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propositions, not allowed to be innate, equally partake in with them:

and since the assent that is given them is produced another way, and

comes not from natural inscription, as I doubt not but to make appear in

the following Discourse. And if THESE "first principles" of knowledge and science are found not to be innate, no OTHER speculative maxims can

(I suppose), with better right pretend to be so.



1. No moral Principles so clear and so generally received as the

forementioned speculative Maxims.

If those speculative Maxims, whereof we discoursed in the foregoing

chapter, have not an actual universal assent from all mankind, as we

there proved, it is much more visible concerning PRACTICAL Principles,

that they come short of an universal reception: and I think it wil be

hard to instance any one moral rule which can pretend to so general and

ready an assent as, "What is, is"; or to be so manifest a truth as this, that "It is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be." Whereby it is evident that they are further removed from a title to be innate;

and the doubt of their being native impressions on the mind is stronger

against those moral principles than the other. Not that it brings their

truth at al in question. They are equally true, though not equally

evident. Those speculative maxims carry their own evidence with them:

but moral principles require reasoning and discourse, and some exercise

of the mind, to discover the certainty of their truth. They lie not open

as natural characters engraved on the mind; which, if any such were,

they must needs be visible by themselves, and by their own light be

certain and known to everybody. But this is no derogation to their truth

and certainty; no more than it is to the truth or certainty of the three

angles of a triangle being equal to two right ones because it is not so

evident as "the whole is bigger than a part," nor so apt to be assented to at first hearing. It may suffice that these moral rules are capable

of demonstration: and therefore it is our own faults if we come not to

a certain knowledge of them. But the ignorance wherein many men are of

them, and the slowness of assent wherewith others receive them, are

manifest proofs that they are not innate, and such as offer themselves

to their view without searching.

2. Faith and Justice not owned as Principles by al Men.

Whether there be any such moral principles, wherein all men do agree, I

appeal to any who have been but moderately conversant in the history of

mankind, and looked abroad beyond the smoke of their own chimneys. Where

is that practical truth that is universally received, without doubt or

question, as it must be if innate? JUSTICE, and keeping of contracts,

is that which most men seem to agree in. This is a principle which is

thought to extend itself to the dens of thieves, and the confederacies

of the greatest villains; and they who have gone furthest towards the

putting off of humanity itself, keep faith and rules of justice one with

another. I grant that outlaws themselves do this one amongst another:

but it is without receiving these as the innate laws of nature. They

practise them as rules of convenience within their own communities: but

it is impossible to conceive that he embraces justice as a practical

principle who acts fairly with his fellow-highwayman, and at the same

time plunders or kil s the next honest man he meets with Justice and

truth are the common ties of society; and therefore even outlaws and

robbers, who break with all the world besides, must keep faith and rules

of equity amongst themselves; or else they cannot hold together. But

will any one say, that those that live by fraud or rapine have innate

principles of truth and justice which they al ow and assent to?

3. Objection: though Men deny them in their Practice, yet they admit

them in their Thoughts answered.

Perhaps it will be urged, that the tacit assent of their minds agrees to

what their practice contradicts. I answer, first, I have always thought

the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts. But,

since it is certain that most men's practices, and some men's open

professions, have either questioned or denied these principles, it is

impossible to establish an universal consent, (though we should look for

it only amongst grown men,) without which it is impossible to conclude

them innate. Secondly, it is very strange and unreasonable to suppose

innate practical principles, that terminate only in contemplation.

Practical principles, derived from nature, are there for operation, and

must produce conformity of action, not barely speculative assent to

their truth, or else they are in vain distinguished from speculative

maxims. Nature, I confess, has put into man a desire of happiness and an

aversion to misery: these indeed are innate practical principles which

(as practical principles ought) DO continue constantly to operate and

influence al our actions without ceasing: these may be observed in all

persons and all ages, steady and universal; but these are INCLINATIONS

OF THE APPETITE to good, not impressions of truth on the understanding.

