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the nature of a man is equally in Peter, James, and John.” That is more than I know: because I do not know what things Peter, James, and John are. They may be drills or horses, for aught I know; as well as Weweena, Cuchipe, and Cousheda, may be drills, as his lordship says, for aught he knows. For I know no law of speech that more necessarily makes these three sounds, Peter, James, and John, stand for three men ; than Weweena, Cuchipe, and Cousheda, stand for three men: for I knew a horse that was called Peter; and I do not know but the master of the same team might call other of his horses James and John. Indeed, if Peter, James, and John, are supposed to be the names only of men, it cannot be questioned but the nature of man is equally in them ; unless one can suppose each of them to be a man, without having the nature of a man in him: that is, suppose him to be a man, without being a man. But then this to me, I confess, gives no manner of clear or distinct apprehensions concerning nature in general, or the nature of man in particular; it seeming to me to say no more but this, that a man is a man, and a drill is a drill, and a horse is a horse: or, which is all one, what has the nature of a man, has the nature of a man,
is a man; and what has the nature of a drill, has the nature of a drill, or is a drill; and what has the nature of a horse, has the nature of a horse, or is a horse; whether it be called Peter, or not called Peter. But if any one should repeat this a thousand times to me, and go over all the species of creatures, with such an unquestionable assertion to every one of them ; I do not find that thereby I should get one jot clearer or distincter apprehensions either of nature in general, or of the nature of a man, a horse, or a drill, &c. in particular.
His lordship adds, “and this is the common nature, with a particular subsistence proper to each of them." I do not doubt but his lordship set down these words with a very good meaning; but such is my misfortune, that I, for my life, cannot find it out. I have repeated " and this” twenty times to myself; and my weak understanding always rejolts, and what? To which I am always ready to answer, the nature of a man in Peter,
and the nature of a man in James, and the nature of a man in John, is the common nature; and there I stop, and can go no farther to make it coherent to myself, till I add of man; and then it must be read thus; "the nature of man in Peter is the common nature of man, with a particular subsistence proper to Peter.” That the nature of man in Peter is the nature of a man, if Peter be supposed to be a man, I certainly know, let the nature of man be what it will, of which I yet know nothing: but if Peter be not supposed to be the name of a man, but be the name of a horse, all that knowledge vanishes, and I know nothing. But let Peter be ever so much a man, and let it be impossible to give that name to a horse, yet I cannot understand these words, that the common nature of man is in Peter; for whatsoever is in Peter, exists in Peter; and whatever exists in Peter, is particular: but the common nature of man, is the general nature of man, or else I understand not what is meant by common nature. And it confounds my understanding, to make a general a particular.
But to help me to conceive this matter, I am told, “it is the common nature with a particular subsistence proper to Peter.” But this helps not my understanding in the case : for, first, I do not understand what subsistence is, if it signify any thing different from existence; and if it be the same with existence, then it is so far from loosening the knot, that it leaves it just as it was, only covered with the obscure and less known term, subsistence. For the difficulty to me is, to conceive an universal nature, or universal any thing, to exist; which would be, in my mind, to make an universal a particular: which, to me, is impossible.
No, said another who was by, it is but using the word subsistence instead of existence, and there is nothing easier; if one will consider this common or universal nature, with a particular existence, under the name of subsistence, the business is done.
Just as easy, replied the former, I find it in myself, as to consider the nature of a circle with four angles; for to consider a circle with four angles, is no more impossible to me, than to consider an universal with a particular
existence; which is to consider an universal really existing, and in effect a particular. But the words,
proper to each of them,” follow to help me out. I hoped so, till I considered them; and then I found I understood them as little as all the rest. For I know not what is a subsistence proper to Peter, more than to James or John, till I know Peter himself; and then indeed my senses will discern him from James or John, or any man living.
His lordship goes on : “ for the nature of man, as in Peter, is distinct from that same nature as it is in James and John; otherwise they would be but one person, as well as have the same nature.” These words, by the casual particle for, which introduces them, should be a proof of something that goes before; but what they are meant for a proof of, I confess I understand not. For the proposition preceding, as far as I can make any thing of it, is this, that the general nature of a man has a particular existence in each of the three, Peter, James, and John. But then how the saying, that “the nature of man, as in Peter, is distinct from the same nature as it is in James and John," does prove that the general nature of man does or can exist in either of them, I cannot see.
