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§ 16. Many of the free-thinkers of late deceive themselves, through the ambiguity or equivocal use of the word Reason. They argue that we must make our reason the highest rule by which to judge of all things, even of the doctrines of revelation; because reason is that by which we must judge of revelation itself. It is the rule on which our judgment of the truth of a revelation depends, and therefore undoubtedly must be that, by which particular doctrines of it must be judged: not considering that the word reason is here used in two senses. In the former, viz. in our judging of the divinity of a supposed revelation, the word means the faculty of reason taken in the whole extent of its exercise: In the latter, it is the opinion of our reason, or some particular opinions that have appeared rational to us. Now, there is a great difference between these two. It is true, the faculty of reason is that by which we are to judge of every thing, as it is the eye by which we see all truih. And, after we have received revelation, still, by the faculty of reason, we receive the particular doctrines of revelation, yea, even those that are most difficult to our comprehension. For, by the faculty of reason we determine this principle, that God knows better than us; and whatever God declares is true. But this is an exceedingly different thing from making an opinion, which we first establish without revelation, by reason only, as our rule to judge of particular doctrines which revelation declares. It may be illustrated by this: If there be a man with whom we have the most thorough acquaintance, and have long known to be a person of the soundest judgment and greatest integrity, who goes a journey or voyage to a place where we never were; and, when he returns, gives an account of some strange phænomena or occurrences that he was an eye-witness of there, which we should not have otherwise believed; but we believe them now to be true, because we rely on his testimony. Here, it would be ridiculous for a man to say, that it is unreasonable to believe him, because what he says is not agreeable to reason, (meaning, by reason, that particular opinion we should have had, independent of his testimony ;) and urging that reason must be our highest rule, and not his testimony, because it is by our reason that we judge of the testimony, and the credibility of the man that testifies; meaning, in this case, the faculty of reason. This would be as unreasonable, as for a man to say, that he never will rely on any representation made by the best microscope or telescope that is different from the representation which he has by his naked eye; because his eye is the rule by which be sees even the optic glass itself, and by which he judges whether it be regularly made, tending to give a true repre

sentation of objects'; urging that his eye must be the highest rule for him to determine by, because it is by the eye he determines the goodness and sufficiency of the glass itself; and therefore he will credit no representation made by the glass, wherein the glass differs from his eye; and so will not believe that the blood consists partly of red particles, and partly of a limpid liquor, because it appears all red to the naked eye; not considering the different sense in which he uses the word eye. In the former case, viz. with respect to judging of the goodness of the optic glass, he means the sense of seeing, or the organ of sight. In the latter, when he says he will not believe the representation of the glass, wherein it differs from his eye, because his eye is the highest rule; by the eye, he means the particular representation he has by his eye, separately, and without the glass.

§ 17. Again: They blunder exceedingly, through not making a distinction between reason and a rule of reason. They say, that reason is our highest rule by which to judge of all things, and therefore they must judge of the doctrines of revelation by it; whereas, they seem not to consider what they mean by reason being the highest rule.

It is true, our reason or understanding is the only judging faculty by which we determine truth and falsehood. But it is not properly our highest rule of judging of truth and falsehood, nor any rule at all. The judge, and the rule by which he judges, are diverse. A power of discerning truth, and a rule to regulate and determine the use of that power, are quite different things. The rule may be divine revelation, especially in matters of religion. As it is with the faculty or organ of sight, the organ is not properly the highest means, but the only immediate means we have of discerning the objects of sight. But if men were talking of rules how to use their eyes to the best advantage, so as to see most certainly and clearlyto see the most distant or the minutest objects, so as to have the most certain and full information—it would be ridiculous for any one to say that his eye was the highest rule to regulate his sight.

§ 18. Sometimes, by the word reason, is intended the same as argument or evidence, which the faculty of reason makes use of in judging of truth: As when we say, we should believe nothing without, or contrary to reason; that is, we should not give the assent of our judgments without, or against evidence, or something that appears which argues the thing to be true. But if this be meant by them who assert reason to be a rule superior to revelation, it is absurd in them thus to speak of reason as contra-distinguished

