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§.13. From what has been said, I think we may safely conclude, that whatever practical rule is, in any place, generally and with allowance broken, cannot be supposed innate; it being impossible that men should, without shame or fear, confidently and serenely break a rule, which they could not but evidently know, that God had set up, and would certainly punish the breach of (which they must, if it were innate) to a degree, to make it a very ill bargain to the transgressor. Without such a knowledge as this, a man can never be certain that any thing is his duty. Ignorance, or doubt of the law, hopes to escape the knowledge or power of the law-maker, or the like, may make men give way to a present appetite: but let any one see the fault, and the rod by it, and with the transgression, a fire ready to punish it; a pleasure tempting, and the hand of the Almighty visibly held up, and prepared to take vengeance (for this must be the case, where any duty is imprinted on the mind) and then tell me, whether it be possible for people, with such a prospect, such a certain knowledge as this, wantonly, and without scruple, to offend against a law, which they carry about them in indelible characters, and that stares them in the face, whilst they are breaking it ? whether men, at the same time that they feel in themselves the imprinted edicts of an omnipotent law-maker, can with assurance and gaiety slight and trample under foot his most sacred injunctions? and lastly, whether it be possible, that whilst a man thus openly bids defiance to this innate law and supreme law-giver, all the by-standers, yea, even the governors and rulers of the people, full of the same sense both of the law and Jaw-maker, should silently connive, without testifying their dislike, or laying the least blame on it? Principles of actions indeed there are lodged in men's appetites, but these are so far from being innate moral principles, that if they were left to their full swing, they would carry men to the overturning of all morality. Moral laws are set as a curb and restraint to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot be but by rewards and punishments, that will overbalance the satisfaction any one shall propose to himself in the breach of the law. If therefore any thing be imprinted on the minds of all men as a law, all men must have a certain and unavoidable knowledge, that certain and unavoidable punishment will attend the breach of it. For, if men can be ignorant or doubtful of what is innate, innate principles are insisted on, and urged to no purpose; truth and certainty (the things pretended) are not at all secured by them: but men are in the same uncertain, floating estate with, as without them. An evident indubitable knowledge of unavoidable punishment, great enough to make the transgression very uneligible, must accompany an innate law ; unless, with an innate law, they can suppose an innate gospel too. I would not here be mistaken, as if, because I deny an innate law, I thought there were none but positive laws. There is a great deal of difference between an innate law, and a law of nature; between something imprinted on our minds in their very original, and something that we being ignorant of may attain to the knowledge of, by the use and due application of our natural faculties. And I think they equally forsake the truth, who, running into contrary extremes, either affirm an innate law, or deny that there is a law knowable by the light of nature, i. e. without the help of positive revelation.
Those who §.14. The difference there is amongst maintain in- men in their practical principles, is so evirate practi- dent, that I think, I need say no more to pksP"ellus evmce, tnat ^ will be impossible to find any not what innate moral rules by this mark of general they are. assent: and it is enough to make one suspect, that the supposition of such innate principles is but an opinion taken up at pleasure; since those who talk so confidently of them, are so sparing to tell us which they are. This might with justice be expected from those men who lay stress upon this opinion: and it gives occasion to distrust either their knowledge or charity, who declaring, that God has imprinted on the minds of men the foundations of knowledge, and the rules of living, are yet so little favourable to the information of their neighbours, or the quiet of mankind, as not to point out to them which they are, in the variety men are distracted with. But, in truth, were there any such innate principles, there would be no need to teach them. Did men find such innate propositions stamped on their minds, they would easily be able to distinguish them from other truths, that they afterwards learned, and deduced from them; and there would be nothing more easy, than to know what, and how many they were. There could be no more doubt about their number, than there is about the number of our fingers; and it is like then every system would be ready to give them us by tale. But since nobody, that I know, has ventured yet to give a catalogue of them, they cannot blame those who doubt of these innate principles; since even they who require men to believe, that there are such innate propositions, do not tell us what they are. It is easy to foresee, that if different men of different sects should go about to give us a list of those innate practical principles, they would set down only such as suited their distinct hypotheses, and were fit to support the doctrines of their particular schools or churches: a plan, evidence, that there are no such innate truths. Nay, a great part of men are so far from finding any such innate moral principles in themselves, that by denying freedom to mankind, and thereby making men no other than bare machines, they take away not only innate, but all moral rules whatsoever, and leave not a possibility to believe any such, to those who cannot conceive, how any thing can be capable of a law, that is not a free agent: and upon that ground, they must necessarily reject all principles of virtue, who cannot put morality and mechanism together; which are not very easy to be reconciled, or made consistent.
