An Antidote Against Atheism/Book I/Chapter X
1. Several other Affections or Properties in the Soul of Man that argue the Being of God. 2. As Natural Conscience. 3. A pious Hope or Confidence of success in affairs upon dealing righteously with the World. 4. An Answer to an objection, That some men are quite devoid of these Divine senses. 5. That the Universality of Religious Worship argues the Knowledge of the Existence of God to be from the Light of Nature. 6. An Answer to an objection, viz. That this general acknowledgment of a God amongst the Nations may be but an Universal Tradition. 7. Another objection answered, viz. That what is universally received by all Nations may notwithstanding be false. 8. An objection taken from the general falsness and perversness of the Religions of the Nations. The first Answer thereto by way of Apologie. 9. The second Answer, supposing the Religions of the Nations as depraved as you please. 10. A further objection from the long continuance of those false Religions, and the hopelesness of ever getting out of them, with a brief Answer thereto.
1.Hitherto we have argued for the Existency of the Godhead from the natural Idea of God, inseparably and immutably residing in the Soul of Man. There are also other Arguments may be drawn from what we may observe to stick very close to mans Nature; and such is Natural remorse of Conscience, and a fear and disturbance from the committing of such things as notwithstanding are not punishable by men; as also a Natural hope of being prosperous and successfull in doing those things which are conceived by us to be good and righteous; and lastly, Religious Veneration, or Divine worship: all which are fruits unforcedly and easily growing out of the Nature of man; and if we rightly know the meaning of them, they all intimate That there is a God.2. And first, of Natural Conscience it is plain, that it is a Fear and Confusion of Minde arising from the presage of some mischief that may befall a man beside the ordinary course of Nature, or the usuall occurrences of affairs, because he has done thus or thus. Not that what is supernatural or absolutely extraordinary must needs fall upon him, but that at least the ordinary calamities and misfortunes which are in the world will be directed and levelled at him some time or other, because he hath done this or that Evil against his Conscience. And men do naturally in some heavy Adversity, mighty Tempest on the Sea, or dreadfull Thunder on the Land (though these be but from Natural Causes) reflect Upon themselves and their actions, and so are invaded with fear, or are unterrified, accordingly as they condemn or acquit themselves in their own Consciences. And from this supposal is that magnificent Expression of the Poet concerning the Just man,
3. It is also very natural for a man that follows honestly the dictates of his own Conscience, to be full of good Hopes, and much at ease, and secure that all things at home and abroad will go successfully with him, though his actions or sincere motions of his Minde act nothing upon Nature or the course of the world to change them any way: wherefore it implies that there is a Superintendent Principle over Nature and the material frame of the world, that looks to it so, that nothing shall come to pass but what is consistent with the good and welfare of honest and conscientious men. And if it does not happen to them according to their expectations in this world, it does naturally bring in a belief of a world to come.
4. Nor does it at all enervate the strength of this Argument, that some men have lost the sense and difference betwixt Good and Evil, if there be any so fully degenerate; but let us suppose it, this is a monster, and, I suspect, of his own making. But this is no more prejudice to what I aim at, who argue from the Natural constitution of a Man the Existency of a God, then if, because Democritus put out his Eyes, some are born blind, others drink out their Eyes and cannot see, that therefore you should conclude that there is neither Light nor Colours: for if there were then every one would see them; but Democritus and some others do not see them. But the reason is plain, there hath been force done to their Natural Faculties, and they have put Out their Sight.
Wherefore I conclude from natural Conscience in a man, that puts him upon Hope and Fear of Good and Evil from what he does or omits, though those actions and omissions doe nothing to the change of the course of Nature or the affairs of the world, that there is an Intelligent Principle over universall Nature that takes notice of the Actions of men, that is, that there is a God; for else this Natural Faculty would be false and vain.
5. Now for Adoration or Religious Worship, it is as universall as mankind, there being no Nation under the cope of Heaven that does not doe Divine worship to something or other, and in it to God, as they conceive; wherefore according to the ordinary natural light that is in all men, there is a God.
6. Nor can the force of this Argument be avoided, by saying it is but an universall Tradition that has been time out of minde spred among the Nations of the world; For if it were so (which yet cannot at all be proved) in that it is universally received, it is manifest that it is according to the light of Nature to acknowledge there is a God; for that which all men admit as true, though upon the proposall of another, is undoubtedly to be termed true according to the light of Nature. As many hundreds of Geometrical Demonstrations, that were first the inventions of some one man, have passed undeniable through all Ages and places for true according to the light of Nature, with them that were but Learners, not Inventors of them. And it is sufficient to make a thing true according to the light of Nature, that no man upon a perception of what is propounded and the reasons of it (if it be not clear at the first sight, and need reasons to back it) will ever stick to acknowledge it for a Truth. And therefore if there were any Nations that were destitute of the knowledge of a God, as they may be, it is likely, of the Rudiments of Geometry; so long as they will admit of the knowledge of one as well as of the other, upon due and fit proposal, the acknowledgement of God is as well to be said to be according to the light of Nature, as the knowledge of Geometry which they thus receive.
