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and it is the first thing ought to be looked into, and strictly examined by our parliaments. It is the leaven that corrupts the whole lump. For if that be true, I am sure monarchy is not to be bounded by human laws; and the 8th chapter of 1 Samuel will prove (as many of our divines would have it) the great charter of the royal prerogative; and our “ Magna Charta ;” that says, “ Our kings may not take our fields, our vineyards, our corn, and our sheep,” is not in force, but void and null; because against divine institution. And you have the riddle out, why the clergy are so ready to take themselves, and to impose upon others, such kind of oaths as these. They have placed themselves and their possessions upon a better and surer bottom (as they think) than “ Magna Charta ;” and so have no more need of, or concern for it. Nay, what is worse, they have trucked away the rights and liberties of the people, in this and all other countries, wherever they have had opportunity; that they might be owned by the prince to be “ jure divino, maintained in that pretension by that absolute power and force they have contributed so much to put into his hands; and that priest and prince may, like Castor and Pollux, be worshipped together as divine, in the same temple, by us poor lay-subjects; and that sense and reason, law, properties, rights, and liberties, shall be understood, as the oracles of those deities shall interpret, or give signification to them; and never be made use of in the world to oppose the absolute and free will of either of them.
Sir, I have no more to say, but beg your pardon for this tedious trouble, and that you will be very careful to whom you communicate any of this.
his son (Gen. xxii.) Not for the avoiding of scandal, not at the instance of any friend, or command of any power upon earth, nor for the maintenance of the lives or liberties either of ourselves or others; nor for the defence of religion ; nor for the preservation of a church or state ; no, nor yet, if that could be imagined possible, for the salvation of a soul, no, not for the redemption of the whole world. Sermon XII. ad Aulam, preached at HamptonCourt, July 26, 1640, on i Cor. x. 23. But all things are not expedient .... But all things edify not." See XXXIV Sermons, &c. by Robert Sanderson, &c. page 522, of the 8th edit. London, 1686, in fol.
UPON SOME OF
MR. NORRIS'S BOOKS,
Wherein he asserts P. Malebranche's Opinion of our seeing
all Things in God.
THERE are some, who think they have given an account of the nature of ideas, by telling us, “ we see them in God” (1), as if we understood, what ideas in the understanding of God are, better than when they are in our own understandings; or their nature were better known, when it is said, that “ the immediate object of our understandings are the divine ideas, the omniform essence of God, partially represented or exhibited” (2). So that this now has made the matter clear, there can be no difficulty left, when we are told that our ideas are the divine ideas; and the “ divine ideas the omniform essence of God.” For what the divine ideas are, we know as plainly, as we know what 1, 2, and 3, is; and it is a satisfactory explication of what our ideas are to tell us, they are no other than the divine ideas; and the divine essence is more familiar, and level to our knowledge, than any thing we think of. Besides, there can be no difficulty
(1) See Cursory Reflections upon a book called, An Essay concerning Human Understanding, written by John Norris, M. A. rector of Newton St. Loe, in Somersetshire, and late fellow of All-Souls' college, in a letter to a friend; printed at the end of his Christian Blessedness, or Discourses upon the Beatitudes of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, page 30. Lond. 1690, in 8vo. (2) Ibid. page 31.
in understanding how the “ divine ideas are God's essence.”
2. I am complained of for not having “ given an account of, or defined the nature of our ideas” (3). By “ giving an account of the nature of ideas," is not meant, that I should make known to men their ideas; for I think nobody can imagine that any articulate sounds of mine, or any body else, can make known to another what his ideas, that is, what his perceptions are, better than what he himself knows and perceives them to be ; which is enough for affirmations, or negations, about them. By the “nature of ideas," there. fore, is meant here their causes and manner of production in the mind, i. e. in what alteration of the mind this perception consists; and as to that, I answer, no man can tell; for which I not only appeal to experience, which were enough, but shall add this reason, viz. because no man can give any account of any alteration made in any simple substance whatsoever; all the alteration we can conceive, being only of the alteration of compounded substances; and that only by a transposition of parts. Our ideas, say these men, are the “ divine ideas, or the omniform essence of God,” which the mind sometimes sees, and sometimes not. Now I ask these men, what alteration is made in the mind upon seeing ? for there lies the difficulty, which occasions the inquiry.
