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MEANS OF ASCERTAINING THE TRUTH OF THE REVEALED
DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY.
DEFINITIONS AND PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS.-Knowledge.
-Truth.—Certitude.--Evidence. Different Mediums of Evi
- The mind is the eye of the soul. By knowledge the mind perceives truth, as by vision the eye sees light.
The human mind is not capable of knowing all truths. If it were, the power of the buman mind would be infinite; and the mind of man would be as comprehensive as the mind of God.
As the eye may see corporeal objects, without seeing the nature, the number, the form or positions of their interior elements; so the mind of man may know things and truths, without knowing all their causes, relations, properties, and effects. The eye may see the ocean, without being able to see its depth or extent; and the mind of man may know God, without being able to know all the perfections of his infinite nature.
The human mind, therefore, may have a knowledge of many things, without comprehending all the properties or qualities that belong to theny.
Comprehension, in the sense in which the term is here used, means such a complete and most perfect knowledge of an object, that nothing in it, or relating to it, is unknown or obscure to the mind of him who contemplates it.
That, which in its substance, qualities, or perfections, is beyond or above the comprehension of the human mind, is a mystery to man. There are mysteries in nature, as well as in religion ; because in nature, as well as in religion, there are works—designed by the same infinite wisdom, and executed by the same infinite power—which elude the sagacity, and surpass the comprehension of the human intellect.
Truth is BEING : it is REALITY: it is that which IS.
Objective truth is the real state of a thing, taken absolutely in itself: it consists in the things being what it is. It is the agreement of the attributes of a thing with its subject. i
Logical truth relates to the truth either of our perceptions, or of our judgments. The truth of our perceptions consists in the agreement of the perceptions of our minds with the objects perceived, as THEY ARE in themselves. The truth of our judgments consists in the agreement of the interior act of affirmation or negation, as well as of the exterior expression of the same, with its object, such as it is in itself. If I judge, or assert a thing to be, what it really is, my judgment or proposition is true. If I judge or assert it not to be, what it is; or TO BE, what it is not, my judgment or proposition is false.
As the same thing cannot, at the same time, exist and not exist; as the same thing cannot, at the same time, and in the same respect, be and not be, what it is; so two contradictory judgments, or propositions, concerning the same thing, and in the same respect, one affirming that it exists, the other that it does not exist ; or one affirming that it is, the other that it is not, what it really is ; cannot both be true. The truth of one judgment, or proposition, in this case, necessarily infers the falsehood of its contradictory.
That knowledge, therefore, is logically true which perceives things as they really are in themselves. That doctrine is logically true, which teaches or announces things to be what they really are in themselves.
Moral truth is the agreement of a man's external expression with his interior opinion or sentiment; as when a man sincerely speaks what he thinks; when his mouth and heart agree. The contrary is an immoral falsehood.
The · The knowledge which God has of all things is true ; because God knows all things as they really are in themselves. His knowledge is comprehensive in the full sense of the term, because he sees all things in the most perfect and most clear manner, and nothing in the universe is unknown or obscure to him.
The revelation by which God manifests or announces things to man is most perfectly true ; because he announces things to be, what he knows them to be; and consequently, what they are in themselves. Falsehood and ignorance are equally repugnant to a being that is infinitely perfect.
CERTITUDE is the firmness of the judgment of the mind on a subject proposed. It is that firm persuasion of the truth or falsehood of a proposition, or of the existence or nonexistence of a fact, which excludes all doubt.
Certitude is not a blind adhesion to an opinion, nor is doubt a stupid or interested repugnance to a doctrine. Both certitude and doubt should be rational.
