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a mistaken philosopher : but it will not follow from thence, that he is not an orthodox christian; for he might (as he did) write his Essay of Human Understanding, without any thought of the controversy between the Trinitarians and the Unitarians. Nay, a man might have writ all that is in his book, that never heard one word of any such dispute.
“ There is in the world a great and fierce contest about nature and grace: it would be very hard for me, if I must be brought in as a party on either side, because a disputant in that controversy should think the clear and distinct apprehensions of nature and grace come not into our minds by these simple ideas of sensation and reflection. If this be so, I reckoned among the objectors against all sorts and points of orthodoxy whenever any one pleases : I may be called to account as one heterodox, in the points of free-grace, free-will, predestination, original sin, justification by faith, transubstantiation, the pope's supremacy, and what not ? as well as in the doctrine of the Trinity; and all because they cannot be furnished with clear and distinct notions of grace, free-will, transubstantiation, &c. by sensation or reflection. For in all these, as in other points, I do not see but there may be a complaint made, that they have not always a right understanding and clear notions of those things on which the doctrine they dispute of depends. And it is not altogether unusual for men to talk unintelligibly to themselves, and others, in these and other points of controversy, for want of clear and distinct apprehensions, or (as I would call them, did not your lordship dislike it) ideas : for all which unintelligible talking I do not think myself accountable, though it should so fall out, that my way by ideas would not help them to what it seems is wanting, clear and distinct notions. If my way be ineffectual to that purpose, they may, for all me, make use of any other more successful; and leave me out of the controversy, as one useless to either party for deciding of the question.
Supposing, as your lordship says, and as you have
undertaken to make appear, that the clear and distinct apprehensions concerning nature and person, and the grounds of identity and distinction, should not come into the mind by simple ideas of sensation and reflection; what, I beseech your lordship, is this to the dispute concerning the Trinity, on either side ? And if, after your lordship has endeavoured to give clear and distinct apprehensions of nature and person, the disputants in this controversy should still talk unintelligibly about this point, for want of clear and distinct apprehensions concerning nature and person ; ought your lordship to be brought in among the partisans on the other side, by any one who writ a Vindication of the Doctrine of the Trinity ? In good earnest, my lord, I do not see how the clear and distinct notions of nature and person, not coming into the mind by the simple ideas of sensation and reflection, any more contains any objection against the doctrine of the Trinity, than the clear and distinct apprehensions of original sin, justification, or transubstantiation, not coming into the mind by the simple ideas of sensation and reflection, contains any objection against the doctrine of original sin, justification, or transubstantiation : and so of all the rest of the terms used in any controversy in religion.
All that your lordship answers to this is in these words : “ The next thing I undertook to show was, that we can have no clear and distinct idea of nature and person, from sensation or reflection. Here you spend many pages to show, that this doth not concern you. Let it be so. But it concerns the matter I was upon ; which was to show, that we must have ideas [I think, my lord, it should be clear and distinct ideas of these things, which we cannot come to by sensation and reflection.
But be that as it will; I have troubled your lordship here with this large repetition out of my former letter, because I think it clearly shows, that my book is no more concerned in the controversy about the Trinity, than any other controversy extant; nor any more op
posite to that side of the question that your lordship has endeavoured to defend, than to the contrary: and also because, by your lordship’s answer to it in these words, “ let it be so," I thought you had not only agreed to all that I have said, but that by it I had been dismissed out of that controversy.
