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As for myself, whom I am now only concerned to vindicate, I shall fet down the two passages, to which I suppose he refers.
In my fermon, (vol. i. p. 32.], I endeavour, among other things, to shew the unreasonableness of Atheism upon this account : “ Because it requires more evidence “ for things than they are capable of.” To make this good, I discourse thus: “ Aristotle hath long since ob66 served, how unreasonable it is to expect the same kind os of proof for every thing, which we have for some
things. Mathematical things, being of an abstract“ed nature, are only capable of clear demonstration. « But conclusions in natural philosophy are to be pro6 ved by a sufficient induction of experiments; things 66 of a moral nature, by moral arguments; and matters 65 of fact, by credible testimony. And though none of 65 these be strict demonftration, yet have we an un66 doubted assurance of them, when they are proved by ss the best arguments that the nature and quality of the
thing will bear. None can demonstrate to me, that s there is such an island in America as Jamaica ; yet,
upon the testimony of credible persons, and authors 5 who have written of it, I am as free from all doubt
concerning it, as from doubting of the clearest ma" thematical demonstration. So that this is to be en
tertained as a firm principle, by all those who preI tend to be certain of any thing at all, That when is
any thing is proved by as good arguments as that
thing is capable of, and we have as great assurance " that it is, as we could poflibly have fupposing it were,
we ought not in reason to make any doubt of the ex“ istence of that thing. Now to apply this to the pre
fent case: The being of God is not mathematically “demonitrable; nor can it be expected it should ; be“ cause only mathematical matters admit of this kind
of evidence. Nor can it be proved immediately by “fense :. because God being supposed to be a pure spi" rit, cannot be the object of any corporeal sense. But 1 yet we have as great assurance that there is a God,
as the nature of the thing to be proved is capable of,
and as we could in reason expect to have, supposing is that he were.”
Upon this passage it must be, if any thing in the fermon, that Mr S. chargeth this position (in equivalent terms) of the possible falsehood of faith, and that as to the chiefest and most fundamental point, the tenet of a Deits! And now I appeal to the reader's eyes and judgement, whether the fun of what I have said be not this, Thač though the existence of God be not capable of thač ftriet kind of demonstration which mathematical matters are ; yet that we have an undoubted assurance of it: One would think, that no man could be so ridiculous, as from hence to infer, that I believe it posible, notwithstanding this affurance, that there thould be no God. For however in many other cases an undoubted assurance that a thing is, may not exclude all suspicion of a possibility of its being otherwise ; yet in this tenet of a Deity it most certainly does : because, whoever is" assured that there is a God, is assured that there is a be. ing whose existence is, and always was necessary; and confequently is assured that it is impoffible he should not be," and involves in it a contradiction; So that my discourse' is so far from being equivalent to the position he mentions, that it is a perfect contradiction to it.' And he might with as much truth have affirmed, that I had expressly, and in so many words, faid, that there is no God.
The other passage is in p. 118. [i.e. vol. 3. p. 303. 309.] of my book concerning the rule of faith. I was discoursing, that no man can " thew, by any necessary
argument, that it is naturally impossible that all the “ relations concerning America should be false. But
yet (Jay 1) I suppose that, notwithstanding this, no
man in his wits is now possessed with. so incredible a « folly, as to doubt whether there be such a place. 66 The case is the very fame as to the certainty of an: “ ancient book, and of the sense of plain expressions. 66 We have no demonstration for these things, and we
expect none ; because we know the things are not ca
pable of it. We are not infallibly certain, that any' “ book is so ancient as it pretends to be : or that it was " written by him whose name it bears; or that this is' “ the sense of such and such passages in it. It is pof. “'lible all this may be otherwise-; but we are very well
“ affured that it is not; ncr hath any prudent man any
just cause to make the least doubt of it. For a bare
possibility that a thing may be, or not be, is no just “ cause of doubting whether a thing be or not. It is
possible all the people in France may die this night; “ but I hope the pollibility of this do'h not incline any
man in the least to think that it will be fo. It is por“ fible that the fun may not rise to-morrow morning;
yet, for all this, I suppose that no man hath the least so doubt but that it will.”
To avoid the cavils of this impertinent man, I have transcribed the whole page to which he refers. And now, where is this accued position of the posible falfehood of failh ? All that I say is this, That we are not infallible either in judging of the antiqnity of a book, or of the sense of it: by which I mean, (as any man of sense and ingenuity would easily perceire I do), that we cannot demonstrate these things io as in thew that the contrary neceflırily involves a contradiction ; but yet that we may have a firm aflurance concerning these matters, so as not to make the least doubt of them.
