Front Page Titles (by Subject) Corolary V - The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
Return to Title Page for The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Corolary V - George Turnbull, The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy 
The Principles of Moral and Christian Philosophy. Vol. 2: Christian Philosophy, ed. and with an Introduction by Alexander Broadie (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
That whatever motive may induce one to treat christianity as an imposture, he who imagines that, christianity being removed, the obligations to the practice of virtue become less strict and rigid, is an utter stranger to the extent of natural religion and moral obligations. It would be a breach of that charity which christianity so strongly recommends, to suppose that all who doubt of christianity are seduced into that scepticism by inclination to give themselves up to corrupt affections, without fear of hereafter. But it is of great importance to us to fix this truthfirmly upon our minds, “That virtue, firm adherence to virtue, is a moral obligation arising necessarily from the nature of a moral creature; and that every immoral indulgence is as repugnant to the law of nature as it is to christianity.” And it is to prove and enforce that important truth that I have been comparing the doctrine of the christian revelation concerning God, virtue, and a future state, with the doctrines of reason; with what may be plainly deduced from the nature of things; or may be clearly perceived to be true by all who will but give any attention to the frame and constitution of the human mind, and the connexion of things about us. It is not because it is a difficult, but because it is an important truth, that I have insisted so long upon all the more considerable branches and consequences of it; and because as he who does not often meditate upon it, passes his life in a most irrational manner; so he who daily reflects upon it with due attention will there by be daily excited to more and more diligence to improve in virtue, in purity of mind, in true goodness; and he will never want true joy; joy which nothing can take from him, and in comparison of which all other delights are mere vanity.—Joy which may be<469> justly called joy in the Lord, because it is joy arising from the belief of his moral rectitude and all-perfect administration; from the sense of his esteem, approbation and love, and from the assurance of eternal happiness in consequence of his good-will toward virtue, his love of it, and delight in it. “Having therefore this hope, let us act agreeably to it, and comfort ourselves with it: having this glorious hope, let us cleanse ourselves from all pollution of the flesh, and of the spirit, and perfect holiness in the filial fear of God, for as much as we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord: for unto every one who by patient continuance in well-doing seeketh for glory, honour, and immortality, God will render glory, honour, peace, and eternal life, whether he be Jew or Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him; and we know that under his infinitely wise and good government all things shall work together for the eternal good of them who love him, and loving him imitate his moral excellencies.”46 This is the doctrine of reason, and it is likewise confirmed to us by revelation, by an evidence of another kind.
I shall conclude by shewing what kind of evidence divine revelation gives to that important, joyful truth.
And here I shall endeavour to prove that the christian revelation gives a very proper, full, and truly philosophical evidence for the truth of that doctrine concerning God, providence, virtue, and a future state, we have found to be the joint doctrine of reason and the christian revelation; and evidence, which however leaves full room and scope for all rational inquiries,<470> or does not incroach upon the province of reason, which is to gather knowledge from nature by analogy, induction from experience, and the comparison of our ideas. Now in order to shew that the evidence with which the teaching of Christ and his apostles was accompanied, is a natural, proper, adequate and truly philosophical evidence of the truth of the christian doctrine concerning God, providence, virtue, and a future state, of the whole of the christian institution, we have only to consider how Christ and his apostles reasoned upon the subject; i.e. what evidence they profered and appealed to for the truth of their doctrine; and then to examine the nature of such reasoning, such evidence. In the first place, it is obvious from the history of Christ and his apostles, that they appealed to the miraculous works they did as proper proofs of the truth of their doctrines, and of their divine authority or mission to teach them: they appealed to the works they wrought, to the samples they gave of their power to foretell future events; their power to cure instantaneously all diseases of the body; their power to cure in the same extraordinary manner all diseases of the mind, or to convert bad into good dispositions; their power to bestow gifts and blessings of all sorts bodily and spiritual; and their power of raising the dead. I think all the works Christ and his apostles appealed to as proper proofs of their doctrines, and of their divine mission to teach them, are reducible into one or other of these abovementioned classes. 2. So that when Christ appealed to his works, to the works he did himself of these kinds just mentioned, and to the works of the same kinds he gave his apostles power to do, for the truth of his doctrine, his reasoning amounts briefly to this plain invincible argument, “The works I do, and enable others to do, shew such an extensive knowledge of nature, such an extensive knowledge of the government of the natural and moral world, and such a large command in nature, that you can<471> have no reason to doubt of my qualification to instruct or inform you concerning the government of the world; and you have no ground to doubt of my good will toward you, my benevolence, candor, and sincerity: you have therefore sufficient reason to give full credit to what I assure you to be fact or truth, with relation to the Governor of the world, and his government; with regard to your duty and interest in consequence of his character and government.”
