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proved by mode and figure, or have been built upon that maxim; I shall not think myself concerned, whatever any one shall build upon this foundation of mine, that certainty consists in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of any two ideas, as they are expressed in any proposition: much less shall I think
myself concerned, for what you shall please to suppose (for that, with submission, is all you have done hitherto) any one has built upon it, though he were ever so opposite to your lordship in any one of the opinions he should build on it.
In that case, if he should prove troublesome to your lordship with any argument pretended to be built upon my foundation, I humbly conceive you have no other remedy, but to show either the foundation false, and in that case I confess myself concerned ; or his deduction from it wrong, and that I shall not be at all concerned in. But if, instead of this, your lordship shall find no other way to subvert this foundation of certainty, but by saying, “ the enemies of the Christian faith build on it," because you suppose one author builds on it; this I fear, my lord, will very little advantage the cause you defend, whilst it so visibly strengthens and gives credit to your adversaries, rather than weakens any foundation they go upon. For the Unitarians, I imagine, will be apt to smile at such a way of arguing, viz. that they go on this ground, because the author of Christianity not mysterious goes upon it, or is supposed by your lordship to go upon it: and bystanders will do little less than smile, to find my book brought into the Socinian controversy, and the ground of certainty laid down in my Essay condemned, only because that author is supposed by your lordship to build upon it. For this in short is the case, and this the way your lordship has used in answering objections against the Trinityin point of reason. I know your lordship cannot be suspected of writing booty: but I fear such a way of arguing, in so great a man as your lordship, will, "in an age wherein the mysteries of faith are too much exposed, give too just an occasion to the enemies," and also to the friends,
of the Christian faith, to suspect that there is a great failure somewhere.
But to pass by that: this I am sure is personal matter, which the world perhaps will think it need not have been troubled with.
Your Defence of your third Answer goes on; and to prove that the author of Christianity not mysterious built upon my foundation, you tell me, that my ground of certainty is the agreement or disagreement of ideas, as expressed in any proposition : which are my own words. “ From hence you urged, that let the proposition come to us any way, either by human or divine authority, if our certainty depend upon this, we can be no more certain, than we have clear perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas contained in it. And from hence the author of Christianity not mysterious thought he had reason to reject all mysteries of faith which are contained in propositions, upon my grounds of certainty.”
Since this personal matter appears of such weight to your lordship, that it needs to be farther prosecuted; and you think this your argument, to prove that author built upon my foundation, worth the repeating here again; I am obliged to enter so far again into this personal matter, as to examine this passage, which I formerly passed by as of no moment. For it is easy to show, that what you say visibly proves not, that he built upon my foundation; and next, it is evident, that if it were proved that he did so, yet this is no proof that my method of certainty is of dangerous consequence ; which is what was to be defended.
As to the first of these, your lordship would prove, that the author of Christianity not mysterious built upon my grounds; and how do you prove it? viz. “ because he thought he had reason to reject all mysteries of faith, which are contained in propositions, upon my grounds.” How does it appear, that he rejected them upon my grounds ? Does he any where say so? No! that is not offered; there is no need of such an evidence of matter of fact, in a case which is only of matter
of fact. But “he thought he had reason to reject them upon my grounds of certainty." How does it appear that he thought so ? Very plainly: because “let the proposition come to us by human or divine authority, if our certainty depend upon the perception of the agreement or disagreement of the ideas contained in it, we can be no more certain than we have clear perception of that agreement." The consequence, I grant, is good, that if certainty, i. e. knowledge, consists in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas, then we can certainly know the truth of no proposition further than we perceive that agreement or disagreement. But how does it follow from hence, that he thought he had reason upon my grounds to reject any proposition, that contained a mystery of faith ; or, as your lordship expresses it, “ all mysteries of faith which are contained in propositions ?”