I deny not that there are natural tendencies imprinted on the minds of

men; and that from the very first instances of sense and perception,

there are some things that are grateful and others unwelcome to them;

some things that they incline to and others that they fly: but this

makes nothing for innate characters on the mind, which are to be

the principles of knowledge regulating our practice. Such natural

impressions on the understanding are so far from being confirmed hereby,

that this is an argument against them; since, if there were certain

characters imprinted by nature on the understanding, as the principles

of knowledge, we could not but perceive them constantly operate in us

and influence our knowledge, as we do those others on the will and

appetite; which never cease to be the constant springs and motives of

al our actions, to which we perpetually feel them strongly impelling


4. Moral Rules need a Proof, ERGO not innate.

Another reason that makes me doubt of any innate practical principles


MAN MAY NOT JUSTLY DEMAND A REASON: which would be perfectly ridiculous

and absurd if they were innate; or so much as self-evident, which every

innate principle must needs be, and not need any proof to ascertain its

truth, nor want any reason to gain it approbation. He would be thought

void of common sense who asked on the one side, or on the other side

went to give a reason WHY "it is impossible for the same thing to be and not to be." It carries its own light and evidence with it, and needs no other proof: he that understands the terms assents to it for its own

sake or else nothing will ever be able to prevail with him to do it. But

should that most unshaken rule of morality and foundation of all social

virtue, "That should do as he would be done unto," be proposed to one who never heard of it before, but yet is of capacity to understand its

meaning; might he not without any absurdity ask a reason why? And were

not he that proposed it bound to make out the truth and reasonableness

of it to him? Which plainly shows it not to be innate; for if it were it

could neither want nor receive any proof; but must needs (at least

as soon as heard and understood) be received and assented to as an

unquestionable truth, which a man can by no means doubt of. So that

the truth of al these moral rules plainly depends upon some other

antecedent to them, and from which they must be DEDUCED; which could not

be if either they were innate or so much as self-evident.

5. Instance in keeping Compacts

That men should keep their compacts is certainly a great and undeniable

rule in morality. But yet, if a Christian, who has the view of happiness

and misery in another life, be asked why a man must keep his word, he

will give this as a reason:--Because God, who has the power of eternal

life and death, requires it of us. But if a Hobbist be asked why? he

will answer:--Because the public requires it, and the Leviathan wil

punish you if you do not. And if one of the old philosophers had been

asked, he would have answered:--Because it was dishonest, below the

dignity of a man, and opposite to virtue, the highest perfection of

human nature, to do otherwise.

6. Virtue generally approved not because innate, but because profitable.

Hence naturally flows the great variety of opinions concerning moral

rules which are to be found among men, according to the different sorts

of happiness they have a prospect of, or propose to themselves; which

could not be if practical principles were innate, and imprinted in our

minds immediately by the hand of God. I grant the existence of God is

so many ways manifest, and the obedience we owe him so congruous to the

light of reason, that a great part of mankind give testimony to the law

of nature: but yet I think it must be al owed that several moral rules

may receive from mankind a very general approbation, without either

knowing or admitting the true ground of morality; which can only be the

will and law of a God, who sees men in the dark, has in his hand rewards

and punishments, and power enough to cal to account the proudest

offender. For, God having, by an inseparable connexion, joined virtue

and public happiness together, and made the practice thereof necessary

to the preservation of society, and visibly beneficial to all with whom

the virtuous man has to do; it is no wonder that every one should not

only allow, but recommend and magnify those rules to others, from whose

observance of them he is sure to reap advantage to himself. He may, out

of interest as wel as conviction, cry up that for sacred, which, if

once trampled on and profaned, he himself cannot be safe nor secure.

This, though it takes nothing from the moral and eternal obligation

which these rules evidently have, yet it shows that the outward

acknowledgment men pay to them in their words proves not that they are

innate principles: nay, it proves not so much as that men assent to

them inwardly in their own minds, as the inviolable rules of their own

practice; since we find that self-interest, and the conveniences of this

life, make many men own an outward profession and approbation of them,

whose actions sufficiently prove that they very little consider the

Lawgiver that prescribed these rules; nor the hel that he has ordained

for the punishment of those that transgress them.

7. Men's actions convince us, that the Rule of Virtue is not their

internal Principle.

For, if we will not in civility alow too much sincerity to the

professions of most men, but think their actions to be the interpreters

of their thoughts, we shall find that they have no such internal

veneration for these rules, nor so full a persuasion of their certainty

and obligation. The great principle of morality, 'To do as one would be

done to,' is more commended than practised. But the breach of this rule

cannot be a greater vice, than to teach others, that it is no moral

rule, nor obligatory, would be thought madness, and contrary to that

interest men sacrifice to, when they break it themselves. Perhaps

CONSCIENCE wil be urged as checking us for such breaches, and so the

internal obligation and establishment of the rule be preserved.

