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and causes of things, which would easily lead him to the notion of a God; which having once taught to others, reason, and the natural propensity of their own thoughts, would afterwards propagate, and continue amongst them.
§. 12. Indeed it is urged, that it is suit- Suitable to able to the goodness of God to imprint God's goodupon the minds of men characters and no- ness,thatall tions of himself, and not to leave them in 8hTMld
. lit' i nstvc sin 10 63. the dark and doubt in so grand a concern- 0fhim,therement; and also by that means to secure to forenaturalhimself the homage and veneration due from Jyimpnnted so intelligent a creature as man; and there- B^er^' an" fore he has clone it.
This argument, if it be of any force, will prove much more than those, who use it in this case, expect from it. For, if we may conclude, that God hath done for men all that men shall judge is best for them, because it is suitable to his goodness so to do; it will prove not only that God has imprinted on the minds of men an idea of himself, but that he hath plainly stamped there, in fair characters, all that men ought to know or believe of him, all that they ought to do in obedience to his will; and that he hath given them a will and affections conformable to it. This, no doubt, every one will think better for men, than that they should in the dark grope after knowledge, as St. Paul tells us all nations did after God, Acts xvii. 27. than that their wills should clash with their understandings, and their appetites cross their duty. The Romanists say, it is best for men, and so suitable to the goodness of God, that there should be an infallible judge of controversies on earth; and therefore there is one. And I, by the same reason, say, it is better for men that every man himself should be infallible. I leave thorn to consider, whether by the force of this argument they shall think, that every man is so. I think it a very good argument, to say, the infinitely wise God hath made it so; and therefore it is best. But it seems to me a little too much confidence of our own wisdom to say, " I think "it best, and therefore God hath made it so;" and, in the matter in hand, it will be in vain to argue from such a topic that God hath done so, when certain experience shows us that he hath not. But the goodness of God hath not been wanting to men without such original impressions of knowledge, or ideas stamped on the mind; since he hath furnished man with those faculties, which will serve for the sufficient discovery of all things requisite to the end of such a being. And I doubt not but to show that a man, by the right use of his natural abilities, may, without any innate principles, attain a knowledge of a God, and other things that concern him. God having endued man with those faculties of knowing which he hath, was no more obliged by his goodness to plant those innate notions in his mind, than that having given him reason, hands, and materials, he should build him bridges, or houses; which some people in the world, however, of good parts, do either totally want, or are but ill provided of, as well as others are wholly without ideas of God, and principles of morality; or at least have but very ill ones. The reason in both cases being, that they never employed their parts, faculties, and powers industriously that way, but contented themselves with the opinions, fashions, and things of their country, as they found them, without looking any farther. Had you or I been born at the bay of Soldania, possibly our thoughts and notions had not exceeded those brutish ones of the Hottentots that inhabit there; and had the Virginia king Apochancana been educated in England, he had been perhaps as knowing a divine, and as good a mathematician, as any in it. The difference between him and a more improved Englishman lying barely in this, that the exercise of his faculties was bounded within the ways, modes, and notions of his own country, and never directed to any other, or farther inquiries: and if he had not any idea of a God, it was only because he pursued not those thoughts that would have led him to it. Ideas of §. 13, * grant, tnat # tnere were any God various idea to be found imprinted on the minds of in different men, we have reason to expect it should be mea• the notion of his maker, as a mark God set on his own workmanship, to mind man of his dependence and duty; and that herein should appear the first instances of human knowledge. But how late is it before any such notion is discoverable in children? And when we find it there, how much more does it resemble the opinion and notion of the teacher, than represent the true God? He that shall observe in children the progress whereby their minds attain the knowledge they have, will think that the objects they do first and most familiarly converse with, are those that make the first impressions on their understandings: nor will he find the least footsteps of any other. It is easy to take notice, how their thoughts enlarge themselves, only as they come to be acquainted with a greater variety of sensible objects, to retain the ideas of them in their memories; and to get the skill to compound and enlarge them, and several ways put them together. How by these means they come to frame in their minds an idea men have of a deity, I shall hereafter show.
