Imatges de pÓgina

That there is a possibility of attaining certaintý, by sensation, intuition, deduction, testimony, and inspiration, seems easy enough to prove. For, first, where sensation is, all other arguments or proofs are superfluous. What I feel I cannot bring myself to doubt, if I would. I must either really exist or not. But I cannot even be miltaken in imagining I feel my own existence ; for that necessarily supposes my existing. I feel my mind easy and calm. I cannot, if I would, bring myself to doubt, whether my mind is easy and calm. Because I feel a perfect internal tranquillity. and there is nothing within or without me to persuade me to doubt the reality of what I feel ; and what I really feel, so far as I really feel it must be real; it being absurd to talk of feeling or perceiving what has no real existence.

Again, there is no natural absurdity in fupposing it possible for a human, or other intelligent mind, to arrive at a clear and distinct perception of truth by intuition. On the contrary, the fuppoficion of the possibility of a faculty of intelligence necessarily infers the posibility of the existence of truth, as the object of intelligence, and of truth's being within the reach of the intelligent faculty. If there is but one being in the universe capable of understanding truth, there must be truth for that being to understand; and that truth must be within the reach of his understand. ing. But as it is self-evident, that there are an infinite number of ideal, or conceivable truths, it is likewise evident, there must be an infinitely


comprehensive understanding, which perceives this infinity of truths. To talk of a truth perceivable by no mind, or that never has been the object of any perceptive faculty, would be a self.contra. diction. Mind is the very substratum of truth. An infinite mind of infinite truth. That a finite understanding may attain a finite perception of truth, is necessary to be admitted, unless we deny the possibility of the existence of any finite understanding. For an understanding capable of attaining no degree of knowledge of truth, or any understanding which neither did nor could understand or perceive any one truth, is a contradiction in words. Proceeding in this train of reafoning, we say, Either there is no fuch thing as intuition possible, or it must be possible by intuition to perceive truth ; there is no such thing as fensation possible, or it muft be possible for the mind to perceive real objects. That what we actually and really apprehend by intuition and fenfation, muft be fontewhat real, as far as actually and really apprehended ; ic being impossible to apprehend that which is not. Now the evidence of the reality of any existerice, or the truth of any proposition, let it be conveyed to the mind by deduction, by testimony, by revelation, or if there were a thousand other methods of infor. mation, would still be reducible at last to direct intuition ; excepting what arises from fensation. The mind, in judging of any propofition, thro' whatever channel communicated to it, or on whatever arguments established, judges of the strength of the evidence ; it makes allowance for the objections, it balances the arguments, or considerations of whatever kind, against one another ; it fees which preponderates. And supposing this to be done properly, it sees the true state of the café, and determines accordingly; noř · can it possibly determine contrary to what it fees to be the true state of the case.


When, for example, I consider in my own mind, on one hand, the various evidence from authors and remains of antiquity, that there was formerly such a state as the Roman, which conquered great part of this side of the globe ; and on the other, find no reason for doubting of the exis. tence of such a state in former times, I find it as reasonable to believe it, and as impossible to doubt it, as to doubt the solution of a question in numbers or quantity, which I had proved by arithmetic vulgar and decimal, and by algebra. And so of other instances. So that, though it would not be proper to say, I see, by intuition, the truth of this proposition, “ There was once such

a city as Rome;" yet I may with the utmost propriety say, I see fuch a fuperabundance of evidence for the truth of the proposition, and at the same time see no reason to think that any valid objections can be brought against it, that I intuitively see the evidence for it to be such as puts it beyond all possibility of being doubted by me, and feel that, though I hould labour ever Vol. II. с


so much to bring myself to question it, I abso. lutely cannot; nor can I conceive it possible that it should appear questionable to any person, who has fairly considered it.

Suppose, in the same manner, (in a point which has been disputed) a man, of a clear head, to have thoroughly examined all the various evidences for the Christian religion, allowing to every one its due weight, and no more; suppose him to have attentively considered every objection against it, allowing, likewise, to every one impartially its full force; suppose the result of the whole enquiry to be his finding such a preponderancy of evidence for the truth of Christianity, as should beyond all comparison overbalance the whole weight of the objections against it; I say, that such a person would then intuitively see the evidence for Christianity to be unsurmountable ; and could no more bring him-. felf to doubt it, than to doubt whether all the angles of a triangle are equal to two right ones ; nor to conceive the possibility of any other person's doubting it, who had fairly considered both sides of the question.

In the same manner a person, who should carefully examine the arguments in a system of ethics, and should clearly and convincingly perceive the strength of each, the connexion of one with another, and the result of the whole ; might in the strictest propriety of speech be said to fee in.

tuitively tuitively the truth and justness of that system of ethics.

If so, then it is plain, that certainty is, in the nature of things, equally attainable upon all sub. jects, though beings of our limited capacity may not, in our present imperfect state, be capable of attaining it. In the same inanner as the truth of the most obvious axiom in arithmetic or geometry may lie out of the reach of an infant, or an idiot; which appears self-evident to the first glance of any mind that is capable of putting two thoughts together. How comes it to pass, that the truth of such an axiom as the following appears immediately incontestable: That if from equal quantities equal quantities be subtracted, equal quantities will remain? How comes, I say, the truth of this axiom to appear at once, while moral doctrines furnith endless dispute? The obvious answer is, from the fimplicity of the terms of the proposition, and of what is affirmed of them, which leaves no roon for ambiguity or uncertainty; and from the narrowness of the subject to be considered, or the smallness of the number of ideas to be taken in, which prevents all danger of puzzling, or dirtracting the understanding, and rendering the result or conclusion doubtful. Suppose the arguments for Christianity to be exactly one thousand, and the objections against it exactly one hundred: Suppose an angelic, or other superior understand ing, to perceive intuitively the exact state of

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