This is the plain meaning of what our Saviour asserted when he said, “The works that I do testify of me. Believe me for my work’s sake.” And this reasoning is, as was said in the beginning of this discourse,a truly satisfactory, truly philosophical. For it proceeds upon the following principles, none of which can be refused.
I. That one who hath a larger insight into or knowledge of nature and the connexions of things, i.e. of the government of the world, is qualified to instruct those who have not so large an insight into, or knowledge of the government of the world.
II. That samples of knowledge are proper proofs of knowledge, and samples of power are proper proofs of power; and consequently samples of large knowledge of nature, and of a large sphere of activity, or of extensive power and command in nature, are proper proofs of large knowledge of nature, and of a large extensive power and command in nature.
III. That there can be no reason to doubt the truth of the assertions of one concerning certain truths or facts with relation to the government of the world, who gives samples of very large and extensive knowledge of nature, and very large and extensive command in nature, if there be no contradiction or absurdity in such assertions; and if there be no reason<472> to doubt of the sincerity and integrity of the asserter or informer; but, on the contrary, all the reason that can be required to believe his honesty and candor.
If these propositions be true, the evidence which Christ gave for the truth of his doctrine concerning the Governor and government of the world, must be a full and proper evidence of its truth; or it must be said, either that he did not give sufficient samples of his benevolence to mankind, his regard to truth, honesty, and sincerity, which was never asserted, such an uninterrupted series of generosity, benevolence, and sincerity was his life: or that the many works he wrought of the kinds above mentioned, were not samples of a very large insight into, and power in nature; which will be to affirm that samples of power to see into men’s minds, and foretell their future actions; power to change mens minds; power to deliver from evils of all sorts, corporeal and mental; power to confer gifts of all sorts, bodily and spiritual; power to raise the dead; power to transfer to others this same extensive power he himself was possessed of, did not shew a very large and extensive knowledge of nature, and power in nature. One or other of these two must be asserted, or the evidence Christ gave of the truth of his doctrine must be admitted to have been a proper and full evidence of its truth; for we have already shewn that there is no absurdity in his doctrine concerning God and the government of the world, virtue or human duty, and a future state. But the first never was and hardly will ever be asserted: and the other cannot be affirmed without denying that samples of power and knowledge are a proper evidence of power and knowledge; i.e. without absurdly demanding some other proof of power and knowledge besides samples or specimens of them. For what larger power or knowledge can we conceive, (creating power excepted) than universal knowledge of, and command over mens minds, and bodies, earth, sea, air, every element,<473> and even death itself, of which Christ’s works were specimens, in the same sense that samples of skill among men to build, paint, cure diseases, move the passions, &c. are samples of skill to do these things? Surely it will not be said that specimens of knowledge are not specimens of knowledge: and as little can it be said that the works of Christ were not specimens of such a vast insight into, and command in nature, as shewed him to have a very comprehensive view of nature. But to say that having sufficient evidence of one’s honesty, we may not trust his account of nature upon his giving us specimens of his large acquaintance with nature, is in fact to say that testimony is never to be depended upon or credited: it is to say, for instance, that those who are not able to cure their own diseases, or do not thoroughly understand the medicinal art, can never have good reason to trust to a physician, whatever evidences he may give of his skill: it is to say, one has or can have no reason to believe a mathematician, or natural philosopher, whatever evidences he may have given of his knowledge, when he asserts any truth, unless we are able ourselves to investigate it, or at least to comprehend his demonstration of it: it is, in one word, to say that testimony, with whatever circumstances of credibility it may be attended, ought never to create trust. In fine, when instruction is offered to us in the government of the world, our first business is to compare that instruction with what we know of nature; and if it be agreeable to what we know, if there be no absurdity in it, the reason to credit it must be in proportion to the assurance we have of our instructor’s integrity and knowledge, our instructor’s sincerity, and his capacity or qualification to instruct us. If therefore the instructor gives sufficient samples of his sincerity, and sufficient samples of his knowledge, or his capacity to instruct us, we have sufficient reason to credit him, or there can never be sufficient reason to credit testimony.<474> But in order to see the full force of this argument, it is not improper to put two cases.
