Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

an external agency, which might result in sin.-See Edwards on the Freedom of the Will, part iv. sect. 10. and Williams' excellent note on that section.

Part I. Chap. v. page 303.-[By vice. The reasoning

v] here is not very analogical, and of course not conclusive or satisfactory. We can naturally and easily enough account for the apparent superabundance of many species of seeds and animals. Many flowers and seeds are intended, not more for the continuance of the species, than for the food of man, and multitudes of the lower creation, and many apparently for the sole purpose of delighting the senses and the taste of man. A similar reason accounts for the amazing prolific powers of several of the lower animals. We cannot say then, that there is any apparent superfluity or unnecessary waste. The same ultimate cause cannot be given as a reason for the final ruin and loss of an immense number of moral agents, and there is no apparent analogy in the two cases.

Part II. Chap. v. page 377.–Christ as a Prophet.] Christ's character and office in this respect is very meagerly and deficiently stated. That office was certainly much more extensive, than simply to republish and sanction the religion of nature. It was to reveal to man those doctrines which human reason never knew, and could never have discovered.

The reasoning in regard to the sacrifice of Christ is not only deficient, but to a certain extent erroneous. Reason cannot comprehend nor explain all the reasons why God has permitted the existence of evil

. But when we take this permission in connexion with the remedy provided in the sacrifice of the atonement, we see that it exhibits the character of God, not only as merciful and good, but as infinitely holy and just, and hating sin in every shape. We conceive these truths could not certainly be a deduction from the light of nature ; nor perhaps could any of God's rational creatures, even of the highest order, have known the fulness of that character, without some such definite demonstration of this holiness and hatred of sin made known to the universe. The light that this doctrine of the atonement throws upon sacrifice gives it a clear and definite bearing, which reason could not have discovered, and which was only emblematically shadowed forth by all the sacrificial rites and ceremonies of the Old Testament.

Same chapter, page 378.—Reasoning from the history of the

7

ciuman mind, as it has exhibited its desires and tendencies in the various forms of heathen superstition, we would be apt to conclude, that the doctrine of a Mediator is in accordance with

a che natural principles of the heart of man. It is the natural exposition of the felt inability of the human intellect to comprehend and hold intercourse with the infinite, of the experienced impossibility for man to render personally that service and homage which all nations have acknowledged it their duty to pay. In this view of the subject, which we think accurate, the Cabiri, the Mahuzzim, or God's protectors, the whole mythology of the gods and demi-gods of heathenism are a straining effort of the feebleness of humanity to find some intermediate connexion between its own lowliness and the infinitude of the incomprehensible Creator. The same principle is shown in its perversion in the saint-worship of the Roman Catholics. Revelation then only leads onward, and directs those tendencies which man blindly but ardently followed, and gives his faith a secure and sufficient resting-place.

Chap. vi. 385.—[Christianity.] There is evident error in this reasoning. Every prophet did not work miracles in attestation of his divine commission, and many of the prophecies did not receive their fulfilment till many ages afterwards. The degree of evidence, therefore, in general, which any prophet's preaching carried along with it, was in direct proportion to the measure of conviction, or of proof, which the people had of the truth of the religion under which he bore commission.' And possessing the Old Testament, we cannot suppose that any additional miracles would have added to the sufficiency of that evidence. The same reasoning applies to the relative circumstances of the early Christians and those of our own days. Some, or many of the former witnessed the miracles accrediting the apostles of the new dispensation, and were convinced, of course, that they had a divine commission to teach. We have the doctrines in their perfected and collected form, and a sufficient amount of irrefragably attested miracles bearing the same evidence. Taking the aggregate of the history of our faith, we think it clear, that we have stronger and higher evidence of this kind, than any individual church of early Christians could have. Then we have in addition, as Butler hints, the standing and cumulative evidence of prophecy fulfilled and fulfilling, designed evidently to carry down throughout the history of time the divine attestation to the oneness of the plan, and to manifest to succeeding generations the continual super

a

intendance of heaven, in sustaining and completing that plan. Prophecy, taken in connexion with its fulfilment, directly conveys the idea of supreme power in the government of the material and moral world. Taking this view of the subject, which we think the correct one, every succeeding generation, instead of having, as the reasoning of Butler in some parts would lead us to suppose, a less and weaker, will be continually ob. taining stronger and clearer evidence of the truth of revelation, till the final fulfilment of all prophecy, and the consummation of the world's history.

