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THE COMPETENCY OF HUMAN REASON AS A SURE GUIDE TO
TRUTH IN MORAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES, CONSIDERED. -Its Deficiency, in many instances, regarding Natural Religion and Morality-and the physical Order of the Universe. - BEFORE we come to the question, whether the certain knowledge of the truth of the revealed doctrines of Christianity can be obtained by the nere natural powers of human reason, or whether the truth of these doctrines can be proved by arguments drawn from the principles of natural science, it may in fairness be inquired, how far unassisted human reason, in its present state, is a sure guide to truth, even in matters that seem to be placed within the sphere of its natural capacity. : ;
If we consider the history of contradictory human opinions, relative to almost every object of moral and philosophical science, we must conclude, that nere human reason, even as it existed in the most cultivated minds of ancient Greece and Rome, when left to itself, is incompetent to bring man to the certitude of inoral and and natural truth, in a great variety of instances.
What contradictory doctrines have not been maintained, even by the most enlightened philosophers, concerning the nature and providence of God; the origin of evil; the spirituality and immortality of the soul; free-will; certain moral duties; the end for which man was created, and the means of obtaining happiness! On these subjects, we find great inconsistency or uncertainty, even amongst those, whose intellectual powers seem to have been the most perfect; such as a Socrates, a Plato, a Cicero, &c. Socrates complained of the obscurity of human reason. Plato, in his feeling of its insufficiency, prayed that some more enlightened guide might be sent from heaven, to lead man to truth and happiness. Cicero was in painful doubt concerning various important points of natural religion. If mere human reason, in its present state, were the proper and sure means, by which man is to attain to the certitude of truth, in regard to those religious and moral questions which seem to belong to the class of natural sciences; surely those distinguished individuals, who possessed human reason in its greatest perfection, and who sought for truth with all the powers of their minds, would have formed a true and certain judgment on those important subjects of inquiry. But if each one had discovered truth, their opinions and doctrines would have been uniformly the same.
It is not only on these religious and moral subjects, which seem to belong to the class of natural sciences, that human reason feels the want of intrinsic evidence, to enable it to form a true judgment of things as they really are in themselves ; but it finds itself frequently in the dark, when it wishes to discover truth in matters relating to the physical order of the universe. What a number of contradictory doctrines do we not see in the history of philosophical systems, concerning matter and motion, and the various operations of nature, which are daily exhibited before our eyes ! Every object of our senses, from the sun to a grain of sand, from an elephant to the smallest insect, is a mystery to human reason. But the greatest of mysteries to man, in this sublunary world, is man himself, his body, and soul; their union, and co-operation; the action of the pure powers of his soul, and the connexion between volition and the motions of animal life. All these are mysteries, incomprehensible to human reason. And on these natural subjects, what contradictory doctrines have not been maintained by the most enliglitened philosophers, even since the dark ages have passed away! Did not even Descartes and Locke, Leibnitz and Newton, maintain opposite systems ? Each thought that he had intrinsic evidence or demonstration of the truth of his own; but on those points, on which they were in contradiction to one another, the light of human reason must have led either the one or the other of them into error.
If, in the moral and physical order of things, there are so many objects, the truth of which cannot be intuitively seen, nor be intrinsically demonstrated from principles of THE COMPETENCY 01
TRUTH IN MORAL :-Its Deficiency, in m.
gion and Morality—ai - BEFORE we come to thi ledge of the truth of the can be obtained by the m or whether the truth of arguments drawn from t may in fairness be inquirer. in its present state, is a sui that seem to be placed capacity.
- If we consider the history relative to almost every o science, we must conclude, t it existed in the most cultiva Rome, when left to itself, is i certitude of inoral and and nat instances..
What contradictory doctrina even by the most enlightened nature and providence of God; tuality and immortality of the s duties; the end for which man of obtaining happiness ! On th: inconsistency or uncertainty, e intellectual powers seem to have ! as a Socrates, a Plato, a Cicero, of the obscurity of human reason. insufficiency, prayed that some mo be sent from heaven, to lead man
EANS OF ASCERTAINING, WITH ABSOLUTE CERTITUDE, UTH OF THE REVEALED DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIAPrevious Observations. It cannot be ascertained by the f intrinsic demonstrative evidence, or by the natural cason.—Exemplified in the doctrines of the Trinity, rnation. And in revealed doctrines, the objects of pend on the free will of God.—The obscurity of the of a mystery, is not evidence of its impossibility. quiry, the revelation of certain doctrines, which ommonly considered as the doctrines of Christiay which God is understood to have communicated blime knowledge of the glory of his divine nature, reat designs and works relative to the redemption
happiness of mankind, is, for the present, asi fact. Such are the doctrines concerning the ’ersons in one God : the union of two natures in 'n Christ, by which he is both God and Man; the original sin; the nature of the atonement ren; the conditions required on the part of man, 7 receive the benefit of this atonement, in the
his sins; the necessity of divine grace; the of our bodies ; the general judgment of all he last day ; the eternal reward of the good in eternal punishment of the wicked in hell. trines are true if they announce things as they themselves. This objective truth, by which the nced by these doctrines are what they are, is of the perception of our minds; it cannot be "oyed, by our conceptions, opinions, or reasonked in its object. So, the existence of the sun t of the human eye: for whether we see it or By opening our eyes to it, we do not give it 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. a
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 uniformi 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