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if I had not thought it necessary to show at the same time, that there are probably finite created intelligences vastly superior to the human, and that there is however no such gradation of intelligent beings, as raises the most elevated of them a jot nearer to the supreme intelligence than the lowest. I oppose this theological system, and I defend the philosophical hypothesis, the rather, because by these means we may combat the pride and presumption of metaphysicians in two most flagrant instances, in the assumption of a gradation of the same intelligence and knowledge from man to God, as I have said already, and in that by which man is made the final cause of the whole creation; for if the planets of our solar system are worlds inhabited like ours, and if the fixed stars are other suns about which other planets revolve, the celestial phenomena were no more made for us than we for them. That noble scene of the universe, which modern philosophy has opened, gives ample room for all the planetary inhabitants, whom it leads, and even constrains us to suppose. Where the spirits of the other system reside was a question easily answered, when superstition and hypothesis made up the sum of theology and philosophy. But it is not so easy to be answered now. Are the good and pure spirits in heaven? But where is heaven? Is it beyond all the solar systems of the universe? Or is it, like the intermundia of Epicurus, in expanses between them? Are the evil and impure spirits in hell? But where is hell? Is it in the centre of any one planet for every system? Or is it in the centre of every planet? Do others wander in air? or reside latent in every element? Are they confined invisibly, like those that the Chinese imagine, to certain countries and cities, to rivers and lakes, to woods and mountains? Or is it their employ. ment to attend on particular men, the guardian angels, of some, or the devils and the tempters of others; for temptation is ascribed to the evil spirits still, though possession is so no longer, I think, out of Spain and Portugal, and other countries, where religious ignorance prevails as much as in them, if any such there are?
ESSAY THE THIRD:
SOME FURTHER REFLECTIONS
RISE AND PROGRESS OF MONOTHEISM,
THAT FIRST AND GREAT PRINCIPLE OF NATURAL THEOLOGY,
OR THE FIRST PHILOSOPHY.
I HAD finished the last essay before I recollected, that there was something in Mr. Locke's discourse concerning the reasonableness of Christianity, very repugnant to what I have advanced about the knowledge of the one true God. And to what I shall have occasion to say, on another occasion, about the ignorance of natural religion, under which it is supposed that mankind labored before the coming of Christ. I shall not anticipate the second point, but shall bestow some more reflections on the first; in order to judge, whilst the subject is fresh in my mind, whether I ought to retract any thing that I have said to you in conversation, or that has fallen from my pen upon the subject. If it appears, on examination, that my notions are not so well sounded in fact, and in reason, as those of this great man in the present case, I shall submit with pleasure to an authority, that I respect extremely in all cases; and if it appears that they are better founded than his in both, one useful lesson will be the result of this examination. We shall learn how unsafe it is to take for granted any thing, in matters especially which concern, or which are thought to concern, religion, that we have not ourselves examined, and how inexcusable it is to do this in cases wherein we may be able, with a little pains, to judge for ourselves.
The first article of natural theology, in which the heathen were deficient, according to Mr. Locke, was the knowledge of one God, maker of all things. He admits, at the same time, that the works of nature, in every part of them, sufficiently evidenced a deity; and that, by the impressions of himself, God was easy to be found. These assertions do not seem very consistent, and therefore it is added, that the world made so little use of their reason, that they saw him not--sense and lust blinded their minds. But the rational and thinking part of mankind, he confesses, found the one Supreme, invisible God, when they sought after him. If this be true now, as it is most certainly, the heathen world made as good use of their reason, for aught I can see, as the Christian world. In this, it is not the irrational and unthinking, but the rational and thinking part of mankind who seek, and find the true God; and just so we are told, that it was in the other. Besides, if this be true, it follows, that this great and fundamental article of natural theology is discoverable by a due use of human reason; and Mr. Locke acknowledges accordingly again, that God, was found by the wise and virtuous, which is a limitation of no great significancy to his purpose, since the vicious would have sought him in no state of mankind, nor the foolish have found him. But says this writer, the wise and virtuous had never authority enough to prevail on the multitude, and to persuade the societies of men, that there was but one God. If he had proved, as well as affirmed this, he would only have proved, what no man denies, that sufficient means to reclaim men from polytheism and idolatry, and to establish the belief of one God, appear to have been wanting in general, and to a great degree, as far as the memorials we have of ancient nations can show. He would not have proved, that the light of nature was insufficient, nor that the religion of nature was defective in this respect. He would not have proved, what he had in view to establish, that the belief and worship of one God was the national religion of the Israelites alone, and that it was their particular privilege, and advantage, to know the true God and the true worship of him; whilst all other nations, from the beginning, adored the host of heaven, as Eusebius asserts very confidently, though he is far from proving it.
