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The Insufficiency of Reason as a Substitute for Revelation.
§ 1. By reason, I mean that power or faculty an intelligent being has to judge of the truth of propositions; either immediately, by only looking on the propositions, which is juciging by intuition and self-evidence; or by puting together several propositions, which are already evident by intuition, or at least whose evidence is originally derived from intuition.
Great part of Tindal's arguing, in his Christianity as old as the Creation, proceeds on this ground, Thai since reason is the judge whether there be any revelation, or whether any pretended revelation be really such ; therefore reason without revelation, or undirected by revelation, must be the judge concerning each doctrine and proposition contained in that pretended revelation. This is an unreasonable way of arguing. It is as much as to say, that seeing reason is to judge of the truth of any general proposition, therefore, in all cases, reason alone, without regard to that proposition, is to judge separately and independently of each particular proposition implied in, or depending and consequent upon, that general proposition. For, whether any supposed or pretended divine revelation be indeed such, is a general proposition : and the particular truths delivered in and by it, are particular propositions implied in, and consequent on, that general one. Tindal supposes each of these truths must be judged of by themselves, independently of our judging of that general truth, that the revelation that declares them is the word of God; evidently supposing, that if each of these propositions, thus judged of particularly, cannot be found to be agreeable to reason, or if reason alone will not show the truth of them; then, that general proposition on which they depend, viz. That the word which declares them is a divine revelation, is to be rejected : which is most unreasonable, and contrary to all the rules of common sense, and of the
proceeding of all mankind, in their reasoning and judging of things in all affairs whatsoever.--For this is certain, that a proposition may be evidently true, or we may have good reason to receive it as true, though the particular propositions that de. pend upon it, and follow from it, may be such, that our reason, independent of it, cannot see the truth, or can see it to be true by no other means, than by first establishing that other truth on which it depends. For otherwise, there is an end of all use of our reasoning powers; an end of all arguing one proposition from another; and nothing is to be judged true, but what appears true by looking on it directly and immediately, without the help of another proposition first established, on which the evidence of it depends. For therein consists all reasoning or argumentation whatsoever ; viz. in discovering the truth of a proposition, whose truth does not appear to our reason immediately, or when we consider it alone, but by the help of some other proposition, on which it depends.
§ 2. If this be not allowed, we must believe nothing at all, but self-evident propositions, and then we must have done with all such things as arguments : and all argumentation whatsoever, and all Tindal's argumentations in particular, are absurd. He himself, throughout his whole book, proceeds in that very method which this principle explodes. He argues and attempts to make evident, one proposition by another first established. There are some general propositions, the truth of which can be known only by reason, from whence an infinite multitude of other propositions are inferred, and reasonably and justly determined to be true, and rested in as such, on the ground of the truth of that general proposition from which they are inferred by the common consent of all mankind, being led thereto by the common and universal sense of the human mind. And yet not one of those propositions can be known to be true by reason, if reason consider them by themselves independently of that general proposition.
Thus, for instance, what numberless truths are known only by consequence from that general proposition, that the testimony of our senses may be depended on? The truth of numberless particular propositions, cannot be known by reason, considered independently of the testimony of our senses, and without an implicit faith in that testimony. That general truth, that the testimony of our memories is worthy of credit, can be proved only by reason; and yet, what numberless truths are ihere, which we know no other way, and cannot be known to be true by reason, considering the truths in themselves, or any otherwise than by testimony of our memory, and an implicit faith in this testimony? That the agreed testimony of all we see, and converse with continually, is to be credited, is a general proposition, the truth of which can be known only by rea
And yet how infinitely numerous propositions do men receive as truih, that cannot be known to be true by reason, viewing them separately from such testimony; even all occurrences, and matters of fact, persons, things, actions, works, events, and circumstances, that we are told of in our neighbourhood, in our own country, or in any other part of the world that we have not seen ourselves.
§ 3. That the testimony of history and tradition is to be de. pended on, when attended with such and such credible circumstances, is a general proposition, whose truth can be known only by reason, And yet, how numberless are the particular truths concerning what has been before the present age, that
eannot be known by reason considered in themselves, and separately from this testimony, which yet are truths on which all mankind do, ever did, and ever will rely?
That the experience of mankind is to be depended on; or, that those things which the world finds to be true by experience, are worthy to be judged true. is a general proposition, of which none doubt. By what the world finds true by experience, can be meant nothing else, than what is known to be true by one or other of those fore-mentioned kinds of testimony, viz. the testimony of history and tradition; the testimony of those we see and converse with ; the testimony of our memories, and the testimony of our senses. I say, all that is known by the experience of mankind, is known only by one or more of these testimonies ; excepting only the existence of that idea, or those few ideas, which are at this moment present in our minds, or are the immediate objects of present consciousness. And yet, how unreasonable would it be to say, that we must first know those things to be true by reason, before we give credit to our experience of the truth of them! Not only are there innumerable truths, that are reasonably received as following from such general propositions as have been mentioned, which cannot be known by reason, if they are considered by themselves, or otherwise than as inferred from these general propositions; but also, many truths are reasonably received, and are received by the common consent of the reason of all rational persons, as undoubted truths, whose truth not only would not otherwise be discoverable by reason, but, when they are discovered by their consequence from that general proposition, appear in themselves not easy, and reconcilable to reason, but difficult, incomprehensible, and their agreement with reason not understood. ' So that men, at least most men, are not able to explain, or conceive of the manner in which they are agreeable to reason.