I. First therefore, let us suppose instruction in the nature of God, in human duty, and in a future state, of the kind that hath been delineated in this discourse, to be offered to a people plunged in ignorance and superstition, quite strangers to true natural religion; or, which is worse, having very false and perverted notions of it: now if such instruction were given to a people in this situation, attended with works of the kinds abovemention’d, no doubt the works would, if any thing could, rouse their attention.—What, therefore, would be the evidence to such a people of the truth of such instruction, previously to their being able by reason to find out an intrinsick evidence in the doctrines thus taught them, as truths or facts to which they ought to attend in the conduct of their lives?—What would be the evidence in this case? would it not be precisely this? “We have no reason to doubt of the good-will and sincerity of this instructor, and his works plainly shew his large acquaintance with the frame, constitution, and government of the world, natural and moral; we have therefore as good reason to trust his testimony, as we can have to trust any testimony; but trust testimony we must in innumerable cases: we have as good reason to trust this testimony, as we have to trust testimony upon which we venture our greatest interests, and therefore it would be highly unreasonable not to trust such testimony.”
Now let us see how the evidence will stand, when any among such a people so instructed, being excited to exercise their reason, have compared the instruction so received with what they are able to learn from the language of nature, or the connexions of things: if they find that the further they carry on their enquiries into nature and the government of the world by reason, the clearer evidence they perceive by reason for the truth of their teacher’s doctrines concerning<475> God, human duty, &c. what will, in that case, be the state of the evidence? will they not thus find a new evidence for the truth of their teacher’s doctrines, which will confirm them in their reliance on his testimony? a new evidence, which, if it do not augment the former, at least leaves it as it was. For surely, one who had admitted the truth of a proposition in geometry, or of an experiment in natural philosophy, upon the testimony of one skill’d in these arts, in whom he had reason to confide, has no ground to doubt of such testimony, when having made further advances in geometry or experimental philosophy, he comes to see the truths he had formerly received upon testimony, as it were with his own eyes. And must not the same hold true with respect to moral truths?
II. Let us now put the case therefore, that the people, or at least many among them to whom such instructions as hath been described was offered, had by their acquaintance with nature, or by reasoning about morals, a very clear knowledge, and full conviction of the greater, the more essential part of such instruction (for the truths of natural religion, as hath been observed, must necessarily be the greater, the more essential, the fundamental part of a revelation) what will be the evidence for such instruction in that case? Will it follow that there is no reason to rely upon or trust to such testimony, because there is another evidence for the greater the more essential doctrines it asserts or teaches? Surely it cannot be said, that because one kind of evidence for a truth is good, that therefore another kind of evidence is not good. And therefore the evidence in such a case must stand thus. “Here there is a double evidence for certain truths; an evidence from the nature of things; an intrinsick evidence; and likewise an extrinsick evidence, or an evidence from testimony, upon which there is a sufficient reason to rely independently of all other considerations.” If there are no other doctrines taught by such <476>instruction, but doctrines which are capable of proof from the nature of things, the only fair conclusion is, that there is so much the better reason to believe such instruction, that there is nothing in it but what may be perceived by accurate enquirers into the nature of things to be true. For it cannot be said, that a testimony attended with evidences of credibility is not credible, because there is other evidence for the truth of the facts it asserts. One kind of evidence may be inferior to another kind of evidence, but every evidence is what it is in itself, independently of any other evidence. And to assert, that in such a case evidence by testimony is superfluous, and that therefore it is absurd to suppose any such evidence to be offered to us in a wise government, is certainly to take too much upon us to assert. Grant it to be superfluous evidence, and it will not follow from thence, that it is not good evidence: but to assert any instruction of the kind mention’d to be unworthy of good and wise administration, or to be instruction that can serve no useful purpose in the divine government, is to assume to ourselves a right of dictating to the Governor of the world: it is to claim such full knowledge of all that is necessary to the general good of moral beings, or fit for God to do in carrying on the great purposes of his government, as we certainly have no title to pretend to. If we should grant that thinking men have no occasion for such instruction, no occasion for such a call to virtue and piety,—will it follow from hence, that such a call to virtue, such instruction in the character of the Governor of the world, and in the final issue of things, is absolutely useless?—Are all men philosophers?— have all men sufficient capacity or leisure for accurate enquiries into nature?—are all thinking men sufficiently virtuous?—or if they are, and being wise and good, perfectly whole, they have no need of such instruction, such discipline, such a wholesome monitor and physician, does it follow that the ignorant,<477> the blind, the unthinking have no need of such information, such admonishment? Supposing such instruction in the nature of God, human duty, and a future state, offer’d to the world in the manner mentioned; if any, thinking themselves wise and virtuous enough, should have said, “We know all this you pretend to teach us sufficiently; we knew it long ago, and have no need of your teaching,” would it not have been a very proper answer, “Well, if you are wise and righteous; if you know all these things, and knowing them walk answerably to such principles, you have indeed no need of me; I come not to you; the whole have not need of the physician; the righteous have no need of repentance; I come to the ignorant, to the sick, to sinners; and as the sick have need of the physician, so have sinners of repentance, and the ignorant of instruction.”