The words which follow, “otherwise they would be one person, as well as have the same nature," I see the connexion of; for it is visible they were brought to prove, that the nature in Peter is distinct from the nature in James and John. But with all that, I do not see of what use or significancy they are here: because, to me, they are more obscure and doubtful, than the proposition they are brought to prove. For I scarce think there can be a clearer proposition than this, viz. that three natures, that have three distinct existences in three men, are, as his lordship says, three distinct natures, and so needs no proof. But to prove it by this, that“ otherwise they could not be three persons,” is to prove it by a proposition unintelligible to me; because his lordship has not yet told me, what the clear and distinct apprehension of person is, which I ought to have. For his lordship supposing it, as he does, to be a term,
which has in itself a certain signification; I, who have no such conception of it, should in vain look for it in the propriety of our language, which is established upon arbitrary imposition; and so can, by no means, imagine what person here signifies, till his lordship shall do me the favour to tell me.
To this I replied, that six pages farther on, your lordship explains the notion of person.
To which the gentleman answered, whether I can get clear and distinct apprehensions of person, by what his lordship says there of person, I shall see when I come to it. But this, in the meantime, must be confessed, that person comes in here six pages too soon, for those who want his lordship's explication of it, to make them have clear and distinct apprehensions of what he means, when he uses it.
For we must certainly talk unintelligibly about nature and person, as well as about the doctrine of the Trinity, unless we have clear and distinct apprehensions concerning nature and person ; as his lordship says, in the foregoing page,
It follow's, "and this distinction of persons in them is discerned both by our senses, as to their different accidents; and by our reason, because they have a separate existence; not coming into it at once and in the same manner.”
These words, said he, which conclude this paragraph, tell us how persons are distinguished; but, as far as I can see, serve not at all to give us any clear and distinct apprehensions of nature, by considering it in distinct individuals: which was the business of this paragraph.
His lordship says, we may consider nature as in distinct individuals : and so I do as much, when I consider it in three distinct physical atoms or particles of the air or æther, as when I consider it in Peter, James, and John. For three distinct physical atoms are three distinct individuals, and have three distinct natures in them, as certainly as three distinct men; though I cannot discern the distinction between them by my senses, as to their different accidents ; nor is their separate existence discernible to my reason, by their not coming into it at
once and in the same manner: for they did, for aught I know, or at least might, come into existence at once and in the same manner, which was by creation. I think it will be allowed, that God did, or might, create more than one physical atom of matter at once: so that here nature may be considered in distinct individuals, without any of those ways of distinction which his lordship here speaks of: and so I cannot see how these last words contribute aught, to give us clear and distinct apprehensions of nature, by considering nature in distinct individuals.
But to try what clear and distinct apprehensions concerning nature, his lordship’s way of considering nature in this paragraph carries in it; let me repeat his lordship's discourse to you here, only changing one common nature for another, viz. putting the common nature of animal, for the common nature of man, which his lordship has chose to instance in; and then his lordship’s words would run thus: “nature may be considered two ways; first, as it is in distinct individuals; as the nature of an animal is equally in Alexander, Bucephalus, and Podargus: and this is the common nature, with a particular subsistence, proper to each of them. For the nature of animal, as in Bucephalus, is distinct from the same nature as in Podargus and Alexander; otherwise they would be but one person, as well as have the same nature. And this distinction of persons in them is discerned both by our senses, as to their different accidents; and by our reason, because they have a separate existence, not coming into it at once and in the same manner."
To this I said, I thought he did violence to your lordship’s sense, in applying the word person, which sig. nifies an intelligent individual, to Bucephalus and Podargus, which were two irrational animals. · To which the gentleman replied, that he fell into this mistake, by his thinking your lordship had somewhere spoken, as if an individual intelligent substance were not the proper definition of person. But, continued he, I lay no stress on the word person, in the instance wherein I have used his lordship’s words, and therefore, if you