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immediately compared by juxta-position. But then what he means by that infinite reason which men consult; I confess myself not well to understand. For if he means that they consider a part of those relations of things which are infinite, that is true; but then this is a very improper way of speaking, and I cannot think that a man of his parts would use it to mean nothing else by it. If he means, as he says, p. 536, that this infinite and universal reason, whereof men partake, and which they consult, is the reason of God himself; I can by no means assent to it. First, because I think we cannot say God reasons at all; for he has at once a view of all things. But reason is very far from such an intuition; it is a laborious and gradual progress in the knowledge of things, by comparing one idea with a second, and a second with a third, and that with a fourth, &c. to find the relation between the first and the last of these in this train, and in search for such intermediate ideas, as may show us the relation we desire to know, which sometimes we find, and sometimes not. This way, therefore, of finding truth, so painful, uncertain, and limited, is proper only to men of finite understandings, but can by no means be supposed in God; it is therefore in God understanding or knowledge. But then to say that we partake in the knowledge of God, or consult his understanding, is what I cannot receive for true. God has given me an understanding of my own; and I should think it presumption in me to suppose I apprehended any thing by God's understanding, saw with his eyes, or shared of his knowledge. I think it more possible for me to see with other men's eyes, and understand with another man's understanding, than with God's; there being some proportion between mine and another man's understanding, but none between mine and God's. But if this infinite reason which we consult, be at last nothing but those infinite unchangeable relations which are in things, some of which we make a shift to discover; this indeed is true, but seems to me to make little to our author's purpose of seeing all things in God; and that, "if we see not all things by the
natural union of our minds with the universal and infinite reason, we should not have the liberty to think on all things," as he expresses it, p. 538. To explain himself farther concerning this universal reason, or, as he there calls it by another name, order, p. 539, he says, that "God contains in himself the perfections of all the creatures that he has created, or can create, after an intelligible manner." Intelligible to himself, it is true; but intelligible to men, at least to me, that I do not find, unless, " by containing in himself the perfections of all the creatures," be meant, that there is no perfection in any creature, but there is a greater in God, or that there is in God greater perfection than all the perfections in the creatures taken together. And therefore though it be true what follows in the next words, "that it is by these intelligible perfections that God knows the essence of every thing;" yet it will not follow from hence, or from any thing else that he has said, that those perfections in God, which contain in them the perfections of all the creatures, are "the immediate objects of the mind of man;" or that they are so the objects of the mind of man," that he can in them see the essences of the creatures. For I ask in which of the perfections of God does a man see the essence of a horse or an ass, of a serpent or a dove, of hemlock or parsley? I, for my part, I confess, see not the essence of any of these things in any of the perfections of God, which I have any notion of. For indeed I see not the distinct essence either of these things at all, or know wherein it consists. And therefore I cannot comprehend the force of the inference, which follows in these words, "then the intelligible ideas or perfections that are in God, which represent to us what is out of God, are absolutely necessary and unchangeable." That the perfections that are in God are necessary and unchangeable, I readily grant: but that the ideas that are intelligible to God, or are in the understanding of God (for so we must speak of him whilst we conceive of him after the manner of men), can be seen by us; or, that the perfections that are in God represent to us the essences of things that are out
of God, that I cannot conceive. The essence of matter, as much as I can see of it, is extension, solidity, divisibility, and mobility; but in which of the perfections of God do I see this essence? To another man, as to our author perhaps, the essence of body is quite another thing; and when he has told us what to him is the essence of body, it will be then to be considered in which of the perfections of God he sees it. For example, let it be pure extension alone, the idea then that God had in himself of the essence of body, before body was created, was the idea of pure extension; when God then created body he created extension, and then space, which existed not before, began to exist. This, I confess, I cannot conceive; but we see in the perfections of God the necessary and unchangeable essences of things. He sees one essence of body in God, and I another: which is that necessary and unchangeable essence of body which is contained in the perfections of God, his or mine? Or indeed how do or can we know there is any such thing existing as body at all? For we see nothing but the ideas that are in God; but body itself we neither do nor can possibly see at all; and how then can we know that there is any such thing existing as body, since we can by no means see or perceive it by our senses, which is all the way we can have of knowing any corporeal thing to exist? But it is said, God shows us the ideas in himself, on occasion of the presence of those bodies to our senses. This is gratis dictum, and begs the thing in question; and therefore I desire to have it proved to me that they are present. I see the sun, or a horse; no, says our author, that is impossible, they cannot be seen, because being bodies they cannot be united to my mind, and be present to it. But the sun being risen, and the horse brought within convenient distance, and so being present to my eyes, God shows me their ideas in himself: and I say God shows me these ideas when he pleases, without the presence of any such bodies to my eyes. For when I think I see a star at such a distance from me; which truly I do not see, but the idea of it which God shows me; I would have it proved to me that there is such a
star existing a million of million of miles from me when I think I see it, more than when I dream of such a star. For until it be proved that there is a candle in the room by which I write this, the supposition of my seeing in God the pyramidical idea of its flame, upon occasion of the candle's being there, is begging what is in question. And to prove to me that God exhibits to me that idea, upon occasion of the presence of the candle, it must first be proved to me that there is a candle there, which upon these principles can never be done. Farther, We see the necessary and unchangeable essences of things" in the perfections of God. Water, a rose, and a lion, have their distinct essences one from another, and all other things; what I desire to know are these distinct essences, I confess I neither see them in nor out of God, and in which of the perfections of God do we see each of them?
Page 504, I find these words, "It is evident that the perfections that are in God which represent created or possible beings are not at all equal: that those for example that represent bodies are not so noble as those for example that represent spirits; and amongst those themselves, which represent nothing but body, or nothing but spirit, there are more perfect one than another to infinity. This is conceivable clearly, and without pain, though one finds some difficulty to reconcile the simplicity of the divine Being with this variety of intelligible ideas which he contains in his wisdom." This difficulty is to me insurmountable; and I conclude it always shall be so, till I can find a way to make simplicity and variety the same. And this difficulty must always cumber this doctrine, which supposes that the perfections of God are the representatives to us of whatever we perceive of the creatures; for then those perfections must be many, and diverse, and distinct one from another, as those ideas are that represent the different creatures to us. And this seems to me to make God formally to contain in him all the distinct ideas of all the creatures, and that so, that they might be seen one after another. Which seems to me after all the talk
of abstraction to be but a little less gross conception than of the sketches of all the pictures that ever a painter draws, kept by him in his closet, which are there all to be seen one after another, as he pleases to show them. But whilst these abstract thoughts produce nothing better than this, I the easier content myself with my ignorance which roundly thinks thus: God is a simple being, omniscient, that knows all things possible; and omnipotent, that can do or make all things possible. But how he knows, or how he makes, I do not conceive his ways of knowing as well as his ways of creating are to me incomprehensible; and, if they were not so, I should not think him to be God, or to be perfecter in knowledge than I am. To which our author's thoughts seem in the close of what is above cited somewhat to incline, when he says, "the variety of intelligible ideas which God contains in his wisdom;" whereby he seems to place this variety of ideas in the mind or thoughts of God, as we may so say, whereby it is hard to conceive how we can see them; and not in the being of God, where they are to be seen as so many distinct things in it.