Again, if together with the greater and more essential part of such instruction in religion (for the truths of natural religion, as it hath been often said, must be the greater, the essential part of revealed religion) some other doctrines are taught, how will the evidence for them stand? If they are contradictory to the other greater and more essential part, or to any principles of reason, then the testimony must be rejected, whatever evidences the teacher may give of his power and knowledge. But that not being the case, or when no doctrine taught by an instructor giving sufficient samples of his extensive knowledge of nature and command in nature, can be proved to be inconsistent with any principles of reason, then the more evidence is found by enquiring into the nature of things, of the truth of the principal or fundamental doctrines in such instruction, the more ground there is to rely on the testimony for the truth of all it asserts: because no doctrines contained in it being contrary to reason, there is either good reason to credit that testimony, or no testimony whatsoever can be sufficient to create trust; no samples of honesty are sufficient<478> evidences of honesty; no samples of insight into nature, and the government of the world, are samples of it; and no being, however superior to others in knowledge, is qualified by his superior knowledge to instruct those who have not so large a view of nature. In such a case the evidence must necessarily stand thus. There being no contradictory or absurd assertion in the doctrine of this teacher, the evidence for his testimony is in proportion to the samples he gives of his honesty, piety and virtue, his candor and good-will to mankind, and his regard to the supreme Being, and to the samples he gives of his comprehensive knowledge of nature and the government of the world. This we may lay down as a general theorem concerning instruction by a being of large and comprehensive knowledge. And therefore the evidence Christ gave of the truth of his testimony, there being no contradiction or absurdity in any of his doctrines, must be in proportion to the evidences he gave of his sincerity, piety and virtue, and to the evidences he gave of his comprehensive knowledge of nature, and extensive command in it. If the general truth concerning extraordinary instruction be true, the evidence Christ gave for the truth of his testimony cannot be invalidated but by shewing that there was no reason to trust his honesty; or, that the samples he gave of his knowledge and power, by the works of the kinds abovementioned, bear no proportion to the knowledge necessary to qualify him for instructing us in the truths he asserted; neither of which hath ever yet been attempted by any of the disputers against christianity.
