Imatges de pÓgina

the writer improve accordingly. Might the infinite Author of the universal oeconomy illumi. nate his mind, and second his weak attempt to exhibit in one view the whole of what mankind have to do, in order to their answering the ends which the Divine wisdom and goodness had in view in placing them in a state of discipline and improvement for endless perfection and happiness

To proceed upon a solid and ample foundation, in the following deduction of morals, it seems proper to take an extensive prospect of things, and begin as high as possible.

First, it may be worth while briefly, and in a way as little abstract or logical as posible, to obviate a few artificial difficulties, that have been started by some of those deep and subtle men, who have a better talent at puzzling than enlightning mankind.

One of those imaginary difficulties is, The possibility of our reason's deceiving us. “ Our reason,” say those profound gentlemen, “ tells us, that twice two are four, " But what if our reason imposes upon us in " this matter? How, if in the world of the moon, “ two multiplied by two should be found to make 66 five? Who can affirm that this is not the case? “ Nothingindeed seems to us more unquestionable " than the proportions among numbers, and “ geometrical figures. So that we cannot (such 6 is the make of our minds) so much as con“ ceive the possibility that cwice two should, in


B 2

“ any other world, or state of things, make « more or less than four, or that all the angles “ of a plain triangle should be either more or “ less than exactly equal to two right ones. But " it does not follow, that other beings may “ not understand things in a quite different man

ner, from what we do."

It is wonderful how any man should have hiç upon such an unnatural thought as this; fince the very difficulty is founded upon a fat contradiction and impossibility. To fay,' I am convinced that twice two are four, and at the same time to talk of doubting whether my faculties do not deceive me, is saying, that I believe twice two be four, and at the same time I doubt it; or, rather that I see it to be so, and yet I do not see it to be so. A self-evident truth is not collected, or deduced, but intuitively perceived, or seen by the mind. And other worlds, and other states of things, are wholly out of the question. The ideas in my mind are the objects of the perception of my mind, as much as outward objects, of my eyes.' The idea of two of the lunar inhabitants, is as distinct an object in my mind, so far as concerns the number, as that of two shillings in my hand. And I see as clearly, that twice two lunar inhabitants will make four lunarians, as that twice two shillings will make four shillings. And while I see this to be so, I see it to be so, and cannot suspect it possible to be otherwise. I may doubt the perceptions of another person, if

I cannot

[ocr errors]


I cannot myself perceive the same object : But I cannot doubt what I myself perceive, or believe that to be possible, which I fee to be impolli. ble.

It is therefore evident, that to question the information of our faculties, or the conclusions of our reason, without some ground from our fa. culties themselves, is a direct impossibility. So that those very philosophers, who pretend to question the informations of their faculties, neither do, nor can really question them, so long as they appear unquestionable.

To be suspicious of one's own judgment in all cases, where it is possible to err, and to be cautious of proceeding to too rash conclusions, is the very character of wisdom. But to doubt, or rather pretend to doubt, where reason fees no ground for doubt, even where the mind distinctly perceives truth, is endeavouring at a pitch of folly, of which human nature is not capable.

If the mind is any thing, if there are any reasoning faculties; what is the object of those reą. soning faculties ? Not falfhood. For falfhood is a negative, a mere nothing, and is not capable of being perceived, or of being anobject of the mind. If therefore there is a rational mind in the uni. verse, the object of that mind is truth. If there is no truth, there is no perception. Whatever the mind perceives, fo far as the perception is real, is truth. When the reasoning faculty is deceived, it is not by distinctly seeing something B 3


that is not ; for that is impossible; but either by not perceiving so.nething, which, if perceived, would alter the state of the case upon the whole ; or by seeing an object of the understanding thro' a false medium. But there, or any other causes of error, do by no means affe&t the pereeption of a simple idea ; nor the perception of a simple relation between two simple ideas; nor a simple inference from such fimple relation. No mind whatever can distinctly and intuitively perceive, or see, twice two to be five. Because, that twice two should be five, is an impossibility and selfcontradiction in terms, as much as saying that four is five, or that a thing is what it is not, Nor can any mind distinctly perceive, that if two be to four as four is to eight, therefore thrice two is four; for that would be distinctly perceiving an impossibility. Now an impossibility is what has no existence, nor can exist. And can any mind perceive, clearly perceive, what does not exift?

To perceive nothing, or not to perceive, is the fame. So that it is evident, so much of any thing as can really be perceived, must be real and true. There is therefore either no object of mind; no rational faculties in the universe ; or there is a real truth in things, which the mind perceives, and which is the only object it can perceive, in the fame manner, as it is impossible for the eye to see absolute nothing, or to see, and not see, at the fame time,


The only point therefore to be attended to, is to endeavour at clear perceptions of things, with all their circumstances, connexions, and dependencies; which requires more and more accuracy and attention, according as the conclusion to be drawn arises out of more or less complex premises; and it is easy to imagine a mind capable of taking in a much greater number and variety of particulars, than can be comprehended by any hu. man being, and of seeing clearly through all their mutual relations, however minute, extensive, or complicated. To such a mind all kinds of difficulties in all parts of knowledge might be as easy to investigate, as to us a common question in arithmetic, and with equal certainty. For truths of all kinds are alike certain and alike clear to minds, whose capacities and states qualify them for investigating them. And what is before said with regard to our safety in trusting our faculties in mathematical or arithmetical points, is equally just with respect to moral and all other subjects. Whatever is a real, clear, and distinct object of perception, must be some real existence. For an absolute nothing can never be an object of distinct perception. Now the differences, agreements, contrasts, analogies, and all other relations obtaining among moral ideas, are as effentially real, and as proper subjects of reasoning, as those in numbers and mathemnatics. I can no more be deceived, nor bring myself to doubt a clear moral proposition, or axiom, than


a mache

« AnteriorContinua »