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Paris, it would be impoffible for Mr. Hume, notwithstanding all his fine-fpun reafonings, to difbelieve, or even to doubt, the reality of them; and, certainly, it cannot be irrational to believe, where it is impoffible to disbelieve. Nevertheless, as whatever truth is capable of being oppofed by argument is capable of being defended by argu ment, this famous paradox of Mr. Hume, no doubt, demands a more strict and logical confutation. The objection refolves itself into two diftinct propofitions, one of which is true, and the other false. 1ft, It is true, that a weaker evidence cannot deftroy a ftronger; in other words, it must be admitted, that of two inconfiftent propofitions that is to be adopted which is, upon the whole, best supported by proof, or most probable. But, 2dly, It is falfe, that a miracle is invariably to be regarded as the greatest of all improbabilities." Uniform experience," as Mr. Hume well obferves, "is the basis of rational affurance;" and our uniform experience of human nature must convince us, that men are wholly actuated by motives. Now, if in order to obviate the teftimony which is offered to authenticate an event of a miraculous nature, the refurrection of Chrift for instance, it is neceffary to fuppofe, that the atteftors were actuated by fuch motives as are totally incompatible with thofe immutable principles upon which human nature is founded, it would be abfurd in fuch a cafe not to admit the reality of the miracle; as it would doubtless be much
more incredible, that the fundamental principles of human nature fhould fuffer a total alteration, than that the Creator of the world fhould condefcend, in a way which we call miraculous, to make a a revelation of his will to mankind. In this fuppofition there is certainly nothing abfurd or improbable in itself. It is objected only, that fuch an interpofition is not agreeable to experience. Not to our experience, it must be acknowledged, but to affert that it is not agreeable to the expe rience of former ages, is evidently to beg the queftion. It is pofitively affirmed, that fuch interpofition has actually taken place; but when, or by whom, was it eyer pretended, that human nature was 2000 years ago constituted on principles diametrically oppofite to those by which it is actuated at prefent? In this cafe, therefore, we have the experience of all ages, to oppofe to an experience not uniformly confirmed by the testimony of former ages. In a word, the hypothesis which implies a want of uniformity in human nature involves in it a complication of confufion and abfurdity, being wholly unfupported by evidence, and violating every principle of reafon; but the fuppo fition which admits a divine miraculous interpofition is confirmed by a cloud of witneffes, and it is likewife perfectly confonant to those ideas which reafon teaches, or at least favours, respecting the nature and attributes of the Deity, and agreeable to the general analogy of the divine government.
It would be improper to pass unnoticed another fophifm of Mr. Hume, clofely connected with the former, and worthy of the fame author. He pretends, that of two oppofite arguments, the fuperior only gives us an affurance correfponding to that degree of force which remains after deducting the inferior. This is a maxim which feems calculated to introduce a system of universal scepticism; for if it is juft, we cannot attain to a full affurance of any one truth, but what admits of mathematical demonftration. How happens it, then, that Mr. Hume fhould, in contradiction to his own theory, reject all the proofs and evidences of Christianity with fuch positive difdain? It cannot be denied that, taken collectively, they form a strong body of evidence, amounting to what fome have not fcrupled to ftile a moral demonstration. But, replies Mr. Hume, I reject this evidence, because it is inconfiftent with other evidence which I regard as fuperior in force. But, good Sir, will you please to deduct the force of the inferior from the force of the fuperior evidence, and then tell us what the balance amounts to in favour of infidelity. Surely if this account was fairly stated, you would be constrained, if ingenuous, upon your own hypothefis, to exclaim, with King Agrippa, " Almost I am perfuaded to be a Christian." But, in order to relieve Mr. Hume from this aukward dilemma, it may be obferved, that moral evidence admits of a great variety of degrees, fuch as is generally distinguished by the terms demonftrative, conclufive, fatisfacH tory,
tory, &c. Now a propofition established by demonstrative, conclufive, or fatisfactory evidence, muft neceffarily be regarded as true; and it fo happens that truth admits of no degrees, and whatever may become of the calculations of the Philofopher, the axiom of the Poet ftands uncontradicted, that "Truth is Truth to the end of the reckoning." Therefore, if the evidence is fuch as is fufficient to produce a clear conviction of the truth of the propofition in queftion, it is impoffible to have recourfe to that metaphyfical deduction recommended by Mr. Hume, for truth admits of no deduction or diminution whatever.
Thus, if I am perfuaded by any evidence, whether it be, or not be, ftrictly demonstrative that Christianity is true; if I am affailed by ten thoufand objections, my faith is not shaken by the mere confideration of an oppofition of arguments, nor am I in the leaft inclined to facrifice the smallest particle of the truth in fuch circumstances, under the fpecious pretext of philofophical impartiality, and of allowing due weight to the arguments on both fides; for the mind refts with exactly the fame fecurity upon moral certainty, and even upon evidence many degrees fhort of moral certainty, as upon mathematical demonstration. And I maintain, that with refpect to Chriftianity, as in a thoufand other cafes, the evidence is fo ftriking, and forcible, as to be capable of producing, and it has actually produced in thoufands, a firm and rational conviction of its truth.
truth. In this ftate of mind objections muft of course cease to influence; and however plausible they might be deemed while there was room for doubt, let impartial reafon once pronounce the evidence fufficient, they inftantly vanish and diffolve; and we believe the aftonishing accounts of the fall of the Perfian or Peruvian Empires with as little hefitation as we admit that two and two are equal to four, or that the whole is greater than the part.
But, 2dly, It has been triumphantly afked concerning chriftianity, by fome of its adverfaries, Cui bono? They boldy affert, that nothing of importance is contained in revelation which was not difcoverable by the light of reafon; they profefs to admit the great doctrines of the unity and perfections of God; of the effential and unalterable diftinction between moral good and evil; of the immateriality and immortality of the foul; and of a future ftate of rewards and punishments: all thefe things they admit; admit! but upon what ground? I would not willingly depreciate human reafon and understanding, but I profefs it appears to me very doubtful, whether, upon natural principles, any one of these articles will admit of fatisfactory proof. The beft folution of that difficult queftion, What religious truths are difcoverable by the light of reafon, is afforded by recurring to facts; and it will indisputably appear, that even in those ages and countries which are most celebrated for intellectual H 2 improvements