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unless where God immediately reveals it to us; and there too our assurance can be no greater than our knowledge is that it is a revelation from God. But yet nothing, I think, can under that title shake or even overrule plain knowledge, or rationally prevail with any man to admit it for true in direct contradiction to the clear evidence of his own understanding. No evidence of our faculties, by which we receive such revelations, can exceed, if equal, the certainty of our intuitive knowledge ; and therefore no proposition can be received for divine revelation, or obtain the assent due to all such, if it be contradictory to our clear and intuitive knowledge ; because this would be to subvert the principles and foundations of all knowledge, evidence, and assent whatsoever, and there would be left no difference between truth and falsehood, no measures of credible and incredible in the world, if doubtful propositions should take place before self-evident, and what we certainly know give way to what we may possibly be mistaken in. In propositions, therefore, contrary to our distinct and clear ideas, it will be in vain to urge them as matters of faith. They cannot move our assent, under that or any other title whatsoever: for faith can never convince us of anything that contradicts our knowledge, because, though faith be founded on the testimony of God, who cannot lie, revealing any proposition to us, yet we cannot have an assurance of the truth of its being a divine revelation greater than our own knowledge, since the whole strength of the certainty depends upon our knowledge that God revealed it, which in this case, where the proposition supposed revealed contradicts our knowledge or reason, will always have this objection hanging to it, namely, that we cannot tell how to conceive that to come from God, the bountiful author of our being, which, if received for true, must overturn all the principles and foundations of knowledge he has given us, render all our faculties useless, wholly destroy the most excellent part of his workmanship, our understandings, and put a man in a condition wherein he will have less light, less conduct, than the beast that perisheth.” 1
Matters above reason, but not contrary it, however,--such as the statement that “part of the angels rebelled against God and thereby lost their first happy estate," and the doctrine that “the dead shall rise and live again,”—may easily, Locke considered, be believed on the testimony of revelation, if the truth of that revelation can be proved. “ Thus far the dominion of faith reaches; and that without any violence or hindrance to reason, which is not injured or disturbed, but assisted and improved, by new discoveries of truth coming from the eternal fountain of all knowledge.
1. Concerning Human Understanding,' b. iv., ch. xviii., § 5.
Whatever God hath revealed is certainly true ; no doubt can be made of it. This is the proper object of faith : but whether it be a divine revelation or no reason must judge, which can never permit the mind to reject a greater evidence to embrace what is less evident, nor allow it to entertain probability in opposition to knowledge and certainty. There can be no evidence that
traditional revelation is of divine original, in the words we receive it and in the sense we understand it, so clear and so certain as that of the principles of reason ; and, therefore, nothing that is contrary to and inconsistent with the clear and self-evident dictates of reason has a right to be urged or assented to, as a matter of faith, wherein reason hath nothing to do. Whatsoever is divine revelation, ought to overrule all our opinions, prejudices, and interests, and hath a right to be received with full assent. Such a submission as this of our reason to faith takes not away the landmarks of knowledge : this shakes not the foundations of reason, but leaves us that use of our faculties, for which they were given us.” “ If the provinces of faith and reason are not kept distinct by these boundaries;” he said finally,
" there will, in matters of religion, be no room for reason at all ; and those extravagant opinions and ceremonies that are to be found in the several religions of the world will not deserve to be blamed. For, to this crying up of faith in opposition to reason, we may, I think, in good measure ascribe those absurdities that fill almost all the religions which possess and divide mankind. For men, having been principled with an opinion that they must not consult reason in the things of religion, however apparently contradictory to common sense and the very principles of all their knowledge, have let loose their fancies and natural superstition, and have been by them led into so strange opinions and extravagant practices in religion that a considerate man cannot but stand amazed at their follies, and judge them so far from being acceptable to the great and wise God that he cannot avoid thinking them ridiculous and offensive to a sober, good man. So that in effect religion, which should most distinguish us from beasts and ought most peculiarly to elevate us as rational creatures above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves. * Credo, quia impossibile est '—- 'I believe, because it is impossible,' might in a good man pass for a sally of zeal, but would prove a very ill rule for men to choose their opinions or religion by." 1
Locke might well deplore the prevalence of error in matters of religion as well as in other affairs of life and real or fancied grounds of knowledge. But
