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The System of Nature, Vol. 2 by Baron D'Holbach

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accustomed to labour upon chimerical subjects, or to take words for
realities; in short it found, that for the greater number of the
material children of the earth it was necessary to have gods more
analogous to themselves, more sensible, more known to them. In
consequence these divinities were re-clothed with human qualities;
theology never felt the incompatibility of these qualities with beings
it had made essentially different from man, who consequently could
neither have his properties, nor be modified like himself. It did not
see that gods who were immaterial, destitute of corporeal organs, were
neither able to think nor to act as material beings, whose peculiar
organizations render them susceptible of the qualities, the feelings the
will, the virtues, that are found in them. The necessity it felt to
assimilate the gods to their worshippers, to make an affinity between
them, made it pass over without consideration these palpable
contradictions--this want of keeping in their portrait: thus ethnic
theology obstinately continued to unite those incompatible qualities,
that discrepancy of character, which the human mind attempted in vain
either to conceive or to reconcile: according to it, pure spirits were
the movers of the material world; immense beings were enabled to occupy
space, without however excluding nature; immutable deities were the
causes of those continual changes operated in the world: omnipotent
beings did not prevent those evils which were displeasing to them; the
sources of order submitted to confusion: in short, the wonderful
properties of these theological beings every moment contradicted

There is not less discrepancy, less incompatibility, less discordance in
the human perfections, less contradiction in the moral qualities
attributed to them, to the end that man might be enabled to form to
himself some idea of these beings. These were all said to be _eminently_
possessed by the gods, although they every moment contradicted each
other: by this means they formed a kind of patch-work character,
heterogeneous beings, discrepant phenomena, entirely inconceivable to
man, because nature had never constructed any thing like them, whereby
he was enabled to form a judgment. Man was assured they were eminently
good--that it was visible in all their actions. Now goodness is a known
quality, recognizable in some beings of the human species; this is,
above every other, a property he is desirous to find in all those upon
whom he is in a state of dependence; but he is unable to bestow the
title of good on any among his fellows, except their actions produce on
him those effects which he approves--that he finds in unison with his
existence--in conformity with his own peculiar modes of thinking. It was
evident, according to this reasoning, these ethnic gods did not impress
him with this idea; they were said to be equally the authors of his
pleasures, as of his pains, which were to be either secured or averted
by sacrifices: thus when man suffered by contagion, when he was the
victim of shipwreck, when his country was desolated by war, when he saw
whole nations devoured by rapacious earthquakes, when he was a prey to
the keenest sorrows, he at least was unable to conceive the bounty of
those beings. How could he perceive the beautiful order which they had
introduced into the world, while he groaned under such a multitude of
calamities? How was he able to discern the beneficence of men whom he
beheld sporting as it were with his species? How could he conceive the
consistency of those who destroyed that which he was assured they had
taken such pains to establish, solely for his own peculiar happiness?
But had his mind been properly enlightened, had he been taught to know,
that nature, acting by unerring laws, produces all the phenomena he
beholds as a necessary consequence of her primitive impulse--that like
the rest of nature he was himself subjected to the general operation--
that no peculiar exemption had been made in his behalf--that sacrifices
were useless--that the great _Parent of parents_, equally mindful of all
his creatures, had set in action with the most consummate wisdom an
invariable system, the apparent, casual evils of which were ever
counterbalanced by the resulting good; that without repining, it was his
duty, his interest, to submit; at the same time to examine with
sedulity, to search with earnestness, into the recesses of this nature
for remedies to the sorrows he endured. If he had been thus instructed,
we should never behold him arraigning either the kindness, the wisdom,
or the consistency of the gods; he would neither have ascribed his
sufferings to the malicious interference of inferior deities, so
derogatory to the divine majesty of the _Great Cause of causes_, nor
would he have taxed with either inconsistency or unkindness, that nature
which cannot act otherwise than she does. Perhaps of all the ideas that
can be infused into the mind of man, none is more really subversive of
his true happiness, none more incompatible with the reality of things,
than that which persuades him he is himself a privileged being, the king
of a nature where every thing is submitted to laws, the extent of which
his finite mind cannot possibly conceive. Even admitting it should
ultimately turn out to be a fact, he has yet no one positive evidence to
justify the assumption; experience, which after all must always prove
the best criterion for his judgment, daily proves, that in every thing
he is subjected, like every other part of nature, to those invariable
decrees from which nothing that he beholds is exempted.

Feeble monarch! of whom a grain of sand, some atoms of bile, some
misplaced humours, destroy at once the existence and the reign: yet thou
pretendest every thing was made for thee! Thou desirest that the entire
of nature should be thy domain, and thou canst not even defend thyself
from the slightest of her shocks! Thou makest to thyself a god for
thyself alone; thou supposest that he unceasingly occupieth himself only
for thy peculiar happiness; thou imaginest every thing was made solely
for thy pleasure; and, following up thy presumptuous ideas, thou hast
the audacity to call nature good or bad as thy weak intellect inclines:
thou darest to think that the kindness exhibited towards thee, in common
with other beings, is contradicted by the evil genii thy fancy has
created! Dost thou not see that those beasts which thou supposest
submitted to thine empire, frequently devour thy fellow-creatures; that
fire consumeth them; that the ocean swalloweth them up; that those
elements of which thou sometimes admirest the order, which sometimes
thou accusest of confusion, frequently sweep them off the face of the
earth; dost thou not see that all this is necessarily what it must be;
that thou art not in any manner consulted in any of this phenomena?
Indeed, according to thine own ideas, if thou wast to examine them with
care, dost thou not admit that thy gods are the universal cause of all;
that they maintain the whole by the destruction of its parts. Are they
not then according to thyself, the gods of nature--of the ocean--of
rivers--of mountains--of the earth, in which they occupiest, so very
small a space--of all those other globes that thou seest roll in the
regions of space--of those orbs that revolve round the sun that
enlighteneth thee?--Cease, then, obstinately to persist in beholding
nothing but thy sickly self in nature; do not flatter thyself that the
human race, which reneweth itself, which disappeareth like the leaves on
the trees, can absorb all the care, can ingross all the tenderness of
that universal being, who, according to thyself, properly understood,
ruleth the destiny of all things. Submit thyself in silence to mandates
which thy unavailing prayers; can never change; to a wisdom which thy
imbecility cannot fathom; to the unerring shafts of a fate, which
nothing but thine own vanity, aided by thy perverse ignorance, could
ever question, being the best possible good that can befall thee! which
if thou couldst alter, thou wouldst with thy defective judgment render
worse! What is the human race compared to the earth? What is this earth
compared to the sun? What is our sun compared to those myriads of suns
which at immense distances occupy the regions of space? not for the
purpose of diverting thy weak eyes; not with a view to excite thy stupid
admiration, as thou vainly imaginest; since multitudes of them are
placed out of the range of thy visual organs: but to occupy the place
which necessity hath assigned them. Mortal, feeble and vain! restore
thyself to thy proper sphere; acknowledge every where the effect of
necessity; recognize in thy benefits, behold in thy sorrows, the
different modes of action of those various beings endowed with such a
variety of properties, which surround thee; of which the macrocosm is
the assemblage; and do not any longer suppose that this nature, much
less its great cause, can possess such incompatible qualities as would
be the result of human views or of visionary ideas, which have no
existence but in thyself.

As long as theologians shall continue obstinately bent to make man the
model of their gods; as long ask they shall pertinaciously undertake to
explain the nature of these gods, which they will never be able to do,
but after human ideas, although they may associate the most
heterogeneous properties, the most discrepant functions; so long, I say,
experience will contradict at every moment the beneficent views they,
attach to their divinities; it will be in vain that they call them good:
man, reasoning thus, will never be able to find good but in those
objects which impel him in a manner favourable to his actual mode of
existence; he always finds confusion in that which fills him with
grievous sensations; he calls evil every thing that painfully affects
him, even cursorily; those beings that produce in him two modes of
feeling, so very opposite to each other, he will naturally conclude are
sometimes favourable, sometimes unfavourable to him; at least, if he
will not allow that they act necessarily, consequently are neither one
nor the other, he will say that a world where he experiences so much
evil cannot be submitted to men who are perfectly good; on the other
hand, he will also assume that a world in which man receives so many
benefits, cannot be governed by those who are without kindness. Thus he
is obliged to admit of two principles equally powerful, who are in
hostility with each other; or rather, he must agree that the same
persons are alternately kind and unkind; this after all is nothing more
than avowing they cannot be otherwise than they are; in this case it
would be useless to sacrifice to them--to make solicitation; seeing it
would be nothing but _destiny_--the necessity of things submitted
invariable rules.

In order to justify these beings, constructed upon mortal principles,
from injustice, in consequence of the evils the human species
experience, the theologian is reduced to the necessity of calling them
punishments inflicted for the transgressions of man. But then these
general calamities include all men. Some, at least, may be supposed not
to have offended. Thus he involves contradictions he finds it difficult
to reconcile; to effectuate this he makes his _anthropomorphites_
immaterial--incorporeal; that is, he says they are the negation of every
thing of which he has a knowledge; consequently, beings who can have no
relation with corporeal beings: and this avails him no better, as will
be evident by reasoning on the subject. To offend any one, is to
diminish the sum of his happiness; it is to afflict him, to deprive him
of something, to make him experience a painful sensation. How is it
possible man can operate on such beings; how can the physical actions of
a material substance have any influence over an immaterial substance,
devoid of parts, having no point of contact. How can a corporeal being
make an incorporeal being experience incommodious sensations? On the
other hand, _justice_, according to the only ideas man can ever form of
it, supposes, a permanent disposition to render to each what is due to
him; the theologian will not admit that the beings he has jumbled
together owe any thing to man; he insists that the benefits they bestow
are all the gratuitous effects of their own goodness; that they have the
right to dispose of the work of their hands according to their own
pleasure; to plunge it if they please into the abyss of misery; in
short, that their volition is the only guide of their conduct. It is
easy to see, that according to man's idea of justice, this does not even
contain the shadow of it; that it is, in fact, the mode of action
adopted by what he calls the most frightful tyrants. How then can he be
induced to call men just who act after this manner? Indeed, while he
sees innocence suffering, virtue in tears, crime triumphant, vice
recompensed, and at the same time, is told the beings whom theology has
invented are the authors, he will never be able to acknowledge them to
have _justice_. But he will find no such contradictory qualities in
nature, where every thing is the result of immutable laws: he will at
once perceive that these transient evils produce more permanent good;
that they are necessary to the conservation of the whole, or else result
from modifications of matter, which it is competent for him to change,
by altering his own mode of action; a lesson that nature herself teaches
him when he is willing to receive her instructions. But to form gods
with human passions, is to make them appear unjust; to say that such
beings chastise their friends for their own I good, is at once to upset
all the ideas he has either of kindness or unkindness: thus the
incompatible human qualities ascribed to these beings, do in fact
destroy their existence. If it be insisted they have the knowledge and
power of man, only that they are more extended, then it becomes a very
natural reply, to say, since they know every thing, they ought at least
to restrain mischief; because this would be the observation of man upon
the action of his fellows;--if it be urged these qualities are similar
to the same qualities possessed by man, then it may be fairly asked in
what do they differ? To this, if any answer be given, be what it may, it
will still be only changing the language: it will be invariably another
method of expressing the same thing; seeing that man with all his
ingenuity, will never be able to describe properties but after himself
or those of the beings by whom he is surrounded.

Where is the man filled with kindness, endowed with humanity, who does
not desire with all his heart to render his fellow creatures happy? If
these beings, as the theologians assert, really have man's qualities
augmented, would they not, by the same reasoning, exercise their
infinite power to render them all happy? Nevertheless, in despite of
these theologists, we scarcely find any one who is perfectly satisfied
with his condition on earth: for one mortal that enjoys, we behold a
thousand who suffer; for one rich man who lives in the midst of
abundance, there are thousands of poor who want common necessaries:
whole nations groan in indigence, to satisfy the passions of some
avaricious princes, of some few nobles, who are not thereby rendered
more contented--who do not acknowledge themselves more fortunate on that
account. In short, under the dominion of these beings, the earth is
drenched with the tears of the miserable. What must be the inference
from all this? That they are either negligent of, or incompetent to, his
happiness. But the mythologists will tell you coolly, that the judgments
of his gods are impenetrable! How do we understand this term? Not to be
taught--not to be informed--impervious--not to be pierced: in this case
it would be an unreasonable question to inquire by what authority do you
reason upon them? How do you become acquainted with these impenetrable
mysteries? Upon what foundation do you attribute virtues which you
cannot penetrate? What idea do you form to yourself of a justice that
never resembles that of man? Or is it a truth that you yourself are not
a man, but one of those impenetrable beings whom you say you represent?

