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perfect universality of consent is destroyed; and if nobody does deny a God, what need of arguments to convince atheists ?
I would crave leave to ask your lordship, were there ever in the world any atheist or no? If there were not, what need is there of raising a question about the being of a God, when nobody questions it? What need of provisional arguments against a fault, from which mankind are so wholly free; and which, by an universal consent, they may be presumed to be secure from ? If you say (as I doubt not but you will) that there have been atheists in the world, then your lordship’s universal consent reduces itself to only a great majority; and then make that majority as great as you will, what I have said in the place quoted by your lordship, leaves it in its full force, and I have not said one word that does in the least invalidate this argument for a God. The argument I was upon there, was to show, that the idea of God was not innate; and to my purpose it was sufficient if there were but a less number found in the world, who had no idea of God, than your lordship will allow there have been of professed atheists: for whatsoever is innate, must be universal in the strictest sense; one exception is a sufficient proof against it. So that all I said, and which was quite to another purpose, did not at all tend, nor can be made use of, to invalidate the argument for a Deity, grounded on such an universal consent as your lordship, and all that build on it, must own, which is only a very disproportioned majority : such an universal consent my argument there neither affirms nor requires to be less than you will be pleased to allow it. Your lordship therefore might, without any prejudice to those declarations of good-will and favour you have for the author of the Essay of Human Understanding, have spared the mentioning his quoting authors that are in print, for matters of fact, to quite another purpose, “as going about to invalidate the argument for a Deity from the universal consent of mankind;" since he leaves that universal consent as entire and as large as you yourself do, or can own, or suppose it. But here I have no reason to be sorry that your lord
ship has given me this occasion for the vindication of this passage of my book, if there should be any one besides your lordship who should so far mistake it, as to think it in the least invalidates the argument for a God, from the universal consent of mankind.
But because you question the credibility of those authors I have quoted, which, you say in the next paragraph, were very ill chosen; I will crave leave to say, that he whom I relied on for his testimony concerning the Hottentots of Soldania, was no less a man than an ambassador from the king of England to the great Mogul: of whose relation, Monsieur Thevenot, no ill judge in the case, had so great an esteem, that he was at the pains to translate it into French, and publish it in his (which is counted no unjudicious) collection of travels. But to intercede with your lordship for a little more favourable allowance of credit to sir Thomas Roe's relation, Coore, an inhabitant of the country, who could speak English, assured Mr. Terry *, that they of Soldania had no God. But if he too have the ill luck to find no credit with you, I hope you will be a little more favourable to a divine of the church of England now living, and admit of his testimony in confirmation of sir Thomas Roe's. This worthy gentleman, in the relation of his voyage to Surat, printed but two years since, speaking of the same people, has these words t: " they are sunk even below idolatry, are destitute of both priest and temple, and, saving a little show of rejoicing, which is made at the full and new moon, have lost all kind of religious devotion. Nature has so richly provided for their convenience in this life, that they have drowned all sense of the God of it, and are grown quite careless of the next.”
But to provide against the clearest evidence of atheism in these people, you say, “that the account given of them makes them not fit to be a standard for the sense of mankind.” This, I think, may pass for nothing, till somebody be found, that makes them to be a standard for the sense of mankind: all the use I made of them
* Terry's Voyage, p. 17 and 23.
+ Mr. Ovington, p. 489.
was to show, that there were men in the world that had no innate idea of a God. But to keep something like an argument going (for what will not that do ?) you go near denying those Cafers to be men : what else do these words signify ? “ a people so strangely bereft of common sense, that they can hardly be reckoned among mankind; as appears by the best accounts of the Cafers of Soldania,” &c. I hope if any of them were called Peter, James, or John, it would be past scruple that they were men; however Courvee, Wewena, and Cousheda, and those others who had names, that had no place in your Nomenclator, would hardly pass muster with your lordship.
My lord, I should not mention this, but that what you yourself say here may be a motive to you to consider, that what you have laid such stress on concerning the general nature of man, as a real being, and the subject of properties, amounts to nothing for the distinguishing of species; since you yourself own that there may be individuals wherein there is a common nature with a particular subsistence proper to each of them : whereby you are so little able to know of which of the ranks or sorts they are into which you say, “God has ordered beings, and which he hath distinguished by essential properties, that you are in doubt whether they ought to be reckoned among mankind or no."
Give me leave now to think, my lord, that I have given an answer to all that is any way material in either of the letters you have honoured me with. If there be any argument, which you think of weight, that you find omitted, upon the least intimation from your lordship where it is, I promise to consider it, and to endeavour to give you satisfaction concerning it, either by owning my conviction, or showing what hinders it. This respect I shall think due from me to your lordship : though I know better to employ the little time my business and health afford me, than to trouble myself with the little cavillers who may either be set on, or be forward (in hope to recommend themselves) to meddle in this controversy.
Before I conclude, it is fit I take notice of the obligation I have to you for the pains you have been at about my Essay, which I conclude could not have been any way so effectually recommended to the world as by your manner of writing against it. And since your lordship’s sharp sight, so carefully employed for its correction, has, as I humbly conceive, found no faults in it, which your lordship's great endeavours this way have made out to be really there; I hope I may presume it will pass the better in the world, and the judgment of all considering men, and make it for the future stand better even in your lordship’s opinion. I beg your lordship’s pardon for this long trouble,
JOHN LOCKE. Oates, May 4, 1698.
FOURTH V O L U M E.
275 Idea, use of the term not dangerous
other words as liable to be
311 Yet it is condemned, both as
they are ideas
140, &c. of it explained and defended
227, &c. How it differs from faith 146
ibid. to scepticism 354, &c.
272 not to be known 468, &c.
275 certainty of them 376
The author's notion of
nature and person defended
383 count of nature, 155, &c.
No need to consult Greek or