Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

state of existence, and I should be utterly unacquainted with a multitude of things immediately connected with my present happiness; besides, experience and reflection furnish me with rules whereby. I form a sound judgment concerning the validity of testimony: I am taught by both, that in numberless cases I may adhere to testimony, without incurring the risk of being deceived,

The same reasons therefore which have induced me to admit a certain order in the physical world *, induce me to admit a certain order in the moral world. This moral order essentially results from the nature of the human faculties, and the relations they bear to the things that determine the exercise of these faculties.

The opinions I form concerning moral order cannot admit a perfect certainty, because, in every particular determination of the will, the contrary is always possible, since the activity of the will may be extended to an indefinite number of cases.

* Vide Part i. Chap. iii.

But I cannot suppose that a man of sound judgment will act in any particular case as a madman would, although there is a possibility that he may. It is therefore only probable that he will not; and that probability I must allow to be sufficient for me to establish a sound and solid judgment, adapted to the purposes of my present condition.

As to those things, therefore, which I could neither feel, see, hear, nor examine myself, because the distance of times and places was an obstacle; the probability of these things, I say, will increase, in proportion to the number of witnesses, of wit. nesses deserving belief, and in proportion also to the circumstantiality and harmony of their evidence, although not precisely similar to each other,

[ocr errors][merged small]

OF THE CREDIBILITY OF TESTIMONY :--ITS ES.
SENTIAL CONDITIONS:- APPLICATION TO THE
EVIDENCE OF THE GOSPEL.

I'm

F I consider certainty as a whole, and make an ideal division of it into parts

or degrees, these parts or degrees will be parts or degrees of certainty.

These ideal divisions of certainty I call probabilities; the relation therefore which the parts bear to the whole will give me the degrees of certainty. I donot

say that the probability of a thing increases in proportion to the number of witnesses who attest it; but I say that the probability of a thing increases by the num. ber of witnesses, according to a certain pro. portion, which the mathematician attempts

[merged small][ocr errors]

to reduce to calculation. To form a proper judgment of the witnesses, two general and essential conditions are required--their capacity, and integrity. The first of these conditions will depend on their bodily and intellectual faculties. The degree of probity and disinterestedness will determine the other.

This must on the whole be finally deter. mined by experience (which is the reiteration of facts, and of particular facts, by which we become acquainted with the mo. ral character).

To apply therefore the same fundamental principles to oral and written tradition, the last of which is of greater force and credibi. lity than the former, this credibility will encrease by the concurrence of different copies of the same evidence; these copies I consider as so many links of the same chain; and a succession of copies I shall view in the light of so many collateral chains, which will encrease in such a manner the probability of the written tradition, that it will indefinitely approach to a certainty, and will far surpass that which the testimony of many ocular witnesses might give. God is the author of moral as well as of natural order. I have found two kinds of dispensation in natural order *: the first, that which determines the ordinarycourse of nature ; the second, that which determines those extraordinary events, which I call miracles.

The first has in view the happiness of all sensitive beings in our globe.

The second has in view the happiness of man alone, because man is the only being on earth who can judge of that dispensation, consider its end, apply it to himself, and direct his actions relatively to that end. That particular dispensation must therefore be adapted to the faculties of man, and to the various methods by which he may exercise them here below, and form a judgment of things.

It is to man that the author of nature chose to speak : Heconformed his language therefore to the nature of that being whom

* Vide Parti, Chap. v. and via

« PoprzedniaDalej »