It is ridiculous to say, in general, that facts and doctrines have no relation one to another; and, therefore, that no works of whatever kind can prove the truth of doctrines. For all true doctrines or assertions concerning the state and government of the world are facts: every assertion concerning the nature or connexion of things is an assertion of a fact; it is saying such or such a thing is fact. In one word, all truths<479> are facts; and all facts are truths. What is any mathematical proposition concerning a circle, for instance, but a proposition affirming, that if there be in nature a circle it must have such property, or such a property in fact belongs to it? What is any doctrine or proposition in natural philosophy, but an assertion of a certain fact; as for example, that the air is elastic? And what is any moral truth, doctrine, or proposition, but an assertion of a fact in the moral world; as for instance, that the law of habits works so and so in certain circumstances. All this is very obvious; and I only mention it in order to shew how unphilosophical that assertion is, which hath been so often repeated in disputing against christianity, and upon which so great stress seems to be laid by a late writer:47 “That doctrines and works can have no relation, no connexion, and therefore the truth of doctrines can never be inferred from any works.” For how absurd is this affirmation, when we consider that all doctrines are facts: it is saying, that facts and works, i.e. facts and facts have no relation, but are disparata; which, I think, none will assert in direct terms. But the absurdity of a certain general, vague, but very dogmatical way of throwing aside miracles, as things that can have no relation to the truth of doctrines, which hath been very often repeated since Spinoza first suggested it, as something so evident that it needs no proof; the absurdity of a heterogeneousness between works and doctrines, which is supposed by certain objectors against the evidence of christianity to be manifest and quite indisputable, will appear, if we consider how we reason in natural philosophy, or how we reason in the affairs of life. How do we reason in natural philosophy? Does not the whole of that science consist in inferring doctrines or facts from experiments, that is, from works? How does the philosopher prove the air, for instance, to be elastic and ponderous; or gravity to be an universal law of nature? Does he not prove it to be so by induction from experiments,<480> from facts or works which are samples of that property or law? And how do we reason in life? How are we determined to act in cases of the greatest moment and concern to us in matters of health, of property, in every affair; is it not from samples, from experiments, from facts or works, that we draw our conclusions? How, in fine, do we reason to prove the doctrine of the divine existence, i.e. how do we reason to prove, that in fact there is a God and a providence? Is it not from the facts in nature, which are samples of power, wisdom, and goodness, that we infer this truth? In all these cases, therefore, doctrines are inferred from facts, i.e. facts are inferred from facts. Facts in all these cases are the medium of proof: they make the premises from which the conclusion is inferred. And therefore facts and doctrines are not heterogeneous: but facts and doctrines have the nearest relation; the same relation that any medium of proof has to the conclusion deduced from it.
Now to apply this to the present case. When instruction in the government of the world, or in certain facts relating to the Governor and government of the world, and human duty and interest in consequence of that government, is offered in the manner above-mentioned; doctrines are taught, but what are these doctrines? They are doctrines asserting certain facts. And what is the medium of proof offered? Certain works. How then are these works a medium of proof for the truth of the doctrines they are wrought to confirm? They are evidences of their truth in the same way that experiments in natural philosophy, or in moral reasonings, are proofs of the conclusions or doctrines inferred from them. They are proofs of their truth, in the same manner that samples of knowledge or power are samples of knowledge and power. They have the same relation to the instruction they are brought to confirm, that other experiments, specimens, or samples have to the fact, the law, the property, or, in general,<481> the truth of which they are samples, specimens, or experiments. They are brought to prove a large and comprehensive knowledge of nature, and they are samples of it: they are brought to prove a large and extensive command in nature, and they are samples of it. They therefore make a proper proof of it, a truly philosophical evidence of it, because they make the same proof of it that experiments make of the conclusions deduced from them in natural philosophy. The only enquiry that remains with regard to such evidence, if there be no absurdity or inconsistency in the doctrines, is whether the samples given are analogous in kind, and bear a suitable proportion in quantity or moment to the knowledge or power claimed. And therefore the evidence Christ gave of his qualification to teach us was a proper, a full, a truly philosophical proof of his qualification to teach, as being a proper adequate proof of the power and knowledge he claimed; unless it can be shewn that the works he did were neither analogous in kind nor proportioned in moment or quantity to the power and knowledge he claimed. Because such signs of power and knowledge as are analogous and commensurate to a claim, are a proper proof of it: the only proof of it the nature of the thing admits; and to demand any other is an absurd demand. It is true, signs of power are only signs of power. But we have already observed, that signs of goodness are proper proofs of goodness. And with relation to Jesus Christ, the works he did to prove his knowledge and power were at the same time samples of his benevolence and goodness. For it is observable, that he delighted not in shewing his power to inflict miseries; he delighted not in cursing, but in blessing. It was not unnecessary to give some examples of his power to curse as well as bless; to inflict pains, as well as to deliver from evils and bestow benefits, because a few instances of power to hurt make a deeper impression on some minds than a thousand examples of communicating blessings. But he chose to shew his power to inflict<482> pains and miseries, to curse, blast, or make miserable, but in a few instances; and those of such a kind as could do but little mischief, as in cursing the fig-tree, and sending the devils into the swine. All his other works were works of mercy and goodness. He went about continually doing good.