7. But if it be here objected, That a thing may be universally received of all Nations, and yet be so farre from being true according to the light of Nature,that it is not true at all, as for example, that the Sun moves about the Earth, and that the Earth stands still as the fixed Center of the world, which the best of Astronomers & the profoundest of Philosophers pronounce to be false; I answer, that in some sense it does stand still, if you understand by motion the translation of a Body out of the vicinity of other Bodies. But suppose it did not stand still, this comes not home to our Case; for this is but the just victory of Reason over the generall prejudice of Sense; and every one will acknowledge that Reason may correct the Impresses of Sense, otherwise we should, with **See Lucret. de Natura Rerū, li. 5. and Diog. Laert. Vitā Epicur. Epicurius, and Lucretius, admit the Sun and Moon to be no wider then a Sieve, and the bodies of the Stars to be no bigger then the ordinary flame of a Candle. Therefore you see here is a dashing of the Faculties one against another, and the stronger carries it. But there is no Faculty that can be pretended to clash with the judgment of reason and naturall Sagacity, that so easily either concludes or presages that there is a God: wherefore that may well goe for a Truth according to the light of Nature that is universally receiv'd of men, be it by what Faculty it will they receive it, no other Faculty appearing that can evidence to the contrary. And such is the universall acknowledgement that there it a God.
8. Nor is it much more material to reply, That though there be indeed a Religious Worship exercised in all Nations upon the face of the Earth, yet they worship many of them stocks and stones, or some particular piece of Nature, the Sun, Moon, or Stars. For I answer that, first, it is very hard to prove that they worship any Image or Statue without reference to some Spirit at least, if not to the Omnipotent God. So that we shall hence at least win thus much, That there are in the Universe some more subtile and Immaterial Substances that take notice of the affairs of men; and this is as ill to a slow Atheist as to believe that there is a God.And for that Adoration some of them doe to the Sun and Moon, I cannot believe they doe it to them under the notion of mere Inanimate Bodies, but they take them to be the habitation of some Intellectual Beings, as the verse does plainly intimate to us, The Sun that hears and sees all things: and this is very near the true Notion of a God.
9. But be this universal Religious Worship what it will, as absurd as you please to fancy it, yet it will not fail to reach very far for the proving of a Deity'. For there are no natural Faculties in things that have not their Object in the world; as there is meat as well as mouths, sounds as well as hearing, colours as well as sight, dangers as well as fear, and the like. So there ought in like manner to be a God as well as a natural propension in men to Religious Worship, God alone being the proper Object thereof.
Nor does it abate the strength of the Argument, that this so deeply-radicated Property of Religion in man that cannot be lost, does so ineptly and ridiculously display it self in Mankind.
For as the plying of a Dog's feet in his sleep, as if there were some game before him, and the butting of a young Lamb before he has yet either horns or enemies to encounter, would not be in nature, were there not such a thing as a Hare to be coursed, or an horned Enemy to be encountred with horns: so there would not be so universal an exercise of Religious Worship in the world, though it be done never so ineptly and foolishly, were there not really a due Object, of this Worship, and a capacity in Man for the right performance thereof; which could not be unless there were a God. But the truth is, Man's Soul, in this drunken drowzy condition she is in, has fallen asleep in the Body, and like one in a dream talks to the bed-posts, embraces her pillow in stead of her friend, falls down before Statues in stead of adoring the Eternal and Invisible God, prayes to stocks and stones in stead of speaking to him that by his Word created all things.
10. I but you will reply, that a young Lamb has at length both his weapon and Enemy to encounter, and the dreaming Dog did once and may again pursue some real game; and so he that talks in his sleep did once confer with men awake, and may doe so once again: but whole Nations for many successions of Ages have been very stupid Idolaters, and do so continue to this day. But I answer, that this rather informs us of another great Mystery, then at all enervates the present Argument, or obscures the grand Truth we strive for. For this does plainly insinuate thus much, That Mankind is in a laps'd condition, like one fallen down in the fit of an Epilepsie, whose limbs by force of the convulsion are moved very incomposedly and ilfavour'dly; but we know that he that does for the present move the members of his body so rudely and fortuitously, did before command the use of his Muscles in a decent exercise of his progressive faculty, and that when the fit is over he will doe so again.
This therefore rather implies that these poor barbarous Souls had once the true knowledge of God, and of his Worship, and by some hidden Providence may be recover'd into it again, then that this propension to Religious Worship, that so conspicuously appears in them, should be utterly in vain: as it would be both in them and in all men else, if there were no God.