Eusebius took much pains, and used much art, I might say artifice, to spread an opinion that this knowledge, and all good theology were derived from the Jews, and from their Scriptures; nay that the philology and philosophy of the whole learned world were purloined from thence, and the heathen were pla
giaries, who lighted their candles at the fire of the sanctuary, as some modern Eusebius or other, Gale, I think, expresses himself. Josephus had gone before Eusebius in the same design: for thus far Jews and Christians made their cause common, and he had begun to falsify chronology, that he might give his nation a surprising antiquity. Eusebius did the same, and without taking the trouble of descending into particulars, many of which are acknowledged by learned and orthodox writers, I may say, that from that time to this, or to the time when by the revival of letters, and the invention of printing, which made the knowledge of antiquity more easy and common, much the same practice was continued with much the same success. Ancient memorials have been forged and altered for this particular purpose, mere assumptions have been delivered as facts, and nothing has been neglected to give not only antiquity, but illustration, to a nation that never had much of the latter out of their own writings, and those of Christianity. As the history of the Jews was committed to the care of their scribes; so the propagation of every learned system that could tend to the confirmation of it, by reconciling anachronisms, and by coloring improbabilities, has been the charge of a particular order of men among Christians, who had the monopoly of learning for many ages, and who have had a great share of it since. This has been imposed on the bulk of mankind, prepared by their prejudices to acquiesce under the authority of great names, and frightened from examining by the enormous piles of Greek, and Latin, and eastern languages, in which such authors seem to entrench themselves.
Notwithstanding this, I will say, and, if I know any thing, I say it on knowledge, that these entrenchments are not tenable. They cannot be battered down always, perhaps, by the same arms by which they are defended, but sure I am they may be undermined, and he who searches their foundations will find that they are laid on sand. Josephus and Eusebius will be of great use to him, against themselves. Their writings are repertories of valuable fragments, and of such as would be more so, if more credit could be given to the fidelity of those who cite them. I have sometimes thought, that we might apply properly enough to the Jew, and the Christian author, what La Bruyere says, in his characters, of Perault, that he quoted so many passages from ancient writers, whilst he attempted to prove the superiority of the moderns, that his works were read for the sake of these passages.
Thinking in this manner, I could not fail to be surprised when I found such assertions, as are mentioned above, in a treatise written by Mr. Locke. The common herd of writers copy one another in every point that makes for their common cause, about which alone, and not about truth, they seem to be concerned. They affirm over and over so positively, and so long, things destitute of proof, or evident falsities, that even the last grow into belief, according to the practice of the court of Rome, as father Paul represents it, in her usurpations. I should not have easily suspected Mr. Locke of such a proceeding, nor of affirming dogmatically what he had not sufficiently examined. But he has written below himself in this instance, by going out of his way, and has assumed the spirit of those who write on the same subject, much like Sir Isaac Newton, who lost himself in the vague probabilities of chronology, after having pursued with so much success the certainty of mathematical demonstration.
I meddle not here with any thing that is said concerning that clear knowledge of their duty, which was wanting to mankind, as Mr. Locke affirms very untruly, before the coming of Christ, nor with the theological part of this treatise. I confine myself to these propositions, that all the heathen were in a state of darkness, and ignorance of the true God, and consequently that the belief and worship of one God was the national religion of the Israelites alone. Now here I observe a want of that precision, which this great man is so careful to keep in all his other writings. As he does not distinguish enough the want of a sufficient knowledge of natural religion, and the want of sufficient means to propagate it, which he rather confounds in all he says about them, so he uses these two expressions, the true God, and one God, as if they were exactly synonymous; whereas they are not really so, and the explanation, and justification of the distinction, in the present dispute, will set the matter on a very different foot. It is not unity alone that constitutes the complex idea, or notion of the true God. There is, there can be but one such Being, and yet a monotheist may be as far from the knowledge of the true God as the rankest, and most superstitious polytheist. I have taken notice, in the precedent essay, how the belief of one God, and of many, was reconciled in the heathen theology several ways; and what I have touched transiently, may be seen made out fully in the intellectual system. A polytheist, who believes one self-existent Being, the fountain of all existence, by whose immediate or communicated energy all things were made, and are governed, and who looks on all those other beings whom he calls gods, that is, beings superior to man, not only as inferior to the Supreme, but as beings all of whom proceed from him in several subordinate ranks, and are appointed by him to the various uses and services for which he designed them in the whole extent of the divine economy; such a polytheist, I say, will approach nearly to true theism, by holding in this manner nothing that is absolutely inconsistent with it: whilst