8. Conscience no Proof of any innate Moral Rule.

To which I answer, that I doubt not but, without being written on their

hearts, many men may, by the same way that they come to the knowledge of

other things, come to assent to several moral rules, and be convinced

of their obligation. Others also may come to be of the same mind,

from their education, company, and customs of their country; which

persuasion, however got, wil serve to set conscience on work; which is

nothing else but our own opinion or judgment of the moral rectitude

or gravity of our own actions; and if conscience be a proof of innate

principles, contraries may be innate principles; since some men with the

same bent of conscience prosecute what others avoid.

9. Instances of Enormities practised without Remorse.

But I cannot see how any men should ever transgress those moral rules,

with confidence and serenity, were they innate, and stamped upon

their minds. View but an army at the sacking of a town, and see what

observation or sense of moral principles, or what touch of conscience

for al the outrages they do. Robberies, murders, rapes, are the sports

of men set at liberty from punishment and censure. Have there not been

whole nations, and those of the most civilized people, amongst whom the

exposing their children, and leaving them in the fields to perish by

want or wild beasts has been the practice; as little condemned or

scrupled as the begetting them? Do they not still, in some countries,

put them into the same graves with their mothers, if they die in

childbirth; or despatch them, if a pretended astrologer declares them to

have unhappy stars? And are there not places where, at a certain age,

they kil or expose their parents, without any remorse at all? In a part

of Asia, the sick, when their case comes to be thought desperate, are

carried out and laid on the earth before they are dead; and left there,

exposed to wind and weather, to perish without assistance or pity. It

is familiar among the Mingrelians, a people professing Christianity, to

bury their children alive without scruple. There are places where they

eat their own children. The Caribbees were wont to geld their children,

on purpose to fat and eat them. And Garcilasso de la Vega tel s us of a

people in Peru which were wont to fat and eat the children they got on

their female captives, whom they kept as concubines for that purpose,

and when they were past breeding, the mothers themselves were kil ed too

and eaten. The virtues whereby the Tououpinambos believed they merited

paradise, were revenge, and eating abundance of their enemies. They have

not so much as a name for God, and have no religion, no worship. The

saints who are canonized amongst the Turks, lead lives which one cannot

with modesty relate. A remarkable passage to this purpose, out of the

voyage of Baumgarten, which is a book not every day to be met with, I

shall set down at large, in the language it is published in.

Ibi (sc. prope Belbes in Aegypto) vidimus sanctum unum Saracenicum inter

arenarum cumulos, ita ut ex utero matris prodiit nudum sedentem. Mos

est, ut didicimus, Mahometistis, ut eos, qui amentes et sine ratione

sunt, pro sanctis colant et venerentur. Insuper et eos, qui cum diu

vitam egerint inquinatissimam, voluntariam demum poenitentiam et

paupertatem, sanctitate venerandos deputant. Ejusmodi vero genus hominum

libertatem quandam effrenem habent, domos quos volunt intrandi, edendi,

bibendi, et quod majus est, concumbendi; ex quo concubitu, si proles

secuta fuerit, sancta similiter habetur. His ergo hominibus dum vivunt,

magnos exhibent honores; mortuis vero vel templa vel monumenta extruunt

amplissima, eosque contingere ac sepelire maximae fortunae ducunt loco.

Audivimus haec dicta et dicenda per interpretem a Mucrelo nostro.

Insuper sanctum ilium, quern eo loco vidimus, publicitus apprime

commendari, eum esse hominem sanctum, divinum ac integritate praecipuum;

eo quod, nec faminarum unquam esset, nec puerorum, sed tantummodo

asellarum concubitor atque mularum. (Peregr. Baumgarten, 1. i . c. i. p.


Where then are those innate principles of justice, piety, gratitude,

equity, chastity? Or where is that universal consent that assures us

there are such inbred rules? Murders in duels, when fashion has made

them honourable, are committed without remorse of conscience: nay, in

many places innocence in this case is the greatest ignominy. And if we

look abroad to take a view of men as they are, we shall find that they

have remorse, in one place, for doing or omitting that which others, in

another place, think they merit by.

10. Men have contrary practical Principles.

He that wil carefully peruse the history of mankind, and look abroad

into the several tribes of men, and with indifferency survey their

actions, wil be able to satisfy himself, that there is scarce that

principle of morality to be named, or, rule of virtue to be thought

on, (those only excepted that are absolutely necessary to hold society

together, which commonly too are neglected betwixt distinct societies,)

which is not, somewhere or other, slighted and condemned by the general

fashion of whole societies of men, governed by practical opinions and

rules of living quite opposite to others.