To withdraw themselves from this, they will affirm that the justice of
these idols are tempered with mercy, with compassion, with goodness:
these again are human qualities: what, therefore, shall we understand by
them? What idea do we attach to mercy? Is it not a derogation from the
severe rules of an exact, a rigorous justice, which causes a remission
of some part of a merited punishment? Here hinges the great
incompatibility, the incongruity of those qualities, especially when
augmented by the word _omni_; which shews how little suitable human
properties are to the formation of divinities. In a prince, clemency is
either a violation of justice, or the exemption from a too severe law:
nevertheless, man approves of clemency in a sovereign, when its too
great facility does not become prejudicial to society; he esteems it,
because it announces humanity, mildness, a compassionate, noble soul;
qualities he prefers in his governors to rigour, cruelty, inflexibility:
besides, human laws are defective; they are frequently too severe; they
are not competent to foresee all the circumstances of every case: the
punishments they decree are not always commensurate with the offence: he
therefore does not always think them just: but he feels very well, he
understands distinctly, that when the sovereign extends his mercy, he
relaxes from his justice--that if mercy he merited, the punishment ought
not to take place--that then its exercise is no longer clemency, but
justice: thus he feels, that in his fellow creatures these two qualities
cannot exist at the same moment. How then is he to form his judgment of
beings who are represented to possess both in the extremest degree? Is
it not, in fact, announcing these beings to be men like ourselves, who
act with our imperfections on an enlarged scale?

They then say, well, but in the next world these idols will reward you
for all the evils you suffer in this: this, indeed, is something to look
to, if it could be contemplated alone; unmixed with all they have
formerly asserted: if we could also find that there was an unison of
thinking on this point--if there was a reasonable comprehensible view of
it held forth: but alas! here again human pleasures, human feelings, are
the basis on which these rewards are rested; only they are promised in a
way we cannot comprehend them; houris, or females who are to remain for
ever virgins, notwithstanding the knowledge of man, are so opposed to
all human comprehension, so opposite to all experience, are such mystic
assertions, that the human mind cannot possibly embrace an idea of them:
besides this is only promised by one class of these beings; others
affirm it will be altogether different: in short, the number of modes in
which this hereafter reward is promised to him, obliges man to ask
himself one plain question, Which is the real history of these blissful
abodes? At this question he staggers--he seeks for advice: each assures
him that the other is in error--that his peculiar mode is that which
will really have place; that to believe the other is a crime. How is he
to judge now? Take what course he will, he runs the chance of being
wrong; he has no standard whereby to measure the correctness of these
contradictory assurances; his mind is held suspended; he feels the
impossibility of the whole being right; he knows not that which he ought
to elect! Again, they have positively asserted these beings owe nothing
to man: how then is he to expect in a future life, a more real happiness
than he enjoys in the present? This they parry, by assuring him it is
founded upon their promises, contained in their revealed oracles.
Granted: but is he quite certain these oracles have emanated from
themselves? If they are so different in their detail, may there not be
reasonable ground for suspecting some of them are not authentic? If
there is, which are the spurious, which are the genuine? By what rule is
he to guide himself in the choice; how, with his frail methods of
judging, is he to scrutinize oracles delivered by such powerful beings--
to discriminate the true from the false? The ministers of each will give
you an infallible method, one that, is according to their own
asseveration, cannot err; that is, by an implicit belief in the
particular doctrine each promulgates.

Thus will be perceived the multitude of contradictions, the extravagant
hypotheses which these human attributes, with which theology clothes its
divinities, must necessarily produce. Beings embracing at one time so
many discordant qualities will always be undefinable--can only present a
train of ideas calculated to displace each other; they will consequently
ever remain beings of the imagination. These beings, say their
ministers, created the heavens, the earth, the creatures who inhabit it,
to manifest their own peculiar glory; they have neither rivals, nor
equals in nature; nothing which can be compared with them. Glory is,
again, a human passion: it is in man the desire of giving his fellow-
creatures an high opinion of him; this, passion is laudable when it
stimulates him to undertake great projects--when it determines him to
perform useful actions--but it is very frequently a weakness attached to
his nature; it is nothing more than a desire to be distinguished from
those beings with whom he compares himself, without exciting him to one
noble, one generous act. It is easy to perceive that beings who are so
much elevated above men, cannot be actuated by such a defective passion.
They say these beings are jealous of their prerogatives. Jealousy is
another human passion, not always of the most respectable kind: but it
is rather difficult to conceive the existence of jealousy with profound
wisdom, unlimited power, and the perfection of justice. Thus the
theologians by dint of heaping quality on quality, aggrandizing each as
is added, seem to have reduced themselves to the situation of a painter,
who spreading all his colours upon his canvas together, after thus
blending them into an unique mass, loses sight of the whole in the

They will, nevertheless, reply to these difficulties, that goodness,
wisdom, justice, are in these beings qualities so pre-eminent, so
distinct, have so little affinity with these same qualities in man, that
they are totally dissimilar--have not the least relation. Admit this to
be the case, How then can he form to himself any idea of these
perfections, seeing they are totally unlike those with which he is
acquainted? They surely cannot mean to insinuate that they are the
reverse of every thing he understands; because that would, in effect,
bring them to a precise point which would not need any explanation; it
is therefore a matter of certainty this cannot be the case: then if
these qualities, when exercised by the beings they have described, are
only human actions so obscured, so hidden, as not to be recognizable by
man, How can weak mortals pretend to announce them, to have a knowledge
of them, to explain them to others? Does then theology impart to the
mind the ineffable boon of enabling it to conceive that which no man is
competent to understand? Does it procure for its agents the marvellous
faculty of having distinct ideas of beings composed of so many
contradictory properties? Does it, in fact, make the theologian himself
one of these incomprehensible beings.

They will impose silence, by saying the oracles have spoken; that
through these mystical means they have made themselves known to mortals.
The next question would naturally be, When, where, or to whom have these
oracles spoken? Where are these oracles? An hundred voices raise
themselves in the same moment; hands of Briaraeus are immediately
stretched forth to shew them in a number of discordant collections,
which each maintains, with an equal degree of vehemence, is the true
code--the only doctrine man ought to believe: he runs them over, finds
they scarcely agree in any one particular; but that in all the heaviest
penalties are denounced against those who doubt the smallest part of any
one of them. These beings of consummate wisdom are made to speak an
obscure, irrational language; some of them, although their goodness is
proclaimed, have been cruel and sanguinary; others, although their
justice is held forth, have been partial, unjust, capricious; some, who
are represented as all merciful, destine to the most hideous punishments
the unhappy victims to their wrath: examine any one of them more
closely, he will find that they have never in any two countries held
literally the same language: that although they are said to have spoken
in many places, that they have always spoken variously: What is the
necessary result? The human mind, incapable of reconciling such manifest
contradictions, unable to obtain from their ministers any corroborative
evidence, that is not disputed by the others, falls into the strangest
perplexity; is involved in doubts, entangled in a labyrinth to which no
clue is to be found.

Thus the relations, which are supposed to exist between man and these
theological idols, can only be founded on the moral qualities of these
beings: if these are not known to him, if he cannot in any manner
comprehend them, they cannot by any ingenuity of argument serve him for
models. In order that they may be imitated, it is needful that these
qualities were cognizable by the being who is to imitate them. How can
he imitate that goodness, that justice, that mercy, which does not
resemble either his own, or any thing he can conceive? If these beings
partake in nothing of that which forms man--if the properties they do
possess, although different, are not within the reach of his
comprehension--if, he cannot embrace the most distant idea of them,
which the theologian assures him he cannot, How is it possible he can
set about imitating them? How follow a conduct suitable to please them
--to render himself acceptable in their sight? What can in effect be the
motive of that worship, of that homage, of that obedience, which these
beings are said to exact--which he is informed he should offer at their
altars, if he does not establish it upon their goodness--their veracity
--their justice: in short, upon qualities which he is competent to
understand? How can he have clear, distinct ideas of those qualities, if
they are no longer of the same nature as those which he has learned to
reverence in the beings of his own species?

To this they will reply, because none of them ever admit the least doubt
of the rectitude of their own individual creed, that there can be no
proportion between these idols and mortals, who are the work of their
hands; that it is not permitted to the clay to demand of the potter who
has formed it, "why ye have fashioned me thus;"--but if there can be no
common measure between the workman and his work--if there can be no
analogy between them, because the one is immaterial, the other
corporeal, How do they reciprocally act upon each other? How can the
gross organs of the one, comprehend the subtile quality of the other?
Reasoning in the only way he is capable, and it surely will never be
seriously argued that he is not to reason, will he not perceive that the
earthen vase could only have received the form which it pleased the
potter to give; that if it is formed badly, if it is rendered inadequate
to the use for which it was designed, the vase is not in this instance
to be blamed; the potter certainly has the power to break it; the vase
cannot prevent him; it will neither have motives nor means to soften his
anger; it will be obliged to submit to its destiny; but he will not be
able to prevent his mind from thinking the potter harsh in thus
punishing the vase, rather than by forming it anew, by giving it another
figure, render it competent to the purposes he intended.

According to these notions the relations between man and these
theological beings have no existence, they owe nothing to him, are
dispensed from shewing him either goodness or justice; that man, on the
contrary, owes them every thing: but contradictions appear at every
step. If these have promised by their oracles any thing to man, it is
rather difficult for him to believe, that what is so solemnly promised
does not belong to him if he fulfils the condition of the promise. The
difference a theologian may choose to find in these relations will
hardly be convincing to a reasonable mind. The duties of man towards
these beings can, according to their own shewing, have no other
foundation than the happiness he expects from them: thus the relation
has a reciprocity, it is founded upon their goodness, upon their
justice, it demands obedience on his part, a conduct suitable to the
benefits he receives. Thus, in whatever manner the theological system is
viewed, it destroys itself. Will theology never feel that the more it
endeavours to exaggerate the human qualities, the less it exalts the
beings it pictures; the more incomprehensible it renders them, the more
it contributes to swell its own ocean of contradictions; that to take
human passions, mortal faculties at all, is perhaps the worst means it
can pursue to form a perfect being; but that if it must persist in this
method, then the further they remove them from man, the more they debase
him, the more they weaken the relations subsisting between them: that in
thus aggregating human properties, it should carefully abstain from
associating in these pictures those qualities which man finds detestable
in his fellows. Thus, despotism in man is looked upon as an unjust,
unreasonable power; if it introduces such a quality into its portraits,
it cannot rationally suppose them suitable to cultivate the esteem, to
attract the voluntary homage of the human race: if, however, the canvas
be examined, we shall frequently be struck, with perceiving this the
leading feature; we shall equally find a want of keeping through the
whole; that shadows are introduced, where lights ought to prevail; that
the colouring is incongruous--the design without harmony.

The discrepancy of conduct which theology imputes to these idols, is not
less remarkable than the contrariety of qualities it ascribes to them,
or the inconsistency of the passions with which it invests them;
sometimes, according to this, they are the friends to reason, desirous
of the happiness of society; sometimes they are inimical to virtue;
interdict the use of reason; flattered with seeing society disturbed,
they sometimes afflict man without his being able to guess the cause of
their displeasure; sometimes they are favourable to mankind--at others,
indisposed towards the human species: sometimes they are represented as
permitting crimes for the pleasure of punishing them--at others, they
exert all their power to arrest crime in its birth; sometimes they elect
a small number to receive eternal happiness, predestinating the rest to
perpetual misery--to everlasting torments; at others, they throw open
the gates of mercy to all who choose to enter them; sometimes they are
pourtrayed as destroying the universe--at others, as establishing the
most beautiful order in the planet we inhabit; sometimes they are held
forth as countenancing deception--at others, as having the highest
reverence for truth--as holding deceit in abomination. This, again, is
the necessary result of the human faculties, the mortal passions, the
frail qualities of which they compose the beings they hold forth to the
admiration, to the worship, to the homage of the world.

Perhaps the most fatal consequences have arisen from founding the moral
character of these divinities upon that of man. Those who first had the
confidence to tell man that in these matters it was not permitted him to
consult his reason, that the interests of society demanded its
sacrifice, evidently proposed to themselves to make him the sport of
their own wantonness--to make him the blind instrument of their own
unworthiness. It is from this radical error that has sprung all those
extravagances which the various superstitions have introduced upon the
earth: from hence has flowed that sacred fury which has frequently
deluged it with blood: here is the cause of those inhuman persecutions
which have so often desolated nations: in short, all those horrid
tragedies which have been acted on the vast theatre of the world, by
command of the different ministers of the various systems, whose gods
they have said ordained these shocking spectacles.

