Obrázky na stránke

convenience of thinking that one knows something. I find that the eyes which nature has given me, sée many things very clearly, though some are out of their reach, or discerued but dimly. What opinion ought I to have of a physician, who should offer me an eye-water, the use of which would at first so sharpen my sight, as to carry it farther than ordinary vision; but would in the end put them out? Your philosophy is to the eyes of the mind, what I have supposed the doctor's nostrum to be to those of the body. It actually brought your own excellent understanding, which was by nature quicksighted, and rendered more so by art and a subtilty of logic peculiar to yourself-it brought, I say, your very acute understanding to see nothing clearly; and enveloped all the great truths of reason and religion in mists of doubt.

Bayle. I own it did;-but your comparison is not just. -I did not see well, before I used my philosophic eye-water: I only supposed Isaw well; but I was in an error, with all the rest of mankind. The blindness was real the perceptions were imaginary. I cured myself first of those false imaginations, and then I laudably endeavoured to cure other men.

Locke. A great cure indeed!-and do not you think that in return for the service you did them, they ought to erect you a statue ?


Bayle. Yes; it is good for human nature to know its own weakness. When we arrogantly presume on a strength we have not, we are always in great danger of hurting ourselves, or at least of deserving ridicule and contempt, by vain and idle efforts.

Locke. I agree with you, that human nature should know its own weakness; but it shou also feel its strength, and try to improve it. This was my employment as a philosopher. I endeavoured to discover the real powers of the mind, to see what it could do, and what it could not; to restrain it from efforts beyond its ability; but to teach it how to advance as far as the faculties given to it by nature,with the utmost exertion and most proper culture of them, would allow it to go. In the vast ocean of philosophy, I had the line and the plummet always in my hands. Many of its depths I found myself unable to fathom; but, by caution in sounding, and the careful observations I made in the course of my voyage, I found out some truths of so much use to mankind, that they acknowledge me to have been their benefactor.

Bayle. Their ignorance makes them think so. Some other philosopher will come hereafter and show those truths to be

falsehoods. He will pretend to discover other truths of equal importance. A later sage will arise,perhaps among men now barbarous and unlearned, whose sagacious discoveries will discredit the opinions of his admired predecessor. In philosophy, as in nature, all changes its form, and one thing exists by the destruction of another.

Locke. Opinions taken up without a patient investigation, depending on terms not accurately defined, and principles beggedwithout proof,like theories to explain the phænomena of nature, built on suppositions instead of experiments, must perpetually change and destroy one another. But some opinions there are, even in matters not obvious to the common sense of mankind, which the mind has received on such rational grounds of assent, that they are as immovable as the pillars of heaven; or (to speak philosophically) as the great laws of Nature, by which, under God, the universe is sustained. Can you seriously think, that,because the hypothesis of your countryman Descartes, which was nothing but an ingenious, well-imagined romance, has been lately exploded, the system of Newton, which is built on experiments and geometry, the two most certain methods of discovering truth, will ever fail; or that, because the whims of fanatics and the divinity of the schoolmen, cannot now be support. ed, the doctrines of that religion, which I, the declared enemy of all enthusiasm and false reasoning, firmly believ, ed and maintained, will ever be shaken?

Bayle. If you had asked Descartes, while he was in the height of his vogue, whether his system would ever be confuted by any other philosophers, as that of Aristotle had been by his, what answer do you suppose he would have returned?

Locke. Come, come, you yourself know the difference be-tween the foundations on which the credit of those systems, and that of Newton is placed. Your scepticism is more affected than real. You found it a shorter way to a great reputation, (the only wish of your heart,) to object, than to defend; to pull down, than to set up. And your talents were admirable for that kind of work. Then your huddling together in a Critical Dictionary, a pleasant tale, or obscene jest, and a grave argument against the Christian religion, a witty confutation of some absurd author,and an artful sophism to impeach some respectable truth, was particularly commodious to all our young smarts and smatterers in free-thinking. But what mischief have you not done to human society? You have endeavoured, and with some degree of success to

shake those foundations, on which the whole moral world, and the great fabric of social happiness, entirely rest. How could you, as a philosopher, in the sober hours of reflection, answer for this to your conscience, even supposing you had doubts of the truth of a system, which gives to virtue its sweetest hopes, to impenitent vice its greatest fears, and to true penitence its best consolations; which restrains even the least approaches to guilt, and yet makes those allowances for the infirmities of our nature, which the Stoic pride denied to it, but which its real imperfection, and the goodness of its infinitely benevolent Creator, so evidently require ?

Bayle. The mind is free; and it loves to exert its freedom. Any restraint upon it is a violence done to its nature, and a tyranny, against which it has a right to rebel.

Locke. The mind, though free, ha a governor within it self, which may and ought to limit the exercise of its free, dom. That governor is reason.