11. Whole Nations reject several Moral Rules.

Here perhaps it wil be objected, that it is no argument that the rule

is not known, because it is broken. I grant the objection good where

men, though they transgress, yet disown not the law; where fear of

shame, censure, or punishment, carries the mark of some awe it has upon

them. But it is impossible to conceive that a whole nation of men should

al publicly reject and renounce what every one of them certainly and

infallibly knew to be a law; for so they must who have it naturally

imprinted on their minds. It is possible men may sometimes own rules of

morality which in their private thoughts they do not believe to be true,

only to keep themselves in reputation and esteem amongst those who are

persuaded of their obligation. But it is not to be imagined that a whole

society of men should publicly and professedly disown and cast off a

rule which they could not in their own minds but be infallibly certain

was a law; nor be ignorant that all men they should have to do with

knew it to be such: and therefore must every one of them apprehend from

others all the contempt and abhorrence due to one who professes himself

void of humanity: and one who, confounding the known and natural

measures of right and wrong, cannot but be looked on as the professed

enemy of their peace and happiness. Whatever practical principle is

innate, cannot but be known to every one to be just and good. It is

therefore little less than a contradiction to suppose, that whole

nations of men should, both in their professions and practice,

unanimously and universally give the lie to what, by the most invincible

evidence, every one of them knew to be true, right, and good. This

is enough to satisfy us that no practical rule which is anywhere

universally, and with public approbation or allowance, transgressed,

can be supposed innate.--But I have something further to add in answer

to this objection.

12. The generally alowed breach of a rule proof that it is not innate.

The breaking of a rule, say you, is no argument that it is unknown. I

grant it: but the GENERALLY ALLOWED breach of it anywhere, I say, is

a proof that it is not innate. For example: let us take any of these

rules, which, being the most obvious deductions of human reason, and

conformable to the natural inclination of the greatest part of men,

fewest people have had the impudence to deny or inconsideration to doubt

of. If any can be thought to be natural y imprinted, none, I think, can

have a fairer pretence to be innate than this: "Parents, preserve and

cherish your children." When, therefore, you say that this is an innate rule, what do you mean? Either that it is an innate principle which upon

al occasions excites and directs the actions of al men; or else, that

it is a truth which al men have imprinted on their minds, and which

therefore they know and assent to. But in neither of these senses is it

innate. FIRST, that it is not a principle which influences all men's

actions, is what I have proved by the examples before cited: nor need

we seek so far as the Mingrelia or Peru to find instances of such as

neglect, abuse, nay, and destroy their children; or look on it only as

the more than brutality of some savage and barbarous nations, when we

remember that it was a familiar and uncondemned practice amongst the

Greeks and Romans to expose, without pity or remorse, their innocent

infants. SECONDLY, that it is an innate truth, known to all men, is also

false. For, "Parents preserve your children," is so far from an innate truth, that it is no truth at all: it being a command, and not a

proposition, and so not capable of truth or falsehood. To make it

capable of being assented to as true, it must be reduced to some such

proposition as this: "It is the duty of parents to preserve their

children." But what duty is, cannot be understood without a law; nor

a law be known or supposed without a lawmaker, or without reward and

punishment; so that it is impossible that this, or any other, practical

principle should be innate, i.e. be imprinted on the mind as a

duty, without supposing the ideas of God, of law, of obligation, of

punishment, of a life after this, innate: for that punishment follows

not in this life the breach of this rule, and consequently that it has

not the force of a law in countries where the generally al owed practice

runs counter to it, is in itself evident. But these ideas (which must be

al of them innate, if anything as a duty be so) are so far from being

innate, that it is not every studious or thinking man, much less every

one that is born, in whom they are to be found clear and distinct; and

that one of them, which of al others seems most likely to be innate,

is not so, (I mean the idea of God,) I think, in the next chapter, wil

appear very evident to any considering man.

13. If men can be ignorant of what is innate, certainty is not described

by innate principles.

