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to me, I shall not fail to endeavour to give you satisfaction therein.
In the next paragraph your lordship says, “ those who are not sparing of writing about articles of faith, and among them take great care to avoid some which have been always esteemed fundamental,” &c. This seems also to contain something personal in it. But how far I am concerned in it I shall know, when you shall be pleased to tell me who those are, and then it will be time enough for me to answer.
This is what your lordship has brought in under your second answer, in these four pages, as a defence of it: and how much of it is a defence of that second answer, let the reader judge.
I am now come to the third of those answers, which you said you would lay together and defend. And it is this :
“ That my grounds of certainty tend to scepticism, and that in an age wherein the mysteries of faith are too much exposed by the promoters of scepticism and infidelity, it is a thing of dangerous consequence to start such new methods of certainty, as are apt to leave men's minds more doubtful than before.
This is what you set down here to be defended : the defence follows, wherein your lordship tells me that I say, “ these words contain a farther accusation of my book, which shall be considered in its due place. But this is the proper place of considering it; for your lordship said, that hereby I have given too just occasion to the enemies of the Christian faith, to make use of my words and notions, as was evidently proved from my own concessions. And if this be so, however you were willing to have had me explain myself to the general satisfaction; yet since I decline it, you do insist upon it, that I cannot clear myself from laying that foundation, which the author of Christianity not mysterious built upon.”
In which I crave leave to acquaint your lordship with what I do not understand.
First, I do not understand what is meant, by “ this is the proper place;" for, in ordinary construction,
these words seem to denote this 20th page of your lordship's second letter, which you were then writing, though the sense would make me think the 46th
page second letter, which you were then answering, should be meant. This perhaps your lordship may think a nice piece of criticism; but till it be cleared, I cannot tell what to
in my excuse. For it is likely your lordship would again ask me, whether I could think you a man of so little sense, if I should understand these words to mean the 20th page of your second letter, which nobody can conceive your lordship should think a proper place for me to consider and answer what you had writ in your first? It would be as hard to understand,“this is,”to mean a place in my former letter, which was past and done; but it is no wonder for me to be mistaken in your privilegeword “this.” Besides, there is this farther difficulty to understand “this is the proper place,” of the 46th page of my former letter; because I do not see why the 82d page of that letter, where I did consider and answer it, was not as proper a place of considering it as the 46th, where I give a reason why I deferred it. Farther, if I understood what you meant here by " this is the proper place,” I should possibly apprehend better the force of your argument subjoined to prove this, whatever it be, to be the proper place; the casual particle “ for,” which introduces the following words, making them a reason of those preceding. But in the present obscurity of this matter, I confess I do not see how your having said " that I gave occasion to the enemies of the Christian faith,” &c. proves any thing concerning the proper place at all.
Another thing that I do not understand in this defence is your inference in the next period, where you tell me, " if this be so, you insist upon it that I should clear myself:” for I do not see how your having said what you there said (for that is it which “this” here, if it be not within privilege, must signify) can be a reason for yourinsisting on my clearing myself of any thing, though
allow this to be your lordship's ordinary way of proceeding, to insist upon your suggestions and supposi
tions in one place, as if they were foundations to build what you pleased on in another.
Thus then stands your defence :“my grounds of certainty tend to scepticism, and to start new methods of certainty is of dangerous consequence." Because I did not consider this your accusation in the proper place of considering it, this is the proper place of considering it: because your lordship said, “I had given too just occasion to the enemies of the Christian faith to make use of my words and notions;" and because your lordship said so, therefore you insist upon it that I clear myself, &c. This appears, to me, to be the connexion and force of your defence hitherto: if I am mistaken in it, your lordship's words are set down; the reader must judge whether the construction of the words do not make it so.
But before I leave them, there are some things that I crave permission to represent to your lordship more particularly.
