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§ 20. There are some I have met with that put so much difference between infinite duration and infinite space that they persuade themselves that they have a positive idea of eternity; but that they have not, nor can have any idea of infinite space. The reason of which mistake I suppose to be this, that finding by a due contemplation of causes and effects, that it is necessary to admit some eternal being, and so to consider the real existence of that being, as taken up and commensurate to their idea of eternity; but on the other side, not finding it necessary, but on the contrary apparently absurd, that body should be infinite; they forwardly conclude, that they have no idea of infinite space, because they can have no idea of infinite matter. Which consequence, I conceive, is very ill collected; because the existence of matter is no ways necessary to the existence of space, no more than the existence of motion, or the sun, is necessary to duration, though duration uses to be measured by it: and I doubt not but that a man may have the idea of ten thousand miles square, without any body so big, as well as the idea of ten thousand years, without any body so old. It seems as easy to me to have the idea of space empty of body, as to think of the capacity of a bushel without corn, or the hollow of a nut-shell without a kernel in it: it being no more necessary that there should be existing a solid body infinitely extended, because we have an idea of the infinity of space, than it is necessary that the world should be eternal, because we have an idea of infinite duration. And why should we think our idea of infinite space requires the real existence of matter to support it, when we find that we have as clear an idea of an infinite duration to come, as we have of infinite duration past? Though, I suppose nobody thinks it conceivable, that any thing does, or has existed in that future duration. Nor is it possible to join our idea of future duration with present or past existence, any more than it is possible to make the ideas of yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, to be the same; or bring ages past and future together, and make them contemporary. But if these men are of the mind, that they have clearer ideas of infinite duration than of infinite space, because it is past doubt that God has existed from all eternity, but there is no real matter co-extended with infinite space; yet those philosophers who are of opinion, that infinite space is possessed by God’s infinite omnipresence, as well as infinite duration by his eternal existence, must be allowed to have as clear an idea of infinite space as of infinite duration; though neither of them, I think, has any positive idea of infinity in either case. For whatsoever positive idea a man has in his mind of any quantity, he can repeat it, and add it to the former as easy as he can add together the ideas of two days, or two paces, which are positive ideas of lengths he has in his mind, and so on as long as he pleases: whereby if a man had a positive idea of infinite, either duration or space, he could add two infinites together; nay, make one infinite infinitely bigger than another: absurdities too gross to be confuted.
Foreword by Bettina Bien Greaves.
§ 10. Expansion and duration have this farther agreement, that though they are both considered by us as having parts, yet their parts are not separable one from another, no not even in thought: though the parts of bodies from whence we take our measure of the one, and the parts of motion, or rather the succession of ideas in our minds, from whence we take the measure of the other, may be interrupted and separated; as the one is often by rest, and the other is by sleep, which we call rest too.
§ 3. Secondly, our complex ideas of modes, being voluntary collections of simple ideas, which the mind puts together without reference to any real archetypes or standing patterns existing any-where, are and cannot but be adequate ideas. Because they not being intended for copies of things really existing, but for archetypes made by the mind to rank and denominate things by, cannot want any thing: they having each of them that combination of ideas, and thereby that perfection which the mind intended they should: so that the mind acquiesces in them, and can find nothing wanting. Thus by having the idea of a figure, with three sides meeting at three angles, I have a complete idea, wherein I require nothing else to make it perfect. That the mind is satisfied with the perfection of this its idea, is plain in that it does not conceive, that any understanding hath, or can have a more complete or perfect idea of that thing it signifies by the word triangle, supposing it to exist, than itself has in that complex idea of three sides and three angles; in which is contained all that is, or can be essential to it, or necessary to complete it, wherever or however it exists. But in our ideas of substances it is otherwise. For there desiring to copy things as they really do exist, and to represent to ourselves that constitution on which all their properties depend, we perceive our ideas attain not that perfection we intend: we find they still want something we should be glad were in them; and so are all inadequate. But mixed modes and relations, being archetypes without patterns, and so having nothing to represent but themselves, cannot but be adequate, every thing being so to itself. He that at first put together the idea of danger perceived, absence of disorder from fear, sedate consideration of what was justly to be done, and executing that without disturbance, or being deterred by the danger of it, had certainly in his mind that complex idea made up of that combination; and intending it to be nothing else, but what is, nor to have in it any other simple ideas, but what it hath, it could not also but be an adequate idea: and laying this up in his memory, with the name courage annexed to it, to signify to others, and denominate from thence any action he should observe to agree with it, had thereby a standard to measure and denominate actions by, as they agreed to it. This idea thus made, and laid up for a pattern, must necessarily be adequate, being referred to nothing else but itself, nor made by any other original, but the good-liking and will of him that first made this combination.
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But because you question the credibility of those authors I have quoted, which you say were very ill chosen; I will crave leave to say, that he whom I relied on for his testimony concerning the Hottentots of Soldania, was no less a man than an ambassador from the king of England to the Great Mogul: of whose relation, monsieur Thevenot, no ill judge in the case, had so great an esteem, that he was at the pains to translate into French, and publish it in his (which is counted no injudicious) collection of travels. But to intercede with your lordship, for a little more favourable allowance of credit to Sir Thomas Roe’s relation; Coore, an inhabitant of the country, who could speak English, assured Mr. Terry, that they of Soldania had no God. But if he too have the ill luck to find no credit with you, I hope you will be a little more favourable to a divine of the church of England, now living, and admit of his testimony in confirmation of Sir Thomas Roe’s. This worthy gentleman, in the relation of his voyage to Surat, printed but two years since, speaking of the same people, has these words: “They are sunk even below idolatry, are destitute of both priest and temple, and saving a little show of rejoicing, which is made at the full and new moon, have lost all kind of religious devotion. Nature has so richly provided for their convenience in this life, that they have drowned all sense of the God of it, and are grown quite careless of the next.”