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These Philosophers then, it seems, invented the system of God's moral attributes, in order to account for the difficulties arising from the view of God's moral government. If the World till now had been so dull as to have no conception of these Attributes; his Lordship's Philosophers, we see, inade amends ; who were so quick-witted to conceive, and so sharpsighted to find out, the obliquities of a crooked line before they had got any idea of a straight one. For just to this, neither more nor less, does his Lordship's observation amount, that they made a System of God's moral attributes, by which to account for the proceedings of his Providence. Till now, none of us could conceive how any doubts concerning moral Government could arise but on the previous ideas of the moral attributes of the Governor. This invention of his Lordship's old Philosophers puts me in mind of an ingenious Modern, the curious SANCHO PAN CHA; who, as his historian tells us, was very inquisitive to discover the author of that very useful invention we call SLEEP: for, with this worthy Magistrate, Sleep and good Cheer were the FIRST PHILOSO Now the things sought after by Sancho and his Lordship, were at no great distance; for if Sleeping began when men first shut their eyes, it is certain the idea of God's Goodness appeared as soon as ever they opened them.
Dr. Clarke's Demonstration of the moral attributes à priori, I shall leave, as his Lordship is pleased to do, in all it's force. If the Doctor's followers think their Master's honour concerned, where his arguments are not, they have a large field and a safe to shew their prowess. I rather choose to undertake the NOBLE PHILOSOPHER on his own terms,
without any other arms than the arguments à posterior. For he is such a Champion for the good Cause, that he not only appoints his Adversaries the Field, but prescribes to them the use of their weapons.
But his Lordship, like other great men, is not easily approached; and when he is, not always fit to be seen. You catch his FIRST PHILOSOPHY, as Butler's Hero did Aristotle's FIRST MATTER, undressed, and without a rag of form; however flaunting and fluttering in FRAGMENTS. To speak plainly, his Lordship's entire neglect or ignorance of Method betrays him into endless repetitions: and, in these, whether for want of precision in his ideas, propriety in his terms, or art in his composition, the question is perpetually changing; and rarely without being new-covered by an equivocal expression. If you add to this, the perpetual contradictions into which he falls, either by defect of memory, excess of passion, or distress of argument, you will allow it to be no easy matter to take him fairly, to know him fully, and to represent him to the best advantage: in none of which offices would I be willingly defective. Indeed, when you have done this, the business is over; and his Lordship's reasoning generally confutes itself.
When I reflect upon what this hath cost me, the reading over two or three bulky volumes to get possession of a single argument; which now you think you hold, and then again you lose; which meets you full when you least expect it; and slips away from you the very moment it promises to do most: when, I say, I reflect upon all this, I cannot but lament the hard luck of the English CLERGY, who, though apparently least fit, as being made Parties; certainly the least concerned,
concerned, as there is nothing that can impose on a Scholar, though a great deal that may mislead the People, are likely to be the men most engaged with. his Lordship in this controversy. Time was, when if a Writer had a disposition to seek Objections: against Religion, though he found them hardly, and urged them heavily, yet he would digest his thoughts, and methodize his reasoning. The Clergy had then nothing to do but to answer him, if they found themselves able. But since this slovenly custom (as Lord SHAFTESBURY calls it) has got amongst our Freethinkers, of taking their physic in public, of throwing about their loose and crude indigestions under the name of FRAGMENTS, things which in their very name imply not so much the want, as the exclusion of all form, the Advocate of Religion has had a fine time of it: he must work them into consistence, he must mould them into shape, before he can safely lay hold of them himself, or present them handsomely to the Public. But these Gentlemen have provided that a Clergyman should never be idle. All, he had of old to attend, was the saving the souls of those committed to his care, He must now begin his work a great deal higher; he must first convince his flock that they have souls to be saved. And the spite of all is, that at the same time. his kind masters have doubled his task, they appear very well disposed to lessen his wages.
We have observed, that the DENIAL of God's moral attributes is the great barrier against Religion in general: but it is more especially serviceable in his Lordship's idiosyncratic terrors, the terrors of a future State. To these we owe his famous book of FRAGMENTS, composed occasionally, and taken as an extemporaneous cordial, each stronger than the other, to support him
self under his frequent paroxysms. For, set the moral attributes aside, and we can neither form any judgement of the end of man, nor of the nature of God's government. All our knowledge will be confined to our present state and condition*. It is by the moral attributes, we learn, that man was made for happiness: and that God's dispensation to us here is but part of a general system: This naturally extends our views to, and terminates our knowledge in, Futurity.
The fate of all Religion therefore being included in the question of God's moral attributes, I hold it of much importance to prove against his Lordship, that MEN MAY ACQUIRE ADEQUATE IDEAS OF THEM in the same way, and with equal certainty, in which they acquire the knowledge of God's natural attributes: And the knowledge of these latter his Lordship deduces from its original in the following words:
"All our knowledge of God (says he) is derived from his works. Every part of the immense Uni
verse, and the order and harmony of the Whole, are "not only conformable to our ideas or notions of 66 WISDOM and POWER, but these ideas and notions 66 were impressed originally and principally by thein, on every attentive mind; and men were led to con"clude, with the utmost certainty, that a Being of "infinite wisdom and power made, preserved, and go"verned the system. As far as we can discover, we "discern these in all his works; and where we cannot "discern them, it is manifestly due to our imperfec ❝tion, not to his. This now is real knowledge, or
One of his Lordship's Corollaries therefore from the Propo sition of no moral attributes, is this, "Our Knowledge concerning "God goes no further than for the necessary use of human life." Vol. IV. p. 486, C
"there is no such thing as knowledge. We acquire "it immediately in the objects themselves, in God, "and in Nature, the work of God. We know what "wisdom and power are: we know both intuitively, ❝ and by the help of our senses, that such as we con"ceive them to be, such they appear in the Work: "and therefore we know demonstratively that such "they are in the Worker *??
All this is mighty well and on these very grounds I undertake to prove that men may get as clear and precise ideas of God's GOODNESS and JUSTICE.
But, to prevent, or, indeed, now things are gone thus far, rather to redress all ambiguity in the terms, and equivocation in the use of them; it will be proper to explain what TRUE PHILOSOPHY means by GOD'S WORKS, whether physical or moral.
Now, it means, if I am not much mistaken, that CONSTITUTION OF THINGS which God hath established, and directed to a plain and obvious end: no regard being had to those impediments or obstructions in it's course, which the Author of nature hath permitted to arise from any part of the material, or intellectual Creation.
Thus, when we consider his physical works, in order to make our estimate of his wisdom and power, we conceive them as they are in themselves; and in the perfection of their first constitution; though the greater portions of the physical system may, from the intrac tability of Matter, be subject to some inconsiderable irregularities; which, as the TRUE PHILOSOPHER† observes, will be apt to increase till this System wants 4 reformation: and though the smaller Portions of it,
Vol. V. p. 524.