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THE THIRD LETTER.

Reverend Sir,”

“I do not very well understand your meaning, when you say that you think, in the order of my ideas I first conceive a being, (finite suppose,) to exist, and then conceive self-existence to be a property of that being. If you mean that I first suppose a finite being to exist, I know not why; affirming necessity of existence to be only a consequent of its existence; and that, when I have supposed it finite, I very safely conclude it is not infinite; I am utterly at a loss upon what expressions in my letter this conjecture can be founded. But if you mean that I first of all prove a being to exist from eternity, and then, from the reasons of things, prove that such a being must be eternally necessary, I freely own it. Neither do I conceive it to be irregular or absurd; for there is a great difference between the order in which things exist, and the order in which I prove to myself that they exist. Neither do I think my saying a necessary being exists somewhere, supposes it to be finite; it only supposes that this being exists in space, without determining whether here, or there, or everywhere.

“To my second objection, you say: That which exists necessarily, is needful to the existence of any other thing, as a sine qua non; in the sense space is necessary to every thing, which is proved (you say) by this consideration, that space is a property of the self-existent substance; and, being both necessary in itself, and needful to the existence of every thing else; consequently the substance of which it is a property must be so too. Space, I own, is in one sense a property of the self-existent substance; but, in the same sense, it is also a property of all other substances. The only difference is in respect to the quantity. And since every part of space, as well as the whole, is necessary; every substance consequently must be self-existent, because it hath this self-existent property; Which since you will not admit for true, if it directly follows from your arguments, they cannot be conclusive.

426

“What you say under the first head, proves (I think,) to a very great probability, though not to me with the evidence of demonstration: But your arguments under the second I am not able to see the force of.

“I am so far from being pleased that I can form objections to your arguments, that, besides the satisfaction it would have given me in my own mind, I should have thought it an honour to have entered into your reasonings, and seen the force of them. I cannot desire to trespass any more upon your better employed time; so shall only add my hearty thanks for your trouble on my account, and that I am, with the greatest respect,

“Reverend Sir,

Your most obliged humble Servant.”

Dec. 5. 1713.

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