§ 4. Thus, for instance, it is a truth, which depends on that general proposition, that credit is to be given to the testimony of our senses, that our souls and bodies are so united, that they act on each other. But it is a truth which reason otherwise cannot discover, and, now that it is revealed by the testimony of our senses, reason cannot comprehend, that what is immaterial, and not solid nor extended, can act upon matter. Or, if any choose to say, that the soul is material, then other difficulties arise as great. For reason cannot imagine any way, that a solid mass of matter, whether at rest or in motion, should have perception, should understand, and should exert thought and volition, love, hatred, &c. And if it be said that spirit acts on matter, and matter on spirit, by an established law of the Creator, which is no other than a fixed method of his producing effects; still the manner how it is possible to be, will be inconceivable. We can have no conception of any way or manner, in which God, who is a pure Spirit, can act upon matter, and impel it.
There are several things in mechanics and hydrostatics, that by the testimony of our senses are true in fact, not only that reason never first discovered before the testimony of sense declared them, but, now they are declared, are very great paradoxes, and, if proposed, would seem contrary to reason, at least to the reason of the generality of mankind, and such as are not either mathematicians, or of more than common penetration, and what they cannot reconcile to their reason.
But God has given reason to the common people, to be as much their guide and rule, as he has to mathematicians and philosophers.
§ 5. Even the very existence of a sensible world, which we receive for certain from the testimony of our senses, is attended with difficulties and seeming inconsistencies with reason,
which are insuperable to the reason at least of most men. For, if there be a sensible world, that world exists either in the mind only, or out of the mind, independent of its imagination or perception. If the latter, then that sensible world is some material substance, altogether diverse from the ideas we have by any of our senses--as colour, or visible extension and figure, which is nothing but the quantity of colour and its various limitations, which are sensible qualities that we have by sight ; and solidity, which is an idea we have by feeling; and extension and figure, which is only the quantity and limitation of these ; and so of all other qualities. But that there should be any substance entirely distinct from any, or all of these, is utterly inconceivable. For, if we exclude all colour, solidity, or conceivable extension, dimension and figure, what is there left, that we can conceive of? Is there not a removal on our minds of all existence, and a perfect emptiness of every thing ?
But, if it be said, that the sensible world has no existence, but only in the mind, then the sensories themselves, or the organs of sense, by which sensible ideas are let into the mind; no existence but only in the mind; and those organs of sense have no existence but what is conveyed into the mind by themselves; for they are a part of the sensible world. And then it will follow, that the
organs of sense owe their existence to the organs of sense, and so are prior to themselves, being the causes or occasions of their own existence ; which is a seeming inconsistence with reason, that, I imagine, the reason of all men cannot explain and remove,
$ 6. There are innumerable propositions, that we reasonably receive from the testimony of experience, all depending on the truth of that general proposition, " that experience is to be relied on," (what is meant by experience has been already explained,) that yet are altogether above reason. They are pa
have radoxes attended with such seeming inconsistencies, that reason cannot clearly remove, nor fully explain the mystery.
By experience we know that there is such a thing as thought, love, hatred, &c. But yet this is attended with inexplicable difficulties. If there be such a thing as thought and affection, where are they? If they exist, they exist in some place, or no place. That they should exist, and exist in no place, is above our comprehension. It seems a contradiction, to say, they exist, and yet exist nowhere. And, if they exist in some place, then they are not in other places, or in all places; and therefore must be confined, at one time, to one place, and that place must have certain limits ; from whence it will follow, that thought, love, &c. have some figure, either round, or square, or triangular; which seems quite disagreeable to reason, and utterly inconsonant to the nature of such things as thought and the affections of the mind.
§ 7. It is evident, by experience, that something now is. But this proposition is attended with things that reason cannot comprehend, paradoxes that seem contrary to reason. For, if something now is, then either something was from all eternity; or, something began to be, without any cause or reason of its existence. The last seems wholly inconsistent with natural sense : And the other, viz. That something has been from all eternity, implies, that there has been a duration past, which is without any beginning, which is an infinite duration : which is perfectly inconceivable, and is attended with difficulties that seem contrary to reason. For we cannot conceive how an infinite duration can be made greater, any more than how a line of infinite length can be made longer. But yet we see that past duration is continually added to. If there were a duration passed without beginning, a thousand years ago, then that past infinite duration has now a thousand years added to it; and if so, it is greater than it was before by a thousand years ; because the whole is greater than a part. Now, the past duration consists of two parts, viz. that which was before the last thousand years, and that which is since. Thus here are seeming contradictions, involved in this supposition of an infinite duration past.
And, moreover, if something has been from eternity, it is either an endless succession of causes and effects, as for instance an endless succession of fathers and sons, or something equivalent; but the supposition is attended with manifold apparent contradictions; or, there must have been some eternal self-existent being, having the reasons of his existence within himself: or, he must have existed from eternity, without any reason of his existence; both which are inconceivable. That a thing should exist from eternity, without any reason why it should be so, rather than otherwise, is altogether inconceivable, and seems