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out taking away the faculty of thinking? When you have resolved this, my lord, you will have proved it impossible for God's omnipoterce to give a solid substance a faculty of thinking; but till then, not having proved it impossible, and yet denying that God can do it, is to deny that he can do what is in itself possible; which, as I humbly conceive, is visi. bly to set bounds to God's omnipotency, though you say here * you do not set bounds to God's omnipotency.
If I should imitate your lordship's way of writing, I should not omit to bring in Epicurus here, and take notice that this was his way, Deum ver. bis ponere, re tollere : and then add, that I am certain you do not think he promoted the great ends of religion and morality. For it is with such candid and kind insinuations as these, that you bring in both + Hobbes and † Spinosa into your discourse here about God's being able, if he please, to give to some parcels of matter, ordered as he thinks fit, a fa. culty of thinking: neither of those authors having, as appears by any passages you bring out of them, said any thing to this question, nor' have ing, as it seems, any other business here, but by their names skilfully to give that character to my book, with which you would recommend it to the world.
I pretend not to inquire what measure of zeal, nor for what, guides your lordship’s pen in such a way of writing, as your's has all along been with me : only I cannot but consider, what reputation it would give to the writings of the fathers of the church, if they should think truth required, or religion allowed them to imitate such patterns. But God be thanked, there be those amongst them who do not admire such ways of managing the cause of truth or religion; they being sensible that if every one, who believes or can pretend he hath truth on his side, is thereby au. thorized, without proof, to insinuate whatever may serve to prejudice men's minds against the other side, there will be great ravage made on charity and practice, without any gain to truth or knowledge : and that the liberties frequently taken by disputants to do so, may have been the çause that the world in all ages has received so much harm, and so little advantage from controversies in religion.
These are the arguments which your lordship has rought to confute one saying in my book, by other passages in it; which therefore being all but argumenta ad hominem, if they did prove what they do not, are of no other use, than to gain a victory over me: a thing methinks, so much beneath your lordship, that it does not deserve one of your pages. The question is, whether God can, if he pleases, bestow on any parcel of mat. ter, ordered as he thinks fit, a faculty of perception and thinking. You say, || you look upon a mistake herein to be of dangerous consequence, as to the great ends of religion and morality. If this be so, my lord, I think one may well wonder, why your lordship has brought no arguments to establish the truth itself which you look on to be of such dangerous consequence to be mistaken in; but have spent so many pages only in a personal matter, in endeavouring to show, that I had inconsistencies in my book; which if any such thing had been showed, the question would be still as far from being decided, and the danger of mistaking about it as little prevented, as if nothing of all this had been said. If therefore your lordship's care of the great ends of religion and morality have made
you think it necessary to clear this question, the world has reason to con. clude there is little to be said against that proposition which is to be found in my book, concerning the possibility, that some parcels of matter might be so ordered by Omnipotence, as to be endued with a faculty of thinking, if God so pleased; since your lordship's concern for the promoting the great ends of religion and morality, has not enabled you to produce one argument against a proposition that you think of so danger. ous consequence to them.
And here I crave leave to observe, that though in your title page you promise to prove, that my notion of ideas is inconsistent with itself, (which if it were, it could hardly be proved to be inconsistent with any thing else) and with the articles of the christian faith; yet your attempts all along have been to prove me, in some passages of my book, incon. sistent with myself, without having shown any proposition in my book inconsistent with any article of the christian faith.
I think your lordship has indeed made use of one argument of your own: but it is such an one that I confess I do not see how it is apt much to promote religion, especially the christian religion, founded on revelation. I shall set down your lordship's words, that they may be considered: you say, * that you are of opinion, that the great ends of religion and morality are best secured by the proofs of the immortality of the soul from its nature and properties; and which you think prove it inimaterial. Your lordship does not question whether God can give immortality to a material substance; but you say it takes off very much from the evidence ef immortality, if it depend wholly upon God's giving that, which of its own nature it is not capable of, &c. So likewise you say, + If a man cannot be certain, but that matter may think, (as I affirm) then what bę. comes of the soul's immateriality (and consequently immortality) from its operations ? But for all this, say I, his assurance of faith remains on its own basis. Now you appeal to any man of sense, whether the finding the uncertainty of his own principles, which he went upon, in point of reason, doth not weaken the credibility of these fundamental articles, when they are considered purely as matters of faith? For before, there was a natural credibility in them on account of reason; but by going on wrong grounds of certainty, all that is lost, and instead of being certain, he is more doubtful than ever. And if the evidence of faith fall so much short of that of reason, it must needs have less effect upon men’s minds, when the subserviency of reason is taken away; as it must be when the grounds of certainty by reason are vanished. Is it at all probable, that he who finds his reason deceive him in such fundamental points, shall have his faith stand firm and unmoveable on the account of revelation ? For in matters of revelation there must be some antecedent principles supposed, before we can believe any thing on the account of it.
