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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 ret the general reception of this name, and some imperfect and unsteady 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 consi. dering people having once received so important a notion, 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 inaçine, is extended no farther than tliat; 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 lcad 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- SM 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 concern
ofhim, there. ment; and also by that means to secure to fore naturalhimself the homage and veneration due from ly imprinted 80 intelligent a creature as man; and there by him, an. fore he has done it.
swered. This argument, 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 I much confidence of our own wisdom to say, “ I think It best, and therefore God hath made it so ;' and, in
the matter in hand, it will be in vain to argue from
men, we have reason to expect it should be the notion of his maker, as a mark God set on
his own workmanship, to mind man of his dependance and duty; and that herein should appear the first instances of human knowledge. But how late is it before any such notion is discoverable in children? And when we find it there, how inuch more does it resemble the opinion and notion of the teacher, than represent the true God? He that shall observe in children the progress whereby their minds attain the knowledge they have, will think that the objects they do first and most familiarly converse with, are those that make the first impressions on their understandings : nor will he find the least footsteps of any other. It is easy to take notire, how their thoughts enlarge themselves, only as they come to be acquainted with a greater variety of sensible objects, to retain the ideas of them in their memories ; and to get the skill to compound and enlarge them, and several ways put them together. How by these means they come to frame in their minds an idea men have of a deity, I shall hereafter show.
9. 14. Can it be thought, that the ideas men have of God are the characters and marks of himself, engraven on their minds by his own finger; when we see that in the same country, under one and the same name, men have far different, nay, often contrary and inconsistent ideas and conceptions of him? Their agreeing in a name, or sound, will scarce prove an innate notion of him.
$. 15. What true or tolerable notion of a deity could they have, who acknowledged and worshipped hundreds ? Every deity that they owned above one was an infallible evidence of their ignorance of him, and a proo that they had no truc notion of God, where unity, infinity, and eternity were excluded. To which if we add their gross conceptions of corporeity, expressed In their images and representations of their deities; the amours, marriages, copulations, lusts, quarrels, and other mean qualities attributed by them to their gods; we shall have little reason to think, that the heathen world, i. e. the greatest part of mankind, had such ideas of God in their minds, as he himself, out of care that they should not be mistaken about him, was author Vol. I.
of. nad this universality of consent, so much argued, if it prove any native in pressions, it will be only this, that God imprinted on the minds of all men, speaking the same language, a name for himself, but not any, idea; since those people, who agreed in the name, had at the same time far different apprehensions about the thing signified. If they say, that the variety of deities, worshipped by the heathen world, were but figurative ways of expressing the several aitributes of that incomprehensible being, or several parts of his providence: I answer, what they n:ight be in the original, I will not here inquire : but that they were so in the thoughts of the vulgar, I think no-body will affirm. And he that will consult the voyage of the bishop of Beryte, c. 13. (not to mention other testimonies) will find, that the theology of the Siamites professedly owns a plurality of Gods: or, as the abbc de Choisy more judiciously remarks, in his Journal du voiage de Siam, 197, it consists properly in acknowledging no God at all.
If it be said, That wise men of all nations came to have true conceptions of the unity and infinity of the deity, I grant it. But then this,
First, Excludes universality of consent in any thing but the name; for those wise men being very few, perhaps one of a thousand, this universality is very narrow.
Secondly, It seems to me plainly to prove, that tlie trucst and best notions men had of God were not imprinted, but acquired by thought and meditation, and a right use of their faculties; since the wise and considerate men of the world, by a right and careful emle ployment of their thoughts and reason, attained true notions in this as well as other things; whilst the lazy and inconsiderate part of men, making far the greater number, took up their notions by chance, from common tradition and vulgar conceptions, without inuch beating their heads about them. And if it be a reason to think the notion of God innate, because all wise men had it, virtue too must be thought innate, for that also wise men have always had.
§. 16. This