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Philalethes “believes I will find human Actions in general can“ not yield a moral Certainty, but an absolute Uncertainty." If this is to be my Misfortune I cannot help it, I have not yet found it to be the Case, thoʻI do not pretend to any uncommon degree of Sagacity. But however that be, the Question is not about the limits of my Understanding, but about an Attribute of God Omniscient; it is not about the Uncertainty and Ignorance which Men labour under, but it is, whether the Deity is involved with any degree of the same Ignorance and Uncertainty. I think he is not, and I have publish'd my Reasons, which Philalethes has not yet answerd Men have no original innate Knowledge, their Ideas are all derived from the sensible properties and modes of Things, beyond the first Impressions of which made on the Senses human Conceptions cannot reach. And hence it comes that our Understandings are enlarged by flow degrees; and we, thro' operose and tedious Application for a number of Years, furnish our Minds with only a small pittance of Knowledge, which is bounded on every side with Darkness and inextricable Maze. But to assert the same Imperfection concerning the Divine Understanding is certainly most wanton, foolish and absurd; for the Supreme Knowledge is not dependant nor derived, but original and necessary; it requires no foundation (like ours) for Deduction, Inference, and Conclufion, nor is it built on Argument, or a connected series of Ideas and Resemblances of distant Things; but (in the Words of a great * Author) “God is “ Omnipresent, who in infinite Space, as it were in his Sensory, sees the “ Things themselves intimately, and throughly perceives them, and com“ prehends them wholly, by their immediate Presence to himself; of “ which Things the Images only, ćarried thro' the Organs of Sense into « our little Senoriums, are there seen and beheld by that which in us “ Perceives and Thinks.” If moral Truth ( which is moral Certainty) were not at all to be attained by Men, it would no less be moral Truth for all that, nor could it from thence be demonitrated not to exist ; for no Argument can be drawn against the reality of any thing from our Ignosance of it. Our prescience of human Actions is wholly built on a narrow acquaintance with Men, and a short remembrance of their Principles, . Dispositions and Motives; all which is the effect of Application and laborious Reasoning: But (as I have observ'd) God, the perfect Being, docs not arrive this way at Knowledge; all Truth is essentially and incessantly present with him, without Train, intervention of Medium , or succession of Ideas ; so that there is no poffibility of his being mistaken, or at a loss about any thing. And tho' moral Truth (or Certainty) may be utterly hid from Men, or, if presumed to be known, may nevertheless be concluded from wrong Principles, and consequently erroneous and not the thing which is pretended ; yet as the fault or defect in such a Case lies not in the thing itself, but arises from the imperfection of human Nature, which is most certainly excluded from the Divine Mind; so absolute Une sertainty is far from being prov'd on such Principles, and a relative Uncertainty is the only thing which can be fairly concluded; which makes nothing at all for that Side which Philalethes has espoused; and therefore to build Arguments on the 5 pont of an abiolute Uncertainty in humao Actions, is plainly begging the Qiellion, and delerves no Aniwer.
+ Sir I. Nitriin, Op. 34+.
As to my Instance of the Man and Precipice, if Philalethes, or a MefJenger comes in to disturb the peaceful Retreat, the Case is alter'd, and not mine, but his; for the Consequences of which I am not answerable. The Case, as I put it, suppos'd an easy, tranquil, disengaegd and joyous Man, with every thing to make Life agreeable and desirous to him; And now behold! Philalethes* makes a violent Inamorato and rath Merchant of this same peaceful Man, kicks his Mistress down Stairs and breaks her Neck, burns his Ship and destroys all his Goods, and then brings him the News that he has neither Miitress nor a Groat in the World. Now where is the Fairness of all this? It is neither Sneer nor Invective to tell Philalethes he ought to have used me in a better manner. But what I think is the weakelt part of all Philalethes's Letter, is the Notion of God's Juftice standing firmer on the supposition of Nonprescience than Prescience. He allows that if it was more probable that an excess of Happiness would follow from the creation of Agents than otherwise, it was fitter and righter (these are his own Words) that those Agents Mould be introduc'd (created) than otherwise ; by which he grants, that an excess of Happiness (thoʻthere should happen much Misery) made the creation of Agents fit and right; and if so, then supposing the Deity certainly foreknew that an excels of Happiness would follow Creation, the rectitude of his Conduct is fully preserv'd, on Philalethes's own Principles. But perhaps he will say, Probability is a better Foundation than Certainty to proceed upon ; if so, let that be shewn. He says, if one Person among Millions of Agents should be Unhappy in consequence of a series of wicked A&tions, fuppofing eternal Prelcience is supposing God design'd this Person Unhappiness; which, he says, is Impious. So that, with this Gentleman, to design the Fitness of Things fall take place, and a wicked Man shall receive the punishment due for his A&tions, is impiously imputed to the Character of a Just Being. I confess this is a manner of Reasoning I have not been used to : I should think there is as much Justice in administring Unhappiness in one Case, as Happiness in another. If the Misery of a wicked and disorderly Person be any how connected with the Happiness of a million of righteous and just Souls, and this be fit and right, Prescience cannot make is unfit and wrong; and if it is unfit and wrong, Nonprescience cannot make it right and ħt; And yet, except Prescience and Nonprescience can alter the nature of Things, I do not see what all this Duit and Confusion tends to. The Instance of a Sword put into a Man's Hand is not at all to the Purpose, cxcept all created Agents may be supposed one Agent, and that one the Devil.