CUPAR, FIFE,
July, 1834.

INTRODUCTION.

PROBABLE evidence is essentially distinguished from demon strative by this, that it admits of degrees, and of all variety of them, from the highest moral certainty, to the very lowest presumption. We cannot, indeed, say a thing is probably true upon one very slight presumption for it ; because, as there may be probabilities on both sides of a question, there may be some against it: and though there be not, yet a slight presumption does not beget that degree of conviction, which is implied in saying a thing is probably true. But that the slightest possible presumption is of the nature of a probability, appears from hence, that such low presumption, often repeated,

,

, will amount even to moral certainty. Thus, a man's having observed the ebb and flow of the tide to-day, affords some sort of presumption, though the lowest imaginable, that it may happen again to-morrow; but the observation of this event for so many days, and months, and ages together, as it has been observed by mankind, gives us a fuil assurance that it will.

That which chiefly constitutes probability, is expressed in the word likely, i.e. like some truth, (Verisimile) or true event ; like it, in itself, in its evidence, in some more or fewer of its circumstances. For when we determine a thing to be probably true, suppose

that an event has or will come to pass, 'tis from the mind's remarking in it a likeness to some other event which we have observed has come to pass. And this observation forms, in numberless daily instances, a presumption, opinion, or full conviction, that such event has or will come to pass ; according as the observation is, that the like event has sometimes, most commonly, or always, so far as our observation reaches, come to pass at like distances of time, or place, or upon like occasions. Hence arises the belief, that a child, if it lives twenty years, will grow up to the stature and strength of a man; that food will contribute to the preservation of its life, and the want of it for such a number of days be its certain destruction. So, likewise, the rule and measure of our hopes and fears concerning the success of our pursuits; our expectations that others will act so and so in such circumstances; and our judgment that such actions proceed from such principles ; -all these rely upon our having observed the like to what we hope, fear, expect, judge; I say, upon our having observed the like, either with respect to others or ourselves. And thus, whereas the prince, * who had always lived in a warm climate, naturally concluded, in the way of analogy, that there was no such thing as water's becoming hard, because he had always observed it to be fluid and yielding; we, on the contrary, from analogy, conclude, that there is no presumption at all against this; that it is supposable there may be frost in England any given day in January next; probable, that there will on some day of the month ; and that there is a moral certainty, i. c. ground for an expectation, without any doubt of it, in some part or other of the winter.

Probable evidence, in its very nature, affords but an imperfect kind of information, and is to be considered as relative only to beings of limited capacities. For nothing which is the possible object of knowledge, whether past, present, or future, can be probable to an infinite Intelligence; since it cannot but be discerned absolutely as it is in itself, certainly true, or certainly false. But to us, probability is the very guide of life.

From these things it follows, that in questions of difficulty, or such as are thought so, where more satisfactory evidence cannot be had, or is not seen, if the result of examination be, that there appears, upon the whole, any the lowest presumption on one side, and none on the other, or a greater presumption on one side, though in the lowest degree greater, this determines the question even in matters of speculation ; and, in matters of practice, will lay us under an absolute and formal obligation, in point of prudence and of interest, to act upon that presumption, or low probability, though it be so low as to leave the mind in very great doubt which is the truth. For surely a man is as really bound in prudence to do what upon the whole appears, according to the best of his judgment, to be

The story is told by Mr. Locke, in the chapter of Probability,

« AnteriorContinuar »