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and therefore must be confined, at one time, to one place, and that place must bave 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 bas 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 past 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 suppo sition 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 bave 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 incon. ceivable, and seems quite repugnant to reason.
And why a being should be self-existent, and have the reason of his existence within himself, seems also inconceivable, and never, as I apprehend, has yet been explained. If there bas been any thing from eternity, then that past eternity is either an endless duration of successive parts, as successive hours, minutes, &c. or it is an eternal duration without succession.The latter seems repugnant to reason, and incompatible with any faculty of understanding that we enjoy : And, the other, an infinite number of successive parts, involves the very same contradictions with the supposition of an eternal succession of fathers and sons.
That the world has existed from eternity without a cause, seems wholly inconsistent with reason. In the first place, it is inconsistent with reason, that it should exist without a cause. For it is evident, that it is not a thing, the nature and manner of which is necessary in itself; and therefore it requires a cause or reason out of itself, why it is so, and not otherwise. And, in the next place, if it exists from eternity, then succession has been from eternity; which involves the forementioned contradictions. But, if it be without a canse, and does not exist from eternity, then it has been created out of nothing; which is altogether inconceivable, and what reason cannot shew to be possible; and many of the greatest philosophers have supposed it plainly inconsistent with reason.—Many other difficulties might be mentioned as following from that proposition, “ that something now is,” that are insuperable to reason.
§ 8. It is evident, by experience, that great evil, both moral and natural, abounds in the world. It is manifest, that great injustice, violence, treachery, perfidiousness, and extreme cruelty to the innocent, abound in the world; as well as innumerable extreme sufferings, issuing finally in destruction and death, are general all over the world, in all ages.—But this could not otherwise have been known by reason ; and even now is attended with difficulties, which the reason of many, yea most of the learned men and greatest philosophers that have been in the world, have not been able to surmount. That it should be so ordered or permitted in a world, absolutely and perfectly under the care and government of an infinitely holy and good God, discovers a seeming repugnancy to reason, that few, if any, have been able fully to remove.
§ 9. That men are to be blamed or commended for their good or evil voluntary actions, is a general proposition received, with good reason, by the dictates of the natural, common, and universal moral sense of mankind in all nations
: which moral sense is included in wbat Tindal means by reason and the law of nature. And yet many things attend this truth, that appear difficulties and seeming repug. nancies to reason, which have proved altogether insuperable to the reason of many of the greatest and most learned men in the world.
and ages :
§ 10. I observe, further, that when any general proposition is recommended to us as true, by any testimony or evidence, that, considered by itself, seems sufficient, without contrary testimony or evidence to countervail it; and dithi culties attend that proposition : if these difficulties are no greater, and of no other sort, than what might reasonably be expected to attend true propositions of that kind, then these difficulties are not only no valid or sufficient objection against that proposition, but they are no objection at all.
Thus, there are many things, ihat I am told concerning the effects of electricity, magnetism, &c. and many things that are recorded in the philosophical transactions of the Royal Society, which I have never seen, and are very mysterious : But, being well attested, their mysteriousness is no manner of objection against my belief of the accounts; because, from what I have observed, and do know, such a mysteriousness is no other than is to be expected in a particular, exact observation of nature, and a critical tracing of its operations. It is to be expected, that the farther it is traced, the more mysteries will appear. To apply this to the case in hand : If the difficulties which attend that which is recommended by good proof or testimony to our reception, as a divine revelation, are no greater, nor of any other nature, than such as, all things considere'i, might reasonably be expected to attend a revelation of such a sort, of things of such a nature, and given for such ends and purposes, and under such circumstances; these difficulties not only are not of weight sufficient to balance the testimony or proof that recommends it, but they are of no weight at all as objections against the revelation. They are not reasonably to be looked upon as of the nature of arguments against it; but on the contrary, may, with good reason, be looked upon as confirmations, and of the nature of arguments in its favour.
