« PreviousContinue »
my plan has been of greater assistance to me than all my efforts : I easily foresaw that my ideas would naturally, and of themselves, be connected with each other, and that the thread of my meditations would lead me on.
I must be allowed this remark :--Most authors whom I have read and they are not few,) seem to me to have fallen into two essential mistakes They are continually speaking of demonstration, and unceasingly apostrophizing those whom they call Deists and Unbelievers. It were better to promise less; this method creates, and merits more confidence. It were better not to apostrophize unbelievers: the object is to enlighten, and to persuade them, not to indispose them at first setting out.
If unbelievers adopt an offensive and unbecoming style toward Christians, it is no reason why these should employ the same offensive language.
In almost every author whose works have engaged my studies and meditation, I have observed another mistake, which is, that they are over-fond of dissertation ;—they do not apply themselves sufficiently to close reasoning; they are, in short, too diffuse.
By enlarging, they weaken their arguments, and thus give objections a stronger hold. Sometimes to the most solid arguments, they join trivial heterogeneous reflections, which weaken the former. In the construction of a stately marble temple erected to Truth, base materials ought not to be employed.
The earnest desire of proving too much, has induced several very estimable apologists to advance, with too much confidence, certain considerations inadmissible in sound logic.
I have taken the utmost pains to avoid these mistakes. I do not latter myself so far, as to imagine that I have always succeeded: my abi. . lities are not great, but I have exerted them to their utmost extent; I have concentrated on this sublime subject all the powers of my soul. I have not numbered the
I have weighed them in the scale of sound logic. My desire was to render this important inquiry as interest. ing as possible. I have adapted my style to the various objects which I had to describe ; or, to speak properly, the tints of these objects have imperceptibly given a colouring to my style.
The subject raised all the affections of my soul; and I was desirous of exciting the same sensations in my readers. I aimed at an extreme precision, cautious, at the same time, that it should not render my style obscure. I have not affected an erudition to which I am no ways entitled. It is easier to appear learned, than to be really so. I have pointed out the true sources of information, they are in general well known.
True philosophers will be my judges; if I obtain their approbation, I shall consider it as an honourable reward of my labours. But, there exists a reward of a still higher value, to which I aspire, and this reward is independent of the judgment of man.
CON T E N T S.
I. ON the order and laws of nature,
and the attributes of the First cause II. The love of happiness the basis of
the natural laws of Man.--Consequence in favour of the perfection of the moral system.-The laws of nature the language of the legisla
dations of testimony.--Moral order 35 II. Of the credibility of testimony:
Its essential conditions : -- Applica
tion to the evidence of the Gospel 41 III. Objections to testimony, drawn
from the contradiction of miracles to the course of nature, or from the opposition between experience and the testimony given to miraculous facts.- Answers
49 IV. Continuation of objections to tes
timonial proof, when applied to miraculous facts. —Answers.—General considerations on physical and moral order