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§ 16. Many of the free-thinkers of late deceive themselves, through the ambiguity or equivocal use of the word Reason. They argue that we must make our reason the highest rule by which to judge of all things, even of the doctrines of revelation; because reason is that by which we must judge of revelation itself. It is the rule on which our judgment of the truth of a revelation depends, and therefore undoubtedly must be that, by which particular doctrines of it must be judged: not considering that the word reason is here used in two senses, In the former, viz. in our judging of the divinity of a supposed revelation, the word means the faculty of reason taken in the whole extent of its exercise: In the latter, it is the opinion of our reason, or some particular opinions that have appeared rational to us. Now, there is a great difference between these two. It is true, the faculty of reason is that by which we are to judge of every thing, as it is the eye by which we see all truth. And, after we have received revelation, still, by the faculty of reason, we receive the particular doctrines of revelation, yea, even those that are most difficult to our comprehension. For, by the faculty of reason we determine this principle, that God knows better than us; and whatever God declares is true. But this is an exceedingly different thing from making an opinion, which we first establish without revelation, by reason only, as our rule to judge of particular doctrines which revelation declares. It may be illustrated by this: If there be a man with whom we have the most thorough acquaintance, and have long known to be a person of the soundest judgment and greatest integrity, who goes a journey or voyage to a place where we never were; and, when he returns, gives an account of some strange phenomena or occurrences that he was an eye-witness of there, which we should not have otherwise believed; but we believe them now to be true, because we rely on his testimony. Here, it would be ridiculous for a man to say, that it is unreasonable to believe him, because what he says is not agreeable to reason, (meaning, by reason, that particular opinion we should have had, independent of his testimony ;) and urging that reason must be our highest rule, and not bis testimony, because it is by our reason that we judge of the testimony, and the credibility of the man that testifies; meaning, in this case, the faculty of reason. This would be as unreasonable, as for a man to say, that he never will rely on any representation made by the best microscope or telescope that is different from ihe representation which be has by his naked eye; because his eye is the rule by which he sees even the optic glass itself, and by which he judges whether it be regularly made, tending to give a true repre

sentation of objects; urging that his eye must be the highest rule for him to determine by, because it is by the eye he determines the goodness and sufficiency of the glass itself; and therefore he will credit no representation made by the glass, wherein the glass differs from his eye; and so will not believe that the blood consists partly of red particles, and partly of a limpid liquor, because it appears all red to the naked eye; not considering the different sense in which he uses the word eye. In the former case, viz. with respect to judging of the goodness of the optic glass, he means the sense of seeing, or the organ of sight. In the latter, when he says he will not believe the representation of the glass, wherein it differs from his eye, because his eye is the highest rule; by the eye, he means the particular representation he has by his eye, separately, and without the glass.

§ 17. Again: They blunder exceedingly, through not making a distinction between reason and a rule of reason. They say, that reason is our highest rule by which to judge of all things, and therefore they must judge of the doctrines of revelation by it; whereas, they seem not to consider what they mean by reason being the highest rule.

It is true, our reason or understanding is the only judging faculty by which we determine truth and falsehood. But it is not properly our highest rule of judging of truth and falsehood, nor any rule at all. The judge, and the rule by which he judges, are diverse. A power of discerning truth, and a rule to regulate and determine the use of that power, are quite different things. The rule may be divine revelation, especially in matters of religion. As it is with the faculty or organ of sight, the organ is not properly the highest means, but the only immediate means we have of discerning the objects of sight. But if men were talking of rules how to use their eyes to the best advantage, so as to see most certainly and clearlyto see the most distant or the minutest objects, so as to have the most certain and full information—it would be ridiculous for

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§ 18. Sometimes, by the word reason, is intended the same as argument or evidence, which the faculty of reason makes use of in judging of truth: As when we say, we should believe nothing without, or contrary to reason; that is, we should not give the assent of our judgments without, or against evidence, or something that appears which argues the thing to be true. But if this be meant by them who assert reason to be a rule superior to revelation, it is absurd in them thus to speak of reason as contra-distinguished

it is we actually determine, that experience is so good and sure a medium of proof. We consider the nature of it; and our reason soon shews us the necessary connection of this medium with truth. So we judge of the degree of dependence that is to be had on our senses by reason ; by viewing the agreement of one sense with another, and by comparing, in innumerable instances, the agreement of the testimonies of the senses with other criteria of truth, and so rationally estimating the value of these testimonies.

But if this is what is meant by saying, that our reason is a surer rule than experience, it is an improper way of speaking, and an abuse of language. For, take reason thus; and so reason and experience are not properly set in contradiction, or put in comparison one with another; for the former includes the latter, as the genus includes the species, or as a wbole includes the several particular sorts comprehended in that whole. For, judging by experience is one way of judging by reason, or rather, experience is one sort of argument which reason makes use of in judging. And to say that reason is a more sure rule than experience, is to say, that arguing is a more sure rule than a particular way of arguing : or to say that argument (in general) is a more sure rule than that particular sort of argument, viz. experience. Or if, by reason, is meant the faculty of reason, or that power or ability of the mind, whereby it can see the force of arguments; then such an assertion will appear still more nonsensical. For then, it is as much as to say, that the mind's ability to see the force of arguments, is a surer rule by which to judge of truth, than that particular argument, viz. experience; which is the same as to say, an ability to judge of arguments is a surer argument than that sort of argument, experience; or that a man's understanding is a better rule to understand by, than such a particular means or rule of understanding,

These observations concerning reason and experience, when these two are compared as rules by which to judge of truth, may be applied to reason and revelation, or divine testi. mony, when in like manner compared as distinct rules of truth. To insist, that men's own reason is a rule superior to divine revelation, under a pretence, that it is by reason that we must judge even of the authority of revelation; that all pretended revelations must be brought to the test of reason; and that reason is the judge whether they are authentic or not, &c. is as foolish as it would be to assert, for the like reasons, that man's own reason is a test of truth superior to erperience. There is just the same fallacy in the arguments that are brought to support one and the other of these foolish assertions; and both are, for reasons equally forcible, very false, or very nonsensical.

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