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views can be taken of a subject, that which has a preponderance of probability in its favour is that which we must suppose true....... .
When one person undertakes to prove a point which another disputes, he seems to place himself in the position of an aggressor, and is supposed to fail of his object, if his proofs fall short of demon stration. Hence the disadvantage in which any one places himself by volunteering an argument. He is not only expected to show his view more probable than its opposite, but the only possible one. If he does less than this, he is supposed in common matters to leave things as he found them, and in matters of religion to furnish his own refutation ; for it is assumed that in such matters proofs short of what may be thought possible, are as disproofs.
Nearly all disputes in practical matters may be traced to a difference of opinion about the onus probandi. There are few cases in which each party is not nearly agreed as to the amount of evidence brought forward on either side. It is seldom that the party affirming will not admit their proof to be incomplete, and that the party denying will not admit it to amount to something ; but they differ in this, that the one feels justified in affirming till his proof has been altogether destroyed,--the other in denying till it has been completed.
The Atheist does not deny that there are arguments for the existence of a God; the believer does not deny that there are arguments against it; but the one contends that it is absurd to believe till the affirmation has been demonstrated, the other that it is absurd to disbelieve till the negative has been so.
The Deist does not deny that the evidence for a Revelation amounts to something, nor the believer that it is short of what we might conceive possible, but the latter thinks any evidence enough, the former any supposed defect of evidence a refutation.
In almost every case, the one party argues that there is some proof, admitting at the same time that it is inconclusive; the other that the proof is not conclusive, admitting at the same time that it is something.
“ If saving faith,” says Mr. Blanco White, “implies orthodoxy, i. e. acquiescence in a certain collection of abstract deductions from the Scriptures, as logically true, or properly inferred from the language of Scripture, and no higher and more certain means to attain this object have been given to men by God than their individual logical powers; the discovery of saving faith has an infinite number of chances against it, in respect to each individual: to use more definite language, the chance of success in the search after saving faith, is as one to the number of sects and subdivisions of sects which now divide, and may still further subdivide, the Christian world.”—Her. and Orth. p. 9.
That is, my chance of getting at the Truth depends on processes of mind going on within
people whom I shall never see, nor hear, nor think of.
“ All Catholics,” he says, “ and most Protestants will probably unite in the reply, that absolute certainty is inconsistent with our present state of existence. To this I answer, that in regard to the appointment of any means to remove uncertainty, the All-wise Being could not want resources to produce in us the highest degree of moral confidence of which we are capable.”
Yet Almighty God's miraculous displays at Sinai were not sufficient to hinder the Israelites worshipping the golden calf....
1. Protestant Paralogisms.
1. That, because St. Paul has declared that all the Scriptures of the Old Testament were “given by inspiration of God, and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,”—therefore the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament together are the only things which have ever been given by this inspiration, and that it is impious, damnable, and heretical to believe a word that the Fathers say when it cannot be proved by sure and certain warrant from one or other of these documents.
2. That, because a change discernible by the senses does not take place in the Eucharistic Bread and Wine on consecration, therefore a change not discernible cannot take place in them; i. e. that our senses contradict the doctrine of an insensible transubstantiation, because they prove that, if transubstantiation takes place, it is insensible.
[It must be observed, that the point here objected to by the author, is the argument,—the unfairness of the reasoning on which the conclusion is maintained.]
3. That when our Lord blessed the Sacramental Elements, He may have meant only to say grace over them,—therefore this is certainly all He meant.
4. That the 6th chapter of St. John can be explained without reference to the Eucharist,--therefore to believe it has such reference is illogical.
5. That, when our Lord breathed on His Apostles and said, “ Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” &c., He may have only conveyed to them an earnest of what they should receive at Pentecost,—therefore it is certain He did no more.
6. That, since our Lord did all that was necessary in order to complete our reconciliation,—therefore to suppose that one of these things was the setting up of a Priesthood, is blasphemously to suppose that what He did for us was not sufficient to complete our reconciliation.
7. That, since it is possible that the Ecclesiastical Polity implied in the Acts of the Apostles was intended only for decency and order,—therefore it cannot have been intended for any thing more.
8. That the fate of Uzzah and Uzziah, Corah, Dathan and Abiram, may possibly be an exception' to St. Paul's statement, “these things happened unto them for enamples,”—therefore they must be so.
9. That the passages in Scripture, which seem to imply an intermediate state, can be explained away, therefore to believe an intermediate state is absurd.