From what has been said, I think we may safely conclude that whatever

practical rule is in any place generally and with allowance broken,

cannot be supposed innate; it being impossible that men should, without

shame or fear, confidently and serenely, break a rule which they could

not but evidently know that God had set up, and would certainly punish

the breach of, (which they must, if it were innate,) to a degree to make

it a very ill bargain to the transgressor. Without such a knowledge as

this, a man can never be certain that anything is his duty. Ignorance

or doubt of the law, hopes to escape the knowledge or power of the

law-maker, or the like, may make men give way to a present appetite;

but let any one see the fault, and the rod by it, and with the

transgression, a fire ready to punish it; a pleasure tempting, and the

hand of the Almighty visibly held up and prepared to take vengeance,

(for this must be the case where any duty is imprinted on the mind,) and

then tell me whether it be possible for people with such a prospect,

such a certain knowledge as this, wantonly, and without scruple,

to offend against a law which they carry about them in indelible

characters, and that stares them in the face whilst they are breaking

it? Whether men, at the same time that they feel in themselves the

imprinted edicts of an Omnipotent Law-maker, can, with assurance and

gaiety, slight and trample underfoot his most sacred injunctions? And

lastly, whether it be possible that whilst a man thus openly bids

defiance to this innate law and supreme Lawgiver, all the bystanders,

yea, even the governors and rulers of the people, full of the same

sense both of the law and Law-maker, should silently connive, without

testifying their dislike or laying the least blame on it? Principles of

actions indeed there are lodged in men's appetites; but these are so far

from being innate moral principles, that if they were left to their full

swing they would carry men to the overturning of al morality. Moral

laws are set as a curb and restraint to these exorbitant desires, which

they cannot be but by rewards and punishments that wil overbalance the

satisfaction any one shall propose to himself in the breach of the law.

If, therefore, anything be imprinted on the minds of all men as a law,

al men must have a certain and unavoidable knowledge that certain and

unavoidable punishment will attend the breach of it. For if men can be

ignorant or doubtful of what is innate, innate principles are insisted

on, and urged to no purpose; truth and certainty (the things pretended)

are not at all secured by them; but men are in the same uncertain

floating estate with as without them. An evident indubitable knowledge

of unavoidable punishment, great enough to make the transgression very

uneligible, must accompany an innate law; unless with an innate law they

can suppose an innate Gospel too. I would not here be mistaken, as if,

because I deny an innate law I thought there were none but positive

laws. There is a great deal of difference between an innate law, and a

law of nature between something imprinted on our minds in their very

original, and something that we, being ignorant of, may attain to the

knowledge of, by the use and due application of our natural faculties.

And I think they equally forsake the truth who, running into contrary

extremes, either affirm an innate law, or deny that there is a law

knowable by the light of nature, i.e. without the help of positive


14. Those who maintain innate practical Principles tell us not what they


The difference there is amongst men in their practical principles is

so evident that I think I need say no more to evince, that it will

be impossible to find any innate moral rules by this mark of general

assent; and it is enough to make one suspect that the supposition of

such innate principles is but an opinion taken up at pleasure; since

those who talk so confidently of them are so sparing to tell us WHICH

THEY ARE. This might with justice be expected from those men who lay

stress upon this opinion; and it gives occasion to distrust either their

knowledge or charity, who, declaring that God has imprinted on the minds

of men the foundations of knowledge and the rules of living, are yet so

little favourable to the information of their neighbours, or the quiet

of mankind, as not to point out to them which they are, in the variety

men are distracted with. But, in truth, were there any such innate

principles there would be no need to teach them. Did men find such

innate propositions stamped on their minds, they would easily be able

to distinguish them from other truths that they afterwards learned and

deduced from them; and there would be nothing more easy than to know

what, and how many, they were. There could be no more doubt about their

number than there is about the number of our fingers; and it is like

then every system would be ready to give them us by tale. But since

nobody, that I know, has ventured yet to give a catalogue of them, they

cannot blame those who doubt of these innate principles; since even they

who require men to believe that there are such innate propositions, do

not tell us what they are. It is easy to foresee, that if different men

of different sects should go about to give us a list of those innate

practical principles, they would set down only such as suited their

distinct hypotheses, and were fit to support the doctrines of their

particular schools or churches; a plain evidence that there are no such

innate truths. Nay, a great part of men are so far from finding any

such innate moral principles in themselves, that, by denying freedom to

mankind, and thereby making men no other than bare machines, they take

away not only innate, but all moral rules whatsoever, and leave not

a possibility to believe any such, to those who cannot conceive how

anything can be capable of a law that is not a free agent. And upon that

ground they must necessarily reject al principles of virtue, who cannot

put MORALITY and MECHANISM together, which are not very easy to be

reconciled or made consistent.

15. Lord Herbert's innate Principles examined.

When I had written this, being informed that my Lord Herbert had, in

his book De Veritate, assigned these innate principles, I presently

consulted him, hoping to find in a man of so great parts, something that

might satisfy me in this point, and put an end to my inquiry. In his

chapter De Instinctu Naturali, I met with these six marks of his

Notitice Communes:--1. Prioritas. 2. Independentia. 3. Universalitas. 4.

