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in the breach of the law. If therefore any thing be imprinted on the minds of all men as a law, all men must have a certain and unavoidable knowledge, that certain and unavoidable punishment will attend the breach of it. For, if men can be ignorant or doubtful of what is innate, innate principles are insisted on, and urged to no purpose ; truth and certainty (the things pretended) are not at all secured by them: but men are in the same uncertain, floating estate with, as without them. An evident indubitable knowledge of unavoidable punishment, great enough to make the transgression very uneligible, must accompany an innate law; unless, with an innate law, they can suppose an innate gospel too. I would not here be mistaken, as if, because I deny an innate law, I thought there were none but positive laws. There is a great deal of difference between an innate law, and a law of nature ; between something imprinted on our minds in their very original, and something that we being ignorant of may attain to the knowledge of, by the use and due application of our natural faculties. And I think they equally forsake the truth, who, running into contrary extremes, either affirm an innate law, or deny that there is a law knowable by the light of nature, i. e. without the help of positive revelation.
9. 14. The difference there is amongst Those who maintain in. men in their practical principles, is so evinate practical dent, that, I think, I need say no more to principles, evince, that it will be impossible to find any tell us not
innate moral rules by this mark of general what they
assent: and it is enough to make one sus
pect, that the supposition of such innate principles is but an opinion taken up at pleasure; since those who talk so confidently of them, are so sparing to tell us which they are. This might with justice be expected from those men who lay stress upon this opinion: and it gives occasion to distrust either their knowledge or charity, who declaring, that God has inprinted on the minds of men the foundations of knowledge, and the rules of living, are yet so little favourable to the information of their neighbours, or the quiet of
mankind, as not to point out to them which they are, in the variety men are distracted with. But, in trutis
, were there any such innate principles, there would be no need to teach them. Did men find such innate propositions stamped on their minds, they would easily be able to distinguish them from other truths, that they afterwards learned, and deduced from them; and there would be nothing more easy, than to know what, and how many they were. There could be no more doubt about their number, than there is about the number of our fingers; and it is like then every system would be ready to give them us by tale. But since nobody, that I know, has ventured yet to give a catalogue of them, they cannot blame those who doubt of these innate principles ; since even they who require men to believe, that there are such innate propositions, do not tell us what they are.
It is easy to foresee, that if different men of different sects should go about to give us a list of those innate practical principles, they would set down only such as suited their distinct hypotheses, and were fit to support the doctrines of their particular schools or churches: a plain evidence, that there are no such innate truths. Nay, a great part of men are so far, from finding any such innate moral principles in themselves, that by denying freedom to mankind, and thereby making men no other than bare machines, they take avay not only innate, but all moral rules whatsoever, and leave not a possibility to believe any such, to those who cannot conceive, how any thing can be capable of a law, that is not a free agent: and upon that ground, they must necessarily reject all principles of virtue, who cannot put morality and mechanism together; which are not very easy to be reconciled, or made consistent.
$. 15. When I had writ this, being in- Lord Her. formed that any lord Herbert had, in his bert's innate book de Veritate, assigned these innate prin- principles eiples, I presently consulted him, hoping to
examined. find, in a man of so great parts, something that might satisfy me in this point, and put an end to my enquiry. In his chapter de Instinctu Naturali, p. 72. edit. 1056, I met with these six marks of his Notitiæ Communes :
1. Prioritas. 9. Independentia. 3. Universalitas. 4. Cer. titudo. 5. Necessitas, i. e. as he explains it, faciunt ad hominis conservationem. 6. Modus conformationis, i.e. Assensus nulla interpositá morá. And at the latter end of his little treatise, De Religioni Laici, he says this of these inuate principles : Adeo ut non uniuscujusvis religionis confinio arctenturque ubique rigent veritates. Sunt enim in ipsá mente calituis descriptæ, nullisque traditionibus, sive scriptis, sire non scriptis, obnoriæ, p. 3. And, Veritates nostræ catholicæ quæ tanquam indubia Deieffata in foro interiori descripta. Thus having given the marks of the innate principles or common notions, and asserted their being imprinted on the minds of inen by the hand of God, he proceeds to set them down; and they are these: 1. Esse aliquod supremum numen. 9. Numen illud coli debere. 3. Virtutem cum pietate conjunctam optimam esse rationem cultus divini. 4. Resipiscendum esse à peccatis. 5. Dari præmium rel pænam post hanc vitam transactam. Though I allow these to be clear truths, and such as, if rightly explained, a rational creature can hardly avoid giving his assent to; yet I think he is far from proving them innate impressions in foro interiori descripte. For I must take leave to observe,
§. 16. First, that these five propositions are either not all, or more than all, those common notions writ on our minds by the finger of God, if it were reasonable to believe
any at all to be so written: since there are other propositions, which, even by his own rules, have as just a pretence to such an original, and may be as well admitted for innate principles, as at least some of these five he enumerates, viz. “ do as thou wouldest be done unto ;” and, perhaps, some hundreds of others, when well considered.