Thus, therefore, we see how, in general, works may prove doctrines, by proving the capacity or qualification of the teacher to instruct us in them. And with relation to Christ in particular, we see that his works were a full and proper evidence of the power and knowledge he claimed, a full and proper evidence of large and comprehensive knowledge and power, sufficient to qualify him for instructing us in the facts relating to the government of the world he asserted or taught. The works he did were not only proper to rouse and awaken a people plunged in superstition to attend to the great and important truths, of which they had lost, as it were, all sense and feeling; but they were sufficient to shew, that he was an instructor every way qualified to assure us of the reality of the important doctrines or facts he averred to be true.
But the propriety, the aptitude, the adequate fitness of the evidence Christ gave by his works of the truth of his doctrines, will appear yet in a stronger light if we compare his principal doctrines each of them singly with the works he did to prove their truth. They may be reduced to these few general heads, the doctrine of a future state of happiness to the virtuous, and misery to the wicked, and a resurrection from the dead, the doctrine of forgiveness of sins, or assurance that the sincere penitent who reforms and becomes virtuous shall find favour with God, and the doctrine of assistance to the sincere penitent in conquering his bad habits, and in making progress in holiness, especially in times of difficulty and trial. Now all his works were proper specimens or samples of each of these doctrines. He delivered the penitent from grievous evils; bestowed<483> great blessings upon them, external and internal; and he, in order to prove a future state, died and rose again from the dead, raised the dead; and gave power of raising the dead to his apostles, as well as of working other extraordinary works. While he was upon earth, he was continually giving instances of the most extensive knowledge and power in nature over every element, every disease, over body and mind, over death itself. And before he left earth, and ascended into heaven, he promised to send upon his apostles, who were to be employed in propagating his doctrines, the extraordinary gifts necessary to them for that effect, which accordingly he did; thus giving an indisputable proof of his power and good-will to fulfill all he had promised. So that of what yet remains to be accomplished by him we have just reason to say, “He who did the greater, can he not, will he not do the lesser?” But having fully consider’d the doctrines of Jesus Christ in this light, i.e. as exemplified by his works in my philosophical enquiry concerning the connexion between the miracles and doctrines of Jesus Christ, I shall not now insist farther upon it.
The truth of the history of Jesus Christ and his apostles stands upon an evidence which must be admitted while moral or historical evidence is admitted. And therefore the enemies of christianity in no age have ever attacked that evidence. But the truth of the history being yielded, the evidence of christianity must be indisputable, if samples of power or knowledge are proper evidences of power or knowledge; which, I think, cannot possibly be denied. For that general proposition being allowed, it cannot be said that the works of Christ were not analogous in kind to his general pretension to be a well qualified instructor; or, that they were not analogous in kind to each particular doctrine he taught. That hath never yet been asserted: nor hath it been said, or can it be said, that the samples he gave of various power in the natural and moral world were not<484> proportioned to the moment of his claim as a divine instructor. That is, no objection hath ever hitherto been made against christianity, which hath any tendency to invalidate it. For it is self-evident, that, admitting the truth of the history, there is no way of invalidating the claim of Christ to be a sufficiently qualified instructor in the doctrines he taught, but by shewing either that his works were not samples of his claim in kind, or not proportioned samples of it; there being no way of proving that a claim to knowledge or power is not sufficiently proved by samples, but by shewing that the samples are not analogous or not proportioned in moment to that claim: A general truth, so evident, that I should not have insisted so long upon it, had I not observed, that it is not attending to it that makes numbers swallow down, so readily, objections against christianity, which due attention to it would quickly shew to make nothing at all against christianity; or to have no force but what lies in sophistically misrepresenting the state of the question. Let me only add, 1. that there being intermixed with the history of our Saviour and his apostles, and their other writings, together with the doctrines taught by Christ, and an account of the miraculous works wrought by him, and by his apostles in consequence of power delegated to them by him, to qualify them for propagating his doctrine, certain prophecies of future events, the gradual fulfilment of these prophecies makes a growing evidence for the truth of the history and the doctrines of Christ. This is a consideration of great importance; for it shews that the christian doctrine is not left by its great teacher to depend merely upon an evidence of past facts; but is built upon an evidence to which gradual fulfilment of prophecies was gradually to give new force and strength. But this argument is so fully, so accurately handled in an excellent late treatisea upon the connexion of natural and<485> revealed religion, that it would be arrogance in me to attempt to add any thing to what is there said. 2. An instructor in the nature of God, and in several important facts relating to the government of the moral world, and to human duty in consequence of that government, who confirmed his instruction in the manner above-mentioned, might justly argue in this manner: My doctrine is so comfortable, so beneficial to mankind, and hath so direct a tendency to promote true piety and virtue, that nothing can be more unreasonable than to suppose, that I have an ill design, or am assisted in the works I do by any malicious spirit, endued with extraordinary knowledge and power. It is to suppose an evil spirit acting contrary to its natural disposition. It is to suppose a wicked being employing all its power and skill to promote virtue, piety, and goodness. And thus our Saviour reasoned in answer to those who said, he worked miracles by the assistance of the devil. “The pharisees said in the irhearts,a this fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children pretend to cast them out?b Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house.” 