Whether your lordship by the word rejecting, accuses him of not knowing, or of not believing some proposition that contains an article of faith ; or what he has done or not done; I concern not myself: that which I deny, is the consequence above-mentioned, which I submit to your lordship to be proved. And when you have proved it, and shown yourself to be so familiar with the thought of that author, as to be able to be positive what he thought, without his telling you ; it will remain farther to be proved, that because he thought so, therefore he built right upon my foundation; for otherwise no prejudice will come to my foundation, by any ill use made of it; nor will it be made good, that my method or way of certainty is of dangerous consequence; which is what your lordship is here to defend. Methinks your lordship’s argument here is all one with this : Aristotle's ground of certainty (except of first principles) lies in this, that those things which agree
in a third, agree themselves : we can be certain of no proposition (excepting first principles) coming to us either by divine or human authority, if our certainty depend upon this, farther than there is such an agreement: therefore the author of Christianity not mysterious thought he had reason to reject all mysteries of faith,
which are contained in propositions upon Aristotle's grounds. This consequence, as strange as it is, is just the same with what is in your lordship’s repeated argument against me. For let Aristotle's ground of certainty be this that I have named, or what it will, how does it follow, that because my ground of certainty is placed in the agreement or disagreement of ideas, therefore the author of Christianity not mysterious rejected any proposition more upon my grounds than Aristotle's? And will not Aristotle, by your lordship’s way of arguing here, from the use any one may make or think he makes of it, be guilty also of starting a new method of certainty of dangerous consequence, whether this method be true or false, if that or any other author whose writings you dislike, thought he built upon it, or be supposed by your lordship to think so ? But, as I humbly conceive, propositions, speculative propositions, such as mine are, about which all this stir is made, are to be judged of by their truth or falsehood, and not by the use any one shall make of them; much less by the persons who are supposed to build on them. And therefore it may be justly wondered, since you say it is dangerous, why you never proved or attempted to prove it to be false.
But you complain here again, that I answered not a word to this in the proper place. My lord, if I offended your lordship by passing it by, because I thought there was no argument in it; I hope I have now given you some sort of satisfaction, by showing there is no argument in it, and letting you see, that your consequence here could not be inferred from your antecedent. If
may, I desire you to try it in a syllogism. For, whatever you are pleased to say in another place, my way of certainty by ideas will admit of antecedents and consequents, and of syllogism, as the proper form to try whether the inference be right or no. I shall set down your following words, that the reader may see your lordship's manner of reasoning concerning this matter in its full force and consistency, and try it in a syllogism if he pleases. Your words are:
By this it evidently appears, that although your lordship was willing to allow me all fair ways of
you think it
interpreting my own sense; yet you by no means thought, that my words were wholly misunderstood or misapplied by that author: but rather that he saw into the true consequence of them, as they lie in my book. And what answer do I give to this ? Not a word in the proper place for it.”
You tell me, “you were willing to allow me all fair ways of interpreting my own sense.” If ship had been conscious to yourself, that you had herein meant me any kindness, I think I may presume you would not have minded me here again of a favour, which you had told me of but in the preceding page, and, to make it an obligation, need not have been more than once talked of; unless your lordship thought the obligation was such, that it would hardly be seen, unless I were told of it in words at length, and in more places than one.
For what favour, I beseech you, my lord, is it to allow me to do that which needed not your allowance to be done, and I could have done (if it had been necessary) of myself, without being blamed for taking that liberty ? Whatsoever therefore your meaning was in these words, I cannot think you took this way to make me sensible of your kindness.
Your lordship says, “ you were willing to allow me to interpret my own sense.” What you were willing to allow me to do, I have done. My sense is, that certainty consists in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of ideas; and my sense therein I have interpreted to be the agreement or disagreement, not only of perfectly clear and distinct ideas, but such ideas as we have, whether they be in all their parts perfectly clear and distinct or no. Farther, in answer to your objection, that it might be of dangerous consequence; I so explained my sense, as to show, that certainty in that sense was not, nor could be, of dangerous consequence. This, which was the point in question between us, your lordship might have found at large explained in my second letter, if you had been pleased to have taken notice of it.
But it seems you were more willing to tell me,“ that though you were willing to allow me all ways of