1. That to the accusations of scepticism, I have answered in another, and, as I think, a proper place.
2. That the accusation of dangerous consequence, I have considered and answered in my former letter; but that being, it seems, not the proper place of considering it, you have not in this your defence thought fit to take any notice of it.
3. That your lordship has not any where proved, that my placing of certainty in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, is apt to leave men's minds more doubtful than they were before; which is what your accusation supposes.
. 4. That you set down those words of mine, “these words contain a farther accusation of my book, which shall be considered in its due place;" as all the answer which I
to that new accusation, except what you take notice of, out of my 95th page; and take no notice of what I say from page 82 to 95; where I considered it as I promised, and, as I thought, fully answered it.
5. That the too just occasion, you say, I have given to the enemies of the Christian faith to make use of
my words and notions,” wants to be proved,
6. That “ what use the enemies of the Christian faith have made of my words and notions,” is nowhere shown, though often talked of.
7. That “if the enemies of the Christian faith have made use of my words and notions,” yet that, as I have shown, is no proof, that they are of dangerous consequence : much less is it a proof, that this proposition, “certainty consists in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas," is of dangerous consequence. For some words or notions in a book, that are of dangerous consequence, do not make all the propositions of that book to be of dangerous consequence.
8. That your lordship tells me, “ you were willing to have had me explained myself to the general satisfaction;" which is what, in the place from which the former words are taken, you expressed thus : that “my answer did not come fully up in all things to that which you could wish.” To which I have given an answer: and methinks your defence here should have been applied to that, and not the same thing (which has been answered) set down again as part of your defence. But pray, my lord, give me leave to ask, is not this meant for a personal matter? which though the world, as you say, is soon weary of, your lordship, it seems, is not.
9. That you say, “ you insist upon it, that I cannot clear myself from laying that foundation which the author of Christianity not mysterious built upon.” Certainly this personal matter is of some very great consequence, that your lordship, who understands the world so well, insists so much upon it. But if it be true, that he built upon my foundation, and if it be of such moment to your lordship's business in the present controversy; methinks, without so much intricacy, it should not be hard to show it: it is but proving what foundation of certainty (for it is of that, all this dispute is) he went upon, which, as I humbly conceive, your lordship has not done; and then showing that to be my foundation of certainty; and the business is ended. But instead of this your lordship says, that “his account of reason supposes clear and distinct ideas necessary to
certainty; that he imagined he built upon my grounds; that he thought his and my notions of certainty to be the same; that there has been too just occasion given, for the enemies of the Christian faith to apply my words in I know not what manner.” These and the like arguments, to prove that he goes upon my grounds, your lordship has used; but they are, I confess, too subtile and too fine for me to feel the force of them, in a matter of fact wherein it was so easy to produce both his and my grounds out of our books (without all this talk about suppositions and imaginations, and occasions so far remote from any direct proof) if it were a matter of that consequence to be so insisted upon, as your lordship professedly does.
Your lordship has spent a great many pages to tie me to that author; and "you still insist upon it, that I cannot clear myself from laying that foundation which the author of Christianity not mysterious built upon. What this great concern in a matter of so little moment means, I leave the reader to guess : for, I beseech your lordship, of what great consequence is it to the world? What great interest has any truth of religion in this, that I and another man (be he who he will) make use of the same grounds to different purposes ? This I am sure, it tends not to the clearing or confirming any one material truth in the world. If the foundation I have laid be true, I shall neither disown nor dislike it, whatever this or any other author shall build upon it; because, as your lordship knows, ill things may be built upon a good foundation, and yet the foundation never the worse for it. And therefore if that or any other author hath built upon my foundation, I see nothing in it, that I ought to be concerned to clear myself from.
If you can show that my foundation is false, or show me a better foundation of certainty than mine, I promise you immediately to renounce and relinquish mine, with thanks to your lordship: but till you can prove, that he that first invented syllogism as a rule of right reasoning, or first laid down this principle, “ that it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be," is answerable for all those opinions which have been endeavoured to be