1. Concerning Human Understanding,' b. iv., ch. xviii., $$ 10, 11.
he could be sarcastically charitable. “Notwithstanding the great noise made in the world about errors and opinions," he said in almost the last paragraph of his book, " I must do mankind the right to say there are not so many men in errors and wrong opinions as is commonly supposed. Not that I think they embrace the truth, but indeed because concerning those doctrines they keep such a stir about they have no thought, no opinion at all. For, if any one should a little catechise the greatest part of the partizans of most of the sects in the world, he would not find concerning those matters they are so zealous for that they have any opinions of their own; much less would he have reason to think that they took them upon the examination of arguments and appearance of probability. They are resolved to stick to a party that education or interest has engaged them in; and there, like the common soldiers of an army, show their courage and warmth as their leaders direct, without ever examining, or so much as knowing, the cause they contend for. If a man's life shows that he has no serious regard for religion, for what reason should we think that he beats his head about the opinions of his church and troubles himself to examine the grounds of this or that doctrine ? It is enough for him to obey his leaders, to have his hand and his tongue ready for the support of the common cause, and thereby approve himself to those who can give him credit, preferment, or protection in that society. Thus men become professors of, and combatants for, those opinions they were never convinced of nor proselytes to—no, nor ever had so much as floating in their heads; and though one cannot say there are fewer improbable or erroneous opinions in the world than there are, yet this is certain, there are fewer that actually assent to them and mistake them for truths than is imagined." 1
In the foregoing account of Locke's 'Essay concerning Human Understanding,' in the shape in which he first published it, effort has been made only to show what was its general scope and meaning as an index to his own mind and an appeal to the good sense of the readers and thinkers around him. “It was not meant,” he said, “for those who had already mastered this subject, and made a thorough acquaintance with their own understandings;
1 Concerning Human Understanding,' b. iv., ch. xx., § 18.
but for my own information and the satisfaction of a few friends who acknowledged themselves not to have sufficiently considered it;” and he only offered it to a wider circle because he thought that perhaps it might be useful “in clearing the ground a little and removing some of the rubbish that lies in the way to knowledge."1 He professed to give in it no more than the results of his own long and honest inquiries into the working of his own mind and the minds of those with whom be came in contact or could get information about from books. He would have been the first to acknowledge his obligations to the many writers of his own and earlier days who had propounded to him doctrines or offered to bim suggestions that he found worth accepting; but he could fairly claim that all the thoughts he had derived from others had been made his own by the careful consideration that he gave to them and by the altered form that they generally assumed in his mind, and that, by combining these thoughts of others with his own more strictly original opinions, he had built up a structure that was altogether his own workmanship.? 1. Concerning Human Understanding,' Epistle to the Reader.
2 It must be remembered that the work grew up gradually as a private exercise not intended for publication. Had Locke from the first meant to publish it, however, he would probably have taken no greater care than he did to specify his debts to earlier thinkers. In not specifying his debts, he only did as all other writers then did. When any author had to be criticised or quoted as a distinct authority for any statement or view, he was referred to; but when his opinions were adopted, with or without modification, it was no more thought incumbent on the writer who did so to specify the obligation than it would now be expected of any one that he should inform the public concerning the builder of his house or the maker of his clothes. A different and a very commendable rule has since come into force; but they who charge Locke or other writers with not, at every turn, quoting their “authorities” show an entire ignorance of the custom of the times. I
The great value of the essay consisted in the freshness and force with which it set itself against the so-called Aristotelianism and scholasticism that had crippled men's intelligence throughout many centuries, and also against the new sort of dogmatism encouraged by Descartes and growing rapidly into favour with many besides the Cartesians. Much in it has been superseded; much else has been renovated. Many faults in it, which Locke himself might have corrected, can be pointed out by any tyro in psychological studies, and there are yet more numerous faults which, however apparent now, no honest critic can blame him for having fallen into. But these detract nothing from the importance of the work as the chief leader of the modern philosophical revolution, the greatest stimulant of modern thought that European literature can boast of.
had intended in this section to distinguish, as regards the more important passages in his work, Locke's obligations to others and his own most original views. To do this at all adequately, however, would be such a lengthy task, involving so many quotations, and, when done, the result would be so much more appropriate to a new edition than to a brief popular description of the essay, that I shall not here venture upon it.
The same remark applies with yet more force to the much larger task of endeavouring to trace in detail Locke's influence upon subsequent philosophical thought.
1 Were Locke living now, he would probably be hardly more pained to find many eminent teachers still enforcing dogmas that he sufficiently controverted than to find his essay used, as it still is in the university of Dublin, as the only text-book and authority on the subject of which it treats. “ The book,” said John Stuart Mill, “ which has changed the face of a science, even when not superseded in its doctrines, is seldom suitable for didactic purposes.
It is adapted to the state of mind, not of those who are ignorant of every doctrine, but of those who are instructed in an erroneous doctrine. So far as it is taken up with directly combating the errors which prevailed before it was written, the more completely it has done its work, tbe more certain it is of becoming superfluous, not to say unintelligible, without a commentary. And even its positive truths are defended against such objections only as were current in its own times, and guarded only