That the discovery of this great truth, which lies so near and obvious to the mind, should be attained to by the reason of so veryfew, is a sad instance of the stupidity and inattention of men, who, though they are surrounded with such clear manifestations of the Deity, are yet so little affected by them, that they seem as it were blinded with excess of light.
Upon the whole, I am inclined to think that the far greater part, if not all, of those difficulties which have hitherto amused philosophers, and blocked up the way to knowledge, are entirely owing to our selves. That we have first raised a dust, and then complain, we cannot see.
Did men but consider that the sun, moon, and stars, and every other object of the senses, are only so many sensations in their minds, which have no other existence but barely being perceived, doubtless they would never fall down and worship their own ideas; but rather address their homage to that eternal invisible Mind which produces and sustains all things.
Atheism ... that bugbear of women and fools ... is the very top and perfection of free-thinking. It is the grand arcanum to which a true genius naturally riseth, by a certain climax or gradation of thought, and without which he can never possess his soul in absolute liberty and repose.
Colour, Figure, Motion, Extension and the like, considered only so many Sensations in the Mind, are perfectly known, there being nothing in them which is not perceived. But if they are looked on as notes or Images, referred to Things or Archetypes existing without the Mind, then are we involved all in Scepticism.
Nothing can be plainer, than that the motions, changes, decays, and dissolutions, which we hourly see befall natural bodies (and which is what we mean by the course of nature), cannot possibly affect an active, simple, uncompounded substance: such a being therefore is indissoluble by the force of nature, that is to say, the soul of man is naturally immortal.
The love of truth, virtue, and the happiness of mankind are specious pretexts, but not the inward principles that set divines at work; else why should they affect to abuse human reason, to disparage natural religion, to traduce the philosophers as they universally do?
A man needs no arguments to make him discern and approve what is beautiful: it strikes at first sight, and attracts without a reason. And as this beauty is found in the shape and form of corporeal things, so also is there analogous to it a beauty of another kind, an order, a symmetry, and comeliness in the moral world. And as the eye perceiveth the one, so the mind doth by a certain interior sense perceive the other, which sense, talent, or faculty, is ever quickest and purest in the noblest minds.
But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park [. . .] and nobody by to perceive them. [...] The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived; the trees therefore are in the garden [. . .] no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.
This perceiving, active being is what I call mind, spirit, soul, or myself. By which words I do not denote any one of my ideas, but a thing entirely distinct from them, wherein they exist, or, which is the same thing, whereby they are perceived; for the existence of an idea consists in being perceived.
If what you mean by the word "matter" be only the unknown support of unknown qualities, it is no matter whether there is such a thing or no, since it no way concerns us; and I do not see the advantage there is in disputing about what we know not what, and we know not why.
The real essence, the internal qualities, and constitution of even the meanest object, is hid from our view; something there is inevery drop of water, every grain of sand, which it is beyond the power of human understanding to fathom or comprehend. But it is evidentthat we are influenced by false principles to that degree as to mistrust our senses, and think we know nothing of those things which we perfectly comprehend.
Casting an eye on the education of children, from whence I can make a judgment of my own, I observe they are instructed in religious matters before they can reason about them, and consequently that all such instruction is nothing else but filling the tender mind of a child with prejudices.
That food nourishes, sleep refreshes, and fire warms us; that to sow in the seed-time is the way to reap in the harvest, and, in general, that to obtain such or such ends, such or such means are conducive, all this we know, not by discovering any necessary connexion between our ideas, but only by the observation of the settled laws of nature, without which we should be all in uncertainty and confusion, and a grown man no more know how to manage himself in the affairs of life than an infant just born.
It would much conduce to the public benefit, if, instead of discouraging free-thinking, there was erected in the midst of this free country a dianoetic academy, or seminary for free-thinkers, provided with retired chambers, and galleries, and shady walks and groves, where, after seven years spent in silence and meditation, a man might commence a genuine free-thinker, and from that time forward, have license to think what he pleased, and a badge to distinguish him from counterfeits.