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MY LORD, Though I have so great a precedent, as your lordship has given me in the letter you have honoured me with; yet I doubt whether even your lordship’s example will be enough to justify me to the world, if, in a letter writ to one, I should put a postscript in answer to another man, to whom I do not speak in my letter: I shall therefore only beg, that your lordship will be pleased to excuse it, if you find a short answer to the paper of another man, not big enough to be published by itself, appear under the same cover with my answer to your lordship. The paper itself came to my hands, at the same time that your lordship's letter did ; and, containing some exceptions to my Essay concerning Human Understanding, is not wholly foreign in the matter of it.
ANSWER TO REMARKS
ESSAY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING, &c.
BEFORE any thing came out against my Essay concerning Human Understanding the last
year, told, that I must prepare myself for a storm that was coming against it; it being resolved by some men, that it was necessary that book of mine should, as it is phrased, be run down. I do not say, that the author of these Remarks was one of those men: but I premise this as the reason of the answer I am about to give him. And though I do not say he was one of them, yet in this, I think, every indifferent reader will agree with me, that his letter does not very well suit with the character he takes upon himself, or the design he pretends in writing it.
He pretends, the business of his letter is to be informed: but if that were in earnest so, I suppose he would have done two things quite otherwise than he has. The first is, that he would not have thought it necessary for his particular information, that his letter (that pretends inquiry in the body of it, though it carries remarks in the title) should have been published in print: whereby I am apt to think, that however in it he puts on the person of a learner, yet he would miss his aim, if he were not taken notice of as a teacher; and particularly, that his remarks showed the world great faults in my book.
The other is, that he has not set his name to his letter of inquiries; whereby I might, by knowing the person that inquires, the better know how to suit my answer to him. I cannot much blame him in another respect, for concealing his name: for, I think, any one who appears among christians, may be well ashamed of his name, when he raises such a doubt as this, viz. whether an infinitely powerful and wise Being be veracious or no; unless falsehood be in such reputation with this gentleman, that he concludes lying to be no mark of weakness and folly. Besides, this author might, if he had pleased, have taken notice, that, in more places than one, I speak of the goodness of God; another evidence, as I take it, of his veracity.
He seems concerned to know." upon what ground I will build the divine law, when I pursue morality to a demonstration ?"
If he had not been very much in haste, he would have seen, that his questions, in that paragraph, are a little too forward; unless he thinks it necessary I should write, when and upon what he thinks fit. When I know him better, I may perhaps think I owe him great observance; but so much as that very few men think due to themselves.
I have said indeed in my book, that I thought morality capable of demonstration, as well as the mathematics ; but I do not remember where I promised this gentleman to demonstrate it to him.
He says, “ if he knew upon what grounds I would build
my demonstration of morality, he could make a better judgment of it.” His judgment who makes such demands as this, and is so much in haste to be a judge, that he cannot stay till what he has such a mind to be sitting upon be born, does not seem of that consequence, that any one should be in haste to gratify his impatience.
And since “ he thinks the illiterate part of mankind (which is the greatest) must have a more compendious way to know their duty, than by long deductions ;"' he may
do well to consider, whether it were for their sakes he published this question, viz. “ What is the reason and ground of the divine law ?”
Whoever sincerely acknowledges any law to be the law of God, cannot fail to acknowledge also, that it hath all that reason and ground that a just and wise law can or ought to have; and will easily persuade himself to forbear raising such questions and scruples about it.
A man that insinuates, as he does, as if I held, that the distinction of virtue and vice was to be picked up by our eyes, or ears, or our nostrils;" shows so much ignorance, or so much malice, that he deserves no other answer but pity.
“ The immortality of the soul is another thing," he says,“ he cannot clear to himself, upon my principles.” It may be so. The right reverend the lord bishop of Worcester, in the letter he has lately honoured me with in print, has undertaken to prove, upon my principles, the soul's immateriality; which, I suppose, this author will not question to be a proof of its immortality. And to his lordship's letter I refer him for it. But if that will not serve his turn, I will tell him a principle of mine that will clear it to him; and that is, the revelation of life and immortality of Jesus Christ, through the Gospel.
He mentions other doubts he has, unresolved by my principles. If my principles do not teach them, the world, I think will, I am sure I shall, be obliged to him to direct me to such as will supply that defect in mine. For I never had the vanity to hope to outdo all other men. Nor did I propose to myself, in publishing my Essay, to be an answerer of questions; or expect that all doubts should go out of the world, as soon as my book came into it.
The world has now my book, such as it is: if any one finds, that there be many questions that my principles will not resolve, he will do the world more service to lay down such principles as will resolve them, than to quarrel with my ignorance (which I readily acknowledge) and possibly for that which cannot be done. I shall never think the worse of mine, because they will not resolve every one's doubts, till I see those principles, laid down by any one, that will ; and then I will quit mine.
If any one finds any thing in my Essay to be corrected, he may, when he pleases, write against it; and when I think fit I will answer him. For I do not intend my time shall be wasted at the pleasure of every one, who may have a mind to pick holes in my book, and show his skill in the art of confutation.
To conclude; were there nothing else in it, I should not think it fit to trouble myself about the questions of a man, which he himself does not think worth the owning.