Certitudo. 5. Necessitas, i. e. as he explains it, faciunt ad hominis

conservationem. 6. Modus conformationis, i.e. Assensus nulla interposita

mora. And at the latter end of his little treatise De Religione Laici,

he says this of these innate principles: Adeo ut non uniuscujusvis

religionis confinio arctentur quae ubique vigent veritates. Sunt enim in

ipsa mente caelitus descriptae, nullisque traditionibus, sive scriptis,

sive non scriptis, obnoxiae, p.3 And Veritates nostrae catholicae, quae

tanquam indubia Dei emata in foro interiori descriptae.

Thus, having given the marks of the innate principles or common notions,

and asserted their being imprinted on the minds of men by the hand of

God, he proceeds to set them down, and they are these:--1. Esse aliquod

supremum numen. 2. Numen il ud coli debere. 3. Virtutem cum pietate

conjunctam optimum esse rationem cultus divini. 4. Resipiscendum esse a

peccatis. 5. Dari praemium vel paenam post hanc vitam transactam. Though

I al ow these to be clear truths, and such as, if rightly explained, a

rational creature can hardly avoid giving his assent to, yet I think

he is far from proving them innate impressions in foro interiori

descriptae. For I must take leave to observe:--

16. These five either not all, or more than all, if there are any.

First, that these five propositions are either not all, or more than

al , those common notions written on our minds by the finger of God; if

it were reasonable to believe any at all to be so written. Since there

are other propositions which, even by his own rules, have as just a

pretence to such an original, and may be as wel admitted for innate

principles, as at least some of these five he enumerates, viz. 'Do as

thou wouldst be done unto.' And perhaps some hundreds of others, when

well considered.

17. The supposed marks wanting.

Secondly, that all his marks are not to be found in each of his five

propositions, viz. his first, second, and third marks agree perfectly to

neither of them; and the first, second, third, fourth, and sixth marks

agree but ill to his third, fourth, and fifth propositions. For, besides

that we are assured from history of many men, nay whole nations, who

doubt or disbelieve some or all of them, I cannot see how the third,

viz. "That virtue joined with piety is the best worship of God," can be an innate principle, when the name or sound virtue, is so hard to be

understood; liable to so much uncertainty in its signification; and the

thing it stands for so much contended about and difficult to be known.

And therefore this cannot be but a very uncertain rule of human

practice, and serve but very little to the conduct of our lives, and is

therefore very unfit to be assigned as an innate practical principle.

18. Of little use if they were innate.

For let us consider this proposition as to its meaning, (for it is

the sense, and not sound, that is and must be the principle or common

notion,) viz. "Virtue is the best worship of God," i.e. is most

acceptable to him; which, if virtue be taken, as most commonly it is,

for those actions which, according to the different opinions of several

countries, are accounted laudable, will be a proposition so far from

being certain, that it wil not be true. If virtue be taken for actions

conformable to God's will, or to the rule prescribed by God--which is

the true and only measure of virtue when virtue is used to signify what

is in its own nature right and good--then this proposition, "That virtue is the best worship of God," wil be most true and certain, but of very little use in human life: since it wil amount to no more but this, viz.

"That God is pleased with the doing of what he commands";--which a man may certainly know to be true, without knowing what it is that God doth

command; and so be as far from any rule or principle of his actions

as he was before. And I think very few wil take a proposition which

amounts to no more than this, viz. "That God is pleased with the doing

of what he himself commands," for an innate moral principle written on

the minds of all men, (however true and certain it may be,) since it

teaches so little. Whosoever does so will have reason to think hundreds

of propositions innate principles; since there are many which have as

good a title as this to be received for such, which nobody yet ever put

into that rank of innate principles.

19. Scarce possible that God should engrave principles in words of

uncertain meaning.

Nor is the fourth proposition (viz. "Men must repent of their sins") much more instructive, til what those actions are that are meant by

sins be set down. For the word peccata, or sins, being put, as it

usually is, to signify in general ill actions that wil draw punishment

upon the doers, what great principle of morality can that be to tell us

we should be sorry, and cease to do that which will bring mischief upon

us; without knowing what those particular actions are that will do so?

