Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion HTML version

I must own, CLEANTHES, said DEMEA, that nothing can more surprise me, than
the light in which you have all along put this argument. By the whole tenor of your
discourse, one would imagine that you were maintaining the Being of a God,
against the cavils of Atheists and Infidels; and were necessitated to become a
champion for that fundamental principle of all religion. But this, I hope, is not by
any means a question among us. No man, no man at least of common sense, I
am persuaded, ever entertained a serious doubt with regard to a truth so certain
and self-evident. The question is not concerning the being, but the nature of God.
This, I affirm, from the infirmities of human understanding, to be altogether
incomprehensible and unknown to us. The essence of that supreme Mind, his
attributes, the manner of his existence, the very nature of his duration; these, and
every particular which regards so divine a Being, are mysterious to men. Finite,
weak, and blind creatures, we ought to humble ourselves in his august presence;
and, conscious of our frailties, adore in silence his infinite perfections, which eye
hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to
conceive. They are covered in a deep cloud from human curiosity. It is
profaneness to attempt penetrating through these sacred obscurities. And, next
to the impiety of denying his existence, is the temerity of prying into his nature
and essence, decrees and attributes.
But lest you should think that my piety has here got the better of my philosophy, I
shall support my opinion, if it needs any support, by a very great authority. I might
cite all the divines, almost, from the foundation of Christianity, who have ever
treated of this or any other theological subject: But I shall confine myself, at
present, to one equally celebrated for piety and philosophy. It is Father
MALEBRANCHE, who, I remember, thus expresses himself [Recherche de la
Verite. Liv. 3. Chap.9]. "One ought not so much," says he, "to call God a spirit, in
order to express positively what he is, as in order to signify that he is not matter.
He is a Being infinitely perfect: Of this we cannot doubt. But in the same manner
as we ought not to imagine, even supposing him corporeal, that he is clothed
with a human body, as the ANTHROPOMORPHITES asserted, under colour that
that figure was the most perfect of any; so, neither ought we to imagine that the
spirit of God has human ideas, or bears any resemblance to our spirit, under
colour that we know nothing more perfect than a human mind. We ought rather to
believe, that as he comprehends the perfections of matter without being
material.... he comprehends also the perfections of created spirits without being
spirit, in the manner we conceive spirit: That his true name is, He that is; or, in
other words, Being without restriction, All Being, the Being infinite and universal."
After so great an authority, DEMEA, replied PHILO, as that which you have
produced, and a thousand more which you might produce, it would appear
ridiculous in me to add my sentiment, or express my approbation of your
doctrine. But surely, where reasonable men treat these subjects, the question