Philaletbest allows whatever is from God is right. But all things are from God, either originally and immediately, or consequentially, and therefore right; and no matter how much moral Evil is partially wrong, it is universally and finally right, as it respects the entire system of things.
Philalethes lays, the present Method of answering Things of this nature is with Sneers and Investives : But how true this Affertion is I leave to the Judg:nent of the Publick: I can however declare, on my part, that I love Decency and good Manners as much as he does, and I hope I deserve no Reflections from him on that account.
As to the Queition in his P. S. ll if he means by it, that if an eternal Truth be an eternal Truth, what makes it ? I answer, Tlic nature of
the * Gent. Mig. Vol. VIII. p. 18). † 13. p. 190. Ib.
the Thing. But if he makes no distinction between an Action and the rutn of that Action, and therefore calls a human Action an eternal
Truth, I must beg the favour of a farther Explanation, and also that he
extant Archetypa, & quæ a nobis pendent, obtrudant Theologi & Metaphyfici Discipulis fuis pro Rebus ipfis, quas fibi perspectiffimas, errore füs delusi, existimant. Verùm aliud agendo, he Distinctiones mera junt au-, rium Ludibria-Artem rixandi quæ tam din in Scholis cötinuit, quæque nihil habet præter inanem Acuminis Oftentationem, prorsus effe viro sapiente indignam fequitur. Itaque bic summi viri exemplo ile poffunt erroris admodum lubrici, qui videtur cum ex insita humano Ingenio Superbiâ, tum ex investigandi, & Judicium interea cobibendi Impatientia, najci. Clerk.
To Mr. Urban.
R. Thompson says (Gent. Mag.*) I have thrown together a heap of but the Reader will find I have fairly consider'd him, and that there is as much Order in my Remarks as in his Text.
When I think him a great admirer of the Thomists, he says, “ I do not “ know that I am.” This Expreslion is evasive, and contains something very singular. He seems a little alham'd of the Seat, yet being a clole Imitator of their empty Subtilties, cannot with a good Grace renounce them.
As to the unsteady use of his Terms, I must repeat, that there is a great Confusion through the Synonomy and Opposition of A&tion, Activity, Performance and Free Choice ; and as the Terms have no establishid Signihcation, or scarce any at all, the Propositions can have no better: “ Physical Necessity is not applicable to Activity or Aäion, but relates “ merely to Effects and Immutability; but moral Necessity properly and “ only belongs to Action or Activity.” Choice is the cause of Activity, Activity the cause of Action; then Choice is call'd Action itself, and requires an active Principle to make it what it is, viz. free Choice. Mag. 1737. P.416. So that free Choice moves constantly in an Orbit, and returns into itself from one single Impulle without decrease of Force, and performs the perpetual Motion. “I exert my Activity in the Performance." Performance seems intended to fill a middle Station betwixt Activity and Action, but Activity and Action are sometimes made the fame, and sometimes Activity is the cause of Action, and Choice is Action itself: So that these Terms bear such a jumblid relation to one another, that 'tis no easy matter to aflign to each of them a distinct and limited sense.
“ I have not said a Man does, but a Man may surely know what Road “ he will take." * This is but Shuffling, for by the words, may certainly know, he means, certainly kneius, or he means nothing, for he is not Speaking of Chance or Contingency, but o. Certainty betwixt the Choice
+ VI. VIII. p.291.
and the A&: But if Choice be Action, and A&tion Effedt, (for he ufes them indifferently) Choice is Catholick [as WARD's Pill and Drop] 'tis all in all.
There is not a more common Mistake than to put the liberty of the Will for the liberty or freedom of Action ; for which reason I made the distinction, and 'twas ap Oversight in not quoting Mr. Lock, as I had done a little before ; for I shall always think myselt secure in his Authority : And if Mr. Thompson had read his Chapter on trifling Propositions, he wou'd not have given us luch as convey nothing to the Understanding. “ M. N. mistakes the Question in debate." * He hopes not. “ It is not “ whether God by his Prescience has determin’d or laid a Necessity on “our Actions, but whether there is really any such thing as Divine Pre“ science of human Actions." This I think no Question at all, with him who hath any Notion of the Divine Attributes, and brings not down the infinite and allseeing Eye of God to the level of his own; for if God fees not Futurities, Events must make a continual addition to the divine, as well as human Knowledge; which is absurd. Neither has this part of the Question been the only thing in debate ; and the Reader will readily see whether Mr. Thompson's last Letter expresly contradicts not his foriner, in which are these words, “ The Question is, whether God's pre!cience “ of human Actions is consistent with human Liberty, or whether Pre“ science and Activity are compatible Ideas." Mag. July 1737. where he speaks largely of Prescience and the freedom of our Actions. I have consider'd the Case, as he and others have, and cannot think he affirms contrary Propolitions through any other reason than the shortness of his Memory.