Indeed this is a very true proposition, and fit to be inculcated on and

received by those who are supposed to have been taught WHAT actions in

al kinds ARE sins: but neither this nor the former can be imagined to

be innate principles; nor to be of any use if they were innate, unless

the particular measures and bounds of all virtues and vices were

engraven in men's minds, and were innate principles also, which I think

is very much to be doubted. And therefore, I imagine, it will scarcely

seem possible that God should engrave principles in men's minds, in

words of uncertain signification, such as VIRTUES and SINS, which

amongst different men stand for different things: nay, it cannot be

supposed to be in words at al , which, being in most of these principles

very general names, cannot be understood but by knowing the particulars

comprehended under them. And in the practical instances, the measures

must be taken from the knowledge of the actions themselves, and the

rules of them,--abstracted from words, and antecedent to the knowledge

of names; which rules a man must know, what language soever he chance to

learn, whether English or Japan, or if he should learn no language at

al , or never should understand the use of words, as happens in the case

of dumb and deaf men. When it shal be made out that men ignorant of

words, or untaught by the laws and customs of their country, know that

it is part of the worship of God not to kil another man; not to know

more women than one not to procure abortion; not to expose their

children; not to take from another what is his, though we want it

ourselves, but on the contrary, relieve and supply his wants; and

whenever we have done the contrary we ought to repent, be sorry, and

resolve to do so no more;--when I say, all men shall be proved actually

to know and allow all these and a thousand other such rules, al of

which come under these two general words made use of above, viz.

virtutes et peccata virtues and sins, there wil be more reason

for admitting these and the like, for common notions and practical

principles. Yet, after all, universal consent (were there any in moral

principles) to truths, the knowledge whereof may be attained otherwise,

would scarce prove them to be innate; which is al I contend for.

20. Objection, Innate Principles may be corrupted, answered.

Nor wil it be of much moment here to offer that very ready but not very

material answer, viz. that the innate principles of morality may, by

education, and custom, and the general opinion of those amongst whom we

converse, be darkened, and at last quite worn out of the minds of men.

Which assertion of theirs, if true, quite takes away the argument

of universal consent, by which this opinion of innate principles is

endeavoured to be proved; unless those men wil think it reasonable

that their private persuasions, or that of their party, should pass for

universal consent;--a thing not unfrequently done, when men, presuming

themselves to be the only masters of right reason, cast by the votes and

opinions of the rest of mankind as not worthy the reckoning. And then

their argument stands thus:--"The principles which all mankind allow

for true, are innate; those that men of right reason admit, are the

principles al owed by all mankind; we, and those of our mind, are men of

reason; therefore, we agreeing, our principles are innate";--which is

a very pretty way of arguing, and a short cut to infallibility.

For otherwise it will be very hard to understand how there be some

principles which al men do acknowledge and agree in; and yet there

are none of those principles which are not, by depraved custom and ill

education, blotted out of the minds of many men: which is to say, that

al men admit, but yet many men do deny and dissent from them. And

indeed the supposition of SUCH first principles will serve us to very

little purpose; and we shall be as much at a loss with as without them,

if they may, by any human power--such as the wil of our teachers,

or opinions of our companions--be altered or lost in us: and

notwithstanding al this boast of first principles and innate light, we

shall be as much in the dark and uncertainty as if there were no such

thing at all: it being al one to have no rule, and one that wil warp

any way; or amongst various and contrary rules, not to know which is

the right. But concerning innate principles, I desire these men to say,

whether they can or cannot, by education and custom, be blurred and

blotted out; if they cannot, we must find them in all mankind alike, and

they must be clear in everybody; and if they may suffer variation

from adventitious notions, we must then find them clearest and most

perspicuous nearest the fountain, in children and il iterate people,

who have received least impression from foreign opinions. Let them take

which side they please, they wil certainly find it inconsistent with

visible matter of fact and daily observation.

21. Contrary Principles in the World.

I easily grant that there are great numbers of opinions which, by men of

different countries, educations, and tempers, are received and embraced

as first and unquestionable principles; many whereof, both for their

absurdity as wel oppositions to one another, it is impossible should be

true. But yet all those propositions, how remote soever from reason are

so sacred somewhere or other, that men even of good understanding in

other matters, will sooner part with their lives, and whatever is

dearest to them, than suffer themselves to doubt, or others to question,

the truth of them.

