Page images
[ocr errors]

that the world was the most beautiful of all things; ' for it was CREATED BY God, &c. *' This notion of the creation, Aristotle tells us, was agreeable to the concurrent voice of all antiquity: All,' says he, assert the creation of the world; but they differ in this, that some will have the world susceptible of 'dissolution, which others deny .' On this occasion Aristotle nanies Empedocles and Heraclitus, but, which is somewhat remarkable, never mentions Thales. The opinion itself is opposed by the Stagyrite; and this opposition he was forced to maintain, or he must have given up the eternity of the world, which he very justly asserts to be inconsistent with any idea of its creation. But we will dismiss the antients from the bar, and see how his lordship will support his arraignment of the moderns. The charge against them is, that they have holden certain ideas, or incorporeal essences to be self-existent. Concerning these doctrines his lordship thus harangues in the very same page, Mr. Locke observes, how impossible it is for us to conceive certain relations, habitudes, and connections, visibly included in some of our ideas, to be separable from ⚫ them even by infinite power. Let us observe, on this occasion, how impossible, or, at least, how extremely difficult it is for us to separate the idea ' of eternity from certain moral and mathematical truths, as well as from such as are called necessary, and are self-evident on one hand; and, on the other, how impossible it is to conceive that truths should exist before the things to which they are relative; or particular natures and essences, be'fore the system of universal nature, and when there was no being but the super-essential Being §.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Diog. Laert. lib. i. sect. 35. where I submit to the learned reader the construction he will observe I have given to the different import of those terms avrov and woína; the first of which may be considered as a qualified, the latter as an absolute cause. + Aristot. de Cœlo, lib. i. cap. 10. Essay, page 6. Essay on Human Understanding, 1. iv. cap. 3. §. 29.

If I had any inclination to cavil, I might, with truth, assert, that no such passage is to be found in Mr. Locke. His words are: In some of our ideas

[ocr errors]

there are certain relations, habitudes, and con'nections, so visibly included in the nature of the ' ideas themselves, that we cannot conceive them separable from them by any power whatsoever. It may be answered, perhaps, that the violence is done rather to the expression, than to the meaning of this truly great man; but if I should candidly admit that he seems, from the immediate context, to mean no less (I say seems to mean; for, whoever will carefully compare what is said in another part of the same book*, of the powers of the mind in forming the archetypes of its complex ideas of mixed modes, may possibly think he sees sufficient reason for resolving what is here affirmed of arbitrary (not infinite) power, into the human mind only); I may yet reply, that such a violence even to the expression of such a writer on such a subject, is by no means void of blame, nor even of suspicion,' when it is left without a reference to conceal itself in a large folio, where it will not be easily detected by any but those who are pretty familiarly acquainted with the original.

[ocr errors]

But it is time to close this article, which, I think, seems to stablish contradiction the first; for under what other term shall we range the arguing pro and con in the same breath; for where is the force of the accusation, or, as a lawyer would call it, the gist of the indictment against poor Cudworth? is it not (to use my lord's own phrase) the laying the foundations of morality higher than the existence of any moral agents?' And what says my lord to enforce the charge? Why, truly, he alleges in defence of the accused, that it was impossible for him to have done otherwise, and produces the authority of Mr. Locke to confirm this impossibility.

* Locke's Essay, 1. ii. cap. 31.

The generosity of this sudden transition from accuser to advocate would convince all men on which side his lordship had here delivered his real sentiments, was it not somewhat controled by his having concealed from his readers, that the philosopher, a little afterwards, in the same book, hath endeavoured to prove, and, I think, actually hath proved, that there is no absurdity in what my lord Bolingbroke objects, provided the doctrine be rightly understood, so as not to establish innate principles. That the actual existence of the subjects of mathematical or moral ideas is not in the least necessary to give us a sufficient evidence of the necessity of those ideas; and that, in the disputes of the mathematician, as well as of the moralist, the existence of the subject matter is rarely called in question; nor is it more necessary to their demonstrations and conclusions, than it would be to prove the truth of Tully's Offices, to shew that there was some man who lived up to that idea of perfect goodness, of which Tully hath given us a pattern. There is somewhat very mysterious in all this; but we have not promised to explain contradictions farther than by shewing to which side his lordship's authority seems to incline. And surely it is better to decide in favour of possibility, and to lay the foundations of morality too high, than to give it no foundation at all.

Desunt cætera.

* Locke's Essays, lib. iv. cap. 9.








The present reigning VICES are impartially exposed; and the Laws that relate to the Provision for the Poor, and to the Punishment of FELONS are largely and freely examined.

Non jam sunt mediocres hominum libidines, non humanæ audacie ac toleranda. Nihil cogitant nisi cædem, nisi incendia, nisi rapinas. Cic. in Catil. 2d.


« PreviousContinue »