§ 11. This is very evident, and the reason of it very plain. For, certainly, whatever is reasonably expected to be found in a truth, when we are seeking it, cannot be an objection against that truth, when we bave found it. If it be reasonably expected in truth beforeband, then reason unites it with truth, as one property of that sort of truth : and, if so, then reason unites it with the truth, after it is found. Whatever reason determines to be a property of any kind of truth, that is properly looked upon in some degree as a mark of truths of that sort, or as belonging to the marks and evidences of it : for things are known by their properties. Reason determines truth by things which reason determines to be the properties of truth. And, if we do not find such things belonging to supposed truth, that were before reasonably expected in truth of that kind, tbis is an ohjection against it, rather than the finding of them. The disappointment of reason is rather an objection with reason, than something to induce its acceptance and acquiescence. If the expectation be reasonable, then the not answering of it must so far appear unreasonable, or against reason, and so an objection in the
of reason. Thus, if any one that is in search for things of a certain kind, reasonably expects beforehand, that if he be successful in finding the thing, of the kind and quality that he is in search of, he shall find it possessed of certain properties : when he hath actually found something, with all those properties and circumstances that he expected, he receives it, and rests in it so much the more entirely, as the very thing that he was in quest of. And, surely, it would be no argument with him, that his invention is right, that some things, that he reasonably expected, are wanting : but, on the contrary, this would rather be an objection with his reason.
§ 12. In order to judge what sort of difficulties are to be expected in a revelation made to mankind by God, such as Christians suppose the scriptures to be, we must remember, that it is a revelation of what God knows to be the very truth concerning his own nature; of the acts and operations of his mind with respect to his creatures; of the grand scheme of infinite wisdom in his works, especially with respect to the intelligent and moral world; a revelation of the spiritual and invisible world; a revelation of that invisible world which men shall belong to after this life; a revelation of the greatest works of God, the manner of his creating the world, and of his governing of it, especially with regard to the higher and more important parts of it; a revelation delivered in ancient languages.
Difficulties and incomprehensible mysteries are reasonably to be expected in a declaration from God, of the precise truth as he knows it, iu matters of a spiritual nature; as we see things that are invisible, and not the objects of any of the external senses, are very mysterious, involved much more in darkness, attended with more mystery and difficulty to the understanding, than others; as many things concerning even the nature of our own souls themselves, that are the nearest to us, and the nost intimately present with us, and so most in our view, of any spiritual things whatsoever.
The farther things are from the nature of what language is chiefly formed to express, riz. things appertaining to the common business and vulgar affairs of life-things obvious to sense and men's direct view and most vulgar observation, without speculation, reflection and abstraction—the more difficult it is clearly to express them in words. Our expressions concerning them, will be attended with greater abstruseness, difficulty, and seeming inconsistence; language not being well
fitted to express these things; words and phrases not being prepared for that end. Such a reference to sensible and vul. gar things, is unavoidably introduced, that naturally confounds the mind, and involves it in darkness.
§ 13. If God gives a revelation of religious things, it must be mainly concerning the affairs of the moral and intelligent universe: which is the grand system of spirits: it must be chiefly about himself and intelligent creatures. It may well be supposed, that a revelation concerning another and an invisible world, a future state that we are to be in when separated from the body, should be attended with much mystery. It may well be supposed, that the things of such a world, are of an exceeding different nature from the things of this world, the things of sense, and all the objects and affairs which earthly language was made to express; and that they are not agreeable to such notions, imaginations, and ways of thinking that grow up with us, and are connatural to us, as we are from our infapcy formed to an agreeableness to the things wbich we are conversant with in this world. We could not conceive of the things of sense, if we had never had these external senses. And, if we had only some of these senses, and not others ; as, for instance, if we had only a sense of feeling, without the senses of seeing and hearing, how mysterious would a declaration of things of these last sense's be! Or, if we had feeling and hearing, but had been born without eyes or optic nervers, the things of light, even when declared to us, would many of them be involved in mystery, and would appear exceedingly strange to us.
§ 14. Thus, persons without the sense of seeing, but who had the other senses, might be informed by all about them, that they can perceive things at a distance, and perceive as plainly, and in some respects more plainly, tban by touching them; yea, that they could perceive things at so great a distance, that it would take up many ages to travel to them. They might be informed of many things concerning colours, thai would be all perfectly incomprehensible, and yet might be believed ; and it could not be said that nothing at all is proposed to their belief, because they have no idea of colour.
They might be told that they perceive an extension, a length and breadth of colour, and terminations and limits, and so a figure of this kind of extension; and yet, that it is nothing that can be felt. This would be perfecily mysterious to them, and would seem an inconsistence, as they have no ideas of any such things as length, breadth, and limits, and figure of extension, but only certain ideas they have by touch,