Bayle. Yes-but reason, like other governors, has a por licy more dependent upon uncertain caprice, than upon any fixed laws. And if that reason, which rules my mind or yours, has happened to set up a favourite notion, it not only submits implicitly to it, but desires that the same respect should be paid to it by all the rest of mankind. Now I hold that any man may lawfully oppose this desire in another, and that if he is wise, he will use his utmost endeavours to check it in himself.

Locke. Is there not also a weakness of a contrary nature to this you are now ridiculing? Do we not often take a pleasure in showing our own power, and gratifying our own pride, by degrading the notions set up by other men, and generally respected?

Bayle, I believe we do; and by this means it often happens, that, if one man builds and consecrates a temple to folly, another pulls it down.

Locke, Do you think it beneficial to human society, to have all temples pulled down?

Bayle. I cannot say that I do.

Locke. Yet I find not in your writings any mark of distinc tion, to show us which you mean to save.

Bayle. A true philosopher, like an impartial historian, must be of no sect.

Locke. Is there no medium between the blind zeal of a sectary, and a total indifference to all religion?

Bayle. With regard to morality, I was not indifferent.

Locke How could you then be indifferent with regard to the sanctions religion gives to morality? How could you publish what tends so directly and apparently to weaken in mankind the belief of those sanctions? Was not this sacrificing the great interest of virtue to the little motives of vanity?

Bayle. A man may act indiscreetly, but he cannot do wrong, by declaring that, which, on a full discussion of the question, he sincerely thinks to be true.

Locke. An enthusiast, who advances doctrines prejudicial to society, or opposes any that are useful to it, has the strength of opinion, and the heat of a disturbed imagination, to plead in alleviation of his fault. But your cool head and` sound judgment, can have no such excuse. I know very well there are passages in all your works, and those not few, where you talk like a rigid moralist. I have also heard that your character was irreproachably good. But when, in the most laboured parts of your writings, you sap the surest foundations of all moral duties; what avails it that in others, or in the conduct of your life, you appeared to respect them? How many, who have stronger passions than you had, and are desirous to get rid of the curb that restrains them, will lay hold of your scepticism, to set themselves loose from all obligations of virtue! What a misfortune is it to have made such a use of such talents! It would have been better for you and for mankind, if you had been one of the dullest of Dutch theologians, or the most credulous monk in a Portuguese convent. The riches of the mind, like those of fortune, may be employed so perversely, as to become a nuisance and pest, instead of an ornament and support, to society.

[ocr errors]

Bayle. You are very severe upon me.But do you count it no merit, no service to mankind, to deliver them from the frauds and fetters of priestcraft, from the deliriums of fanaticism, and from the terrors and follies of superstition? Consider how much mischief these have done to the world! Even in the last age, what massacres, what civil wars, what convulsions of government, what confusion in society, did they produce! Nay, in that we both lived in, though much more enlightened than the former, did I not see them occasion a violent persecution in my own country? and can you blame me for striking at the root of these evils?

Locke. The root of these evils, you well know, was false religion but you struck at the true. Heaven and hell are

[ocr errors]

not more different, than the system of faith I defended, an that which produced the horrors of which you speak. Why would you so fallaciously confound them together in some of your writings, that it requires much more judgment, and a more diligent attention, than ordinary readers have, to separate them again, and to make the proper distinctions? This, indeed, is the great art of the most celebrated freethinkers. They recommend themselves to warm and ingenious minds, by lively strokes of wit, and by arguments really strong, against superstition, enthusiasm, and priestcraft. But, at the same time, they insidiously throw the colors of these upon the fair face of true religion; and dress her out in their garb, with a malignant intention to render her odious or despicable, to those who have not penetration enough to discern the impious fraud. Some of them may have thus deceived themselves, as well as others. Yet it is certain, no book, that ever was written by the most acute of these gentlemen, is so repugnant to priestcraft, to spiritual tyranny, to all absurd superstitions, to all that can tend to disturb or injure society, as that gospel they so much affect to despise.

Bay. Mankind are so made, that, when they have been over-heated, they cannot be brought to a proper temper again, till they have been over-cooled. My scepticism might be necessary, to abate the fever and phrenzy of false religion.

Locke. A wise prescription, indeed, to bring on a paralytical state of the mind, (for such a scepticism as yours is a palsy, which deprives the mind of all vigour, and deadens its natural and vital powers,) in order to take off a fever, which temperance, and the milk of the evangelical doctrines, would probably cure!

Bayle I acknowledge that those medicines have a great power. But few doctors apply them untainted with the mixture of some harsher drugs, or some unsafe and ridiculous nostrums of their own.

Locke. What you now say is too true.-God has given us a most excellent physic for the soul, in all its diseases; but bad and interested physicians, or ignorant and conceited quacks, administer it so ill to the rest of mankind, that much of the benefit of it is unhappily lost.


« PredošláPokračovať »