Page images

$. 9. But had all mankind, every where, a notion of a God (whereof yet history tells us the contrary) it would not from thence follow, that the idea of him was innate.

For though no nation were to be found without a name, and some few dark notions of him : yet that would not prove them to be natural impressions on the mind, any more than the names of fire, or the sun, heat, or number, do prove the ideas they stand for to be innate: because the names of those things, and the ideas of them, are so universally received and known amongst mankind. Nor, on the contrary, is the want


[merged small][ocr errors]

author * answers, I think that the universal consent of mankind, as to the being of a God, amounts to thus much, that the vastly greater ma. jority of mankind have in all ages of the world actually believed a God; that the majority of the remaining part have not achually disbelieved it; and consequently those who have actually opposed the belief of a God, have truly been very few. So that comparing those that have actually disbelieved, with those who have actually believed a God, their number is so inconsiderable, that in respect of this incomparably greater majo. Tity, of those who have owned the belief of a God, it may be said to be the universal consent of mankind.

This is all the universal consent which truth or matter of fact will allow ; and therefore all that can be made use of to prove a God. But if any one would extend it farther, and speak deceitfully for God; if this universality should be urged in a strict sense, not for much the ma. jority, but for a general consent of every one, even to a man, in all ages and countries; this would make it either no argument, or a perfectly useless and unnecessary one. For if any one deny a God, such a aniversality of consent is destroyed; and if nobody does deny a God, what need of arguments to convince atheists?

I would crave leave to ask your lordíhip, were there ever in the world any atheists or no? If there were not, what need is there of raising a question about the being of a God, when nobody questions it? What need of provisional arguments against a fault, from which mankind are so wholly free, and which, by an universal consent, they may be pre' sumed to be secure from? If you say (as I doubt not but you will) that there have been atheists in the world, then your lordship’s universal con. sent reduces itself to only a great majority ; and then make that majority as great as you will, what I have said in the place quoted by your lordfhip, leaves it in its full force; and I have not said one word that does in the least invalidate this argument for a God. The argument I was upon there, was to shew, that the idea of God was not innate; and to my pur. pose it was sufficient, if there were but a less number found in the world, who had no idea of God, than your lordship will allow there have been

# In his third letter to the bishop of Worcester,

of such a name, or the absence of such a notion out of men's minds, any argument against the being of a God; any more than it would be a proof that there was no load-stone in the world, because a great part of mankind had neither a notion of any such thing, nor a name, for it; or be any show of argument to prove, that there are no distinct and various species of angels, or intelligent beings above us, because we have no ideas of such distinct species, or names for them: for men being furnished with words, by the common language of their own countries, can scarce avoid having some



of professed atheists; for whatsoever is innate, must be universal in the strictest sense. One exception is a sufficient proof against it. So that all that I said, and which was quite to another purpose, did not at all tend, nor can be made use of, to invalidate the argument for a Deity, grounded on such an universal consent, as your lordship, and all that build on it, must own; which is only a very disproportioned majority ; such an uni. versal consent my argument there neither affirms nor requires to be less than you will be pleased to allow it. Your lordship therefore might, without any prejudice to those declarations of good will and favour you have for the author of the “Essay of Human Understanding," have spared the mentioning his quoting authors that are in print, for matters of fact to quite another purpose, -as going about to invalidate the argument for a Deity, from the universal consent of mankind ;” since he leaves that universal consent as entire and as large as you yourself do, or can own, or suppose it. But here I have no reason to be sorry that your lordship has given me this occasion for the vindication of this passage of my book; if there should be any one besides your lordship, who should so far mistake it, as to think it in the least invalidates the argument for a God, from the universal consent of mankind.

But because you question the credibility of those authors I have quoted, which you say were very ill chosen ; I will crave leave to say, that he whom I relied on for his testimony concerning the Hottentots of Solda. nia, was no less a man than an ambassador froin the king of England to the Great Mogul : of whose relation, monsieur Thevenot, no ill judge in the case, had so great an esteem, that he was at the pains to translate into French, and publish it in his (which is counted no injudicious) col. lection of travels. But to intercede with your lordship, for a little more favourable allowance of credit to sir Thomas Roe's relation ; Coore, an inhabitant of the country, who could speak English, assured Mr. Terry, that they of Soldania had no God. But if he too have the ill luck to find no credit with you, I hope you will be a little more favourable to a divine of the church of England, now living, and admit of his testimony in confirmation of fir Thomas Roe's. This worthy gentleman, in the relation of his voyage to Surat, printed but two years since, speaking of * Terry's Voyage, p. 17, 23.


kind of ideas of those things, whose names, those they converse with, have occasion frequently to mention to them. And if they carry with it the notion of excellency, greatness, or something extraordinary: if apprehension and concernment accompany it; if the fear of absolute and irresistible power set it on upon the mind, the idea is likely to sink the deeper, and spread the farther; especially if it be such an idea as is agrecable to the common light of reason, and naturally deducible from every part of our knowledge, as that of a God is. For the visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear so plainly in all the works of the creation, that a rational creature, who will but seriously reflect on them, cannot miss the discovery of a deity.

the same people, has these words : t " They are sunk even below idola. try, are destitute of both priest and temple, and saving a little show of rejoicing, which is made at the full and new moon, have lost all kind of religious devotion. Nature has so richly provided for their convenience in this life, that they have drowned all sense of the God of it, and are grown quite careless of the next."