The theologians themselves have thus been the means, of calumniating the
gods they pretended to serve, under the pretext of exalting their name--
of covering them with glory; in this they may have been said to be true
atheists, since they seem only to have been anxious to destroy the idols
they themselves had raised, by the actions they have attributed to them
--which has debased them in the eye of reason--rendered their existence
more than doubtful to the man of humanity. Indeed, it would require more
than human credulity to accredit the assertion that these beings ever
could order the atrocities committed in their name. Every time they have
been willing to disturb the harmony of mankind--whenever they have been
desirous to render him unsociable, they have cried out that their gods
ordained that he should be so. Thus they render mortals uncertain, make
the ethical system fluctuate by founding it upon changeable, capricious
idols, whom they represent much more frequently cruel and unjust, than
filled with bounty and benevolence.

However it may be, admitting if they will for a moment that their idols
possess all the human virtues in an infinite degree of perfection, we
shall quickly be obliged to acknowledge that they cannot connect them
with those metaphysical, theological, negative attributes, of which we
have already spoken. If these beings are spirits that are immaterial,
how can they be able to act like man, who is a corporeal being? Pure
spirits, according to the only idea man can form of them, having no
organs, no parts, cannot see any thing; can neither hear our prayers,
attend to our solicitations, nor have compassion for our miseries. They
cannot be immutable, if their dispositions can suffer change: they
cannot be infinite, if the totality of nature, without being them, can
exist conjointly with them: they cannot be omnipotent, if they either
permit or do not prevent evil: they cannot be omnipresent, if they are
not every where: they must therefore be in the evil as well as in the
good. Thus in whatever manner they are contemplated, under whatever
point of view they are considered, the human qualities which are
assigned to them, necessarily destroy each other; neither can these same
properties in any possible manner combine themselves with the
supernatural attributes given to them by theology.

With respect to the revealed will of these idols, by means of their
oracles, far from being a proof of their good will, of their
commisseration for man, it would rather seem evidence of their ill-will.
It supposes them capable of leaving mankind for a considerable season
unacquainted with truths highly important to their interests; these
oracles communicated to a small number of chosen men, are indicative of
partiality, of predilections, that are but little compatible with the
common Father of the human race. These oracles were ill imagined, since
they tend to injure the immutability ascribed to these idols, by
supposing that they permitted man to be ignorant at one time of their
will, whilst at another time they were willing he should be instructed
on the subject. Moreover, these oracles frequently predicted offences
for which afterwards severe punishments were inflicted on those who did
no more than fulfil them. This, according to the reasoning of man, would
be unjust. The ambiguous language in which they were delivered, the
almost impossibility of comprehending them, the inexplicable mysteries
they contained, seemed to render them doubtful; at least they are not
consistent with the ideas man is capable of forming of infinite
perfection: but the fact clearly is, they were thus rendered capable of
application to the contingency of events--could be made to suit almost
any circumstances: this would render it not a very improbable
conjecture, that these oracles were solely delivered by the priests
themselves. It these were tried by the only test of which he has any
knowledge--HIS REASON, it would naturally occur to the mind of man, that
mystery could never, on any occasion, be used in the promulgation of
substantive decrees meant to operate on the obedience, to actuate the
moral conduct of man: it is quite usual with most legislators to render
their laws as explicit as possible, to adapt them to the meanest
understanding; in short, it would be reckoned want of good faith in a
government, to throw a thick, mysterious veil over the announcement of
that conduct which it wished its citizens to adopt; they would be apt to
think such a procedure was either meant to cover its own peculiar
ignorance, or else to entrap them into a snare; at best, it would be
considered as furnishing a never-failing source of dispute, which a wise
government would endeavour to avoid.

It will thus be obvious, that the ideas which theology has at various
times, under various systems, held forth to man, have for the most part
been confused, discordant, incompatible, and have had a general tendency
to disturb the repose of mankind. The obscure notions, the vague
speculations of these multiplied creeds, would be matter of great
indifference, if man was not taught to hold them as highly important to
his welfare--if he did not draw from them conclusions pernicious to
himself--if he did not learn from these theologians that he must sharpen
his asperity against those who do not contemplate them in the same point
of view with himself: as he perhaps, then, will never have a common
standard, a fixed rule, a regular graduated scale, whereby to form his
judgment on these points--as all efforts of the imagination must
necessarily assume divers shapes, undergo a variety of modifications,
which can never be assimilated to each other, it was little likely that
mankind would at all times be able to understand each other on this
subject; much less that they would be in accord in the opinions they
should adopt. From hence that diversity of superstitions which in all
ages have given rise to the most irrational disputes; which have
engendered the most sanguinary wars; which have caused the most
barbarous massacres; which have divided man from his fellow by the most
rancorous animosities, that will perhaps never be healed; because he has
been impelled to consider the peculiar tenets he adopted, not only as
immediately essential to his individual welfare, but also as intimately
connected with the happiness, closely interwoven with the tranquillity
of the nation of which he was a citizen. That such contrariety of
sentiment, such discrepancy of opinion should exist, is not in the least
surprising; it is, in fact, the natural result of those physical causes
to which, as long as he exists, he is at all times submitted. The man of
a heated imagination cannot accommodate himself to the god of a
phlegmatic, tranquil being: the infirm, bilious, discontented, angry
mortal, cannot view him under the same aspect as he who enjoys a sounder
constitution,--as the individual of a gay turn, who enjoys the blessing
of content, who wishes to live in peace. An equitable, kind,
compassionate, tender-hearted man, will not delineate to himself the
same portrait of his god, as the man who is of an harsh, unjust,
inflexible, wicked character. Each individual will modify his god after
his own peculiar manner of existing, after his own mode of thinking,
according to his particular mode of feeling. A wise, honest, rational
man will always figure to himself his god as humane and just.

Nevertheless, as fear usually presided at the formation of those idols
man set up for the object of his worship; as the ideas of these beings
were generally associated with that of terror as the recollections of
sufferings, which he attributed to them, often made him tremble;
frequently awakened in his mind the most afflicting, reminiscence; as it
sometimes filled him with inquietude, sometimes inflamed his
imagination, sometimes overwhelmed him with dismay, the experience of
all ages proves, that these vague idols became the most important of all
considerations--was the affair which most seriously occupied the human
race: that they every where spread consternation--produced the most
frightful ravages, by the delirious inebriation resulting from the
opinions with which they intoxicated the mind. Indeed, it is extremely
difficult to prevent habitual fear, which of all human passions is the
most incommodious, from becoming a dangerous leaven; which in the long
run will sour, exasperate, and give malignancy to the most moderate

If a misanthrope, in hatred of his race, had formed the project of
throwing man into the greatest perplexity,--if a tyrant, in the
plenitude of his unruly desire to punish, had sought out the most
efficacious means; could either the one or the other have imagined that
which was so well calculated to gratify their revenge, as thus to occupy
him unceasingly with objects not only unknown to him, but which no two
of them should ever see with precisely the same eyes; which
notwithstanding they should be obliged to contemplate as the centre of
all their thoughts--as the only model of their conduct--as the end of
all their actions--as the subject of all their research--as a thing of
more importance to them than life itself; upon which all their present
felicity, all their future happiness, must necessarily depend? Could
the gods themselves, in their solicitude to punish the impious
Prometheus, for having stolen fire from the sun, have imagined a more
certain method of executing their wishes? Was not Pandora's box, though
stuffed with evils, trifling when compared with this? That at least left
hope, to the unfortunate Epimetheus; this effectually cut it off.

If man was subjected to an absolute monarch, to a sultan who should keep
himself secluded from his subjects; who followed no rule but his own
desires; who did not feel himself bound by any duty; who could for ever
punish the offences committed against him; whose fury it was easy to
provoke; who was irritated even by the ideas, the thoughts of his
subjects; whose displeasure might be incurred without even their own
knowledge; the name of such a sovereign would assuredly be sufficient to
carry trouble, to spread terror, to diffuse consternation into the very
souls of those who should hear it pronounced; his idea would haunt them
every where--would unceasingly afflict them--would plunge them into
despair. What tortures would not their mind endure to discover this
formidable being, to ascertain the secret of pleasing him! What labour
would not their imagination bestow, to discover what mode of conduct
might be able to disarm his anger! What fears would assail them, lest
they might not have justly hit upon the means of assuaging his wrath!
What disputes would they not enter into upon the nature, the qualities
of a ruler, equally unknown to them all! What a variety of means would
not be adopted, to find favour in his eyes; to avert his chastisement!

Such is the history of the effects superstition has produced upon the
earth. Man has always been panic-struck, because the systems adopted
never enable him to form any correct opinion, any fixed ideas, upon a
subject so material to his happiness; because every thing conspired
either to give his ideas a fallacious turn, or else to keep his mind in
the most profound ignorance; when he was willing to set himself right,
when he was sedulous to examine the path which conducted to his
felicity, when he was desirous of probing opinions so consequential to
his peace, involving so much mystery, yet combining both his hopes and
his fears, he was forbidden to employ the only proper method,--HIS
REASON, guided by his experience; he was assured this would be an
offence the most indelible. If he asked, Wherefore his reason had then
been given him, since he was not to use it in matters of such high
behest? he was answered, those were mysteries of which none but the
initiated could be informed; that it sufficed for him to know, that the
reason which he seemed so highly to prize, which he held in so much
esteem, was his most dangerous enemy--his most inveterate, most
determined foe. Where can be the propriety of such an argument? Can it
really be that reason is dangerous? If so, the Turks are justified in
their predilection for madmen: but to proceed, he is told that he must
believe in the gods, not question the mission of their priests; in
short, that he had nothing to do with the laws they imposed, but to obey
them: when he then required that these laws might at least be made
comprehensible to him; that he might be placed in a capacity to
understand them; the old answer was returned, that they were
_mysteries_; he must not inquire into them. But where is the necessity
for mystery in points of such vast importance? He might, indeed, from
time to time consult these oracles, when he was able to make the
sacrifices demanded; he would then receive precepts for his conduct:
these were always, however, given in such vague, indeterminate terms,
that he had scarcely the chance of acting right. At different times the
same oracles delivered different opinions: thus he had nothing, steady;
nothing permanent, whereby to guide his steps; like a blind man left to
himself in the streets, he was obliged to grope his way at the peril of
his existence. This will serve to shew the urgent necessity there is for
truth to throw its radiant lustre on systems big with so much
importance; that are so calculated to corroborate the animosities, to
confirm the bitterness of soul, between those whom nature intended
should always act as brothers.

By the magical charms with which these idols were surrounded, the human
species has remained either as if it was benumbed, in a state of stupid
apathy, or else he has become furious with fanaticism: sometimes,
desponding with fear, man cringed like a slave who bends under the
scourge of an inexorable master, always ready to strike him; he trembled
under a yoke made too ponderous for his strength: he lived in continual
dread of a vengeance he was unceasingly striving to appease, without
ever knowing when he had succeeded: as he was always bathed in tears,
continually enveloped in misery--as he was never permitted to lose sight
of his fears--as he was continually exhorted to nourish his alarm, he
could neither labour for his own happiness nor contribute to that of
others; nothing could exhilirate him; he became the enemy of himself,
the persecutor of his fellow-creatures, because his felicity here below
was interdicted; he passed his time in heaving the most bitter sighs;
his reason being forbidden him, he fell into either a state of infancy
or delirium, which submitted him to authority; he was destined to this
servitude from the hour he quitted his mother's womb, until that in
which he was returned to his kindred dust; tyrannical opinion bound him
fast in her massive fetters; a prey to the terrors with which he was
inspired, he appeared to have come upon the earth for no other purpose
than to dream--with no other desire than to groan--with no other motives
than to sigh; his only view seemed to be to injure himself; to deprive
himself of every rational pleasure, to embitter his own existence; to
disturb the felicity of others. Thus, abject, slothful, irrational, he
frequently became wicked, under the idea of doing honour to his gods;
because they instilled into his mind that it was his duty to avenge
their cause, to sustain their honour, to propagate their worship.

