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THE FIFTH LETTER.

Reverend Sir,”

“You have very comprehensively expressed in six or seven lines, all the difficulties of my letter, which I should have endeavoured to have made shorter, had I not been afraid an improper expression might possibly occasion a mistake of my meaning. I am very glad the debate is come into so narrow a compass; for I think now it entirely turns upon this, whether our ideas of space and duration are partial, so as to presuppose the existence of some other thing. Your similitude of the blind man is very apt, to explain your meaning, (which I think I fully understand;) but does not seem to come entirely up to the matter. For, what is the reason that the blind man concludes there must be somewhat external, to give him that idea of hardness? It is because he supposes it impossible for him to be thus affected, unless there were some cause of it; which cause, should it be removed, the effect would immediately cease too; and he would no more have the idea of hardness, but by remembrance. Now, to apply this to the instance of space and duration; since a man, from his having these ideas, very justly concludes that there must be somewhat external, which is the cause of them; consequently should this cause (whatever it is) be taken away, his ideas would be so too: Therefore, if what is supposed to be the cause be removed, and yet the idea remains, that supposed cause cannot be the real one. Now, granting the self-existent substance to be the substratum of these ideas, could we make the supposition of its ceasing to be, yet space and duration would still remain unaltered; which 431seems to show that the self-existent substance is not the substratum of space and duration. Nor would it be an answer to the difficulty, to say that every property of the self-existent substance is as necessary as the substance itself, since that will only hold while the substance itself exists: For there is implied, in the idea of a property, an impossibility of subsisting without its substratum. I grant the supposition is absurd: But how otherwise can we know whether any thing be a property of such a substance, but by examining whether it would cease to be, if its supposed substance should do so: Notwithstanding what I have now said, I cannot say that I believe your argument not conclusive; for I must own my ignorance, that I am really at a lose about the nature of space and duration. But did it plainly appear that they were properties of a substance, we should have an easy way with the atheists; for it would at once prove demonstrably an eternal, necessary, self-existent being; that there is but one such, and that he is needful in order to the existence of all other things: Which makes me think that though it may be true, yet it is not obvious to every capacity; otherwise it would have been generally used as a fundamental argument to prove the being of God.

“I must add one thing more, that your argument for the omnipresence of God seemed always to me very probable. But being very desirous to have it appear demonstrably conclusive, I was sometimes forced to say what was not altogether my opinion; not that I did this for the sake of disputing, (for besides the particular disagreeableness of this to my own temper, I should surely have chosen another person to have trifled with;) but I did it to set off the objection to advantage, that it might be more fully answered. I heartily wish you as fair treatment from your opponents in print, as I have had from you; though I must own, I cannot see, in those that I have read, that unprejudiced search after truth which I would have hoped for.

“I am, Reverend Sir,

“Your most humble Servant.”

Feb. 3, 1713.

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