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For how a man can be said to have knowledge 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 born with 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 ficly offered, though as yet it never exercised any act of vision, and had no innate images in the woml); fo the mind is endued with a power and faculty to know and perceive the truth of this propojition, 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 said, above way 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 fee, that by this do&trine the argument for the existence of a Deity, drawn from 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 invalidated. For fupposing there is no inbred knowledge of a God; yet if mankind generally atient to it, whether their belief proceeds from their reflection on themselves, or on the visible creation about them, it will be certainly true, that the existence of a Deity carries with it the clearest and most uncontrolable evicence; since mankind fo readily and so universally perceive 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 Buing 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 Divinc 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 foever there may have been in life and practice. But, upon due examination, this opinion, I imagine, will not abide the tesi, 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 persons of great learning and candour have made for many famous men, and great philosophers, unjusly accused of impiety.

Whoever shall set about to mend the world, and rer form men’s notions, as well as their manners, will.certainly be the mark of much scandal and reproach; and will eftectually be convinced, that it is too possible the greatest lovers and benefactors of mankind may be represented by the multitude, whofe opinions. they contradict, as the worst of men. The hardy undertakers, who express their zeal to rectify the sentiments of a prejudiced people in matters of religion; who'labour to ftem the tide of popular error, and Nrike -at. the foundations of any ancient, cftablished. fuperftition, must themselves expect to be treated as pragmatical anel infolent innovators, disturbers of the public peace,

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all ages

and the great enemies of religion. The observation of

confirms this truth; and, if any man who is doubtsul of it would try the experiment, I make no question he will very soon be thoroughly convinced.

It is no wonder, therefore, that Anaxagoras, thougla he was the first philosopher who plainly asserted an Eternal Mind by whose power the world was made, for opposing the public worship at Athens, whose refined wits were plunged in the most fenseless idolatry, and particularly for denying the divinity of the Sun, Mould be condemned for irreligion, and treason against the Gods; and be heavily fined and banished the city. It is no wonder, after so sharp a persecution of this zealous reformer, that Socrates, the next successor but one to Anaxagoras, and the last of the Ionie school, for opposing their scandalous rabble of deitics, and affert, ing one Divine Being, should be condemned for Atheism, and put to death, by blind fuperftition and implacable bigotry.

Some have been condemned by their antagonists for impiety, who maintain positions, which those from whoun they dillent imagine have a tendency to the difbelief of a Deity, But this is a manifest violation of justice, as well as candour, to impute to any man the reinote confequences of his opinion, which he himSelf disclaims and detests, and wlio, if he saw the .connexion of liis principles with such conclusions, would readily renounce thein. No man can be reafonably charged with more opinions than he owns; and if this justice were observed in polemical discourses,

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as well of theology as philofophy, many persons 'had escaped those hard names, and terrible censures, which their angry antagonists have thought fit to fix upen them. No one therefore is to be reputed an Atheist, or an enemy to religion, upon the account of any erroneous opinion, from which another may by a long chain of sequels draw that conclusion; much less fot holding any doctrines in philosophy, which the common people are not able to examine or comprehend, who, when they meddle with speculations, of which they are unqualified to judge, will be as apt to cenfure a philosopher for an Atheift, as an astronomer for a magician.

I would fain too in this place make fome apology for the great numbers of loose and vicious men, who laugh at religion, and seem in their conversation to disclaim the belief of a Deity. I do not mean an apology for their practice, but their opinion. I hope these unhappy persons, at least the greateft part, who have given up the reins to their pafsions and exorbitant appetites, are, rather than Atheists, a carclefs and ftupid sort of creatures, who, either out of a fupine temper, or for fear of being disturbed with remorse in their unwarrantable enjoyments, never "soberly consider with themselves, or exercise their reafon on things of the highest importance. These persons never examine the arguinepts that enforce the belief of a Deity, and the obligations of religion : but take the word of their ingenious friends, or fome atheistical pretender to philo sophy, who alsures them there is no God, and thcré



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fore no religion. And notwithstanding all Atheists have leave given them by their principles to become libertines, yet it is not true that all libertines are Atheists. Some plainly allert their belief of a God; and others, who deny his existence, yet do not deny it upon any principles, any scheme of philofophy which they have framed, and by which they account for the existence and duration of the world, in the beautiful order in which we see it, without the aid of a Divine Eternal Mind.

But there are two sorts of men, who without injustice have been called Atheisis; those who frankly and in plain terms have denied the being of a God; and those who, though they asserted his being, denied those attributes and perfections, which the idea of a God includes; and so, while they, acknowledged the name, subverted the thing. These are as real Atheists as the former, but less fincere. If any man should de- : ciare he believes a Deity, but affirms that this Deity is of human shape, and not eternal ; that he derives his being from the fortuitous concourse and complication of atoms; or, though he allowed him to be eternal, should maintain, that he dhewed no wisdom, design, or prudence, in the formation, and no care or providence in government,

of the world ; that he never reflects on any thing exterior to his own being, nor interests himfelf in human affairs; does not know, or does not attend to, any of our actions : such a person is, indeed, and in effect, as much an Atheist as the foriner. For though he owns the appellation, yet his defeription is a



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