« PreviousContinue »
did and impartial; and with persons who are otherwise disposed, an appeal to their common sense will have no more effect.
• In like manner, to prove the facts of the death and resurrection of Christ, the early dates, and consequent authenticity of the gospel histories, or any other facts, from which the truth of what we call the gospel is inferred, it is sufficient, but it is neceffary, to shew that the credibility of theie facts has the same foundation as that of those which constitute the body of all ancient history, and that the miraculous events have such additional evidence of an external and internal kind, as overbalances our backwardness to admit the truth of facts diffimilar to those in other histories, and those which have fallen within our own particular observation. And if any person will say that this is not demonfiration, I am filent; fatisfied with having alledged such evidence as the nature of the case admitted, and despairing of producing conviction by any other means.
The thing that seems chiefly to have influenced the writers above-mentioned to desert the plain doctrine of Mr. Locke, concerning the source of our ideas, is its insufficiency to demonstrate the reality of a material world; and, I readily acknowledge, it is insufficient for such a demonstration as thall leave no room for cavil: because it may be said that, it is posible that the divine being may, by his own immediate agency, present every separate train of ideas to every individual mind, without the medium of an external world. And if this appears to any person a more natural, and simple hypothesis to account for our ideas, and therefore preferable to the supposition of a real external world; by means of which, and of a more general agency of the deity, the same ideas may be presented to thousands and millions of minds, I leave him to his imagination, from which no evil, that I know, will result.
Half the inhabitants of the globe, for instance, may be looking towards the heavens at the same time, and all their minds are impressed in the same manner : all see the
moon, stars, and planets, in precisely the fame situations ; and even the observations of those who use telescopes, correspond with the utmost exactness. To explain this, bishop Berkley siys, that the divine being, attending particularly to each individual mind, impresses their sensoriums in the fame, or a corresponding manner, without the medium of any thing external to them. On the other hand, I, without pretending that his scheme is imposible, where divine power is concerned, think, however, that it is more natural to suppose, that there really are such bodies as the moon, stars, and planets, placed at certain distances from us, and moving in certain directions; by means of which, without such an agency of the deity as he supposes, all our minds are necessarily impressed in this corresponding manner.
I am fatisfied that if such a representation as this (by which I exhibit to any person particular appearances as arising from more general laws, which is agreeable to the analogy of every thing else that we observe)
does not please and convince him, it will fignify nothing to tell him, with Mesirs. Reid, Beattie, and Oswald, that the case is not to be argued at all, that he has soinething within himself, called coinmon fenfe,, which tells him that there is an external world, and that, if he reflect a moment, he must know that all his objections are frivolous and absurd.
The hypothefis of there being no external world, is by no means so shocking to my understanding, or, to use the favourite phrase, my common sense, as the supposition that I am properly conscious of more than passes within my own mind, or, as Dr. Reid expresies it, that we really perceive things that are external to us, and do not judge of all things that are without ourfelves by notices perceived within, how mistaken foever we may be in our judgments concerning them.
It is not very easy to understand what it is, philosophically speaking, that Dr. Reid, Dr. Beattie, and Dr. Oswald, always mean
by their common sense ; but how captivating foever their general descriptions of it may be at the first hearing, they appear to me to be exceedingly vague and inconsistent, upon a more attentive examination.
Sometimes one would imagine, that the human mind was so effectually guarded with this internal defence, that no one of the human race could be in danger of falling into any error of consequence, and that even all revelation might have been spared. “ The “ human mind,” says Dr. Oswald, vol. i. p. 8, “ has a power of pronouncing, at first “ light on obvious truth, with a quickness, “ clearness, and indubitable certainty, fimi“ lar, if not equal to the information con“ veyed by the external organs of sense. Its “ exercise begins in children with the first “ dawn of rationality, and not till then; and “ is ever after enjoyed, in some degree, by “ learned and unlearned, and by every indi“ vidual of the human kind, who is not an “ idiot, or some how disordered in his in“ tellectuals, affording an almost infallible “ direction in the whole conduct of their