3. But if it be said, the question is about Christ’s pretension to a commission from God to instruct; to this the answer is obvious. For if one gives by his works<486> such sufficient samples of the power and knowledge he pretends to, that there is reason to trust to his instruction, independently of all consideration of his pretension to a divine commission to instruct; his pretension to such a commission cannot render his works insufficient evidences of his capacity to instruct. And therefore, such an instructor might reason with those to whom he offered instruction in this manner. I have given you sufficient evidence of my capacity to instruct you in certain truths, and of my integrity, you have therefore good reason to believe my word, and receive my instruction, tho’ I had pretended to no divine commission, but to come to you of my self purely and solely out of my own good-will towards you. Since therefore I tell you, that I am commissioned by God to instruct you, and do not claim the honour to myself, but ascribe it to him who sent me, what reason have you not to believe me? Is my testimony less credible, or are the works I do less proper evidences of my qualification to instruct you, because I do not take the glory to myself, but give it wholly to him to whom truly it is due, even unto God, who sent me to instruct you, and gave me all the power in heaven and earth my works shew me to have for that effect; even to satisfy you that I am sent by him well qualified to instruct you in the doctrines I teach. And in this manner do we find our Saviour actually reasoning: “My doctrine is not mine,a but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of my self. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.” “Jesus answered,b I have not a devil, but I honour my Father, and ye dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. If I honour myself,<487> my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me, of whom you say, that he is your God.” Christ pretended to a divine commission; and ’tis evident, that if his qualification to instruct, and the particular doctrines he taught, were sufficiently justified and proved by proper samples, the truth of the divine commission to which he pretended must necessarily be admitted. For what reason can there possibly be to doubt of the mission, when the particular knowledge or power the missionary claims as missionary, is sufficiently ascertained by proper samples? But besides, the whole series of the miracles of Jesus Christ were appealed to by him as one continued proof of his pretension to a divine mission: as one continued proof that he was qualified by God to be our instructor; and that his power was given to him for that end. His works were therefore at the same time proper samples of his divine mission, and of his capacity to instruct. What indeed can a divine mission mean, but a certain sphere of knowledge and power bestowed by God, and employed by his authority, to instruct in certain truths? But this being the meaning of a divine mission, samples or experiments of power and knowledge, analogous and proportional to the power and knowledge claimed, and analogous to the particular doctrines taught, are a proper proof of a divine mission: the only proof that can be demanded or imagined, if samples or experiments of knowledge and power be proper evidences of knowledge and power. And sure there can be no other way of shewing knowledge and power, but by giving certain specimens of it. But this argument is fully illustrated in my enquiry into the connexion between the miracles and doctrines of Jesus Christ. I shall therefore only add, in the last place, that as the evidence Christ gave of the truth of his doctrines, and his divine mission to teach them, is a proper, full, and truly philosophical evidence of his pretensions; so christianity leaves full room for all rational enquiries into<488> the government of the world, and does not in the least encroach upon the province of reason. The christian doctrine is an account of certain important facts relating to the government of the world, virtue, piety, and a future state, confirmed by testimony attended, as we have seen, with all the proper, all necessary tokens or signs of credibility: but such an account is not intended to hinder, prevent, or cut off our enquiries into the natures and connexions of things. It discovers to us several truths, to the knowledge of which we cannot attain by our enquiries into nature, or by reasoning from any truths so discovered. It also discovers to us several truths, which may be known to be true, by attending to the nature and connexions of things, or by reasoning from truths so discovered. But it leaves room for us to search as deeply as we can into the government of the world, in order to have intrinsick evidence for those truths, distinct from that extrinsick evidence which it gives for their truth, by well qualified testimony. It is therefore absurd to say that it is not consistent with divine wisdom to give us any instruction in truths discoverable by reason, besides what we may have from reason, to which kind of instruction none can be superior. For supposing, which is not the case, that there were no truths in the christian revelation, but such as are discoverable by reason, or capable of scientific proof, it would not follow that it would be inconsistent with wisdom and goodness to give us a testimony concerning their truth, upon which we might depend; since such testimony might be of use to such as are not capable, or have not time to make rational enquiries into nature, and thus to get scientific conviction of their truth; of great use to comfort and direct such in the practice of virtue: and since as it leaves rational enquiries upon the same footing as if there were no such instruction by testimony, so it may be, it cannot but be of great use to rouze men, capable of being rouzed, to due diligence in carrying on rational<489> enquiries, in proportion as they have time and opportunity for such useful and laudable employment.