For what difference a man finds in himself, when he sees a marygold, and sees not a marygold, has no diffi. culty, and needs not be inquired after : he has the idea now, which he had not before. The difficulty is, what alteration is made in his mind; what changes that has in itself, when it sees what it did not see before, either the divine idea in the understanding of God, or, as the ignorant think, the marygold in the garden. Either supposition, as to this matter, is all one ; for they are both things extrinsical to the mind, till it has that perception; and when it has it, I desire them to explain to me, what the alteration in the mind is, besides saying,
(3) Cursory Reflections, &c. page 3.
as we vulgar do, it is having a perception, which it had not the moment before ; which is only the difference between perceiving and not perceiving; a difference in matter of fact agreed on all hands; which, wherein it consists, is, for aught I see, unknown to one side as well as the other; only the one have the ingenuity to confess their ignorance; and the other pretend to be knowing.
3. P. Malebranche says, “ God does all things by the simplest and shortest ways,” i. e. as it is interpreted in Mr. Norris's Reason and Religion, “ God never does any thing in vain" (4). This will easily be granted them; but how will they reconcile to this principle of theirs, on which their whole system is built, the curious structure of the eye and ear; not to mention the other parts of the body? For if the perception of colours and sounds depended on nothing but the presence of the object affording an occasional cause to God Almighty to exhibit to the mind the idea of figures, colours, and sounds; all that nice and curious structure of those organs is wholly in vain: since the sun by day, and the stars by night, and the visible objects that surround us, and the beating of a drum, the talk of people, and the change made in the air by thunder; are as much present to a blind and deaf man, as to those who have their eyes and ears in the greatest perfection. He that understands optics ever so little, must needs admire the wonderful make of the eye, not only for the variety and neatness of the parts; but as suited to the nature of refraction, so as to paint the image of the object in the retina; which these men must confess to be all lost labour, if it contributes nothing at all, in the ordinary way of causes and effects, to the producing that idea in the mind. But that only the presence of the object gave occasion to God to show to the mind that idea in
(4) Reason and Religion ; or, the Grounds and Measures of Devotion, considered from the Nature of God, and the Nature of Man. In several Contemplations. With Exercises of Devotion applied to every Contemplation. By John Norris, M. A. and Fellow of All-souls' College in Oxford, Part II. Contemplation II. $ 17. p. 195. Lond. 1689, in 8vo.
himself, which certainly is as present to one that has a gutta serena, as to the quicksightedest man living. But we do not know how, by any natural operation, this
can produce an idea in the mind; and therefore (a good · conclusion !) God, the author of nature, cannot this way produce it. As if it were impossible for the Alinighty to produce any thing, but by ways we must conceive, and are able to comprehend; when he that is best satisfied of his omniscient understanding, and knows so well how God perceives, and man thinks, cannot explain the cohesion of parts in the lowest degree of created beings, unorganised bodies.
4. The perception of universals also proves that all beings are present to our minds; and that can only be by the presence of God, because all “ created things are individuals” (5). Are not all things that exist individuals? If so, then say not, all created, but all existing things are individuals; and if so, then the having any general idea proves not that we have all objects present to our minds. But this is for want of considering wherein universality consists; which is only in representation, abstracting from particulars. An idea of a circle, of an inch diameter, will represent, where, or whensoever existing, all the circles of an inch diameter; and that by abstracting from time and place. And it will also represent all circles of any bigness, by abstracting also from that particular bigness, and by retaining only the relation of equidistance of the circumference from the centre, in all the parts of it.
5. We have a “ distinct idea of God" (6), whereby we clearly enough distinguish him from the creatures; but I fear it would be presumption for us to say, we have a clear idea of him, as he is in himself.
6. The argument, that “ we have the idea of infinite, before the idea of finite, because we conceive infinite being, barely by conceiving being, without considering, whether it be finite or infinite” (7); I shall
(5) Reason and Religion, &c. Part II. Contemp. II. $ 19. p. 197.
(6) Ibid. § 20. p. 198. (7) Ibid. § 21. p. 198.