More to the same purpose we have some pages farther, where, from some of my words your lordship says, I you cannot but observe, that we have no certainty upon my grounds, that self-consciousness depends upon an individual immaterial substance, and consequently that a material substance may, according to my principles, have self-consciousness in it; at least, that I am not certain of the contrary. Whereupon your lordship bids me consider, whether this doth not a little affect the whole article of the resurrection. What does all this tend to, but to make the world
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believe that I have lessened the credibility of the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection, by saying, that though it be most highly probable, that the soul is immaterial, yet upon my principles it cannot be de. monstrated ; because it is not impossible to God's omnipotency, if he pleases, to bestow upon some parcels of matter, disposed as he sees fit, a faculty of thinking?
This your accusation of my lessening the credibility of these articles of faith, is founded on this, that the article of the immortality of the soul abates of its credibility, if it be allowed, that its immateriality (which is the supposed proof from reason and philosophy of its immortality) cannot be demonstrated from natural reason: which argument of your lordship’s, bottoms, as I humbly conceive, on this, that divine revelation abates of its credibility in all those articles it proposes, proportionably as human reason fails to support the testimony of God. And all that your lordship in those passages has said, when examined, will, I suppose, be found to import thus much, viz. Does God propose any thing to mankind to be believed ? It is very fit and credible to be believed, if reason can demon. strate it to be true. But if human reason come short in the case, and cannot make it out, its credibility is thereby lessened; which is in effect to say, that the veracity of God is not a firm and sure foundation of faith to rely upon, without the concurrent testimony of reason ; i. e. with re. verence be it spoken, God is not to be believed on his own word, unless what he reveals be in itself credible, and might be believed without him.
If this be a way to promote religion, the christian religion, in all its articles, I am not sorry that it is not a way to be found in any of my writ. ings; for I imagine any thing like this would (and I should think deserved to) have other titles than bare scepticism bestowed upon it, and would have raised no small outcry against any one, who is not to be supposed to be in the right in all that he says, and so may securely say what he pleases. Such as I, the profanum vulgus, who take too much upon us, if we would examine, have nothing to do but to hearken and believe, though what he said should subvert the very foundations of the christian faith.
What I have above observed, is so visibly contained in your lord. ship’s argument, that when I met with it in your answer to my first let. ter, it seemed so strange for a man of your lordship's character, and in a dispute in defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, that I could hardly per. suade myself, but it was a slip of your pen : but when I found it in your second letter * made use of again, and seriously enlarged as an argument of weight to be insisted upon, I was convinced, that it was a principle that you heartily embraced, how little favourable soever it was to the are ticles of the christian religion, and particularly those which you undertook to defend.
I desire my reader to peruse the passages as they stand in your letters themselves, and see whether what you say in them does not amount to this : that a revelation from God is more or less credible, according as it has a stronger or weaker confirmation from human reason. For,
1. Your lordship says, + you do not question whether God can give immortality to a material substance; but you say it takes off very much from the evidence of immortality, if it depends wholly upon God's giv. ing that, which of its own nature it is not capable of.
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To which I reply, any one's not being able to demonstrate the soul to be immaterial, takes off not very much, nor at all, from the evidence of its im. mortality, if God has revealed that it shall be immortal; because the ve. racity of God is a demonstration of the truth of what he has revealed, and the want of another demonstration of a proposition, that is demonstratively true, takes not off from the evidence of it. For where there is a clear de. monstration, there is as much evidence as any truth can have, that is not self-evident. God has revealed that the souls of men should live for ever. But, says your lordship, from this evidence it takes off rery much, if it depends wholly upon God's giving that, which of its own nature it is not capable of, i. e. The revelation and testimony of God loses much of its evidence, if this depends wholly upon the good pleasure of God, and can. not be demonstratively made out by natural reason, that the soul is imma. terial, and consequently in its own nature immortal. For that is all that here is or can be meant by these words, which of its own nature it is not capable of, to make them to the purpose. For the whole of your lord. ship's discourse here, is to prove, that the soul cannot be material, because then the evidence of its being immortal would be very much lessened. Which is to say, that it is not as credible upon divine revelation, that a material substance should be immortal, as an immaterial ; or which is all one, that God is not equally to be believed, when he declares, that a material substance shall be immortal, as when he declares, that an immaterial shall be so ; because the immortality of a material substance cannot be de. monstrated from natural reason.