Surely none who is acquainted with the history of the world at the time when Christ appeared, will say, that instruction in true religion was not very seasonable at that time: and how it can be proved to be inconsistent with divine wisdom to give men calls to virtue and instructions in important truths, relative to virtue and piety, when they are sadly corrupt and ignorant, by a teacher duly qualified to gain attention and give satisfaction by proper samples of power and knowledge, I am at a loss to imagine: and yet the greater part of the arguments against revelation seem to turn upon a supposition that such calls to virtue are evidently repugnant to divine administration. To say there never was or could be any such call, any such instruction, because it does not happen every where, in every age, or very often, and very universally, is a way of reasoning, which, if adhered to, would lead into numberless absurdities too evident to be mentioned. And to say it is not worth while to examine a pretension to divine authority to instruct in certain doctrines, because God cannot, consistently with his wisdom, at any period of time, give a people any instruction by the testimony of an extraordinary teacher, is certainly to take upon us to dictate to the Governor of the world. Sure I may say, that before one is thus hindered from examining a pretended revelation, he ought to have very clear evidence for the inconsistency with divine wisdom, by which he justifies his neglect or contempt of the pretension. It is manifestly unjustifiable, unless that inconsistency be proved: and when was it proved, or who ever yet attempted to prove it? To prove such an inconsistency, one must indeed first know all that is proper or requisite to promote the general good of moral beings, God’s end of creation and government, which none certainly will, in direct terms at least, pretend to. Finally, to ask why, if christianity be a divine<490> revelation, it is not more universal, is to ask why the Governor of the world gave it to mankind in such a manner as to leave the propagation of it to be carried on by the instrumentality of christian believers, according to the common course of human affairs, i.e. it is to ask why God so orders the world, as to give christians an excellent opportunity of exercising their benevolence towards the rest of mankind, involved in ignorance and superstition, by taking proper methods to bring them to the knowledge of the most salutary and comfortable truths.
Christianity is therefore a most excellent doctrine, and is attended with sufficient evidence of its truth.
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED
Loeb Classical Library Texts
This book is set in Adobe Garamond, a modern adaptation by Robert Slimbach of the typeface originally cut around 1540 by the French typographer and printer Claude Garamond. The Garamond face, with its small lowercase height and restrained contrast between thick and thin strokes, is a classic “old-style” face and has long been one of the most influential and widely used typefaces.
Printed on paper that is acid-free and meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, z39.48-1992 (archival)
Book design by Louise OFarrell Gainesville, Florida
Typography by Apex Publishing, LLC Madison, Wisconsin
Printed and bound by Edwards Brothers, Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan
[46. ]The quoted passage starts with a paraphrase of Rom. 2.7, 10, followed by Acts 10.35.
[a. ]Sect. I.
[47. ]Benedictus de Spinoza (1632–77), Tractatus theologico-politicus, ch. 6. See his Tractatus theologico-politicus (Gebhardt edition, 1925), trans. Samuel Shirley (Leiden: Brill, 1989).
[a. ]By A. A. Sykes, D.D. [Arthur Ashley Sykes (1684?–1756), The Principles and Connexion of Natural and Revealed Religion Distinctly Considered (London, 1740), ch. 8.]
[a. ]Matt. xii. 24, &c. [Clarke, Works, 3:47–48; see also Clarke’s comments in his Sermon 86, in Works, 1:539–40.]
[b. ]See Dr. Clarke’s Paraphrase.
[a. ]John vii. 16, &c.
[b. ]John viii. 48, &c.