Mortals were prostrate from race to race, before vain idols to which
fear had given birth in the bosom of ignorance, during the calamities of
the earth; they tremblingly adored phantoms which credulity had placed
in the recesses of their own brain, where they found a sanctuary which
time only served to strengthen; nothing could undeceive them; nothing
was competent to make them feel, it was themselves they adored--that
they bent the knee before their own work--that they terrified themselves
with the extravagant pictures they had themselves delineated; they
obstinately persisted in prostrating themselves, in perplexing
themselves, in trembling; they even made a crime of endeavouring to
dissipate their fears; they mistook the production of their own folly;
their conduct resembled that of children, who having disfigured their
own features, become afraid of themselves when a mirror reflects the
extravagance they have committed. These notions so afflicting for
themselves, so grievous to others, have their epoch from the calamities
of man; they will continue, perhaps augment, until their mind,
enlightened by discarded reason, illumined by truth, shall set in their
true colours these various systems; until reflection guided by
experience, shall attach no more importance to them, than is consistent
with the happiness of society; until man, bursting the chains of
superstition--recalling to mind the great end of his existence--taking a
rational view of that which surrounds him, shall no longer refuse to
contemplate nature under her true character; shall no longer persist in
refusing to acknowledge she contains within herself the cause of that
wonderful phenomena which strikes on the dazzled optics of man: until
thoroughly persuaded of the weakness of their claim to the homage of
mankind, he shall make one pious, simultaneous, mighty effort, and
_overthrow the altars of Moloch and his priests_.


_Examination of the Proofs of the Existence of the Divinity, as given by

The unanimity of man in acknowledging the Divinity, is commonly looked
upon as the strongest proof of his existence. There is not, it is said,
any people on the earth who have not some ideas, whether true or false,
of an all-powerful agent who governs the world. The rudest savages as
well as the most polished nations, are equally obliged to recur by
thought to the first cause of every thing that exists; thus it is
affirmed, the cry of Nature herself ought to convince us of the
existence of the Godhead, of which she has taken pains to engrave the
notion in the minds of men: they therefore conclude, that the idea of
God is innate.

Perhaps there is nothing of which man should be more sedulously careful
than permitting a promiscuous assemblage of right with wrong--of
suffering false conclusions to be drawn from true propositions; this
will not improbably be found to be pretty much the case in this
instance; the existence of the great _Cause of causes_, the _Parent of
parents_, does not, I think, admit of any doubt in the mind of any one
who has reasoned: but, if this existence did not rest upon better
foundations than the unanimity of man on this subject, I am fearful it
would not be placed upon so solid a rock as those who make this
asseveration may imagine: the fact is, man is not generally agreed upon
this point; if he was, superstition could have no existence; the idea of
God cannot be _innate_, because, independent of the proofs offered on
every side of the almost impossibility of innate ideas, one simple fact
will set such an opinion for ever at rest, except with those who are
obstinately determined not to be convinced by even their own arguments:
if this idea was innate, it must be every where the same; seeing that
that which is antecedent to man's being, cannot have experienced the
modifications of his existence, which are posterior. Even if it were
waived, that the same idea should be expected from all mankind, but that
only every nation should have their ideas alike on this subject,
experience will not warrant the assertion, since nothing can be better
established than that the idea is not uniform even in the same town; now
this would be an insuperable quality in an innate idea. It not
unfrequently happens, that in the endeavour to prove too much, that
which stood firm before the attempt, is weakened; thus a bad advocate
frequently injures a good cause, although he may not be able to overturn
the rights on which it is rested. It would, therefore, perhaps, come
nearer to the point if it was said, "that the natural curiosity of
mankind have in all ages, and in all nations, led him to seek after the
primary cause of the phenomena he beholds; that owing to the variations
of his climate, to the difference of his organization, the greater or
less calamity he has experienced, the variety of his intellectual
faculties, and the circumstances under which he has been placed, man has
had the most opposite, contradictory, extravagant notions of the
Divinity, but that he has uniformly been in accord in acknowledging both
the existence, and the wisdom of his work--NATURE."

If disengaged from prejudice, we analyze this proof, we shall see that
the universal consent of man, so diffused over the earth, actually
proves little more than that he has been in all countries exposed to
frightful revolutions, experienced disasters, been sensible to sorrows
of which he has mistaken the physical causes; that those events to which
he has been either the victim or the witness, have called forth his
admiration or excited his fear; that for want of being acquainted with
the powers of nature, for want of understanding her laws, for want of
comprehending her infinite resources, for want of knowing the effects
she must necessarily produce under given circumstances, he has believed
these phenomena were due to some secret agent of which he has had vague
ideas--to beings whom he has supposed conducted themselves after his own
manner; who were operated upon by similar motives with himself.

The consent then of man in acknowledging a variety of gods, proves
nothing, except that in the bosom of ignorance he has either admired the
phenomena of nature, or trembled under their influence; that his
imagination was disturbed by what he beheld or suffered; that he has
sought in vain to relieve his perplexity, upon the unknown cause of the
phenomena he witnessed, which frequently obliged him to quake with
terror: the imagination of the human race has laboured variously upon
these causes, which have almost always been incomprehensible to him;
although every thing confessed his ignorance, his inability to define
these causes, yet he maintained that he was assured of their existence;
when pressed, he spoke of a spirit, (a word to which it was impossible
to attach any determinate idea) which taught nothing but the sloth,
which evidenced nothing but the stupidity of those who pronounced it.

It ought, however, not to excite any surprise that man is incapable of
forming any substantive ideas, save of those things which act, or which
have heretofore acted upon his senses; it is very evident that the only
objects competent to move his organs are material,--that none but
physical beings can furnish him with ideas,--a truth which has been
rendered sufficiently clear in the commencement of this work, not to
need any further proof. It will suffice therefore to say that the idea
of God is not an innate, but an acquired notion; that it is the very
nature of this notion to vary from age to age; to differ in one country
from another; to be viewed variously by individuals. What do I say? It
is, in fact, an idea hardly ever constant in the same mortal. This
diversity, this fluctuation, this change, stamps it with the true
character of an acquired opinion. On the other hand, the strongest proof
that can be adduced that these ideas are founded in error, is, that man
by degrees has arrived at perfectioning all the sciences which have any
known objects for their basis, whilst the science of theology has not
advanced; it is almost every where at the same point; men seem equally
undecided on this subject; those who have most occupied themselves with
it, have effected but little; they seem, indeed, rather to have rendered
the primitive ideas man formed to himself on this head more obscure,--to
have involved in greater mystery all his original opinions.

As soon as it is asked of man, what are the gods before whom he
prostrates himself, forthwith his sentiments are divided. In order that
his opinions should be in accord, it would be requisite that uniform
ideas, analogous sensations, unvaried perceptions, should every where
have given birth to his notions upon this subject: but this would
suppose organs perfectly similar, modified by sensations which have a
perfect affinity: this is what could not happen: because man,
essentially different by his temperament, who is found under
circumstances completely dissimilar, must necessarily have a great
diversity of ideas upon objects which each individual contemplates so
variously. Agreed in some general points, each made himself a god after
his own manner; he feared him, he served him, after his own mode. Thus
the god of one man, or of one nation, was hardly ever that of another
man, or of another nation. The god of a savage, unpolished people, is
commonly some material object, upon which the mind has exercised itself
but little; this god appears very ridiculous in the eyes of a more
polished community, whose minds have laboured more intensely upon the
subject. A spiritual god, whose adorers despise the worship paid by the
savage to a coarse, material object, is the subtle production of the
brain of thinkers, who, lolling in the lap of polished society quite at
their leisure, have deeply meditated, have long occupied themselves with
the subject. The theological god, although for the most part
incomprehensible, is the last effort of the human imagination; it is to
the god of the savage, what an inhabitant of the city of Sybaris, where
effiminacy and luxury reigned, where pomp and pageantry had reached
their climax, clothed with a curiously embroidered purple habit of silk,
was to a man either quite naked, or simply covered with the skin of a
beast perhaps newly slain. It is only in civilized societies, that
leisure affords the opportunity of dreaming--that ease procures the
facility of reasoning; in these associations, idle speculators meditate,
dispute, form metaphysics: the faculty of thought is almost void in the
savage, who is occupied either with hunting, with fishing, or with the
means of procuring a very precarious subsistence by dint of almost
incessant labour. The generality of men, however, have not more elevated
notions of the divinity, have not analyzed him more than the savage. A
spiritual, immaterial God, is formed only to occupy the leisure of some
subtle men, who have no occasion to labour for a subsistence. Theology,
although a science so much vaunted, considered so important to the
interests of man, is only useful to those who live at the expense of
others; or of those who arrogate to themselves the privilege of thinking
for all those who labour. This science becomes, in some polished
societies, who are not on that account more enlightened, a branch of
commerce extremely advantageous to its professors; equally unprofitable
to the citizens; above all when these have the folly to take a very
decided interest in their unintelligible system--in their discordant

What an infinite distance between an unformed stone, an animal, a star,
a statue, and the abstracted Deity, which theology hath clothed with
attributes under which it loses sight of him itself! The savage without
doubt deceives himself in the object to which he addresses his vows;
like a child he is smitten with the first object that strikes his sight
--that operates upon him in a lively manner; like the infant, his fears
are alarmed by that from which he conceives he has either received an
injury or suffered disgrace; still his ideas are fixed by a substantive
being, by an object which he can examine by his senses. The Laplander
who adores a rock,--the negro who prostrates himself before a monstrous
serpent, at least see the objects they adore. The idolater falls upon
his knees before a statue, in which he believes there resides some
concealed virtue, some powerful quality, which he judges may be either
useful or prejudicial to himself; but that subtle reasoner, called a
metaphysician, who in consequence of his unintelligible science,
believes he has a right to laugh at the savage, to deride the Laplander,
to scoff at the negro, to ridicule the idolater, doth not perceive that
he is himself prostrate before a being of his own imagination, of which
it is impossible he should form to himself any correct idea, unless,
like the savage, he re-enters into visible nature, to clothe him with
qualities capable of being brought within the range of his

For the most part the notions on the Divinity, which obtain credit even
at the present day, are nothing more than a general terror diversely
acquired, variously modified in the mind of nations, which do not tend
to prove any thing, save that they have received them from their
trembling, ignorant ancestors. These gods have been successively
altered, decorated, subtilized, by those thinkers, those legislators,
those priests, who have meditated deeply upon them; who have prescribed
systems of worship to the uninformed; who have availed themselves of
their existing prejudices, to submit them to their yoke; who have
obtained a dominion over their mind, by seizing on their credulity,--by
making them participate in their errors,--by working on their fears;
these dispositions will always be a necessary consequence of man's
ignorance, when steeped in the sorrows of his heart.

If it be true, as asserted, that the earth has never witnessed any
nation so unsociable, so savage, to be without some form of religious
worship--who did not adore some god--but little will result from it
respecting the Divinity. The word GOD, will rarely be found to designate
more than the unknown cause of those effects which man has either
admired or dreaded. Thus, this notion so generally diffused, upon which
so much stress is laid; will prove little more than that man in all
generations has been ignorant of natural causes,--that he has been
incompetent, from some cause or other, to account for those phenomena
which either excited his surprise or roused his fears. If at the present
day a people cannot be found destitute of some kind of worship, entirely
without superstition, who do not acknowledge a God, who have not adopted
a theology more or less subtle, it is because the uninformed ancestors
of these people have all endured misfortunes--have been alarmed by
terrifying effects, which they have attributed to unknown causes--have
beheld strange sights, which they have ascribed to powerful agents,
whose existence they could not fathom; the details of which, together
with their own bewildered notions, they have handed down to their
posterity who have not given them any kind of examination.

It will readily be allowed, that the universality of an opinion by no
means proves its truth. Do we not see a great number of ignorant
prejudices, a multitude of barbarous errors, even at the present day,
receive the almost universal sanction of the human race? Are not nearly
all the inhabitants of the earth imbued with the idea of magic--in the
habit of acknowledging occult powers--given to divination--believers in
enchantment--the slaves to omens--supporters of witchcraft--thoroughly
persuaded of the existence of ghosts? If some of the most enlightened
persons are cured of these follies, they still find very zealous
partizans in the greater number of mankind, who accredit them with the
firmest confidence. It would not, however, be concluded by men of sound
sense, in many instances not by the theologian himself, that therefore
these chimeras actually have existence, although sanctioned with the
credence of the multitude. Before Copernicus, there was no one who did
not believe that the earth was stationary, that the sun described his
annual revolution round it. Was, however, this universal consent of man
upon a principle of astronomical science, which endured for so many
thousand years, less an error on that account? Yet to have doubted the
truth of such a generally-diffused opinion, one that had received the
sanction of so many learned men--that was clothed with the sacred
vestments of so many ages of credulity--that had been adopted by Moses,
acknowledged by Solomon, accredited by the Persian magi--that Elijah
himself had not refuted--that had obtained the fiat of the most
respectable universities, the most enlightened legislators, the wisest
kings, the most eloquent ministers; in short, a principle that embraced
all the stability that could be derived from the universal consent of
all ranks: to have doubted, I say, of this, would at one period have
been held as the highest degree of profanation, as the most presumptuous
scepticism, as an impious blasphemy, that would have threatened the very
existence of that unhappy country from whose unfortunate bosom such a
venomous, sacrilegious mortal could have arisen. It is well known what
opinion was entertained of Gallileo for maintaining the existence of the
antipodes. Pope Gregory excommunicated as atheists all those who gave it
credit. Thus each man has his God: But do all these gods exist? In reply
it will be said, somewhat triumphantly, each man hath his ideas of the
sun, do all these suns exist? However narrow may be the pass by which
superstition imagines it has thus guarded its favourite hypothesis,
nothing will perhaps be more easy than the answer: the existence of the
sun is a fact verified by the daily use of the senses; all the world see
the sun; no one bath ever said there is no sun; nearly all mankind have
acknowledged it to be both luminous and hot: however various may be the
opinions of man, upon this luminary, no one has ever yet pretended there
was more than one attached to our planetary system. But we may perhaps
be told, there is a wide difference between that which can be
contemplated by the visual organs, which can be understood by the sense
of feeling, and that which does not come under the cognizance of any
part of the organic structure of man. We must confess theology here has
the advantage; that we are unable to follow it through its devious
sinuosities; amidst its meandering labyrinths: but then it is the
advantage of those who see sounds, over those who only hear them; of
those who hear colours, over those who only see them; of the professors
of a science, where every thing is built upon laws inverted from those
common to the globe we inhabit; over those common understandings, who
cannot be sensible to any thing that does not give an impulse to some of
their organs.