Let us try this rule of your lordship's a little farther. God hath re. vealed, that the bodies men shall have after the resurrection, as well as their souls, shall live to eternity. Does your lordship believe the eternal life of the one of these more than of the other, because you think you can prove it of one of them by natural reason, and of the other not? Or can any one, who admits of divine revelation in the case, doubt of one of them more than the other? Or think this proposition less credible, that the bodies of men, after the resurrection, shall live for ever; than this, That the souls of men shall, after the resurrection, live for ever? For that he must do, if he thinks either of them is less credible than the other. If this be so, reason is to be consulted how far God is to be believed, and the credit of divine testimony must receive its force from the evidence of reason; which is evidently to take away the credibility of divine reve. lation in all supernatural truths, wherein the evidence of reason fails. And how much such a principle as this tends to the support of the doctrine of the Trinity, or the promoting the christian religion, I shall leave it to your lordship to consider.
I am not so well read in Hobbes or Spinosa, as to be able to say, what were their opinions in this matter. But possibly there be those, who will think your lordship's authority of more use to them in the case, than those justly decried names; and be glad to find your lordship a patron of the oracles of reason, so little to the advantage of the oracles of divine reve. lation. This at least, I think, may be subjoined to the words at the bot. tom of the next page *, That those who have gone about to lessen the credibility of the articles of faith, which evidently they do, who say, they are less credible, because they connot be made out demonstratively by natural reason, have not been thought to secure several of the articles
of the christian faith, especially those of the trinity, incarnation, and resurrection of the body, which are those upon the account of which I am brought by your lordship into this dispute.
I shall not trouble the reader with your lordship's endeavours, in the following words, to prove, that if the soul be not an immaterial substance, it can be nothing but life ; your very first words visibly confuting all that you alledge to that purpose, they are, * If the soul be a material sub. stance, it is really nothing but life; which is to say, That if the soil be really a substance, it is not really a substance, but really nothing else but an affection of a substance ; for the life, whether of a material or imma. terial substance, is not the substance itself, but an affection of it.
2. You say, + Although we think the separate state of the soul after death, is sufficiently rerealed in the scripture ; yet it creates a great dif. ficulty in understanding it, if the soul be nothing but life, or a material substance, which must be dissolved when life is ended. For, if the soul be a material substance, it must be made up, as others are, of the cohesion of solid and separate parts, how minute and invisible soever they be. And what is it which should keep them together, when life is gone? So that it is no easy matter to give an account how the soul should be capable of immortality, unless it be an immaterial substance; and then we know the solution and texture of bodies cannot reach the soul, being of a dif. ferent nature.
Let it be as hard a matter as it will, to give an account what it is that should keep the parts of a material soul together, after it is separated from the body; yet it will be always as easy to give an account of it, as to give an account what it is which shall keep together a material and immaterial substance. And yet the difficulty that there is to give an account of that, I hope, does not, with your lordship, weaken the credibility of the inse. parable union of soul and body to eternity: and I persuade myself, that the men of sense, to whom your lordship appeals in the case, do not find their belief of this fundamental point much weakened by that difficulty. I thought heretofore (and by your lord'hip’s permission would think so still) that the union of the parts of matter, one with another, is as much in the hands of God, as the union of a material and immaterial substance; and that it does not take off very much, or at all, from the evidence of immortality, which depends on that union, that it is no easy matter to give an account what it is that should keep them together : though its depending wholly upon the gift and good pleasure of God, where the manner creates great difficulty in the understanding, and our reason can. not discover in the nature of things how it is, be that which, your lord. ship so positively says, lessens the credibility of the fundamental articles of the resurrection and immortality.
But, my lord, to remove this objection a little, and to show of how small force it is even with yourself; give me leave to presume, that your lordship as firmly believes the immortality of the body after the resurrec. tion, as any other article of faith; if so, then it being no easy matter to give an account what it is that shall keep together the parts of a material soul, to one that believes it is material, can no more weaken the credibi. lity of its immortality, than the like difficulty weakens the credibility of the immortality of the body. For, when your lordship shall find it an easy matter to give an account what it is, besides the good.pleasure of 180 Answer.