§. 17. Secondly, that all his marks are not to be found in each of his five propositions, viz. his first, second, and third marks agree perfectly to neither of them; and the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth marks agree but ill to his third, fourth, and fifth propositions. For besides that we are assured from history, of many men, nay, whole nations, who doubt or disbelieve some or all of them; I cannot see how the third, viz." that virtue
joined with piety is the best worship of God,” can be an innate principle, when the name, or sound, virtue, is so hard to be understood; liable to so much uncertainty in its signification; and the thing it stands for, so much contended about, and difficult to be known. And therefore this cannot be but a very uncertain rule of human practice, and serve but very little to the conduct of our lives, and is therefore very unfit to be assigned as an innate practical principle.
g. 18. For let us consider this proposition as to its meaning (for it is the sense, and not sound, that is, and must be the principle or common notion) viz. “ virtue is the best worship of God;" i. e. is most acceptable to him; which if virtue be taken, as most commonly it is, for those actions, which, according to the different opinions of several countries, are accounted laudable, will be a proposition so far from being certain, that it will not be true. If virtue be taken for actions conformable to God's will, or to the rule prescribed by God, which is the true and only measure of virtue, when virtue is used to signify what is in its own nature right and good; then this proposition, “ that virtue is the best worship of God,” will be most true and certain, but of very little use in human life: since it will amount to no more but this, viz. “ that God is pleased with the doing of what he commands;" which a man may certainly know to be true, without knowing what it is that God doth command ; and so be as far from any rule or principle of his actions, as he was before. And I think very few will take a proposition, which amounts to no more than this, viz. that God is pleased with the doing of what he himself commands, for an innate moral principle writ on the minds of all men (however true and certain it may be) since it teaches so little. Whosoever does so, will have reason to think hundreds of propositions, innate principles; since there are many, which have as good a title as this, to be received for such, which nobody yet ever put into that rank of innate principles.
§. 19. Nor is the fourth proposition (viz..“ men must repent of their sins").much more instructive, till what those actions are, that are meant by sins, be set down. For the word peccata, or sins, being put, as it usually is, to signify in general ill actions, that will draw punishment upon the doers, what great principle of morality can that be, to tell us we should be sorry, and cease to do that which will bring mischief upon us, without knowing what those particular actions are, that will do so? Indeed, this is a very true proposition, and fit to be inculcated on, and received by those, who are supposed to have been taught, what actions in all kinds are sins; but neither this, nor the former, can be imagined to be innate principles, nor to be of any use, if they were innate, unless the particular measures and bounds of all virtues and vices, were engraven in men's minds, and were innate principles also; which I think, is very much to be doubted. And therefore, I imagine, it will scarce seem possible, that God should engrave principles in men's minds, in words of uncertain signification, such as virtues and sins, which, amongst different men, stand for different things : nay, it cannot be supposed to be in words at all; which, being in most of these principles very general names, cannot be understood, but by knowing the particulars comprehended under them. And in the practical instances, the measures must be taken from the knowledge of the actions themselves, and the rules of them, abstracted from words, and antecedent to the knowledge of names; which rules a man must know, what language soever he chance to learn, whether English or Japan, or if he should learn no language at all, or never should understand the use of words, as happens in the case of dumb and deaf men. When it shall be made out, that men ignorant of words, or untaught by the laws and customs of their country, know that it is part of the worship of God, not to kill another man; not to know inore women than one; not to procure abortion; not to expose their children; not to take from another what is his, though we want it ourselves, but, on the contrary, relieve and supply his wants; and whenever we have done the contrary, we ought to repent, be sorry, and resolve to do so no more: when, I say, all men shall be proved actually to know