If man, therefore, had the courage to throw aside his prejudices, which
every thing conspires to render as durable as himself--if divested of
fear he would examine coolly--if guided by reason he would
dispassionately view the nature of things, the evidence adduced in
support of any given doctrine; he would, at least, be under the
necessity to acknowledge, that the idea of the Divinity is not innate--
that it is not anterior to his existence--that it is the production of
time, acquired by communication with his own species--that,
consequently, there was a period when it did not actually exist in him:
he would see clearly, that he holds it by tradition from those who
reared him: that these themselves received it from their ancestors: that
thus tracing it up, it will be found to have been derived in the last
resort, from ignorant savages, who were our first fathers. The history
of the world will shew that crafty legislators, ambitious tyrants,
blood-stained conquerors, have availed themselves of the ignorance, the
fears, the credulity of his progenitors, to turn to their own profit an
idea to which they rarely attached any other substantive meaning than
that of submitting them to the yoke of their own domination.

Without doubt there have been mortals who have dreamed they have seen
the Divinity. Mahomet, I believe, boasted he had a long conversation
with the Deity, who promulgated to him the system of the Mussulmans. But
are there not thousands, even of the theologians, who will exhaust their
breath, and fatigue their lungs with vociferating this man was a liar;
whose object was to take advantage of the simplicity, to profit by the
enthusiasm, to impose on the credulity of the Arabs; who promulgated for
truths, the crazy reveries of his own distempered imagination?
Nevertheless, is it not a truth, that this doctrine of the crafty Arab,
is at this day the creed of millions, transmitted to them by their
ancestors, rendered sacred by time, read to them in their mosques,
adorned with all the ceremonies of superstitious worship; of which the
inhabitants of a vast portion of the earth do not permit themselves for
an instant to doubt the veracity; who, on the contrary, hold those who
do not accredit it as dogs, as infidels, as beings of an inferior rank,
of meaner capacities than themselves? Indeed that man, even if he were a
theologian, would not experience the most gentle treatment from the
infuriated Mahometan, who should to his face venture to dispute the
divine mission of his prophet. Thus the ancestors of the Turk have
transmitted to their posterity, those ideas of the Divinity which they
manifestly received from those who deceived them; whose impositions,
modified from age to age, subtilized by the priests, clothed with the
reverential awe inspired by fear, have by degrees acquired that
solidity, received that corroboration, attained that veteran stability,
which is the natural result of public sanction, backed by theological

The word God is, perhaps, among the first that vibrate on the ear of
man; it is reiterated to him incessantly; he is taught to lisp it with
respect; to listen to it with fear; to bend the knee when it is
reverberated: by dint of repetition, by listening to the fables of
antiquity, by hearing it pronounced by all ranks and persuasions, he
seriously believes all men bring the idea with them into the world; he
thus confounds a mechanical habit with instinct; whilst it is for want
of being able to recal to himself the first circumstances under which
his imagination was awakened by this name; for want of recollecting all
the recitals made to him during the course of his infancy; for want of
accurately defining what was instilled into him by his education; in
short, because his memory does not furnish him with the succession of
causes that have engraven it on his brain, that he believes this idea is
really inherent to his being; innate in all his species. Iamblicus,
indeed, who was a Pythagorean philosopher not in the highest repute with
the learned world, although one of those visionary priests in some
estimation with theologians, (at least if we may venture to judge by the
unlimited draughts they have made on the bank of his doctrines) who was
unquestionably a favourite with the emperor Julian, says, "that
anteriorly to all use of reason, the notion of the gods is inspired by
nature, and that we have even a sort of feeling of the Divinity,
preferable to the knowledge of him." It is, however, uniformly by habit,
that man admires, that he fears a being, whose name he has attended to
from his earliest infancy. As soon as he hears it uttered, he without
reflection mechanically associates it with those ideas with which his
imagination has been filled by the recitals of others; with those
sensations which he has been instructed to accompany it. Thus, if for a
season man would be ingenuous with himself, he would concede that in the
greater number of his race, the ideas of the gods, and of those
attributes with which they are clothed, have their foundation, take
their rise in, are the fruit of the opinions of his fathers,
traditionally infused into him by education--confirmed by habit--
corroborated by example--enforced by authority. That it very rarely
happens he examines these ideas; that they are for the most part adopted
by inexperience, propagated by tuition, rendered sacred by time,
inviolable from respect to his progenitors, reverenced as forming part
of those institutions he has most learned to value. He thinks he has
always had them, because he has had them from his infancy; he considers
them indubitable, because he is never permitted to question them--
because he never has the intrepidity to examine their basis.

If it had been the destiny of a Brachman, or a Mussulman, to have drawn
his first breath on the shores of Africa, he would adore, with as much
simplicity, with as much fervour, the serpent reverenced by the Negroes,
as he does the God his own metaphysicians have offered to his reverence.
He would be equally indignant if any one should presumptuously dispute
the divinity of this reptile, which he would have learned to venerate
from the moment he quitted the womb of his mother, as the most zealous,
enthusiastic fakir, when the marvellous wonders of his prophet should be
brought into question; or as the most subtile theologian when the
inquiry turned upon the incongruous qualities with which he has
decorated his gods. Nevertheless, if this serpent god of the Negro
should be contested, they could not at least dispute his existence.
Simple as may be the mind of this dark son of nature, uncommon as may be
the qualities with which he has clothed his reptile, he still may be
evidenced by all who choose to exercise their organs of sight; not so
with the theologian; he absolutely questions the existence of every
other god but that which he himself has formed; which is questioned in
its turn by his brother metaphysician. They are by no means disposed to
admit the proofs offered by each other. Descartes, Paschal, and Doctor
Samuel Clarke himself, have been accused of atheism by the theologians
of their time. Subsequent reasoners have made use of their proofs, and
even given them as extremely valid. Doctor Bowman published a work, in
which he pretends all the proofs hitherto brought forward are crazy and
fragile: he of course substitutes his own; which in their turn have been
the subject of animadversion. Thus it would appear these theologians are
not more in accord with themselves than they are with Turks or Pagans.
They cannot even agree as to their proofs of existence: from age to age
new champions arise, new evidence is adduced, the old discarded, or
treated with contempt; profound philosophers, subtle metaphysicians, are
continually attacking each other for their ignorance on a point of the
very first importance. Amidst this variety of discussion, it is very
difficult for simple winds, for those who steadily search after truth,
who only wish to understand what they believe, to find a point upon
which they can fix with reliance--a standard round which they may rally
without fear of danger--a common measure that way serve them for a
beacon to avoid the quicksands of delusion--the sophistry of polemics.

Men of very great genius have successively miscarried in their
demonstrations; have been held to have betrayed their cause by the
weakness of the arguments by which they have supported it; by the manner
in which they have attempted to establish their positions. Thus many of
them, when they believed they had surmounted a difficulty, had the
mortification to find they had only given birth to an hundred others.
They seem, indeed, not to be in a capacity to understand each other, or
to agree among themselves, when they reason upon the nature and
qualities of beings created by such a variety of imaginations, which
each contemplates diversely, upon which the natural self-love of each
disputant induces him to reject with vehement indignation every thing
that does not fall in with his own peculiar mode of thinking--that does
not quadrate either with his superstition or his ignorance, or sometimes
with both.

The opponents of Clarke charge him with begging the question in his work
on _The Being and Attributes of God_. They say he has pretended to prove
this existence _a priori_, which they deem impossible, seeing there is
nothing anterior to the first of causes; that therefore it can only be
proved _a posteriori_, that is to say, by its effects. Law, in his
_Inquiry into the Ideas of Space, Time, Immensity, &c_. has attacked him
very triumphantly, for this manner of proof, which is stated to be so
very repugnant to the school-men. His arguments have been treated with
no more ceremony by Thomas D'Aquinas, John Scott, and others of the
schools. At the present day I believe he is held in more respect--that
his authority outweighs that of all his antagonists together. Be that as
it may, those who have followed him have done nothing more than either
repeat his ideas, or present his evidence under a new form. Tillotson
argues at great length, but it would be rather difficult to understand
which side of the question he adopts on this momentous subject; whether
he is a Necessitarian, or among the opposers of Fatalism. Speaking of
man, he says, "he is liable to many evils and miseries, which he can
neither prevent or redress; he is full of wants, which he cannot supply,
and compassed about with infirmities which he cannot remove, and
obnoxious to dangers which he can never sufficiently provide against: he
is apt to grieve for what he cannot help, and eagerly to desire what he
is never able to obtain." If the proofs of Clarke, who has drawn them up
in twelve propositions, are examined with attention, I think they may be
fairly shielded from the reproach with which they have been loaded; it
does not appear that he has proved his positions _a priori,_ but _a
posteriori,_ according to rule. It seems clear, however, that he has
mistaken the proof of the existence of the effects, for the proof of the
existence of the cause: but here he seems to have more reason than his
critics, who in their eagerness to prove that Clarke has not conformed
to the rules of the schools, would entirely overlook the best, the
surest foundation whereon to rest the existence of the _Great Cause of
causes,_ that _Parent of Parents_, whose wisdom shines so manifestly in
nature, of which Clarke's work may be said to be such a masterly
evidence. We shall follow, step by step, the different propositions in
which this learned divine developes the received opinions upon the
Divinity; which, when applied to nature, will be found to be so
accurate, so correct, as to leave no further room to doubt either the
existence or the wisdom of her great author, thus proved through her own
existence. Dr. Clarke sets out with saying:

"_1st. Something has existed from all eternity_."

This proposition is evident--hath no occasion for proofs. Matter has
existed from all eternity, its forms alone are evanescent; matter is the
great engine used by nature to produce all her phenomena, or rather it
is nature herself. We have some idea of matter, sufficient to warrant
the conclusion that this has always existed. First, that which exists,
supposes existence essential to its being. That which cannot, annihilate
itself, exists necessarily; it is impossible to conceive that that which
cannot cease to exist, or that which cannot annihilate itself, could
ever have had a beginning. If matter cannot be annihilated, it could not
commence to be. Thus we say to Dr. Clarke, that it is matter, it is
nature, acting by her own peculiar energy, of which no particle is ever
in an absolute state of rest, which hath always existed. The various
material bodies which this nature contains often change their form,
their combination, their properties, their mode of action: but their
principles or elements are indestructible--have never been able to
commence. What this great scholar actually understands, when he makes
the assertion "that an eternal duration is now actually past," is not
quite so clear; yet he affirms, "that not to believe it would be a real
and express contradiction." We may, however, safely admit his argument,
"that when once any proposition is clearly demonstrated to, be true, it
ought not to disturb us that there be perhaps some perplexing
difficulties on the other side, which merely for want of adequate ideas
of the manner of the existence of the things demonstrated, are not
easily to be cleared."

_2nd, "There has existed from eternity some one unchangeable and
independent Being."_

We may fairly inquire what is this Being? Is it independent of its own
peculiar essence, or of those properties which constitute it such as it
is? We shall further inquire, if this Being, whatever it may be, can
make the other beings which it produces, or which it moves, act
otherwise than they do, according to the properties which it has given
them? And in this case we shall ask, if this Being, such as it way be
supposed to be, does not act necessarily; if it is not obliged to employ
indispensible means to fulfil its designs, to arrive at the end which it
either has, or may be supposed to have in view? Then we shall say, that
nature is obliged to act after her essence; that every thing which takes
place in her is necessary; but that she is independent of her forms.

