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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. Men have $ 10. He that will carefully peruse the contrary history of mankind, and look abroad into practical
the several tribes of men, and with indifs ferency survey their actions, will 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. Whole na $11. Here, perhaps, it will be objected, tions reject that it is no argument that the rule is not several
known, because it is broken. I grant the moral rules.
S. 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 all 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 any where 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 breaking of a rule, say you, is no argument that it is unknown. I grant it: but the generally allowed breach of it any where, 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 naturally 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 all occasions excites and directs the actions of all men; or else that it is a truth, which all 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 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 law-maker, 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 allowed practice runs counter to it, is in itself evident. But these ideas (which must be all of them innate, if any thing 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 all others seems most likely to be innate, is not so (I mean the idea of God) I think, in the next chapter, will appear very evident to any considering man.
§ 13. 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 any thing 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 under foot his most sacred injunctions? And, lastly, whether it be possible, that whilst a man thus openly bids defiance to this innate law and supreme law-giver, 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 all morality. Moral laws are set as a curb and restraint to these exorbitant desires, which they cannot be but by rewards and punishments, that will overbalance the satisfaction any one shall propose to himself in the breach of the law. If therefore any thing be imprinted on the minds of all men as a law, all 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 revelation. Those who S 14. The difference there is amongst maintain in- men in their practical principles is so evinate prac
dent, that, I think, I need say no more to tical principles tell
evince that it will be impossible to find
any innate moral rules by this mark of they are. 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