Real certitude, by which a man is reasonably and firmly persuaded of the truth of any doctrine, or of the existence of any fact, is founded on evidence, which shews and proves, in a convincing manner, to the mind, that the thing really is what it is affirmed or believed to be. · Evidence may be intrinsic, or extrinsic. · By intrinsic evidence, the clear and certain knowledge that a thing really is, what it is affirmed to be, is derived, Ist, from the immediate view of the objective truth of a proposition, sych as: the same thing cannot, at the same time, exist and not exist ; or from the intuitive view of the identity of the attributes of the thing with their subject, as in this proposition, "a circle is round.” The truth of these propositions is so evident in itself, that it requires no borrowed illustration; it is as clear to the mind, as light is to the eye. This is called intuitive evidence,
2d. The certain knowledge that the thing really is, what it is affirmed to be, is made evident from the clear connection between the proposition in question, and some selfevident principle, which connection is made clear by demonstration; as in this proposition, “ the three angles of a plain triangle are equal to two right angles.” In this case, the truth of the proposition, which at first was obscure, is illustrated by the medium of the light brought from a selfevident principle. This is called demonstrative evidence.
This demonstration of truth is the proper act of the faculty of reason. It is by reasonings and chains of arguments, depending one upon another, and originally founded on first and self-evident principles, that the philosopher demonstrates the truth of his doctrines and propositions, in metaphysics, ethics, and geometry.
By extrinsic evidence, the certain knowledge that a thing exists, or is really what it is affirmed to be, is derived fromthe authority of testimony.
By the testimony of our senses, under due conditions, we obtain a true and certain knowledge of the existence of corporeal objects, and of external facts. The testimony of the senses is admitted, in courts of law, as evidence of facts.
By the testimony of men, under due conditions, we obtain a true and certain knowledge of the existence of distant objects, which we have never perceived by our senses ;-by this means the certain knowledge of the existence of Rome or Constantinople is conveyed to those, who have never seen these places ;-or of the past existence of historical facts, such as of the battles of Pharsalia, and of Hastings, or of such persons, as Julius Cæsar, and William the Conqueror. It is on the testimony of men that the certitude of all historical truth is founded. Indeed, when any public fact is attested by numbers, who, being themselves eye-witnesses of it, and having the testimony of their own senses concerning its existence, could not have been deceived ; and who, though in many cases divided in matters of opinion, in interests, in inclinations and customs, still all unite in attesting, in a uniform manner, the existence of the fact in question, could not be suspected of any design of deceiving others : in such circumstances, no reasonable man could admit a doubt of the truth of the testimony.
If the testimony of men furnishes evidence of the certitude of truth, how much more the testimony of God, who knows all things, as they are in themselves, and who cannot deceive us by any false testimony?
It may be observed, that the medium is not always the same, by which we obtain the certitude of truth, or the certain knowledge, that things really are what they are affirmed to be. We see the truth of self-evident principles, by intuitive evidence; we obtain the certain knowledge of metaphysical
and mathematical conclusions, by metaphysical and mathematical demonstrations ; of the existence of corporeal objects around us, by the testimony of our senses; of the existence of distant objects or past events, by the testimony of men. And even in perceiving the existence of corporeal objects around us, different objects are perceived by different senses. Thus colour is perceived by the eye; sound, by the ear ; taste and smell, by their respective senses. The secret opinions or intentions of a man cannot be known to his fellow-men, but by the means of some exterior sign or expression. The certain knowledge of what is commanded or forbidden by a legislator, can only be derived from the authoritative manifestation or promulgation of his law. · Nothing can be more unreasonable, than to seek the certain knowledge of truths and facts, by means, which are not naturally and specifically adapted to the object of inquiry; or to deny the truth of any doctrine, or the existence of any fact, because it cannot be demonstrated, or established by arguments, or testimonies, which have no analogy or connexion with them. Would it be reasonable, to deny the meta-, physical doctrines of the spirituality or iminortality of the soul, because they cannot be proved by the testimony of the senses? or to deny that the battle of Hastings was ever fought, or that there ever existed such a person, as William the Con, queror, because these historical facts cannot be demonstrated, like a mathematical problem, by lines and angles ? or to deny the existence of colour, because it cannot be perceived by the ear; or of sound, because it cannot be perceived by the eye? To attempt to prove such objects by such means, would be to pervert the order of nature, and to subvert the grounds of certitude...