A man is said to be independent, when he is determined in his actions
only by the general causes which are accustomed to move him; he is
equally said to be dependent on another, when he cannot act but in
consequence of the determination which this last gives him. A body is
dependent on another body when it owes to it its existence, and its mode
of action. A being existing from eternity cannot owe his existence to
any other being; he cannot then be dependent upon him, except he owes
his action to him; but it is evident that an eternal or self-existent
Being contains in his own nature every thing that is necessary for him
to act: then, matter being eternal, is necessarily independent in the
sense we have explained; of course it hath no occasion for a mover upon
which it ought to depend.

This eternal Being is also immutable, if by this attribute be understood
that he cannot change his nature; but if it be intended to infer by it
that he cannot change his mode of action or existence, it is without
doubt deceiving themselves, since even in supposing an immaterial being,
they would be obliged to acknowledge in him different modes of being,
different volitions, different ways of acting; particularly if he was
not supposed totally deprived of action, in which case he would be
perfectly useless. Indeed it follows of course that to change his mode
of action he must necessarily change his manner of being. From hence it
will he obvious, that the theologians, in making their gods immutable,
render them immoveable, consequently they cannot act. An immutable
being, could evidently neither have successive volition, nor produce
successive action; if this being hath created matter, or given birth to
the universe, there must have been a time in which he was willing that
this matter, this universe, should exist; and this time must have been
preceded by another time, in which he was willing that it might not yet
exist. If God be the author of all things, as well as of the motion and
of the combinations of matter, he is unceasingly occupied in producing
and destroying; in consequence, he cannot be called immutable, touching
his mode of existing. The material world always maintains itself by
motion, and the continual change of its parts; the sum of the beings who
compose it, or of the elements which act in it, is invariably the same;
in this sense the immutability of the universe is much more easy of
comprehension, much more demonstrable than that of an other being to
whom, they would attribute all the effects, all the mutations which take
place. Nature is not more to be accused of mutability, on account of the
succession of its forms, than the eternal Being is by the theologians,
by the diversity of his decrees. Here we shall be able to perceive that,
supposing the laws by which nature acts to be immutable, it does not
require tiny of these logical distinctions to account for the changes
that take place: the mutation which results, is, on the contrary, a
striking proof of the immutability of the system which produces them;
and completely brings mature under the range of this second proposition
as stated by Dr. Clarke.

_3dly, "That unchangeable and independent Being which has existed from
eternity without any eternal cause of its existence, must be self-
existent, that is, necessarily existing."_

This proposition is merely a repetition of the first; we reply to it by
inquiring, Why matter, which is indestructible, should not be self-
existent? It is evident that a being who had no beginning, must be self-
existent; if he had existed by another, he would have commenced to be;
consequently he would not be eternal.

_4thly, "What the substance or essence of that Being which is self-
existent, or necessarily existing, is, we have no idea; neither is it at
all possible for us to comprehend it."_

Dr. Clarke would perhaps have spoken more correctly if he had said his
essence is impossible to be known: nevertheless, we shall readily
concede that the essence of matter is incomprehensible, or at least that
we conceive it very feebly by the manner in which we are affected by it;
but without this we should be less able to conceive the Divinity, who
would then be impervious on any side. Thus it must necessarily be
concluded, that it is folly to argue upon it, since it is by matter
alone we can have any knowledge of him; that is to say, by which we can
assure ourselves of his existence,--by which we can at all guess at his
qualities. In short we must conclude, that every thing related of the
Divinity, either proves him material, or else proves the impossibility
in which the human mind will always find itself, of conceiving any being
different from matter; without extent, yet omnipresent; immaterial, yet
acting upon matter; spiritual, yet producing matter; immutable, yet
putting every thing in activity, &c.

Indeed it must be allowed that the incomprehensibility of the Divinity
does not distinguish him from matter; this will not be more easy of
comprehension when we shall associate it with a being much less
comprehensible than itself; we have some slender knowledge of it through
some of its parts. We do not certainly know the essence of any being, if
by that word we are to understand that which constitutes its peculiar
nature. We only know matter by the sensations, the perceptions, the
ideas which it furnishes; it is according to these that we judge it to
be either favorable or unfavourable, following the particular
disposition of our organs. But when a being does not act upon any part
of our organic structure, it does not exist for us; we cannot, without
exhibiting folly, without betraying our ignorance, without falling into
obscurity, either speak of its nature, or assign its qualities; our
senses are the only channel by which we could have formed the slightest
idea of it; these not having received any impulse, we are, in point of
fact, unacquainted with its existence. The incomprehensibility of the
Divinity ought to convince man that it is a point at which he is bound
to stop; indeed he is placed in a state of utter incapacity to proceed:
this, however, would not suit with those speculators who are willing to
reason upon him continually, to shew the depth of their learning,--to
persuade the uninformed they understand that which is incomprehensible
to all men; by which they expect to be able to submit him to their own
views. Nevertheless, if the Divinity be incomprehensible, It would not
be straining a point beyond its tension, to conclude that a priest, or
metaphysician, did not comprehend him better than other men: it is not,
perhaps, either the wisest or the surest way to become acquainted with
him, to represent him to ourselves, by the imagination of a theologian.

_5thly, "Though the substance, or essence of the self-existent Being, is
in itself absolutely incomprehensible to us, yet many of the essential
attributes of his nature are strictly demonstrable, as well as his
existence. Thus, in the first place, the self-existent Being must of
necessity be eternal."_

This proposition differs in nothing from the first, except Dr. Clarke
does not here understand that as the self-existent Being had no
beginning, he can have no end. However this may be, we must ever
inquire, Why this should not be matter? We shall further observe, that
matter not being capable of annihilation, exists necessarily,
consequently will never cease to exist; that the human mind has no means
of conceiving how matter should originate from that which is not itself
matter: is it not obvious, that matter is necessary; that there is
nothing, except its powers, its arrangement, its combinations, which are
contingent or evanescent? The general motion is necessary, but the given
motion is not so; only during the season that the particular
combinations subsist, of which this motion is the consequence, or the
effect: we may be competent to change the direction, to either
accelerate or retard, to suspend or arrest, a particular motion, but the
general motion can never possibly be annihilated. Man, in dying, ceases
to live; that is to say, he no longer either walks, thinks, or acts in
the mode which is peculiar to human organization: but the matter which
composed his body, the matter which formed his mind, does not cease to
move on that account: it simply becomes susceptible of another species
of motion.

_6thly, "The self-existent Being must of necessity be infinite and

The word infinite presents only a negative idea--which excludes all
bounds: it is evident that a being who exists necessarily, who is
independent, cannot be limited by any thing which is out of himself; he
must consequently be his own limits; in this sense we may say he is

Touching what is said of his omnipresence, it is equally evident that if
there be nothing exterior to this being, either there is no place in
which he must not be present, or that there will be only himself and the
vacuum. This granted, I shall inquire if matter exists; if it does not
at least occupy a portion of space? In this case, matter, or the
universe, must exclude every other being who is not matter, from that
place which the material beings occupy in space. In asking whether the
gods of the theologians be by chance the abstract being which they call
the vacuum or space, they will reply, no! They will further insist, that
their gods, who are not matter, penetrate that which is matter. But it
must be obvious, that to penetrate matter, it is necessary to have some
correspondence with matter, consequently to have extent; now to have
extent, is to have one of the properties of matter. If the Divinity
penetrates matter, then he is material; by a necessary deduction he is
inseparable from matter; then if he is omnipresent, he will be in every
thing. This the theologian will not allow: he will say it is a mystery;
by which I shall understand that he is himself ignorant how to account
for his own positions; this will not he the case with making nature act
after immutable laws; she will of necessity be every where, in my body,
in my arm, in every other material being, because matter composes them
all. The Divinity who has given this invariable system, will without any
incongruous reasoning, without any subterfuge, be also present every
where, inasmuch as the laws be has prescribed will unchangeably act
through the whole; this does not seem inconsistent with reason to

_7th, "The Self-existent Being must of necessity be but one."_

If there he nothing exterior to a being who exists necessarily, it must
follow that he is unique. It will be obvious that this proposition is
the same with the preceding one; at least, if they are not willing to
deny the existence of the material world.

_8th, "The self-existent and original Cause of all things, must be an
intelligent being."_

Here Dr. Clarke most unquestionably assigneth a human quality:
intelligence is a faculty appertaining to organized or animated beings,
of which we have no knowledge out of these beings. To have intelligence,
it is necessary to think; to think, it is requisite to have ideas; to
have ideas, supposes senses; when senses exist they are material; when
they are material, they cannot be a pure spirit, in the language of the

The necessary Being who comprehends, who contains, who produces animated
beings, contains, includes, and produceth intelligence. But has the
great whole a peculiar intelligence, which moveth it, which maketh it
act, which determineth it in the mode that intelligence moves and
determines animated bodies; or rather, is not this intelligence the
consequence of immutable laws, a certain modification resulting from
certain combinations of matter, which exists under one form of these
combinations, but is wanting under another form? This is assuredly what
nothing is competent absolutely, and demonstrably to prove. Man having
placed himself in the first rank in the universe, has been desirous to
judge of every thing after what he saw within himself, because he hath
pretended that in order to be perfect it was necessary to be like
himself. Here is the source of all his erroneous reasoning upon nature--
the foundation of his ideas upon his gods. He has therefore concluded,
perhaps not with the most polished wisdom, that it would be indecorous
in himself, injurious to the Divinity, not to invest him with a quality
which is found estimable in man--which he prizes highly--to which he
attaches the idea of perfection--which he considers as a manifest proof
of superiority. He sees his fellow-creature is offended when he is
thought to lack intelligence; he therefore judges it to be the same with
the Divinity. He denies this quality to nature, because he considers her
a mass of ignoble matter, incapable of self-action; although she
contains and produces intelligent beings. But this is rather a
personification of an abstract quality, than an attribute of the Deity,
with whose perfections, with whose mode of existence, he cannot by any
possible means become acquainted according to the fifth proposition of
Dr. Clarke himself. It is in the earth that is engendered those living
animals called worms; yet we do not say the earth is a living creature.
The bread which man eats, the wine that he drinks, are not themselves
thinking substances; yet they nourish, sustain, and cause those beings
to think, who are susceptible of this modification of their existence.
It is likewise in nature, that is formed intelligent, feeling, thinking
beings; yet it cannot be rationally said, that nature feels, thinks, and
is intelligent after the manner of these beings, who nevertheless spring
out of her bosom.

How! cries the metaphysician, the subtilizing philosopher, what! refuse
to the Divinity, those qualities we discover in his creatures? Must,
then, the work be more perfect than the workman? Shall God, who made the
eye, not himself see? Shall God, who formed the ear, not himself hear!
This at a superficial view appears insuperable: but are the questioners,
however triumphantly they may make the inquiry, themselves aware of the
length this would carry them, even if their queries were answered with
the most unqualified affirmative? Have they sufficiently reflected on
the tendency of this mode of reasoning? If this be admitted as a
postulatum, are they prepared to follow it in all its extent? Suppose
their argument granted, what is to be done with all those other
qualities upon which man does not set so high a value? Are they also to
be ascribed to the Divinity, because we do not refuse him qualities
possessed by his creatures? By a parity of reasoning we should attach
faculties that would be degrading to the Divinity. Thus it ever happens
with those who travel out of the limits of their own knowledge; they
involve themselves in perpetual contradictions which they can never
reconcile; which only serve to prove that in arguing upon points, on
which universal ignorance prevails, the result is constantly that all
the deductions made from such unsteady principles, must of necessity be
at war with each other, in hostility with themselves. Thus, although we
cannot help feeling the profound wisdom, that must have dictated the
system we see act with such uniformity, with such constancy, with such
astonishing power, we cannot form the most slender idea of the
particular nature of that wisdom; because if we were for an instant to
assimilate it to our own, weak and feeble as it is, we should from that
instant be in a state of contradiction; seeing we could not then avoid
considering the evil we witness, the sorrow we experience, as a
dereliction of this wisdom, which at least proves one great truth, _that
we are utterly incapable of forming an idea of the Divinity_. But in
contemplating things as our own experience warrants in whatever we do
understand, in considering nature as acting by unchangeable laws, we
find good and evil necessarily existing, without at all involving the
wisdom of the great _Cause of causes_; who thus has no need to remedy
that, which the further progress of the eternal system will regulate of
itself, or which industry and patient research on our parts will enable
us to discover the means of futurely avoiding.