“ In the Divine Conduct all Things are perfectly right.”+ Who denjes it? But he has formerly suggested, that some Divine Acts were neither, good nor bad, and I wonder where he pick up this piece of Doctrine. * But some Circumstances which attend those Acts
be indifferent." He thought he had spoke too far, and now foftens it by subftituting the. Circumstance for the Act; yet even the indifferency of the Circumstances may be doubted, if we consider them as attending on, or miniftring to the Divine Appointments : But be this as it will, we are not to confound the Act with the Circumstance; so that the Quotations from Clark and Leibnitz do nothing for him; and if he allows the essential Properties of the Divinity, it must be incongruous (if not worse) to fup. pole him the Author of what is not positively good.
“ The Old and New Teltament are almost in every bodies hands, " I did not therefore think it necessary to inform People of what (it is “to be hop'd ) they read every day." # If his Oblervation is jul, our Clergy sufe erogate very much, and do abundance of needless Work. To point out Texts of Scripture for Proof and Explication of the Doctrine deliver'd, is convenient for all, and of abfolute neceflity for those. who cannot read; and for those who can, but have not Judgment or, Leisure to make the Application. “ And this more especially, as the “: ingenious Gentleman, on the other side, had borrow'd no Artillery " from that Quarter." Tho' Mr. Thompson' may put no great Confidence. in the words of Jesus the Son of Sirach, he will not (it is to be hopd) teject the spiritual Authority of the Canonical Books of the Old Testament: The Artillery is from that Quarter, and if the Texts are drawn *16. D. t. 16. G. 16, H, Da
from the pure, clean, wboljome Waters of Life, I think he has said too much, and is not enlightend with a more certain Rule or Record than the Divine Oracles, or Holy Scriptures : The Texts are drawn from a pure Fountain, or they are not; utrum horum mavult accipiat. The New Testament in several places speaks of God's Foreknowledge, Counsel, and Providence ; but as Mr. Thompson (it is to be hopd) has this Book in his Hand, 'tis needless to inform him; and tho' some have called the Holy Scriptures Death, Duf, and Serpent's Meat, we hope better of him.
I formerly writ to clear my own Character, which has been abus'd.” This has been the Case of others, and for much greater Reason, as he very well knows; And whether he has been apply'd to for Aslistance, or þeen Auxiliary in the wrangling Cause of another, which did not in the least concern him, is a Question. He has been requested by W. B. to give Satisfaction in this point, but his Answer ( which may be produc'd) is as evasive as that relating to the Thomists. How the Debate began, was carry'd on, and in what a shameful Discovery it terminated on the Party for whom he was Advocate or Solicited, he is not ignorant, let him declare what he will in the matter, which shou'd not have been mention'd by me, but for the Hint he has given. :
Philalethes has this Expression, G. Mag. V.viii.p.191."Surely God, for cer“ tain Reasons, may decline foreseeing our Actions in the Embryo ; not that “ I infer God has not Prescience, but that he will not foresee our Acti“ons.” This is a wild Hypothesis, and a wild Inference, and I wish he had given his Reasons. We are to suppose an Agreement in the Divine Attributes, and that none of them are Thorten'd, suspended, or excluded by another; but that they all accord, and are always infinite. These Enquiries are out of our reach, and beyond the verge of our Faculties ; we fee but dimly in Things offer'd to our Senses ; what can we see then in
piritual, abitracted Truths, where the Effence and Operations are unknown, and, for any thing we know, the fame? If so, our Propositions and Conclusions concerning them must be identical, and can therefore prove nothing This was the Practice of the School-men, who had. Terms without Ideas, and made Distinctions where they ought not; for Example, speaking of the Knowledge of God, they say he hath a Conditional and Absolute Knowledge, also a Knowledge of fimple Intelligence, and a Knowledge of Vision. They affected to be obscure and subtil, and spun the Thread of Årgument till it broke, or became invisible : And it was a smart Remark when it was said of a certain Person who affected this way of Writing, that * ore of bis Argiments was enough to puzzle all Pofterity.
-A Man indeed may aim at Praise through a profound Obfcurity, and gain his Point with some; but cannot make others believe him able to explain the Mysteries of Religion by the Instrument of Reason; noither ought he to be angry if he is not allow'd to give his decisive Stroke in the arduous Speculations of the Divine Essence. We are not to pry with a curious Temerity, but humbly to acquiesce in the belief of the Infinity of his Attributes, which operate with mutual Consent and, in perfect Harmony. Thus we fall secure ourselves from false Apprehensions of his Nature, which lead to Superstition or Presumption. I
cannot * This Panegyric, for such it was intended by him that myrote it, may give us a very firong and just idea of the abfurd Metbods by whisb the Writers of tbai Age aspired