But to provide against the clearest evidence of atheism in these people, you say, “ that the account given of them, makes them not fit to be a standard for the sense of mankind.” This, I think, may pass for nothing, till somebody be found, that makes them to be a standard for the sense of mankind. All the use I made of them was to show, that there were men in the world that had no innate idea of a God. But to keep some. thing like an argument going (for what will not that do ?) you go near denying those Cafers to be men. What else do these words signity?“ a people so strangely bereft of common sense, that they can hardly be rec. koned among inankind, as appears by the best accounts of the Cafers of Soldania, &c." I hope, it any of them were called Peter, James, or John, it would be past scruple that they were men: however, Courwee, Wewena, and Cowsheda, and those others who had names, that had no places in your nomenclator, would hardly pass muster with your lordship.

My lord, I should not mention this, but that what you yourself say here, may be a motive to you to consider, that what you have laid such a stress on concerning the general nature of man, as a real being,' and the subject of properties, amounts to nothing for the distinguishing of species ; since you yourself own that there may be individuals, wherein there is a common nature with a particular subsistence proper to each of them ; whereby you are so little able to know of which of the ranks or sorts they are, into which you say God has ordered beings, and which he hath distinguished by essential properties, that you are in doubt whether they ought to be reckoned among mankind or no. + Mr. Ovington, p. 489.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

And the influence that the discovery of such a being must necessarily have on the minds of all, that have but oncc heard of it, is so great, and carries such a weight of thought and communication with it, that it seems stranger to me, that a whole nation of men should be any where found so brutish, as to want the notion of a God; than that they should be without any notion of numbers, cr fire.

$. 10. The name of God being once mentioned in any part of the world, to express a superior, powerful

, wise, invisible being, the suitableness of such a notion to the principles of common reason, and the interest men will always have to mention it often, must necessarily spread it far and wide, and continue it down to all generations; though yet the general reception of this name, and some imperfect and unsteadly notions conveyed thereby to the unthinking part of inankind, prove not the idea to be innate; but only that they, who. made the discovery, had made a right use of their reason, thought maturely of the causes of things, and traced them to their original; from whom other less considering people having once received so important a 10tion, it could not easily be lost again.

$. 11. This is all could be inferred from the notion of a God, were it to be found universally in all the tribes of mankind, and generally acknowledged by men grown to maturity in all countries. For the generality of the acknowledging of a God, as I imagine, is extended no farther than that; which if it be sufficient to prove the idea of God innate, will as well prove the idea of fire innate; since, I think, it may be truly said, that there is not a person in the world, who has a notion of a God, who has not also the idea of fire. I doubt not, but if a colony of young children should be placed in an island where no fire was, they would certainly neither have any notion of such a thing, nor name for it, how generally soever it were received, and known in all the world besides: and perhaps too their apprehensions would be as far removed from any name, or notion of a God, till some one amongst them had employed his thoughts, to inquire into the constitution


and causes of things, which would easily Icad him to the notion of a God; which having once taught to others, reason, and the natural propensity of their own thoughts, would afterwards propagate, and continue amongst them. $. 12. Indeed it is urged, that it is suit

Suitable to able to the goodness of God to imprint God's goodupon the minds of men characters and no

ness, that all tions of himself, and not to leave them in

men should

have an idca the dark and doubt in so grand a conceru

ofhim, there. ment; and also by that means to secure to fore natural. himself the homage and veneration due from ly imprinted go intelligent a creature as man; and there by him, an.

swered. fore he has done it.

This argoment, if it be of any force, will prove much more than those, who use it in this case, expect from it. For, if we may conclude, that God hath done for men all that men shall judge is best for them, because it is suitable to his goodness so to do; it will prove not only that God has imprinted on the minds of men an idea of himself, but that he hath plainly stamped there, in fair characters, all that men ought to know or believe of him, all that they ought to do in obedience to his will; and that he hath given them a will and affections conformable to it. This, no doubt, every one will think better for men, than that they should in the dark grope after knowledge, as St. Paul tells us all nations did after God, Acts xvii. 27. than that their wills should clash with their understandings, and their appetites cross their duty. The Romanists say, it is Best for men, and so suitable to the goodness of God, that there should be an infallible judge of controversies on earth; and therefore there is one. And I, by the same reason, say, it is better for men that every man himself should be infallible. I leave them to consider, whether by the force of this argument they shall think, that every man is so. I think it a very good argument; to say, the infinitely wise God hath made it so; and therefore it is best. But it seems to me a little too much confidence of our own wisdom to say,

" I think it best, and therefore God hath made it so ;” and, in


« PreviousContinue »