_9th, "The self-existent and original Cause of all things, is not a
necessary agent, but a being endued with liberty and choice._"

Man is called free, when he finds within himself motives that determine
him to action, or when his will meets no obstacle to the performance of
that to which his motives have determined him. The necessary Being of
which question is here made, doth he find no obstacles to the execution
of the projects which are attributed to him? Is he willing, adopting
their own hypothesis, that evil should be committed, or can he not
prevent it? In this latter case he is not free; if his will does meet
with obstacles, if he is willing to permit evil; then he suffers man to
restrain his liberty, by deranging his projects; if he has not these
projects, then they are themselves in error who ascribe them to him. How
will the metaphysicians draw themselves out of this perplexing

The further a theologian goes, whilst considering his gods as possessed
of human qualities, as acting by mortal motives, the more he flounders--
the greater the mass of contradiction he heaps together: thus if it be
asked of him, can God reward crime, punish virtue, he will immediately
answer, no! In this answer he will have truth: but then this truth, and
the freedom which is ascribed to him, cannot, according to human ideas,
exist together; because if this being cannot love vice, cannot hate
virtue, and it is evident he cannot, he is in fact not more free than
man himself. Again, God is said to have made a covenant with his
creatures; now it is the very essence of a covenant to restrict choice;
and that being must be considered a necessary agent who is under the
necessity of fulfilling any given act. As it is impossible to suppose
the Divinity can act irrationally, it must be conceded that as he made
these laws, he is himself obliged to follow them: because if he was not,
as we must again suppose he does nothing without a good reason, he would
thereby imply, that the mode of action he adopted would be wiser; which
would again involve a contradiction. The theologians fearing, without
doubt, to restrain the liberty of the Divinity, have supposed it was
necessary that he should not be bound by his own laws, in which they
have shewn somewhat more ignorance of their subject than they imagined.

_10th, "The self-existent Being, the supreme Cause of all things, must
of necessity have infinite power."_

As nature is adequate to produce every thing we see--as she contains the
whole united power of the universe, her power has consequently no
limits: the being who conferred this power cannot have less. But if the
ideas of the theologians were adopted, this power would not appear quite
so unlimited; since, according to them, man is a free agent,
consequently has the means of acting contrary to this power, which at
once sets a boundary to it. An equitable monarch is perhaps nothing less
than he is a free agent; when he believes himself bound to act
conformably to the laws, which he has sworn to observe, or which he
cannot violate without wounding his justice. The theologian is a man who
may be very fairly estimated neuter; because he destroys with one hand
what he establishes with the other.

_11th, "The Supreme Cause and Author of all things, must of necessity be
infinitely wise."_

As nature produces all things by certain immutable laws, it will require
no great difficulty to allow that she may be infinitely wise: indeed,
whatever side of the argument may be taken, this fact will result as a
necessary consequence. It will hardly admit of a question that all
things are produced by nature: if, therefore, we do not allow her wisdom
to be first rate, it would be an insult to the Divinity, who gave her
her system. If the theologian himself is to take the lead, he also
admits that nature operates under the immediate auspices of his gods;
whatever she does, must then, according to his own shewing, be executed
with the most polished wisdom. But the theologian is not satisfied with
going thus far: he will insist, not only that he knows what these things
are, but also that he knows the end they have in view: this,
unfortunately, is the rock he splits upon. According to his own
admission, the ways of God are impenetrable to man. If we grant his
position, what is the result? Why, that it is at random he speaks. If
these ways are impenetrable, by what means did he acquire his knowledge
of them? How did he discover the end proposed by the Deity? If they are
not impenetrable, they then can be equally known to other men as to
himself. The theologian would be puzzled to shew he has any more
privileges in nature than his fellow mortals. Again, if he has asserted
these things to be impenetrable, when they are not so, he is then in the
situation that he has himself placed Mahomet: he is no longer worthy of
being attended to, because he has swerved from veracity. It certainly is
not very consistent with the sublime idea of the Divinity that he should
be clothed with that weak, vain passion of man, called glory: the being
who had the faculty of producing such a system as it operated in nature,
could hardly be supposed to have such a frivolous passion as we know
this to be in our fellows: and as we can never reason but after what we
do know, it would appear nothing can be more inconsistent than thus
continually heaping together our own feeble, inconsistent views, and
then supposing the great _Cause of causes_ acts by such futile rules.

_12th, "The supreme Cause and Author of all things must of necessity be
a being of infinite goodness, justice, and truth, and all other moral
perfections, such as become the supreme governor and judge of the

We must again repeat that these are human qualities drawn from the model
of man himself; they only suppose a being of the human species, who
should be divested of what we call imperfections: this is certainly the
highest point of view in which our finite minds are capable of
contemplating the Divinity: but as this being has neither species nor
cause, consequently no fellow creatures, he must necessarily be of an
order so different to man, that human faculties can in no wise be
appropriately assigned to him. The idea of perfection, as man
understands it, is an abstract, metaphysical, negative idea, of which he
has no archetype whereby to form a judgment: he would call that a
perfect being, who, similar to himself, was wanting in those qualities
which he finds prejudicial to him; but such a being would after all be
no wore than a man. It is always relatively to himself, to his own mode
of feeling and of thinking, that a thing is either perfect or imperfect;
it is according to this, that in his eyes a thing is more or less useful
or prejudicial; agreeable or disagreeable. Justice includes all moral
perfections. One of the most prominent features of justice, in the ideas
of man, is the equity of the relations subsisting between beings,
founded upon their mutual wants. According to the theologian, his gods
owe nothing to man. How then does he measure out his ideas of justice?
For a monarch to say he owed nothing to his subjects, would be
considered, even by this theologian himself, as rank injustice; because
he would expect the fulfilment of duties on their part, without
exercising those which devolved upon himself. Duties, according to the
only idea man can form of them, must he reciprocal. It is rather
stretching the human capabilities, to understand the relations between a
pure spirit and material beings--between finity and infinity--between
eternal beings and those which are transitory: thus it is, that
metaphysics hold forth an inconceivable being by the very attributes
with which they clothe him; for either he has these attributes, or he
has them not: whether he has them or has them not, man can only
understand them after his own powers of comprehension. If he does at all
understand them, he cannot have the slightest idea of justice
unaccompanied by duties, which are the very basis, the superstructure,
the pillars upon which this virtue rests. Whether we are to view it as
self-love or ignorance in the theologian, that he thus dresses up his
gods after himself, it certainly was not the happiest effort of his
imagination to work by an inverse rule: for, according to himself, the
qualities he describes are all the negation of what he calls them.
Doctor Clarke himself stumbles a little upon these points; he insists
upon free agency, and uses this extraordinary method to support his
argument; he says, "God is, by necessity, a free agent: and be can no
more possibly cease to be so, than he can cease to exist. He must of
necessity, every moment choose to act, or choose to forbear acting;
because two contradictories cannot possibly he true at once. Man also is
by necessity, not in the nature of things, but through God's
appointment, a free agent. And it is no otherwise in his power to cease
to be such, than by depriving himself of life." Will Doctor Clarke
permit us to put one simple question: If to be obligated to do a certain
given thing, is to be free, what is it to be coerced? Or if two
contradictories cannot be true at once, by what rule of logic are we to
measure the idea of that freedom which arises out of necessity.
Supposing necessity to be what Dr. Johnson, (using Milton as his
authority) says it is, "compulsion," "fatality," would it be considered
a man was less restrained in his actions because he was only compelled
to do what was right? The restraint would undoubtedly he beneficial to
him, but it would not therefore render him more a free agent. If the
Divinity cannot love wickedness, cannot hate goodness, (and surely the
theologians themselves will not pretend he can,) then the power of
choice has no existence as far as these two things are concerned; and
this upon Clarke's own principle, because two contradictories cannot be
true at once. Nothing could, I think, appear a greater contradiction,
than the idea that the _Great Cause of causes_ could by any possibility
love vice: if such a monstrous principle could for a moment have
existence, there would be an end of all the foundations of religion.

The Doctor is very little happier in reasoning upon _immateriality_. He
says, by way of illustrating his argument, "that it is possible to
infinite power to create an immaterial cogitative substance, endued with
a power of beginning motion, and with a liberty of will or choice."
Again, "that immaterial substances are not impossible; or, that a
substance immaterial is not a contradictory notion. Now, whoever asserts
that it is contradictory, must affirm that whatever is not matter is
nothing; and that, to say any thing exists which is not matter, is
saying that there exists something which is nothing, which in other
words is plainly this,--that whatever we have not an idea of, is
nothing, and impossible to be." It could, I am apt to believe, never
have entered into any reasonable mind that a thing was impossible
because he could have no idea of it:--many things, on the contrary, are
possible, of which we have not the most slender notion: but it does not,
I presume, flow consecutively out of this admission, that therefore
every thing is, which is not impossible. Doctor Clarke then, rather begs
the question on this occasion. In the schools it is never considered
requisite to prove a negative; indeed, this is ranked by logicians
amongst those things impossible to be, but it is considered of the
highest importance to soundness of argument, to establish the
affirmative by the most conclusive reasoning. Taking this for granted,
we will apply the doctor's own reasoning. He says, "Nothing is that of
which every thing, can truly be affirmed. So that the idea of nothing,
if I may so speak, is absolutely the negative of all ideas; the idea,
therefore, either of a finite or infinite nothing is a contradiction in
terms." To affirm, of a thing with truth, it must be necessary to be
acquainted with that thing. To have ideas, as we have already proved, it
is necessary to have perceptions; to have perceptions, it is requisite
to have sensations; to have sensations, requires organs. An idea cannot
be, and not be, at the same moment: the idea of substance, it will
scarcely be denied, is that of a thing solid, real, according to Dryden;
capable of supporting accidents, according to Watts; something of which
we can say that it is, according to Davies; body, corporeal nature,
according to Newton; the idea of immaterial, according to Hooker, is
incorporeal. How then am I to understand immaterial substance? Is it
not, according to these definitions, that which cannot couple together?
If a thing be immaterial, it cannot be a substance; if a substance, it
cannot be immaterial: those I apprehend will not have many ideas, who do
not see this is a complete negative of all ideas. If, therefore, on the
outset, the doctor cannot find words, by which he can convey the idea of
that of which he is so desirous to prove the existence, by what chain of
reasoning does he flatter himself that he is to be understood? He will
endeavour to draw out of this dilemma, by assuring as there are things
which we can neither see nor touch, but which do not the less exist on
that account. Granted: but from thence we can neither reason upon them,
nor assign them qualities; we must at least either feel them or
something like them, before we can have any idea of them: this, however,
would not prove they were not substances, nor that substances can be
immaterial. A thing may with great possibility exist of which we have no
knowledge, and yet be material; but I maintain until we have a knowledge
of it, it exists not for us, any more than colours exist for a man born
blind; the man who has sight knows they do exist, can describe them to
his dark neighbour; from this description the blind man may form some
idea of them by analogy with what he himself already knows; or, perhaps,
having a finer tact than his neighbour, he may be enabled to distinguish
them by their surfaces; it would, therefore, be bad reasoning in the man
born blind, to deny the existence of colours; because although these
colours may have no relation with the senses in the absence of sight,
they have with those who have it in their power to see and to know them:
this blind man, however, would-appear a little ridiculous if he
undertook to define them with all their gradations of shade; with all
their variations under different masses of light. Again, if those who
were competent to discriminate these modifications of matter called
colours, were to define them to this blind man, as those modifications
of matter called sound, would the blind man be able to have any
conception of them? It certainly would not be wise in him to aver, that
such a thing as colorific sound had no existence, was impossible; but at
least he would be very justifiable in saying, they appeared
contradictions, because he had some ideas of sound which did not at all
aid him in forming those of colour; he would not, perhaps, be very
inconclusive if he suspected the competency of his informer to the
definition attempted, from his inability to convey to him in any
distinct, understood terms, his own ideas of colours. The theologian is
a blind man, who would explain to others who are also blind, the shades
and colours of a portrait whose original he has not even stumbled upon
in the dark. There is nothing incongruous in supposing that every thing
which has existence is matter; but it requires the complete inversion of
all our ideas, to conceive that which is immaterial; because, in point
of fact, this would be a quality of which "nothing can with truth be

