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I shall consider, therefore, these modifi. cations as particular signs of the will of the author of nature with respect to man.
I shall give a name to these species of mo. dification, were it only to point out the al. terations they have effected contrary to the ordinary course of nature, and shall call them miracles.
TESTIMONY:- -THE NATURE AND FOUNDATIONS OF TESTIMONY.. MORAL ORDER.
N this subject a question of some im
portance presents itself for our examination-How am I to be convinced that the great legislator of nature has spoken? Is it not reasonable, it may be said, previously to enquire wherefore the legislator has not spoken to me? The answer is plain
-Every individual might claim an equal right to that favour ; aud to satisfy the de. sires of every one, extraordinary evidences must have been varied and multiplied in a relative proportion to these desires. But, by this excessive multiplication, extraordinary evidences would have lost the nature of miracles; and that which, in the order of divine WISDOM, ought to have been extraordinary, would appear no more than the common course of nature.
I must also acknowledge that I am soconstituted, that my senses and reflection are to be my guides.-An inward revelation, which constantly effected in me the strongest persuasion of a future state, would not be consistent with my nature, and the general state of my earthly existence.
I could not exist in all times and all places; I could not possibly see, touch, hear, and examine every thing with my own senses.
It concerns me however to know the truth, or at least the probabilities of things, which happened long before my existence, or in very distant placés.
The intention therefore of the author of my existence, with respect to these things, is, that I should rely on the evidence of those who have been witnesses, and have transmitted either oral or written testimonies.
In this respect, my conduct rests on a consideration, which to me appears very rational ; namely, that I must suppose others to enjoy the same essential faculties which I perceive in myself; this supposition is, I confess, merely analogical. But I can easily be convinced, that analogy in this case is of equal force as in every other case resting on common and constant experience. Is it necessary to search so deeply into the nature of my fellow.creatures, to be certain that they have the same senses and the same faculties which I myself en
From these arguments, therefore, I draw this plain inference, that those things, which I should have seen, heard, examined, and touched, had I existed in certain times and in certain places, may have been seen, heard, examined, and touched by those who did exist in those times and in those places.
If moreover it be admitted that these things were capable of interesting very strongly the minds of the spectators, it must also be admitted, that they have been strict
ly investigated; for it must be allowed that the conduct of these persons, on certain important occasions, was determined by the same motives by which I should myself have been determined: it seems to me that I should act contrary to the most positive rules of analogy*, if I judged otherwise. I speak only of those things which require eyes, ears, and a sound judgment.
But as testimony is founded on analogy, it can only admit of a moral certainty. There can be no necessary chain between the manner in which I should have been affected or should have acted, in such and such circumstances, and that manner in which the beings, which I believe similar to myself, have been affected or have acted in the same circumstances ;—the circumstances themselves can never be perfectly the same ; the subje&ts are too complicated; besides, the judgment which I form on the relation of the resemblance which these beings bear to myself is still analogical. But, if I believed those things only of which I have been a witness, my incredulity would necessarily expose me to a most painful
* Vide Part i Chap. ii. Note 1st.