« PrécédentContinuer »
from doing it; so that Man, whatever Claim SERM,
make to this Privilege, has no man- XV. ner of Pretension to it; hę
SERM. Discoveries. From the Physician, the Law
XV. uru yer, the Artist, the Husbandman, he is fur
nish'd with several good Rules and Observations concerning the Management of his Health, the Security of his Estate, and many other Necessaries and Conveniencies of Life, which have been handed down from one to another, with perhaps some small Improvements, and they again from others before them, and so on: For the first Beginnings of Knowledge are but small; by Degrees, as they have the Advantage of a Multitude of other Understandings from Time to Time, they grow larger, till at last they rise into Arts and Sciences.
This is the way that Systems of Knowledge of any kind whatsoever are form’d, not by the Labour or Ingenuity of one Man, but by the Study of Thousands, and the Industry of Ages; for no Man can any more ascribe this Knowledge to himself, than a Part can call itself the Whole. The Case is this; Things are infinite, and are to be seen in infinite Views, and Men by the different Positions of their Understandings are differently situated towards them, by which means, tho' they see Things alike in general, yet, with respect to Particulars, they see them with some Difference, the Union
of all which Differences makes the general SER M. Judgment, or the public Understanding; fo that no one can have any more than a certain proportionate View according as he stands to Things, and this he must have; for the most inconsiderable Man
Earth has his Point of View, as he stands to Things, and may yield Instruction of one kind or another to the wifest. Now the Case being so, that the Knowledge which a Man has, is not the natural Production of the Soil, but a Collection from Abroad engrafted upon it, 'tis a pleasant Sort of Vanity, when this becomes blended and iticore porated with his own, to see a Man plume himself upon it, and place it to his own Account, as if it really was fo.
Thus when a Man has got into his Polsession a certain Degree of Knowledge, tho’ it be indeed the Work of Ages to acquire, he cries out presently with David, tho' in another Sense, I am wiser than the Aged, I have more Understanding than my
Teache ers; whereas, were he stripp'd of his imaginary Superiority, and deprived of every foreign Assistance, he would have then less Understanding than the Foolish. The Known ledge that is of a Man's own Growth, abftracted from what he gets from the rest of
Serm. the World, would make but an inconlides XV. rable Figure, just as the Proportion of One to so many Thousands.
And then as to Religion, 'tis just the same there as in civil Life; the Knowledge a Man has of that, over and above what comes .by Inspiration from the Spirit of God, comes the same Way, by the Alistance of others. For how Thould we have known any Thing of Religion at all, if it was not for a Communication of Thoughts and Reasons one with another about it? Indeed, how should we know so much as that there is a God ? 'Tis true, natural Reason would help us to this Discovery, and would also lead us further to this, That he must be worshipp'd, and so on to some Scheme of Religion : I say, natural Reafoń will do this; but what then? This natural Reason is not the Reason of an individual Perfon, but the Reason of Mankind, not that. That would ever have made any great Progress in this Discovery. For as much as it wanted Perfection, so much of course it would want to make it compleat; it could not therefore be a fufficient Foundation to rest upon, fomething farther being still wanted to supply this Deficiency, which Mankind was sensible of; fome Revelation from God, that might fill up the Vacuity of human Rea
fon, and be commensurate with the Hopes,
XV. Fears and Desires of every Faculty of Man. Accordingly, they always pretended to some Revelation, and whether their Pretensions were just or not, there was always a Foundation for them, as well from the Imperfection of human Reason, as from the Care and Superintendance which the Creator might be suppos'd to have over his Creatures, and from the Benevolence of his Nature, which the Excellency of their Nature might. give them Hopes to confide in, whatever they might fear from his Justice. 'Tis no Wonder that this should be the Case, because it is by no means an uncommon Thing among Christians to meet with Persons, who are for resolving all the Attributes of God into that of Goodness: And not only Sinners do this, who have nothing to hope from his Justice, but even good Men themselves, who have thought, tho' not aright, that the Goodness of God had the Predominancy over the other Attributes. Indeed from his Dealings with Men, 'tis natural enough to think so, but then there is no arguing from what happens in a small Part of Time in this Life, to what will be in Eternity, where it will be seen, that God is infinite every Way, and that Justice will be done