It is, indeed true, that Plato, who was a great creator of chimeras,
says, "those who admit nothing but what they can see and feel, are
stupid ignorant beings, who refuse to admit the reality of the existence
of invisible things." With all due deference to such an authority, we
may still venture to ask, is there then no difference, no shade, no
gradation, between an admission of possibilities and the proof of
realities. Theology would then be the only science in which it is
permitted to conclude that a thing is, as soon as it is possible to be.
Will the assertion of either Clarke or Plato stand absolutely in place
of all evidence? Would they themselves permit such to be convincing if
used against them? The theologians evidently hold this Platonic, this
dogmatical language; they have dreamed the dreams of their master;
perhaps if they were examined a little, they would be found nothing more
than the result of those obscure notions, those unintelligible
metaphysics, adopted by the Egyptian, Chaldean, and Assyrian priests,
among whom Plato drew up his philosophy. If, however, philosophy means
that which we are led to suppose it does, by the great John Locke, it is
"a system by which natural effects are explained." Taken in this sense
we shall be under the necessity of agreeing, that the Platonic doctrines
in no wise merit this distinction, seeing he has only drawn the human
mind from the contemplation of visible nature, to plunge it into the
unfathomable depths of invisibility--of intangibility--of suppositious
speculation, where it can find little other food except chimeras or
conjecture. Such a philosophy is rather fantastical, yet it would seem
we are required to subscribe to its positions without being allowed to
compare them with reason, to examine them through the medium of
experience, to try the gold by the action of fire: thus we have in
abundance the terms spirits, incorporeal substances, invisible powers,
supernatural effects, innate ideas, mysterious virtues, possessed by
demons, &c. &c. which render our senses entirely useless, which put to
flight every thing like experience; while we are gravely told that
"nothing is that, of which no thing can truly be affirmed." Whoever may
be willing to take the trouble of reading the works of Plato and his
disciples, such as Proclus, Iamblicus, Plotinus, and others, will not
fail to find in them almost every doctrine, every metaphysical subject
of the theologian; in fact, the theurgy of many of the modern
superstitions, which for the most part seems to be little more than a
slight variation of that adopted by the ethnic priests. Dreamers have
not had that variety in their follies, that has generally been imagined.
That some of these things should be extensively admitted, by no means
affords proof of their existence. Nothing appears more facile than to
make mankind admit the greatest absurdities, under the imposing name of
mysteries; after having imbued him from his infancy with maxims
calculated to hoodwink his reason--to lead him astray--to prevent him
from examining that which he is told he must believe. Of this there
cannot well exist a more decisive proof than the great extent of
country, the millions of human beings who faithfully and without
examination have adopted the idle dreams, the rank absurdities, of that
arch impostor Mahomet. However this may be, we shall be obliged again to
reply to Plato, and to those of his followers who impose upon us the
necessity of believing that which we cannot comprehend, that, in order
to know that a thing exists, it is at least necessary to have some idea
of it; that this idea can only come to us by the medium of our senses;
that consequently every thing of which our senses do not give us a
knowledge, is in fact nothing for us; and can only rest upon our faith;
upon that admission which is pretty generally, even by the theologian
himself, considered as rather a sandy foundation whereon to erect the
altar of truth: that if there be an absurdity in not accrediting the
existence of that which we do not know, there is no less extravagance in
assigning it qualities; in reasoning upon its properties; in clothing it
with faculties, which may or may not be suitable to its mode of
existence; in substituting idols of our own creation; in combining
incompatible attributes, which will neither bear the test of experience
nor the scrutiny of reason; and then endeavouring to make the whole pass
current by dint of the word infinite, which we will now examine.

Infinite, according to Dennis, means "boundless, unlimited." Doctor
Clarke thus describes it:--he says, "The self-existent being must he a
most simple, unchangeable incorruptible being; without parts, figure,
motion, divisibility, or any other such properties as we find in matter.
For all these things do plainly and necessarily imply finiteness in
their very notion, and are utterly inconsistent with complete infinity."
Ingenuously, is it possible for man to form any true notion of such a
quality? The theologians themselves acknowledge he cannot. Further, the
Doctor allows, "That as to the particular manner of his being infinite,
or every where present, in opposition to the manner of created things
being present in such or such finite places, this is as impossible for
our finite understandings to comprehend or explain, as it is for us to
form an adequate idea of infinity." What is this, then, but that which
no man can explain or comprehend? If it cannot be comprehended, it
cannot be detailed; if it cannot be detailed, it is precisely "that of
which nothing can with truth be affirmed;" and this is Dr. Clarke's own
explanation of nothing. Indeed, is not the human mind obliged by its
very nature to join limited quantities to other quantities, which it can
only conceive as limited, in order to form to itself a sort of confused
idea of something beyond its own grasp, without ever reaching the point
of infinity, which eludes every attempt at definition? Then it would
appear that it is an abstraction, a mere negation of limitation.

Our learned adversary seems to think it strange that the existence of
incorporeal, immaterial substances, the essence of which we are not able
to comprehend, should not be generally accredited. To enforce this
belief, he says, "There is not so mean and contemptible a plant or
animal, that does not confound the most enlarged understanding, upon
earth: nay, even the simplest and plainest of all inanimate beings have
their essence or substance hidden from us in the deepest and most
impenetrable obscurity."

We shall reply to him,

_First_, That the idea of an immaterial substance; or being without
extent, is only an absence of ideas, a negation of extent, as we have
already shewn; that when we are told a being is not matter, they speak
to us of that which is not, and do not teach us that which is; because
by insisting that a being is such, that it cannot act upon any of our
senses, they, in fact, inform us that we have no means of assuring
ourselves whether such being exists or not.

_Secondly_, We shall avow without the least hesitation, that men of the
greatest genius, of the most indefatigable research, are not acquainted
with the essence of stones, plants, animals, nor with the secret springs
which constitute some, which make others vegetate or act: but then at
least we either feel them or see them; our senses have a knowledge of
them in some respects; we can perceive some of their effects; we have
something whereby to judge of them, either accurately or inaccurately;
we can conceive that which is matter, however varied, however subtle,
however minute, by analogy with other matter; but our senses cannot
compass that which is immaterial on any side; we cannot by any possible
means understand it; we have no means whatever of ascertaining its
existence; consequently we cannot even form an idea of it; such a being
is to us an occult principle, or rather a being which imagination has
composed, by deducting from it every known quality. If we are ignorant
of the intimate combination of the most material beings, we at least
discover, with the aid of experience, some of their relations with
ourselves: we have a knowledge of their surface, their extent, their
form, their colour, their softness, their density; by the impressions
they make on our senses, we are capable of discriminating them--of
comparing them--of judging of them in some manner--of seeing them--of
either avoiding or courting them, according to the different modes in
which we are affected by them; we cannot apply any of these tests to
immaterial beings; to spirits; neither can those men who are unceasingly
talking to mankind of these inconceivable things.

_Thirdly_, We have a consciousness of certain modifications in
ourselves, which we call sentiment, thought, will, passions: for want of
being acquainted with our own peculiar essence; for want of precisely
understanding the energy of our own particular organization, we
attribute these effects to a concealed cause, distinguished from
ourselves; which the theologians call a spiritual cause, inasmuch as it
appears to act differently from our body. Nevertheless, reflection,
experience, every thing by which we are enabled to form any kind of
judgment, proves that material effects can only emanate from material
causes. We see nothing in the universe but physical, material effects,
these can only be produced by analogous causes; it is, then certainly
more rational to attribute them to nature herself, of which we may know
something, if we will but deign to meditate her with attention, rather
than to spiritual causes, of which we must for ever remain ignorant, let
us study them as long as we please.

If incomprehensibility be not a sufficient reason for absolutely denying
the possibility of immateriality, it certainly is not of a cogency to
establish its existence; we shall always be less in a capacity to
comprehend a spiritual cause, than one that is material; because
materiality is a known quality; spirituality is an occult, an unknown
quality; or rather it is a mode of speech of which we avail ourselves to
throw a veil over our own ignorance. We are repeatedly told that our
senses only bring us acquainted with the external of things; that our
limited ideas are not capable of conceiving immaterial beings: we agree
frankly to this position; but then our senses do not even shew us the
external of these immaterial substances, Which the theologians will
nevertheless attempt to define to us; upon which they unceasingly
dispute among themselves; upon which even until this day they are not in
perfect unison with each other. The great John Locke in his familiar
letters, says, "I greatly esteem all those who faithfully defend their
opinions; but there are so few persons who, according to the manner they
do defend them, appear fully convinced of the opinions they profess,
that I am tempted to believe there are more sceptics in the world than
are generally imagined."

Abady, one of the most strenuous supporters of immaterialism, says, "The
question is not what incorporeity is, but whether it be." To settle this
disputable point, it were necessary to have some data whereon to form
our judgment; but how assure ourselves of the existence of that, of
which we shall never be competent to have a knowledge? If we are not
told what this is; if some tangible evidence be not offered to the human
mind; how shall we feel ourselves capacitated to judge whether or not
its existence be even possible? How form an estimate of that picture
whose colours elude our sight, whose design we cannot perceive, whose
features have no means of becoming familiar to our mind, whose very
canvas refuses itself to our all research, of which the artist himself
can afford no other idea, no other description, but that it is, although
he himself can neither shew us how or where! We have seen the ruinous
foundations upon which men have hitherto erected this fanciful idea of
immateriality; we have examined the proofs which they have offered, if
proofs they can be called, in support of their hypothesis; we have
sifted the evidence they have been willing to have accredited, in order
to establish their position; we have pointed out the numberless
contradictions that result from their want of union on this subject,
from the irreconcileable qualities with which they clothe their
imaginary system. What conclusion, then, ought fairly, rationally,
consistently, to be drawn from the whole? Can we, or can we not admit
their argument to be conclusive, such as ought to be received by beings
who think themselves sane? Will it allow any other inference than that
it has no existence; that immateriality is a quality hitherto unproved;
the idea of which the mind of man has no means of compassing? Still they
will insist, "there are no contradictions between the qualities which
they attribute to these immaterial substances; but there is a difference
between the understanding of man and the nature of these substances."
This granted, are they nearer the point at which they labour? What
standard is it necessary man should possess, to enable him to judge of
these substances? Can they shew the test that will lead to an
acquaintance with them? Are not those who have thus given loose to their
imagination, who have given birth to this system, themselves men? Does
not the disproportion, of which they speak with such amazing confidence,
attach to themselves as well as to others? If it needs an infinite mind
to comprehend infinity--to form an idea of incorporeity--can the
theologian himself boast he is in a capacity to understand it? To what
purpose then is it they speak of these things to others? Why do they
attempt descriptions of that which they allow to be indescribable? Man,
who will never be an infinite being, will never be able to conceive
infinity; if, then, he has hitherto been incompetent to this perfection
of knowledge, can he reasonably flatter himself he will ever obtain it;
can he hope under any circumstances to conquer that which according to
the shewing of all is unconquerable?

Nevertheless it is pretended, that it is absolutely necessary to know
these substances: but how prove the necessity of having a knowledge of
that which is impossible to be known? We are then told that good sense
and reason are sufficient to convince us of its existence: this is
taking new ground, when the old has been found untenable: for we are
also told that reason is a treacherous guide; one that frequently leads
us astray; that in religious matters it ought not to prevail: at least
then they ought to shew us the precise time when we must resume this
reason. Shall we consult it again, when the question is, whether what
they relate is probable; whether the discordant qualities which they
unite are consistently combined; whether their own arguments have all
that solidity which they would themselves wish them to possess? But we
have strangely mistaken them if they are willing that we should recur to
it upon these points; they will instead, insist we ought blindly to be
directed by that which they vouchsafe to inform us; that the most
certain road to happiness is to submit in all things to that which they
have thought proper to decide on the nature of things, of which they
avow their own ignorance, when they assert them to be beyond the reach
of mortals. Thus it would appear that when we should consent to accredit
these mysteries, it would never arise of our own knowledge; seeing this
can no otherwise obtain but by the effect of demonstrable evidence; it
would never arise from any intimate conviction of our minds; but it
would be entirely on the word of the theologian himself, that we should
ground our faith; that we should yield our belief. If these things are
to the human species what colours are to the man born blind, they have
at least no existence with relation to ourselves. It will avail the
blind man nothing to tell him these colours have no less existence,
because he cannot see them. But what shall we say of that portrait whose
colours the blind man attempts to explain, whose features he is willing
we should receive upon his authority, whose proportions are to be taken
from his description, merely because we know he cannot behold them?

The Doctor, although unwilling to relinquish his subject, removes none
of the difficulty when he asks, "Are our five senses, by an absolute
necessity in the nature of the thing, all and the only possible ways of
perception? And is it impossible and contradictory there should be any
being in the universe, indued with ways of perception different from
these that are the result of our present composition? Or are these
things, on the contrary, purely arbitrary; and the same power that gave
us these, may have given others to other beings, and might, if he had
pleased have given to us others in this present state?" It seems

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