22. How men commonly come by their Principles.

This, however strange it may seem, is that which every day's experience

confirms; and wil not, perhaps, appear so wonderful, if we consider the

ways and steps by which it is brought about; and how really it may come

to pass, that doctrines that have been derived from no better original

than the superstition of a nurse, or the authority of an old woman, may,

by length of time and consent of neighbours, grow up to the dignity of

PRINCIPLES in religion or morality. For such, who are careful (as they

call it) to principle children wel , (and few there be who have not a

set of those principles for them, which they believe in,) instil into

the unwary, and as yet unprejudiced, understanding, (for white paper

receives any characters,) those doctrines they would have them

retain and profess. These being taught them as soon as they have any

apprehension; and still as they grow up confirmed to them, either by

the open profession or tacit consent of all they have to do with; or

at least by those of whose wisdom, knowledge, and piety they have an

opinion, who never suffer those propositions to be otherwise mentioned

but as the basis and foundation on which they build their religion and

manners, come, by these means, to have the reputation of unquestionable,

self-evident, and innate truths.

23. Principles supposed innate because we do not remember when we began

to hold them.

To which we may add, that when men so instructed are grown up, and

reflect on their own minds, they cannot find anything more ancient there

than those opinions, which were taught them before their memory began to

keep a register of their actions, or date the time when any new thing

appeared to them; and therefore make no scruple to conclude, that those

propositions of whose knowledge they can find in themselves no original,

were certainly the impress of God and nature upon their minds, and not

taught them by any one else. These they entertain and submit to, as many

do to their parents with veneration; not because it is natural: nor do

children do it where they are not so taught; but because, having been

always so educated, and having no remembrance of the beginning of this

respect, they think it is natural.

24. How such principles come to be held.

This will appear very likely, and almost unavoidable to come to pass, if

we consider the nature of mankind and the constitution of human affairs;

wherein most men cannot live without employing their time in the daily

labours of their callings; nor be at quiet in their minds without SOME

foundation or principle to rest their thoughts on. There is scarcely any

one so floating and superficial in his understanding, who hath not some

reverenced propositions, which are to him the principles on which he

bottoms his reasonings, and by which he judgeth of truth and falsehood,

right and wrong; which some, wanting skill and leisure, and others the

inclination, and some being taught that they ought not to examine, there

are few to be found who are not exposed by their ignorance, laziness,

education, or precipitancy, to TAKE THEM UPON TRUST.

25. Further explained.

This is evidently the case of al children and young folk; and custom,

a greater power than nature, seldom failing to make them worship for

divine what she hath inured them to bow their minds and submit their

understandings to, it is no wonder that grown men, either perplexed

in the necessary affairs of life, or hot in the pursuit of pleasures,

should not seriously sit down to examine their own tenets; especially

when one of their principles is, that principles ought not to be

questioned. And had men leisure, parts, and will, who is there almost

that dare shake the foundations of al his past thoughts and actions,

and endure to bring upon himself the shame of having been a long time

wholly in mistake and error? Who is there hardy enough to contend with

the reproach which is everywhere prepared for those who dare venture to

dissent from the received opinions of their country or party? And where

is the man to be found that can patiently prepare himself to bear the

name of whimsical, sceptical, or atheist; which he is sure to meet with,

who does in the least scruple any of the common opinions? And he will be

much more afraid to question those principles, when he shall think them,

as most men do, the standards set up by God in his mind, to be the rule

and touchstone of all other opinions. And what can hinder him from

thinking them sacred, when he finds them the earliest of al his own

thoughts, and the most reverenced by others?

26. A worship of idols.

It is easy to imagine how, by these means, it comes to pass that men

worship the idols that have been set up in their minds; grow fond of

the notions they have been long acquainted with there; and stamp the

characters of divinity upon absurdities and errors; become zealous

votaries to bulls and monkeys, and contend too, fight, and die in

defence of their opinions. _Dum solos credit habendos esse deos, quos

ipse colit_. For, since the reasoning faculties of the soul, which are

almost constantly, though not always warily nor wisely employed, would

not know how to move, for want of a foundation and footing, in most men,

who through laziness or avocation do not, or for want of time, or true

helps, or for other causes, cannot penetrate into the principles of

knowledge, and trace truth to its fountain and original, it is natural

for them, and almost unavoidable, to take up with some borrowed

principles; which being reputed and presumed to be the evident proofs

of other things, are thought not to need any other proof themselves.

Whoever shall receive any of these into his mind, and entertain them

there with the reverence usually paid to principles, never venturing to

examine them, but accustoming himself to believe them, because they are

to be believed, may take up, from his education and the fashions of his

country, any absurdity for innate principles; and by long poring on the

same objects, so dim his sight as to take monsters lodged in his own

brain for the images of the Deity, and the workmanship of his hands.

27. Principles must be examined.

By this progress, how many there are who arrive at principles which