mankind, in causing his sun to shine, and his rain to descend upon them, and in numberless other things, is a great argument that God was not determined to be their everlasting, irreconcileable enemy.
And if God be reconcileable, it will follow, that he must make a revelation to mankind, to make known to them the terms and methods of reconciliation. For God, who is offended, alone can tell us, on what terms he is willing to be reconciled ; and how he will be at peace with us, and receive us to favour. And there surely is nothing which can be pretended to be any revelation of this kind, if the holy scripture is not.
$ 23. Objection. The scriptures are communicated to but few of mankind ; so that if a revelation of the method of reconciliation be necessary, a very great part of those who enjoy these external benefits and bounties of divine providence, still have no opportunity to obtain reconciliation with God, not having the benefit of that revelation. So that, notwithstanding these seeming testimonies of favour and placableness, it is all one to them, as if God was irreconcileable. For still, for want of the knowledge of the method of reconciliation, it is all one to them, as though there were no such method, and as though no reconciliation were possible.-To this, 1 answer,
Ist. The case of mankind is not just the same as if there were no such thing as reconciliation for mankind, or as though reconciliation were utterly impossible. For although the circumstances of a great part of the world be such, that their reconciliation be very improbable, yet is not utterly impossible. There is a way of reconciliation, and it is publicly known in the world ; and God has ever afforded opportunity to the generality of the habitable world, that if the minds of men had been as much engaged in the search of divine truth as they ought to have been, they might have felt after God, and found him ; and might probably have come to an acquaintance with divine revelation.
2d. If there have been some parts of mankind, in some ages, for whom it was next to impossible that they should ever come to know that revelation which God has made, yet that hinders not the force of the argument for God's placableness to sinners, and the existence of a revealed method of reconciliation. The common favours of Providence may be a proof, that God intends favour to some among mankind, but