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bare machines, they take away 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 ean 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. Lord Herbert's innate principles examined.
When I had writ this, being informed, that my lord Herbert had, in his book de Veritate, assigned these innate principles, I presently consulted him, hoping to find, in a man of so great parts, something that might satisfy me in this point, and put an end to my inquiry. In his chapter de Instinctu Naturali
, p. 72. edit. 1656, I met with these six marks of his Notitia Communes: 1. Prioritas. 2. Independentia. 3. Universalitas. 4. Certitudo. 5. Necessitas, i. e. as he explains it, faciunt ad hominis conservationem, 6. Modus conformationis, i. e. Assensus nullá interpositâ morâ. And at the latter end of his little treatise, De Religioni Laici, he says this of these innate principles: Adeo ut non uniuscujusvis religionis confinio arctentur quæ ubique vigent veritates. Sunt enim in ipsâ mente cælitus descripta, nullisque traditionibus, sive scriptis, sive non scriptis, obnoxiæ, p. 3. And, Veritates nostræ catholicæ quæ tanquam indubia Dei effata in foro interiori descriptia. Thus having given the marks of the innate principles or common notions, and asserted their being imprinted on the minds of men by thie hand of God, he proceeds to set them down; and they are these: 1. Esse aliquod supremum numen. 2. Numen illud coli debere. 3. Virtutem cum pietate conjunctam optimam esse rationem cultűs divini. 4. Resipiscendum esse à peccatis. 5. Dari præmium vel 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 descripta. For I must take leave to observe,
$ 16. First, that these five propositions are either not all, or more than all, thuse 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.
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 dis believe 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.
$ 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
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 pro position, 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 in-' nate 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 more 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 and allow all these and a thousand other such rules, all which come under these two general words made use of above, viz. “ virtutes & peccata,” virtues and sins, there will be more reason for admitting these and the like, for common notions and practical principles. Yet, after all,
universal consent (were there any in moral principles) to truths, the knowledge whereof may be attained otherwise, would scarce prove them to be innate; which is all I contend for. § 20. Obj. Innate principles may be corrupted, answer
ed. Nor will it be of much moment here to offer that very ready, but not very material answer, (viz.) that the innate principles of morality, may, by education and custom, and the general opinion of those amongst whom we converse, be darkened, and at last quite worn out of the minds of men. Which assertion of theirs, if true, quite takes away the argument of universal consent, by which this opinion of innate principles is endeavoured to be proved: unless those men will think it reasonable, that their private persuasions, or that of their party, should pass for universal consent: a thing not unfrequently done, when men, presuming themselves to be the only masters of right reason, cast by the votes and opinions of the rest of mankind, as not worthy the reckoning. And then their argument stands thus: “ the principles which all mankind allow for true, are innate; those that men of right reason admit, are the principles allowed by all mankind; we, and those of our mind, are men of reason; therefore we agreeing, our principles are innate ;” which is a very pretty way of arguing, and a short cut to infallibility. For otherwise it will be very hard to understand, how there be some principles, which all men do acknowledge and
agree in; and yet there are none of those principles, which are not by depraved custom, and ill education, blotted out of the minds of many men: which is to say, that all men admit, but yet many men do deny, and dissent from them. And indeed the supposition of such first principles will serve us to very little purpose;
and we shall be as much at a loss with, as without them, if they may, by any human power, such as is the will of our teachers, or