§.15. When I had writ this, being in- Lord Herformed, that my lord Herbert had, in his book bert'sinnate de Veritate, assigned these innate principles, gTMmmed I presently consulted him, hoping to find, in a man of so great parts, something that might satisfy me in this point, and put an end to my enquiry. In his chapter de Instinctu Naturali, p. 72. edit. 1656, I met with these six marks of his Notitia Communes: 1. Prioritas. 2. Independentia. S.Universalitas. 4. Certitude 5. Necessitas, i. e. as he explains it, faciunt ad hominis conservationem. 6. Modusconformationis,i.e. Assensus nulla interpositd mora. And at the latter end of his little treatise, De Religioni Laid, he says this of these innate principles: Adeo ut non uniuscujusvis religionis confinio arctentur quae ubique vigent veritates. Sunt enim in ipsa mente ccetitus descriptce, nullisque traditionibus, she scriptis, she non scriptis, obnoxice, p. 3. And, Veritates nostra, catholicce qucetanquamindubiaDeieffata in foro interiori descriptive. Thus having given the marks of the innate principles or common notions, and asserted their being imprinted on the minds of men by the hand of God, he proceeds to set them down ; and they are these: 1. Esse aliquod supremum numen. 2. Numen illud coli debere. 3. Vtrtutem cum pietate conjunctam optimam esse rationem cultus dhini. 4. Resipiscendum esse d peccaris. 5. Dari premium vel poenam post hanc vitam transactam. Though I allow these to be clear truths, and such as, if rightly explained, a rational creature can hardly avoid giving his assent to; yet I think he is far from proving them innate impressions in foro interiori descriptce. For I must take leave to observe,
§. 16. First, that these five propositions are either not all, or more than all, those common notions writ on our minds by the finger of God, if it were reasonable to believe any at all to be so written: since there are other propositions, which, even by his own rules, have as just a pretence to such an original, and may be as well admitted for innate principles, as at least some of these five he enumerates, viz. "do as thou wouldest be done unto;" and, perhaps, some hundreds of others, when well considered.
§. 17- Secondly, that all his marks are not to be found in each of his five propositions, viz. his first, second, and third marks agree perfectly to neither of them; and the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth marks agree but ill to his third, fourth, and fifth propositions. For besides that we are assured from history, of many men, nay, whole nations, who doubt or disbelieve some or all of them; I cannot see how the third, viz. "that virtue joined with piety is the best worship of God," can be an innate principle, when the name, or sound, virtue, is so hard to be understood ; liable to so much uncertainty in its signification; and the thing it stands for, so much contended about, and difficult to be known. And therefore this cannot be but a very uncertain rule of human practice, and serve but very little to the conduct of eur lives, and is therefore very unfit to be assigned as an innate practical principle.
§.18. For let us consider this proposition as to its meaning (for it is the sense, and not sound, that is, and must be the principle or common notion) viz. "virtue is the best worship of God j". i. e. is most acceptable to him; which if virtue be taken, as most commonly it is, for those actions, which, according to the different opinions of several countries, are accounted laudable, will be a proposition so far from being certain, that it will not be true. If virtue be taken for actions conformable to God's will, or to the rule prescribed by God, which is the true and only measure of virtue, when virtue is used to signify what is in its own nature right and good; then this proposition, "that virtue is the best worship of God," will be most true and certain, but of very little use in human life: since it will amount to no more but this, viz. "that God is pleased with the doing of what he commandswhich a man may certainly know to be true, without knowing what it is that God doth command; and so be as far from any rule or principle of his actions, as he was before. And I think very few will take a proposition, which amounts to no more than this, viz. that God is pleased with the doing of what he himself commands, for an innate moral principle writ on the minds of all men (however true and certain it may be) since it teaches so little. Whosoever does so, will have reason to think hundreds of propositions, innate principles; since there are many, which have as good a title as this, to be received for such, which nobody yet ever put into that rank of innate principles.
§. 19. Nor is the fourth proposition (viz. "men must repent of their sins") much more instructive, till what.