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By Sir RICHARD BLACK MORE, Knt. M.D. AND Fellow OF THE COLLEGE OF PHYSICIANS
“ Principio cælum, ac terras campósque liquentes,
P R & F A C E.
T has been the opinion of many persons of great
sense and learning, that the knowledge of a God, as well as some other felf-evident and uncontested notions, is born with us, and exists antecedent to any perception or operation of the mind. They exprefs themfelves on this subject in metaphorical terms, altogether unbecoming philosophical and judicious enquiries, while they assert, that the knowledge of a God is interwoven with our conflitution, that it is written, engraven, stampt, and imprinted in clear and discernible characters on the heart; in which manner of speech they affect to follow the great orator of the Romans.
By these unartful phrases they can mcan nothing but this, that the propofition, THERE IS A God, is actually existent in the mind, as soon as the mind has its being; and is not at first acquired, thougb it may be afecrwards confirmed, by any act of reason, by any argument or demonstration. I must confefs my inability to conceive this inbred knowledge, these original independent ideas, that owe not their being to the operation of the understanding, but are, I know not how, congenite and co-exiltent with it.
For how a man can be said to have knowtedge before he knows, how ideas can exist in the mind without and before perception, I must own is too difficult for me to comprehend. That a man is horn witla a faculty or capacity to know, though as yet without any actual knowledge ; and that, as the eye has a native disposition and aptitude to perceive the light, when fitly offered, though as yet it never exercised
act of vision, and had no innate images in the womb; se the mind is endued with a power and faculty to know and perceive the truth of this propofition, THERE IS A GOD, as soon as it shall be represented to it; all this is clear and intelligible; but any thing more is, as I have faid, above my reach. In this opinion, which I had many years ago entertained, I was afterwards confirmed by the famous author of the Essay of Human Understanding. Nor can I see, that by this doctrine the argument for the existence of a Deity, drawn frein the general affent of all nations (excepting perhaps some few, who are so barbarous that they approach very near the condition of brute animals), is at all invalidatedl. For fupposing there is no inbred knowledge of a God ; yet if mankind generally aflent to it, whether their belief proceeds from their refletion on themselves, or on the visible creation about them, it will be certainly true, that the existence of a Dcity carries with it the clearest and niost uncontrolable evidence; since mankind so readily and so universally pera ceive and embrace it. It deserves consideration, that St. Paul upon this argument does not appeal to
the light within, or to any characters of the Divine Being originally engraven on the heart, but deduces the cause from the effect, and from the creation infers the Creator.
It is very probable that those who believe an innate idea of a Divine Being, unproduced by any operation of the mind, were led by this to another opinion, namely, that there never was in the world a real Atheist in belief and speculation, how many soever there may have been in life and practice. But, upon due examination, this opinion, I imagine, will not abide the tesli which I shall endeavour to make evident.
But, before I enter upon this subject, it seems proper to take notice of the apology, which several perfons of great learning and candour have made for
famous men, and great philosophers, unjustly accused of impiety.
Whoever shall set about to mend the world, and reform men's notions, as well as their manners, will certainly be the mark of much scandal and reproach ; and will effectually be convinced, that it is too poisible the greatest lovers and benefactors of mankind may be represented by the multitude, whose opinions they contradict, as the worst of men. The liardy undertakers, who express their zeal to rectify the sentiments of a prejurliced people in matters of religion, who labour to stemn the tide of popular error, ånd strike at the foundations of any ancient, established fuperftition, must themselves expect to be treatect as pragmatical and infolent innovators, disturiers of the public peace,