And is this to acow ile posible fülsehood of faith ? and yet this position Mr S. charges upon these words; how jizstly, I shall now examine,
Either by faith Mr S. nieans the doctrine revealed by God; and then the meaning of the position must be, That what God says is poflible to be false ; which is so absurd a position, as can hardly enter into any man's mind; and yet Mir S. hath the modesty.all along in his book to infinuate, that in the forecited passage I say as much as this comes to.
Or elle Mr S. means by faith, the assent which we give to doctrines as revealed by God; and then his sense of infallibility muit be, either, that whoever assents to any thing as revealed by God, cannot be deceived, upon suppolition that it is so revealed; or else abfolutely, that whoever afsents to any thing as revealed by God, cannot be deceived. Now, although I do not, in the passage forecited, speak one syllable concerning doctrines revealed by God; yet I affirm, (and fo will any man elle), that an allent to any doctrine as revealed by God, if it be revealed by him, is imposible to be false. But
this is only an infallibility upon supposition ; which ai mounts to no more than this. That if a thing be true, it is impossible to be false. And yet the principal de lign of Mr Si's book is to prove this, which I believe no man in the world was ever fo fenselefs as to deny: But if he mean absolutely, that whoever afsents to any doctrine as revealed by God, cannot be deceived ; that is, that no man can be mistaken about matters of faith, (as he must mean, if he pretend to have any adversary, and do not fight only with his own shadow); this, I confess, is a very comfortable assertion, but I am much afraid it is not true,
Or elfe, lastly, by faith, he understands the means and motives of faith ; and then the plain state of the controversy between us is this, Whether it be necessary to a Christian belief, to be infallibly secured of the means whereby the Christian doctrine is conveyed to us, and of the firmness of the motives upon which our be. lief of it is grounded? This indeed is something to the purpose : for though, in the pallage before.cited, I say not one word concerning the motives of our belief of the Christian doctrine ; yet my discourse there was intended to be applied to the means whereby the knowledge of this doctrine is conveyed to us. However, I am contented to join issue with Mr S. upon both these points.
1. That it is not necessary to the true nature of faith, that the motives upon which any man believes the Chris ftian doctrine thould be abfolutely conclusive, and ima poffible to be false. That it is necessary, Mr S. feveral times affirms in his book; but how unreasonably,' appears from certain and daily experience. Very many Christians, such as St Austin speaks of, as 'aved,
not by the quickness of their understandings, but the
fimplicity of their belief," do believe the Christian doctrine upon incompetent grounds; and their belief is true, though the argument upon which they ground it be not (as Mr S. says) “absolutely conclusive of the
thing :” and he that thus believes the Christián doctrine, if he adhere to it, and live accordingly, thall undoubtedly be saved; and yet I hope Mr S. will not say, that any man shall be saved without true faith. I
might add, that in this assertion Mr S. is plainly contradidied by those of his own church.
For they generally grant, that general councils, tho' they be infallible in their definitions and conclusions, yet are not always so in their arguments and reasonings about them. And the Guide of Controverfies expressly fays, p. 35. that “ it is not necessary that a divine faith “ should always have an external rationally infallible
ground or motive thereto (whether church-authori.
ty or any other) on his part that so believes.” Here is a man of their own church avowing this position, That faith is possible to be false. I desire Mr S. who is the very rule of controversy, to do justice upon this false Guide.
I must acknowledge, that Mr S. attempts to prove this affertion, and that by a very pleasant and surprising argument; which is this.
“ The profound mysteries “ of faith (he tells us, Faith vind. p. 90.) must needs “ seem to fome (viz. those who have no light but tlreir
pure natural reason, as he said before, p. 89.) im“ poflible to be true ; which therefore nothing but a “ motive of its own nature seemingly impossible to be “ false, can conquer, so as to make them conceit them
really true.” Whạt Mr S, here means by a motive of its own nature seeming imposible to be false, I cannot divine ; unless he means a real seeming impoffibility. But be that as it will, does Mr S. in good earnest beJieve, that a motire of its own nature seeming impossible to be false, is sufficient to convince any man, that has and uses the light of natural reafor, of the truth of a thing which must needs seem to him impossible to be true ? In my opinion, these two feeming impoffibilities are fo equally matched, that it must needs be a drawn battle between them. Suppose the thing to be believed be transubftantiation: this indeed is a very profound mystery, and is (to speak in Mr S.'s phrase) of its own nature so seemingly impossible, that I know no argument in the world ftrong enough to cope with it. And I challenge Mr S. to instance in any motive of faith which is, both to our understandings and our senses, more plainly impossible to be false, than their doctrine of tranfub. ftantiation is evidently impoflible to be true. And if he