§. 14. Can it be thought, that the ideas men have of God are the characters and marks of himself, engraven on their minds by his own finger ; when we see that in the same country, under one and the same name, men have far different, nay, often contrary and inconsistent ideas and conceptions of him? Their agreeing in a name, or sound, will scarce prove an innate notion of him.
§. 15. What true or tolerable notion of a deity could they have, who acknowledged and worshipped hundreds? Every deity that they owned above one was an infallible evidence of their ignorance of him, and a proof that they had no true notion of God, where unity, infinity, and eternity were excluded. To which if we add their gross conceptions of corporeity, expressed in their images and representations of their deities; the amours, marriages, copulations, lusts, quarrels, and other mean qualities attributed by them to their gods; we shall have little reason to think, that the heathen world, i. e. the greatest part of mankind, had such ideas of God in their minds, as he himself, out of care that they should not be mistaken about him, was author
VOL. I. F
of. And this universality of consent, so much argued, if it prove any native impressions, it will be only this, that God imprinted on the minds of all men, speaking the same language, a name for himself, but not any idea; since those people, who agreed in the name, had at the same time far different apprehensions about the thing signified. If they say, that the variety of deities, worshipped by the heathen world, were but figurative ways of expressing the several attributes of that incomprehensible being, or several parts of his providence: I answer, what they might be in the original, I will not here inquire: but that they were so in the thoughts of the vulgar, I think nobody will affirm. And he that will consult the voyage of the bishop of Beryte, c. 13. (not to mention other testimonies) will find, that the theology of the Siamites professedly owns a plurality of Gods: or, as the abbe de Choisy more judiciously remarks, in his Journal du voiage de Siam, it consists properly in acknowledging no God at all. ,. • *. ♦
If it be said, That wise men of all nations came to have true conceptions of the unity and infinity of the deity, I grant it. But then this,
First, Excludes universality of consent in any thing but the name; for those wise men being very few, perhaps one of a thousand, this universality is very narrow.
Secondly, It seems to me plainly to prove, that the truest and best notions men had of God were not imprinted, but acquired by thought and meditation, and a right use of their faculties; since the wise and considerate men of the world, by a right and careful employment of their thoughts and reason, attained true notions in this as well as other things; whilst the lazy and inconsiderate part of men, making far the greater number, took up their notions by chance, from common tradition and vulgar conceptions, without much beating their heads about them. And if it be a reason to think the notion of God innate, because all wise men had it, virtue too must be thought innate, for that also wise men have always had.
§. 16. This was evidently the case of all gentilism; nor hath even amongst jews, christians, and mahometans, who acknowledge but one God, this doctrine, and the care taken in those nations to teach men to have true notions of a God, prevailed so far, as to make men to have the same, and the true ideas of him. How many, even amongst us, will be found, upon inquiry, to fancy him in the shape of a man sitting in heaven, and to have many other absurd and unfit conceptions of him? Christians, as well as Turks, have had whole sects owning and contending earnestly for it, and that the deity was corporeal, and of human shape: and though we find few among us who profess themselves Anthropomorphites, (though some I have met with that own it) yet, I believe, he that will make it his business, may find, amongst the ignorant and unin, •structed christians, many of that opinion. Talk but with country people, almost of any age, or young people of almost any condition; and you shall find, that though the name of God be frequently in their mouths, yet the notions they apply this name to are so odd, 0 w, and pitiful, that nobody can imagine they were taught by a rational man, much less that they were characters written by the finger of God himself. Nor do I see how it derogates more from the goodness of God, that he has given us minds unfurnished with these ideas of himself, than that he hath sent us into the world with bodies unclothed, and that there is no art or skill born with us: for, being fitted with faculties to attain these, it is want of industry and consideration in us, and not of bounty in him, if we have them not. It is as certain that there is a God, as that the opposite angles, made by the intersection of two straight lines, are equal. There was never any rational creature, that .''set himself sincerely to examine the truth of these propositions, that could fail to assent to them; though yet it be past doubt that there are many men, who, having not applied their thoughts that way, are ignorant both of the one and the other. If any one think fit to call this (which is the utmost of its extent) universal consent, such an one I easily allow; but such an