It is an observation I have somewhere met with, “ That whoever is once got into the Inquisition, guilty or not guilty, seldom ever gets clear out again.” I think your lordship is satisfied there is no heresy in my book.' The suspicion it was brought into, upon the account of placing certainty only upon clear and distinct ideas, is found groundless, there being no such thing in my book; and yet it is not dismissed out of the controversy. It is alleged still, that “my notion of ideas, as I have stated it, may be of dangerous consequence as to that article of the christian faith, which your lordship has endeavoured to defend ;” and so I am bound over to another trial. “ Clear and distinct apprehensions concerning nature and person, and the grounds of identity and distinction, so necessary in the dispute of the Trinity, cannot be had from sensation and reflection;" was another accusation. To this, whether true or false, I pleaded, that it makes me no party in this dispute of the Trinity, more than in any dispute that can arise; nor of one side of the question more than another. My plea is allowed, “ let it be so;" and yet nature and person are made use of again, to hook me into the heretical side of the dispute: and what is now the charge against me, in reference to the Unitarian controversy, upon the account of nature and person ? even this new one, viz. that “if my notions of nature and person hold, your lordship does not see how it is possible to defend the doctrine of the Trinity." How is this new charge proved ? even thus, in these words annexed to it: “ For if these terms really signify nothing in themselves, but are only abstract and complex ideas, which the common use of language hath appropriated to be the signs of two ideas; then it is plain, that they are only notions of the mind, as all
abstracted and complex ideas are; and so one nature and three persons can be no more.”
My lord, I am not so conceited of my notions, as to think that they deserve that your lordship should dwell long upon the consideration of them. But pardon me, my lord, if I say, that it seems to me that this representation which your lordship here makes to yourself
, of my notions of nature and person, and the inference from it, were made a little in haste: and that if it had not been so, your lordship would not, from the preceding words, have drawn this conclusion; " and so one nature and three persons can be no more ;" nor charged it upon me.
For as to that part of your lordship’s representation of my notions of nature and person, wherein it is said, “ if these terms in themselves signify nothing;” though I grant that to be my notion of the terms nature and person, that they are two sounds that naturally signify not one thing more than another, nor in themselves signify any thing at all, but have the signification which they have, barely by imposition; yet, in this my notion of them, give me leave to presume, that upon more leisurely thoughts I shall have your lordship, as well as the rest of mankind that ever thought of this matter, concurring with me. So that if your lordship continues positive in it," that you cannot see how it is possible to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, if this my notion of nature and person hold;" I, as far as my eyesight will reach in the case (which possibly is but a little way) cannot see, but it will be plain to all mankind, that your lordship gives up the doctrine of the Trinity: since this notion of nature and person that they are two words that signify by imposition, is what will hold in the common sense of all mankind. And then, my lord, all those who think well of your lordship's ability to defend it, and believe that you see as far in that question as anybody (which I take to be the common sentiment of all the learned world, especially of those of our country and church) will be in great danger to have an ill opinion of the evidence of that article: since, I imagine, there is scarce one of them, who does not think this
notion will hold, viz. that these terms nature and person signify what they do signify by imposition, and not by nature.
Though, if the contrary were true, that these two words, nature and person, had this particular privilege, above other names of things, that they did naturally and in themselves signify what they do signify, and that they received not their significations from the arbitrary imposition of men, I do not see how the defence of the doctrine of the Trinity should depend hereon; unless your lordship concludes, that it is necessary to the defence of the doctrine of the Trinity, that these two articulate sounds should have natural significations; and that unless they are used in those significations, it were impossible to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. Which is in effect to say, that where these two words are not in use and in their natural signification, the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be defended. And if this be so, I grant your lordship had reason to say, that if it hold, that the terms nature and person signify by imposition, your lordship does not see how it is possible to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. But then, my lord, I beg your lordship to consider, whether this be not mightily to prejudice that doctrine, and to undermine the belief of that article of faith, to make so extraordinary a supposition necessary to the defence of it; and of more dangerous consequence to it, than any thing your lordship can imagine deducible from my book?
As to the remaining part of what your lordship has, in the foregoing passage, set down as some of my notions of nature and person, viz. that these terms are only abstract or complex ideas: I crave leave to plead, that I never said any such thing; and I should be ashamed if I ever had said, that these, or any other terms, were ideas: which is all one as to say, that the sign is the thing signified. Much less did I ever say, “ That these terms are only abstract and complex ideas, which the common use of language hath appropriated to be the signs of two ideas." For to say, " that the common use of language has appropriated abstract and complex ideas to be the signs of ideas," seems to me so extraordinary