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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 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 cominands, 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 innáte principles.
$. 19. Nor is the fourth proposition (viz.." men must repent of their sios”).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
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 fins, 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. 9. 20. Nor will it be of much moment
Obj. Innate here to offer that very ready, but not very principles material answer, (viz.) that the innate prin may be core ciples of morality, may, by education and fupted, an- . custom, and the general opinion of those snescu 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, Vol. I.
50 No Innate Practical Principles. Book r.
w men $. 99. This, however strange it may seem, commonly is that which cvery day's experience concome by their firms; and will not, perhaps, appear so principles. . wonderful, if we consider the ways and steps by which it is brought about; and how really it may come to pass, that doctrines that have been derived from no better original than the superstition of a nurse, and the authority of an old woman, may, by length of time, and consent of neighbours, grow up to the dignity of priuciples in religion or morality. For such, who
are careful as they call it) to principle children well (and few there be who have not a set of those princie ples for them, which they believe in) instil into the unwary, and as yet unprejudiced understanding (for white paper receives any characters) those doctrines they would have them retain and profess. These being taught them as soon as they have any apprehension ; and still as they grow up, confirmed to them, either by. the open profession, or tacit consent, of all they have to do with; or at least by those, of whose wisdom, knowledge and piety, they have an opinion, who never suffer these propositions to be otherwise mentioned, but as. the basis and foundation on which they build their religion and manners; come, by these means, to have the reputation of unquestionable, self-evident, and innate truths.
§. 23. To which we may add, that when men, so instructed, are grown up, and reflect on their own minds, they cannot find any thing more ancient there than those opinions which were taught them before their memory began to keep a register of their actions, or
date the time when any new thing appeared to them; L. and therefore make no scruple to conclude, that those
propositions, of whose knowledge they can find in themselves no original, were certainly the impress of God and nature upon their minds, and not taught them by any one else. These they entertain and submit to, as many do to their parents, with veneration; not because it is natural: nor do children do it, where they are not so taught: but because, having been always so educated, and having no remembrance of the beginning of this respect, they think it is natural.
§. 94. This will appear very likely, and almost unavoidable to come to pass, if we consider the nature of mankind, and the constitution of human affairs, wherein most men cannot live without employing their time in the daily labours of their callings; nor be at quiet in their minds without some foundation or principle to rest their thoughts on. There is scarce any one so fioating and superficial in his understanding, who hath not some reverenced propositions, which are to E2